Category Archives: Knitting

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Magical Yarn

Happy Friday, all. Casey here.

As promised, we’ve updated our look. After three years it was time for a change. Please let us know what you think of our make-over.

Now, onto today’s blog.

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I had a realization the other day. It’s 2014. Twenty-freakin’-fourteen!

IMG_1781Well, duh. I’m pretty sure everyone knows that by now. And, despite my seeming disbelief, I know it too.

But it did make think about how much my life has changed in the last few years. Ten years ago, in 2004, I had mostly given up writing.

When I say mostly, what I mean is – I was not actually clacking away at a keyboard. Instead, I was berating myself for being a loser because I couldn’t complete a story. I had a few half-finished or sort of done, but awful, manuscripts hidden in binders under my bed (and yes, they were literally under there, collecting dust bunnies.)

I was paralyzed with doubt and indecision. I was totally clueless about what to do. Should I start another book? No. Because I already had too many incomplete drafts. So, I did nothing and worried. Because that is always so much more productive (not really).

My solution: teach myself to knit and crochet. Yup. Had nothing to do with writing but it was another life-long goal of mine. It all started when I six years old and my great aunts tried to teach me to crochet.

Total disaster. I couldn’t hold the yarn right. Couldn’t make a chain, let allow an actual stitch. I just didn’t get it. No matter how hard they tried to implant their skills into my brain, I sucked at it.

I was a loser/failure <cue sad trombone sound>

I had another chance to learn crochet  in Girl Scouts. Still a disaster but I did manage to make a curly worm bookmark (very lumpy and it didn’t twist properly). It’s now tucked away in my hope chest.

For years and years, not knowing how to crochet ate away at my sub-conscience. Why couldn’t I figure it out? Is there something wrong with me? Ummm. Kind of like my ability to finish a book (that didn’t suck).

I hate not being able to do things. The last straw: when I couldn’t finish drafting yet another novel to my satisfaction, I decided I was going to succeed at something. Damn it.

2004 was the year I went to Michael’s, bought a skein of Red Heart yarn (bright red) and two books – “I Taught Myself to Knit” and “I Taught Myself to Crochet” – and, by golly, that is exactly what I did. I learned!! I made stuff. It didn’t suck once I got the hang of it.

As soon as I mastered the basics, I decided I was knitting in the round. I wanted gloves. So I made them (apparently most beginners don’t go for gloves, but whatever).

Needless, to say, friends and family were inundated with crocheted and knitted “gifts” from me. Yet, the entire time, a little voice in my head nagged at me to get writing.

Eventually, the little voice won out. But not for another five years.

You know what? It doesn’t matter. In the end, I finished a book (Ascension), then another (Mystic Ink), then sold it. Then wrote more and sold more. I credit the little voice. But I also believe that by pushing my boundaries and trusting myself to learn a brand new skill, it gave me the confidence to consider myself a “real” writer and get busy.

And, yes, I still knit and crochet. This is my latest sock:

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Is there a lesson to be learned here? Yarn is magic. No, that’s probably not the answer. But listening to the little voices in your head, yeah, that must be it!

I Need a Knitted Laptop Hood by J Monkeys

Hiddey Ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  November is coming and with it NaNoWrimo.  If you aren’t familiar with National Novel Writing Month, click here.  I will finish the first draft of my WIP this year or else!  Part of a successful Nano month is being prepared and having the right gear to get you through.  Next week, I’ll be cleaning my office and reading the new Julia Quinn book to get the temptation out of the way.  And, I ordered a new battery for my laptop today – I’ve needed one for a VERY long time.

Now my office is cold and I have many distractions from writing, including my twin boys.  I’m thinking of making one of these.

knitted laptop hood

What do you think?

The knitting instruction can be found here.  Maybe….

Lobsters. They’re Not Just Food. They Also Can Be Knitted.

That’s right! Lobsters can be knitted. With the release of Warning Signs this month, I am blog hopping.  Stop by Roxanne Rustand’s Blog, All Creatures Great and Small, to learn about the big bug, the Lobster.

And see how you could win one of these soft looking lobsters!

SAMSUNGSee you over there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her Children Will Arise and Call Her Blessed by Katy Lee

I think the Proverbs 31 woman is the greatest heroine ever. To me, a great heroine doesn’tmom just make for good literature, though. She also inspires the reader to stretch herself to be more than she might think possible.

In light of Mother’s Day, I thought I might explain why the guidelines of this greatly loved woman inspire me, and maybe she might inspire you too. After all I think all of us mothers would consider our lives a success when our children arise and call us blessed.

So here I go:

First:  “She is worth far more than rubies and her husband has full confidence in her… She brings him good not harm, all the days of her life.”

To me, having my husband’s trust and support in my decisions in running my home is better than any “Wine ‘n Dine” dinner out. Knowing I can rest in this brings us closer as a unit and demonstrates pure love to each other, but also to our children. The greatest teaching tool is modeling, and this kind of demonstrating can only show them what a marriage is supposed to look like…and not settle for anything less in their own lives.

Now I’m not saying this comes with rubies, although a little bling would be a nice surprise, but to be considered more worthy than something as precious as rubies would only increase my desire to bring good to the home, creating a wonderful, harmonious atmosphere…because we all know, when Momma ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.

Next:  “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands…She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family…She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”

I like these verses, and not because I’m a knitter and love to work with wool, although it sure does make me like her more. But this heroine of a woman is not afraid of hard work. In fact, it says she’s eager for it. She’s willing to lose some sleep for the benefit of her family, and even people who are in need of family. Even at the risk of dark circles and aging wrinkles.

In my childrens’ Art History class, we had to look at a picture of an old, ugly woman. We were given no information about her, but told to write down our first thoughts about her that came to mind.

Here is the picture drawn by the artist, Albrecht Durer. What do you think about her?alfred durer' mother

My kids said, “Eewww.”

After I shook my head at them, I bit my tongue to hold back my disappointment and told them more about her.

Albrecht wanted to draw a picture of his beautiful mother. She was a woman he arose and called blessed and loved dearly. It is said that she continually prayed this blessing over her children, “Christ be with thee.” Albrecht grew to become the greatest artist in the history of Germany and one of the greatest in all of Europe. He had a mother who prayed for him. A mother who lived out Proverbs 31 for her family. However, when we take a look at the portrait he drew, we must honestly think…well, it may be a good drawing but it certainly is not pretty.

But that’s the thing with a Proverbs 31 woman, and why some of the most imperfect women can make the greatest heroines. We fall in love with their hearts. Samuel 16:7 says, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

Now when we look at Albrecht’s drawing we see a mother who arose in the night and worked with eager hands because of her love for her family. She earned every single one of those wrinkles, and when Albrecht looked at her, he saw beauty.

Another Proverbs 31 passage states, “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”

Hello! Who wouldn’t want to own a vineyard? But seriously, this shows her intelligence. She’s a smart woman who knows what she wants. She makes wise choices and always for the benefit of her family.

“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”

She’s no weakling. She’s a woman of strength and vitality. You don’t want to mess with her.

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.”

Well of course they are. She has prepared well.

“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

How does that saying go? Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes. Oops! No, that’s not it. It’s behind every great man is a great woman.

A man who has his wife’s support has the ability to be a great man. She is his reinforcement.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

These passages bring calmness to my soul. I can just picture her sitting by a fire telling a moral story. The children interrupt, because that’s what they do, but she doesn’t yell. Instead, she laughs with them, bursting out those laugh lines and wrinkles she’s earned so well.

And last but not least. In fact, it is the most important of all.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her and says, ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’”

AWWWWWWW!!

So all you children out there today, young and old, call your moms and bless her.

Proverbs 31 tells us to “Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

Now GO, Do it! And HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!happy-mothers-day_t1

Writers Survival Guide to Menopause

Writers Survival Guide to Menopause

PJ here, and I’ll bet you’re wondering what menopause has to do with writing. For those of you struggling to put words on the page through sleepless nights, power surges (aka: hot flashes) that make you feel like your hair is on fire, or trying to focus through the foggy haze of hormonal upheaval, you know the answer to that question. For those of you not there yet, consider this a head’s up and a public service announcement.

Are you ready for a frank discussion about menopause? There…I said it. I’m still amazed how many people are not comfortable discussing this natural part of aging. It’s not like we’re trying to keep it a secret or bringing to light some controversial topic. If you’re squeamish about discussing such personal issues, feel free to move on to the solutions list below. But if you feel like you’re among friends here, read on and know that you aren’t alone. I’m here to share my experience and pass on what worked for me. (This is not intended as medical advice. Do your research and talk to your doctor to discuss your options).

MY STORY:  I went through “the change” a little early. Although I’m mostly on the other side of it now and I’m not even fifty, the age of onset varies greatly, depending on the woman. Symptoms started at about forty for me. Irregular periods after years of being like a clock in sync with the moon. At first, heavier and more frequent than normal, and then months of skipping entirely, causing me to sweat the possibility of pregnancy a few times—not cool when both of my sons were already grown and out of the house and I wasn’t married yet to my sweetheart. According to doctors, you aren’t officially in menopause until you’ve gone a full year without menstruating. Until then, whatever symptoms you’re having are considered peri-menopausal and will likely go untreated.

More than one way
More than one way

 So then came the hot flashes. OMG! There were times I had a dozen or more hot flashes in a day, and I’m not talking about a little heat. Think of what it would feel like to put your face in a five hundred degree oven and keep it there for about a minute. Breaking out in a sweat every time I put my hands on a massage client when all I wanted to do was tear off my clothes and stand under cool water was totally not cool…pardon the pun. I began having trouble sleeping, waking at three a.m., tossing and turning until six, and then, just as I fell asleep again, I would have to get up. Talk about sleep deprivation torture! I did this for about two or three years, often getting up and writing for those few sleepless hours, trying to make use of the nightly torment and keep my sanity. But the next day sluggishness was brutal and added to the crankiness that was so uncharacteristic for me. I finally understood why those “old” ladies I knew as a child were so grumpy. They were in menopause! Even wearing a bra was irritating enough to have me worming it off in the car after a long day. I’ll admit, I chewed out a few grocery store clerks and made unkind hand gestures to trucks and SUV’s that cut me off or gave me a look…you know the look I mean. But it wasn’t until the worst thing that could happen to a romance writer happened to me. (Come closer…I’ll whisper this part…my sex drive went out the window.) That was the final straw. I needed help! Fast!

After first turning to the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novels by Laurell K. Hamilton with mixed  and temporary results, I decided a visit to my Naturopath was in order. She listened to my woes, prescribed my constitutional homeopathic remedy (an entirely different post), and we discussed some natural alternatives to hormone replacement therapy (taking synthesized horse urine just sounded all kinds of wrong to me!) A note to you informed menopause researchers out there: What I did is different than “Bio-identical” therapy, which is another way of treating hormonal imbalances with natural substances that mimic estrogen and progesterone, but requires guidance from a doctor who specializes in that treatment protocol. Feel free to look into it. I’ve heard very good things about it. You might also find some great tips in a book called WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY not TELL YOU ABOUT MENOPAUSE  by Dr. John Lee.

This is what worked for me:

1)      I took over-the-counter herbal supplements called Estrovan, and later, Remifemen (the Estrovan worked moderately well for about a year before my Naturopath told me to try switching.) I found the Remifemen worked better for me. The essential ingredient in both of these products is an herb called black cohosh, which in combination with some other herbs and vitamins helped greatly with the hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. I took one in the morning and then I took the Night Time relief brand before bed. It worked far better for me than taking sleep medicine that made me drowsy and foggy the next day, or the chamomile tea that had me up staggering to the bathroom several times a night. With a few good night’s sleep a week, I began to focus better and feel less depressed and irritable.

2)      I also changed my daily vitamin to include 1000 IU’s of Vit. D, 1500 of Calcium and 1000 mg. of Magnesium. I found a single vitamin (Complete Menopause), that had everything I needed at my health food store  and took one in the morning and one at night. I also added an oil blend that included fish oil, evening primrose, and flax oil–another super combination that can be hard to find, but worth looking for. If you have any doubts about whether you are lacking in these vitamins, or if you are on medication of any kind, check with your doctor and have a blood test done. Many of our aches, pains, and physical/emotional symptoms are due to lack of Vit. D since most of us aren’t getting enough sunlight sitting in front of our computers a gazillion hours a day.

Note: Diet and nutrition are critical in feeling your best at all times of your life. Let me just say that sugar is killing us all, but that’s another post!

3)      I layered my clothes, wearing a tank top or short sleeved shirt and adding a light sweater or having a shawl to throw on and off easily since the temperature changes internally were dramatic. Shortly after a hot flash, I would get a chill and a desperate thirst. I kept a water bottle with me at all times, including next to my bed for those middle of the night power surges that had me throwing off the covers and feeling as dry as a desert. (For the sake of our squeamish readers I won’t get into the all too common “dryness” problem.)

Incidentally, things that aggravate hot flashes? Why chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol, of course. Could the gods be any more cruel?

4)      Believe it or not, exercise helped! Aerobic activity for twenty minutes three to five times a week makes all the difference on so many levels. It’s not uncommon for women in menopause to gain as much as ten to twenty pounds in just a couple of years due to metabolic changes, food cravings, depression, fatigue, etc. Those lovely curvacous sculptures the Renaissance artisans depicted were undoubtedly of mature menopausal women. Does the term “sagging middle” mean anything to you? (And I’m not referring to your pacing problems.) No wonder those ladies wore robes–no skinny jeans for them! 

There’s no point in white-washing it. Aging and change aren’t fun, but  they are inevitable, so if you want to come out on the other side of menopause healthy, you’ll fight the fight and make it work for you. Bottom line–staying active is being proactive!

5)      ON THE PLUS SIDE! Yes, there is a plus side, other than the obvious absence of our dear aunt “flow.” Menopause can bring on an incredible surge of creative energy (my theory is that our bodies are transforming all that “baby making” creativity that we no longer have evolutionary need of, into mental, emotional and spiritual creativity. It’s not surprising that menopausal women take up hobbies such as quilting, knitting, painting, photography, yoga, and yes…writing. There is a wisdom, peace, and quiet strength that comes with this rite of passage that is hard to describe until you get there, but even with all of the challenges—and maybe in spite of the challenges—we are transformed to a higher state of being. Eventually, we come back to being ourselves, only better. (Hold onto that thought gentlemen.)

 We may be a little less patient with foolishness since we’ve learned to value ourselves and our precious time, and likely we’re wearing a less than pristine earth suit (the shelf life of the human body is about fifty years—anything after that requires high maintenance and parts replacement), but more than ever, we are part of a sisterhood. I appreciate and respect women so much more than I did when I was young—a sign that I have grown in respect and love for myself over the years. Just remember, we are in this together and through sharing our experiences, we can help one another through the rough spots.

Perhaps you could ask Santa for a portable fan for Christmas. Happy Hot Flashes!

Sweet relief!
Sweet relief!

 Any other tips for beating the heat and surviving menopause, dear writers and readers?

 

 

My Library

Hidey-Ho Scriblers!  J Monkeys here.  Happy Saturday.  This week, I want to take on a subject that has been near and dear to my heart for a long time.  My hubby has his Man-Cave; I have wanted a Library.  In my mind, this would a glorious sanctuary, away from the demands of family and a place where I could actually have access to all my stuff.

When we bought our house almost exactly 8 years ago, I knew just which room would become my dream space.  But in 2004, my sister slept in it, while we remodeled her wing.  Then it was kind of a junk room for 2005.  When hubby had knee surgery and couldn’t hobble down to his basement man cave in 2006, we moved all his computer equipment up to the “library”.  More junk settled in.

By 2007, I was in organization mode – I bought a beautiful brick-red paint and slapped up at least four coats to cover the yellow walls.  Then I decided I wanted crown molding.  YIKES!  That was a disaster!  Hanging dental crown molding on the popcorn ceiling of a 50-year-old (settled and therefore not square!) house should be avoided at all costs!  It took forever and half a ton of Spackle but, “Done is better than perfect” I always say.  My crown molding maybe crooked and blotchy, but at least it’s up.

Just when I was finishing up that horrific project, we decided to adopt children and the Department of Children and Families informed me that since no adults had bedrooms on the second floor, the temporarily foster children couldn’t either.  My beautiful brick-red room became a baby room.  It’s surprising how many baby bedding sets coordinate with blood red…but perhaps that’s an issue for another day.

The adoption was finalized in 2009 and once the kids were really and truly ours, we could move them to the nice bedroom upstairs, which of course had become a junk room.  Sigh.  I’m telling you, we have filled 3 big dumpsters in the last few years getting rid of stuff (and a roof and a snow-busted shed – it’s not like we were hoarders…).  In 2010 my sister-in-law painted a wonderful  mural on the kids new wall and by summer’s end we moved them up.  That was 18 months ago.

Since then, we tried housing my sister’s immense movie collection in the library (where else would it go?) but it took up too much space and the children were touching the movies.  A major no-no in my sister’s book  So we moved the movie collection up to our one remaining junk room and locked the door to secure the goods.  One final trip to Ikea last week finished lining my walls with beautiful (and cheap!) white Billy bookshelves.  Don’t you just love the funky names Ikea gives their stuff?  If you haven’t been to an Ikea, bring a wad of cash (so you don’t spend too much – it’s easy to do) and check it out.  In Connecticut – there’s one in New Haven – absolutely worth the drive.  And have lunch there – the food is yummy and cheap.

So, after much ado, here it is.  My new writing and crafting space.  A space that is all mine.  Mine, mine, mine!  I’ll be cranking out those books now!

writing desksome books