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I consider myself to be pretty good with money. I always know how much I have in the bank at a given time. Each month after I get paid, I sit down and pay my student loan payments for the next month. My credit cards are never maxed, and I do my best to budget all my spending, even for extras (read: essentials) like wine and coffee. I paid off my car two years early, I have a decent credit score and I do my taxes early.

Still, I have a big weakness for shopping. Mostly for clothes, and makeup too. Oh, and yarn, of course ūüôā Most notably, I am a HUGE sucker for a well-executed sales pitch. In all my years working retail I learned the power of a truly good salesperson, but never quite caught on to how to resist effectively. Even a good promotional email will get me interested, and once I’m in the store I’m pretty much a goner. I never really go over my budget, but since I am trying to save money this year I decided to try to cut down on some of my more frivolous purchases. Step one: get rid of all the junk mail.

I thought I had a good system to manage all the inevitable junk email that comes with being a consumer in the 21st century. Every time you make a purchase online you are automatically signed up for promotional emails. Having worked in a store where my “email capture percentage” was tracked daily, I also ALWAYS give my email when I make purchases in stores. I use what I refer to as my “junk email address”(an old one I created in high school), so it all goes to one place and doesn’t clutter up my more professional email accounts. Still, even when going in to delete all the promotional crap every few days, I would get sucked in.

So, on New Year’s Eve, I spent a full 3 hours unsubscribing from ALL the promotional email I receive. I knew I received a lot, but the sheer volume and variety of retailers was mind boggling! I opened each one–there were well over a hundred–scrolled all the way down to the TINY unsubscribe button at the bottom, and slowly but surely cleared out my inbox.

It’s been over a month now since I unsubscribed, and I can’t even begin to tell you how liberating it feels to not even have to interact with all the sales junk. Imagine if you didn’t have to recycle the weekly grocery ad paper, you just never received it at all! It’s awesome. A few still trickle through here and there, but I unsubscribe immediately.¬†I know that it’s cut down on my urge to buy, and it just feels good to not have so many things clogging my inbox and brain.

(A note for those still stuck in ¬†in solidarity with all the retail workers out there whose email percentage has been ruined by that one older lady who doesn’t have an email address, I will still give out my email freely and unsubscribe later ūüôā

 

 

Stir Crazy

After the long weekend I had hoped that maybe, just maybe, I would get to go to work again today. Alas, here I sit at home on snow day number 9 as they are now predicting ice and freezing rain to go with all the snow that is still sitting on the ground. You would think that they would have cleared at least some of the roads since Wednesday, but apparently the city of Portland has settled on a policy of “wait for it to melt”. All this is to say…I’m bored.

I churned out a Father Cables hat for Nate in record time yesterday. It went extra fast because, in addition to being painfully bored, I was terrified of running out of yarn from the start. The pattern calls for 220 yards of worsted, which is pretty standard for most single skeins. The yarn I had intended for the pattern is a lovely hand-painted beauty from Rainwater Fibers that I bought when I was in Washington for a training. I bought two skeins, one for Nate in the colorway Iron-y (a greyish/tannish/mushroomy sort of color), and one for me in Inherited the Family Jewels (a greyish/purplish/blackish sort of color). The catch? Each skein only has 190 yards, 30 yards short of what my pattern recommends.

When dealing with a potential yarn shortage, the only course of action is to keep knitting as fast as possible. And so I did. I measured and only left a few inches of tail after the cast on, and I skimped a bit on the ribbing. I knit frantically through the main body of the hat, swearing every time I glanced at my ever-dwindling skein. As I started the decreases, the ball was smaller than my palm.

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I was optimistic I could make it, but I knew it would be close. And close it was, though not as close as I thought. After closing up the top and weaving in ends I have just a few yards left, probably enough for a stripe or two in another project. I LOVE how it turned out, and I’m looking forward to a much more relaxing time knitting a matching one for myself now that I know I have just enough yarn.

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Oh, and I made zucchini bread last night. Did I mention I was bored?

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Snowed in

Before this week we had already had 4 snow days this year. School was cancelled Monday because of ice, but classes were in session Tuesday. The weather report was predicting 1-3″ of snow on Wednesday morning, but I was¬†sure they wouldn’t cancel again for just a dusting. On Tuesday night it snowed 3″ in¬†one hour. Four days later there is still nearly a foot of snow on the ground. In Portland, Oregon. This is madness.

For me, all this snow has meant putting off lesson plans in favor of lots and lots of knitting. In my last post I mentioned the Pussyhat Project. At the last knit night I was able to attend before the snow I picked up some pink yarn and knit up my first one. I went stash diving for pink and made a second, but by Friday I was done with the second hat and all out of pink yarn. I hiked through the snow yesterday for a restock, wound up all the pink yarn in the house, and cranked out another.

These first three pussyhats will be sent out this week: two destined for family attending the¬†Women’s March¬†in Washington D.C., and one for my dad who wanted a way to show his support. Currently, I’m itching for something a bit more challenging, so I plan to cast on this hat for Nate before I knit one more pussyhat for myself.

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Here’s hoping there is school again on Tuesday!

Year of the Activist

Alright, get ready for the cliched New Year’s post! I have always loved the sense of renewal that a new year brings, and this year is no exception. It was delightful to wake up with 2016 behind me and the proverbial clean slate stretching out ahead waiting to be etched with new and better things. However, this year has also got me in a more reflective state, looking back over the year that passed.

It feels strange to realize that while I personally accomplished so much in 2016 (have I mentioned how great it is to be able to say that I am a TEACHER?!?!), I am also very much in tune with my generations’ current tone of abjection, objection, and dejection after the year that passed. In general I am pragmatic and optimistic and easily roll on after setbacks, or at least manage to stay sane and above the fray while others cluck about the sky crashing down. My ability to stay practical and positive is something I consider a strength, but the last few months especially have tested my easy-going mettle.

My sense of pragmatism has kept me on the political sidelines for most of my adult life. I believe in the value of working within a system to create change, and have never really felt the need to do much more than stay informed and keep doing what I feel is the right thing. I thought that I was okay with things after the recent election cycle. I didn’t cry or recluse or anything like that. I moved forward, like I always do. But now, sitting here on the edge of 2017 some of my inner lefty feminist steam is starting to build pressure and crack my pragmatic shell, and I think that is a good thing.¬†I have been practical to a point of being very nearly aloof and apolitical for too long. I thought I was okay with things, but I’m really not. I am damned disappointed with the¬†current social, political, and global outlook. It’s fucking frustrating.

Some things I’m feeling right now…

As a woman, the results of the 2016 US election are upsetting. I am a feminist, to my core. My feminism is¬†something I don’t often articulate publicly, but 2017 is the time. Mostly, I believe in a woman’s right to choose. Women should have the right to choose to have a career, or not. Women should have the right to choose if, when, and how they would like to have children. Women should have the right to choose their parking spot, running path, seat on public transit, or other means of taking up space without fear of harassment or assault. Women should have the right to choose how they present themselves (clothing, make-up, etc) in those public spaces, without fear of harassment or assault, and without risking being blamed for any harassment or assault that might happen to coincide with those choices. Women should have the right to choose their romantic, marital, and sexual partners. Women should have the right to choose how many or how few romantic, marital, or sexual partners they have without fear of ridicule.

As a teacher of students in poverty, immigrant students, and students of color, the results of the 2016 US election are incredibly threatening. The youth I teach had no real voice in this election, and we failed them. My students are incredibly bright, resilient, strong young people, but I wonder daily how much the ignorance and hatred they are confronted with drags on their spirits. I wonder how they will cope with coming of age during the next administration. I wonder if there is anything I can do about it.

With all this and more weighing on my mind as 2016 came to a close, I decided that 2017 is the year to do something about it. I worked as a youth soccer coach the last couple of years, and the company I worked for always had a title for each new year, the Year of Fun, or the Year of the Coach, for example. It was a simple way to drive home the focus for the year, and to keep things constantly moving forward. Well, at least for me, 2017 is going to be the Year of the Activist. I’m going to put my money and, more importantly, time where my mouth is, get out there, and DO SOMETHING to support the causes that mean something to me.

First up, I plan to go to the¬†Women’s March on Portland¬†in solidarity with the¬†Women’s March on Washington. Tomorrow at my knitting group I will start a hat for the¬†Pussy Hat Project. I hope to have time to knit at least one to send to D.C. and one to wear as I march. Wish this baby activist luck and quick pussy knitting!

 

Fresh Start

Today is Christmas! I am up too early because my stomach is upset (though I am determined that it will be ready for mimosas in 2 hours), and I thought Christmas morning as good a time as any to return to this blog after such a long hiatus.

As summer came to a close I had high hopes of continuing to blog semi-regularly, and then September came in a rush and I feel like I haven’t stopped working for a minute since! I am a teacher now (eeeeeee! Still sooooo exciting to say that!), and I knew the first year would be hard, but I was totally unprepared for just how¬†consuming it is. Needless to say, I love this work. I have never been more stressed, frustrated, busy, or fulfilled. I have grown so much just since September, and I know that my students will only continue to challenge and inspire me.

Coming back to this blog at this time of year feels right. A fresh start is a fabulous thing, and besides all my new professional challenges and triumphs, the latter half of 2016 hasn’t exactly been something I really want to look back on. I will keep knitting, keep teaching, and keep writing. Things are looking up. Merry Christmas everyone!

Sarahs Knitting Sweaters: Blocking at the Beach

*This post is part of a knit-along series with my dear friend, Sarah. Check out all her posts, plus our previous joint shawl project on her site, One Last Stitch.

At last, the long awaited finale of the Amors Arrow sweater! The last bits of this sweater went off quite well. After my neck hole troubles the rest of the lace went off without a hitch.

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Then there was the question of how to graft the lace to the rest of the sweater. The pattern says to use kitchener stitch to join the lace to the bodice, which is a perfectly nice idea. I don’t mind kitchener, but I tend to agree with Sarah that more than 100 stitches of it is pretty daunting. I considered a three needle bind off instead, but eventually decided to just go with the kitchener. Having already had some issues with a tight bind off I figured a kitchener graft, though tedious, would avoid any binding or puckering along the back of the sweater.

And so, I grafted. It took a LONG time, but I was at the beach and supplied with ample wine and snacks to keep my mind (read: stomach) sufficiently occupied. I finished weaving in the ends and tried the thing on. My head fit through, all it needed now was a good blocking session.*

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Finished, pre-block.

I had forgotten to bring pins to the beach house, so the next day I went searching in downtown Manzanita. The store that used to sell knitting things is now exclusively a clothing boutique, but I got lucky at the local grocery store. I bought a box of pins, walked home, and dunked the sweater in the best bucket substitute available.

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After a good soak in the pot I pinned out the sweater on one of the futons in the beach house. I had hoped to be able to wear it at least one day on vacation, but alas, things dry a bit more slowly at the beach. By the time the sweater was ready to wear it was too late, so I packed it up and toted it home.

I’m back home, and the time has come at last to wear the sweater! Overall, I’m really pleased. The lace opened up really nicely, which brings the neckline down a bit, so I’ll have to wear a tank underneath to make it school appropriate. For summer though, I actually really love the little tease of lace under lace, and I don’t feel at all overexposed. The shape is great, it has a nice drape, and it’s soft all over. I can’t wait to wear this all summer long!**

*The pattern asks for a decorative crocheted edging around the sleeves. I tend to curse a lot when I crochet, and since the sleeves seem to lie pretty flat without the crochet reinforcement I decided to forgo the crochet altogether. For those who enjoy crochet, I salute you and leave you to it. I’m not sure it will ever be my thing.

**In Portland one can wear a sweater in the summer and not totally melt. Sorry, Sarah G.

Beach Time!

Having spent my adolescence coming of age in a tourist town on the Oregon coast, I hold a special place in my heart for the beach. This week I actually took time off from work (this NEVER happens, ask anyone) and headed out with Nate and his family to a vacation rental in Manzanita, a short drive south of where I grew up.

This week has been just awesome! We have had perfect weather. I walked on the beach every day, went running twice, went on a gorgeous hike with Nate (pictured below), did lots of reading, and of course got to knit up a storm. On our first night here I finished up the kitchener graft on my Amors Arrow sweater (more on that in a later post, but be sure to check out the rest of the Sarahs Knitting Sweaters series on my blog and at One Last Stitch).

Setting aside the sweater I’ve been knitting for so long was quite liberating, and I needed something light and easy as a relaxing vacation knit. I had come prepared with yarn, needles, and pattern for the¬†Angora Cloche Hat, something simple, quick, and fun. I cast on the super fuzzy yarn and was immediately delighted. Hats are so nice to knit because you can clearly see your progress, and rarely do you need to commit more than a few days before you get a cute new accessory out of the deal!

The yarn and pattern came to me from my partner on Fibreshare, an online community where you can sign up to send and receive fiber packages a few times a year. This was my first time participating, and it has been really awesome. I got a great package full of yarns and other odds and ends, and I had lots of fun putting together a package that I hope my partner will love. This golden yellow angora is the perfect color!

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My awesome fiber package! The yarn for the hat is in the bottom right corner.

The actual hat part of the cloche knit up really quick, and then I moved on to the cincher and rib band. The rib band is threaded through the cincher to make a bow shape, then stitched onto the finished cap. It is so soft and fuzzy, and the turban-esque look of the bow is growing on me.*

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I’m a bit bummed to be heading back to the city after such a wonderful week at the beach, but I feel rested and ready to tackle the rest of the summer. I’m sure I’ll be back at the beach soon enough!

*My phone is on its last legs (new one on the way next week!), so I was unable to take any pictures of my Angora Cloche in progress. I also took a really cute beach selfie while wearing it, but the file is corrupted and I’m super bummed. This is all to say I’m sorry for the lack of pictures, and for the bummer pic of me sitting in a chair :/

Purge Update: Books and Papers

I know it’s been a while since my¬†last post¬†about what I now refer to as the Great Purge of ’16. I am still working steadily on fully reorganizing our little basement space, and I’ve even managed to get Nate on board. After going through all of my clothes, I moved on to books and papers as prescribed by my personal purge-guru¬†Marie Kondo.*

I find the hardest part of all this organizing and sorting is actually rounding up everything that fits in the chosen category. Even living in a pretty confined space, it’s incredible how many different places I have found to store books. Most were on the shelf, yes, but I had a good stack on my night stand, craft books in with my knitting stash, a bunch of books stuffed in the coffee table, and miscellaneous others scattered around the house. I didn’t count how many books I started with, but there were quite a lot. I stacked them all on and around the coffee table we have in the basement.

I’m pretty sure¬†the book¬†suggests you sort your books into categories before going through them, but getting all the books off the shelf had kind of worn me out, so I just dug in. I had already gotten rid of quite a few books several months ago when Nate wanted a shelf or two on our bookshelf, so sorting through searching for sparks of joy felt slightly redundant at first. Still I found more than a few books that I was willing to part with.

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I think I counted 37 books in the sell/donate pile. As I was re-shelving all the books to keep, I ended up getting rid of maybe 10 more. That’s nearly 50 books off my shelves and into the world! One perk of living in Portland is that anytime you have books to pass on you can sell them to¬†Powell’s Books¬†and get cash or store credit. Powell’s¬†didn’t buy everything (the rejects went to Goodwill), but I did end up with $50 in store credit to replenish my newly-purged shelves.

Purging papers was a pretty boring process, and just felt like a really deep filing session. I emptied my file cabinet and corralled all my loose papers and set to recycling. I kept the majority of my files, but I did get rid of a bunch of now-useless papers and junk mail. Just one very full bag to shred and recycle, but good progress, I think.

*While searching for the Marie Kondo links, I found this article that came out in the New York Times Magazine just this week! Check it out!

Summer Sun

A few weeks ago the youth soccer company I coach for had a big outdoor fundraiser party. It was super fun, and it was on one of the hottest days we’ve had so far this summer. As usual, I applied sunscreen regularly. I had just purchased a new brand on sale, so I was eager to see how it would hold up. About ten minutes after my second application I started¬†my shift at the spash-a-coach booth. Immediately after the first splash from a gleefully cackling three-year-old the sunscreen I had applied melted off my arms into a white gooey mess. It was gross! Luckily, I was continuously splashed by toddlers for the next half hour, so I was more wet than messy. Still, I decided that I needed a higher quality solution for sun protection.

I’ve always used¬†regular commercial sunscreen lotions and been totally fine. From my splash-booth fiasco I learned that you get what you pay for. I’m currently a bit strapped for cash, but I did remember reading that shea butter can offer sun protection. If you remember from my¬†body butter experiment, I happen to have a bit of shea butter lying around. I did a quick search for recipes, and decided on a simple, easy to apply sunscreen stick.

I ordered some beeswax pellets and non-nano zinc oxide from Amazon, dug out the shea butter and coconut oil from the cupboard, and set about making some sunscreen.

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That orange bottle in the background is the Splash Booth Incident culprit.

Part of the reason I chose this recipe is because it is super simple. Basically, put everything except the essential oil and zinc powder in a double boiler and melt it together. The beeswax took the longest to melt, but the whole thing took maybe 10 minutes.

Next I added the zinc oxide (be super careful or wear a mask, this power is very toxic if inhaled) and essential oil. The recipe said you could add “vanilla”, which I assumed meant basic vanilla extract. I tried this, and I think the final product is okay, but the vanilla extract curdled as soon as it hit the hot mixture and it took some serious stirring to break it up. I think next time I will stick to just essential oils. In addition to the vanilla extract I used anise oil.

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After all the ingredients were mixed I poured into a glass pan (you could use molds or cupcake tins, too), cooled it in the fridge, then sliced into bars. I think it smells nice, and I am pretty pleased with how these bars turned out. I’ll be using mine this weekend while I’m out coaching. I hope it will stand up to soccer and a possible splash!

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Sarahs Knitting Sweaters: Holes

*This post is part of a knit-along series with my dear friend, Sarah. Check out all her posts, plus our previous joint shawl project on her site, One Last Stitch.

Since I last posted I have been working up a froth of pink lace. The arrow pattern is pretty fun: complex enough to be interesting, but not so crazy that it prohibits conversation. I rolled along pretty quickly and finished the prescribed 20cm lace panel about a ten days ago.

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Then came the head hole. I knew it was going to take more concentration to count the bind of and cast on, and I really just didn’t feel like doing it. So I procrastinated. I spent a full week totally ignoring all things knitted. I’m still being faithfully monogamous, so I didn’t even switch projects, I just did other things. I got some planning done for the fall and read more of my current novel. After a week I was itching to knit again, and I knew it was time to sit down and make a big hole.

So I did. Things seemed to be going fine; I followed the instructions exactly. Knit 3 lace repeats, bind of 40 stitches, knit three more lace repeats. So far, so good. Then purl to giant gap, cast on 40 stitches using cable cast on, and voila! A perfectly nice hole is created!

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After binding off for the head hole there is some definite puckering in the middle.

But, there was a bit of a problem. After binding off my 40 stitches thing seemed a bit tight to me, but I figured that would work itself out in the cast on. Not so. This is how big–or should I say small–the hole was.

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Unless I could shrink my head to fit through, there was no way this was going to work. I needed help. I took the sweater to knit night and Steph (friend of the blogger/s) came to the rescue. I tinked back two rows and started over. Steph showed me a super stretchy bind off method she learned (similar to this one), which seemed to go well. Things were looking up. We searched YouTube for a good elastic cast on, and found this¬†video tutorial. The woman in the video yanks her yarn like she’s angry at it, but the method worked like a dream. Here’s the finished result, complete with my awkward hand for size comparison.

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I tested it, and my head fits through, no trouble at all! I’m pretty pleased, and I think after blocking it will look really nice. I have just 20cm more of lace and a bit of crochet before this sweater is done!