Monday, December 24, 2012

banana beer

It is half an hour before sunset.  My desk is finally clean, all the packets are wrapped, and according to NORAD radar, Santa is just passing over Eastern Europe.  Join the fun here:  NORAD Santa Tracker

The blissful quiet of Christmas is beginning to settle in. DXZ's personal radar has learned that ace baked a cheesecake (secret family recipe), that the dog ate half of the Texas relatives' Christmas basket (oh dear!), and that the Germans are away in a wonderful warm place.

The East Coast is promised a bit of snow to sparkle up Christmas Day, but that is tomorrow.  Soon we will light the Advent candles, have a few quiet moments of our own, sing some Christmas music, and perhaps play some board games or watch a movie (great sock-knitting opportunity!)

We will definitely stay up till midnight in hopes of catching Santa, and probably argue amicably as to whether presents should be opened the 24th (German Christmas) or the 25th (American).  I'm holding out for the 25th!  Regardless of who wins, we'll end the night with a cheery toast -- quite likely this year  an outlandish brew from Scotland, beer made from bananas -- so weird, it has to be tried.  (ace, you'd better check on me in the morning.)


Whatever your tradition, wherever you are,

may this be a blessed time with those you love.



We are grateful you are our readers, and wish you

A Merry Christmas from The Mindful Sheep


~DXZ






Sunday, December 23, 2012

big rocks


Well, ace, I know what you mean about not enough time in the day.  It is a reality as well as a cliche.
Stephen Covey, the inspired businessman and life coach, often uses the example of filling a pail with rocks.  You have big ones and little ones and they all have to fit without spilling over.  The smaller rocks have labels like “deadlines” and “work” and “housecleaning.”  The big ones have labels like “family,” “vacations,” and “spiritual community.”
You guessed it. People put the deadlines and worries and housework into the bucket first, and can’t get the big, important rocks in at all.
I’ve written this blog in my head a hundred times: there is so much to say! .  Sometimes I’m wise, sometimes pathetic, sometimes between a rock and a hard place.  In the last two weeks, I’ve been often distraught as more news of the massacres in Sandy Hook, Pakistan, the Middle East come rolling in over the airwaves.  But blogging it down in pixels and code - that’s another thing altogether.  Yes, I’ve been tending some small rocks, but more importantly, I’ve also been making room for some big ones, too.  
One of the kids killed at Sandy Hook Elementary was the daughter of a co-worker.  It’s been pretty glum around the office, and we all feel it, the never-mores, the no-more-hugs, the emptiness.  
That could have been us.  Or someone who belongs to us.  It brings up waves of nausea and sadness; or extra tenderness before leaving for work, on returning home.  And more often than not, I find that sock in my hands, each stitch anchoring me a bit in reality, making concrete a bit of love.
Is it o.k. to knit when we have so much else to do?  Oh, ace, absolutely.



~DXZ

Monday, December 10, 2012

time for...


I hate to be cliché here, but I’ll just say it anyway – there just isn’t enough time in the day. And I mean that in lots of different ways.
-I am currently bound by the universal constraints of linear “time.”
-There are only 24 hours in what we call a day.
-My life equates to a finite amount of time.
-Life is short.
-I work 5 days a week, 8 hours a day.
-The rest of the time I’m supposed to keep my house clean, water my plants, weed the garden, pick up the dry cleaning, sleep, prepare and eat healthy food, spend time with my boyfriend, keep up with New Girl on Fox, pretend to like football, knit, blog, prepare Christmas gifts, work out, relax, figure out how to reduce stress in my life, and try out new hobbies.

Every so often “free time” becomes so scarce, that it makes me a little cross. Like right now. Don’t get me wrong, I had a very nice weekend, and I didn’t actually do much cleaning or anything (don’t look too closely if you come over). But I haven’t knit a stitch since at least last Thursday.
Sometimes I feel too guilty to sit down and knit. Does that ever happen to you? I should be doing something else. I’m not sure what, but something more “productive” or “useful.”
The thing I forget is that sitting down to knit is incredibly productive and useful – in that it helps me relax and stay in the present moment.
I was talking today to a woman at work who just finished her first knitting class – “Loops 101” at our best LYS, Loops. She is hooked (even though it’s not crochet, haha) and looking forward to doing more. She said that even though it’s been a little hard to learn, she finds knitting relaxing. This, from a newbie! That’s encouraging.
I’ve learned over the last 6 years that knitting is indeed relaxing. Even when you are working on a difficult pattern, the act of sitting down and focusing on what’s directly in front of you, taking a deep breath and being present enough to the activity at hand causes you to slow down and… relax.

There’s only one problem. I’m not very good at relaxing, because I feel guilty when I relax. And then stress sneaks up on me in very unfortunate ways. Maybe I should prescribe knitting as part of my “cure” for stress. Like, I’m sorry I can’t come to your Christmas party, or check my gutters – I’ve got to sit down and knit. Doctor’s orders!

What do you think, Sockbean – is it OK if I sit down and knit every so often, even when I feel that I don’t have the time??

-ace


i am still working on this stupid sweater... 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

real-life fairytale

“The Mermaid has sprung a leak and I don’t know how to knit! Can you help?” 


Who could resist a mermaid? Or a scientist?  “Of course!” said the Stitchwitch.  So The Mermaid, The Scientist, and The Stitchwitch met for an emergency operation.

Frankly, it might have helped  to Medivac The Mermaid to a care facility for the weekend, but there were serious complications:  The Mermaid lived with The Little Girl, and could not be parted from her except during pre-school hours!  This was a big concession on The Mermaid’s part.  She would rather pour out her stuffing than be parted from The Little Girl.







So The Stitchwitch and The Scientist set up a field hospital in the coffee room of their office at work.  The operation was delicate.  Initial kitchenering left a bit of a keloid, but a basket weave darning stitch did good service.  









Time ran short and the planned reinforcement over the heart had to be abandoned.  The Scientist received technical instruction for emergency care of the weak heart area:  “You could try over-under-over darning, like making a lattice for a pie crust,” said the Stitchwitch, surriptitiously casting a little spell. 

A look of doubt crossed The Scientist’s face. “But I’ve never done any needlework . . . .”  

“Not to worry,” said The Stitchwitch, “we can do a follow-up operation if needed.”

Monday, The Stitchwitch knew the spell had worked -- and the outcome was the very best possible:  The Scientist had taken the leap and made the basket weave darn. She’d become a needlewoman!  


And The Mermaid?  The Mermaid was now completely repaired and restored to the arms of her beloved LIttle Girl.



The Scientist had called their meeting a “Grandmother Moment.”  It gladdened The Stitchwitch, for that observation illuminated the true meaning of her  Grannie’s strongest spell:  “eeechwan teechwan!”


~DXZ

photos and story used by permission of The Scientist and The Mermaid

Monday, November 26, 2012

i'll make you a scarf.


it's getting cold in tulsa. which means it's even colder in middlebury, vermont. and if, say, you were up at college in middlebury vermont, without a car, and you had to walk everywhere, you might want a scarf. sure, you could buy one (along with boots for the snow, a new north face pullover and some ski equipment). but why not have someone make you a nice scarf?
a nice comfy handmade scarf trumps store bought every time. i admit - i might be slightly biased here, but for the most part, it's true (unless your aunt gladys knit you a multi-colored fluffy floofy scarf with the "novelty" yarn she bought half price at hobby lobby. but then again, that might just be your thing, and that's ok too).
so yes, hand-made wins every time.
so when michael, the neighbor's eldest son, up in vermont for his first semester of college, mentioned it was getting cold, i was ON it! i will knit you a scarf!
the first thing i did was try to look for a "manly" design. i wanted to do something kind of interesting, but at the same time not too terribly complicated - i wanted to finish THIS fall, not next fall. so some aesthetic qualities may have been sacrificed for the sake of expediency but of course the quality is still high so it's ok!
i settled on a basic basketweave (5 knit stiches, 5 purl stitches, repeated and every 5 rows, then reversed). then i went to my favorite lys, loops, and picked up some yarn. i don't have the tags in front of me but i believe it was classic elite vista - an alpaca blend. alpaca is warmer than wool and super soft so i thought it was a good choice. i went with grey. because that's what a sophisticated young man should wear.
all this was approved by the neighbor - he knows michael better than i do so of course i wanted to make sure i was on the right track.
i got a little distracted by a super cool cable scarf pattern (more on that later) but i did manage to finish the SYMS (sophisticated young man's scarf) by the time michael came home to visit for thanksgiving. i think he liked it. but the real test will be to see if a) he uses it and b) it keeps him warm and c) he likes it. time will tell.

regardless, i sure do enjoy knitting for other people. i like the idea that i can make something that hopefully looks nice and that they can use and enjoy. sadly i've probably promised a few people i'd make something for them and i haven't really come through yet. so if that was you - sorry. i'm not exactly the fastest knitter around and you may have to remind me. plus my boyfriend gets first dibs.

-ace

ace and michael - mr. east coast prepster.


he may have to practice wearing it...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

frogging


Why do they call it frogging?  Because when you want to undo your knitting, you have to rip-it, rip-it, rip-it!

Dumb joke, but don’t we all feel a bit froggish when inattention or misunderstanding has us jumping off on the wrong foot?  We’d all love to have perfect, even stitches pouring off our needles and forming fabulous garments before our very eyes.  That only happens in fairy tales or Harry Potter stories!  The reality is we all sometimes get distracted, skip a pattern line, misread a chart, drop some stitches.  

As Ace mentioned, she frogged her road-trip scarf because it didn’t look right, it didn’t feel right, and ultimately she felt better ripping out and re-knitting.  Re-knitting, no doubt, with more mindfulness. 

Isn’t that just like life?  We do, and re-do, learn our hiccups and learn to pay attention.  We learn what needs practice, how things are constructed, the nuances of life’s pattern.  We learn what we can adjust, ignore, or catch in later with a deft stitch.  We learn what needs a good deal of frogging to set right.  

A cheerful acceptance of frogging seems to be one of life’s little secrets.  Ultimately, no stitch made, unmade, or remade, is wasted. And we all feel better about the outcome.

For some wonderful techniques to make frogging easier, visit Theresa at Knitty.com here

My most recent trip to the frog pond?  The Noro Silk Garden sweater I started during Hurricane Sandy got hopelessly off-pattern.  I'd knit about as much as you can see in the photo below-- and had to rip it all out right down to the ribbing and knit again.  It was worth it.



~DXZ

Monday, November 12, 2012

knitting through texas.


i like texas. a lot. so when the neighbor asked me if i'd like to go on a little vacation with him and his family to san antonio, i said yes please!
not only did i get to spend time with my favorite person and his family, but i got to spend time in a super cool state. it was a good vacation.
we drove to san antonio - the neighbor and i in the back seat of a nissan murano, his sister and brother-in-law up front.
i can't read in the car but for some reason, i can knit up a storm. so that's what i did when i wasn't looking at the scenery. which was nice, but you know how it is when you're in the zone - the knitting zone - you just gotta knit.
a few weeks ago i found a really intriguing scarf pattern. i like cabling but i have to be careful with it - i don't like things that are TOO busy. but this pattern is just right - lots of cabling but it's also nice and orderly.
then a week later i found the right yarn - a really lovely merino wool from the best tulsa LYS - loops. now all i needed was the time to knit. voila - an 8.5 hour car ride. times two.


as soon as i got a few rows in, the neighbor began to express interest in the pattern, the color and texture of the yarn, and the complexity of the pattern. it was fun showing him my progress over the course of the trip. you know how cool it makes us knitters feel when we come across someone who is not only interested in what we do but also appreciates the work we put into our projects!
needless to say by the end of the first leg of trip, it became apparent that i'm knitting a scarf for the neighbor.

i did end up having to frog a good portion of it - for some reason i missed a few cable repeats or something, and there were too many straight lines and not enough twisty cables. the neighbor said he didn't care - he'd wear it anyway, but i couldn't do it. because it wasn't RIGHT. it's bad enough to know that something as important as cables didn't look right but i certainly couldn't let someone else wear something i made that wasn't right. so - i frogged about a third of it. it set me back but i ultimately felt better about it.

as i knit my way through texas and oklahoma i thought about a lot of things. i got back into that really satisfying feeling of staying in the present moment. i watched the countryside go by and knit my way across the highways. it was nice.

-ace





(by the way, you can find this cool cable scarf pattern here.)



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

first threads


Winding the Skein:  Folks, we are trying to coordinate the Comment threads, and are struggling a bit.

Until we figure it out, you can comment on posts by clicking “No Comments” or “(Number of) Comments” in the grey box at the end of each blog post.  

To leave a general comment, click on the Post A Comment tab in the header.  

All comments are moderated, and will be posted after review, usually within 24 hours.  It’s the low tech approach to keeping the spam out and the good stuff in.

Thank you to all of you who wrote email to congratulate us or comment.  And thanks to J. L. for asking me to tell the story of My First Project -- as Ace so aptly noted: we all have our stories.

Frankly, it came out looking like a hippie poncho for a fashion-blind snake.  “It” was ostensibly a scarf.  “It” was in reality my mother’s successful plot to keep two kids (7 and 9) quiet on a long car trip.

My sister’s yarn was pink.  Mine was blue.  Our new aluminum needles matched: pink for her, blue for me.  Mom cast on for us, and showed us the knit stitch.  We knit.  We knit, split stitches, bewailed our uneven edges, learned to reduce, split some more.  These scarves became almost totemic.  We dragged them with us across the continent to California. We discovered Red Heart yarn in the local craft shop and delighted in spending our allowance to add to our scarves.  We were blissfully ignorant of colorways.  We just knit what we liked.  And purled. And knit/purled our initials into the fabric.  Made raised hearts and sunken circles.  Somewhere in the middle, I tried to make a buttonhole and ended up with a long, uneven slit down the center.  Mysteriously, the scarf became narrower and narrower, until it finally petered out.  Casting off was the final lesson.

I never wore that scarf. It may have been wrapped around some stuffed animals for a while.  Where that scarf ended up I have no idea -- perhaps acquired by the fashion-optional snake -- but I know what it became: a fond memory, and the foundation for a lifetime of knitting. 


~DXZ

Sunday, November 4, 2012

here's the story.

everyone has a story.

i have one, sockbean has one. this blog is where our stories intersect.
as she mentioned in our inaugural post, sockbean is my aunt on the east coast. and i am the niece, holding down the fort smackdab in the middle of the country. we have been bound by family ties for quite some time now, and i have lots of fond memories from california - of going on walks with sockbean, while her husband and my mom, brother and sister, had long talks. i remember him making turkish coffee. the smell of oil paints. and half-listening to esoteric conversations spoken with a german accent.
then sockbean and i sort of lost touch for a very long time. they moved to boston and i grew up and got on with my own life. i did a lousy job of keeping in touch over the years. but two years ago, almost exactly, we were all reunited, in a way. going through hard times has a way of bringing people closer together and that's what happened with us.
i rediscovered my wonderful aunt and uncle two years ago. and we discovered that there were a lot of common threads that ran through our lives. we are all "artists" - we knit, we draw, we write, we think big thoughts. but most importantly - we are family.
i can't tell you how much it's meant to me to reconnect with sockbean and my uncle. they helped me through something that was, for simplicity's sake, unspeakable. we completed a journey together - a camino, a pilgrimage. it will bond us forever, family or no.
and so now we communicate via text mostly - ah modern communication! the art of the written word is getting lost in favor of LOLs and emojis... so we hold on to physical things (besides our iphones) - knitting needles and the warm, embracing comfort of yarn.

so, here is where you will read our story. not all of it will be this serious, honest! life needs to be fun. and colorful. and not scratchy. like a comfy pair of hand-knit socks or a nice warm scarf.

thanks for joining us - see you back here real soon.

-ace


Sunday, October 28, 2012

ninety-seven percent visible



Fiber runs through every aspect of life – plant, animal, mineral, mind, soul, character.



Whether wool, moral, or optics, fiber is the thread that binds us together as a community of craftspeople, artists, and philosophers. Fiber is the yarn that connects my niece and myself.

My niece and I are part of the SoCal diaspora.  Ace finds herself in the Heartland, near Tulsa, Oklahoma. I live near Boston, Massachusetts.

Knitting and fiber have been a vibrant part of our lives always.  We learned the basics from and with our mothers, enlarged our repertoire through lessons, friends, and shared projects.  Two years ago found us on the couch, knitting our way through the trauma of my sister-in-law’s fatal cancer, and rediscovering the strong fibers of the heart.

The Mindful Sheep is the brainstorm of my brilliant niece.  She got me perfecting my texting skills while her mom waned and snow blew.  February 17, 2011, the text ding rang and she had come up with The Mindful Sheep.  A website? A blog?  Who knew!  Definitely something collaborative. It was just shy of the full moon.  In a moment of lunar madness and with a couple of keystrokes, I registered the URL and our project was born.

It’s now October 28, 2012.  The moon is again 97% visible, the perfect time for The Mindful Sheep to make its debut. 

So here we are.  On the East Coast, I'm knitting a pullover in Noro Silk Garden (shades of blue and violet), waiting for Hurricane Sandy to arrive.  A gentle rain has begun; the weather is calm, and so are we, my niece in Oklahoma and I.  No lunar madness: rather, we bask in the still light of night’s great lamp.   My horoscope says that a partnership started at this time is likely to meet the test of time, to last a lifetime.  I can hardly think of a better person to partner with than with my nice niece, nor a better venture than the ongoing discussion of hand and heart.

~DXZ