a quick friday hello

It’s just a quick Friday hello from the depths of the Michigan February refrigerator. We’ve entered the time of the winter season that’s the hardest for me. The cold has turned dry and grinding (several three-cat nights and single-digit mornings). Running outside is dangerous because of the slick conditions so the exercise I get is indoors and unsatisfactory. In summary I am bloated, tired, pale and pimply.

Every morning on the school run, though, the sunrise is more vivid, streaks of blue and pink and gold, over the steeple of the Catholic church on the hill. We are moving back towards the light. I made it into the office twice this week and my biggest battle has been the high school after-school pickup line. It’s always an exercise in kamikaze driving, cutting each other off and angling for a spot, minivans on two wheels and SUV’s making questionable judgments. But if that’s the worst of my week, then I know my week is going pretty well.

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drinking from a fire hose

My brother recently said that his week felt like drinking from a fire hose and I thought it was such a perfect description of my 2023 so far. As always, there are things that I can’t / won’t blog about but let me just say that teenagers are no joke, y’all. There are times when I feel like a stranger has taken up residence in my kiddo’s appallingly messy bedroom and is stomping around in her new varsity jacket. I know we all go through this terrifying developmental stage and my own parents advised me on more than one occasion that I was a massive storm cloud during my teen years but sometimes you have to live with it to really get it. And kids these days have very different concerns and stressors than we did with the omnipresent influence of technology and social media. Sooo… deep breath, both hands on the wheel.

Likes this week: A mid-week snow storm which didn’t disrupt my life too badly, just laid down a nice fluffy blanket of white that’s been largely absent so far this winter. Looking up at almost 6pm the other day and seeing that it was still light outside (we’re starting to move out of the dark season now). Keeping up with my 2023 reading challenge and finding a new cozy series (the Dr. Nell Ward mysteries by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett) to keep me occupied. Keeping up with my vitamin D and happily finding the missing 3 cards from the tarot deck that my parents gave me for Christmas when I turned 14.

Dislikes this week: See first paragraph above.

This weekend is a breakfast with my bestie and a big football day on Sunday for Brandon, via his team the Bengals. TGIF!

WIPS and soon-to-be cast-ons: with bonus cross-stitch!

I started the New Year with 3 WIP knitting projects and 2 more ready to cast on.

WIPs

  • A Homespun House Cozy Comfort throw – this has been in process for awhile now but it’s a blanket, so those usually take me years. I started this last January or February with minis from my A Homespun House Advent calendar held double with Purl Soho line weight merino (yes this was a splurge but it was so worth it). This is my mindless TV knitting and I actually worked on it a lot over the holiday break. It’s knitting up squashy and soft and I love seeing how each mini-skein’s colorway blends or stands out with the prior one.
  • Clinton Hill Cashmere’s Bandit Cowl in their bespoke cashmere DK in the Forest colorway. This yarn is knitting nirvana and this is a small indulgence project. I keep this one in my purse or in the car as it is extremely portable “waiting” knitting for when the kid is off doing something and I’m the chauffeur waiting to drive her home.
  • The Secret Garden knitted dishcloth from the Kitchen Sink Shop. At some point, she released a free dishcloth pattern every month. I went back and tried to find them all on Ravelry but could only find a few that were still free, and this is one of them. I’m just using cheap cotton from the craft store in a navy blue and this will probably be gift knitting in a package of little things for my bestie. It’s a little rough to work on cotton after the cloudy softness of line weight merino and bespoke cashmere but it’s a fun knit and the pattern emerges in a very satisfying way.

Ready to Cast On

  • Road Trippin’ Hat – a free pattern by one of my favorite knitting vloggers, Christina Lundborg of ‘Chelsea Yarns’. I need to use up some of my seemingly bottomless stash of fun sock yarn so I picked a skein of Targhee Sock by Oink Pigments (“Smoky Purl”) that I bought at the Quarter Stitch yarn shop in New Orleans and I’ll be holding it double with a Chelsea Yarns Luxe Mohair (“London Fog”).
  • When I took my crochet class last fall at Spun in Ann Arbor, most of my classmates were already knitters so there were some pretty cool handknits being worn. One of my classmates had a careless yet absolutely elegant little triangle scarf / shawl made, she said, from a set of Harry Potter minis in a pattern she couldn’t remember. I was instantaneously envious and needed it in my life. I got myself a Christmas Advent set with this in mind, picking Six & Seven Fiber’s Literary Women 8-skein fingering weight mini set, and with 5 selected colors I’ll be casting on the Mini Solutions Scarf by Kelene Kinnersly Designs very soon (I’ve selected Amy Tan, Toni Morrison, Mary Shelley, Celie, and Louisa May Alcott for my colors!).

Cross- Stitch

I started cross-stitching a couple of years ago and am still plugging away periodically on a seasons sampler, although I haven’t picked it up in awhile. Since October I’ve almost exclusively been working on this Jacob Marley piece by Lindsay Swearingen of ‘Tusk and Cardinal’. The only thing I do more slowly than knit is cross-stitch, and I think it’s pretty funny that this is exactly half-done. The chart prints out half and half on two separate pages and I only printed one page to start with. Then, over the holidays, our printer ran out of ink so I couldn’t print the second half until quite recently. But it’s been fun to fold it over and see how it will look when it’s finished.

LIndsey Swearingen is worth checking out on IG if you’re a cross-stitcher and her book “Creepy Cross-Stitch” is full of fantastically gothic and elegant pieces that I would love to have on my office walls.

I’m being pretty lazy and not linking these projects and patterns, but they’re (mostly) all on Ravelry or for purchase from the yarn web page (as is the case with the Clinton Hill project). I also update my own Ravelry project pages (I’m sixtenpine over there) fairly regularly as things come off the needles or start taking shape, so please check me out if you are looking for more specific information like pattern links, yarn sizes, and notes. I hope you are all starting off your New Year with some fun and satisfying projects. I look forward to revisiting these pieces and providing status updates of my tortoise-speed progress! xo

friday files – weather and likes / dislikes this week

We’re getting long stretches of mild and uninspiring weather here in SE Michigan – no snow, no sun, not much except a cool grey damp. Is this climate change in action? Winters of my childhood seemed much different, with snow so deep we could dig igloos and tunnels in it, elementary school lockers crowded with wet-smelling coats and mittens, clumping home in moon boots that leaked and had to be lined with bread bags. Regardless, it makes running outside feasible so I’m hoping my January running will be much better than the last 2 years (I don’t think I did more than 10 total miles in January in 2021 and 2022).

A few good things this week: The Elvis birthday movie on Saturday night was everything we hoped it would be – a true Elvis / Colonel Tom Parker stinker called ‘Spinout’. No real plot to speak of, disjointed and ill-timed music numbers (one of which was called ‘Smorgasbord’, which referred to all of the women that Elvis’s character liked to enjoy being a single swinger). We chatted with the theater owner for awhile after the show and recommended ‘Clambake’ for next year’s offering.

My boss and I were finally in the office at the same time this week and she gave me a Christmas present – the Five Minute Journal. My boss is pretty amazing and always thinks of me around the holidays, usually with a nice bottle of champagne. But for a journal geek like me, this gift was perfect. I’m really looking forward to spending some time with it. This will be the 3rd journal / planner I keep – I have a Hobonichi Techo for my personal / family life, a five year journal that I’m 3 years into, and now this.

Other likes: ‘Pale Blue Eye’ on Netflix, which we’re about halfway through – massive shout out that Edgar Allan Poe is played by Dudley of Harry Potter film fame which is an almost unbelievable transformation. My work pants still fit (barely). I’ve been watching a lot of homesteading channels on YouTube (recently just found Little Spanish Farmstead and Hannah Lee Duggan).

two weeks in a row of painting my nails!
I don’t even know who I am anymore!

Dislikes this week: I picked up “Livid”, the new Patricia Cornwell, off my library reserve list and so far it is a dud. I’m going to keep going with it but this is a disappointment, since I really enjoyed the last one. MTC on this but so far this is just an ‘everyone is part of a massive conspiracy out to get Scarpetta’ and those are so tiring. I have to go for an ortho consult on Monday because my bite is so bad that my teeth are loose and some are chipping and my dentist can’t do Invisalign out of his office, he has to outsource me due to the complications.

The weekend will be quiet with the kiddo preparing for final exams and Brandon still on a six day work schedule. I hope everyone is able to recharge and enjoy!

there’s a world outside of yonkers…

The first full week of 2023 was one of those strange ones that feel almost like a failure to launch. Although I was back to working in my home office after Monday, Brandon had some light workdays and the kiddo is still off from school. So there was some banging around in the kitchen as they made lunches and snacks and I think there may have been some shared episodes of “Rick and Morty” between the two of them. Otherwise the kiddo is at the age where she can sleep til 11:30 and keep herself occupied – smoothies with friends, working out, art projects and movie rentals on Prime. She’s also been prepping her audition for spring theater’s “Hello Dolly” production so we are all singing “BARNABYYYY” a lot lately.

We also met up with some of her friends and their moms on Wednesday night for pizza and – indoor skydiving (?!) I did not skydive (although one of the mom tribe did and said it was fun but short) instead choosing to knit on my Clinton Hill Cashmere Bandit Cowl and kibbitz with other moms.

iFly Detroit

It was pretty much chaos at work for reasons that I of course can’t share here.

I started a new book – the third in Tamsyn Muir’s Locked Tomb series, which I forgot to mention as one of my favorites of 2022. I’m not sure I understand any of it but it’s phenomenal – the tagline on the first of the series (which was also my favorite) promises “lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space! Decadent nobles vie to serve the deathless emperor! Skeletons!” There’s way more to it but yeah, it’s epic.

Likes this week: black leggings, Wishful enzyme scrub, Essie gel “Behind the Glass” on my nails, Damar Hamlin, Chapstick Total Hydration tinted lip oil, using my Verilux Happy Light at my desk during these dark days, listening to A Little Bit Culty podcast with a player from the Nexivm insanity, taking all my vitamins every day this week and being riveted to the chaos over the Speaker.

Dislikes: rehabbing a pulled muscle in my back and not running all week, Harry and Meghan, menopausal issues on high all week, post-holiday letdown, this time of year until essentially the end of March, people who don’t do what they say they’re going to do / being blindsided by that, George Santos, and bring riveted to the chaos over the Speaker.

This weekend is Elvis’s birthday which we may celebrate by going to see an Elvis movie at the local cinema (if I can stay awake). It’s also the big audition – so tonight it’s thawed leftovers from the Annual Freezer Cleanout, a fire in the woodstove, and a “Hello Dolly” rental for additional inspiration and research. TGIF!

2023!

Happy 2023! I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season. I’m back to work tomorrow after being off since the 16th…after 20 years at Widget Central, I’m finally one of those people who can take two weeks off at the end of the year! It occurred to me halfway through my holiday that if I were retired, this is basically what my days would look like. I can say that once I am retired, my nails will be painted regularly, I’ll run or get outside or go to the gym almost every day, I’ll take way more naps, read and knit more, and, on the downside, drink much more wine. But retirement is far off so who knows where I will be then.

I finished a pair of mittens over the holiday, and cast on three new projects. Coincidentally, I sat down to watch ‘Little Women’ (the PBS version with Maya Hawke as Jo) and found myself winding up a mini-skein named ‘Louisa May Alcott’. I’m working on a bandit cowl from Clinton Hill Cashmere (their bespoke cashmere DK is like a dream), a workman’s dishcloth (I’m converted) and a gradient triangle scarf. The scarf will use minis that I got myself for Christmas as part of an 8-skein mini Advent – fingering weight themed Literary Women 0 from Six and Seven Fiber. MTC on these projects.

I actually sort of like the comparative austerity of January, after the splurge of the holidays. I like to budget again, and meal plan, track spending and be more frugal and use up stuff in the freezer and do Dry January. I don’t have any real resolutions, vision boards, or ‘words’ for 2023. 2022 was a busy yet ultimately calm and positive year and I just hope to repeat that…I hope to be essentially a good family member, partner, mom, and person. I see myself driving my kid around a lot, still, to her various activities, trying to be engaged and invested in her life and her experiences and her hobbies. My romance / partnership with Brandon is an absolute joy, no matter what we are doing, and I also want to see my bestie more often. I hope to connect with my parent / mom tribe and do solid work for Widget Central while still keeping a defined work / family life balance. Maybe I’ll paint my nails more and – I hope to check in here more often. I don’t know, the blogsphere is something I still feel excited about, but it also feels a lot like throwing words into an abyss that I never revisit. Last year I journaled in my Hobonichi much more often, and I have a five-year journal as well that I write in very regularly (it’s so cool to see my entries for the past years stacked up, so I can see exactly what I wrote.) And at least Facebook has a ‘Memories’ tab where it pulls up what I was doing two, ten, five years ago. Once I blog, the posts just go away and I’m not even sure who reads or connects with them, so it can feel a bit like a strangely useless exercise. So we’ll see what I can accomplish in that regard.

No matter what, all the best to you & yours and here’s to a good year ahead.

a busy october

This is the time of year I love best. We are still getting warm, honey-dripped sunshine days here in Michigan, but also chilly nights, crunching leaves, changing skies and the smell of woodsmoke.

LIfe continues apace. The kiddo got glammed up for her Homecoming dance a few weeks ago and seemed to enjoy herself, although she did comment that it was really just like a much more intensive middle school dance.

Marching band will take up an inordinate amount of time through October and it’s our main social activity, both the kiddo’s and mine. I had no idea what a commitment it would be as a ‘band mom’ but for as tiring as it can be, I love volunteering my time and hanging out with the other band parents. There are full weeks of rehearsals and then on weekends, tailgates and football games, and band competitions. I help out with uniforms before and after every performance and try not to embarrass the kiddo too much by my presence. I’m so happy that she consents to me participating in her activities through volunteering and I love being involved. I’ve met many great people and we’ve developed a small village of supportive, engaged parents that I just don’t know what I’d do without. I fully confess to being a full-on band geek so I can think of many worse ways to spend my time on weekends than watching a great marching band. This past weekend we were at Chippewa Valley for a competition and despite the chill and the wind, it was an exciting and fun event for everyone.

Unfortunately, the cooler weather and busy schedules have also meant random colds and illnesses and a lot of Covid tests (fortunately all negative so far).

On top of it all, I signed up for a weekly crochet class through the month of October and so for two hours every week, I’ll be working away at swatches and then moving on to a granny square. I have to remind myself that I deserve these times away from work and my family because we’ve been so busy that it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking I am existing the best only when I’m doing something productive for someone else, and I feel guilty about having something just for myself.

I have so many knitting projects in the queue that I don’t even know where to start – I think I’ll do a full rundown of wips and planned projects very soon because if I don’t start making lists, I’ll forget what I have squirreled away in various bags and baskets.

So that’s the update from my corner of the world. I hope wherever you are, you are doing well and are safe, healthy, and doing things that make you happy either just for yourself or for / with people you love. xo

last week of september 2022

The weather has turned damp and blustery, and the brightest things in the yard are the fallen leaves and the bright mums in pots, all orange and yellow. There are five weeks left of fall marching band season, and while we’re really enjoying the Friday night tailgates and games, it’s definitely a major time commitment. Three afternoon / evening rehearsals a week, plus games, and something almost every Saturday – band competitions, fundraisers, pictures, etc. The kiddo gets rides with friends, and the mom friends carpool, but there are always pickups and dropoffs to coordinate. And we bring food for every tailgate, and I’ve been volunteering before and after games to help the kids with uniforms. All in all, it’s no wonder they don’t want band kids to do a competing fall sport or activity.

This weekend is the big Homecoming parade, game, and dance, and a couple of weeks ago the kiddo and I went shopping for her dress and shoes. Homecoming has changed a lot since my high school days – when people mostly went with dates. My Homecoming dress (circa 1989) was a black Limited shirtwaist that went to my ankles and up to my neck and fastened with a gold brooch. Kiddo said I looked like I was going to a funeral and Brandon said I looked like I was wearing a shower curtain…Suffice it to say, dresses have changed – I think there was more fabric in the sleeves of my dress than in the entire rack of dresses we saw at the department store. The Homecoming dresses now are more like very abbreviated prom dresses from my youth – all silk and satin, strapless and spangled. I think they look like skating costumes. And kids just go – with friends, in groups, etc. The kiddo picked out a jade green slipdress, and gave me major side-eye when I asked about nylons / stockings – apparently that is NOT DONE anymore (I wore black nylons with my shirtdress. Follow me for more fashion tips). She looks fantastic, even though I definitely wish there was more to it – hey, how about a vintage shirtwaist? – but she looks suddenly glam, tall and leggy in heels.

baby sara & bonus footage of our bassett hound cate

I really intended to blog more in September, but in addition to being a band mom, I’ve been busy at work with a major negotiation and an audit, and last week had to take some time off to attend my best friend’s mother’s funeral in my hometown. Time is marching on rapidly this autumn, and the changes around me seem particularly evident, in my own life and in the people and family around me. Growth, loss, change, and fall makes even the small actions of our human lives seem particularly relevant and poignant.

I hope you are all having a good month and looking forward to October. This is my favorite time of year and I can’t wait to hang up my Halloween decorations, light the candles, and make a big pot of soup. xo

labor day weekend and greasefest 2022

I took an extra day off on Friday to make it a four-day weekend and it was a much needed break. The weather was evenly split – two days of very hot and humid sunshine, which broke sometime Saturday night, giving way to two days that were cooler and overcast. Friday was a kiddo day – she had the day off from school, so we picked up ice coffees and went shopping. We tried on clothes, and she spilled more tea about her first full week of high school, and we got overcaffeinated and then went home to order pizzas and watch Netflix.

Saturday was a friends day. Brandon’s family on his father’s side is of Hungarian descent, so his cousin and girlfriend and another friend came over that night for Szalonna. For those of you who are unfamiliar – this is Hungarian greasy bread, where you slowly roast chunks of pork jowl bacon over a fire and drip the grease on white bread. You eat the greasy bread with cut-up peppers and onions and sloppy dashes of Hungarian paprika. GreaseFest 2022! Unfortunately, it was super hot to be roasting pork over an open flame, although everyone had fun (“Everyone’s down for GreaseFest 2023 – we won the hearts and minds,” Brandon reported). Except maybe for the kiddo who is a newly minted vegetarian. I made her a huge pot of homemade macaroni and cheese and a big salad to have instead of greasy bread and ended up eating it with her because Szalonna really tested my reserves. And my intestines. The meat plus the heat made for a wakeful and somewhat nauseated Saturday evening…I was happy to wake up on Sunday to a cool breeze and grey skies.

After GreaseFest 2022, the remaining two days were mine. The kiddo went to her dad’s house on Sunday, and I went running both days. I finished It Girl, the newish Ruth Ware, which I really enjoyed. Brandon spent several hours on both days at the skate park with the Old Bros, and I did a thousand loads of laundry, cast on a knitted hat and watched the first two episodes of the new Lord of the Rings on Prime. I’m not sold on this yet, but I think if I dispel the thought that this is going to be like the books or the movies, I can get behind it. I have to view it almost as a complete standalone, a piece of entertainment that I can enjoy the way I enjoyed the Witcher, and leave it at that. It did give me a wistful sense of nostalgia for the story, though, so I found myself curled up on the couch on Sunday afternoon with Sarge and my battered copy of the Fellowship of the Ring, while Brandon made gouda burgers (apparently this weekend was also about consumption of fatty meats.

I’m hoping it’s a fairly light week back in the real world – there’s no home game this week, so no Marching Band tailgate and football game to prep for, and the kiddo is with her dad, so I’m going to try to focus on work and get ahead of the curve a bit (just one office day, though). I hope everyone had a rejuvenating weekend and that all’s well with you and yours. xo

thursday night lights

As anticipated, last week was rough. I went into it without a lot of energy and my sense of stress and overwhelm already at a high level. The kiddo had a lot of activities that made for a couple of late nights for both of us, on top of a work schedule that was pushing me to take on challenges I didn’t particularly want or feel capable of. Everything just looked like a slog of responsibilities and nothing inspired any real joy or excitement in me.

When my kiddo is struggling, I try to impart on her that she’s not alone and doesn’t need to be. And that when it’s possible, the best way to deal with times of stress, overwhelm, and uncertainty is by leaning on people around you and pushing through. Make lists; tackle things one small step at a time. If you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl. Just keep moving forward any way you can and celebrating all of your positive actions, no matter how tiny they may seem to you. This is easy advice to give someone else and hard for me to take myself. When I struggle, I don’t want to lean on anyone and I don’t feel like anything I do is worthy of celebration – it all just feels inadequate. But this week, I DID take the small steps. Pot Roast helped keep me company on those late nights waiting up for the kiddo. I pushed through at work with lists and busy, productive mornings – even if I didn’t accomplish everything, I didn’t stay in bed with the covers over my head.

And I showed up at the first marching band tailgate for the first home football game with a big bowl of pasta salad and another newbie neighborhood mom in tow. She had texted me earlier that day telling me she was having a similar week of challenges at work, she was overwhelmed and tired, had never been to a tailgate and didn’t know what to bring; she didn’t even have camp chairs. “Don’t stress about it. Just bring juice boxes – I heard the kids love them – and I have two chairs, you can sit with me,” I said, without adding that her relying on me was like the blind leading the blind.

As an introvert, and a full time working mom, I frequently feel like I don’t need community or new friends, because they just end up being a drain on my already limited time and anyway, I get enough social stimulation at work. But sitting at that tailgate, hanging out with other marching band parents and petting dogs and swatting away bees while eating really unhealthy yummy food off paper plates balanced on our knees, I felt like it was the best time of the week. Even us newbie moms who felt like it was going to be just another challenge to ‘get through’ found ourselves relaxed and calm. No one needed anything from us except to be there and enjoy ourselves.

So I sat back and took a deep breath; I had another helping of someone’s macaroni and cheese, popped a juice box, and watched my kid fill her own plate and sit in a circle with the other band kids. The hum of laughter and parent conversation rose and fell around me, and later on, we all sat together on the bleachers and watched the halftime show under the Thursday night lights.