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Not Just Fun

When you sit down and really think about the things you do and learn, sometimes it truly hits home that once upon a time, the things you consider fun were once essential life skills that made a difference in how people survived and at what level they did so.

I love the fiber arts–we know this. My blog is centered around my crafting fun and my family, so this statement comes as no surprise to anyone who actually reads my posts. And I also love to cook and find new recipes to try. Again, no surprise to anyone. But none of these things are considered essential skills anymore, unless you’re trying to get a job with companies that specialize in them. There are many, many people who don’t weave, spin, knit, crochet, cook…never mind have any proficiency in all of them at once, even if it’s only the basics. And lacking those abilities doesn’t make any difference to their lives because there’s no need to make one’s own clothes, blankets, curtains…there’s no need to cook one’s own food. Everything can be bought. You can walk into a Walmart and buy pre-cooked meals, clothing in various sizes without having to have them tailored to you…any and everything is available to you according to how much is in your bank account. How cool is that?

But what if it wasn’t? What would you do then? At that point, suddenly you realize that this talent you’ve developed because you wanted to is now in demand. The apocalypse has come, Walmart and Kmart are gone, and people have returned to the stone age. No longer can they just walk into a store and pick out whatever they want, hand over some money and walk out. Now they’ve gotta find a new old way of doing things, and there you are. You know how to make your own yarn. Your family has clothing to keep them warm during the day, and blankets to keep them cozy warm at night, because you’ve made them. And here’s an entire population of people who now need your skills, and you can basically write your own ticket. How cool is that???

But, in the absence of the zombie apocalypse, right now it’s just fun for me. There are things I simply don’t buy anymore, because now I can make them myself. In addition to the almond paste I mentioned in a previous post, I also make my own pancake syrup now–no more Log Cabin or Mrs. Butterworth’s! Throw blankets and scarves, those kind of go without saying, right? Bookmarks…well, bookmarks weren’t something I ever really spent money on anyway. I was always good with just grabbing a piece of scrap paper to mark a page. But I like to make pretty bookmarks too.

I have yet to really try my hand at making clothes, but that may be next, as I’m also trying my hand at hairpin lace, and I just don’t see any use for it in my house except as clothing! My dining room table doesn’t really lend itself to table runners or table cloths. Maybe my coffee table…

Something else I’d like to try is crotatting, or Japanese hook tatting, but I’m having a hard time finding a decent YouTube tutorial on either of those keywords, so if anyone knows of any good links, I can’t tell you how appreciative I’d be if you’d post them in the comments!!!

In family news, Bryony graduated from kindergarten, and though it was way over the top (they did the full cap and gown ceremony), my little girl did look adorable, although she thought she looked hideous. Yes, those were her exact words. I assure you, she was anything but hideous. Her hair was neat, her dimples were on full display, cuteness full blown…okay, stopping now. You get the picture.

My own graduation is looming as well. My externship is just about over, and in a week or two is my actual graduation ceremony. I cannot wait to finally be done with school. What was originally supposed to be two years has turned into four, and I’m ready to be done!

The PIP and I have settled into a routine. There is no more fighting, although there are disagreements on occasion. I can’t speak for him, but for myself, I think I’ve come to a place where my anger is gone. He is who he is, and he can’t help that. Yes, things could have been handled a lot better, but that, too, is water under the proverbial bridge. The important thing now is that no matter what, we are tied together for the rest of our lives by these two beautiful children we created together, and we owe it to them to find a happy medium. By no means have we found a perfect solution, but there is peace in the house, and the parents have returned to a united front with the kids, which means we have made progress!

We’ll never be what we were…I think we’ve both made strides in coming to terms with that fact. Too many key things have changed, the largest and most obvious being how the PIP defines his sexuality, but that is far from the only thing that has changed, although I guess you could say it was the catalyst for everything that has changed. We’re different people now. In some ways, we’ve grown farther apart, while in others we’ve grown closer. It’s hard to explain.

We still plan on sticking it out together, at least for now. There’s no way to know what the future holds in store for us. Everything is an unknown variable now. Maybe he’ll meet someone. Maybe I will. Of course, both of those scenarios are unlikely if we don’t start socializing outside of the house, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon!

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See, what happened was...I needed a new picot gauge...and these were right there...

See, what happened was…I needed a new picot gauge…and these were right there…

My six week externship has begun and is a week in!!! My degree in veterinary technology is within sight! It’s exhausting work–every night I come home with aching feet and an overwhelming desire to go straight to bed–but I love working at my externship clinic. Too bad it’s only for six weeks, because I really like everyone there, and it’s essentially across the street from my house. It’s the shortest commute I’ve ever had! And I’m learning a lot, because they’re actually taking the time to make sure of it. I’m not just doing laundry, cleaning kennels, and washing dishes. I’m filling prescriptions, taking medical histories, monitoring anesthesia, restraining animals, calculating drug dosages and drip rates, doing bloodwork…I’m doing what I set out to do! It’s amazing! Okay, so it took forty+ years to get to where I wanted to be, but I’m there!

Since externship started, I haven’t really had the energy for any crafting, but I did inadvertently learn a lesson: you can never have too many of the same tool. No, seriously. You can’t have too many crochet hooks, knitting needles, tatting shuttles, tatting needles, etcetera. I say this because in looking around my studio, I have numerous works in progress on various types of needles, all at the same time. Granted, yes, I could use the same crochet hook on all my crochet projects, because I can remove the hook without too much trouble, but I prefer to leave the hook with the work, and the same goes for the tatting needles. With knitting, there is no way I’m pulling the needle out. And the tatting shuttles can’t be removed until the project is done either.

Fortunately, there are enough inexpensive knitting needles and tatting shuttles out there that buying another set for that project you’re just dying to start isn’t an issue. I can grab a pair of knitting needles at Walmart for about $3. A pair of plastic tatting shuttles runs about $5.50, pre-coupon, but I get coupons pretty much weekly from JoAnn’s and Hobby Lobby. The one from Hobby Lobby is always 40% off, and is reusable, which is nice. JoAnn’s is generally 40-60% off. I can’t complain. It’s easy to come by two or three dollars for another set of shuttles or needles just by scrounging through the change in my wallet or going through the sofa cushions, and let’s not forget checking pockets while doing laundry!

…yes, I was at both Hobby Lobby and JoAnn’s today…my picot gauge broke and I needed a new one, and there was a pair of inexpensive shuttles, and I had a coupon…

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Smoky, 8/29/03-4/15/13

My baby girl Smoky, cuddled in the entertainment center

My baby girl Smoky, cuddled in the entertainment center

Smoky was never “just” a dog. She was never “just” anything. We always described her in superlatives. She had the softest fur ever. She was the most playful puppy ever. She was the most dignified older dog…ever. And ad infinitum in that vein. She could do no wrong. Unlike sister Bandit, she hadn’t even begun to go grey with age, where Bandit had started at age eight.

I miss how she used to burrow in between the PIP and myself to sleep at night, and snore, and invariably push one of us (usually him) toward the edge of the bed. I miss how she used to chase and jump after water coming out of the hose, despite hating that particular substance when it involved a bath. I loved the incongruity of a Labrador–a water dog–who wanted nothing to do with water.

I miss how she doted over my daughters, from the very beginning. We’d never had the dogs around infants before, but Smoky just instinctively seemed to know that these tiny creatures couldn’t be held accountable for the fact that they had accidentally pulled her tail or poked her in the eye. No matter what their transgressions against her, she would lick their faces and move on.

In a million years, I couldn’t have found a better family dog.

This in no way lessens my love for my current pack of ingrates. I adore every last one of them, but Smoky was special. In a previous post, I mentioned that we called her our reincarnation puppy, because she was so much like the Smoky who had gone before her, and the fact that she had stopped answering to the name I had given her, Lakota, and suddenly only answered to Smoky. Smoky I had died on the day that Lakota/Smoky II was born. If she had been human, I would have found the whole situation intensely eerie, but, as the PIP put it, she found a way to come back to me because she wasn’t ready to leave me yet, and I certainly wasn’t ready for her to go. And that’s the version of events that I will always cling to.

Not long after she was gone, the PIP said that maybe we should pray for a recurrence of that first return, and I said no. It broke my heart to say it, but I did. She had already done it once, which meant that she had now died twice. How could I ask her to do that again? I couldn’t, and I told him not to ask for a repeat performance. It wasn’t fair to her.

I know there are those who will say I’m crazy for believing that she came back the first time. Maybe so, but you’d have to have known both Smoky I and II to judge. I did.

Letting her go three years ago was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life; there has only ever been one decision that was harder. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do. None of us wanted to, but not only was she ready, and had made it clear to us that she was, but there were also the financial consequences that we had to consider: we had drained our accounts, and then some, trying to save her. Letting her go when we did was the kindest thing we could have done, but even knowing it didn’t make it any easier to do.

There’s a story that circulates every now and again, about a family that has taken their dog in for the final ride, and they take their young son with them. As the story goes, the parents are trying to explain love, life, and death to their son, and explain why canine lives are so much shorter than humans. The little boy tells his parents that he already understands: people have to live longer in order to learn how to love unconditionally. Dogs already know how to do that, he says, so they don’t have to stay as long.

know how well Smoky loved. And I know she still does. And I know one day I’ll get to hug my baby girl again, and kiss that mink-soft fur. And I know she’ll wait for me, as long as it takes, because that’s who she is.


The Full Monty

Finally, full pattern!

Finally, full pattern!

Yesterday, I finished a shortened bookmark and did it via needle tatting. Today, I finally, finally, finally finished the full Monty, the whole pattern, via shuttle tatting, with no mistakes, everything attached where it’s supposed to be, using the Lizbeth #10 thread that drove me crazy. I am so incredibly proud of it, and it’s beautiful. I learned to use the picot gauge, so the picots are pretty much uniform in size. I did everything right this time, and given how many times I’ve attempted this pattern, I have it memorized now.

The next thing I need to learn is how to figure out how much thread I’m going to need for each project. Both of the shuttles I used for this each still have plenty of thread on them. I’ll have to find another project so that the thread doesn’t go to waste.


I Did It!!!

Completed bookmark, at last!

Completed bookmark, at last!

It’s not exactly what I planned on, but I did finally finish the bookmark! There were some changes made. One change was that I needle tatted it rather than shuttle, which means I managed to make the entire bookmark in under an hour, and that’s awesome. The second change was that the bookmark is 3/5 the size of the pattern. I did nine rings per side rather than fifteen. But I completed it with no mistakes, everything attached where it’s supposed to be, and since it’s pink, I gave it to Aneira, who, of course, is enamored of anything pink, and is thus thrilled.

Okay, so technically I cheated, I know, but I made many, many attempts at following the plan before I did, so I’m okay with cheating. Besides, I’ve already started another one on shuttle.

I’ve also finally figured out a work-around on the Lizbeth thread that has been driving me mad: two shuttles. The second shuttle takes the place of the ball, and when the thread starts to coil too much, I can let the shuttles hang and spin until the twist comes out. It’s been a partial, qualified success so far. It would have worked perfectly if not for one thing: I used the cheap shuttles I bought from the Wish application on my phone. Why is this a problem? Well, the shuttles came as a set of two plastic Clover-like shuttles, but none of the tips are closed, and they unravel. I didn’t notice when I was winding them because I was hanging out with my family and we were talking and watching tv at the same time, so I wasn’t really paying attention to the shuttles in my hands, other than to notice when they were full. And when I started working with them, one was in my lap and the other in my hand, so I finally noticed the problem once I needed to let the twist out. I picked up the shuttles to let them dangle, and both of them unraveled. By that point, I was a good way into the project. Naturally, I was annoyed with both myself and the shuttles. Lesson learned: don’t buy cheap from China, and if you do, check the stupid things before using them. I’m just glad I didn’t spend a lot of money on them, and the PIP says that once I’ve gotten the thread off them, he can use heat to close the tips, so it may not be a total loss.

I brought my iPod in from my truck to use while blogging and tatting–or whatever fiber art I’m doing–because a friend of mine introduced me to a new song yesterday that I fell in love with. It’s called “The Hanging Tree” from the Mockingjay movie, which I’ve never seen. But I love this song, and found several different versions of it that I downloaded yesterday. There’s a techno version, an orchestral version, and a very Celtic sounding version. I added all three to a playlist and sang my way through this post lol. It’s quite an eclectic playlist; I’ll listen to nearly any kind of music, with few exceptions. I think I’m going to start listening to Pandora again, so that I can find new music, or rediscover old music. My iPod is mostly filled with 80s music, as I’m an 80s kid…I needed my MTV!! Should I include my playlists with my posts from now on? Let me know!

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Cryin’ the Nyquil Blues

Top view of abalone shuttle

Top view of abalone shuttle

Is there any liquid medicine more disgusting than Nyquil?! “Cherry flavored” my derriere; this stuff doesn’t taste like any cherry I’ve ever eaten in my life! And the flavor lingers for quite awhile, no matter what I drink. Blecch!!! It’s horrible! But it must be taken. I haven’t been able to shake this cough in weeks. It’s like a tickle in the back of my throat that just won’t. Go. Away. I don’t feel sick, I’m not running a fever, there’s nothing else going on, just this persistent coughing, especially at night. It’s driving me crazy. Yeah, okay, there are those who would say that’s a short trip for me, but that’s not the point!:)

My abalone shell shuttle arrived on Friday, and I love it!!!! It’s so beautiful. I will probably buy a second one at some point just because abalone is one of my favorite things. That, and I think I’m going to designate one of each to a particular size of thread. I have a feeling that using a size ten thread is going to separate the tips a bit, and I only want that on one shuttle, at least for now. With the exception of the plastic shuttles, all of them have tips that rest so tightly together that #10 thread would be close to impossible to use. I haven’t even tried, because I’ve had enough trouble winding the shuttles with #12 thread. It’s essentially a matter of pulling on the thread almost hard enough to break it to get it to go between the tips.

Bottom view of abalone shuttle

Bottom view of abalone shuttle

I can’t decide which shuttle is my favorite to use. Right now it’s a tossup between the horn, the abalone, and the Celtic. Both the horn and the abalone have a little bit more weight to them, which I like. Despite being metal, the Celtic shuttle is the lightest of the three. My wooden shuttles, as beautiful as they all are, are a lot

thicker and it makes them a little harder to grip with the index finger and thumb for me. I’m constantly dropping them. But I have no grip issues with my three favorites, which lets me work a little bit faster. Nothing like the speed of some tatters I’ve seen on YouTube; those folks are impressive! I need a lot of practice before I get to that point!

I’ve been wondering if there’s a way to tat chains if you’re not tatting from the ball? Apparently I’m using the wrong search keywords to find any tutorials, or maybe there aren’t any?

My PIP has had company for the last few days, so I’ve been tatting in front of the computer, watching my current schoolgirl crush, Josh Holloway. Yeah, I know, but a girl has to have pretty things to look at, and he is certainly that! And he’s only a year younger than I am, which is a bit less ridiculous than my other crush, Roman Reigns. Roman’s seventeen years my junior! But I wouldn’t be robbing the cradle with Josh lol. I’ve tatted my way through both Lost and Colony, now I’m watching Intelligence. I’ve seen some reviews of the show, and none of the critics liked it, which, I assume, is why it was cancelled. I think it was great!! How is it that crap shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy stay on the air forever, but shows like Firefly and Intelligence get cancelled before they really have a chance to shine? Ye gods, get rid of the so-called reality shows, for starters, or give them their own channel to make room on the networks for some good episodic television. Why do people watch reality shows anyway? Isn’t the point of TV to be an escape from reality for a little while?

Okay, mini-rant over. I’m about to go dose myself with the oh-so-gross Nyquil and tat my way through another couple episodes of Intelligence. Enjoy your evening, everybody!

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Finally…sort of…

Almost there!

Almost there!

The past week has been rough in this house. Both kids home from school on spring break, and all of us sick. Every. Single. One.

Unbelievable. Well, maybe not so unbelievable. If you have school age children, it is virtually guaranteed that they are going to bring home some horrible bug that will barely touch them, but takes the parents down like a cannon. That was this week, on top of the snow that hit last Wednesday. That was a lot of fun, let me tell you. I was already sick, and we had a school field trip–my school, not the kids’–and attendance was mandatory. I hadn’t watched the news or checked the weather, so I wasn’t expecting snow.

First, I rolled out of bed late and had to rush everything. I get to the door, several minutes later than I usually le

Serenity and Companion yarns

Serenity and Companion yarns

ave the house, and see my truck is covered in snow. Now I’m going to be even later, because, obviously, I have to clear the snow off the truck. Meanwhile, I’m light-headed and nauseated and have a raging headache: I don’t want to do this at all, but I have to.

Charming charms--with my beloved Serenity up top!

Charming charms–with my beloved Serenity up top!

Finally, I get on the road, and am immediately slowed to a crawl. It’s not the amount of snow, because there’s honestly not that much. The issue is the wind, which is blowing hard enough to create white-out conditions, despite the relative lack of snow. When the car just a few feet in front of you vanishes like it never existed, you are quick to take your foot off the accelerator! So what should have been a ten minute drive, tops, turned into an hour long drive. Then came the kicker: I finally get to the site and realize that I’m not late. In fact, I’m incredibly early. The field trip was scheduled for ten o’clock, not eight!! Well, given the weather, I wasn’t going back home to have to come back out again, so I went to a nearby Starbuck’s and hung out there for two hours, then muddled through the actual field trip, praying I could get through it without throwing up or my head exploding. Someone up there clearly took pity on me, because I made it, and then got home safely!

So, clearly, rough week! Despite it, I managed to get closer to finishing the bookmark properly than I ever have before! That’s where the title of this post comes in.

Cocobolo quad

Cocobolo quad

Firefly cast pouch and buttons--so cute!

Firefly cast pouch and buttons–so cute!

I actually made it to the final ring and chain before running out of thread this time, and with no mistakes!! I actually caught all my mistakes and pulled them out! Okay, not all: the sizes of my picots vary rather widely, so I’m going to have to give the picot gauge a try when I attempt this bookmark again. Yes, there will be another attempt. I want to get it perfect!

And I got fun stuff in the mail today, which was particularly nice as today is yet another anniversary of my 21st birthday. We don’t need to go into which anniversary, right? Yeah, we’ll leave that alone lol! Several months ago, I’d ordered a Firefly/Serenity themed yarn package from a club in the UK, and that arrived today with tons of goodies, including some adorable charms that I’m going to turn into stitch markers. I’ve already got some Firefly stitch markers from Yarnette’s on Etsy that are absolutely adorable, but who can’t use more Firefly???

And a set of four cocobolo wood shuttles came in from Ebay…they’re gorgeous! I can’t wait to try them out. I’m still waiting for the abalone shuttle from Lacis to make an appearance, and the two cheapies I ordered from the Wish app on my phone. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve got an overabundance of shuttles…

Well, the kids just arrived home, so it’s time to go hang with the family and celebrate my birthday. I hope everyone had a very happy Easter!


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