Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not just another stitch marker…

I HAVE THIS NEED TO BE DIFFERENT. I really cannot tolerate sameness in myself. It’s OK for others, but if life doesn’t have extravagant variety, then why do another day? So, in seeking the more unusual, creative, and colorfully unique, I have taken roads less traveled by others. Blame it on my inner gypsy. I call her Shalimar. Shalimar has the quality of a multi-faceted crystalline jewel. She appears to be different from every angle. Sometimes she’s raw and uncut by nature, often childlike and playful, and other times polished and classy, …but always unique. At times, she can be very demanding, and make me do things “the hard way,” and sometimes she gets me into trouble. …Consider the time she had had enough of a painful and confining marriage and ran off to California and learned how to do acupressure massage and play with energy. …Or the times she just had to go to China. …And how many other brides have Chinese Lion dancing at their weddings? …Especially when they aren’t even Chinese? (She said that a wedding ceremony should be meaningful and fun for the groom too, and when one marries a devoted Kung Fu man, that’s the sort of thing to do.) One thing for certain, following my inner gypsy has made life very interesting. She is responsible for these stitch markers: I absolutely advocate making your own stitch markers. They are so much fun and easy to do, and allow you the opportunity and freedom to express your own inner desires for creativity.

What you need:
beads of your choice, size 18 gauge wire, and a set of inexpensive beading tools (round-nose pliers, wire cutters (an old scissors may do), a small hammer, and an old metal knitting needle larger than the size you will be knitting with. I have two different sized sets of markers. One is for larger needles, and the other I use on needles up to size 8).

What to do:

  1. Determine how long you will need to cut your wire by doing a demo. I cut mine about 8 inches long.
  2. Start by winding the wire around the round-nose pliers to create the center of the spiral. Then, hold the center between you thumb and fingers, and begin turning to wrap the wire around the center. Deviate as you wish. However, do keep in mind that by keeping the twists and turns as compact (less open) as possible, will minimize the stitch marker getting caught in your knitting. I have learned NOT to use these with any lacey knitting. The combination is impossible. Hammer this part gentle to flatten it slightly. This will help keep it in shape.
  3. Add your beads as you wish. It is best not to have a dangle that is long or heavy.
  4. Hold the top of your dangle with the needle-nose pliers so that it is snug. Then, bend the wire at a 90-degree angle. Hold the top of the bent wire close to the bend. Wrap the wire around the pliers near to the size of your knitting needle. Insert the knitting needle, adjusting the size of the circle.
  5. Holding the circle firmly, begin to wrap the wire around its stem. Wrap closely, and snip it close with the wire cutter. Smooth the end into the stem so that it will not catch, feeling even to the touch.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September, ...it's in the air

It’s getting to be that time of year again. Along with the first trickle of leaves starting to drift down from our canopy of trees, and some relief from the suffocating heat of summer, there is a feeling of un-ease beginning to pervade in the air.

It’s not the unending yard cleaning that is about to begin. Unless you are the designated holiday gift provider for your clan, you won’t know what this feeling I am alluding to is all about. …It’s the onset of the holidays. You may want to argue that we still have several months yet to get involved with all that is implied. And that is your prerogative. However, as a crafter, AND a designated gift provider, this feeling is comparable to the wander-lust blowing in with the wind, that takes over in Vienne’s spirit, in the movie Chocolat,. Yes! …And just as compelling!

The process begins in little whiffs of ideas, such as what age group Little Johnny is in this year, …and what is fussy Auntie Matilda least likely to dislike?

Be still my heart, …its just another holiday approaching. I have done this for many years now, and I should be an old hand at it. (Shudder) If anything, I think I have gotten worse at it. My sons are grown, and they have more expensive and alien tastes now. I knit each of them a hat last year, and they looked at them in disbelief. (What? …A beanie? …I knit one of them a balaclava, which I think his wife will wear it as a mini-skirt this year! Well, I won't do it again! …Not even a pair of socks! Then, there are the daughters-in-law. Two love everything I make them, whether it is knit, jewelry, or aromatherapy. The third daughter-in-law is impossible; …it might be best to just ask her this time around. My granddaughter is so remote now that I simply guess each year, hoping for the best. Choosing for my grandson is the best. He’s 11 now, and kids are easier to please.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


The Filoli
If you are from the San Francisco Bay area, you most likely know what the Filoli is. It had been on my touring list for about a year. Because of time constraints, it fit perfectly into our hectic business schedule. My husband and I scooped up my mother the day after we arrived, and she enjoyed it even more than we did. She especially liked the grand ballroom, where a gifted musician played period music on a a grand piano.

This is Mom and me standing just outside a charming arched doorway leading to the gardens. She's pretty "hot" for 93 don't you think?

The Filoli is a lovely little American castle, built in the early 1900's. It lies on 654 acres in the beautiful rolling hills near the coast, 30 miles south of San Francisco, and a skip and a jump from San Jose. The original owner was the owner of a gold mine, and had extensive funds to create a lovely home, which carries a strange name. I had mistakenly thought it was some Italian name, and had expected it to resemble an Italian villa. However, the name is very special, and is really an acronym made up by the first owner. He took the first two letters of key words of his philosophy for living: "Fight for a just cause; love you fellow man; Live a good life." The positive, happy energy of this man and the succeeding family that lived there, and the volunteers and employees who care for the estate, lives on and abounds there today. Now owned by the National Trust, it is a feast for the spirit. The gardens are extensive and astonishingly beautiful. Visitors may walk at heir leisure and there are resting places where it is possible to contemplate and enjoy the rich and varied colors of the flower gardens and panoramic views.

Me hugging a weathered old tree.

Mom taking time to smell the roses.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back home again

Just got back from California last week, and still jet lagged. Not sleeping at night, exhausted but not sleepy. Sleeping late in the morning when my usual wake-up is around 5:00 AM. Why? …I don’t know. It’s a matter of practicing what I preach. I keep expecting my body to know what to do, and do it. However, it isn’t being as responsive as I would wish, and therefore, wouldn’t you think I would do some acupressure for myself? It would probably take only 15 minutes, and I would get straightened out. Now that I have made this public statement, of course I will have to do something about it and I will report on it again tomorrow!
I am still thrilled with the airport in Minneapolis. I know, its kind of frivolous of me, but there are reasons. For one, I grew up in Minneapolis and it has been years since I have been back, even if it was just to layover for an hour. Two, I met Snoopy face to face. Didn't have much time to chat, but he knits his own scarves, and wanted to trade scarves with me, but I thought mine looked better with my jacket.
Then, there is reason three. I found another reason to love Dyson. …The vacuum cleaner company. In the ladies’ restroom, I discovered the coolest hand dryer! It is simply a box with hand-sized slots, and as you dip your hands trustingly into the slots, a seeing eye activates a powerful air blast and it totally strips all the water from your hands in a flash. …Like in seconds. It was so cool. Now, I want one too. Just to play with. It saves on trees and is much more energy efficient, and saves money. It is labeled "green," and has a cool name. You can read more about it here: Dyson air blade