Monday, July 30, 2012

Shawl Progress

Thanks to no kids being around I got to spend a lot of time this weekend on my Olympic shawl project. I motored through the first chart repeats and was quite pleased with myself until I hit chart #2. Ugh..beads and nupps make for verrrry slow knitting. I did all the usual rookie things like spilling the beads all over the place (twice) and dropping stitches but I think I'm getting the hang of it finally.

It may look like a rumply green blob now but hopefully it will turn into a pretty shawl in a week or so.

Meanwhile, Chubs says "I see you pretty birdies...won't you come play with me?"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Games Challenge

The Summer Olympics officially starts today in London. Most people in the knitting community know that this also means the start of the unofficial Ravelry games. I don't usually pay much attention to the olympics or sports in general but this year I decided that I need a little distraction and challenge in my life so I joined up with a group hosted by my local yarn store, 88 Stitches. The main idea is that you pick a project that will be personally challenging for you and try to complete it by the time that the closing ceremonies air in 17 days. There are even some prizes but for me it is more about pushing myself and getting my knitting back on track.

I chose the Bella Botanica Shawl to be knit out of Sweet Fiber Merino Silk Lace which has been dyed a beautiful mix of rich greens. I have never made a full sized shawl out of lace weight nor have I ever added beads to my knitting so this should be interesting.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

JAA - Week 3

Its harder to imagine feeling any worse than I do right now. I have been trying to do all the right things but I seem to be accomplishing nothing except banging my head against a wall. I am seriously questioning why I am even doing this to myself and am becoming afraid that there is something more wrong with me than just bad diet.

Physically I am a wreck. We had dinner out at a couple of restaurants this week..nothing out of the ordinary..and both times I felt really sick the next day. I developed some sort of food allergy earlier this week (I suspect seafood) that has resulted in my mouth becoming excrutiatingly painful and full of nasty sores. I have lost no weight in spite of sticking with the plan and taking big walks every day. My hair is still falling out/breaking off in large amounts every the point where I am considering shaving my head so that I don't have to keep cleaning it up. My sleep has been sporadic to the point of practically non-existant and, to top it off, Mother Nature has decided to drop in for a monthly visit.

Mentally I am at an all time low. Besides feeling incredibly sorry for myself I had to say goodbye to the girls for two weeks this morning. Every year they travel to visit distant relatives with my ex. for a couple of weeks. They always have a great time and really look forward to it. Usually I am eager for them to go and happy for the peace and quiet. This year its different. All I want to do is keep them close to me because it seems like they are the only bright spot right when everything else seems to be going to hell. But, like a good mom, I swallowed my tears, packed up their things and kissed them goodbye. I know that they are going to have way more fun there than staying home and being bored but I still selfishly wish they were here.

Thats all there is to show for this week. Hopefully there is some truth to the saying "its always darkest before the dawn".

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For the Birds

We recently installed a couple of bird feeders in our yard, much to the amusement of the cats. It wasn't long until we had our first customers! The chickadees were the first ones to discover the farther away one:

Then the sparrows arrived. I call this little guy Captain Jack, lol.

But the real excitement started when the gold finches discovered the feeder right outside the window:

Mr. Gold Finch was having such a good time that he called his girlfriend over to join in the fun!

While we were taking pictures we noticed a different kind of "bird" had arrived on the scene:

It looks like another sunny day today so hopefully we should get even more customers!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Adventures in Birch Bay

We had a mini adventure in Birch Bay, WA today for their annual Birch Bay Days festival.

There was lots of fun (and crabs) on the shore:

Oddly enough, there was even a little green man!

We watched the parade:

The girls got to make wax casts of their hands at the fair:

There were lots of pretty flowers on display:

All in all it was a successful but tiring day!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dolly Fever

The doldrums of summer have truly set in. It is way too hot and sticky to do anything serious or productive. Even though it is raining lightly today the humidity is staggering and is killing any desire I have to catch up on my various projects around the house. So what's a girl to do? Apparently spend all her waking hours on the internet! Since I got into the Blythe hobby I have been spending a lot of time cruising various sites and learning all about my favorite girls. There are so many beautiful dolls to obsess over! And so many customisers and so many shoes and dresses....and the list goes on. I have managed to collect quite a few of my "must-have" dolls so I am kind of in a quandary right now...I want to add to my little plastic family but there is no one girl that is rocking my world enough for me to haul out the credit card. To add to the blahs there have been noticeably fewer new release dolls this year and, out of them, only a couple have really attracted my eye. There also seems to be a new trend of desirable dolls being virtually unattainable for collectors outside of Asia..but thats another story.

Fortunately it appears a new light is on the horizon! Junie Moon has announced two new girls coming in regular release and on special...that appear to be right up my alley!

First up in Pickle Winkle:


She looks really promising with her cute outfit and I'm really intrigued by the two-tone hair. I got Eldest a Disco Boogie for xmas last year and I just love her glorious blond streaks. Pickle looks like she is going to be a regular release so she shouldn't be too hard to get.

On the other hand we have the newly announced Red Delicious:

 new doll_image [?? X?? V?? Ï?? Ý]

Simply stunning! I love everything about her. Unfortunately for me she is this year's anniversary doll so not only will she be extremely limited quantity but she will also be fairly expensive. But we wants the precious!

So now I am left waiting and slobbering until September when both these girls come out. I can't wait to see the real life dolls..hopefully they are even better than the drawings! Now I just have to come up with the funds to pay for them....:)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

JAA - Week 2

Week 2 of Junk-aholics Anonymous has dragged by with a wimper. I am still feeling tired and the sugar/fried food cravings have still been a major part of my life. I think I spent three solid days feeling super irritable and resentful of other members of my household who are still enjoying their treats and goodies. K. has been supportive of the idea of what I'm doing but he is not really participating himself. The girls are just being typical kids in the summer and indulging in things like ice cream treats without any guilt whatsoever. But I have been faithful much to my internal ire. At times I have wanted to scream and throw things just to let off a little steam. But I haven't. That would be bad mom behaviour. Instead I keep up the internal dialogue of why I am doing this (but I don't wanna) and how good it will be for me (no one cares so why bother). I have found out that the biggest problem of playing mind games with yourself is that you have no one else to blame when you feel miserable, lol.

On the physical front I am starting to feel a teensy bit better. Interestingly enough my skin and teeth feel a lot cleaner...I haven't had any breakouts or mouth sores. I am feeling a tiny bit firmer too..less "jiggle in the wiggle" so to speak. I have been managing cravings by eating breath mints of all things. I think it tricks my body into thinking that I have had something delicious and sugary when really all I have had is two practically zero cal mints after a meal. Eventually I am going to bring back a tiny dessert treat after dinners but not yet..I'm still too weak to limit myself properly.

I have not weighed myself during the week, nor have I measured anything. I see a lot of people embarking on new diet/fitness programs and weighing themselves daily. I think this practise is highly self-destructive because our weight naturally fluctuates on a daily basis due to things like humidity, headaches, time of the month, etc. Instead I am only weighing myself once a week so that I have something (hopefully) to look forward to. That being said, this week's tally was not very pound lost. That's measly pound. That's all I get to show for being good and ignoring all the cravings and putting up with the horrid mood swings and generally crappy feeling. Bleh. I'm not ready to give up yet but I must admit my faith is truly being tested.

In the next week I am going to try and do more things like go for a good walk every day and continue to take my vitamins regularly. I am working hard at distinguishing between real hunger and psychological hunger so that I can manage the cravings more effectively. I expect it will be difficult, though, because I am rapidly approaching that time of the month when I tend to do the most emotional binge eating. Hopefully my results will be more tangible and positive.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My Newest Princess

Presenting the latest addition to my dolly Sugar:

She is a stock Snowflake Sonata and easily the girliest of all my dolls. What a sweet addition to my little group!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Junk-Aholics Anonymous (JAA) - Week 1

So last week I decided that I need to clean up my diet. Like most moms of school-aged kids I have a lot of pre-processed snacks and treats in the house. Unfortunately I recently came to the realization that I'm the one consuming most of it with undesired results. Slowly, over the last couple of years, my weight has been creeping up despite various "diets" and exercise programs. My health has been going downhill due to an increase in minor ailments and I've had more unexplained problems like an increase in hair loss. My depression has also gotten a lot more severe and all-encompassing whereas I used to have well defined "bouts". I can't help but think all my problems are related to diet in some way so I guess its time to do something about it in the hopes that I get at least somewhat healthier.

Don't get me wrong..I know how to eat properly. I've been an armchair nutritionist since puberty and, before kids, I used to be very strict with my diet. I love to cook from scratch and experiment with many different food cultures. My kids eat very healthy compared to a lot of their peers. They vastly prefer home cooked food over preprocessed and will eat almost any fresh fruit or vegetable that I put on their plates. But, for me, not so much. I think a lot of moms are in the same boat..not being able to apply all the healthy, common-sense eating principles that they follow for their children to themselves. I have a hard time with eating fresh fruit and raw vegetables especially because I grew up fairly poor and didn't have access to much that wasn't canned or frozen. Old habits die hard.

In the media we (women especially) are plastered with images of smiling, healthy people exercising and eating wonderful healthy meals like salads loaded with fresh produce and grilled chicken breasts or exotic grains. In reality being this perfect and wonderful is not as easy as it seems. For example I live in a northern climate where fresh produce is hard to get sometimes and it is very costly. In Canada food costs are much higher to begin with, never mind fancy imported goods. I'm sure, too, that there are lots of people out there like me who live in a suburban area where there are no fresh fish markets or even that many places to get fresh, in-season fruit and vegetables. We don't have unlimited budgets so we have to make do with the local grocery store or big box places like Costco and Walmart.

So, getting back to the point, last week I decided to cut off my supply of snack crackers, cookies and chocolate bars in an effort to stop feeling so crappy and old. My results, so far, are pretty crappy. Its funny how no-one talks about the reality of cleaning up your bad diet habits and its effects on you. Instead every magazine and online article focuses on how great you'll feel and how you'll see these amazing benefits almost immediately. Ha. Here's how my last week has been:

On the first day I felt pretty good. All enthusiastic for the project..eagerly cutting out the goodies. No problem I thought. When I woke up the second day I felt like complete crap...migraine, tired, the works. I was also incredibly irritable. I spent the whole day obsessing over chocolate and constantly feeling hungry. This kept up for the next couple of days until I reached the point where I wanted to cheat, thinking to myself "why am I doing this? No one cares but me. Its not making any difference anyways" I did. I had a few bites of  my emergency chocolate bar. And it sucked. It didn't even taste good and made me feel worse. The last couple of days I have felt a teensy bit better but nowhere near the fabulous energized state I had been promised by the media. Interestingly enough I haven't lost a single pound but my clothes do fit the tiniest bit better.

I have also learned a lot about myself in the last week. Somewhere along the road I have become an emotional eater. I reach for the sugar whenever I feel headachy, stressed or upset. Like a junky I say to myself "Just a little nibble...just to take the edge off". Its amazing how much I fall on excuses like this during the average day. Its like I've been using refined sugar as a crutch to help me deal with pretty much everything. I also snack fairly heavily when I'm bored or in front of the computer. And I get really hungry around an hour before a meal and tend to load up on junk rather than wait it out. I'm hoping to use all these things I have learned to really change my habits. I am trying to do things like only snack on a piece of cheese and a few crackers between meals and incorporate more fresh fruit into my diet. Its really hard right now but I'm cautiously optimistic that things will pick up next week.

In the meantime I have been trying to get back on the knitting bandwagon as a way to distract myself from the munchies. I'm starting another pair of socks today out of Zauberball in pinks and purples. I feel kind of lame just knitting socks right now but, damn, its hot out! Too hot for big, lap-filling wooly projects. I have also been spending my afternoons at the local community center while the girls have various fun day-camps and sock knitting is the perfect take-along project. I am planning on joining the Ravelry "Summer Games" this year, though, with a more challenging project. Details will be coming closer to the start date.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lightbox and Socks

I live in the Pacific Northwest and anyone who has been here for any length of time knows that sunny days are few and far between. For a knitter and now doll enthusiast getting the right light to take photos is almost impossible during the fall-winter-spring and even summer sun can be challenging with too many shadows and colour distortion. A while ago I noticed people on Ravelry talking about taking photos in a homemade light box. I initially dismissed the idea as being too costly and difficult for me to pursue but I kept coming back around after many frustrating photo attempts that ended in dark non-colour accurate pictures. Finally K. and I actually looked up several different websites that offer tips and instructions on how to make a lightbox at home and this is what resulted:

The box is a large moving box K. picked up from a self-storage place. He cut out the sides and top and packing-taped tissue paper over the openings. Inside is a couple of pieces of white poster board from a local drug store. The light is from Lowe's Hardware in Bellingham, WA and has a 100w daylight fluorescent bulb (the light is not on in the picture). All together it took a couple of hours work and under $20. Now it is not as strong as I would like but it does  the job. Eventually we plan on remaking it with sturdier materials.

Here's a photo of the Wollmeise socks I finished this week:

The colour is fairly accurate and true to life. Pretty good considering I took this shot in my basement utility room with absolutely no natural light coming in! I urge anyone who takes a lot of yarn/project photos to seriously consider making one of these boxes up. Its not hard and the results are great. I think the biggest problem we had was where to put the darn thing so that the cats wouldn't trash it!

BTW: The socks are made from Wollmeise 80/20 twin in "Aurora". Knitting these was a weird experience. The colours are amazing but the yarn itself is hard and inelastic. It is also a bit thicker than most other sock yarns so I had to compensate with my stitch count. The yardage is awesome, though. This is pair is sized as a man's large and I still had about 20-25 grams left over. It will be interesting to see how it wears next fall.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Japanese Barbies

Yesterday we went across the border into Bellingham, WA like we do 2-3 times a month for general shopping and lunch. We hit all the usual places like JoAnn's and Target as well as some cool little specialty shops. I like shopping in the States, especially for craft supplies, because the selection is better and often the prices are way cheaper for the same products. In amidst all this I commented to K. that all I needed to find was a $5 Kenner and my list would be complete, ha ha. Well we didn't find a vintage Blythe doll but we did come across these little beauties in an antique mall:

These are actual Barbies (branded) made by Takara in Japan during the early '80s. It seems that Mattel had an agreement that lasted only a few years with Takara to produce these dolls exclusively for the Asian market. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like them. Both are still in the box and, apparently, very collectible. They must be pretty rare, too, because a quick search on Ebay found almost none to compare them to.

I love their weird anime-esque unlike anything produced in North America. As much as I like them, though, I like Blythe dolls better so I am probably going to sell them and put the funds towards a new dolly from my wish list.

Still, though, what a bizarre and awesome find!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dolly Sweatshop

Charlotte and Emily have been working their little plastic fingers to the bone lately to bring some new dresses to my shop!

Phew! After a day of hard work they have five beautiful dresses available for purchase! Better get them quick before the girls change their minds and keep them, lol!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Suburban Wildlife

Wild creatures outside:

And inside:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ugly Socks

I knit a lot of socks out of a wide variety of sock yarn brands. Every once in a while I am surprised at how the patterning on the sock looks compared to the original ball of yarn. Most of the time this is a pleasant with Lorna's Laces for example. When this happens I am pleased and the project takes on a new, happy dimension. Sometimes, though, this happens:

The yarn looked pretty enough in the ball..cheery shades of pink, red, and a blast of lime green. But somehow it just doesn't work in real life. In fact it sucks, big time. So why did I finish them when the mantra of knitters everywhere seems to be "life's too short to knit something you hate"? Well, to be honest, I have pretty severe depression at times and it has been really kicking my butt this year. My knitting mojo is pretty much extinct and finished projects are few and far between. So I'll take what I can get and be happy for it. Better luck next time.

Fortunately for me I found a partially completed sock in my drawer and finished off the first one of the pair:

It is the fabled Wollmeise in a very bright orange/red combo for K. I don't even know why it was in time-out but its free now and hopefully its partner will make an appearance before too long.

Finishing up some socks has inspired me to make some more dolly goodies for my etsy shop too. Not much..just a couple of pixie bonnets..but, again, I'll take my victories where I can get them.