February 14, 2013
Cannot resist the urge to say HAPPY VD because I am both old and immature
1) There are people now much younger than me who do not have a context for which VD means "venereal disease" and believe instead that it means "Vampire Diaries."
2) Apropos of nothing ... thinking of botox.
3) I bought all the cupcakes at Ralph's! ALL THE CUPCAKES. I bought all the cupcakes to give out to my beloved coworkers for Valentine's Day. But if you were to posit if some blonde in Los Angeles sat in her car last night while parked in her garage and looked in the grocery bag for the fanciest of the fancy cupcakes and pulled it out of the container and ate said fancy chocolate cupcake for dinner while sitting in her car in her parking spot without even taking off her seatbelt all I am saying here is that you would not be terribly mistaken.
4) Suck it! Cupcake dinner!
5) I love Valentine's Day. There, I said it. It is an entire day devoted to pink and chocolate and getting lucky AND/OR complaining about not getting lucky, all things which I appreciate. Plus I ate a cupcake for dinner in my car under the guise of office altruism.
That is all. Go forth and VD the hell out of this day.
Posted by laurie at 5:03 AM
February 7, 2013
I like big hats and I cannot lie, you other brothers can't deny ...
This was The Winter Of Many Hats. In Los Angeles, "winter" is more symbolic than actual. It's a time of the year when other people have harsh weather and we pay tribute to them by wearing an indoor scarf and buying a new pair of Uggs.
A few weeks ago we had a bitter cold snap -- one day it was an inhospitable 59℉! And then the city immediately experienced a mini-summer, which is also part of winter, with afternoon highs in the 80s. The mini-summer which happens every January is our native cue for mass exfoliation and a reminder that bathing suit season is two weeks away.
It's the mornings that catch you off guard in this city. At night the temperature drops and by early morning it's just above freezing. When I went for a walk this morning I wore my hand-knitted beanie in the arctic 42℉ morning air. So you can see that everyone needs a knitted hat, even in Los Angeles.
My love for hat knitting hasn't waned a bit. Is there anything finer than a winter's evening spent settling in with a glass of wine, a delicious yarn and a Tivo full of Scandal episodes? I think not. When Olivia Pope is on the move my attention is glued to the screen (her opera-length white gloves!!!) (which she wears to the hospital!) and even after years of knitting I can't concentrate on a complicated knit pattern and watch TV at the same time. The simplicity of the knitted hat is just perfect.
Luckily my family is filled with brothers and uncles and cousins and nephews who live in far-flung places and love to wear my hand-knitted hats. I favor beanies and the standard 1x1 ribbed-brim cap in solids and dark washable yarns, but sometimes I go off the reservation and make wacky caps in stripy yarns.
For Christmas I made a pile of cozy hats:
Roll-brim, hipster slouchies, 1x1 brim and beanies oh my!
My current Noro fave: Noro Iro from my home yarn emporium (stash room).
So much help.
The very best part of the holiday was getting all the family text messages with selfies of the recipients wearing my hand-knitted hats:
Adorable Andrew and super-handsome Brett
Hipster Cool Eric
Beginning knitters often feel wary of the hat-- the circular needles, the double-pointed bit at the end (or beginning, though I always knit my hats bottom up.) But basic hats are ridiculously easy and so fast you can make one a day.
Here are my recommendations for knitting a great hat:
1) Measure the noggin!
Measure your head or recipient's head and subtract 1 inch or 1.5 inches -- that's about the perfect size for a hat. Example: Your head is 23.5 inches around the noggin, ergo you should make a hat that's about 22" around. It isn't a party at my house until someone is measuring their cranium.
2) You can knit a simple hat from ANY yarn.
Once you know how many inches to knit, you can use any yarn. Knit up a quick swatch of your chosen yarn on any size needle you like, measure the gauge. Multiple stitches per inch by the noggin measurement -- that's your cast on number. Example: If you get 4 stitches per inch and you want a 22" hat, cast on 88 stitches.
3) When in doubt...
When in doubt, always cast on less stitches than more stitches.
4) Decreasing isn't hard.
Shaping a hat shape is so easy -- just decrease stitches evenly across the final rounds. I wrote a whole manifesto on it. But don't take decreasing too seriously. Here's the best trick I know: Once you've figured out where and when to decrease, place a marker after every decrease. Now you know that you don't have to count stitches or look for the telltale hump of a knit-two-together stitch. Just knit and when you see a marker, work the decrease on the two stitches in front of it.
5) Find a formula that works for you.
I tend to cast on hats using 88, 77, or 66 inches (depending on the yarn.) I like a 1x1 rib on the brim and I really love the easy decrease math of these numbers. If for some reason my hat needs different math, I will often decrease subtly to the nearest easy number (say, knitting down from 79 stitches to 77) and then place my markers and start my hat's descent into smallness.Don't be afraid to try new things on hats -- they're small and easy projects to experiment with.
6) Invest in a few great needles.
I LOVE the 16" Harmony wood circulars from Knitpicks. The needle portion is shorter than other brands, which works really well for hat knitting. Just find something that works for you. A good rule of thumb for a worsted weight hat is a size 7 16" circular plus a set of size 7 dpns.
And here are some things you may find useful when knitting a hat:
The easy roll-brim hat pattern, the basis of all my hat recipes
Working with circular needles
A little diatribe on decreasing stitches
Great for chunky yarns: The Brangelina hat
My regular ribbed-brim hat recipe
Hats are the best. I think I've gotten the hardcore hat phase out of my system (for now) and I'm onto wristies, so be sure to look forward to my scathing expose on the thumb gusset. Film footage at eleven!
Posted by laurie at 7:00 AM
February 5, 2013
20 Minutes to Perfection
If you've seen a few episodes of Hoarders you already know that some of the poor souls on the program suffer from a very extreme form of perfectionism. I can't walk through my house but I can't get rid of anything because I just need the time to organize it PERFECTLY. Maybe I should buy another bookcase?
Not all perfectionists end up hoarders. Some of us end up re-grouting the tub every time we have company coming to stay. My brain tells me that I have company coming and I should vacuum, do a load of towels ... and then maybe repaint the kitchen, install a chandelier and create a concept wall. SO IT IS PERFECT.
Not everything about perfectionism is bad. The desire to be more, do more, do it right, get it done just so motivates some of us in a way no exterior incentive can. But oftentimes perfectionism stands in the way of accomplishment. It tells us we can't start a project until we have enough time to devote to it to get it done RIGHT. It keeps us from making little efforts, little changes, little dents here and there. It may keep some of us from having company because there is simply not enough time to repaint the whole house.
Perfectionism stirs up a lot of "Why bother? I'll never be perfect at this. Why even try?"
So I have been thinking about how and why the 20 minute thing worked for me when all the flylady and "tackle one drawer a day" stuff never clicked. How long have I been telling you about my cleaning marathons and the deep desire I have to declutter so I can clean less? I was able to clean obsessively while I was at home hermiting but now I'm in the studio all day. I work 10, sometimes 12 hours a day on a project that I love, LOVE. But it leaves little time to do anything else perfectly (or at all, in some cases). I don't have time, energy or desire to waste a precious free day getting it all exquisitely clean.
The 20-minutes-a-day thing is working because it comes at the issue from a whole new angle. Instead of being perfect at cleaning, I'm focusing my perfectionism on keeping up my 20-minutes a day commitment. It's taking something that appears to be a fault ("crazypantsedness') and turning into an asset ("striving toward a goal").
This is how I am approaching all of 2013. If I have a roadblock or issue or hissyfit, I immediately stop pushing so hard on the problem and look for a new angle. Work the problem from a whole 'nother place.
Life is short, but we all have 20 minutes for something.
Hello. This photo has nothing to do with the words! I'm on instagram pretty much all day every day and I love seeing your pictures too ... you can find me at: http://instagram.com/crazyauntpurl/ and if you have the app let me know so I can follow you, too. I love to see your cats, dogs, kids, knitting, food and manicures! Some of you are amazing photographers. I mostly post cat pictures. SURPRISING, I KNOW.
Posted by laurie at 8:47 AM
February 4, 2013
Things I love today:
Almonds covered in dark chocolate
People who smile and say good morning on early runs/walks
iPhone 5 camera
Fresh pack of multicolored sharpies
Living in LA where it's not weird to say you talked to an astrologer, psychic or similar and took his/her life advice
Things I loathe today:
The resurgence of the puffy vest
People who hide behind cynicism instead of showing emotion
Boots that don't fit over my cheerleader calves
Germs and the handshakes that spread them
- - -
Posted by laurie at 8:26 AM
February 1, 2013
February (Triumph over Task List) (Completion) (Follow Through)
Hello, shortest, weirdest month of the year. How YOU doin'?
I'm not even going to talk about how it got to be this day so soon when I am still thinking about Christmas knitting.
My February goals are to continue January goals minus one that was unnecessary plus one task a day. At the beginning of the year I made a list of all lingering, current and upcoming life to-do items. It was a really long list. If this novel doesn't work out I could stick a dedication page on the list and call it my War & Peace.
The list itself feels like accomplishment. If I don't write tasks down I carry them in my head and create anxiety and forget my zipcode. But when the list is together I wonder how on earth will I ever get it all done!
Based on my revelation from January -- massive accomplishment can come from devoting a small chunk of time daily to a project -- I decided to make myself accountable for knocking off one item off each day in February. Some tasks are short but annoying (making an appointment, going to an appointment, getting the car serviced). Some are more involved (taxes, database management, unclusterfucking the website and email issues). The bigger tasks got highlighted in pink so I know to schedule those on a weekend or a day when I'm off work. There are eight weekend days in February and one holiday, so that gives me room for nine large tasks and 19 small or medium tasks.
Also based on what I learned in January, I can take a large task and break it out over several days and that's fine, too. Though I would prefer to just get them done one per day.
I picked this goal for February since it's the shortest month. Obvs.
The overall goal is to enter into March and springtime with less junk on my to-do list and with more sense of accomplishment and butt-kicking in my own life.
Feel free to download my monthly goal-tracker and use one yourself:
Monthly goal tracker PDF (letter size)
Monthly goal tracker PDF (legal size)
While I am dismayed that They (The U.S. Department of They) were right about time flying by as you get older, I am happy that January was a month where each day was not completely lost in a blur and I have a sheet of star stickers to remind myself of that.
Are you doing goals this month? If so, what's on your list?
Gold star for Bob -- Cat Who Keeps Laundry Warm!
Posted by laurie at 8:26 AM