soup may just save us all

Yesterday was Monday and for us that means “meatless” for our dinner. We aren’t vegetarians, not that I have anything against folks who are, but I like the idea of at least one night a week having a meal that doesn’t involve meat. Partially this helps me get Lancelot to eat more veggies and partially it gets me to step outside my comfort zone and cook more stuff.

Given that autumn is finally showing up in our part of the country it seemed like yesterday was a good day for soup. I started the pot at 8am and let it go until around 5pm. It was amazing. There were onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, white beans, fire roasted corn, fire roasted crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, veggie broth, fresh spinach, and tiny pasta. No recipe for this, I just made it up as I went. Some of the veggies I used had been lingering in the fridge for awhile and some we picked up on an unexpected trip to Whole Foods yesterday. Honestly, probably one of the Top 5 pots of soup I’ve ever made. One of the best things about cooking a giant pot of soup for just two people is that I got 3 dinners and 6 lunches out of that one session of cooking. (the lunch bowls are in the freezer)

Part of how I show love is through food. I am by no means a chef, I don’t do gourmet things, and I’m not very good with baking. But I like to try new things and I find cooking to be a creative outlet. And I am known (sometimes lovingly teased) about offering food to my friends any chance I get.

But I do like to cook big batches of things that freeze well because it just makes me feel more secure somehow to know that there’s always nutritious food in the house that isn’t going to require hours to prepare. Call me silly, I just don’t find that I enjoy fast food most of the time anymore. And if there’s food already prepared in the house that just needs warmed up I’m far less likely to end up making questionable choices about my meals. (I said less likely…)

Garth typically takes his afternoon nap (one of them at least) on the doormat in the sunroom. He kind of just lays there in a melted little puddle of kitty and he’s so stinkin’ cute that I have to rub his little white belly. And then I bleed.

having a salad for lunch and following it with a chunk o’ chocolate cake = balance at it’s finest

I didn’t do that, not today, but it certainly is in keeping with my idea of balance. Life is not something to be suffered through, depriving oneself of all pleasure, subsisting on only healthy food. I have no desire to die extremely old and leave behind a well preserved corpse. So much better to enjoy life now while I can and leave my meat-suit stranded along the side of a lovely avenue when it’s finally my time to shuffle off the well-worn mortal coil.

Yikes, that’s way more morbid that I planned. Moving on…

A bouquet of flowers that’s actually safe to leave on the dining room table

I may have mentioned that Lancelot has gotten pretty heavy into LEGO lately, or maybe I didn’t, but he has and I think it’s awesome. Putting together kits was something I had done many years ago and enjoyed, but then stopped doing for some reason. I’ve picked it up again, though not with the same excitement that he has. (I have yarn, he doesn’t. This is also balance.) I’m also kinda picky about what I want to do, and that limits my choices.

I have seriously enjoyed seeing how the keen folks at LEGO have managed to come up with this botanical series, but the end result really does look like flowers. So fucking cool. We’ve also explored a new little shopping strip in town because L found that there’s a store that sells nothing but LEGO and sells used kits, which turned out to be a total score because they had a Doctor Who set that L really wanted. And they also had the tiny Baby Yoda mini (micro?) fig that is perched on one of the flower leaves.

In that same strip is a fantastic Indian grocery and a really good bar & grill that has the most amazing soft pretzels. Our Saturday was packed but in an extremely satisfying way.

And now, we knit. I had purchased some close-out yarn online and then immediately found the perfect pattern for a vest. Progress!!!

Nothing is sillier looking than a cat in the middle of yawning

just do the damn thing

I’d like to tell you where I heard that, which one of my friends dropped that nugget of truth on me, but I can’t. But think about the profundity of it – it’s beyond the trite Nike slogan “just do it.” This allows for not wanting to do the thing, the DAMN thing, but getting on and doing it anyway.

It’s a really fucking adult thing to say and think. And so today I will endeavor to Just Do The Damn Thing.

I’ve made the bed, washed some dishes, took a shower and got dressed, made myself a healthy breakfast, and (most importantly) I got out my sun lamp and set it up on my desk. If I do nothing else today I will still consider this a win because I didn’t want to do any of those damn things, yet I did.

I’m not actually quite as grumpy as I appear in this picture. I actually took it because I’m wearing the very first sweater I ever knit, which was an accomplishment.

If I were to leave you with any advice right now it would be to set yourself up to just do the damn thing, even if it’s something small or something that feels silly. Doing that one damn thing might lead you to feel like doing another damn thing, maybe. And that’s probably a particularly good thing.

one foot in front of the other

I’ve been in a weird kind of “mood that isn’t a mood and is maybe lasting too long but then again so is the anxiety that’s ever present everywhere these days” kind of place and I have to say, it sucks.

I love the change of the seasons in an intellectual and visual sort of way. The change in the temperatures, the extra rain right now, the changing leaves are all really pretty and a very pleasant departure from what summer is around here. But if I’m going to have any mental issues they tend to happen during the changing of the light – sunlight that is. Too little in the autumn and winter cause one set of issues and the switch back to lots of it in the spring and summer causes a different set of issues.

Being mental is just such a fucking treat.

Once a month I haul Lancelot in for a haircut and beard trim and I usually get my mop of hair dealt with. This time I decided that enough was enough. I’ve been trying to grow it out but it was looking very much like how my grandmother wears her hair and I was not loving that. Changing my hair is actually a pretty standard thing with me. When I feel like it’s time to shake my snowglobe I will typically either go for a drastically different cut or, back in the day, a radically different color.

I’ve actually had my hair like this before, and it was most certainly a different color. I like the asymmetrical thing, especially since my hair’s natural curl makes this a ridiculously easy style for me in terms of what it takes to fix it. Approximately 3 minutes and a small dab of hair goo, that’s what.

I’ve been trying to spend some time getting back to meal planning and all of the other things that kind of feel like “life hacks” for me, because in all honesty, right now I need that shit more than ever. Apparently it’s working, at least at the surface level. One of the people that works in our office suite made the comment that I have my life together, which she totally meant as a compliment, but all I could think was, “little sister, if you only knew.”

All of the hacks and the prep stuff is really because I have a terrible, ugly secret…

I am hella lazy.

insert catchy title here

I keep thinking I should sit down and write and then life happens, so I don’t. The good thing is that I’ve been spending much more time doing creative stuff and a lot less time glued to a screen. I seriously think that’s a win. For example, consider the following exhibits:

I made a headband and channeled my inner Keith Richards
I constructed a Bird of Paradise LEGO kit
And I’ve spent some serious time on the Plant Place in our sunroom. It now includes not only a variety of leafy things but also a dendrobium orchid and three different carnivorous plants.

I’ve also still been knitting other stuff, besides headbands (though I am on #2 of those because they use just a wee bit of yarn and work up pretty quick) I’m working on a lace scarf for myself, the damn beaded lace cowl for me, a holiday goody for a dear friend, a birthday goody for another dear friend, a kitty amigurumi for my soon to arrive niece, and the scarves I’m making for charity.

And a partridge in a pear tree!

In the “not creative stuff” category I’m also trying to be more mindful about unwinding at night by coming up to my office and reading for about an hour before going to bed. It sounds so simple but it really does seem to make a big difference for me. I’m also try to remember how big of a role food and proper nutrition play in the way I feel. I’m not losing weight anymore, but I’m also not gaining, and that in and of itself feels pretty good. I was able to go clothes shopping with my friend K last week and being able to purchase “normal” size clothes in “normal” shops was just downright lovely.

My goal is to get back to eating / drinking in ways that are healthier and to get back to including much more activity and exercise into my routine. Right now it just feels like every time I try to establish some routines I find myself confronted with some minor catastrophe and someone shouts out “PLOT TWIST!” It’s interesting and yet simultaneously exhausting.

PS – the clear shelves hooked to the windows in that picture of the plants are from Amazon and they are so totally freaking worth it, especially if you have small children or animals. I have them in those windows and upstairs in my office and the guest room. You can’t put anything extremely heavy on them but they are amazingly pretty with small things, especially colored glass containers.

making the most of a monday

“Make it stop, please Mama?”

We woke up at 3:50am this morning because it sounded like the world was finally ending. Turns out it was just your typical Midwestern thunderstorm, but once you’ve been rudely awakened like that the only thing for it is to have a pee and make something warm to drink. Dog Blossom didn’t used to be all that phased by storms, but after the big bullshit we had earlier this summer she’s not at all fond. That picture was her this morning, camped out in my lap. She stayed like that for almost an hour.

I’ve been realizing lately that my routines are still majorly screwed up and it’s causing me to feel more than slightly off kilter. I’m trying to figure out how to unscrew them and get things a little more organized. I have no delusions that I will ever have my ducks in a row. The best I can, and will, ever hope for is that my army of squirrels all end up attending the same rave on the same day. It’s good to have dreams.

Lego!

This is the Lego Bonsai kit I had picked up when we went to Minneapolis earlier this summer. I had forgotten how much I enjoy doing these. I believe Lancelot is going to be getting me a few more of the botanical type things. I also spent some time making three pair of earrings and finally getting my creative spot in the sunroom setup the rest of the way.

I have been realizing that taking time to do these kinds of projects is super vital for me. L and I took a 3-day weekend together and were able to do a little shopping, watch goofy TV, and just hang out together. It was amazingly restful. I think it’s far too easy to forget how much we need to take that time for ourselves until we do take some and then remember how good it is.

the labels we wear

I’m not sure if it’s the changing weather (could be) or the odd schedule lately (could also be) but my brain has taken to wandering all over the damn place. I’d be concerned but she’s taken me on some lovely little journeys and I’ve had some truly delightful deviations from my normal meanderings so really, it’s been pretty nice.

One of the things I was thinking about the other day was labels – the ones we get stuck with because someone else applied them and the ones we apply to ourselves. For example, I would apply the labels Wife, Daughter, Critter Mom, Crafter, and Educator to myself with great joy. And while I openly admit to having mental illnesses, I prefer not to attach the label of Mentally Ill to myself. It’s certainly not that I’m ashamed of my illnesses, but I really do try not to define myself by them.

So it was really even more interesting that the same day (yesterday? maybe? time still has little meaning to me) I worked on campus and gave my BFF the lovely K a ride home and they were talking about how they had honored the anniversary of a very significant non-relationship based anniversary and how much life and self-definition and so on changes in the span of just 7 years. Oh yes, so much change. And that, combined with my thoughts about labels, all sort of tied together.

I certainly do not define myself the same today as I did in 2014. At that time I was working on a Graduate Certificate in Technical Communication and trying to get my second husband to take working on a welding certificate at the community college seriously. I was dealing pretty well with my own mental and physical health issues, but he was not. I also had a young step-daughter that “we” had custody of every other weekend. I say “we” because he seldom wanted to be an active participant in her visits. (cool side note – I found out this morning that she’s going to a college in the Pacific Northwest now and looks really happy) At that point in time I was edging closer and closer to the impending divorce which came in July 2015. I certainly was not happy and I didn’t much like myself.

I sometimes joke that in 2015 I lost 250lbs, and in a way that’s entirely true. I lost a husband who was really just dead weight at that time, and I really did feel physically lighter when I divorced him. The way I thought about myself changed, the way I presented myself to world changed because I felt much more emboldened to be my authentic self.

Making my own labels for my own self was amazingly liberating. And I love that Lancelot has only once ever applied a label to me.

Lest you think I’ve stopped knitting, I haven’t! I am working on holiday gift #2 plus I’ve been making scarves and washcloths for a refugee support organization. And I’m teaching K to crochet so that they can make scrunchies, and I figured what the heck, I’ll make some for their collection as well. Fun with yarn, yay!

i finished reading a book and other things that really aren’t exciting to anyone but me

Before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder back in 2006 I was a voracious reader. I’ve always loved books and a good story is actually one of my preferred drugs. Back then I was only sleeping a few hours a night because I was almost always hypomanic so I would read a full length novel every few days. There was a book case in my living room that was easily eight feet tall and four feet wide. My husband made extra shelves for it and pretty much all of them were stacked double deep. I had read 99% of those books.

The medication to control the symptoms of Bipolar made it so that reading wasn’t enjoyable, it felt more like a chore. Books no longer held my attention. In the time since 2008, when the second husband and I divorced, and quite recently, my book collection had dwindled to few enough that they all fit on a single shelf.

Now you kind of see why actually finishing books is a big deal in my world.

If I’m counting correctly, the book I just finished is the fourth book I’ve read this year. (don’t trust my math, I never do) I can concentrate again and I find myself getting very into the stories, which is amazing. I’ve found a few authors that I hadn’t heard of before and I’m totally loving this. Yay me.

Still life with scarf and dog

I am still knitting, mostly on this scarf, though the dog makes it hard some times. She thinks I should sit on the couch at night so that she can rest her head on me. There are several things about this that make knitting difficult. First, I end up all contorted with the arm of the couch on my left and her very solid self on my right, making it hard to get the wings to work. Second, she puts off body heat that is roughly equivalent to the temperature of the surface of the sun. And finally, she expects me to pet her. Constantly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her, she’s a good pup. But I have realized that for any knitting progress to be made I have to sit in my chair. I am starting to wonder if this scarf is going to be mine or be gifted to someone. I’m waiting for it to tell me.

getting closer

You may remember that I made some goals for myself for 2021, six of them actually. I’ve already achieve two of them and I am now Super Duper Close to achieving a third. That would put me half way to what I see as a successful year, and given that the year is about half way through, I see this as excellent progress.

TA DA!!!

Those are the cabled fingerless mitts for K that I started last January 20th. I finished them on June 21, 2021. I’m very pleased with how they worked up and even more pleased that they’re done. And I was totally right, more than enough yarn left to make the basic beanie pattern I love. They look great and she seems quite pleased.

This is making me very happy because there is now only ONE project left from last year, and only two other projects currently on the needles. One is a feather and fan scarf that’s my “I don’t have to concentrate on this” project and the other is a shawl made with mohair and short rows. Don’t ask; I have no earthly idea what I was thinking, but since I started it I feel compelled to finish it.

Oh so yummy

I am still trying to be more mindful about what I eat and drink, which is another goal. To that end I have discovered that I really like making steel cut oats in the slow cooker. That was this morning’s breakfast and that batch of oats were cooked with mashed banana, salted caramel honey, and plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg. I use half water and half almond milk for the liquid, so 1C of oats and 4C total of liquid is enough for four breakfasts. So easy and so tasty.

There is a whole lot of hurting going on right now, and I wish I could do more to help. I have several friends who are struggling, all with different things, and I know there are a whole lot of other people struggling just as much but who aren’t saying anything. I want y’all to know that it’s totally ok to ask for help when you need it. Even if what you need is someone to say that you matter, your presence is important, you have a place in this world. Because you do.

make. it. stop.

Honestly, were it not for the fact that I have a work commitment until noon I would not have gotten out of bed this morning. But if I hadn’t gotten out of bed I wouldn’t have realized that the water heater is playing games again. I’m really not sure when all of this FUN is going to end, but I’m hoping it’ll be soon.

I did get a plumber out to the house and he did something to it, in addition to getting the pilot light back on, and he said to see if that helps. While I appreciate that this only cost me $69 I can also read a calendar and see that we are dangerously close to a weekend, and not just any weekend but a Holiday Weekend. So if that fucking water heater goes out I have the potential to be well and truly FUCKED.

Anyway, we’re waiting to see what happens. I hate feeling like I don’t have any control, but it’s a damn appliance so truly, I have no control.

I’m supposed to go meet with a group of knitters tonight, friends, in a park not far from the campus. Our weather today is supposed to be lovely. Unfortunately my hip is bothering me, to the point where I’ve gotten out my TENS unit and have plugged myself in. Not sure sitting in a camp chair for several hours is a great idea at this point, but we’ll see.

Regardless of whether I go, I did start a new project just for the occasion. Does anyone else do that? Let me attempt to explain my madness…

I have several projects in the works at the same time. Some of them are much more complicated and require quiet or just music in order for me to keep up with the pattern. Some are just complicated enough that I keep the project and row count handy but I can still talk to someone or watch TV, providing there isn’t a hefty plot to follow. And then there are other projects that are so delightfully simple that I can almost do them in my sleep.

I didn’t have any projects on the needles that would be suitable to working on outside and while talking to people, so I had Lancelot help me wind up some yarn yesterday and I cast on a Feather & Fan scarf to work on. If you aren’t familiar it’s an old pattern that has a four row repeat and is quite easy to memorize. I am using a row counter on my phone just to help my feeble brains.

And of course it’s in another part of the house and I’m tied to my desk right now…

Currently on the needles in my house we have:

  • Sunset shawl – it’s just about to the lace section and needs to have the second skein of yarn wound so it’s in a pleasant time out
  • Fingerless Mitts for K – the pattern is fussy so they’re in time out until I find more patience
  • Niji vest – really just needs to be assembled, the knitting is done
  • Skewed Shawl – the pattern is interesting so it’s in the “front of the line” but it’s mohair so…
  • Ilo Shawl – gorgeous lace pattern that requires some attention, also in the “front of the line”
  • Feather & Fan scarf – this will likely stay within easy reach but since I don’t have any real plans for it I’m not worried about when it gets finished

I did go through my yarn inventory spreadsheet the other day and try to make notes of which yarns were being used for projects already, namely the ones above, and which I had purchased specifically for certain patterns. I was rather amazed to see how many yarns are already “spoken for” and I was equally impressed with myself when I went through my collection of patterns and was able to start matching patterns with yarns. Now I just need to remember to check that spreadsheet the next time I want to start a new project.