Monsterful Monday: I shall call him Squishy

Best Beloved

Another weekend with the Best Beloved has come and gone far too quickly, but has left me with plenty to be grateful for. Obviously, snuggling was high on the agenda, but we also got out and about for some great food- Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, where we enjoyed curly fries (obviously), a prawn po boy (for me), a Big Easy burger (for him- and they’re not kidding about the big!), plus milkshakes (the ‘salty dawg’ salted caramel had me sipping compulsively, he had passionfruit (to make a change from banana chocolate); and Strawberry Fare where we and some friends had a tough time narrowing down the dessert options. There was mooching in Arty Bee’s secondhand bookstore (“What would you like to do this weekend?” I ask him, “Arty Bees?” he says with a hopeful smile), strolling around hand in hand, and lots of great conversation. One of the things that keeps surprising me with more joy is how much the Best Beloved and I think alike. There’s a saying that love is holding hands and facing in the same direction, and I definitely think we are- which is a huge thing to be grateful for.

Just keep knitting, just keep knitting…

Like any good crafter I have a few different projects on the go, and I’m slowly getting them finished. I’ve been bringing a little bag with polyfil, sock yarn, needles and a crochet hook to work which has resulted in my getting a few more hexipuffs knitted for my Beekeeper’s Quilt– that really is going to be a huge achievement when I finally finish it (though my flatmate has asked to be allowed to roll around on the un-assembled pile of puffs before I sew it together). I don’t call them hexipuffs most of the time, though. I call them squishies. Because I am Dory from Finding Nemo.

I’ve also got the secret birthday/gift projects still on the go and those are working up a lot faster- but it’s hardly surprising as those don’t involve making over 300 teeny stuffed knitted hexagons out of sock yarn (but the finished result is going to be SO worth it.).

Big steps forward

Or what I hope will be. I’m so grateful I’ve got the chance to sell off my stash at the Social Wool Fair. I’ve had big bags of yarn sitting around waiting for me to find a way to get them out of my possession and into new loving yarny homes, along with a pile of books of patterns I know I’m not going to knit from again, which need new owners, so I’m excited for this weekend. The Best Beloved has promised to text me regularly with “no, put it down, you don’t need it, you’re selling yarn remember?”- what can I say? He’s supportive of the de-cluttering process, which is really lovely. Also…the Social Wool Fair has baking! Resisting all the yarn means I’ll deserve some cake, right?

Special mentions:

So far, I have not caught my flatmate’s strep throat (so she successfully kept her germs contained)- she also won a ticket to the premiere of ‘What We Do In the Shadows‘ by being awesome at crafting, so yay for her! Getting excited about going to a special screening of said film the next night with a Q&A after with Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. And the ticket comes with a bottle of ‘Delicious Necks’ beer- can’t wait! Tasty sushi, lots of blankets on the bed, mini-skeins of sock yarn just big enough for a couple of squishies (if like me you have no attention span getting to change colours often is really good…shiny!…), the Tiny Owl Knits forum on Ravelry, my Five Minute Journal, meditation, having almost a full roster of players for the Saturday night flagship game I’m co-GMing at the Chimera LARP convention (and a full roster for the Sunday morning game), finishing sewing projects, and knowing that I’ll be seeing the Best Beloved every fortnight between now and August.

How about you? What’s giving you warm fuzzies this week?

 

Liebster Award

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I’m delighted to say that A Small Aubergine has been nominated for a Liebster Award by Shannon of Beauty and the Mess.  The aim of the Liebster Award, from what I can find out via Google and tracking the nominees, is a way for people to discover new blogs- you get nominated if you have less than 200 followers.  Since this blog is only 3 weeks old I’m just excited that someone found what I’ve been writing fun and enjoyable enough to want others to come pay me a visit. It’s really flattering, and made my day when I saw the news. Shannon made a great post explaining a bit more about Liebster, which I recommend you go read if you’re curious.

What are the Rules?

Link back to the person who nominated you and answer the 11 questions they’ve given you to answer. You must pick 11 nominees with under 200 (or 2,000) followers to answer your 11 questions. Do not nominate the person who nominated you, and let the people you nominate know they have been nominated.

I nominate:

  1. Jenni Talula
  2.  Banal Muffins
  3. Knitting Pretty
  4. Lara Smoot Designs
  5.  Reflections
  6. Infectious Stitches
  7. Isa Threads of Life
  8. Christen Mattix
  9. Yarncaster
  10. Anemone
  11. The Girl on Fibre

Yes, there ARE a lot of knitting blogs on that list. No, I don’t see that as a problem.

11 questions for my nominees:

  1. What are three places you’d like to visit? Why?
  2. If you were stuck on a desert island, would you rather have one person with you and no internet, or be alone but with an internet connection?
  3. What’s the best gift you ever received?
  4. What’s your wildest ambition for yourself?
  5. Who would be the six guests at your fantasy dinner party, if you could invite anyone?
  6. What was your worst subject at school- have your feelings about it changed?
  7. How would you like others to describe you when they talk about you?
  8. What do you want to be remembered for?
  9. Books, movies, or TV?
  10. What’s one thing you’re scared to try but really want to?
  11. Tell us a joke!

(By the way, even if I didn’t nominate you, I’d love to know your answers to any of these questions that take your fancy- let me know in the comments).

And finally, the questions from Beauty and the Mess:

What’s your favorite animal? If I have to pick a real one, I’d say the Tibetan Giant Mastiff dog. Blame the Dresden Files books- Mouse, the main character’s dog, is one of my favourite characters. If we can go mythical, then the unicorn. Because going on the amount of glitter I seem to shed, well, everywhere I go, I pretty much am one.

What’s something on your bucket list? I really want to go to Macchu Picchu. A lot of my bucket list is travel to different places, and this is probably the highest on it- I’d love to do the trek properly. I know you can go up there on a train, but I’d just love to have that moment of reaching the end of the trail and being rewarded with those amazing views. The big dream would be to travel the world with the Best Beloved, his list is as long as mine (which is one of the many ways I know we make a great team).

Read any good books this past year? It would have to be the aforementioned Dresden Files- the latest in the series, ‘Skin Game’ came out last week and I devoured it immediately. I highly recommend the series as a whole- Harry, the main character, learns and develops a lot, especially in terms of how he treats women. It features Michael Carpenter, still one of the best-written Christian characters I’ve ever encountered, and a whole lot of badass women. Plus some truly epic crowning moments of awesome. Jim Butcher’s really come on as a writer since the first book (I think he hit his stride around Book 4- Summer Knight), and now the new instalments are very, very hard to put down.

I also really enjoyed SARK’s ‘Change your Life Without Getting out of Bed: The Ultimate Nap Book’- short but very sweet- and I’m working my way through some other books of hers.

If you had a million dollars, what are a few things you would do with it? The first thing would be to build a tiny house somewhere near the sea, in Auckland. The second thing would be to take the Best Beloved off on that round the world trip. The rest would be to live on in a modest way so that I could quit working for a paycheck and start working for myself and my community- I’d love to be able to do a bunch of volunteering and do things that make peoples’ lives richer, better, easier, and just generally spread love. That’s what I envision for the Craft Gym when it starts- I want to share my love of craft and give others the opportunity to have fun making things, and realise that they have the capacity to be creative and put that creativity into practice. Living simply and more minimally while running the Craft Gym would also allow me to use it to help the community, because I wouldn’t have to do everything with an eye to profit. For example, I definitely plan on doing some school-holiday clubs, but it would be great to be able to offer a heavily discounted rate for kids in low-decile schools or whose parents are jobseeking.

What’s your favorite T.V. show? Supernatural. But no spoilers, because I’m not caught up- after something that happened in season 9 my flatmate refused to watch any more.

What’s something you’re afraid of? Snakes. No idea where the fear came from (it could be a time when I was about 4 when my brother and I found a large adder asleep on the swingset at the holiday house we were staying in, and my brother swatted it off the swing with a frisbee…) but they freak me the hell out. I am so happy to be living in a country with NO snakes.

If you could see anyone in concert, who would it be? Either Ben Folds or Dave Dobbyn (like I said the other day, I’m having a Kiwi music moment).

What’s your favorite book? ‘Neverwhere’ by Neil Gaiman. I read it first when I was 17, and I think the stuff you read at that age stays with you. It made me excited about London, it was rich and frightening and weird. I have a first edition of it, signed by Neil, which remains one of my most treasured books (and that’s saying something).

If you could go bowling with any fictional character, who would it be? Sophie Hatter from Diana Wynne Jones’ ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ series. Or possibly Querida from the Derkholm books, also by Diana Wynne Jones.

Why did you start a blog? I wanted to create something to start sharing my love of craft and the weirdness and eclectic passions that make me me, to connect with others who are into what I’m into. Eventually it will also be a way for me to share news about the Craft Gym, once I’m in Auckland. Mainly it’s so I can share things I love, in the hopes that other people who love them will have fun reading, and that people who didn’t know they’d love them will discover that they do.

What’s your favorite season? When I lived in the UK it was spring. I loved the bursting into bloom, seeing flowers all over everywhere. And it was my birthday season, so the flowers felt like a special gift. Now I’m in New Zealand, to my surprise I’d say summer is my favourite. Over here there’s a lot more outdoors, and people seem much keener to be outside and enjoying the weather. Ice cream on the beach (at Christmas!), picnics in the park, and adventures and exploring- things that don’t happen so much in England because you never know when it’s going to start raining.

So there you go! Normal Monsterful Monday will follow in a bit.

Friday Five: Five ways to stay warm this winter (Southern hemisphere ftw!)

It’s freaking cold. I do not approve. I read a lot of blogs and content from you lucky Northern Hemisphere peeps about summer and stuff to do when it’s warm and getting outside. It’s great, and come November you’d better believe I’ll be putting those ideas into practice, but right now the idea of frolicking outside is, much of the time, for crazy people. It’s cold, it’s dark, I do not want to get out of bed in the morning because as soon as I put a part of a limb outside my duvet-and-all-the-blankets cocoon, I am reminded that the rest of the world is not as warm as my bed. At work, lots of people are bringing in hot water bottles and one woman even has an electric blanket draped over her chair (to be fair, it’s yet another bad thing at my work that the heating is currently buggered). So to stay positive, and to get a bit Southern Hemisphere Represent (yo) up in here, I give you five great things to do to stay warm.

Hot water bottle

An oldie, but a goodie- especially as it’s an excellent excuse to make yourself a funky hot water bottle cover. “No, that’s definitely MY hottie, look, it’s got up to look like a penguin. Or if waterfowl aren’t your thing, perhaps you’d prefer a Hot Water TARDIS? Or how about a simple beginner’s cozy?

Thermals!

From flanelette bed sheets to merino leggings, thermals are all kinds of awesome. I only discovered them after moving to New Zealand- winter sheets, in particular, were a revelation being used as I was to freezing in cotton sheets until they warmed up. Best of all, they allow me to continue to wear some of my favourite dresses throughout the year, meaning I can have a smaller wardrobe of clothes (very useful when you’re trying to declutter).

A muff

So toasty warm, so vintage, the muff- also known as a smitten- is a super-elegant way to keep your hands warm…and if you’re a giant sap you can also use it to hold hands with your beloved when you’re out and about. I have a purple faux fur one, and it always adds a little vintage super-spy strut to my step when I wear it. If you’re in Wellington and sew, I’d highly recommend the Dreamstress School of Sewing- and this winter the lovely Leimomi is running a Make a Muff class. Or you could always knit/crochet one like this Tiny Violet Hand Puff from Tiny Owl Knits (can you even? Gorgeous). Or you could just find one from Etsy. I mean, this winter wonderland one is rather over the top, but how about something like this 1940s/50s style one– wear it with a vintage dress and imagine you’re an extra in White Christmas. Of course, that pin-up style isn’t everyone’s thing, which brings me on to the other kind of muff (no, not that kind of muff):

Ear muffs!

A couple of years back, I was part of a team for the 48 hour film festival, taking on the role of props chinchilla (this is what happens when I mishear what someone says). While out grabbing things for the film, a friend and I stumbled upon sets of furry earmuffs. On a whim, we bought them. It turned out to be one of the best decisions we made that day. There was already a chill in the air, but after 3 or 4 hours outside in a nature reserve, we were seriously freezing- the earmuffs proved to be an absolute life saver. And there are so many different styles! From Nordic embroidered ones to Hayao Miyazaki-inspired soot sprite ear muffs,  to full on Katamari Damacy ones, there’s bound to be a pair out there to suit you. 

Snuggling

Well obviously. What can I say? The Best Beloved is visiting this weekend, and I plan to take full advantage of it (it helps that he runs hot). If you’re in a relationship (or even if you have a friend who is as cold this winter as you are), snuggles are the best and winter is an excellent excuse for them. Not that you need an excuse.

What about you? What are you favourite ways to stay warm?

 

Things I Think About Thursday: It’s just stuff, it’s not love

I have a lot of stuff. I may not be about to be contacted by the producers of ‘Hoarders’, but there’s stuff, and there’s a lot of it, and it’s mine. Aged 19 I was told by my flatmates that I was taking the biggest room because I had the most stuff. My Mum would subtly offer to lend me books with titles like ‘Freedom from Clutter‘. It didn’t stick.

When my marriage ended, I went from a (full) two bedroom house to one bedroom in a small flat about 1/3 of the size the house had been. It took two car journeys just to move the stuff I had left BEHIND when I left. When I first left my husband permanently, I moved in with some (amazing) friends (to whom I am grateful to this day), in a small single room. At the start I had just a suitcase. 3 months later it took a car to move everything I had to the new flat.

Fast forward 3 years and I have, finally, had enough. The thing about too much stuff (whatever too much is for you, and it’s different for everyone), is that it weighs on you. I don’t just mean when you have to carry it up a hill or a flight of 40-odd steps to move. In terms of energy flow, it slows you- it makes you feel weighed down, which is very different from grounded.

Then  there’s the fact that, surprisingly for someone who has always been a pack rat, one of my dreams is to live in a tiny house. Specifically, my wild dream is to build a Tumbleweed Harbinger (the one bedroom model), with solar panels, and live small and mortgage free. If I did that right now I could probably live in a fort made of plastic tubs o’stuff while they built it.

Add to the mix that I want to move cities (which involves transporting everything I own, at once, on a 10 hour trip, and you have the clincher.  A big downsize is in order.

The thing that prevented me in the past from getting rid of, well, anything, was sentiment. If it was a gift from someone (especially from a close family member, or a dead family member) I had to keep it. If it was linked to a special memory, I had to keep it. When I moved to New Zealand, one of the hardest things was having to get rid of some of my books- in fact I promised myself I would never get rid of books ever again. They’re one of my big memory-triggers. I can tell you when I got any given volume on my shelves, who gave it to me, or where I bought it. I didn’t think I could ever bear to use a Kindle.

Well, plus ca change. I started small- with clothes I didn’t wear, taking them to the charity shops or selling them to friends (or, soon, on Trade Me). And as I began to release things, I started to feel lighter. The big moment for me was when I was looking at some bits and pieces I had kept automatically because they were from, in particular, my Mum and Dad. I suddenly asked myself the most useful question I ever have about stuff:

“Do you think that the love they have for you will go away just because this thing does?”

Well, of course, the answer is no. It was freeing- I can divest myself of things that no longer serve me, secure in the knowledge that it doesn’t change the happy memory, or the connection I have with another person if it’s still present and felt by both of us. It’s one of the most important things I’ve learned to do while decluttering- be conscious. Don’t default to ‘I have to keep that’. Do you really? Why do you? Is it because you genuinely love it and it makes you happy just looking at it, or is it from a feeling of guilt or worry about what would happen if you no longer had it?

Of course, there are some things I would never get rid of, things that still have a lot of meaning to me, things that are unique and special. Those things have a special, joyful energy of their own and it gives me joy to have them. Things like a book with an inscription from my Grandfather to my Grandma, given to her while they were engaged. A patchwork bedspread from my Grandparents’ house. A signed first edition of my favourite book.

And getting rid of something doesn’t mean you have to sell it or donate it. If it’s a family thing, there might be a sibling or cousin of yours who would love to have it, to keep it in the family (or if you can’t stand it, and you know nobody else can either, you can always give it to your least favourite family member and let them deal with having it in the house…not that I’m endorsing that idea.)- and spread the love.

Which brings me to my next point- by releasing things from your possession, you’re freeing them to go where they will be of service. They’re going to, say, the family member who will love and treasure it. Or to a new person who needs it when you no longer do. It’s this thought that has helped me, for the first time in 5 years, to start getting a pile of books ready to go. They’re books I don’t read, that I’m not attached to. Releasing them gives them a chance to go to a new owner who will love them, and gain enjoyment from them. Probably not even their last owner. It’s the same with clothes. When I started decluttering I had a lot of clothes which, while I thought they were lovely, I didn’t wear. Beautiful things deserve better than to hang around unused and hidden away. By taking them out of my wardrobe and passing them on to excited new owners, I’m giving them the chance to be used and loved as they deserve. Shown off. Complimented. Twirled in. To be put on by someone who feels like a million dollars in them.

It’s this same motivation that will see me, on Saturday 21st June, heading with a couple of suitcases full of yarn and craft books to St Anne’s Hall, Emmett Street, Newtown, for the Social Wool Fair. I looked at my yarn stash- all four huge plastic tubs of it- and realised it was daunting. There was way, way more than I could realistically knit up any time soon. It brought me down. I felt I didn’t have any freedom to choose projects that wouldn’t be made from stash yarn. And I had a lot of lovely yarns that I just wasn’t going to do anything with. Like the books, and the clothes, by destashing these and taking them to the wool fair, I can send all these pretties to new and loving knitters, who will get pleasure from them (and look, if they sit in THEIR stash that’s OK too. The point is that the skeins will make them smile!). And I, hopefully, get some extra savings to bring my succulent wild dreams closer to reality.

If you’re in Wellington on the 21st June, why not head over to Newtown between 10 and 4, and come say hi? I’ll be the one in the retro-pin-up dress with the half-table (and the many skeins and balls of lovely yarn for good prices), twitching slightly as I try to resist the temptation to buy yarn from other traders. I managed it at Fabric-a-brac…

Links of Joy- Cures for SAD

 

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Listening: Slice of Heaven playlist at Grooveshark

I’ve been listening to a lot of Kiwi music this week, thanks to the Best Beloved telling me a particular song reminded him of me. Yes, I’m a huge sap. I got turned on to Grooveshark last year by my flatmate Jenni, and I love being able to make up random playlists to suit my mood. This week saw me compiling a bunch of Kiwi songs, leading out from that one song from the Best Beloved- so in the words of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’- share and enjoy!

Reading: Green Wedding Shoes

I admit, I have something of a weakness for wedding blogs. I mean, if you’re going to gawk at beautiful dresses that are way out of your price range, why not? Thinking outside the box they can be very inspiring in terms of home decor and craft projects- every bride and her hamster seems to be adding ‘handmade touches’ to their weddings these days, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had. I’ll admit, too, to something of a weakness for hipsterish craft magazines. Green Wedding Shoes scratches both these itches. ‘Bohemian Nautical Wedding Inspiration‘ perhaps? Or you could DIY a Spring Flower Crown (you know, while waiting for the barista to prepare your obscure coffee order using a contraption that looks more like a cross between a Heath Robinson drawing and a still for making moonshine for a speakeasy than a coffee machine). I question how Game of Thrones this Game of Thrones wedding inspiration is (also, um, red wedding dress? Red Wedding dress? Er…). But I won’t deny, this site is full of beautiful things and fun ideas, and I’m very much enjoying mooching through it.

Giving: Did you know there’s a Humble Bundle for sewing patterns? It’s called the Perfect Pattern Parcel– pay what you want for a little bundle of indie patterns. Yes, I may have squeed when I found that out. The current parcel is available for about the next 3 days, and includes a bombshell swimsuit, so it was an instabuy for me (pin-up patterns are my crafting Kryptonite). And all proceeds go to providing supplies for teachers in low-decile schools/schools in poor areas where they don’t have ready access to a lot of the equipment and advantages that schools in ‘better’ areas do. As my maternal Grandfather was a science teacher at an inner city school, I know he’d approve of the cause. And I definitely approve of a bundle of fresh sewing patterns! (The Humble Ebook Bundle if you haven’t heard of it is also a great way to discover new authors while giving to charity. Win win!)

And your random procrastination hijinks:

Mega Anime Avatar creator– because if you’re going to procrastinate on the internet, why not do it by creating a picture of yourself as an anime character? And then your Best Beloved. And then your flatmates. And then your other friends. And then your LARP characters. Obviously I am just speculating here. Ahem.

I want all of the things from Sugar and Vice designs. All of them. But I’m especially in love with the Speech Bubble Brooch (because I am a sap and want to immortalise a text from the Best Beloved), and also this teapot ring. And can we just talk for a moment about this Ahoy necklace

Of course, the other way to immortalise a favourite phrase or text is with an art print. You can do just that, for free, at Recite.

Finally, I’ve been having a bit of a Japanese cooking moment this week (two lots of don buri, yummers!), and in my internet research into good recipes stumbled across the Bebe Love Okazu blog. Yummy Japanese home cooking? Sign me up.

Tues-torials: Three craft tutorials you never knew you needed

One of the things I love about craft is that it’s always developing and changing. People come up with new techniques all the time, often by accident- in fact in some cases it may happen without you even realising that nobody else does something that way- not until you do some social crafting and you’re asked ‘how are you DOING that?’ (which along with ‘where did you buy that?’ when you made something yourself is one of those moments of Ultimate Crafting Smugness which are precious and golden). Thanks to the internet, it is of course super-easy for people who’ve realised that they’re doing something new, weird, or different to share that. For today’s Tues-torials, I present three of my favourites.

A small caveat- the knitting tutorial is not for the faint-hearted, but it IS worth trying out if you’ve gotten the hang of the basics. After all, the great thing about knitting, crochet and sewing is that if you get it wrong with the stitches, you can (usually) undo what you did and start again.

First up, though, we have a set of tips and tricks for hand sewing from the Dreamstress. Why did you not know you need it? Simple- an awful lot of sewing peeps (sorry, I just can’t bring myself to use ‘sewist’) rely heavily on their machine and avoid hand-sewing like the plague. But as the Dreamstress points out, hand sewing can add something very special to a garment. In the post, she talks about how to make it easy and even pleasurable (beeswax and silk thread, and really good needles- oh no, you’ll have to go to the craft store…). Thanks to her I’ve started added hand-done elements to the things I make, and it does make a difference to the finish.

Next, for those who have a passionate affair with their sewing machine, is a little-known fact about one particular possibility from Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing (vintage style? Check. Gorgeous blogger with paintbox-coloured hair that I’d love to have toooo? Check. Fantastic projects and tutorials? Checkity check check!)- in this case, it’s about a stitch on your machine which acts like a serger. Yes really. You’d better believe I rushed out to the local Bernina stockist to get an overcast foot when I read this! Not having an overlocker (and lets face it, if you’re just starting out then just getting a sewing machine is a big step), this tutorial shows you how to add a nice finish to raw edges of fabric before seaming/hemming. Sure it takes more thread and time, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort.

Finally, this is an oldie but a real doozie. Do you knit? Do you, more specifically, knit things that require you to make two of the same thing? Socks, mittens, sleeves on jumpers… Did you know that you can knit BOTH AT ONCE ON ONE SET OF NEEDLES? If you can get your head around that (take a moment to get your head around it. I can wait…), you can find out how in Knitty‘s article Extreme Knitting: 2 Socks in 1. I also absolutely encourage you to occasionally exclaim “EXTREME!” at the top of your voice if you attempt this technique. Maybe don’t pump your fist in the air though, if you’re still holding the needles. I’ve used it to make arm warmers and I can attest that it works- and as long as you relax (yes, that is indeed an excuse to have a glass of wine or some chocolate on hand while you try this) it’s not too hard to master.

What are your favourite little tricks that you’ve learned? Let me know in the comments- I love hearing about new things to try out!

Monsterful Monday- is it Friday yet?

I realised I haven’t explained why I call these posts ‘Monsterful Monday’. Monsterful is an obscure word I learned from a Buzzfeed list of archaic words we should bring back. I also like the word ‘curmuring’- it means the noises your body makes when you’re digesting (you know, those sounds that seem like they would be hunger but are actually the opposite)- yes, there’s a word for it! Anyway, ‘monsterful’ means wonderful, terrific, good stuff- and it seemed like a great thing to call a weekly gratitude list.

Conquering the FOMO

At least a little. If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym it stands for Fear Of Missing Out. It’s something I’ve struggled with since I was very small. Mum and Dad still remember a trip to the local pier when I was about 3 or 4, where I got to go on all the rides, and as I came away said “but we didn’t get any candy floss!”. As an adult, it’s still something I struggle with but it’s a long story and a slow process. One of the reasons it’s unhealthy is a tendency to ignore what my body/mind are telling me they need, in order to push myself to go to events. This weekend there were three LARP events- an in-character feast (think of it as live-action fanfic), a session of ‘The World That Is’ a fantastic post-apocalyptic campaign I’m in that runs a 4 hour session every few months, and a day-game (again 4 hours) for the same campaign the fanfic was for. I was intending to go to all three, but threw my back sitting on the hard floor at the World That Is session (that’s what happens when your character’s brother has been injected with a high concentration of a drug, is recovering and you’ve had to move away from the med bay with the chairs because someone has a bomb fused into their belly and they’ve cleared the area…to say a lot happens at these games is an understatement).

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided that what I really wanted to do on Sunday was rest up, so that’s what I did. An older version of me would have gone to the day game anyway, worrying that if I didn’t I would miss out on something important or be excluded.

I still nosed into the paper my flatmate Blair was reading at brunch, so I’m not perfect, but it’s getting better, and for that I’m very grateful.

Rude knitting

I have a couple of friends with birthdays coming up who have a hearty appreciation of filth, and it’s a great opportunity to break out the knitting projects which make it fun to answer the question ‘ooh, what are you making?’. Actually, I always enjoy answering that question, but when the answer is ‘a ball gag’, well, it’s food for my rebellious side. And yes, I really did knit one (just need to seam it). If you’re curious about this kind of project, there are two books I’d highly recommend- ‘Naughty Needles’ by Nikol Lohr, and ‘DomiKnitRix’ by Jennifer Stafford (seriously, how can you not love a title like that?). You can also (I have discovered) search Ravelry’s pattern database for Mature Content. Don’t ask me how I found that out.

Awesome friends

I’m very blessed to have many wonderful people in my life. This week, a special mention for my friend Sophie who runs The World That Is. I was hideously disorganised about letting her know I was attending, and giving her a character update, but she was very patient and kind as always, and even gave me some personal plot in the game (which I wasn’t expecting).

Mercury Retrograde

An attack of deja vu at the weekend signalled the start of the month of Mercury bats foggy-communication technology weirdness. But it’s also a chance to reflect, work on things from the past that need letting go of, revisit and reassess. I’m working a lot on forgiveness and letting go of negative charges towards others at the moment, and Mercury Retrograde energy supports that- at least from what I’ve read. I am very much a newbie at this stuff, but I’ve found Mystic Medusa in particular to be very helpful and informative. Anything that helps is something to be grateful for! And so far my computer hasn’t gotten fried (though a colleague has had to restart her computer three times this morning).

Special mentions

Yet more serendipity supporting my bid to downsize (this week it was a work colleague offering to take old towels for the Cats Protection League- not only was I able to divest stuff, but it’s going to care for animals in need of love!), writing inspiration, texts from friends keeping me cheerful, experimental cooking (yes, again- this week it was Mac and Cheese burritos), meditation, and best of all, looking forward to a visit from the Best Beloved this weekend (hence the title of this post).

Friday Five: Five awesome beginner crochet patterns

My friend Anna has recently taken up crocheting- I’m always excited when someone starts getting into a new craft. She’s already a talented sewer, but in the end getting good at any craft is all down to practice. Now, the easiest and simplest thing to make as a beginner crocheter would be a cotton dishcloth, but if you’re anything like me, you yearn for the beautiful, the silly, the fun. So to celebrate making it through the week, I give you five super-gorgeous, super-fun crochet projects that a beginner could tackle.

Hint- crochet hooks and yarn? Not that hard to get hold of. And there are plenty of books and tutorials out there to show you the ropes. The only thing to be aware of is that American crochet instructions are different to UK ones, but once you know what they mean you’re flying. Another hint- the second pattern on the list includes a handy quick reference to explain the difference between them.

Go on, give it a try- what better time than right now to surprise yourself and make something great?

Best of all, four out of five of these patterns are available for FREE! <3

First up, we have the crochet bow ring from ChabeGS Crochet Design. A little bit pin-up, you could make them in every colour to match your outfits, or use up an entire ball of yarn and make them for everyone you know. They’re super cute and THE PATTERN IS LITERALLY THREE LINES LONG. Can we say instant gratification? Oh yes, I think we can!

The Easy Crochet Owl from the Bunny Mummy blog will teach you how to crochet in a circle, and change colours. Also, OWLS! Yes, I know, ‘we can put a bird on it’ but c’mon people. We all know what YOLO really stands for.  You Obviously Love Owls.

If cute birds of prey aren’t your thing, then how about a kawaii octopus? Because, well, OCTOPODES. Just imagine making a bunch of these in different crazy colours and putting them on your desk at work. Go on, imagine. You could even tell people they didn’t need to start giving you octopi because you already had a bunch of them. Or attach loops to a load of them and have an octopus themed Christmas tree? OK, I’m not doing a very good job of selling this. Just click on over to NyanPon and you’ll see why I had to include this on the list. Added benefit- this is an amigurumi pattern. Amigurumi is a particular technique used to crochet toys and other 3-d objects, and it’s a great thing to learn, especially if you want to make toys. Just Google amigurumi and be amazed at the possibilities.

“This is all very well,” I hear you say, “but what about actual items of clothing?” Well, how about the classic- a beanie? But this one has an awesome twist- I give you (or rather I’m Topsy Turvy gives you)…the bearded beanie! Yes, you could just follow the beanie part and make yourself a lovely hat. But seriously…you can add a crochet beard! I bet you’ve often thought to yourself, ‘gee, what I really need is something to keep the rest of my face warm, not just my ears. But I don’t want to wear a balaclava…’ Well here’s your answer! Also you could pretend to be a super secret spy in your cunning disguise…If nothing else, take a look at this pattern for the ADORABLE photos of the baby bearded beanie. I defy you not to go ‘awwwww’, at least to yourself.

Finally, the only paid pattern on the list. This will make you a master of double crochet. It’s a much bigger project to tackle than the others, but when you look at the results, you’ll see why I had to include it. The Babette Blanket from Interweave Press is, in a word, stunning. To me it looks like the background of a Klimt painting. If you have a look at finished projects (look at Ravelry.com– and if you haven’t signed up there already and like knitting/crochet or want to start, you need a (free) account, stat!) you’ll see the possibilities. The actual pieces that make the blanket are simple to make (I’m working on one at the moment) but there are endless options for colours, as you’ll see. I’m working on one of these at the moment myself, in rainbow colours (what else?). If you don’t want to tackle the full sized blanket, why not make just the middle sections, and create a baby blanket?

I hope one or more of these will tempt you, and that if you haven’t given crochet a go you’ll consider trying. Whatever happens, I hope you have a fabulous weekend! Happy Friday!

Things I think about Thursday: Long distance love

 A kiss countdown I made for my Best Beloved

I’m madly in love with a wonderful man. He is caring, thoughtful, romantic, has the same outlook and attitudes as me, and gives great snuggles.

And he lives in a city 10 hours away by car (I don’t drive)  or 1 hour on the plane.

We decided that it was worth putting in the effort, as anyone does when they get into- or stay in- a relationship whether the person lives next door or on the other side of the world.

But it’s definitely not the same when you’re not in the same place, and can’t just pop round on a whim or when you need cuddles. Here are the five most important things Ive learned about long distance relationships.

They’re not for everyone

Being apart, especially in the early stages of being a couple, is hard. My Best Beloved and I had to wait 5 weeks for our first kiss. There are plenty of times when you just want to be able to do ordinary couple things, like walk around holding hands or cuddle on the sofa, and you can’t because the other person isn’t there. Missing the other person can wear you down, and not being able to express your feelings physically (even a touch of the hand can express love) can leave you feeling drained, and envious of other couples who can. So you have to find other ways to express your feelings.

Keeping in touch is everything

Texts, IM, Skype. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but talking as often as you can is really important. The weeks I’ve missed my partner the most are the weeks where he’s been on a late shift and I’ve not been able to talk to him online. It helps that my best friend is on the other side of the world, and that we’ve lived on different continents to each other for the past 12 years. I’m used to a person I care about being words on a screen.

It’s also an opportunity- especially if, like me, you’re working on being shy about talking about relationship things. Talking via IM lets you compose, think about what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it. It helps me be more authentic because I can take a bit of time to express myself how I want to. And when all you can do together is talk, it’s a really good chance to learn a lot about each other. I recently got myself a book of discussion questions for people in a long distance relationship, and plan to start working through some of them with the Best Beloved. We had some awesome deep and meaningfuls over the long weekend that left me feeling more in love and loved than ever. Talking and sharing things about ourselves brings us closer, even though we’re far apart.

You have to have a life outside the relationship

That’s true, of course, of any relationship but it’s especially important in long-distance. Your lover doesn’t want to think of you moping at home when you should be out enjoying things. They want you to be happy, and part of that is doing your thing and having a blast. If I’ve had a great night out, it gives me something fun to tell my Best Beloved all about. There is, however, a big BUT…

Independent is NOT like being single.

One of the things my Best Beloved did which meant the absolute world to me was not go to an event, because he said he wouldn’t feel right going without me. While we both get out and do plenty of fun things, go to parties, movies, and generally get up to hijinks, there are some things that we say no to if we can’t go as a couple. He’s the first man I’ve had a relationship with who’s understood this idea, but it does matter.  To me, it’s a way of letting him know (and a way of him letting me know) that I value and respect our relationship, and that he’s loved and important to me.

It’s a great excuse to be soppy- and craft!

Now, I may be a little biased on this one, because I love, love, LOVE getting things in the mail. And I also love sending things. There’s something very special about holding something in your hands that your lover has touched, or is going to touch.  Postcards, love letters, silly cards, photos, little gifts- a long distance relationship means a good reason for all of them (if you needed a good reason- I’m pretty sappy so even a small excuse is excuse enough).  One of my favourite things I’ve made to send was a Kiss Countdown (see the photo above)- doodle frames (well my own version of them), with the dates leading up to his next visit, and a kiss for each day- as you can see from the photo at the top of this post.

In short, long-distance does involve extra effort, but I think that that can be a really good thing. You have to get into the habit of choosing each other. You have to value your relationship. You have to be creative about how you express your love and let the other person know they’re special to you. And you get the excitement and loved-up-ness of time together when you visit each other, which is made even better because for those precious days, the focus is totally on enjoying every moment of being together. It’s something I plan to keep making time for, even when I make the move up to Auckland and we can be together more often. Because I don’t ever want to forget how special it is that we’re a couple, and time together just enjoying that is one of the things that feeds your soul in a relationship. And those moments when we get to Arrivals, see each other and both break into big goofy grins? They’re totally worth the wait.

Links of Joy: Games and homes and glad wrap

Reading: The Good Creative by Paul Jarvis

I’ve read both Paul Jarvis’ other self-help-y books, ‘Be Awesome at Online Business’ and ‘Everything I Know’, and enjoyed them, so I was very excited to see he has a new book out on bringing creative ideas to fruition and building them into something more, which is what I’m aiming to do. And it’s a quick read, which I’ll admit I like, because there are few things more satisfying than finishing a book, right? Even better, he currently has some special offers for the book’s launch week.

Playing: The Three Things Game

I love Veronica Varlow. Her blog- the Danger Diary, is full of interesting stories and ideas. A while ago she posted about a game she plays on her tour bus, and I thought, why not? Admittedly, when I play it with my flatmates (and my Best Beloved, and my flatmate’s awesome girlfriend) we’ve been, generally, waiting for our takeaway order. But it’s KIND OF like being on a rock and roll tour bus, right? You know, if you squint hard… Anyway, you think of three connected things and each say which one of the three you are, and why. Simple but a lot of fun- and I recommend reading more about it at the Danger Diary- in fact as I said, I recommend the Danger Diary in general. The Tarot Horoscopes  are also a fun read.

Listening: Welcome to Night Vale (click the link and then click on Night Vale)

If you haven’t already heard of this, you’re missing out. It’s a seamless blend of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone style narration and HP Lovecraftian fantasy. It’s a simple idea- Cecil, the DJ on the community radio station in the desert town of Night Vale, presents unfolding events and community notices. But it packs so much into that premise. Some episodes will seriously creep you out, others will make you squee, all of them will make you laugh. “Wednesday has been cancelled due to a scheduling conflict”.  Scroll down the page for a list of places you can subscribe- for free- to this great creative project. Listen, enjoy, and do not approach the dog park.

Other links that have made me smile this week:

Curious Places– I’m a sucker for weird and wonderful houses, and this blog is full of them. Favourites of mine include this tiny Victorian cottage, and this leopard print house (one day, when I own my own place…).

Speaking of  houses, I’m definitely planning on staying at Cedric the Tiny House some time. I’d love to own a home like this some day.

Eco-friendly reusable glad wrap– it’s a thing!

RIP Maya Angelou

What about you? What have you found in your internet wanderings this week? Share it in the comments.