2020 30-Day Minimalism Challenge

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Cakes two to tango...

Happy to report on this windy, but beautiful Sunday that I finished the Cakes Two to Tango Shawl I started a little over a week ago:

 The yarn used was Lion Brand Shawl in a Ball in the colorway Community Coral.

The "Cakes Two" refers to using two cakes (or skeins) of self-striping yarn, and alternating the cakes every two rows to create a different kind of striping than one would get working straight off a cake (or skein).  Of course, you don't have to use self-striping yarn to make this shawl, but it sure is fun to watch the colorful stripes play out as you work.

And also, of course, I can't leave well enough alone and just let the colors show up where they will.  Well, actually I did - up through the first chevron, but as the shawl got longer and wider, I decided to cut up the skeins and roll balls of single colors so I could control the color placement a little better.

I wasn't much concerned with how the single stripes ended up laying, but I wanted the two darker (wider) chevrons to balance each other.  Looking at the above picture, I think they do - more or less.

But now I'm left with many mini balls of yarn of different colors, looking for just the right project to use them in:

At the moment, I'm thinking I will mix them with some compatible yarn(s) and make a linen stitch scarf.

On another YOP note, Maria at Yarning With Ruby has suggested we YOPers meet up on Zoom.  I'm happy to say, this morning our small group from church used Zoom to meet up and I liked it (once I got over seeing my own mug on the screen).  I've got my comfy little spot ready to sit and chat with my fellow YOPers if we can manage to make it happen.  

For non YOPers, I hope mentioning ZOOM encourages you to use it (or other chatting options) online to connect to someone(s) during this time of physical distancing (if that appeals to you).  I'm an introvert who's fairly happy to have long days to myself, but even I have started to crave a little face time with other human beings.  Now, if I can just get my sons to agree to meet me on it...

Stay well.

Wash your hands.  

Please keep healthy.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Social Distancing...

Social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak got a little more real this week in our state.  What about where you live?  

A little over two weeks ago, we were finally properly addressed by a suddenly serious President Trump and encouraged to begin social distancing.  Being a polite little town, it appeared to me that everyone started taking it fairly seriously here.  But when the directive to Stay at Home came in the form of the Governor's excutive order this past Monday, it took on a whole new meaning.  The order was to go into effect at midnight Wedesday morning - so Monday and Tuesday saw many people (hubs included) scrambling for some last minute items they might need (or want) in order to truly hunker down from 3/25 through 4/7.  

And now here we are.  

Hunkered down (sounds so determined)  

Cocooning (sounds about right - I'm thinking we'll all be ready to molt come June)

Social distancing as if our lives depended on it (because some lives do) 

And starting to go a bit stir-crazy.  

I'm finding myself thankful for a rainy weekend.  It makes it easier somehow to stay home and pretend like it's just life as normal.    

Though, of course, nothing's really normal right now, is it?

Early in the week, we learned that one of our neighbors has tested positive for COVID and another believes she has it and is quarantining herself.  That certainly got our attention.  Thankfully, both appear to be nearly over it without having to spend time in a hospital.  Being no stranger to taking a meal to someone sick, I have to say it was a first for me to leave hot soup outside the door, and text from a distance that it was safe (for me) for them to open their door and collect it.

Living near Indianapolis and having many people in our community as commuters to the city (hubs was one until last July), we've gotten more than our fair share of outbreaks in our county.  While compared to areas in New York or even Michigan, we're minor leaguers when it comes to the number of confirmed COVID cases here, but today's local newspaper headline was that ten people have tested positive in a large nursing home in town (some are staff, some are residents).  

Learning this was a reminder that our harmless little sleepy town is at war.  And that we do not vainly arm ourselves with sanitizer wipes when entering the battlefields of Mejier or Kroger.

Sunday, I posted what I thought was a great idea for motivating myself to move through my rooms, cleaning and "decluttering".  Well, I got as far as the bedroom and one bathroom cabinet.  Evidently, imagining myself sequestered to a room for 2 weeks didn't provide as much motivation to get rid of stuff as I thought it might.  

So I'm doing away with proclamations about what I need, or think I want, to do with this stay-at-home time. While I will seek out good ways to spend my time, I'm not going to beat myself up over unproductive hours or days. 

Hopefully, I'll get excited about something worth sharing here, but for now I think it will be enough to be more intentional about making connections with people (both in-person and online friends), reaching out to someone who is sick, being on the look-out for lonely someones, taking care of myself when I feel lonely, treating my husband with patience and kindness rather than irritation when we both are chomping at the bit for a change of scenery...    

If I manage all that in addition to cooking, doing laundry, and getting in some exercise, I'll count the time well spent.  And if I can manage to get into some sort of respectable sleep pattern (like collapsing into bed before 2 or 3 am - it was 5 am this morning 😵) I'll surely manage to do even more.  Being healthy - in mind, body and spirit seem the most essential right now.

I came across the video below last weekend.  It may not seem like it's saying anything all that new, but I really liked the presentation. And the reminders and clarifications are helpful. It's personal and heartfelt.  It gave a sense of personal purpose to this social distancing we're all doing. It's not very long at all (6.38 minutes).  I encourage you to watch to the end.  She saves the best for last.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Day 7 of 15 days...

At the end of this past week I was feeling discouraged about how unproductive the last week and a half has been.  I'm finding my days just getting away from me.  Hubs' and my sleep patterns are way off, and even though I'm not doing anything strenuous, I find that on most days I'm just tired.  And unmotivated.   Watching podcasts has become the default activity between things I have to do - like cooking and laundry.  And the only thing I've wanted to do when I sit down to watch a podcasts is knit dishcloths.  Just wait until you see the pile!!! 

Not that knitting dishcloths is bad, but I'm realizing I need a plan to get my rear in gear.  More on that later.  I did decide, though, on the crafty front that starting a new project Friday might just get me out of my dishcloth inertia.  I looked through patterns for inspiration and I decided to make something I've done before and that I know provides enough interest to keep me at it.  

I pulled out these two colors of Shawl in a Ball yarn from my stash:

And started making my second Cakes Two to Tango shawl.   My link goes to the first one I made, but here's a peek at my current one:

The idea behind this is you start your cakes (or skeins) of yarn from opposite ends, and changing colors every two rows gets the colors to mingle in interesting ways, fairly effortlessly.  It's fun.  And it's a nice departure from knitted dishcloths.  😄


I'm also giving thought to what my days need to look like.  I admire those who create schedules, but except for work or outside activities, I'm just not a schedule-follower at this point in life.   As I was thinking of how to be motivated to be productive during the remaining 9 days of social distancing (and beyond), I considered what kinds of things tend to motivate me.  

Last November I completed a 30-Day Minimalism challenge.  It was really successful and cleared out a bunch of stuff.  Then in January, I was motivated to go through my house with a different purpose - to find things to donate to a fund-raiser rummage sale.  Again, highly successful.  I have found reading books, and watching some videos to be motivating in the sense that they are perspective-changing, but I needed something to, again - break through the inertia that has set in.

And suddenly, it hit me!   I think I was in my bedroom at the time and a question occurred to me...  "If I were quarantined in here for 14 days what would I grow sick of seeing?"  

Wow!  Suddenly I saw things with fresh eyes.  Things I've been thinking I'm not really ready to get rid of, I could suddenly see myself bagging up and carting to Goodwill - and saying a hearty "good riddance!" to.

So...  While I've yet to do this seriously today, I did spend a few minutes going through a small storage space where I had stuffed some old, yellowed, worn-out embroidered pillowcases, and decided it was time to do something about them.  The pillowcases aren't worth saving at this point, so I cut off the hand-crocheted lace to save for some future craft purpose.  And decided to take a picture for posterity:

Now, I know someone is going to question throwing these away.  But questioning that myself for years now is precisely the kind of thing that has stymied me from moving on with decluttering.  These look really sweet in the picture.  And in a sense, they are.  But some of the embroidery is seriously worn, and the cases are so badly yellowed and thin there's no way I'm going to use them again.  My husband's grandmother made these and the His and Hers cases were put on our pillows for when we returned from our honeymoon.  That memory is very sweet, but the pillowcases no longer are, so I've decided to record them here for their memory to be preserved in some way.  And then out they will go.

While I may work on the bedroom later today, my goal will be for each remaining day of  this "15-days to slow the spread", I'll pick a room and ask myself some form of the question, "If I were quarantined in this room for 14 days what would I truly grow sick of seeing?"  And then (hopefully) get rid of those things.  I'll try to take some daily photos of my progress.  

I don't know how successful I'll be every day, but I need to start somewhere.  Even if it's just a motivator to clean and organize stuff, I will count it a success.


Now!  Even though I'm a few minutes late, I'm going to go play the piano for a little while - along with Liz at Field and Fen who's going to be playing her recorders.  If you miss the invitation in time to join in at 3:00 pm, EDT, you can make music at any point, any day.  It's a lovely idea, and I'm hoping it also serves as a push to use this time to get back to piano playing somewhat regularly.

Back with an addition:  I told hubs I needed to play the piano and that other bloggers were being invited to join in making music at this time.   He came into the living room about mid-playing and looked around. I asked him, "what are you looking for?"   He said, " I was looking or the camera to see how you were recording this."   I asked him, "Why do you think I'd feel the need to record myself?"  To which he replied, "How will you prove you've done it?"  To which I then replied, "I don't have to prove I've done it - it's just a nice invitation to do something nice - for oneself - maybe for the universe.  

But since he planted the idea in my head, I went and got the camera, got it focused and asked him take a picture.  Of just my hands.  Goodness knows, I didn't need a picture of the whole of me!

So here's the proof.  Just for fun.

My playlist included:

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Lift Him Up
Bring All Your Needs to the Altar
Leave a Well in The Valley

Then finished off with some rusty renditions of:

Blue Moon
Do Not Forsake  Me (theme from High Noon)
  when I finished, hubs called out from the other room, "Gary Cooper!  High Noon!"  

Yes, that's a glimpse into my home on this (another rainy) Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

It's Spring!

Today is the first day of spring!  The Google graphic says it's so, but I didn't believe it - so, of course I had to google it. 😄 

Well... to be precise, at 11:50 pm, it will officially be spring.  

I don't know about you, but the first day of spring crept up and totally surprised me this year.  At first I thought it was starting this "15 days to slow the spread" this week that put my internal calendar out of whack.  Do you find yourself losing track of the days or even approximately where we are in the month?   Well, added to our present (somedays feeling like a suspended) reality, spring actually has come early this year.  If you've looked at the date and asked yourself if you can remember spring starting this early, the answer would be NO.  You can't remember, because it hasn't happened in your lifetime.  Spring hasn't come this early in 124 years!

Google it yourself and find out why.  At the Old Farmer's Almanac website I found more information than I could digest in one sitting, but something else stood out to me that I didn't know - that there are two first days of spring every year.  There is an astrological first day of spring and a meteorological first day of spring.  Did you know that?

For me, the first day of spring always seems like cause for celebrating.  Or at least recognition.  

It's a rainy day, with severe weather threatening, so it's not really suitable for a walk - which would be the obvious thing to do to ring in spring.  But I already had a plan.  On this first day of spring I've hung up a brand new spring wreath - a wreath that was ordered and delivered to me in February.  I've been waiting weeks for this!  And today I'm so happy to finally have it hanging on my front door.  

On this otherwise dreary, rainy day, in the midst of so many things shutting down over this nasty, scary virus, I'm thinking of this wreath as a symbol of hope.  There may be some frightening and surely sad days ahead for many people - related to the virus as well as other perilous things that happen on this earth.  But this uncertain time will pass, and new ones will come.  In them all I purpose to hold tight to faith in God who knows the number of all the white and graying hairs on my head (as well as what few dark ones I have left).

It's my prayer that each of us experiences today, this first day of spring, as a gift.  The gift of another day, but also a gift of hope.  I also pray that you are kept safe - from the present virus and from any other perils that may threaten.

Stay safe.  Stay well.  


Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, 
the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Irish Soda Bread...

Somehow I've misplaced an Irish Soda Bread recipe I've been making for years, but I found I had recently clipped this one from a March, 2003 Light & Tasty Taste of Home magazine.  My clipped recipe is just called Irish Soda Bread, but it's identical to the one at the link that is called Moist Irish Soda Bread.

Mine was a tad too moist, but I'll confess...  I added mostly-melted butter instead of cutting cold butter into the flour, but I think adding a bit more flour during the short kneading time so it wasn't quite so sticky would have solved the too moist issue.  That, and baking it about 10-15 minutes longer helped (even after I cut it - never mind that it's cut and pieced back together for the picture above).

I love the floury crust as much as the slightly sweet innards. 

Since the recipe is published and accessible on the TOH site, and I'm linking to it, I trust it's okay to share it here with my comments:

Irish Soda Bread:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter
1 cup golden raisins  (I used dark raisins)
1-3/4 cups buttermilk  
    (I used whole milk with about ~ 1 Tbs bottled lemon juice added)

    In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add raisins. Stir in buttermilk just until moistened. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; gently knead 6-8 times (adding flour as needed).

    Place on an ungreased baking sheet (I used parchment paper over a baking stone).  Pat into a 7-in. round loaf. Using a sharp knife, cut a 1-in. cross about 1/4 in. deep on top of the loaf. Bake at 375° for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. (Mine needed to bake about 50 minutes, but this will depend on how sticky-moist the dough is before baking).  Cool on a wire rack - if you can without cutting and tasting first. 

    Or do as we do.  We don't even try to wait 'till a loaf of this is cool.  Tasting a slice of freshly baked bread is one of life's great, but simple pleasures.  😊

    Sunday, March 15, 2020

    My new stitching frame...

    Except for some (let's call it stress knitting) dishcloths, I didn't get much crafting done this past week.

    I DID finally receive the lap/table stand I ordered for holding my cross stitching.  Editing this paragraph to say I heard back from the makers of this stand and what I bought is definitely legit.  It doesn't bear their logo because the logo stamp has worn out.  Hopefully, they'll rectify that soon, but I'm so relieved!!! 
    After doing some research and studying frames online, I chose to get a K's Creations Z-Frame needlework stand:

    I love all the pivot points on this thing which allow me to bring my work higher or lower, and allows me to tilt or lay a piece flat to stitch on.

    While it does balance on my lap, so far I've only really worked with it at my desk:

    I'm able to bring the frame close to me and adjust it so I can work easily looking through my progressives, or without my glasses - which is usually the most comfortable for me:

    No bending my neck to look down, or rounding my shoulders forward.  Oh, what a relief it is.

    And last summer I found this great goose-neck table lamp at a garage sale, and now I've found the perfect use for it:  

    I put a daylight bulb in it for maximum brightness, and I can aim the light right at my project and see everything very clearly.

    I'm happy to say I can recommend K's Creations Z-Frame stitching stand, and the Etsy Seller, Stitching Vine.  All's well in my crafty space!

    While I'm glad the messaging on COVID-19 finally got on the track this past week of slowing the virus down in the U.S., I do wonder if it's been in time to make a difference.  We'll know soon enough, I suppose.  

    Church services were called off for the next two weeks, and while I was relieved to hear it, I'm also saddened by it.  Our pastor recorded a talk to us as he sat in in his office and has set up a forum for us to interact with each other.  I'm looking forward to seeing how that helps us stay connected over the coming weeks.  

    Other activities have been cancelled, and because hospitals are putting off elective surgeries, Hubs got a call this week putting off a consultation for knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.  He'll have to limp around a little longer it appears...  If we can manage to stay well, a bit of hobbling will (hopefully) be a small price to pay.  

    In this uncertain time we're in, I hope and pray that you stay well and healthy - wherever you are in the world.  😷

    Saturday, March 7, 2020

    A must watch video on COVID-19...

    I'm not an alarmist, nor am I feeling any personal sense of panic over COVID-19.  In fact, until watching the video below, I've tried to accept the idea that we all should just "carry on".  And I'd pretty much concluded that the only thing we seem to have right now is that this virus will run its course until we  develop something of a herd immunity that should, eventually, protect the most vulnerable among us.  The problem with that, of course, is that many vulnerable people will likely die before that herd immunity, or a vaccine, develops.  

    While I get that life goes on and in many ways we do need to operate business as usual (those businesses that have no other choice, anyway).  Somehow, though, I've felt peculiarly entitled (or brazen) in approaching this virus in a "carry on as normal" mode.  Somehow that seems a tad cavalier - not only toward my own health, but toward those who may be especially vulnerable.  

    As I've wrestled with what is the appropriate response to COVID-19,  I haven't been able to sort out what is truly the right way to be thinking about this, and what sort of self-regulation I should engage in.    Because, while we're being told to carry on, we're also very aware that at some point we may need to regulate our activity - either by self-quarantining if we become sick, or by choosing to forgo some activities if we don't want to risk becoming sick.  

    Also, I have not felt information coming from the CDC and our government leaders has been terribly helpful.  Not after the first half-dozen public addresses, anyway.   Until watching the video below I've felt helpless to find information that tells me anything new; that shares information that will empower me; that helps me see more clearly that individual responsibility is key here.

    Wash your hands.  Don't touch your face.  Got it!  Now, would somebody look us in the eye and give us some reason to actually care about this?!?  The message we're getting is clearly that we should care.  But the numbers and rhetoric lead one to think, "Eh, most of us won't even know we're sick if we get it." - or some other version of "no need to panic".  I'm not panicking.  I just want some useful information.  Information that will help me understand just how to responsibly "carry on".

    The video below popped up on my computer this Saturday morning and I think it is, perhaps, the single most important video I've seen to date about this coronavirus.  While Dr. Richard Hatchett comes across more soberly and serious than anyone I've yet heard or seen, his message is oddly empowering - just in feeling okay about whatever decisions I make regarding activities I will engage in (or choose not to) in the near future.  It's a must watch: 

    To be clear, it doesn't contain precise answers.  Individual circumstances will dictate those.  But rather, it addresses the topic in a thoughtful way with a view toward the future.  Dr. Hatchett clearly has a long view of the situation, and what the ultimate solutions will be. 

    In short, regulating our activity and social behaviors will slow the advance of the virus, which will provide some measure of protection to the most vulnerable among us.  Slowing the virus could possibly get us to summer (in the northern hemisphere) when the virus might go dormant - which could further save lives and buy time for the creation and testing of a vaccine.  

    Dr. Hatchett packs a lot of clear thinking into this video.  Clear thinking and communication has been sorely lacking in  press conferences, one congressional hearing, and the nightly newscasts I've watched that have been produced here in the U.S. in the last few weeks.  

    Seriously...   the video is only 18 minutes long.  It's quite possible it's gone viral by now. But if you haven't seen it, it's worth a watch.  I'm pretty sure you'll feel smarter and, hopefully, more empowered for the time invested. 

    Sunday, March 1, 2020

    Hello March!

    While I await the arrival of a small stitching stand I've ordered (for my scroll frame), I decided this week to pull out a little Christmas cross stitch I had kitted up a month or so ago:

    Cute, simple, and goes with the other small Christmas designs I've made recently.


    And while I wait for a sale on the lilac colored yarn I'm using (and need more of) for my Leaping Stripes Blanket, I'm presently contenting myself with knitting dishcloths.  I almost always have a dishcloth going in the background as it's something I can just pick up and mindlessly work on while catching up on podcasts, or sometimes listening to audio books.  While I knew I was cranking them out fairly quickly, I'm amazed that I completed 19 cloths during the shortest month of the year:

    And earlier today some of the extended family gathered to celebrate my Mother-In-Law's  89th birthday.   She's doing well after recovering from a heart attack in early February, and a second stay in the hospital (a week later) when her blood pressure was elevated.   It was a beautiful day to celebrate a lovely lady. 

    Take heart, if you're in the northern hemisphere -- 
    spring is right around the corner.  I'm sure of it!  

    I hope you all have a good week!