Posts Tagged ‘dreaming’

Winter is Coming

I have the hardest time knowing what to say these days, and I am sorry for the lack of posts. While I might not know what to say, I have had little trouble putting my hands to work. I have taken to combating the chaos in my family life with work of my hands, back, and brain.

The message hit home loud and clear a couple of weeks ago that if Byram and I want to see the dream we share of having a little homestead in the country together, we have real work ahead of us to accomplish that.

We have to get our suburban house appropriate for sale, without sinking too much money into it. A tricky line to walk. Given the market, we simply cannot get a good return on equity on any major improvements to the house, so we need to fix what is truly broken, put some lipstick on the pig (as it were), get it on the market and not be in a hurry.

We have to scrimp and save and make every penny squeal. Not being first time homebuyers, not having significant savings, and being that it is unlikely we will get a huge return on the house if we do manage to sell it, we need to sock away every dime we can towards a down payment. Frugal is as frugal does, and we are going back to a Dave Ramsey-like frugality.

So I have the motivation, I found the deals, and we have started putting some sweat equity into the house. Our downstairs halfbath is only a 5’x5′ space, and it seemed like it would be a relatively easy room to reclaim from the previous owners’ who had clearly watched too many episodes of While You Were Out. To that end, I have been stripping contact paper, cheap paint, ancient wallpaper, and puttying holes and sheetrock damage.

We settled on a creamy white color for the top half of the walls, a color called “Cream and Sugar” and since I am not going to bother replacing the deep green marble-like tiles, I decided to keep the lower half of the wall a deep green, but this one would be a solid color, and I would do a better job than the previous owners.

Seriously. I counted at least 4 different shades of green swiped willy-nilly across the wall. I am guessing (hoping) that was the effect they were looking for, and not that they were just swiping paint randomly on the walls.

We picked a green called “Deep Spruce.” Richer, grayer, and greener than the current blend of bright forest greens. I was horrified momentarily when I opened the can last night and this is what I saw:
Yikes. Fortunately, a really good mixing turned up the deep spruce green I believed I had purchased.

Here is the new (wet coat) green going over the old green.

And once dry, the color deepened to a green so dark as to border on black.

(The big swath of dark green on the right is my handiwork.)

It might wind up being too dark. It is hard to say yet. Tonight, I will roll the middle of the walls (last night was all brushwork and crawling behind a toilet to paint around the plumbing), and by Thursday morning, I should have a much better idea of how all of this will look when it is finished.

The chair rail and moulding will be painted bright white to help contrast the melted white chocolate color of the walls, and to tie it in with the bright white trimwork in the rest of the basement. I took the vanity mirror down and am painting its silver-spray painted frame a chocolaty brown color, again, to tie it in with the dark wood paneling and dark wood mantle in the rest of the basement. The silver-spray painted whicker woven shelf is also getting a coat of the same chocolate brown spray paint, but when I find something decent and similar in size, second hand (new shelves are expensive!), it will be replaced altogether.

Once the paint is cured, the vanity and shelves are dried and rehung, I am going to move some of my Alphonse Mucha prints from my Mom’s bedroom to the walls of our newly finished bathroom. Even though the prints are all women, there is something fairly masculine about that artwork, and will make the bathroom look decorated without looking feminine, or at least, that is sort of my hope.

I mean, this is a bathroom in the Man Cave, after all.

So this is where we stand today:
(Ugh. I would like to show you but apparently Photobucket has had enough of me for the day.)

All other news is related to the SCA, Pennsic, some knitting, some reading, some running, and cooking.

We went in with another family and paid for a freezer pig, much like we did with our Bessie Cow early this spring. We also were given a free smoker. We have since eaten home cured and home smoked bacon.


I have been trying to do more of the cooking to relieve some of the burden on my Mom who is overwhelmed with real life right now. I actually enjoy cooking and enjoy just whipping up creations based on what I have in the fridge and the pantry.

I am re-reading George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, in anticipation of getting my hands on the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, which came out today. Honestly, it was all I could do not to be at the store at midnight; but I am such a freak that since all I have to this point are the paperbacks, I really don’t want to own a hardback.

So for now, I am waiting and rereading the previous offerings. I just finished A Clash of Kings last night and started A Storm of Swords immediately thereafter. I am enjoying them both more and less the second time through. Since I have a better understanding of what is coming, I am getting a better understanding of some of the hints that have been offered to this point. It is becoming a guessing game; I like trying to outguess the author, just like I like to have guessed who the killer is in a typical murder-mystery t.v. drama, long before the reveal.

At the same time, I am getting a little done with the excessive violence, particularly the violence against underage girls. Now that I have seen the HBO mini-series, I am starting to imagine some of these scenes having to be played out on the screen now, or the steps the producers will have to take to censor some of this stuff (which they did for A Game of Thrones, but AGoT was tame compared to the books since). But there comes a point where you start to wonder just how much is GRRM looking for shock value. We hate Theon. We hate Jeoffrey. And the Boltons. And the Mountain. Do we really have to keep decending down the ladder of depravity to make sure the readers properly hate these men?

And while I may hate the levels of violence, I can’t keep from reading the books. GRRM can say what he likes about the “realism” of his books, but when you have zombies, giants, direwolves, wargs, and Others, what you still really have is a fantasy series that keeps dipping into some pretty dark places.

GRRM will keep writing, and I will keep skimming over the worst of the stuff, and will be sitting, waiting for the next installment to come out, no matter how low we go.

What does that say about me???

Ah well, it doesn’t really matter because Winter is Coming.


Mind Over Mileage

Few things in this world make me quite as giddy as when someone “hearts” or selects one of my projects on my Ravelry Project Page as a favorite. Those little hearts next to the picture of my project just make me smile. It is why I make sure I “heart” other people’s projects (not just the pattern itself). It feels really good to know that someone randomly came across your project and thought it was nice enough that they favorited it; they put it on a list that they can look back on for inspiration and enjoyment of the art of knitting.

Encouragement is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another individual. When someone favorites my work on Ravelry, leaves a kindhearted comment on my blog, or says something unexpectedly kind and encouraging on Facebook, my mood is instantly lifted and I am reminded that I owe that same kindness to others.

I have received a lot of encouragement this week. A lot. The fire that was lit when I crossed the finish line last weekend is burning away a lot of the fears and insecurities that I have harbored for so long. Conquering the 5k was a big thing, and something I will definitely do again (I have been signed up for the Warrior Dash in October for 3 months already). But now, inspired by the amount of time I have to train for it, the success I had with the 5k, and the very deep seated desire to challenge myself to accomplish something extraordinary, I am planning on registering for the McDonald’s Half Marathon, set for November 12, 2011.

A whole marathon is no joke and hardcore, and also, strangely of interest to me for the future, but just not yet. A half marathon is still serious business without necessarily being the life-consuming business that 26.2 miles can be.

My encouragement came first from my husband, who I had to run this by before anything else. He said of course, he would support me and thought I should do it, recognizing it would be a time commitment and probably an inconvenience. Later, after confiding to one running enthusiast co-worker my thoughts about it, he said “Yeah you should do it. You need to start now, but you can definitely do it.” I appreciated his honesty about needing to start now. He’s right, I do. Another co-worker who I didn’t even know was a runner saw my race number I have proudly posted on the wall of my cube from last week asked me about my race, and then told me he is a regular racer and has signed up for the Chicago Marathon. We talked about the Richmond Half, and he was very encouraging, to the point of offering to train with me, and said if he doesn’t run the 26.2, he will come run the 13.1 with me. Kitty has been thinking of lacing up her trainers again, and has been very encouraging too, and may also sign up to come do it too.

I have a lot of work to put in. Lots of miles ahead of me and below my feet. Lots of questions that need answers; being a unique little snowflake with a surgically “enhanced” gastrointestinal tract, I can’t just pound 120 ounces of water a day or slam back an energy gel every 5 or 6 miles without risking dumping syndrome. I don’t have room to eat 3000 calories or even 2000 calories a day. I have to have a real talk with my surgeon’s office about nutrition and training. She might even refer me to the nutritionist I saw before my surgery; and it might be worth the cost of doing so, given the specific challenges I face.

Beyond that, there is all the training. For every running coach and self-labeled expert, there is a training plan. There are 6 week plans, 6 month plans. More often, 10 week and 14 week plans. Plans for advanced, intermediate, beginning, and recreational (that’s me) runners. Knowing me, I will probably mash a couple of plans together to create something that works best with what I have available to me (I lack access to a treadmill but I have access to lots of hills, etc.) and the time I have to train in. I have access to successful runners in my office and among my friends, all of whom have experience and knowledge to share.

I am looking forward to the challenge. I am even looking forward to the hot sweaty summer runs, the early a.m. runs, the effort of finding ways to squeeze mileage in on weekends spent at SCA events. I would be lying if I said the thought of 13 miles didn’t make me a little nervous, but I will overcome that too.

I am going to do it. I am going to because the Fat Chick (Fat Chick is a state of mind, not a state of being; I know several twiggy thin Fat Chicks) I used to be always wanted to do this, but had one excuse after another, some valid, most were not, as to why I couldn’t do this. I am going to do this because if finishing a 5k inspired this in me, who knows what finishing a half marathon will inspire me to do.

But do you want to know really why I want to do it?
Because of her. Because she inspires me. Because I want to be the right kind of example to her. Because I don’t want her to have to go down the same “surgically enhanced gastrointestinal tract” road that I did. Because I want her to know that while there are a few very real limits in each of our lives, a lot of the limits we think we have exist only in our own minds.

Half Dreams


November is a long way away and I am feeling particularly inspired.

Thoughts? Is 5 months enough? Would I be asking too much of my family? Asking too much of a summer dedicated to Sapphire Joust and Pennsic camp?

Of myself?

I will let you know if I sign up. First, I need to check up on their refund policy.

The Good Life?

Byram and I e-mail back and forth all day long most days. I like having the ability to communicate almost instantly, but some days, I like to try and generate topics of discussion, so that our e-mails vary from “How’s billing going? What did you eat for lunch?”

Today, I asked him how he envisioned our lives changing when he envisioned our dream of owning a couple of acres in the country. I wanted to know the good and bad things he saw for us, and it occurred to me that writing out my own vision might be a fun blog post.

First, I envision that any property we can actually afford (without significant assistance from our families) is going to be 30 or more miles from Downtown Richmond, where we both, currently and for the foreseeable future, work. This means a minimum of an hour commute every day, which is a little daunting. It is an hour less we have in our overall day, and I would consider this the number one “con” of the pros and cons of rural living. It would increase our fuel budget a great deal and increase the wear and tear on the vehicle, plus car insurance increases the further you have to commute from home to work.

That being said, the overall cost of rural living is typically lower, particularly where housing is concerned. We could afford 4x the land our house currently sits on, and at least the same amount of square footage, and in many cases, quite a bit more, for a newer home than what we currently have. Taxes are usually lower (and they are in the counties I am looking at) and replacement values are lower, so home owners insurance is lower.

Perhaps the best thing is the freedom to do more with my property. If I want to have a huge garden in the front yard full of corn, beans, squash, and other goodies, I would have to worry less that an irritable neighbor is going to be upset that I am lowering the curbside value of his home, or even worse, that I am in violation of a county ordinance.

Another idea I cherish would be the quieter surroundings. As we live on a relatively busy county road right now, sirens, large trucks, speeding vehicles, and booming sound systems are simply a normal part of our daily lives. I dream of a quieter life.

A major downside for us would be a decrease in entertainment venues. Not that we visit movie theaters or museums all the time, but living 30 to 45 minutes from the cultural center of our area would preclude some activities we take for granted right now; for example, if we suddenly decide one night we want to go to some trendy restaurant downtown, it is no hardship for us to hop in the car and go. A 40 minute commute in (particularly when we already make that round trip 5 days a week) would reduce the appeal. Worse, most of our friends would be far out of driving distance for an evening of hanging out and playing games. Things like cable television and Netflix would be requisite for our family. I believe we would have to learn to be content staying home a lot more often, and also discover new sources of entertainment (can you say more knitting?!), and also find entertainment value in the things we would do around our home and property. The SCA would change in certain ways; we would be less active at the main Richmond level, but I am sure we would still travel and participate at events, but I could see that decreasing due to our changed finances.

Educational opportunities for Grace would decrease. Maybe there would be a private school close enough and affordable for us to send her too, but maybe not. But there are whole counties where you have 3 public schools total: elementary, middle, and high school, and outside of homeschooling and private school, those are your choices. No magnet schools, no specialty schools. Not that every kid coming out of your typical rural school is doomed to a mediocre future, but a better education certainly produces more choices for any child.

One of my other major concerns is the differing visions I expect Byram and I have. I see a massive garden, growing and storing a much larger quantity of our own produce. He could get behind that, I am sure, but the work load of such a garden expansion would require his help, which is probably not what he is signing on for. Grace would have to contribute too as she grows up, in the same way I hoed rows, weeded, and harvested in my grandparents’ 100×200 foot garden when I was under the age of 10. Further, I imagine a little henhouse, housing a half dozen or more happy girls making eggs for our family (and possibly to sell when we have the inevitable spring overabundance), and when their time came, even becoming food for the table themselves. Byram very much does not share that vision, but it is hard for me to pull that out of my little homestead fantasy. I imagine keeping a bunny, maybe a angora rabbit for the fiber. One of my wishes is that Grace can have the experience of caring for a pet because I think it is the best way to help a child learn responsibility for the care and happiness of another living thing, and a bunny who lived outside in a hutch would accommodate Byram’s allergies, provide me entertainment in the form of fiber, and Grace would get the pet experience. I am sure he and I will hold vastly different opinions about this as well. Our conflicting interests and desires will provide opportunities for both of us to compromise and grow, but I could see it causing friction and in a worst case, even resentment on either or both of our parts.

I would see us become gun owners. I would not be comfortable in a rural setting without a gun. That is simply the honest truth. Further, I could see myself becoming a hunter. I grew up in a bow hunting family, but if we already had a large caliber gun for protection, it would not be a stretch to employ it for hunting. That would provide its own source of “entertainment” as well as food for the table.

This is just the surface, and the reality is that there is no way to know what life would be like, for sure. I grew up in a very rural environment until my pre-teens, and I remember what life was like; it was a life I really loved and never felt happier than when we lived in “the country.” However, shifting from the suburbs to a rural home is a downgrade in a number of ways. You have fewer choices in general. Longer drives to almost anywhere. A lower standard of living across the board. I could see the downward adjustment being tough in the long run; you simply cannot expect the same standard of living in Charles City County or Amelia County as you can in Chesterfield or Henrico counties, where the populations are high enough to support a larger variety of goods and services, and that is the honest truth.

It would be a huge change, both good and bad, but one that I am hopeful to undertake.

IK Fall Issue

I picked up the IK’s Autumn issue last night on a lark. I don’t know why it is, but I never like their patterns at the time the issues come out. Much later, some pattern will jump off the pages at me and I will wish I had paid the $6 for the whole magazine in the store rather than pay $5 for a single pattern on their site.

Nothing in particular jumped out to me except the Cloisonné Jacket. I love it. A little lace. Some nice color work. Very simple in all other aspects and it looks like something that would be flattering to wear. I want to use KnitPicks Wool of the Andes in colors Maple Syrup and Winter Night. Even needing 16 balls of yarn, I would still pay less than $40 for all the yarn.

The funny thing about Interweave Knits mag is that I rarely like any of their patterns at the time the mag is on the stand. It is only later, when a random Knitting Daily email lands in my inbox featuring some back-issue pattern that I fall in love with it, and would have to pay $5 for the single pattern rather than the $6 I would have paid for the whole magazine off the rack.

I should have gotten the issue with the Freyja sweater in it last year. I liked it when I saw it and now I love that sweater and I would like to own it. Now I would have to pay $9.99 for a digital version of the issue to get that one sweater pattern. Indigo Ripples is another IK pattern I wish I had picked up when it was on the rack rather than wait until now.

Part of it maybe that I am no longer “of a size” that knitting a whole skirt or a rather form fitted sweater is unreasonable, and no longer takes 20 miles of yarn or something like that. Part of it too is that my knitting tastes are still developing. I only learned to knit 2 years ago, and for the past two years, I would have sworn to you things like knitting cables gives me hives and purling is knitters who are tougher than I am. Now I am mellowing out about cables (almost to the point of embracing them) and the idea of reverse stockinette doesn’t give me chills like it used to. In fact, if I don’t get to do a little purling on a project anymore, I get a little twitchy. I suppose I am maturing as a knitter.

I am still too much of a cheapo to run out and buy patterns online. I have list of a bunch I would like to own, but none I have parted with cash for yet. That day will come eventually. I can sense that eventually, I am going to fork over that whole $1.99 for the Rona shawl, and one day, as God is my witness, I will pay up to own the Peacock Feathers pattern.

For now, I rely on the kindness of pattern designers who put out free designs. Knitty and Ravelry are still my best friends.


I think I have a serious lace knitting jag coming my way. I have spent the past two days window shopping for the perfect laceweight yarn again.

And I keep revisiting this.
Peacock Feathers
What would I do with a giant shawl that is designed to resemble a peacock’s tail in full display? I don’t care. I just want to knit it.

Warm Dreams on a Cold Day

I stepped on the scale we have (a nice professional sliding scale one) and went to slide the weight to the 250 mark as I have every time I have used that scale in the past 2 years. The scale bottomed out. I am officially below 250 pounds.

I have lost 23 pounds in the past month. That is the miracle of modern medicine. I took my most athletic walk yet today; thirty minutes spent on the inclines and declines of our building’s parking deck. When I was more myself, even though I was heavier, I could manage 2 laps, top of the deck to the bottom, in about 45 minutes. That will come again; I cannot overstate how tired I am between the surgery and the reduced caloric intake. Even though I am back at work full time, I have come home after work and napped both days. I likely will do so again tonight.

So, as noted, it is February. Aside from knitting, I also enjoy gardening, though not as passionately as knitting, and February is the time of year many Mid-Atlantic gardeners start gearing up for the coming season.

I switched from all ornamental gardening to a mix of ornamental gardening and consumable gardening in the past year. We built boxes last year and had a moderately successful veggie garden as well as a few herbs.

This year, I am armed with more learning and experience. Last year, I underestimated just how important tomato cages or stakes are to the success of those plants. I will NOT make that mistake this year. I also have a better plan for planting and growing greens this year. They will be in containers on the back porch and I will probably plant those seeds in the middle of this month. The greens matured too late in the spring last year and I needed other plants in the ground they were using. Too much overlap there.

I know this year that three yellow squash plants are too many. Just two this year. I would like to have 4 tomato plants, 2 pepper plants, and maybe 2 cucumber plants. My mom makes amazing pickles. I will skip the carrots this year and probably the beans and peas as well. I really want to attempt another winter squash plant; I only got a single butternut squash off my plant last year, but it was so delicious!

If I can get a good crop of leafy greens, enough tomatoes to put up some as well as eat them fresh, and some pickles out of this garden, I will be overjoyed. I also hope to grow a cherry tomato plant out of a pot this year. I adore cherry tomatoes and last year’s plant, grown from purchased seed, failed. I do know they can be grown in pots and they would do well on my back porch if I treat them right.

I have written before of my dream of owning property, having small livestock (chickens anyway), and producing much of my own food, and every year, around February, as the evening sky stays just a tiny bit lighter, that dream flares back up in my mind. Right now, I am trying to learn what I can, improve with my experience, and keep hoping one day that my family might get to have our own little homestead somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of our busy suburban street.

I’ll keep practicing while I keep dreaming.