August 18 2016

A Different Kind of Vacation

Back in April, hubby and I went on a different kind of vacation. Why was it so different? Well, we didn’t have either of the kids along. Now don’t get me wrong, we love traveling with our kids and took them with us all the time when they were children. Now that the kids are grown and graduated from college, we don’t feel the need to take them along on trips as much anymore. It would be fun to do a group trip again sometime though. We should find a time when all four of us can get away from work at the same time and just go.

Another reason it was different is because we didn’t get to leave when we had planned because of an emergency at hubby’s work. Instead of Friday early morning, we finally got to leave town at 7:30pm on Sunday night. Our trip was supposed to be extended on the other end because he couldn’t get away on time, but we still only had the condo from Saturday to Saturday, so we were planning where we would go once we checked out of the condo. Just before noon on Friday of our trip, my boss called, not sure how I missed the call, but it went to voice mail without showing a missed call. She left a voice mail telling me I was needed back to work by Monday morning at 8am because she had an emergency. We were planning on going back to work on Wednesday, not Monday. Not a happy time for either of us, but really didn’t see as we had a choice. It was the first time both of our works interfered with our vacation time. I REALLY don’t like having my vacation time taken from me that way.

This is the first long trip we have taken where I did all the driving and hubby sat in the passenger seat. He refuses to drive with me in the car because, when he terrifies me with his driving, I can’t help reacting with a gasp or a squeal, maybe even a shriek. I mean, the man thinks the speeds posted on curves are merely suggestions and that they can always be at least doubled safely. I was taught in driver’s education, a million years ago, that for every ten miles and hour you are driving there should be a car length between you and the car in front of you. So on the interstate, I try to keep a minimum of five or six can lengths between my car and the one in front of me. I also try to make sure there are about three car lengths for me to slide into when switching lanes. Hubby does not observe these rules. I don’t think it is just a matter of the car length he is using being Smart Car verses Cadillac either. So anyway, his driving terrifies me. I would rather not have driven the 800 miles each way, but really what choice did I have. When we got home he was lamenting the fact that he missed doing the highway driving. I told him I missed being the passenger too, but since he didn’t go for the deal I offered where I react half as often if he drives half as scary, it may not be the last time I do the driving on a long trip. Hubby did all the driving on the island while we were there, so that was something.

The most unusual thing about the trip was that we only ate out two nights while we were at the condo from Monday afternoon to Saturday morning. One of those dinners was to celebrate my birthday. We went to the grocery and bought food to get us through the rest of our meals and snacks. We almost didn’t never the condo except for a walk to the beach a time or two. The rest of the time I was either, reading, writing, crocheting, surfing the net or we were working together to make a meal. That is NOT normal for us on a vacation. We usually would plan to eat out at least one or two meals a day and visit several museums or tourist attractions. Hubby did some reading, worked some Sudoku puzzles on his Nook, or played one of his computer games. The condo had a wall mounted TV, but we never even turned it on. I made the comment that I felt guilty that we spent the money for the gas and condo and the time to drive there to basically do what we could have done at home. He reminded me that the most important part of getting away was that we were a twelve hour drive from work. Point taken, well worth the cost.

We especially liked sitting out on our little patio/balcony to watch the goings-on around us. We had a few meals out there, did some reading too. My favorite thing to do out on the balcony, which was only about four to six feet off the parking lot level was to crochet. I would go out after eating breakfast and do a row or two on the shawl I was making. It was a very relaxing time while we were at the condo. While I was driving, not so much, but then I don’t particularly enjoy driving the way hubby does. 

The best part is that we decided before we left the condo that we were booking another trip next April and that this would be our relaxing escape from work vacation. We will have a fall trip that is more the typical tourist type vacation, but the spring trip is planned specifically as a get away to relax. I can really embrace that plan. (976 words)

September 20 2015

LONDON Day 1

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We made it safely, even got through customs without any trouble. We have a tour bus that will be our transportation when we travel places as a group.
It is nice. We got to the hotel after driving about 30 minutes only to have to wait for others to check out of rooms and get them cleaned so we could check in.

Our room is nice but compact. It has a very small refrigerator and an electric tea kettle.
The coffee here in the room consists of little tubes of soluble instant coffee. There are also of course tea bags, mostly English Breakfast Tea, but also a chamomile and a spearmint.

We are meeting the group at 6pm in the hotel lobby to go to Barley Mow Restaurant for our pub dinner. There are 29 in all, only one younger than me and she is 31, so technically I’m old enough to be her mother. Most of the rest have about 15-20 years on dad and I. Most of them are characters, as Robin would say, “Old people are adorable!”
One just turned 84, it is his grand daughter who is the youngest.

So far I have crocheted 1.5 hats, the first was done entirely on the flights over, started the 2nd during the wait for our hotel room.

We will have limited cell phone access, we paid $40 each to get 100 minutes of talk, 100 texts and 100 MB of data for the week/month. Have disabled cellular for now to conserve it to use as needed, still can use wifi.

Email I will plan to check at least once a day, so if you need us let us know.

Odd thing I saw on the way over that threw me was a sign that said “no hard shoulder next 250 yards”.

We are exhausted because sleeping on the planes wasn’t exactly successful for me anyway. Hard to get comfortable. I had a window seat on both flights and a stranger to have to inconvenience if I wanted to get up and walk around or go to the bathroom.
They have Dominoes Pizza but the delivery vehicles are little scooters with boxes on the back, I took a picture to show you.

Well, enough for now. Really just wanted to check in and thought this would be the best way.


March 1 2015

How I Learned to Crochet

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This is the story of how I learned to crochet. Many years ago, before my daughter, who is now twenty one years old, was born, I took a class to learn to crochet fabric into a rug. I worked at the JoAnn Fabrics store in Greenwood then and found a beautiful madras plaid in bold turquoise, red, yellow and orange colors. It was on clearance for only one dollar a yard. So I bought the ten yards the instructions called for, took it home and washed it then ironed it and tore it into strips, sewed all the strips end to end, then the long strip had to be folded in half and ironed again, then wrapped into a ginormous all of fabric, that ended up looking a lot like a football as I recall. All this prep work had to be done before the class. I got the basics down during the one class session, then was turned loose to finish the project on my own. Once the second baby, my daughter, was born, there was very little time to work on things like crochet and they project got put away in a closet and forgotten. Many years later, I found it and had a little free time so I tried rereading the instructions from the class to figure out how to finish the rug, but could make very little sense of the written instructions. So, I took the size N wooden crochet hook out of the last stitch I had out in and gently pulled a stitch out thinking I could, perhaps, reverse engineer it and figure out how to put more stitches in that way. I took out first one stitch, that didn‘t help, maybe if I do it again and pay closer attention I will get it. Nope, the second stitch didn’t make it any clearer so I repeated the reverse engineering experiment several more times with pretty much the same results until I realized I had to stop before I unraveled everything I had previously crocheted. I reread the instructions in case they would make more sense after the reverse engineering experiment, but it was no use. I was stuck. I couldn’t go forward and didn’t want to continue going backward, so I was really and truly stuck. So I wrapped the part of the rug that was done back around the football shaped bundle of unstitched fabric and put it back into the bag to deal with another day. I thought about that unfinished rug often and felt like a failure for not finishing it and not being smart enough to figure out what to do to get going and finish it up. Then I remembered the unfinished rug again as Thanksgiving was upon us and we were getting ready to meet up with my extended family for a group meal before going to my in-laws for the second round of eating for the holiday. I figured I might be able to get my Aunt Mary to help me figure out how to continue and finish the rug. So after the food was eaten and things were calm again I asked Aunt Mary if she knew how to crochet, and she said of course she did. I knew she made things with yarn, we had the granny square multi-colored (turquoise, brown and sunshine yellow or maybe pink) tank top style vests, and red, white and blue ponchos that she had made but I was completely unclear on whether these items had been knitted or crocheted. She asked what I needed help with and I showed her my half-finished rug project. She looked at it for a while and seemed hesitant. When I asked her if she could help she said that she had never worked with anything on this big of scale before but she thought she could help me. After a couple of fumbling attempts with the big wooden hook and the thick folded fabric she got it going and showed me how to continue. I decided then and there that I was going to keep at it until that rug was finished, which would be when I ran out of the fabric. So I sat at the table and while my cousins and aunts looked at the lack Friday ads from the newspaper and planned where they might shop the next day, I kept adding stitch after stitch to that rug until finally, I was within a few inches of the end of the fabric. I realized I didn’t know what to do to finish it so it wouldn’t unravel, so I went back to Aunt Mary for a last bit of advice and she helped me to finish it off. I was so proud of my newly finish rug, I gladly handed it to anyone who asked so all could see that I wasn’t just a starter any more, now I was a finisher too!

The next time I considered doing anything with crochet was after seeing something online about making yarn out of old t-shirts, called tarn. They showed how it could be used to crochet rugs, and my mind told me I could do that since I already had one crochet rug under my belt. I did a lot of research on just how to cut the tarn and found several websites with instructions and links to YouTube videos to show me how. I also found many videos on how to crochet on YouTube and bookmarked several to come back to after I had my tarn ready. I put out a call to my friends that if they were decluttering old t-shirts I wanted them. One of the ladies gladly gave me enough t-shirts to fill a big Rubbermaid tub. I sorted them by fabric content and was excited to see a whole batch of Old Navy 4th of July shirts in various patriotic colors. I had red, maroon, navy, light blue, and a few gray heather shirts. There were eight size medium and one size extra-large in gray. So I decided a patriotic rug was just the thing. So I got all the t-shirts cut and all the tarn rolled into little balls, then went back to the internet to find the videos on how to crochet with tarn. It still looked easy enough so I was game to get started. Red seemed like a good color for the center, so I watched the video about chain stitching and got that part done, then watched the one on making ovals and learned I would need to increase in the corners to make it come out an oval. So I worked and worked on it and finished that rug after only about five hours of crocheting. It was somewhat less than flat though, so I took it to work and laid it out on the table and put two cases of paper on top of it to make it lay flat. We left it like that for several days then took the cartons of paper off to see if it had worked. It had worked to an extent, it was flatter, but I knew I had done something wrong. I was so happy I had figured the whole thing out with only the help of YouTube videos and had finished the project this time, but I knew I would have to take some of it out and redo it but wasn’t sure what I had done wrong or how to fix it, just that it must have something to do with the increases at the corners. So I put it away until I could figure it out. I wasn’t happy with the fact that it looked more like an infant sized basket than a flat oval rug. I missed having Aunt Mary to ask, she had died several years ago.

Then one day I was searching the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library’s class and workshop offerings and noticed that the library near our house was having a monthly stitchers group meeting on the first Saturday of each month. It said, “College Avenue Stitchers – Adults are invited to join other knitters and crocheters for a fun social gathering. Attendees can bring their own projects and supplies, but free help and lessons will be available for those who are interested.” Hey, this sounds like just what I need to get help fixing my rug! So the next meeting was the first Saturday of December 2014 and I made sure I was there. The ladies were very nice and welcoming. We introduced ourselves and told what we were currently working on, so I showed them my rug and told them I needed their expert opinions on how to fix it. They seemed hesitant to tell me that I needed to take out most of it, but I told them I had figured that out but didn’t know what I had done wrong or how to keep it from happening again, so they helped me figure out that about seven and a half of the nine shirts needed to be pulled out and re-stitched. Denise the leader and expert in all things knit or crochet was super helpful and we decided that while I had thrown in an extra stitch every now and then, I simply hadn’t increased enough in the corners to get it to lay down flat. So, after making a huge volleyball sized tarn ball out of all I had unwoven, I started crocheting the tarn again making sure to add extra stiches in the corners more often this time. I told them all not to worry I was happy to redo it so I could learn from my experience and was so glad to have found this group. I went home that day and worked a few more rows in and then picked it up from time to time throughout the month, but time in December is hard to come by with all the holiday stuff, so I didn’t have it finished when the first Saturday in January came around. I went to the meeting and they welcomed me back and were glad to see I had made so much progress on the rug. I sat there and finished it that day, so they told me I needed to find my next project and come prepared for next month. 

Between the January and February meetings, I looked for crochet books and had requested a few on hold from the library. They had told me to look for books geared toward teaching children to crochet as they were easier to understand. They also promised to teach me how to read and follow patterns. I had told my sister that if they came across any yard or knitting and crochet supplies in their adventures buying storage units that they didn’t want, I would gladly take it off their hands. So she told me she had a bag of yarn and some assorted needles or hooks or whatever for me. On the first Saturday in February, I went to the library knowing that a book called “Crochet for Kids” was waiting on hold for me. I also went armed with the yarn and other supplies my sister had gladly passed along to me. Denise helped me to start the hat from the book waiting for me that day and I finished making the hat within the week. It had called for a size K hook and I had used a J because I didn’t have a K. The had was supposed to fit a kid about ten years, but the white hat I had made following the patter except I had left off the bill, was very small. 

I spent the next week searching the internet for hat patterns. The criteria for my search was that the patterns had to be easy, use single crochet and most of all be free. I created a binder with various hat patterns but had only found one that looked doable to me without help. So on Friday, the 20th after work, I got out the red yarn from my sister and got to work. The beginning was a little rough, but after a few rows I became more confident and kept going. I kept at it little by little and finally finished it on Monday night the 23rd. 
 It wasn’t perfect but I was planning on donating these hats to homeless people or something and figured it would be warm and welcome even if it weren’t quite perfect. The next one would be better. My friend Ruth had brought me a bag of yarns she was decluttering on Saturday and they were all variegated. I was excited to get started on my next hat. I picked a pretty pasted variegated yard with no wrapper, but it felt like the red yarn, so I figured it was fine. I decided that since I had used the K hook like the white hat pattern had called for on the red hat and it came out big, I should use the H hook that this pattern called for and see how that turned out. There wasn’t a whole skein, so I figured I was going to call the hat done when the yarn ran out. I worked on the 3rd adult hat all that week and finally finished it just after work on Friday. Hey! I had made two hats from start to finish in just a week! The pastel hat was a bit snug, but looked darned good to me.  
So Friday night the 27th I started the next hat, this time with a Red Heart rainbow colored variegated yarn and since the H hook had made the hat snug, I decided this one would be with the I hook. That is where I am now, crocheting the rainbow hat. Over twenty years since I first attempted to crochet and I now have two rugs and three and a half hats as my claim to crochet fame. (2,341 words)

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Boye Crochet Dude Ergonomic Aluminum Crochet Handle (as shown above)

This handle, shown in the photo above, is AMAZING! It is the only thing that helps me crochet without carpel tunnel bothering me so much.  The Post-it Arrow Flags in Assorted Bright Colors help me to keep track of where I am on the pattern.