September 12 2016

​Beautiful, but not Functional

Today I am writing from a king bed room inside the Baymont Inn & Suites in Alsip, Illinois. We stayed the night last night. We got a good rate and didn’t have to pay for parking and they had a free shuttle hubby could take to Midway Airport so he could catch the train into downtown Chicago. When we got here, it was obvious they were remodeling and had already finished the lobby areas. We got up to our room on the third floor with all our luggage. It took about ten tries between the two key cards we were issued before we were able to get into our room. No problem we will let them know as we leave for dinner. We told the nice lady at the front desk and she made us two new key cards, no problem. The new keys had the same problem but we were able to get in after a few tries again finally after dinner.

We had settled into our room and realized that while the room looks very pretty, fresh and clean, the chairs are not at all comfortable to sit in. The “easy” chair had a nice chunky footstool and the cool little table perfect for a laptop computer tucked under the footstool. I thought it would be great. At first I sat down and it was ok, but quickly realized the table wasn’t able to get near enough to the chair to actually use for a laptop until I lifted the right front leg of the chair and slip the corner of the table base under it. That seemed to solve the problem well enough. The foot stool was quite functional and might have actually been the more comfortable seating option. Hubby complained about the desk chair but I didn’t get a chance to use it until today and when I sat down it leaned back right away. I finally found the lever that keeps it from leaning back and it is now tolerable. It is not however cushioned in any way, not is it particularly comfortable to lean back against the back of it. It is functional and at least the correct approximate height needed for the desk provided.

When I finally gave up and went to bed last night, I realized quickly that this bed is NOTHING like the sleep number bed we have at home. This bed is hard as a rock and not at all comfortable. I know given the bed we finally splurged on at home, this will an issue when we stay the night away from home. But come on, this is not Bedrock and I am not Wilma Flintstone. I, at least, have some padding on my bones. Not that it helped.

Hubby took the first shower so he could grab breakfast and catch his train into downtown. He said the water pressure was lacking and he never complains about things like that. The room we are in is obviously one of the newly remodeled ones. Everything looks spiffy and clean. The shower is brand new. The shower head looks fine. The water does not come out of it straight ahead like you might expect, but barely makes it out at all before heading straight for the shower floor. The pressure is so weak, I doubt you would even need to close the slide shower door. The water never gets close to that far away from the shower head. If this were a tub/shower we would at least have the option of washing our hair while bent over the side, but the water only comes out of the shower head and even at the full-on position the water was very weak indeed. Usually we have this trouble in cabins in state parks where they just need to replace the limed up shower heads or clean them in vinegar for a while. This was a brand new shower head. It didn’t even have more than one setting, which is normally my way of dealing with lack of water pressure. There is usually one setting that puts out more water than then rest. Nope. This hotel remodel was done with simplicity in mind. The choice you have is to stay or go.

I don’t blame the hotel staff for this, they didn’t pick the beds, chairs and shower heads. They probably have never even been allowed to test them, so they don’t know. Does one complain about this sort of thing? Would it do any good? I mean they just spent all this money on remodeling and I doubt they would pull the chairs and replace them with something more comfortable. The shower head might be fine with tons of water pressure behind it. No, I blame the designers who decided this was a good chair design. The interior decorators who planned what to buy for these hotel rooms, the hotel chain who gave them their budget constraints or OKed the purchase of these uncomfortable beds and chairs in the first place are also to blame. Maybe we should even blame the plumbers who installed the shower heads, just because water comes out doesn’t mean it works right. If they were trying to be green and save water, they could have used less to flush the toilets.

OK, so enough about who is to blame. We came, we saw and we gave them a try. Will we stay here again? Not if I can help it.

The staff was very nice, the breakfast was adequate, but lousy showers and hard uncomfortable beds are too much to overlook. I have a choice, and would not choose to stay in this particular Baymont Inn & Suites again. I would still give others a try, but not this one. I give them 2 stars out of 5 for reasonable rates, friendly staff and cleanliness. Beautiful, but not user friendly or functional in my opinion. 

March 1 2015

How I Learned to Crochet

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. 
Please see this site's Policy & Disclosure Page for more info. 

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)

Picture

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.

May 6 2014

Top 3 Favorite New Places of Learning…

Picture

Probably my absolute favorite new place to learn is the Indiana Writers Center. I asked for and received a membership for Christmas. I have always wanted to write and publish a book. I decided that this is the year I am going to do something about learning how to write a book. So, far I have taken lots of different kinds of classes there. There is a good discount on all their classes for members and I have met some wonderful writers there. I am still exploring and trying to learn everything I can about writing, structure, etc. Perhaps as my confidence as a writer grows, and I have no doubt that it will with every class I take, I will feel comfortable posting some of my writing here. If you have ever wanted to be a writer, but don’t know how or where to start, this is the place! Check it out and maybe we will see each other in a class one night. (Thanks for the gift of knowledge Austin!) http://www.indianawriters.org/

Picture

I only discovered Trade School Indianapolis this year and have taken 3 classes through them so far. They have some very interesting and unusual classes to offer taught by real people like you and me. If you have yearning for learning and live in or near Indy, you should really take a look at the most recent class offerings. It is always in the back of my mind that maybe someday I could teach a class for them, but I want to get a little more experience taking their classes before actually offering to teach one myself. The best part is that no money changes hands. You sign up for the class and choose one of the instructors barter request items and then bring that to the class as payment. The list of requested items varies greatly. I have taken post-it notes, dark chocolate and AAA batteries in as payments for the classes I have taken. Part of what keeps me from teaching is thinking up things to request as payment. Anyway, have a look and see if anything on the class list sparks you! http://tradeschool.coop/indianapolis/

Picture

The Indianapolis Marion County Public Library is not a new place of learning for me but one of my oldest and most treasured friends from early childhood. When I want to learn something new I always check the library to see if they have a book on the subject. What some of you may not know is that they have a plethora of classes available for FREE all around the city. They even have an extensive selection of computer classes. I have taken classes on all sorts of things through the library over the years. I have learned about Diabetes, how to knit, about genealogy topics of all kinds, about German cooking and foods, about how to archive my photos, research my house, write my life story, download eBooks to my Kindle app on my smartphone and on my Nook Color wirelessly. So do yourself a favor and go to their website and look through the offerings under classes and events. You just never know what you might learn if you do! http://www.imcpl.org/