This may not be a pretty entry, but it hasn’t been a pretty week, either.

For the past several years, my husband and I have been clearing snow for an elderly couple who lives across the ally from us.

He survived polio, although he lost most use of his legs, and made it through a bout of stomach cancer. Last year, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Through it all, he stayed feisty and friendly whenever we chatted with him.

The weekend before last, he passed away. He was in his 90s and lived a full life, but it’s always hard when someone you know passes away. I can’t imagine what his widow, another lovely human being, is going through. Right now, we’re still clearing snow for her, and she knows we’re just right here if she needs us.

I never thought I’d be so sad to see a wheelchair ramp disappear in my life.

This week, the world lost David Bowie, Alan Rickman and a few other celebrities to that awful disease. Bowie and Rickman were the two that hit the hardest, simply because I was most familiar with them.

I think this latest cluster of deaths is part of why I’ve had such a hard time writing for this blog this week. That, and a bout with norovirus. (Wash your hands, kids! Believe me, it’s a nasty bug.)

There’s too much spinning around in my head right now.

I guess that means I’m overwhelmed by everything that’s going on.

Nursing a sick husband and dealing with fever/stomach cramps/less savory things probably don’t help, either.

On the up side, at least we’re both starting to feel better.

Self-Care Bonanza – The Geek Side

Welcome to the Self Care Bonanza link up! Do you have tutorials to share about caring for yourself? Are you just trying to be more conscientious about self-care in your life? Join the link-up! Here’s how:

  1. Grab the code to the link-up and paste it into your entry.
  2. Add the web address to your entry to the link-up below.
  3. Don’t be a stranger – please comment!
  4. This one’s optional, but if you’d like to display the lovely little button in my side bar somewhere on your blog, it’d be greatly appreciated!

This has been one of the most stressful weeks I’ve had in a while. Beyond the regular stresses that come with budgeting and running a household, we discovered one of our kitties had something wrong with her on Tuesday night.

Fortunately, our awesome vet was able to get us in on Wednesday, and with fears of something terrible fluttering in our chests, we brought her in. Our sweet little tabby had something going on that’s seen much more often in dogs – impacted anal glands. Gross, I know. Not much fun to treat, either, but nothing serious.

A tabby cat curled up on a white, plush chair.So, she’s enduring sitz-baths for the next few days and some rather uncomfortable salve application for four more days. At least she’s slowly starting to feel better and getting more treats than usual.

The vet also suggested giving her a little fish oil once a day, so I’m looking for something she won’t turn her nose up at, since the stuff I take is pretty strong smelling once out of the caplets.

Anyway, although it was a huge relief to find out she’ll be alright, the stress was bad enough to cause me some pretty nasty pain this morning. I woke up with upper back, neck and headpain, all of which happen when I get stressed out.

Fortunately, I was able to sleep in a little bit this morning before enjoying coffee out of my new favorite mug while watching an episode of Quantum Leap.

A clear glass mug filled with coffee with a picture of the Ninja Turtle Raphael in front of a slice of pizza on it and the words "All I want for Christmas is Pizza!" in red.Quantum Leap has some great episodes, but I’m getting to a few that are pretty mediocre. I continue to be entertained at what the writers think people dressed like in the late 20th century, though.

The character Al from Quantum leap in red pants, a white shirt with black cuffs, a black vest, a black and red striped tie and a red fedora.It’s hilarious looking back at what science fiction writers thought people of the future will wear when you’ve lived through that future. It’s pretty obvious this show was written in the late ’80s and early ’90s based on Al’s wardrobe alone.

I’m feeling much better now. After a little stretching, I was able to get on with my day.

What did you do for self-care this week? Share in the link-up below!


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Where Can I Find Free (or Nearly Free) Knitting and Crochet Patterns?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.Where can I find free or almost free knitting & crochet patterns?

Although knitting and crochet are great skills to learn, since yarn is generally less expensive than clothing, it can be tricky finding truly free patterns to try. Recently, I’ve discovered four great resources.

Amazon
I hadn’t thought to look to Amazon for knitting or crochet patterns, but they have quite a few low cost options. For instance, this link: knitting patterns is what came up when I searched for patterns for knitting and then sorted the results from low to high.

Shortly before the holidays, I found quite a few free patterns that I downloaded onto my Kindle app. In fact, I made the below blanket off of one of them.

A blue patterned knit baby blanket.

Smartphone Apps
While you have to be careful with these, there are a few nice apps out there that offer free knitting or crochet patterns. If you decide to go on the hunt for apps, make sure you read the reviews before downloading or installing them.

There are several apps invented by craft magazines with the sole intent to sell the magazine by showing potential subscriber pictures of crafts and advertising free patterns. That said, apps are still an unexpected, potentially effective resource for free patterns.

HubPages
I’ve written on and off for HubPages for a while, but I’ve also done quite a bit of reading on them, too. You can find several free patterns. In fact, here’s what I got when I searched “free knitting patterns”.

A crochet doll of Leonardo from the TMNT.

If you like TMNT, I’d also posted a basic crochet pattern for turtle dolls here.

Pattern Sellers
It’s recently come to my attention that people who write and sell their patterns will sometimes offer modified patterns for free to their past customers. Some will also offer beta patterns to past customers in the interest of refining them before offering them for sale.

You can find these sellers in places like Etsy, Ravelry or Patreon.

While it can be difficult finding reputable places for free patterns, I’ve had a lot of luck with these sources in the recent past.

New Year Yarn!

Yesterday, I celebrated the first day of 2016 by picking up some new yarn. Thank you parents-in-law for the gift card, and thanks Michael’s for 55% off yarn sale!

A plastic bag of yarn with a pair of knitting needles sitting on top.That meant that today, I finally got around to making a blanket for my friend’s baby due in February.

Naturally, the cats were thrilled for an opportunity to claim my attention.

A black cat with green eyes looking at the camera with my hand holding the project I'm knitting resting on his back.
He’s so very helpful. He was lying on my stomach and trying to claim my arms, too.
A black and white cat lying on his back.
This little guy rarely sits or curls up on us. When I knit, though, he likes sprawling partially on me.

Our tabby paid me a visit, too, but I couldn’t get a picture of her, because she likes pushing her little head into my hands for scratches. She does that when I’m trying to type, too.

Those kitties are so sweet that I can’t get angry at them for wanting my attention. It’s quite an effective defense mechanism.

All of the feline interruptions aside, I still managed to finish the blanket! I haven’t taken a picture of its entirety, since the lighting in our house at night isn’t that great, but I did get this detail.

A knit blanket with a diamond pattern of blue, white, green and brown.That pattern was completely unintentional on my part. The blanket was knit using two strands of yarn throughout. The color lot in those two skeins were colored in just the right way to result in a diamond pattern.

So cool.

That’s part of why I enjoy using multi-colored yarn. I never know exactly what the pattern is going to be like when I finish making my project, and it’s neat seeing how it plays out.

I’d say this is a good start to the year.

Self Care Bonanza – ALL THE WATER

Welcome to the Self Care Bonanza link up! Do you have tutorials to share about caring for yourself? Are you just trying to be more conscientious about self-care in your life? Join the link-up! Here’s how:

  1. Grab the code to the link-up and paste it into your entry.
  2. Add the web address to your entry to the link-up below.
  3. Don’t be a stranger – please comment!
  4. This one’s optional, but if you’d like to display the lovely little button in my side bar somewhere on your blog, it’d be greatly appreciated!

If you’re anything like us, you’ll be doing some adult drinking tonight. Paramount in self-care is watching your health, which is why I’m featuring water in this week’s installment.

River water broken by bolders and dappled with sunlight.The general rule is to drink two full glasses of water per every alcoholic drink you consume. That will help reduce dehydration and mitigate the New Years hangover.

River rapids immediately following a water fall.It’s also a good idea to sip on water throughout the day, even when you’re not planning on drinking in the evening. However, when you are planning on partying with the over 21 crowd, it’s even more important to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Waves breaking on rocks.Things like alcohol, coffee and many types of sodas are diuretics, which mean they encourage water loss. While that’s helpful in some medical conditions, too much can be harmful.

And remember, always listen to your body. If you need to throw up, throw up. If you start feeling sick, take a break from the booze. Your health is more important than anyone else’s opinion.

Shovel PointIf you need to bring your own water, do so.

As a side note, all the water pictured in this post is either from Lake Superior or its tributaries. It’s remarkably clear, and the brown color comes from the iron rich soil of the area. We didn’t get up there this summer, but hopefully we will in 2016.

What are your self-care tips or routines for the New Year? Join the linkup and share with us!

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A Lesson on Gender Relations at the DMV

On Monday, I wandered on down to the local DMV to get my ID renewed. According to my dyslexic brain, I wasn’t due for a renewal until today, which meant it actually expired back on the third. Anyway, I filled out my paperwork, got my number and took a seat.

An old, rusted stearing wheel covered in cobwebs.
This squeaky wheel didn’t get what he wanted at all.
via flickr

The place is usually pretty peaceful. Sure, it’s a little on the loud side, since parents can’t always get their kids sitters and there’s always a backdrop of talking as people go about their business, but I’d never seen any aggression in that particular location.

That day was different. A man had decided he didn’t want to wait his turn and started an argument with the female attendant who handled greetings, handed out forms and gave instruction upon first arrival. After a few quiet sentences, he started yelling at her. He pulled himself to his full height, towered over her and shouted his demands like an overgrown schoolboy bullying the resident misfit.

This lady, however, wasn’t going to put up with it. She raised her voice and stopped him in his self-righteous tracks. She didn’t yell, but I could hear her clearly from halfway across the huge room, and when I looked over, she had him pinned with one of the most impressive glares I’d ever seen. She didn’t even need to stand up.

“You think you’re going to shout ME down? I’ve been here thirteen years! You will sit down and wait like everyone else.”

I don’t think he was expecting that sort of push back. He froze in place for a second, then muttered under his breath before sitting quietly until his number was called.

The lady paid no more attention to him once he sat down. Instead, she chatted with a young girl between giving instruction to newcomers.

As I went through the rest of my Monday and Tuesday, that confrontation stuck with me.

Today, I read about the charge against Bill Cosby, and thought of all the other male celebrities who had assaulted women, then used their status to try getting away with it. I thought of all the instances where male strangers, former friends and acquaintances did their best to manipulate me into doing something they wanted, usually because they were men and because I’m a woman.

I thought of the stories I grew up with, where the female protagonists are almost always victims waiting for their male heroes to save them from some terrible fate. Where the female characters are only there as tools for the male characters to prove a point or grow as the story progressed.

There’s a very real pattern of men being treated as more important than women in this culture, and you don’t have to look far to find it. Just look at the fact men like Bill and the others feel safe in doing anything to take what they want from their victims.

Or, just look at the complete lack of media coverage of whatever protests in support of rape victims there are. If they’re happening in the US, I’ve heard nothing of them. The only reason I found out about the ones in Canada is because I came across them while looking for images to use in this entry.

A woman standing outside a theater holding a sign that says "'Ignore these women' - Phylicia Rashad We've been ignored for LONG ENOUGH" There's another sign "RAPE IS NO JOKE" next to it.
via flickr

The way the lady at the DMV stood up for herself highlighted the push-back against the old way of doing things. The man’s stunned reaction, so much like many of the ones I get when I stand my ground against harassers, spoke of just how prevalent those old attitudes still are.

It’s long past the time for this to change. Slowly but surely, changes are happening. It’s still happening way too slowly for my tastes, though.

The thing is, whenever I write about these sorts of things, I get comments highlighting just how important it is we keep talking about and taking action against it. When I leave the house, I still need to be on high alert and pay close attention to my surroundings, even in supposedly safe areas.

When all women, be they cis- or trans-, of any race or ability level, can navigate the world with the same sort of security men have, the fight for equality will be able to come to a close.

Until then, we keep at it.

Self-Care Bonanza – Christmas Eve Edition

Welcome to the Self Care Bonanza link up! Do you have tutorials to share about caring for yourself? Are you just trying to be more conscientious about self-care in your life? Join the linkup! Here’s how:

  1. Grab the code to the linkup and paste it into your entry.
  2. Add the web address to your entry to the linkup below.
  3. Don’t be a stranger – please comment!
  4. This one’s optional, but if you’d like to display the lovely little button in my side bar somewhere on your blog, it’d be greatly appreciated!

I know this time of year is busy for a lot of people. Even if they don’t celebrate mainstream holidays, like my husband and I, it’s still hectic juggling familial responsibilities and day-to-day tasks.

I hope that all of you lovely folks are able to take at least a few moments for yourself to recharge a little bit.

Yesterday, I did that by attempting to do a sort of sparkle fade on my nails. It didn’t work out as planned, but at least I have sparkly nails for upcoming family gatherings and maybe the New Year!

A woman's hand with fingernails painted red with glitter nail polish, wearing a plane gold wedding ring on a denim background. A woman's hand with a plain gold wedding band and glittery red painted nails on a wooden surface.What are you doing for self care this week?

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Quick ‘n Easy Tutorial – Make Your Own Gift Tags!

The fact I’m writing this at just shy of 9:30 on December 23rd demonstrates just how last-minute I am with making and wrapping gifts. If you have a few last minutes gifts that you’d like to personalize, why not make your own tags?

This was quick and easy. All I needed were printed out tags, though you could easily draw your own if you’re so inclined, contact paper, scissors, a hole punch and some yarn.

Since I already had a tag-sized image printed out, I’ll use it as an example.

A picture of a small picture of a snowy bridge and trees with the words "We Live In A Wonderland" in the foreground.I’ve found that right around 2″ by 2″ is a good size for cards, though smaller sizes work, too.

Once you have your tag printed out, cut out two pieces of contact paper that are a little bigger than the tag. Carefully apply them to each side of the paper.

The above picture between two peices of contact paper.There will be bubbles, but they’re easily gotten rid of by scraping the contact paper with your fingernail or coin.

Trim the edges of the contact paper and punch a hole either in one of the upper corners or in the middle, near the top.

The tag sitting on a ball of yarn, next to a little box with the carving of a person sitting peacefully on it.Lastly, cut a length of yarn or string, fold it in half and put the folded edge through the hole. Then, pull the two tails through the loop and tie it to the gift!

There you have it. A unique tag for the perfect gift!

A bottle of herbs with a custom tag tied to it and the words "Make Your Own Gift Tags" in the foreground.
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How to Make Crochet TMNT Ornaments

While there aren’t many traditions I observe this time of year, I have adopted the idea of getting or making a new decoration for our Yule Tree. In 2013, I made a lovely garland, and wrote up the pattern here. This year, I made a set of four TMNT ornaments!

What You Need

  • Green, red, blue, purple and orange yarn (they’re small, so if you have scrap yarn in those colors, you can use that)
  • 4 mm crochet hook
  • 6 mm safety eyes in whatever colors you’d like
  • scissors
  • plastic needle
  • marker (optional)

Pattern

1. 4 stitches in a magic circle
2. inc in each sc
3. inc in every other sc
4. inc in every 2 sc

An unfinished crochet project with the hook and marker still attached.You’ll have something that looks like this.

5-7. Sc all the way around
Switch to the mask color
8-10. Sc all the way aroundPut the eyes in stitches 7 and 10 on round 9
11. Sc all the way around
12. Dec every 2 sc
13. Dec every other sc
14. Dec until only 1 sc left

Once you’re at the final stitch, pull the loop until you can easily get the long tail through it. Pull that stitch tight around the looped tail and cut the yarn so there’s a decent length left.The top of a TMNT crochet ornament with the tail pulled through the last stitch.This part may get a little tricky, but thread the plastic needle with the remaining yarn tail and insert it into the knot formed by that last stitch. Then just pull the rest of the yarn down through the body of the ornament.

For added security, you can add a drop of craft glue or knot the yarn again.The top of a crochet ornament with a plastic needle stuck in it, viewed from above.While I ask that you not use this pattern to sell your creations or to replicate this pattern in any way, I would love to see your results! If you try it, feel free to leave a comment below with a link to your pictures.

Happy Winter Solstice!

TMNT ornaments on a Yule Tree

Friday Fictioneers – Sacrificing the Present

Friday is upon us, and so is Friday Fictioneers! Thanks, as always to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting.

I felt like peeking into one of my long time characters for this one. She’s from the same world as Diana and Leland, who have been featured in previous installments.

As an aside, aren’t these gorgeous windows? I’d love to have something similar in one of my future kitchens. There’s nothing like natural light to cook in.

Three big kitchen windows overlooking trees in a field.
PHOTO PROMPT- © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Genre: Adventure…ish…
Word Count: 93

Sacrificing the Present

She hadn’t been home in years. Once she left their tiny village, she was consumed with creating a world she’d no longer have to hide from. Clara had become very good at hiding from the moment within dreams of a bright future.

Standing there at her mother’s sink, gazing over the English countryside, she lost herself in the past. She wanted to stare out the window just a little longer, but if she was to complete her mission, she couldn’t. Clara had to turn them against her brother and risk losing them forever.