Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Persistently Talented

The other day I was painting with a friend and I was given a compliment: I was told I was "talented." It's funny, because I didn't think so. Besides being far from where I would like to be, I knew that the way I paint now is because of the amount of time I've spent on it. I've poured over books on lighting and composition, I've invested in good materials, and I have put the brush to paper many times over. I know that with art, it is really easy to believe that someone is inherently good at it and overlook the amount of time spent on the craft. It is my belief that no one is really talented, people are just persistent... although there may be those who's fine motor skills develop a little faster. After thinking on the idea of talent, I wanted to find a way to prove that it is persistence and not talent that creates great works of art.

I've devised a little experiment to prove my hypothesis which is to learn to write with a non-dominant hand. The idea behind it was to get good at something no one starts off proficient at but everyone is capable of with practice. I know that no one ever really says, "You can write? You are so talented." But if we can get our non-dominate hand to write, it means we can get it to draw. To start off Connor and I are now both writing out the alphabet once each day with our non-dominant hand.  It has already been quite interesting. Both of us found that we were trying to use our whole arm to move the pen rather than the wrist at first. I also noticed that the muscles in my non-dominate hand are not nearly as strong as my dominant hand. I'm not sure where the experiment will end, but I think it will be interesting to see if we can eventually write with both hands.
My letters are on the left, Connor's are on the right. The first alphabet on the page was done with our dominant hand as a control.

I told my Mum what we were up to and she laughed. Something about, "As if you didn't have enough projects going on." Mum might be right. I'm working on my second skein for Tour de Fleece. I'm entirely sure I won't finish this one by the end of it, but I'll be close. I've finished the first bobbin and am a third of the way through the second.
Wonderland Dyeworks 80/20 Merino/Tussah Silk in Coral Reef

I was so excited by my first skein for this year's Tour de Fleece that I already cast on. The pattern is called Primavera. It was written for a 66 stitch sock, but is easily adapted to the 54 stitch sock I am making.

I'm achingly close to finishing my Dad's Peeta Socks. I just have weave in ends and block them. It will happen, I'm just a bit more enthralled with the Primavera socks at the moment.

The Dude Sweater is also growing quite a bit. I am at the point where I need to join the sleeves to the body. It is going to require some concentration that I just haven't had for the last few days, so it will sit a wee bit longer.

So what do you all think? Is talent something you just have or is it something you develop?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tour De Fun

Hello friends! It has been a rather productive week here at the Bear Ears house, but maybe more importantly, it was a fun week. I finished up my skein of Cider House from Greenwood Fiberworks. It came out to 250 yards, which is the same as the last time I spun a braid of Greenwood Fiberworks. I remember wanting that skein to have more yardage just like I wish this skein had a bit more yardage. Maybe it is the fiber and not me? It sure is pretty, though.

I didn't expect to finish the braid of Cider House before the end of Tour De Fleece, so it was a great surprise that I might be able to spin something else. I've pulled out two braids of Wonderland Dyeworks' 80/20 Merino/Tussah Silk in the Coral Reef color way. 

This time around I'm aiming for a DK/Worsted weight two ply. I've made a great start. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll have a second skein by the end of the tour.

Meanwhile, I've kept up on my knitting. Connor and I have been watching Vikings. It is interesting enough that I can't work on anything that requires looking down, but my hands were getting itchy so I found that the many rounds of stockinette in the Dude Sweater kept them happy. I'm at the next stretch of color work though, and I'm a little intimidated. It took me a few days to get though the color work when I was doing it on the sleeves. The sweater body is three times the size of a sleeve... 

Dad's Peeta Sock is also growing. I have found myself in the car pretty often. Although the car rides aren't very long, a few rounds here and there really add up.

Connor and I have also been playing the odd round of Scrabble. I think I mentioned last time that turns can last a while, so it didn't take many games to finish the latest lavender sachet embroidery. I've now got three embroideries waiting to be sewn up. I think I might wait until I finish the sweater body that will need to be steeked before dragging the sewing machine out.

Is anyone else joining in on the fun with Tour De Fleece? Leave a link, I'd love to see your lovely skeins.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sucking The Fun Out Of Fun

Has anyone else had a time in their life where they forgot how to have fun? I feel like that has been me lately. Since the last week of April, I've been staying disciplined by working on getting The Comic up and running. Every day I edit at least two pages and after I get a pile edited, I (digitally) cut them up and Connor posts them. The thing is, I had gotten so efficient that even when I left room for myself to do something fun, like knit, it wasn't fun anymore. My efficiency spilled over into my hobbies. I'd tell myself, "The faster you finish this knit, the sooner you can finish the next one." I made myself into a machine. This isn't any way to live. 

After making myself miserable for the last two plus months, I heard a sermon that snapped me out of it. The sermon itself was about envy, but in it the preacher talked about the movie Chariots of Fire. (A quick aside, I've never seen all of Chariots of Fire. I watched about 10 minutes at which point I realized there weren't going to be any chariots, so I stopped watching.) The plot follows two runners. One is always worried about who is catching up to him and who might beat him while the other throws his head back and enjoys the act of running. I realized I was the worried runner when really I'd rather be the happy one, so I've been practicing mindfulness. When I catch myself strategizing what I need to do next, I write it on the list, then promptly think about what I am enjoying about my current activity... even the ones that aren't really that fun on paper. I'm happy to report that it has been working. I feel like I'm having fun again. An added bonus has been that I've found myself more productive while I've been having fun.

What are those things, you might wonder? Wonder no more! First off, I am happy to say that I have finally finished editing Book 1. Connor and I need to still put the latter half of book 1 on the website, but we have made that a more pleasant experience by listing to the Judge John Hodgman podcast. (We have especially enjoyed episodes 303, 305, and 310.)

I've continued to make great progress on my father's second Peeta Sock and Connor's Dude Sweater. In typing this, I realized that there is nothing on the needles for me. Gasp! Actually, I'm having a great time knitting both projects and I look forward to giving them away when they are done.

I also started work on the next lavender sachet. I have embroidered several now, but had put them aside to stay true to the comic. I pulled it out again while Connor and I were playing Scrabble. We both can take a long time to come up with a word, so I've been able to make good progress on the new one.

And last, but certainly not least, I've been putting time aside at night to work on my Tour de Fleece project. I entirely forgot Tour de Fleece was coming up until a day or so before it started. In an effort to stay in the moment and not suck the fun out of it with too many goals, I only have the modest goal of spinning a three ply sock yarn out of my braid of Greenwood Fiberworks 80/20 Merino/Nylon in the Cider House color way. It's been on my mind for a while, but like the embroidery, I wasn't going to work on it until I had "earned" it by doing enough of the comic.

It seems so silly now that I was punishing myself by not working what I really wanted to. Connor reminded me that everything will eventually get done, and I suppose that is true. And if it doesn't get done, maybe it never really needed to anyways.

Has anyone else had the problem of sucking the fun out of their hobbies?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Study In Socks And Sweater

I was really impressed to see Woollenwild's three pairs of socks that she finished on her vacation. I wish I could report that I had as much success, but I think I actually came back with less sock than I left with. I ended up ripping out the leg of my Big O socks because I didn't like how thick and solid the green looked on the second sock. Ah well. After getting home I powered through and finished them up. I'm really pleased with how they look.

I didn't want to ruin the color progression of the sock blank, so I used the other end of the blank to knit a contrasted heel. Of course the opposite end of the blank locks up when you pull at it, so I had carefully rolled a little ball of yarn for the heel. I ran out partway through the second heel and ended up with a huge tangle. Ooops. For those of you who desperately need a pair of socks like this, I used Gale's Art Single Sock Blank (not the double sock blank) in The Big O color way.

I've also been working hard on my Father's socks. One down, one to go. I'm enjoying the Peeta Sock pattern, but I'm also pretty sure that every pair of socks is going to feel fast after this pair. In addition to having long feet, Dad has a tall instep, which means I get to knit an extra tall heel and extra long gusset. Knitting such giant socks has put me off of casting on a new pair for two reasons. 1) I'm getting my fill of sock knitting with this pair and 2) If I cast on a new pair, I'd probably put off knitting the second sock. But just having one project on the needles wasn't enough for me...

So I'm knitting a sweater! I saw mrs_kndy's Dude Sweater on instagram and immediately thought to myself, I'll bet Connor would look good in that. And after all, we had just watched the Big Lebowski. (My second viewing, but Connor's first.) A quick text confirmed his interest. Connor responded with an enthusiastic, "I abide!" I didn't have the yarn I needed for the sweater (a shocker, I know), but after two trips to two different shops, we were able to get what we needed. I'm having a great time knitting this; I'm almost done with the second sleeve!

Well, before I sign off on today's post, I have to make a confession. Before I left for vacation, I bought some yarn. I couldn't help myself. Lisa at White Birch Fiber Arts had a double gradient sock yarn available and I had to have it. The color way is called Study In Peach, Mint. Although, because I was going to be gone for ten days, I asked her if she could delay shipping, which she kindly did. It arrive the day after I got back. 
Happiness is a skein of sock yarn

Is anyone else have a yarn confession?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mid-South Pt.4: Nashville, Presidential Houses, And Reminders Of The Past

Connor and I got up pretty early because it turned out the hotel we had chosen was going to have the water off for most of the day due to a plumbing repair that needed to be made. The first thing we decided to do while in Nashville was leave Nashville. I had never seen a Civil War site before, so we headed towards Murfreesboro to see Stones River Battlefield. We read through the museum and did the tour to the different battle sites in the area. I thought that they had done a terrific job explaining the horror of war while also giving voices to those who had been part of the battle.

It was a hot day, but we sat under a tree while I painted and thought about how brave the men who had fought here been. Over three days more than 10,000 men had been lost on either side. It was sobering to realize that people had been willing to charge into cannon fire for their beliefs.

During part of the tour we also drove along what had been part of the Trail of Tears. (The forced Cherokee removal from their own lands.) That patch of land had seen a lot of sorrow in its time.

After an early afternoon of contemplation, we had some more time to burn before the water would come back at our hotel. We ended up driving to the James K. Polk house to learn about the 11th President of the United States. We have to thank Mason for this suggestion. He told us that there was Andrew Jackson's Hermitage to see, but also the "lesser known Polk House." I think he was kidding, but I'm glad we went. Polk's claim to fame was expanding the United States to include what would later be known as Texas, California, and Oregon. He is touted to be the only president to live up to all his campaign promises, including the one where he promised to be a one-term president.

After the Polk House we stopped by a restaurant called River Terrace New Orleans Cuisine. It was open by a couple who had fled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I think it is the best food I ever had. Catfish Étouffée and Key Lim Pie.... yum yum. After the meal, we headed back to the hotel.

The next day was our last in Nashville. Our flight wasn't leaving until the evening, so we made a few stops. One of those stops was at The Parthenon. I didn't realize before we visited that Nashville's Parthenon is the only full-sized replica of the one found in Athens, Greece.

It was originally built for the World's Fair, but liked so much that it was rebuilt with permanent materials. It also includes a statue of Athena inside. Connor liked that even the edges of her shoes has figures placed on them.

After the Parthenon we made a quick trip to the Haus of Yarn where I picked up a little more yarn. Then we drove over to our 7th president's residence: the Andrew Jackson's Hermitage. There was this cutout of the the $20. I think we spent a little too much time making silly faces in it. We really could have used more time to see the grounds.

The price of admission seemed a little high, but I think it was entirely worth it to see the wallpaper inside the Hermitage. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but this wallpaper isn't like anything you've ever seen. It is more like a giant painting of greek mythology. I was impressed. There was an audio tour that was well put together and the grounds are really well kept. We learned that young Andrew Jackson had become a prisoner of war during the Revolutionary War. When he refused to polish a British officer's shoes, the officer slashed his face and hand with a sword. Andrew Jackson had unfortunately also been the one to force the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. He betrayed those who had previously fought alongside him in the battle of New Orleans. There were many more things to learn, and I wish we had more time to enjoy ourselves, but we had to drop off our rental car and make it back to the airport. The flight back home was pretty uneventful, which I was thankful for.

We came back with some fun goodies. First off, the yarn! The left three skeins came from Black Mountain Yarn Shop while the right two came from Haus of Yarn. From left to right we have Fern Fiber Sport Weight dyed with Weld, Fern Fiber DK weight natural color, Madelinetosh Sock in Shire (For my Mother-in-law's socks), and two skeins of The Plucky Knitter Primo Fingering in Ruffled Feathers and En Garde.

We also got quite a collection of patches, magnets, and a puzzle of patches. When I saw the patch puzzle, I just couldn't leave it behind. The patch locations have all been added to the patch map.

All in all, it was a great trip, but we came back home pretty tired. We were happy to go to bed early for the next few nights after the trip.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mid-South Pt.3: Blue Ridge Parkway, Mount Mitchell, And Yarn Of Course

On our first day in North Carolina, I talked everyone into going to Black Mountain. Why? Well, I had to go see Black Mountain Yarn Shop for myself. I'd been following their instagram page for awhile, but never expected to have an opportunity to visit. I left with some souvenirs.

On the way back, we all stopped by the Folk Art Center. Memaw paid me a huge compliment and said I ought to come out on future family trips because all the things I had planned were things she wouldn't have thought to do herself.
See Mid-South Pt.4 for the details on the yarn

The next day we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The five of us climbed up the trail to get a great view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. (you can see the parkway in the background.) The only thing we regretted is that we didn't bring our lunch up with us. No matter, we had our lunch at the picnic tables below.

In the evening we went out for barbecue in Waynesville. I have to say, the best chicken I've ever had was at Haywood Smokehouse. It was so good, I got a meal there the next day.

The next day's adventures took us to Craggy Gardens. The Rhododendron season was at its peak and we hiked up to Craggy Bald to enjoy nature's garden. The whole area was just covered in Rhododendron blooms.

Connor's dad, Connor and I stayed a while longer so I could paint. Connor's brother Mason, who had rejoined the party, and his Mum moved on to do some more hiking. (We pooped Memaw out and she stayed at the cabin that day.)

After Craggy Gardens the three of us walked up to Mount Mitchell. I didn't realize that Connor had never been to the top; it had always been closed when he had been there in the past. I was glad that I painted at Craggy Gardens rather than Mount Mitchell. There were swarms of bugs. We ran down pretty fast after getting this picture.

The next day our adventures in North Carolina had come to an end. We caravanned to Chimney Picnic area and did a nature hike before eating lunch and parting ways. Mason then drove us back to Nashville.

Being a botanist, Mason happens to know of quite a few neat spots. Part way back to Nashville, he showed us Ozone Falls. You could swim in the pool if you wanted. We didn't. The falls are really tall. If you can see in the top right of the photo, there is a man in a hammock.

From there, we had dinner and Mason dropped us off at the airport so we could get our rental car. It was a Sunday and while we picked up the car we learned why plane tickets were so much cheaper on Tuesday. (The day we planned to leave.) It turns out we were in Nashville while the CMA (country Music Awards), Bonnaroo Music Festival, and a hockey final were going on. We decided to stay out of downtown Nashville that evening and instead went to our hotel to pass out.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mid-South Pt.2: Original KFC, Smoky Mountains, And A Cabin Mansion

On this leg of the trip, we joined Connor's parents and Memaw to head south to the Smoky Mountains. On the way we passed by Corbin Kentucky, where the original KFC restaurant was. I got potato wedges.

We drove and drove and drove until we got to the top of the Smokies. Boy was it pretty!

The five of us walked up to Clingman's Dome, which is the highest point in the Smokies. 

It turns out that the Appalachian Trail crosses Clingman's Dome. I'd hoped to get my feet on part of the trail. It sort of felt like cheating, though. We drove much of the way up. 

On our way down the trail we saw a black bear! Memaw hadn't seen one in the wild before. Connor's mum spent the rest of the trip wanting to see another. I spent the rest of the trip hoping that was the only one we would see.

We drove into the evening, stopping along the way to see the Museum of the Cherokee. (It was fantastic.) We ate a Paul's and Connor and I experienced rabbit and pheasant for the first time. Then we drove to see if we could find the Synchronous Fireflies that reside in the Smokies. I think we spotted two individuals, but there weren't enough around to see them do their display in unison. 

We were pretty tired after all the driving we had done, so we drove on to the cabin we had rented in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. When we got there, we were all stunned: it was a mansion. More of the family was supposed to have come, but work schedules got changed at the last minute. With only five of us at the rental, we each got our own floor.

I chose the floor that had the clawed tub. I'd always wanted to use one. I ended up using it every day because I couldn't figure out how to work the shower.

This cabin was our home base and for the next few days we had adventures in the surrounding area.
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