Autumn Nesting

Last night the temperature finally dropped to freezing. No frost this morning, but it is COLD out – damp and chill in that patently Pacific Northwest manner.

But I’m ready! This weekend was a flurry of nesting: a new, snuggly knitting project and lots of time in the kitchen.

The cooling weather and dark purple-grey skies have chased out the Puffs. Instead, I wanted something warm, bulky, and soft to knit. Enter Encompass, the perfect solution for a fast, fun autumn project. I’m using Plymouth Yarn’s Baby Alpaca Grande.

It’s shedding just a little, which I’m hoping will stop once it’s knitted and the fibers are trapped in the stitches.

I’ve been dehydrating several things, stocking them away in the pantry. I love to open my cupboards and see a row of colorful jars smiling back at me.

Autumn and spice always go together for me. Black tea blends are getting thrown over for Chai.

Murchie’s Traditional Chai (they used to call this blend “Autumn Chai”). Mmm. I love it. Cinnamon, cardamom, and just a tiny bit of sweetness – it is a perfect Chai, in my opinion. I’ve also been adding a little cinnamon to my coffee (in with the grounds as it brews).

Spices are all over my baking and cooking, too: Molasses spice cake, whole-wheat spoon bread, and perfect chocolate chip cookies (oh my goodness, are they EVER) have been rolling out of the oven one after another. Just a few weeks ago, dinner was grilled chicken and green salad. Now that seems too “cold” for these chilly days. Instead we’ve been warming ourselves with hearty, full-flavored dishes that have been on hiatus all summer: toasted-spice chili, tangy orange chicken stir fry, skillet lasagna (all of these recipes are from Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen). Even our meals out have been rich and spicy: italian flat breads and warm spinach salad, Indian curries, toasty sandwiches.

I’d love to hear about YOU – As the weather continues its journey towards winter, where are you seeing evidence of “nesting” in your own home and habits?

The Waiting Game

Here are two facts about me: 1) I hate rejection. 2) I am not a patient person.

Rejection

Does anyone like it? Of course not!

Most of us have developed a lovely set of defense and coping mechanisms specifically for dealing with it. Or rather, avoiding it. Some people, including myself, have become so skilled in this area that we begin to circumvent situations where there’s even a possibility of rejection. Pre-emptive rejection rejection! Perfect! This pre-emptive rejection rejection, which I fondly refer to as PRR, is great reason for to choose a career other than telemarketing. But advanced skills in PRR, as I have found, are sucky for becoming a published writer.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure how I expected to get published if I wasn’t putting my work out there. Writers don’t just “get discovered.” (But wouldn’t it be nice if we did? Like the stories of old where models and starlets were plucked from obscurity while sipping a malted at the drug-store counter, or while shopping for the perfect tankini at Abercrombie & Fitch?) Perhaps I had a pipe dream somewhere in my mind that this little unpublicized blog would somehow come to the attention of an editor, who would then see brilliant potential in my ramblings on fiber, and offer me a book deal. Yes! Sweet!

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. What a rude awakening!

So I started making a few formal queries by submitting a very few article and story ideas. But so far? No takers.

To be fair, this is all quite recent. Most of what I’ve sent out into the world is still waiting for a reply. But now that I’m in the middle of it, I wonder if that isn’t worse than a straight-out rejection: the dread grows in step with the length of the silence. Enter the Need for Patience.

Patience

It may be a virtue but it’s not one of mine. When the going gets tough, I find something else to do. I Perhaps you’ve seen evidence of this in some of these blog posts…  15-month Angelberry? Two-year tweed? Each Day’s Beauty?

But patience is something I must develop on the path to getting published. And more than just patience, the ability to shrug off doubt and to keep moving forward, working and trying. And out-PRRing PRR.

After all, what great writer hasn’t curated a lovely collection of notes saying “No Thank You” or “Not for Us”?

Recently relevant examples include Louisa May Alcott and Stephen King. LMA’s struggle with what to write and how to get published is an integral theme of Little Women. King tells funny yet poignant stories in On Writing about his own stack of rejection slips, which he kept skewered on a spike (how appropriate) above his bed so he would be inspired to persevere. And of course there is the ubiquitous recent example of J.K. Rowling, who was rejected by 12 major publishing houses before she found one willing to give Harry a shot.

As I was looking up the statistic for Harry Potter (since I thought it had been rejected “only” 8 times, that in itself was a little glimmer of encouragement), I found this article: 50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected. The list is stunning: Kenneth Grahame, Dr. Seuss, Meg Cabot, Shannon Hale, Jasper Fforde… these are incredible writers.

I guess I should be embarrassed at my own audacity: Who am I to feel inadequate when I experience the same challenges as these Lions of the Pen, when I don’t have half their talent? But I do feel inadequate as I wait, and that’s a fact. I guess that should be Fact #3 in the list above.

But here’s the thing: As I’m going through this process, through these experiences, I’m learning about what’s truly important. I’m learning to care less about the rejections (and the anticipation of them), and to care more about honing my skills and trying by submitting my work. I’ve let fear of rejection stifle my forward progress for too long. Now it’s time to practice patience while believing in myself and my talents, and to surge forward with relentless enthusiasm toward getting published.

This is one Waiting Game where I plan to emerge the winner.

Change of Seasons

Goodness, but it’s been a while!

Such a busy summer with lots of weekend travels and working at the still-new-to-me job. But after a beautiful, long late summer Autumn is finally in the air and I have to say I am ready.

The past few weeks have been filled with canning (apples and salsa verde) and dehydrating (peppers, onions, and herbs). I’ve finally baked a few morning-coffee things, and cinnamon and spice smell incredible right now. It’s just so right for this time of year.

Nesting is setting in, too. I’ve made new pillow covers for some throw pillows, washed all the fabric curtains in the house, and am in the middle of a deep dusting everywhere. You know, the kind where you get up on a ladder with the vacuum’s hose attachment.

Knitting was almost non-existent around here this summer. After the Knot Hysteria retreat, it was as if I was topped-off on fiber for a while. But lately I’ve been churning out Puffs.

I’ve reached a grand total of 69. (I found 5 more on my desk after I took this photo!)

And… Angelberry is finished! As soon as it goes to its new owner I will post pictures of the final steps and the stole in all of its sparkling glory.

In a walk around the yard today (in between the rain showers), it’s evident that the transition of seasons is well underway. The hydrangea are getting rusty.

Brilliant colors are all around, but not quite yet everywhere.

The hosta are making one last statement of autumn beauty.

Benny and I saw our first spawning salmon of the year, and we were lucky enough to watch it wiggle its way up the creek.

Happy Autumn!

The View from the 24th Floor

I’ve been away from corporate life for two years now, twenty-four months.

In thinking about this lately, I feel that the time and distance has afforded me a different perspective from what I had at the end of my time in corporate life. The difference in the two perspectives reminds me of difference in the two pictures below, taken in Hawaii when the Captain and I were in Waikiki last year.

A picture from the street level, of the beautiful foliage all around:

A picture taken later that evening, from 24 floors straight up in the air and facing in the same direction:

Both sights are lovely, each has really wonderful elements. But there is something incredible about that huge, open view that takes so much more into account.

Perspective. It’s fascinating.

That change in perspective about work has left me rested and ready for something new…. So after a two-years’ break, I am returning to work.

I am returning, but in an entirely different way. Instead of returning to a corporate environment, I am now part of a specialized business in Technical Communications staffing and project management. Instead of running all-out at breakneck speed, I am intentionally keeping my hours low. The plan is to fulfill my brain and contribute the type of work I truly love, while retaining a good amount of space – mental and schedule – so I can still prioritize my family, home, and creative passions.

 As of today, I am about a month into this new endeavor; I am still trying out many options to find the right balance point for everything, but with the perspective I have gained over the past years, as well as the intentional decisions I have already made, I know that the balance point will be found soon.

Contemporary Insanity continues, though perhaps everything here will be seen through a new lens. What will it be like to explore my creative passions in meaningful ways while back at work? Even with (perhaps particularly with) my new non-traditional work approach, where will my creative fulfillment come from? What will it be like to work from a location remote from most of my team? Will I ever find enough time to spin yarn for an entire sweater?

Let’s go forward together and search out the answers to these questions — and many more.

Of the Past

I’ve alwasys been intrigued by antique things, and lately I’ve been completely fascinated with needle work elements and paper ephemera.

The Christmas postcard I showed last month is an example of this, and yesterday I found a few more cards at an antique shop that must have wonderful stories behind them.

Here are a few (click on any image to enlarge).

A work-a-day note from a sweet girl to her aunt:

Butler MO, May 25, 1920

Dear Aunt Mary: How are you and the rest of the folks. We are well. The folks got home all right and were were sure glad to see them. I was glad to turn over some of this work to them. Ha! Ha! We got along just fine though. We washed yesterday, and Flora and I are a going to iron this morning. Ma and Floyd are hoeing in the garden. Aunt Lena is out talking to them over the fence. Pa and Herb are dragging roads. Its a foggy morning now, but the sun came up bright this morning. I am certainly proud of my presents, and many thanks for them. I never expected any present but I think the dish is a beauty.

With love, From Nellie

Write often

And this charming little missive: 

To: Miss Mable Dunn

Hope you had a nice time in Auburn. Please write me a little soon as I am a lonesome little Boy.

AQT (GQT?)

Along with those charming cards, I lately discovered the enchanting collections of MillineryMiss (http://www.etsy.com/shop/millinerymiss).

I don’t know if these baskets are truly the actual baskets of the people she describes, or whether she’s created the provenance for each… No matter, her baskets have sparked me into imagining lives and stories for Nellie and Aunt Mary, and especially Mr. A.Q.T. and Miss Mable Dunn.

Friday catch-up

Wow, I can’t believe it’s Friday already. This week has flown by.

Baking, writing, puppies, splitting wood, good buys, home projects, sewing… all of these are just a few of the thing things going on around here this week. I thought I’d do a quick smattering of reports and maybe go into more depth in the next few posts.

Baking (and cooking)

The weather has definitely got me nesting right now. Spent time this week baking and making things in the slow-cooker. Every day the house was filled with rich smells of cookies, spices, stews, and other good things. Yay!

Peanut butter cookies:

Spice muffins with maple glaze:

Writing

November is “National Novel Writing Month,” and this is the third year I’ve participated. It’s a contest (with/against yourself and the calendar) to write a 50,000-word novel during the 30 days of November. It’s great fun, and the folks at NaNoWriMo do a fab job of keeping us participants motivated and laughing while we do this crazy thing of writing ~1667 words a day in Nov. To learn more, check out their site and the great things they do with their non-profit side of the house, Office of Letters and Light.

Puppies

Sometimes you just need to snuggle.

(Note: This picture does not do justice in showing just how tightly crammed Bendito was between my behind and the chair back. Trust me on this one – it was tight. ;-))

House projects

I’m working my way through that monster pile of wood from the trees we took down; “we” (meaning the Captain, while I looked on and ran to the hardware store for parts) installed a new water heater for my mom; and I put in some serious work in turning & aerating the compost pile. And we’ve also been doing the everyday tasks that keep home running smoothly… enough, and generally enjoying some unseasonable sunshine and very warm temperatures.

Good buys

I’ve continued to be on the lookout for great sales to stock up on our fundamentals and staples. Tinned beans and fruit for 50¢ a can, flour at amazing prices, bulk “natural” ground beef divided up into sizes right for the two of us and tucked away in the deep freeze, potatoes and onions in a cold room in the garage – as close as we’re going to get to a root cellar in this house – and drying another 2 lbs of mushrooms found on sale. There have been a number of very good sales starting as the baking and feasting time of year begins, with many good “stocking-up” items half their normal price or less.

Sewing

Boat canvas, boat canvas. Will it ever end? Let’s hope so, because I have holiday sewing to get on top of!

What have your days been filled with lately? I would love to hear.