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9 posts from December 2011

2011 Year in ReviewDecember 31, 2011

This has been the year of . . . treading water. You know those years? Those years in which you paddle and stay afloat and pull some people up on your raft and have a wee, damp party with the champagne you stole from a passing cruise ship? A good, busy year, but an exhausting one sometimes. I'm happy it came, and just as happy to usher in a new one.

I like to sum up my years here on Ye Old Blogge, so here's 2011:


We went to Hawaii for three days.


The view from our room.

You'd think going anywhere to relax for three days (not including travel time) wouldn't really work, but we did it SO well. The first day, we did nothing. The second day, we went snorkeling (the one thing Lala really wanted to do) which was great and we SWAM WITH A TURTLE. And then, to recuperate from the excitement of that and the bomb karaoke we found, we did nothing on the third day. I even beat a migraine while we were there, which I rarely do. It was wonderful, and just what we needed.



This, I think, was my favorite shot, because while lying on my back on the beach, this is what I saw when I opened my eyes.

Also in January, I came up with Four Rules for Creativity. Click there for the expanded version, and here are the Cliff's Notes:

1. Pick something already. Make a choice about what you're going to create. Don't worry about it being the wrong thing, because once you're DONE with this project, you can choose something else to do next.

2. Give yourself permission to navel-gaze. Being an artist is, by its very nature, somewhat narcissistic. Accept that and make something.

3. Give yourself permission to suck. And I mean, permission to REALLY suck. If it's the worst thing you ever made, sit back and say DAMN, that sucks. Then make it (or the next one) a little better. Fail some.

4. No excuses. If you want to write, then do it. Don't say you want to. (Everyone says that. You're not everyone. Are you?) If you want to draw, draw. If you want to play your ukulele until four in the morning, then do it with conviction. DO IT.



I learned to weave. DAMN IT. (Nancy L, I haven't forgotten your scarf! It will happen! I promise!)


I didn't want to learn. I didn't want to go that far down the crazy train's line (really, isn't the last stop just getting sheep?). But I did. And I love it.

I made up the easiest spicy chicken soup for the crock pot, and I've made it many times since.

Also, my short story, "Honeymooning," came out.



How to Knit a Heart Back Home came out! I wrote a little song for it.

Lala's parents took us to Disneyworld which was awesome. I was expecting it to be lowercase fun. But no, it was uppercase F.U.N. The weather in March in Florida is perfect (I'd only been to Orlando once before, in July, and the heat was oppressively awful, so this was a nice surprise.)


The Neph, first time in a pool.


At Hogwarts!

In Big News, I fell head over heels in love with an accordion. This was also very unexpected. I'm happy to report I'm still in love. Also, still not very good at it, but BOY do I adore it. I hear the accordion is the new knitting which was once the new black, so there's still time to hop on this trend, people. Do it!




Romantic Times was in LA. I went and gave workshops and signed books and hung out with C.A.P.:


The PensFatales (four of them at least) were there, too, and there are tales still told of us in some dive bars down there.

I felted two cashmere shawls while washing a load of laundry. That was AWESOME.


I know you feel my pain.

KnittedWit brought out the Cypress Hollow Yarn named for the characters in the books. I love this stuff, and she is DARLING. 




I switched to a standing desk! Okay, I didn't so much switch as built one for my office. I got a lot of work done at it, too. I type faster when standing, I wrote much of a first draft of a novel there. At the day job, too, I stood more often (since our desks can be raised there).

Then I kind of stopped. At the job, I still stand at least once a day for a while, but at home? Nah. Not so much. (Especially since I work so often at the cafe now. There is, however, a standing coffee bar there, and I could work there -- I've seen people do it, and I did it once. It was kind of weird.) But yeah, I've been bad about it. It occurs to me that perhaps I am just sedentary. Or perhaps I am just lazy. That's more likely, of course.

Also in May, I shared my Moleskine hack.

And as a bonus, I'll share my NEW Moleskine hack. Have you seen those tiny notebooks they make? They're just larger than a credit card, and often when I go out, I leave my purse at home. I stash my ID and debit card and one of those little notebooks in my back pocket (with my beloved tiny Fisher Space Pen in my front pocket). After a few times of pulling out the notebook and having my ID hit the floor, I came up with this little hack:


Isn't that neat? I used duct tape, and made a lined pocket to hold just the essentials. Now I can catch words wherever they find me. It ain't the most attractive solution, but I *am* very fond of duct tape, so this pleases me.



In more Moleskine news, I upgraded to a computer that could fit into one:


That was the month we also discovered Lois the Pie Queen (which I've been to at least seven times since) for the best pie in the Bay Area (and the best chicken and waffles, in my book).



I went to New York on business. I went to the HarperCollins party at the Central Park Boathouse. I felt kind of stunned to think that I was really doing it. I was really a writer.


I also set my agent's apartment on fire. You know. Like you do.

Also in July, I started my new day job, still doing the same thing, 911 fire/medical, at a new-to-me smaller agency. I'm glad I made the move. It's been good for me, even though it's always completely nerve-wracking to start a new job.

Also, I thought about the way we tangle ourselves up, in life, and in writing. And sometimes in jasmine vines.




Big things! My memoir, A Life in Stitches came out! So did my first audio-book (all three Cypress Hollow novels are now available, didja know that?).  

I started running again, and 20 minutes later, stopped as I fell off a sidewalk and sprained my ankle.

I read The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, which I hereby declare My Favorite Book of 2011.



Your cat Digit got his first chin infection. It's continued, off and on, since then, waxing and waning. I take him in every time he gets one, and they treat it, but there's not much else we can do, the vet says. It makes him very grumpy (Digit, not the vet). I mean, it makes him even grumpier than normal. Imagine THAT. Clementine lives in terror.


I did a bunch of readings. Oh, my, I'm glad that's over. I love being AT the readings, but getting there? I get easily overwhelmed with worry about them.

We went to Vegas! Just for a weekend, and BOY was it fun.




We stayed at the Venetian, because, well, you know. I love Venice, even the fake kind.

We had a party, and I played the accordion in my new dress. There isn't much happy that can compare to that.




Wishes & Stitches came out! (For those of you playing at home, yes, I had three books come out this year. And nope, I'm still not over the excitement.) 

My pop got married to Lola! It was a gorgeous backyard luau, a lovely night for a lovely occasion.


And I did Project 333! Hey, I just realized tomorrow I get to go through my Love Box where I stored the few clothes I didn't keep in my Project List or give away. In the project, you wear 33 items for 3 months. I didn't include hand-knits, natch. It was easy and awesome, and it's led me to realize a couple of things: I need a couple more nice black V-neck shirts and a dress or two with sleeves (all mine are sleeveless, something I'd never noticed before). I can't wait to go though my closet and give away everything I didn't wear out of those 33 things, because they're in there. Isn't that wild? Also this: I felt better dressed during these last three months than I have in years, because I loved everything I wore.



I did NaNoWriMo, the Rebel Remix, in which I edited 100,000 words. It worked!  This was Chris Baty's last year as its leader, so I really wanted to participate. Grateful that I did, and grateful to Our Fairygodmother for sending us to the Night of Writing Dangerously again. Thank you!


We participated in the General Strike, which was amazing. Even better, we had a knit-in at Occupy Oakland.  

I finally found my knitting mojo, but I fell for the Photo Fallacy. Again.  

I put together some of my ideas of How to Revise Your Novel. I played my accordion and my uke, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. I love doing that. I can lose myself in music in a way I can't in writing. It's a different kind of high.  



A Life in Stitches came out in Australia and New Zealand! (There's quite a bit in the memoir about my New Zealander mother, so I'm very, very proud that this happened. Thanks, you lovely new readers.)

I fell in love with the Bed of Nails pillow, which has taken away my neck and shoulder pain, period. (It doesn't work for the hormonal migraines, I'm sad to say, but for the headaches that start from neck pain? Yes.)

I went indoor skydiving. IT WAS SO MUCH DAMN FUN.


At iFly in Union City.

(And if I may brag for a moment, I was good at it. I totally was. Lala was watching my DVD of it, and she didn't realize she was looking at me and said, "Hey, she's good!" And no, I'm never jumping out of a plane on purpose. This was enough to satisfy me.)

I spun a lot (on my new WooLee Winder, which is EVEN BETTER THAN I EVER THOUGHT IT WOULD BE). I knitted a lot. I dreamed about Venice, and finally planned a trip for myself next March.

2012 is barreling in. My Australian and New Zealand readers are already there, and I haven't heard that they don't like it, so I'm willing to step forward.

Thank you, again, for being with me this year. It's meant the world.

For you, I wish this: That you will find your happiness and hold on tight. That you will take chances and make mistakes and find unexpected pockets of joy. That you will love and be loved. What could be better?

Venice, 2003December 29, 2011

So I'm going back to Venice. It's been what, three or four years now? [Runs to look at the blog.] Oh, my god, it's been five years. No WONDER I've been dreaming about it so much. I always dream about Venice, but it's usually along the lines of two or three times a year. Lately it's been almost weekly. I'm always trying to GET there, but something is holding me back -- I'm late for the plane or I don't have my passport, and I can see the plane, sparkling there, ready to take me, and I can't get on. Or worse, I'm in a city full of cars (Mestre?) just outside Venice and I can't find a boat that will take me. Only about once a year do I actually get to Venice in my dreams, but oh, it's lovely when I do.

I was just thinking about the time I stole a boat in Venice, about eight years ago. Okay, okay, I only kind of lied my way into borrowing it. IT WAS SO AWESOME. Here's the story (from the blog back in MyGlassHouse days):


First: I decided to release the Venetian mystery I had
been reading, a la bookcrossing.com, at Harry's Bar. I
had never been there, except for popping my head in
once or twice, and I wanted a Bellini. I happened to
arrive when it wasn't that busy, so I ordered a
Bellini and a small sandwich. What was that? Oh,
that'll be fine. Whoops. What I got was a
mayo/egg/anchovy sandwich. I ate it, though.

And I released the book, even though the very
attentive maitre'd chased me out, "Prego, signorina!"
Oh, that's not mine, but thank you! And I ran.

I stopped to breathe my anchovy
breath at a motor launch. I noticed it was the launch
for the Hotel Cipiriani, the exclusive resort across
the lagoon. This is when I got the idea.

I thought for a while. Then.

I walked out on the dock and used the phone that was
thoughtfully connected there to order the boat. Yep.

When the gleaming boat arrived, driven by the gleaming
Lovely Man, I had my Italian all planned out. "What
time is it? Have you seen my friend? Small, beautiful?
We were supposed to meet an hour ago at the

Number one: I didn't know if the hotel even HAD a
restaurant, but I figured it was a good guess.

Number two: The driver had no English, and my Italian
varies, and today was an off day. I might have
actually been saying, "What time is it? Have you seen
my pickle? Beer, green? We were supposed to marry
yesterday on a ski."

But he seemed to understand, no, he had not seen my
friend dee ann, and he held his hand out to help me in
the boat. Which he then drove across the lagoon, ME
HIS ONLY PASSENGER. Me, in this limo of a boat. I sat
inside. I stood in the back. I stood in the middle. I
finally stood in the front with the Lovely Man who
obligingly stopped in the middle of the choppy water,
in the sun, to take a picture of me. Grinning me. I
was giddy.

Once he helped me out of the boat, I kinda had to keep
up the ruse, since he just sat in the boat and watched
me inside. I swept in, "Is my friend dee ann here? I'm
late, and she had to leave for Greece...." As far as I
know, dee ann is either in San Diego or headed up the
coast in a fast car, but she ain't in Italy (more's
the pity). But Perfectly Groomed Eyebrows merely
smiled, "We haven't seen your friend, madame. Did she
have a reservation?"

For it was a room about the size of my living room,
full of RICH Italians wearing fur and dripping

"Reservations? No, we don't do reservations. I'll just
wait here, if I might? A Bellini?" I don't know where
the words came from, I swear.

"Sadly, we only use fresh juice here, madame. Would
you like fresh-squeezed raspberry juice and prosecco
instead, while you wait?"

Oh, I guessed that would be all right. By the time I
drank my drink (you DON'T want to know what that one
cost) and thanked my genial host and washed my hands
in the gorgeous bathroom (and stole some of the teeny
guest soaps shaped like hearts, don't tell), I was
genuinely getting miffed that dee ann hadn't arrived.

I scare myself sometimes. Right now Mom is saying,
"Cheeky girl." But she would have been the first on
the boat, don't let her fool you.

The Gift of the Magi (But Without the Ironic Sense of Doom or Loss)December 26, 2011

So on Christmas Eve, Lala and I sat down to open our presents from each other. I gave her a nice little stack, and waited in anticipation for my prezzies.

She put one in front of me.

She opened some, and yay! She liked what I got her! I opened mine -- it was a cute sheep tee-shirt (this one, in fact). I loved it! Awesome!

But then she said, "I'm really sorry but I don't have anything else for you."

I goggled.

"I mean, I ordered you something but it didn't make it to the house."

Now, I've been working on not being passive aggressive. It's a bad, ugly trait, and I hate it when I get that way. So I took a deep breath and said, "Oh. I really like this shirt! But I have to admit, I'm disappointed. I planned your Christmas presents early, and I've been working on things for a while, and while I appreciate you've been busy, I have to let you know that my feelings are hurt."

She took it well. "Yes," she said. "I can understand that."

Fast forward to her brother's house. Our nephew Isaac was opening presents (okay, he opened one present, a book, and didn't have any interest in opening anything else. He loved the book). Lala gave me a box. Oops. I started to think that maybe I'd been played but then I opened the box, and I KNEW I'd been played. She totally shocked me and got me something I've never been able to justify purchasing for myself. 

A WOOLEE WINDER for my Ashford Joy. Dude! 

Okay, for those not in the know, attaching a Woolee Winder to your spinning wheel is like moving from a 1962 Fiat to a 2011 Lamborghini. The Fiat you have to futz with every few feet. You have to lift the hood. Add coolant every ten miles. Adjust the take-up, using hooks:


Whereas the Woolee Winder Lamborghini? It takes up BY ITSELF. We're talking SPEED, baby. I'm so excited about it I'm blogging before I use it, because I love to prolong anticipation. (Seriously, I cleaned the house before sitting down to write this blog.)


"I had it mailed here," she said. "Not to our house. You know all those studies I was doing? I used that money."

I was overcome. She did good.

Then I gave her her other present (and Isaac's too), so at least I didn't feel too shabby:


Hee. (It's the Mangyle pattern for her, and I just kind of made up his as I went along.)

And NOW I'm off to spin. I'm a little nervous! But I love to drive fast, so BRING IT.

Radiance ShawlDecember 22, 2011

I made a shawl! I haven't blocked it, and boy, it needs it, but I thought I'd show it to you now, since I think it's super cute when it's bouncy and flouncy like this:

Photo on 12-20-11 at 9

Ravelry link here (I can't seem to find a non-Rav link for the pattern, so if you're not part of Ravelry, you should join!)

It took approximately forever to bind off (but in typical Rachael fashion, I put it away months ago, exHOSSted by it, and when I picked it up last week, I was HALF WAY THROUGH the bind off. Who does that? And then forgets about it? Sheesh).

Shawlksdk sgd

It's out of Regia sock yarn, and I'm not even sure what kind (but I'll look it up).


Do you think that only knitters like shawls like this? I mean, really, think about it. It was pointed out to me that the only people below the age of 80 wearing shawls are knitters. Does that make us naturally uncool when we wear ours? Or does it make us more cool? I actually wonder this a lot, and while I wore this the other day, I vascillated between thinking I was ultra-hip and uber-out-of-it. I'm (obviously) more comfortable with the latter than I am with the former.

Bonus Digit shot!


To you: Happy holidays, if you celebrate, and if you don't, enjoy the days getting longer. Thanks for being a part of my life this very exciting year. xoox

Winners!December 16, 2011

The random winners of the knitting abaci are: C.C., Margaret W., and Haley. You've been emailed, and congratulations! Enjoy your useful bling.

Useful bling. Is there anything better? See, like this: 

IMG_1347 - Version 2

See? Good looking AND it tells Digit where to find his favorite dog. (Clementine looks like she just saw Digit coming for her, doesn't she? Although she did not mind those ears AT ALL. She kept 'em on a long time.)

Knitting Abacus Bracelet Giveway! December 12, 2011

I absolutely love the knitting abacus bracelets from Hide and Sheep (list to the right to see all the bracelets) and they're giving THREE away to lucky commenters! Leave a comment below to be entered -- I'll draw the winners on Friday. Good luck!

Click HERE if the video doesn't play.

Bed of Nails UpdateDecember 8, 2011

(For those of you visiting for the first time, I swear I don't talk about acupuncture pillows much. Or ever. Nope, I can pretty safely say I've never done it before this last post. But forgive me -- it's just so awesome!)

I haven't had real neck/shoulder pain since I started using it. The other night I was weaving and I felt the tension start, so I immediately took ten minutes and used it, and the pain was GONE.

Yesterday, though, I got a doozy of a migraine that started in my sinuses (they often start in my neck but not this sneaky bastard). Since I didn't think impaling my face on the pillow would be a prudent (or attractive) idea, I didn't. The migraine came -- I was miserable. But later, after I got the shot at the doctor's office, when I was still nauseous and the pain had lodged in the base of my skull, I used the pillow and both that pain and the nausea subsided.

So for me, I'm still in love. It's not a cure-all (HA! typoed cure-ass first) but it's close.

For your reward, those of you not interested in painful pillows you can't sleep on, here's a picture of the scarf I wove (all handspun):


And what I warped last night (Noro Silk Garden Color S289):


(That's Willie on the floor, back right)

And I'm using this handspun for the weft:


And for those of you who neither spin nor impale yourself on thousands of pointy little pieces of sharp plastic, you can't deny the cutness that is Clementine's tongue:


(Post walk. Clara needs a cigarette.)

My Bed of NailsDecember 5, 2011

It's time for Rachael's Favorite Thing! Kind of like the defunct Oprah's Favorite Things, only mine is singular and there isn't one under your chair. I'm sorry about that.

This is what I'm lying on twice a day:

BedofnailsIt's called the Bed of Nails acupuncture pillow, and I stumbled across it completely by accident.

See, I get neck and shoulder pain a lot. That's fine, we all do -- stress blah stress -- but my neck pain can quickly morph into a migraine (and often does). It had gotten to the point where I was almost not knitting at all because the tension in my neck would knot up tighter and tighter as I went. Also, the more I work on computers, the tighter the tension gets, and both my jobs require lots of screen time.

So late one night, out of desperation, I was prowling Amazon, researching things that came up when I searched for "neck pain."

This mat came up, along with the pillow. I thought, Who would be that crazypants? Those look sharp! Then I noticed all the 5-star reviews. I read, with amazement, as people said this actually helped their pain.

I've given it almost two weeks now.

This helps my pain.

This cray-cray pillow of (seriously) sharp needle-like plastic bits has helped me to the point that I've had about four ibuprofens in two weeks (instead of four every four hours).

Full disclosure: it hurts to start out. Yes, it does. I only got the pillow since my pain isn't in my lower back, and MAN the first time I used it I wondered if it was worth it. Then, about five minutes in, my neck started to warm up. Then my whole body relaxed. I can't explain this, it just worked. After fifteen minutes, I had to have Lala help me up, and then I tottered off to bed where I took a mammoth nap.

After about a week of using it, it gets easier to lie on -- any pain there is is gone within 60 seconds. Then the heat starts, and then the relaxation. I'm lying on it once during the day, and just before I got to sleep, 15 minutes each time, and I'm sleeping better than I have in SO long. It has literally chased away every headache I've gotten. (I don't know if it will chase away the hormonal migraine that I can never get away from. I'll keep you posted.)

I love it. Oh, that endorphin rush and the resulting warm happiness! I'm buying another one for my work locker so that if I forget it I'm not without it. Best purchase I've made in a very, very long time. Read the reviews. I bought the pink one, Bed of Nails brand, but all the brands look really similar. (Amazon links are mine, as always I get a teeny proceed from click-buy-throughs.)

Dear Australia and New Zealand,December 1, 2011

I have maLife in StitchesAusFinaliled you an early Christmas/Hannukah gift! It's the Down Under release of my collection of essays, A LIFE IN STITCHES! Out today! (Okay, I think it comes out next week for the Kiwis, but today is the day in the country with kangaroos!) It took many, many trips to the post office, and I've run out of packing tape, but I hope all your bookstores are pleased with the new delivery.

HarperCollins Australia ordering links HERE and you can get it digitally HERE.

(Unrelated aside -- as a half-Kiwi myself, I've noticed that many Americans think New Zealand has kangaroos and/or Koala bears. It does not. It DOES however, have, well, Kiwis. Both countries have many indigenous knitters. You can often spot them in the wild, leaping over fences and scurrying along at the sides of country roads, needles clenched firmly between their teeth, racing toward the nearest yarn shop. (We have them over here, too.))

And look! Our own Knitty Amy Singer's quote is on the front cover! WOOOT!

I hope you enjoy it. xoxo Rachael