A Really Good Guy...

Life presents us with unexpected gifts and challenges. Yesterday, life challenged us in the biggest of ways as we said goodbye to our dear Logan. 

 
Horicon Marsh - July 2016

Horicon Marsh - July 2016

 

I can confidently say that Logan will remain in our hearts as the best guy ever... he was a gentle giant of epic proportion (11+ years with us and he never uttered a growl), a true lover of being a dog (hopefully super-serious Rollo learned a bit about the fun of being a dog from him), a zealous drinker at the water bowl (and carefree about actually swallowing what was in his mouth while walking away), a backyard explorer (we won't talk about what he spent a fair amount of time looking for), a fabulous hunter (watch out backyard rabbits and voles), enthusiastic squirrel chaser (of course he never got one, but he always remained optimistic), a little brother to our beloved Joey (we hope you're playing together again), a big brother to our dear Rollo (oh, how the tables turned with having a youngster in the house),  and (quite simply) he was just a really nice guy. The best guy, really.

 
Logan and Joey - June 2006

Logan and Joey - June 2006

 

We love all of our dogs and they've all come from sorted backgrounds as rescues, but Logan defeated the odds when he came home with us in 2006 at 3 years old having just recovered from tapeworms and having a tumor removed from his tail. He was left at a dog show (ironically, a Siberian Husky show) and we weren't even at the humane society to look at him. Thankfully, they asked us to and he immediately followed Joey around the yard and then made the winner of all moves, he laid down and rolled onto his back at my feet. We never had a chance and I'm so grateful he chose our family. 

 
Logan, Rollo and Papa - Winter 2017

Logan, Rollo and Papa - Winter 2017

 

I posted on Instagram during my recent trip to Colorado that our Logan wasn't doing so well and I want to say thank you for all of the comments, messages and kind words - your kindness and love helped both Mike and I through a challenging time. He celebrated his 14th birthday this last February and we know we've been so very lucky to have had him with us this long. Logan had a rough few months and the last few weeks were the most difficult for our little family, and yesterday it was time to let go.  

 
Our merry band of idiots on the way home from the Green Day show in April.

Our merry band of idiots on the way home from the Green Day show in April.

 

Dearest Logan, we love you and miss you so very much. Thank you for being part of our family. Now, go drool all over Joey, chase those squirrels, and be sure to run to your heart's content (with plenty of unintentional somersaults). xoxo

How I Learned...

As I look back at my recent (and terribly infrequent) posts, I’m a wee bit embarrassed. But, life around here has been, you know… life. With the arrival of spring, I’ve been making changes to lighten my responsibilities so I can have more time for myself, my family, and to also spend more time with you on Instagram, Facebook, and here on the blog. It’s slow progress, but I can feel the load lessening each day and it’s an awesome feeling. After all, I'm here with you today.

Last month I tried very hard to complete the daily April @yarnlovechallenge on Instagram. I started out strong and I was having so much fun, but later in the month, posting started slipping away a day at a time and then all of a sudden (you know, out of nowhere) May showed up. How does that happen?

So, clearly I’m not cut out for a daily challenge, but May brings a new challenge and this time there are weekly prompts - I can post once a week (which I should totally be able to do) or as much as I want during the dates for that prompt. You can join the fun, too!

 
 

As I was thinking about posting the quick answer on IG, I thought this week’s prompt #HowILearned would also be a great blog post and I hope you enjoy my extended answer below!


I learned to knit in 2001 and I had no idea how two sticks and some string would change my entire life… I was working through some pretty big “life stuff” and needed something to ground me, and I decided that “thing” was knitting. I went to my local JoAnn Fabrics and purchased the Boye I Taught Myself Knitting Kit (I think the lady with the pretty hair and big smile sold me), some size 11 circular needles (plastic with an unyeilding cord), and ONE skein of Lion Brand Chenille (because, clearly this was all I needed to knit a skirt). It's okay if you're laughing, because how could you not be? It's really funny and I'm giggling now. Thankfully, it was only a short wait for Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘N Bitch Handbook (a book I still recommend for beginning knitters) and she guided me to the light with her great writing style and good tool & yarn recommendations!

I did discover the local yarn shop, but I was quite intimidated in the beginning because 1) I was self-taught, 2) the knitters in the shops seem very tight-knit (pun intended), and 3) I felt like a total newbie because the yarn and everything else was overwhelming. It was A LOT to take in and felt like I was back in high school and the knitters were the cool-kids and I again didn’t fit in. However, what I know now is that 1) many of us are self-taught and that’s awesome (you don’t have to take formal classes to be a "real" knitter), 2) knitters *are* tight-knit, but most are super friendly and LOVE to talk about knitting (I dare you to try and stop us from talking to anyone that seems like they *might* listen), and 3) I had actually developed some mad knitting skills though my self-studying (I am a researcher at heart and probably spent just as much time knitting as internetting about the knitting).

The fear of the yarn shop is one that I hear about frequently at Firefly Fibers and to that I say... get into your yarn shop, ask questions, and support your LYS so they'll be around for years to come! We are here to help and want to do what we can for you to have fun knitting. And, if you have the opportunity, visit more than one shop – most shops are run by one or two people and their personality is part of the shop and you may feel more comfortable at, or like the selection better, at a certain shop. Take a deep breath, walk through the door and get to know them!

I’d been knitting for a couple years when a co-worker told me about the Madison Knitter’s GuildWHAT?! There were actually enough knitters in the area to make a “club”?! Apparently, yes (and several times over). My friend invited me to my first meeting and my knitting universe broke wide open – there were SO many lovely knitters at the meeting and I discovered a whole new world that was full of people who loved sticks and string as much as I did. Until then, knitting was mostly a solitary activity for me and I was so happy to finally find that there was (a lot) more of my brand of freak out there and it's only grown more since then.

Here's where I date myself.... when I learned to knit 16 years ago: the internet was a baby and had very limited knitting resources, yarn was nothing like what we have now (we were coming out of a decade - or two - with A LOT of acrylic and little to no indie dyers) and Ravelry didn’t exist. This last one may be hard to believe, but it’s true. There was a time before Ravelry.

I signed up for Ravelry when there was a wait list, so I entered my email and then I waited to be granted access… I remember the day I got my email notification and signed up immediately – January 14th, 2008 and I am Raveller #64,320.  How do I know my Ravelry number and do you want to know yours? Here’s a fun little trick (you’ll have to do this on a computer):

Hold the Ctrl key and (using the arrow keys) Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A.

After doing this, your Ravelry number should appear below your “Raveler Since” date, just like this…

Pretty cool, right? If you give this a try, feel free to leave a note below with your Ravelry number. It's fun to see where everyone falls - especially since as of February of 2014 (over 3 years ago) there were 4 MILLION ravellers!

Speaking of Ravelry… many congratulations to these amazing folks on their 10-year anniversary this month! Knitting and crocheting have grown beyond what I could have hoped for, or imagined, because of Ravelry. They’ve connected knitters and crocheters all across the world with each other and created the most incredible database of patterns and yarn. Knitting and crochet has been transformed because of them.

If someone would have told me in 2001 that future-me would own a yarn shop, design patterns, teach others to knit, and knit the beautiful things I do now, I would have told them they were bonkers! After all these years, I am so very thankful for making that fateful decision to pick up that silly kit with the super-happy smiling lady on the front of the booklet, those terrible plastic circular needles, and that awful chenille (it was purple, just in case you were wondering), because it was the stepping stone to where I am today.

CHEERS!

In the Kitchen | Let's talk about...

Let's talk about FOOD! I love food. I mean, I really LOVE food! I love cooking it and eating it and I even love reading books about food. Food. Is. Awesome. As you may know, these last few months have been insane in the most amazing of ways, but with the busyness of our lives, it's super easy to decide not to cook and just pick up take-out or eat something from a box a wee bit more than we should. I'm happy to report that has not been the case... thanks to Real Plans!

Real Plans is a subscription online meal planner offering a variety of options for dietary needs/restrictions that I discovered through one of my favorite foodies, Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo and I've been using it ever since. I was instantly in love, but I wanted to see if the love wore off over time. It's been more than 3 months now and I love Real Plans even more today!

"REAL PLANS IS A MEAL PLANNER WITH SUPER POWERS."

TRUE! I'm now spending a fraction of my previous planning time getting organized and cooking so much more for our family! Over the last 2+ years, cooking at home has become even more important for me with my celiac disease diagnosis, because in addition to it being rather difficult (and expensive) to dine out, we're also limited in options. I have yet to be bored with Real Plans and my 'to cook' list is growing weekly.

I've always loved cooking. My mom is a wonderful cook and shared the joy of the kitchen with me at an early age. I honestly can't even remember how young I was, but I do remember feeling right at home in the kitchen and it's the same to this day. I love the flavors, colors and smells of fresh food and making something delicious from scratch is one of my favorite past times. I enjoy it so much, that many times I'm at a crossroads of knitting or cooking and cooking can win that contest. I love cooking THAT much!

I also adore my cookbook collection (really, I'm a total sucker for pretty pictures of food and flipping through pages and putting on post-it notes), but getting organized for the week was time consuming and was expensive (really, I wanted everything) and I would much rather spend my available time actually cooking. But... I found that if I didn't spend the time planning, I'd toss whatever into the cart at the grocery store and so much of the food would go to waste over the next week because I lacked a plan. 

Now I spend about an hour each week planning things out and we're saving $ at the grocery store. Real Plans has paid for itself (and then some) with what we're saving. Wanna see how it works?

So... now I feel like this is an infomercial, but seriously, this has changed my life and I'd only share if I believed in it and I wholeheartedly do - I believe in it so much that I'm an affiliate now. I'm also asked frequently about how I plan food out and I've been so happy with Real Plans that I HAVE to share the joy! In addition to a HUGE library of recipes that are built in, there are some amazing additions that are really reasonably priced, including: Nom Nom Paleo, Whole 30, Well Fed, Cookie & Kate and more! AND... (yes, this is where I say... "wait, there's more!") you can modify the existing recipes (ingredients, portion size...) and you can add your own recipes. The latter is very important to me because I find so many delicious recipes online and it's as simple as adding a url to the recipe box or clicking on the Real Plans Chrome extension to add it. It's so easy and quite fun. 

That's all the words I have for you today. I'm passionate about cooking at home and healthy eating and I hope I've inspired you to get organized and into your kitchen. Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below.

CHEERS!