Showing posts with label journal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label journal. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

And now, to teach!

(I've had this post on my mind for a week. I usually look back at the last post I wrote just to refresh my memory and to try not to repeat myself. Somehow it's amusing to me that my last entry was all about restless energy, and now I'm here to say that I've DONE something with it! Several somethings actually, but I'll get into that later.)

First, a brief history. I was scrolling through Instagram last week, and I saw a post from the new local yarn store (LYS, for the knitters) where the owner mentioned that she also teaches at some local colleges. I made a comment, as I'm making an effort to comment TO people and not just as part of the one sided conversation in my mind, something like wow, you keep busy! Then I thought it myself....maybe she IS busy! Maybe she needs help at the shop! Wouldn't that be fun, to sit around and knit and pet the yarn and help people with their projects? So, completely on a whim, I sent her a message to that effect. And then, to my surprise, she responded saying that she was thinking of bringing shop help on in the future, but in the meantime was looking for someone to teach a Knitting 101 class, and would I be interested in that? My heart sort of leaped, and I knew that I was interested, so I leaped too! (Just as a note, while I didn't necessarily know the owner, Kate, very well, I'd been into the shop a few times and we have at least one mutual contact. I love this knitting community!)

So now that it is officially up there on the website, I'd like to announce that I'm teaching the Wednesday, April 13 session of Knitting 101 from 6-8pm at Wild Haven Fiber Co in Milwaukee, WI! (There are also some weekend classes offered - I just happen to be teaching the weeknight session.)

(Photos above are credited to

Details about the class:
This class is a 2 hour session, and is limited to 5 people in order to provide plenty of one on one instruction. I will be reviewing a few basic cast on's, how to knit and purl, a few basic cast off's, definitions of basic terms you'll come across like garter stitch and stockinette, as well as a review of yarn weights and common materials that beginning knitters should be familiar with.

To demonstrate these skills and give students a chance to practice AND get a functional object, we will be working on a cowl like this:

It is knit in the round on size 8 needles in worsted weight, and could easily work for an adult or child depending on how long the student chooses to knit it.

The cost of the class is $40, and includes needles and yarn in your choice of color.
If you are interested, give Kate a call at 414-744-0009 or stop into the shop!

(There's nothing scheduled at the moment, but there is also a 2 session knitting 102 class offered at the shop which builds on these introductory skills, resulting in a cute basic beanie style hat!)

I'm so excited to teach this class! If it all goes well, I may end up teaching this class monthly, and potentially developing new ones. Beyond that, I'm really excited to get involved with this new shop. I'm lucky in that there are a couple of pretty good yarn shops within 20 or 30 minutes drive from me, but this one is both SUPER close to me as well as exactly the aesthetic I love in a shop.

It's located in a very cute part of the city, and just has such a fresh and welcoming vibe. It's small, but the yarn selection is really great in my opinion. There's a really good balance between the fancy, luxury yarns as well as more standard, workhorse wools for mittens and socks. It probably helps that Kate's color palette and design sense are right in line with mine - a lot of natural or rich colors, simple shapes, interesting textures, beautiful but useful objects. I'm so looking forward to making Wild Haven my knit night home now that she has opened her shop up for open knitting a few times a week, and to work with her on who knows what in the future! I'm also so grateful to her for giving me a chance to stretch my skills at just the right moment when I was looking for a new opportunity! Thanks Kate!

Thursday, March 10, 2016


I am just closing out a hellishly busy travel period for work, and I am feeling restless.

One of the things that has been hardest for me, and somehow different during this project, is that I've literally been without rest. I've been a pretty good sleeper for most of my life. I typically fall asleep easily, and was definitely the stereotypical teenager who would sleep away most of the day if left to my own devices. On occasions where I have trouble falling asleep, I feel like I have no coping skills! Lately I have no trouble falling asleep....the first time. It's the 2 or 3 am wakeup that just kills me. I don't have to be awake that long, but it seems that it's JUST long enough to start my brain turning and I can't turn it off long enough to fall back asleep for another few blissful hours! I just start thinking about my to do list for the upcoming day or week, or start rehashing the work of the previous day and things left undone or did I remember to add that one thing to the plan and did I create a security issue by doing that other thing and I know I can add a wall back there and that will solve the security issue but then is that a dead end corridor? I hope I can remember to measure that in the morning and OH MY GOD GO BACK TO SLEEP ALREADY!!

I actually feel a little anxiety typing that out. And I did remember to measure that and we are golden.

So...I've been finding it a little hard to relax. Why is this project different than all the others I've worked on? I can't put my finger on exactly one thing or the other. I suspect it's an accumulation of a lot of factors...responsibility for a lot of program space, confusion over exact division of some responsibilities, growing pains in learning how to delegate work, stress and sadness about leaving home so often, length and frequency of trips, lack of consistent deep sleep and just the pace of the meetings and travel weeks. I'm definitely not one to glorify busy-ness, but I certainly have been busy lately. I'm left without either the time or the energy to recharge and reflect, and it's manifesting in this feeling of restlessness.

I'm just flying through each task and I don't feel like I have the luxury of time to stand back and get out of the weeds long enough to breathe and take in all the parts and pieces as a whole. I've finished knitting and sewing projects, but they've been thrown into immediate use with no more than a quick log of start and completion dates in ravelry. I've drawn floor plans and always find things I want to change just about as soon as the ink is dry. I think to myself how relaxing spinning some fiber could be but I need to change out the bobbin and that feels like a lot of work. That leaves me thinking that it would sure be nice to upgrade to a modern wheel. I have the money, but it feels like a wasted investment as I can't seem to find the time to spin at all. Maybe I should use that money to upgrade my wardrobe, as I constantly want to purge just about everything I own. Then I feel like I don't want to make "fast fashion" purchases, and maybe I should try to make more of my own clothes. Like wouldn't it be fantastic to have a greater selection of cute skirts with pockets? But then again, time, and the lack of it. I'm still mulling the idea of podcasting, but I worry that I would just be more noise in a sea of other podcasters, and then what's the point? I know this wall of text isn't that interesting for anyone else, but I'm hopeful it will be cathartic for me and I can stop turning it all over and over in my mind in the wee hours of the morning. If not, maybe I'll just start getting up and writing all this nonsense down here!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Oh the ambivalence. It's hard to describe how I'm feeling lately. I've definitely been in a weird mood. I suppose it's just been a really busy half year, and I haven't had the time or desire for introspection. I'm happier than I've been in a long time, which is why this mood feels so strange. It's also not that I'm not making things, because I've been making a TON! I've just had no desire to document - often I just cast off or snip the last threads and put said item immediately into rotation or give it away as a gift. There have been very few photos snapped, either on the phone or on the dusty big camera, and obviously none blogged. No particular reason other than I'm eager to move onto the next thing!

This blog. I suppose part of the reason I haven't been writing here is because I'm unsure of its purpose. While I don't think many people read, it feels weird to change gears without acknowledging the change, even if it's only a record for myself. I created this blog to keep track of things I've made, and I'd still like it to be that. I created it as a journal of sorts, and I think I'd like it to be more of that. I created it to bring attention to things I was selling on Etsy, and I don't think I want to do that anymore. I didn't sell any finished goods last year, and I've been feeling good about that. I just find that I'm in a season of life to let some things go and to move on to others, and the hobby business is one of those things. It was nice to have a little extra money, but I was getting bored making the same thing over and over, and keeping or giving so little of it to people I know. I tried a little of the linking up and self promotion to try to grow recognition or readership, but I felt weird doing it and I'm not going to anymore. It would be nice to be one of those people who makes money from their blogs, but I'm never going to be comfortable with that level of self promotion and sell your soul, so why exactly do I care about "linky parties?" (just the term, ugh)

I don't know. I just want to be me. I really don't care right now if anyone is reading, if anyone ever reads. I'm turning off all the post pushes to various social media. If people happen to find this post other ways, that's totally cool, but I'm writing this for me. I'm not linking for affiliate pennies, that wasn't really working for me. I'm going to link where I want to follow my train of thought, and that's it. A big part of me thinks I should abandon the whole thing in favor of a paper journal, or go straight up private because then I could add more photos to my stories....but I hesitate. I've been listening to and watching a ton of podcasts lately, and it feels very voyeuristic in some ways. I often feel like I "know" the people I'm listening to, and want to interact, but then feel weird that they don't know me at all. Never say never, but I don't want to be a podcaster. But I'm a bit envious of the relationship I see playing out between my digital friends, and it's like I'm not invited to the party because it's a one sided relationship. It's a very strange tension, now that I think of it. So anyway, I figure by keeping my making and some of my random trains of thought public (though not promoted), I can join in that conversation if I want to.

As for the title of this post, RENEW is my word of 2016. I don't do a lot of resolutions, but I've heard of the one little word or theme of the year thing for a couple of years from a couple of places. I think renew could serve me rather well. I've been keeping pace with a lot of things, and I'm at a place now where I am ready to step back, prioritize, and renew my focus on the things that are most important to me....and just let the rest go. So here's to that, happy 2016.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

How tired am I?

I firmly believe that a continuous lack of decent amount of consecutive hours of sleep is a very effective form of torture, and a device for seeing exactly how stupid and clumsy you can be.

I keep my compostable food scraps in a gladware container in the fridge, because this limits how full we can stuff the bin before taking it outside, and it keeps the scraps from smelling or collecting fruit flies. However. We also keep food leftovers in gladware containers in the fridge.

As I was making my lunch today, I realized that I'd dumped the coffee grounds that were intended for compost into the container holding the last dozen or so mini pumpkin muffins instead. This was annoying, but there were still a few that were untouched by the grounds and seemed salvageable. I scooped them out and put them into a fresh container. And then I knocked that container on the floor.

That was very annoying.

I'm so tired.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

making progress like molasses

I don't know what it is, but I am in a capital F-Funk.

Everything I'd like to do seems to be preceded by a whole bunch of other tasks, some of which I want to do, some I really don't, and others I'm not sure if I can.

I want to do more sewing to both grow my shop offerings and to make a bunch of personal things I have in the queue. To do that, I need to finish the sewing studio. To do that, I need to finish the cutting table. To do that, I need to assemble it. To do that, I need to finish painting the bases so that I can attach and stain the top. I've managed to get exactly one coat of paint on one of the cutting table bases. I'll need at least two coats of paint, and another coat or two of poly. That single coat took forever. Even mother nature was laughing at me as she rained down falling leaves into my wet paint, and now it's too cold outside to even finish the job.

So to do that, I need to clear space in the studio itself, but it has inexplicably become overrun with toys as well as all my junk because I haven't finished out the shelving yet, so I have nowhere to put anything. To do that, I need to figure out what to do about the rug so that I can face being down there. (I finally ordered a rug several weeks ago. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, so I was trying to get used to it. In the meantime, the cat had several large disgusting incidents all over it. My husband tried to clean it up, but used way too much cleaner and way not enough rinsing. I've tried scrubbing at it with water several times, but I fear the whole thing may be ruined, which really pisses me off. Last ditch effort may be renting carpet scrubber to try to fix it. And probably drinking a bottle of wine to take the edge off.) To stop this from happening again, I need to actually HANG the door that I purchased to prevent it in the first place. To do that, my husband needs to modify the door. I don't feel like I can do this myself because he started modifying the frame, and I expect he had a correlating plan to do the door the same way. So all that being said....I just feel stuck. I feel like there are just too many things, and they all feel overwhelming.

I'd like to be on top of the laundry situation because not being on my game is spiraling out of control over the rest of the house.. To do that, I need to clean out the laundry room which is currently filled with both scraps of and full sheets of drywall. I can't physically move the 4x8 sheets by myself (probably), so instead I just get frustrated that they are in my way. I'd like to move them into the garage, but to do that I need to either organize it or face the fact that no, we will not be parking a car in there this winter. All of this basement/laundry disorganization prevents me from other issues, like storage of outgrown clothing, what else can or should be moved to the studio from the former office/now playroom. There's this crazy domino effect, and I seem to be the only person bothered by it. But I feel like it's more than I can tackle on my own. I'm not great at asking for help. Maybe it's because I have this insane rolling list in my mind (yes, even more than I've outlined here!). There's an order that I feel things need to be completed, and I think I'm just crap at communicating said order. Plus it's not like time is this unlimited thing, and my timeline never seems to align with those of the people I need help from.

Usually I can get out of this sort of cycle by just writing things down, or talking it out or something. But it's not working for me this time. This time I just feel overwhelmed. Rather than feeling motivated by my list, I feel sort of crippled by it. 

So I feel stuck. And in a funk. And altogether crabby about it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Some thoughts on pricing on Etsy

Crochet Booties

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and for handmakers, now is the heart of the busy season. As soon as the calendar clicked over to fall, I could see my Etsy shop views and favorites start to double....and even triple. I've been making enough sales to keep me rather busy, but I'm not overwhelmed just yet. However, making products, listings, re-listings, shipping things's all got me to thinking a lot about the way I run my shop and the way I've set my prices.

Want to know a secret? When I opened up my shop, I had no method to pricing. None. I simply threw out a number that felt sort of ok and went with it. I sold quite a few kids hats in the early days, and I priced them all pretty much the same. I thought, well, a kid's hat should be about.....this much, and I held that price despite differences in quality of material, varying complexities in pattern or color changes, and just went with it. I did price enough to cover the cost of materials and a little bit of pocket money to, most likely, buy more materials. But for my time? I pretty much didn't get anything for my time.
Slipper Socks
Don't get me wrong, I love making things. But when you are taking time from your family, your leisure time and your own sort of want something to show for it in return. I don't think that's greedy, I just think that's fair. Ironically, the more complex and time intensive a project is, I'm more likely to give it as a gift than for something for sale. I recently had someone inquire about the Nova sweater dress I'd knit to see if I'd ever consider making them for sale (by the way, thank you SO much for your interest! That was so sweet!) My first instinct was, good lord, how would you even price a whole sweater?! I mean, I can't just say $40 because that's what you might pay somewhere like baby Gap, because what if it takes me a month? But I also can't just say $300, because that's astronomical.

So I decided to actually work it out. What WOULD it cost to make that dress? In the past, I simply searched for similar items on Etsy and priced myself sort of in the low end of the middle of the pack. But after doing a bunch of research, and an incredibly enlightening conversation with the lovely and talented Elizabeth Ivie of Ivie Baby, I came to the conclusion that it makes MUCH more sense to look at my actual process and workflow to set my prices. I made myself a little spreadsheet, and it really opened my eyes. Even for the few existing items in my shop, I was paying myself a really wide and nonsensical variety of rates....some as low as $2/hr. Wow. What's minimum wage these days? Somewhere around $7? I've definitely done those jobs, as cashiering and filing work bought my first car and got me through the early years of college. Knitting and sewing certainly feel like more skilled labor than swiping canned food through the scanner. And yet I was only paying myself a fraction of that rate. And why? I'm certainly much more proud of anything I make in my shop than I was of those neatly alphabetized files.

I'm still working through it, but I think I've come to a couple of conclusions. First, an hourly rate doesn't make sense for knitting. For example, it takes me about 3 hours (roughly - I rarely have that much time in a single block in order to measure this!) to make one mitten. Double that, because most people order two mittens, and we're up to 6 hours. Conservatively, another hour or two for finishing work (it ALWAYS takes longer than you think it will!) and the we're up to 8 hours. 8 hours x $7/hour = $56. FIFTY-six dollars. FOR BASIC KID'S MITTENS. They're cute. But I'm not certain they are $56 cute.

Toddler Mittens

So....hourly rates for knitting sort of don't make sense. However, an option commonly used by commission knitters is a rate per YARD of knitting. This can range from $0.15-0.25 per yard of yarn depending on the difficulty of the pattern. I can easily do some mathematical wizardry (ahem multiplication and division) and figure out how many yards of yarn I'm using based on the total yards in the skein of yarn and the weight of the finished object. It's been pretty enlightening for me to work those numbers on the current (and super long list of potential future) items in my shop.

Hourly rates DO make sense for sewing though. Yardage doesn't, because yards go by in a snap when you're talking fabric! Plus there are all kinds of other details from cutting, actual sewing, finishing, and details like buttons, snaps or zippers to consider. Elizabeth said that she looked around at what professional seamstresses charge, and set her rates accordingly. When you are selling independently, you are not only the designer and maker, but you are also responsible for all of the back of house accounting, billing, shipping and marketing - those overhead costs really should be factored into your rates.

Even if you are selling as a hobby, it's important to price your work fairly. Some people are doing this as a full time gig, and it would be wicked tough to survive at $3 an hour. I've been working on a pair of socks (off and on) since June. So given the time investment, and the fact that good, solid quality sock yarn can cost $10 on its own, it's sort of heartbreaking to see people selling a pair of handknit socks for $12. I don't think you can even get Smartwool socks for less than $20 without some sort of monster sale! Obviously everyone should do what feels right for them, but the implication to buyers might be that ALL handknit socks should be worth $12, and I just don't believe that's true.

Snap Scarf
 I realized one more thing that I think is key for me to keep in mind. I - and other crafters and makers like me - might not be my ideal client base. Let's face it, I learned to knit and crochet and sew and who knows what else because I want nice things for just the cost of materials. I'm WILLING to invest my time and energy into learning these skills and into the time it takes to make them. I am not willing to pay for someone else to do this (mostly - I do still buy handmade from other people when I just don't have the time to pull something off or the desire to do it as well as they do!). It's important for me to realize that other people would much rather make the trade off to pay someone else to do the hard work and for them to buy the finished object. After years and years of mass production, there are plenty of people out there who actually want to seek out artisans to make them beautiful handmade things. And THOSE people are my actual client base. They understand that the cost of handmade goes beyond the wholesale price of paper and ink, or yarn, or fabric. It's much more than that. It's time. It's talent. It's hard work. And it's care.

So those are my thoughts on pricing these days. How do other people do it? What is handmade worth to you?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fall traditions, and works in various stages of progress

Just like the rest of the country, or so it might seem from my facebook feed, we've done the obligatory fall rites of passage this past week.

(I had to zoom in really far in order not to capture any unsuspecting families)

Almost immediately afterwards, we went above and beyond with the fall traditions.

The knitting was essential, as I was trapped beneath a sick person and couldn't risk moving. I only wish I'd thought to turn on the lights before we sat down...or that I wasn't working on something in black at the time.

If only I'd thought to grab one of my other projects! I'm plugging along slowly on my cardigan, and have only managed to miss one buttonhole which should have been worked "at the same time." You know you're in for it whenever directions toss one of those your way!

I've also got some gorgeously smooshy Skacel SimpliWorsted which is working up quite quickly and nicely. (I got it at an adorable new to me LYS called Bungalow Quilting and Yarn. They also carry all of that pretty Cotton + Steel fabric I see all over the blogosphere....dangerous.)

Speaking of fabric and why sometimes you really SHOULD buy it in person...

The two on the right are from and are both "navy." (sweatshirt fleece and ribbed knit) Now, I like both colors on their own, but they were meant to go into one project, so that's just not going to work for me. Even now, looking at the listings in better light, it's OBVIOUS they are different colors, but I didn't expect it to be so drastic. So, rookie mistake on my part. The gray herringbone* is from Joann Fabrics* and is likely destined to be a snap scarf. I'm going to take the sweatshirt fleece with me next time to see if I can get a decent match, or at least a passable contrasting color. And all of those projects are just waiting for me to get a little more work done on that table!

*this post contains affiliate links

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Finally finished

Ravelry says that I finished this Nova sweater dress in June.

That's not entirely true. Yes, I finished the knitting. Yes, I wove in the ends. I even bought grosgrain ribbon and buttons at some point shortly thereafter. But I put it away. I didn't have it in me to finish it.

You see, I was going through a hard time when I knit this dress. There was a painful loss in my life, and it was all I could do to just mindlessly knit, row after row, a little shaping but mostly stockinette for miles. It was therapeutic. It was something to do other than cry. I needed something to hold on to, to rip apart if it wasn't working, to put back together again because it could, in fact, be put back together.

I pulled it out a few nights back. I on a high after finishing my wallaby sweater for the Commuter Knitter finish-a-long. I didn't put this dress on my list, because I didn't know if I'd be able to. I was happy to realize that when I got it out, I didn't see it as a sign of pain, but as a symbol of making it through.

I hadn't quite realized how much it had helped me until I was listening to another podcast this week, from Michelle of ACTually Knitting (who, by the way, I think has such a soothing voice, great for a podcast). She was talking about how the simple act of knitting has helped her get through some really hard times this past year, and wanted to start a discussion of what other people had done or achieved or accomplished #becauseofknitting. At first I thought of my awesome knitting group and the slow but steady growth of my shop, but as she kept talking and started revealing the deeper things, the real things, I realized that knitting had helped me too.

(on more technical notes, I wish I'd sewn all the buttons on so the direction of the thread was the same, but I didn't. I tried lining the back of the buttonhole side with ribbon, but it didn't work out. I did line the back of the buttonband, but I didn't use backing buttons and I'm still not sure what they are for. The ribbon at the hem will hopefully stop that edge from flipping up the way stockinette garments so often do, despite the garter stitch border. The yarn used is toddler friendly Lion Brand Baby Soft and Bernat Softee Baby acrylics in DK weight. Overall I really enjoyed the pattern, and I think the only change I made was to reverse the order of the shaping stitches in the skirt.)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Get out of town

In a move that surprised no one more than me, I decided to go on a getaway weekend...camping. This is surprising because I'm not what anyone would consider...outdoorsy.

I also do NOT pack light. My sister goes backpacking. I don't even know how we are related.

Because we don't camp, we have not much in the way of gear and had to borrow most of it. Thanks guys! My neighbor let us test out both of her tents.

We had actually decided on the larger one hiding behind the sheets (man I love the smell of line drying, and we even get pretty lucky with the birds not leaving us presents despite the lines running right below a huge tree), but we were told it wasn't quite waterproof. We ended up bringing both (see, I don't pack light), but only pitching the little one on the right because there was a 50% chance of rain. It was....cozy, but considering this was a little getaway, we didn't mind the close quarters. I never come out on the right side of 50% crappy weather odds, but we did this time. Probably because we prepared!

We also borrowed these sleeping pads, and I will say that the blue one (similar here I think) was SO comfortable! It's self-inflating, and while I felt sort of like a moron watching it because I wasn't positive it was actually inflating, I wasn't sore at all after sleeping on just that. My husband layered two of those foam pads and said his arm and hip were falling asleep laying on his side. I took this picture to send to my backpacking sister, who also thinks the foam mats are uncomfortable. Look, it's just as small!

Anyway, I did basically no research on the park we decided to stay at, which is also a change for me. The times I've camped in the past, I spent a ton of time looking at maps and reviews and pictures of the actual sites. This time, I simply picked a weekend, found a place that had available sites that wasn't 4 hours away, and just booked it. While we did have a really nice, relaxing time, that may have been a mistake. Our site was totally not private, was mostly pit toilets, and they didn't allow alcohol?! I don't remember seeing that on the website. We went ahead and operated under the assumption that no one would care as long as we didn't bother anyone!

Isn't it strange when the man-made influence becomes so obvious even when you're supposed to be in nature?

We did manage to catch a peek of real nature as well. Two little fawns, one quicker than my camera. We didn't see her, but figured the mother must have been there as well.

Another crazy juxtaposition of the quiet and pretty empty forest to the left of the bridge, and a floating redneck trailer park on the right. I totally didn't understand all the people partying on boats...right next to the road. Trust me, you're glad I didn't take a picture.

Our exhausted little buddy. He's not been feeling so well lately, so we didn't take a very long walk. Three weeks ago he started not walking on his back leg. We had him examined, but he still wasn't using it after a week and a half. I scheduled an x-ray, so of course he started walking normally again. Luckily I was able to cancel and save a couple hundred dollars, but it would have been nice to get his teeth cleaned while he was knocked out! Oh, the breath! He's still acting sort of off though...I hope he gets better soon!

 This last one is a joke for those who know and love him - the breaker of all the things struck again! He's lashing together his folding chair with string. I guess it was "time for it to break." In the interest of full disclosure, the chairs cost about $7 each a few years ago, and the fabric on mine MAY have also ripped that weekend. I still maintain he must have sat in mine too!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's going around - Liebster Award

I think using the word "award" is a little off, since this basically amounts to a get to know you survey. But I suppose being nominated for a survey isn't that exciting? So....I've been nominated for a Liebster Award by Heather from Nearly There and Leyla from Silk and Wool

So there are rules.
  1. Post 11 random facts about myself
  2. Answer 11 questions the awarding blogger has asked
  3. Nominate 11 blogs with less than 200 followers, add their links to this post, and let them know that they have been nominated
  4. Create 11 questions the nominated blogs have to answer
  5. (and post these rules!)
I'm probably going to break the rules, most notably the nomination of other blogs. I'll do my best to call some out specifically, but I'm also very open to self nomination. Want to participate? Comment or email me at cozycapecottage {at} and I'll add you to the post. Oh, and I'm also ignoring the follower rule, because I can't actually figure out how many people follow THIS blog, let alone others. I'm just tagging blogs I like or people who have left me some comments recently to get to know them better!

Random facts about me:

1. I hate driving. The self driving Google car can't come quickly enough for me.

2. I like the idea of traveling much more than the reality of it. I love seeing new places and doing cool things, but I tend to lose MY cool on the last day or two of a trip, no matter the length. I'm a homebody for sure.

3.  I swam distance on the varsity team as a freshman in high school, but I got such horrible repeated ear infections that I had to quit.

4. I've never seen several movies that seem to shock people, such as Star Wars, The Godfather, Goonies

5. I'm definitely an "oldest child"

6. While I enjoy writing, I'm terrible at correspondence.

7. I had to get bifocals this year. I'm 31.

8. Other than the mortgage, we should be debt free in 2015.

9. I'm a terrible morning person. I used to be a night owl, but now I love to go to bed around 9. What does that make me....a midday person?

10. I can remember specific things from a meeting a year ago, or full movie monologues, but I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday or what I'm supposed to be doing tomorrow. If it isn't on my calendar, it doesn't exist.

11. I love my cat and dog, but I don't think I'm an "animal person." I'm also not sure that I'll get more pets later in would be nice not to have pet hair all over everything all the time.

Questions answered:

1. How important is your blog to you in the big picture of life?
 Minimal to medium. I enjoy it, or I wouldn't do it. But it's firmly a hobby for me. I appreciate it for keeping record of what I'm working on, and getting to know people. I never want to think up projects or whatever "for the blog."
2. What are the things that help you relax most?

Knitting, yoga, wine, naps. Quiet time is very important to me.

3. How much do you agree to the saying “If you are good at doing something, you shouldn’t do it for free”, especially related to your favorite craft/hobby/passion ?
I disagree. I'm not saying to give everything away for free, but money isn't everything.
4. What are 2-3 things you are most proud of, in regards to your favorite craft/hobby/passion? If you have posts/pictures, please add those.
I'm pretty darn proud of the chair I reupholstered, imperfections and all. (Ok, the imperfections totally bother me.)

I'm also going to be pretty proud of this dress when it's finished. Beyond the image below, I've attached the sleeves and have the front flap complete and part of the yoke. It's also imperfect, but it doesn't bother me as much. Growth?

5. Do you ever get presents from friends or relatives related to  your favorite craft/hobby/passion?

Yes! Most recently I got the Knit Kit because my husband felt bad for how I was always fumbling for my scissors or darning needle. (That's an affiliate link. It's something I'm trying out)
6. Do you like sports? Which kinds?
Eh, not really. I don't mind the occasional baseball game or superbowl party with friends, but there is nothing I follow. I'm fairly entertained by the fights at hockey games. Are there no rules at all?
7. Do your ever dream (in sleep) about your hobby?
Not that I recall
8. Do you have a favorite dish? What is it?
Tomato soup + grilled cheese is my comfort food.
9. What things do you prefer visually? (Any given colour? Bright multi-colour patterns? Simple patterns? Busy patterns? Any particular style – e.g. steam punk, oriental, baroque?) Be as general or as specific as you like.
Simple, neutral, geometric for sure. I appreciate the rustic, collected look, but I can't pull it off yet.
10. What are your goals for the next few years, related to your favorite craft/hobby/passion? Do you have any?
I suppose continuing to grow and develop new skills. I'd love to do something with colorwork, like one of those scandanavian stranded sweaters that look adorable on kids. Cables are on my short list too.
11. Are you a process or end-result oriented?
Both, but halfway through the process I usually get pretty antsy for the finished product.

Questions for others:

1. Hot or cold weather?

2. Dream job?

3. Skill you are totally jealous of?

4. What is your guilty pleasure indulgence?

5. Proudest accomplishment?

6. Favorite place?

7. Drink of choice?

8. Describe your current home

9. Describe your dream home

10. What do you pretend to like because you should, but actually don't?

11. What does your life look like in 3 years?

Phew....that was a lot harder than I thought it would be! So I now nominate:

And hey, I got to 11! But I'll still take write in self-nominations. :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why I create

So about a week ago, I found a new to me blogger, and she wrote a post that got me thinking - why DO I create? She's hosting a link up thing, and I flipped through several of my recent posts, thinking that I have to have addressed this, but I really haven't! So here it is - get ready for a potentially disorganized pile of thoughts.

So why do I make things? A very short version is probably that I've always been a creative sort, and I like having meaningful things.

For the longer version, well here we go. I can't remember a time when I WASN'T making something. I have this memory of when I was probably about 6 years old, trying to make my Barbies clothes on a little knitting loom. If memory serves, I believe it was this one:

I don't remember if I ever finished that beautiful sparkly ball gown, but I remember enjoying the knitting. Though come to think of it, I'm not sure I even knew that it really WAS knitting, since it's not on needles like you imagine, but I thought it was pretty cool. I may have also had a sweatshirt like the one pictured on the box, so maybe my opinion of "cool" is somewhat suspect. What can I say, it was the 80's. We rented the lower apartment of a duplex for a few years when I was little, and our upstairs neighbor was an occupational therapist for kids, and I remember that she had an entire ROOM full of craft supplies. Even now, on the cusp of getting my own craft space, that seemed like such a luxury! I definitely remember making one of those puffy paint applique sweatshirts at her house!

While my neighbor was definitely a crafty influence in my life, of course the larger influence were my parents. My mom taught me to sew in high school, and tried teaching me to knit then as well. Knitting wasn't something she did frequently, so I'm not sure where I got the desire to learn. In any case, I think I sort of learned the basic stitches, but it didn't really stick. A few years later, I decided to take up yarn again, but decided to crochet, as one stick seemed easier to manage than two. I didn't know anyone who could teach me, so I taught myself from books, and everyone got an itchy acrylic scarf for Christmas that year! A few years after that I decided to try knitting again, and thankfully YouTube had come around by then. It was so much easier to watch a video than to decipher those drawings in books! While my dad isn't much for sewing (though he CAN patch all the clothes my mom would rather he toss!), he has done a lot of creating himself. My parents still have a dresser and a few other furniture pieces he's made - things I didn't even know were handmade until years later. I helped him a little with building a deck at one house, and he built a pool house himself at another. Truth be told, it was supposed to be a shed for the heater, but it ended up having a bathroom, bar and a loft. I'm not sure if this was an expression of creativity....or a good reason to get out of a house with three teenage girls.....

My mom always made our Halloween costumes herself. I'm not sure I can remember wearing anything storebought....well ever, actually. (I take that back - I did buy a Dorothy costume when I was working at a daycare in college because I didn't have a place for my sewing machine at the time.) While I do remember a few rather stressful fittings on October 29th or 30th, I always loved that she made our outfits. They were totally different than anything anyone else had, and we could be anything we wanted. I year (possibly several) I was a purple unicorn with a pink mane and tail. You just don't find that at Target. A lot of kids probably had similar experiences, as I'm not sure pre-made costumes were SUPER common 20-30 years ago, like they are now. But for me, it really resonated. When you take the time to make it yourself, you get something totally unique, just for you, and made with love (and maybe some swear words and tears, but it's all part of the process). I'm absolutely thrilled to carry on the tradition of handmade Halloween costumes.

I love that I can have things in my home that are totally unique and made with my own hands.  It makes me really proud when people ask where I got that, and I get to say, oh that? Yeah, I made that.

(The chair....not the dog....obviously)

While just buying something to suit my needs is OBVIOUSLY much faster and more convenient, I love the rhythm of the making. It's fun to remember the time in my life when I made that thing. For example, that chair came to be reupholstered over a full month in the winter time and I found myself indulging in many hours of the Kardashians. (Canceling out something productive with something decidedly not?) Or the years before we insulated our house, and my feet were cold, which resulted in these:

Or the polar vortex of last winter, which had me gravitating toward the warmest, fastest things I could think of!

Making things is so a part of my core identity that it's even what I do for a living. (While my Etsy shop is a lovely hobby, it's not my day to day!) As is probably somewhat obvious, I loved my art classes as a child. I never had an opportunity to tell her, and I suspect she's passed by now, but my decision to become an architect all goes back to my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Waldenberger. I believe it was part of a parent-teacher conference, and she commented to my parents that I was good at art, and something to the effect that you can't make much of a career as an artist, so I should be an architect. Done. Isn't it crazy, how something like that can shape your ENTIRE life? While it was never my path to be one, teachers really can make such an impact on young lives, and I was so lucky to have so many good ones. After that, I was the token girl (sometimes there were two....even three of us!) in the drafting classes in high school, and I went right on to a four year degree in architecture, followed up with a two year masters program, without even so much as a waver. It feels sort of destined. I shape space during the day, and I turn bits of string and cloth into useful, beautiful things at night. I write here, continuing a long history of hidden diaries as a child, and giving a bit of life to that fantasy of being Carrie Bradshaw, typing out stories at a coffee shop. I create because that's what I know. While I've sometimes envied the money that comes along with the finance or medical careers of some of my friends, I've never regretted my choice to land on the creative side of life. Yes, more money would always be nice, but I find that I'm pretty satisfied most days with how I've spent my time. And I suppose that's a pretty good reason to create.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Changing my internet habits

Oh internet. You evil, wonderful, time suck, wealth of inspiration and knowledge, creative haven and mean girl. I want to change the way I interface with it, both with the content out there, and with the gadgets that get me there. I've lamented about this before. I started drafting this post back in December. So it's been on my mind for a while. I've made some strides, but I've still got a way to go. At work they describe this as "continuous improvement." I kind of like that - if you continuously improve, you're never really done. You never really fail, because you can always improve. You can always change your outlook, because you can continuously improve. So here I am again, pontificating.

image source

I want to change the way I internet. (Yes, I just verb-ed that.) I just waste too much time on stuff I skim past, which gets me in a skimming habit, which means I'm totally missing both beautiful inspiration as well as the interactive community of other bloggers. Back in January (I guess I wrote a version of this post already!) I told myself that I should be a little more mindful about the blogs I read, and actually take the time to savor them. I've done a somewhat decent job! I've actually followed up on some blogs I've read on my phone to leave a comment or a thought when I'm back at a computer. I've pinned things that I'd love to reference in the future. I just keep trying not to let all the cool stuff just slip through my fingers! I've just been using that little "save for later" flag in feedly, and then I can flip right past all the news headlines or coupon deals or whatever and only click on the ones I'm interested in. (One other thing that helps me is that I'll create calendar events for myself for time sensitive things like those coupon deals. I email them to myself from feedly, and then I use gmail to create an event. Is that as roundabout as it sounds? I guess I like it because it tracks back to the source that has all the info, rather than me re-typing it all.)

Facebook. Eh. I have a history of waffling there. I want to connect, I want to bury my head in the sand, I want more friends, I want to hide 2/3 of them from my newsfeed, I want to connect, I want to be anonymous, I want to be offline...I want to see what's going on. I guess my latest attitude toward it is that I DO want to connect with people, but I don't want to share too much. Same as on the blog, I suppose. I also think it may be a good business move to have a presence there (I have a business page, but I still haven't figured out how to use it!). Plus I find out about some pretty cool stuff there, like the Grateful Hearts Giving Network, and I was able to attend their kick-off event. So, for now, facebook stays. My current attitude toward it is that I should at least try to be funny or interesting if I post, and I can only flip through headlines after I post something. Because I'm not a huge poster, this automatically limits the time I spend there! I can stay somewhat in the loop, without losing my whole day. And....well, I'm likely to change this attitude at will. Have before, will again!

Mean girls....that's one I might be completely over. Now, I will say that, like with most discussion boards I've participated in, I'm not a huge contributor. I pipe up if I feel like I have something constructive to say, or a question to ask, but mostly I just read. There's a particular snarky website that I loooove. It's like celebrity gossip, but about bloggers. I don't know, I guess I think it's interesting to read a blog, and then read the commentary? I guess I need a life? ha. During a period of unemployment, I paid it a lot more attention. When I would run out of commentary to read about blogs I already read, I started reading the most frequented threads about blogs I didn't read....but you'd sort of have to read the source material to get the jokes. So that devolved into a pretty big time suck. I've quit reading those threads and blogs that were just....something to read. Now I pop in from time to time on a very limited number of threads just to see if anyone else thought the same thing I did, but I'm not wasting my time on 25 pages of pointless snarking. Nope. No time for that.

Finally. The phone. I've improved maybe.....20% in my zoning out to this, that and the other app when I should be doing something else. Better. Not great. I think I need to come up with a code word for "get the h*ll off your phone," but something that sounds nicer. Less likely for the other person to get mad if I say it, and less likely for me to be mean when it's directed at me. Maybe if I let my husband in on my thought process, we can just say "phone" to each other, and we'll get the message. It probably makes more sense than saying "octopus" or something, and it's faster than "if you don't put that thing down right now I'm going to scream!" Check the weather, sure, fine. But the room, and the land of the living. (So after I discussed this post with my husband, he immediately latched onto "Bueller" as the official code word. Why? I have no idea. But he said it with enthusiasm! So! Bueller it is.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014


My office does this annual thing called "Employee Appreciation Week." It's a pretty cool perk, with daily food or booze related events and social gatherings, and free chair massages, which are totally my favorite part. We also get forms to fill out to tell coworkers we appreciate them and what they do. It's one of those things that for whatever reason just makes me groan when I see them, because I always feel totally blocked about what to write. Doesn't help if you've had a particularly stressful day of work! However, when I DO get in the right headspace and take the time to think about things, it feels good to get it down. It helps bring me out of the day to day and think about the bigger picture, which is pretty darn good! I suppose that's the goal of having a week like this. Of course not every part of work, or life, or even hobbies is awesome and fun, but in a larger sense things are actually pretty good.

I purposefully don't talk about it much here, but I definitely do appreciate my job. My career really. While sometimes the day to day can be hard, and I definitely wish that I could somehow do it AND sleep all day, it's pretty good. I've been here almost 3 years after a brief period (relatively, especially considering how it could have been) of unemployment. I don't know if that makes me extra appreciative, but I really do think this is the best job I've had. I feel lucky that I found a niche in my field that comprises most of the things I really like, and few of the things I don't enjoy so much. I know there is drama and office politics out there, like everywhere, but I tend to just tune it out. If it's nothing that affects me directly, it's just not worth my energy, you know? It makes me happier anyway. Yes, I do have to travel and that's not always fun, but I don't see a way to keep doing what I'm doing without that face to face time, so it's necessary. I've been lucky recently with a manageable travel schedule that has me gone only about once a month. It helps that I've been with a pretty fun group of people though, and I feel like I'm developing good friendships. While so many of my coworkers are so nice, I hadn't really "clicked" with anyone the way I had at my last job, but I'm in a place now where the work friends are turning into real friends, and that's awesome.

My family has a lot to do with making that travel for work run smoothly. I also purposefully don't talk about that much here, but I have a wonderful partner who keeps things running when I'm away, and does so much when I'm home too. We've been married 7 years this year, and together nearly a decade, which is getting to be a pretty sizable fraction of our lives! The past few years have been ones of upheaval, easy and hard and wonderful. There have been immense joys and struggles and rough times but we're in it for the long haul, and I would say that we're in a solid, happy, honest place. I so appreciate him, and could definitely do more to show him! I should borrow some of those appreciation forms! I've also very sneakily managed to collect my immediate family members to within a 3ish mile radius of my little cozy cape cottage, which has been immeasurably awesome. I love getting to see them so frequently and share our lives and meals and time without the stress of long trips to make that happen. Yes, there is still far-flung extended family, and I've got one more sister to bring back home into the family compound, but I definitely appreciate the closeness we have.

I appreciate the friendships I have, old ones we've managed to maintain and ones more recently made. This is certainly a changeable stage of life, and it takes more effort to keep relationships going when you no longer see each other daily in school, and there are kids and jobs and boys that distract us. I've spoken for my love for my book club and my knitting group before, and I feel so lucky to have them on TOP of neighborhood play dates and one on one coffees, dinners, shopping, lounging get togethers. I'm introverted by nature, and definitely a homebody. I'm not a social butterfly, but I feel like I've got a pretty good balance of time alone and time with people I really enjoy. A long while ago, I just decided to stop concentrating on any relationships that stressed me out. I make conscious efforts not to get into frenemy territory any more, and the improvement in my life and relationships has been so great. Since then, it seems that friction in relationships doesn't even have much to do with other people. I'm not going to make sweeping judgements and cut people out of my life. It all seems to be a matter of MY attitude. If a relationship is stressing me out or I'm getting into comparison territory or jealousy or whatever, I've just been giving it distance and space. Sometimes we come back together, and that's wonderful. Sometimes we don't, and that's ok too. I think the ideal place to be is when you enjoy the people you see, and you can feel genuinely happy to bump into those who have fallen away from your day to day. Life is too short for grudges, you know?

I've certainly gone into a very zen place, huh? I guess it's fair to say that I appreciate my yoga class? Another pretty sweet perk of my job is an opportunity to attend a weekly class nearby, and I totally love it. I'm not the most motivated person when it comes to fitness, so the fact that this class is both relaxing AND hard core? Awesome. I'm learning to appreciate my body for the things it can do, and even the things it can't do (confession - I can't touch my toes without bending my knees! Expert yogi I am NOT!) I can see improving. It helps clear my mind, and really does relieve a good deal of stress. It frees up my head space for other endeavors. The past several years have been a slowly building wave of creativity for me, and I love it. I originally opened my Etsy shop in November 2012, and I've been pleasantly surprised at the response I've gotten. I admittedly haven't yet had the time to devote to developing and nurturing it the way I really want to, but I've had a fairly steady stream of people noticing it and what I'm doing, and it's just awesome to hear that they think good things. It's a really personal thing to make something with your own hands for someone else, and to put it out into the world. I don't get reviews for every sale, and that's ok, but I so value and appreciate when someone comes back and drops me a little note to let me know that they like (or even if they didn't, as that's a chance for me to revise) something I made for them. I feel that way about this blog too. It's just random nattering (that sometimes really does go ON AND ON, as illustrated by this very post), and it floors me when people tell me they actually read and maybe even liked something I wrote! Like the shop, I don't know if I have a specific goal here. But I appreciate the outlet and I'm happy to let things grow and develop organically for now.

The internet really does offer up a whole creative world. I'm putting this tiny bit out there myself, and I feel totally inspired by the things I find in return. Blogs, tutorials,'s so cool to see (or hear I suppose!) people doing what they do. The "crafty" or "inspirational" sections of my feedly are positively bursting right now. New favorites include Cozy Things, Film in the Fridge, Stitched in Color, Attic24, crab+fish, enJOY it (I just discovered her podcast yesterday on Down Cellar Studio's recommendation and I LOVE it), Posie Gets Cozy, Knitmore Girls, Susan B Anderson, Ysolda....and that doesn't even touch favorites I've been reading a while. (Especially favorites there are DIYdiva, Newlywoodwards, Russet Street Reno, Yellow Brick Home, Manhattan Nest, and a few daily reads that may or may not be creatives, just blogs I enjoy, like My Life in Transition, Peanut Butter Sandwich, In Her Shoes and Through Her Lens, Living Well on the Cheap, it's a dog lick baby world, Young House Love, and the defunct but lovely Chez Larsson and Aurajoon.)

And to sum up this long and wondering stream of consciousness, I can't leave out the place I'm eternally making into home, and the furballs that help fill it up and send me off to work with hair on my pants. :)


Friday, April 4, 2014

Crazy bag lady

So on Fridays, I go to yoga at lunch. I love the class, but there really isn't a great place to change before and after, so the goal for my outfit on Fridays is to somehow dress both for yoga and for casual Friday. This was easy in the winter, because it was so cold I would just wear leggings under my jeans, and I was both warm and ready for class. Yay!

Now that it's warming up eeeever so slightly, I have to get more creative. Today I decided that I would wear leggings under a maxi dress, theorizing that might be a good combo of layers and breeziness for a spring day. I paired the short sleeved maxi dress with a long sweater that could skew either boho or granny, but maybe works ok, and flats. Only to get fully dressed and downstairs and's raining. I hate when the bottom of my pants, or in this case dress, get wet. There was no time to change, so I tossed my shoes in my purse and opted for rainboots. They were adorable a few years ago, black with white polka dots. Over the years, these target boots have aged to black with....I don't know, tan? polka dots and are slightly less adorable, but still serve the purpose. I haphazardly tucked my dress into the top of the boots, which I'm sure looked quite fetching.

As for jacket, I grabbed my raincoat because, duh, raining. It's navy blue, a trench style, quite cute actually. There was a green scarf on its hanger, so without thinking about how it didn't match, I put that on. It's still a little chilly, so I grabbed this headband earwarmer thing.

I got outside. Long black dress tucked into somewhat discolored rainboots. Long multicolored striped (let's face it) granny sweater peeking out from too lazy to button up blue raincoat. Green scarf. Oatmeal earwarmer.

And then I realized that I must look completely insane.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Everyone should have a book club

Yesterday was the second Tuesday of the month, so in my world, and the worlds of a dozen or so other ladies in my area, that means it was time for book club. I was thinking about the night as I was getting ready, and it just struck me that it was just a really GOOD night. It wasn't necessarily anything special or different than usual. In fact it was probably much the same, but that I just happened to stop and think about it. It was just...really good, and I think everyone should have something like that.

Our host last night was a new mom, who rather bravely volunteered to host while her little guy was only 6 weeks old. Like 6 week old babies tend to be between the hours of 7-9 (the witching hour for the uninitiated) he was a little fussy. We continued having conversations, large group, small asides, background music playing, baby fussing and then calming, new mama doing a great job doing her thing as well as joining in with the group, and this morning I just felt so lucky to be part of a group like that. Comfortable, accommodating, really smart, great people. Over the years people will sometimes ask how we operate, how we got started, how we keep going. I invite everyone local to come join us if they are interested, and I think most of our group is the same way. Our door is open if you want to hang out, and if not, that's cool too!

We've been meeting for just over 6 years, second Tuesday of the month, from about 7-9, with surprisingly few deviations. Our members have a lot of similarities, but we're rather diverse as well in terms of life stage, marital status, jobs. Membership ebbs and flows as new people are invited, and others leave. There are 12-15 of us on the invite list, and maybe 6-8 attend. No one has perfect attendance and there's certainly no penalty for that. We started out with our 2 founding members - both of whom have moved away now and are missed! - dreaming about one day having free time beyond the grind of thesis preparation. From what I recall, they had lots of plans about what they would do with all of that free time, and starting a book club was one of those things that came to fruition.

(as an honest aside, earlier in my college career a different friend was talking about joining a book club, and I thought it was the most pretentious thing. Maybe some of you reading are thinking the same thing, but I totally GET it now, so bear with me)

Anyway, so those 2 ladies told a few other ladies they were thinking of starting this club, and we all invited a few other friends, and a group was born. At the beginning or end of each year, we each bring a few book suggestions, and we put them all down on a list. The list is both set and isn't - it can be changed if we decide that the next book just isn't speaking to us for whatever reason. We volunteer to host - with a group our size, we end up hosting just once, maybe twice a year. That way it isn't too much of a burden to make a whole bunch of food (homemade soup and salad and frozen apps from Trader Joes are both equally loved - if you want to go gourmet or if you only have time to open packages, both are totally cool) and clean up for guests (no one minds piles of blocks in the corner and there is a standing agreement not to notice rogue dust bunnies). Half the group brings a beverage to share, the other half freeloads. :) Sometimes we divide by last name, sometimes by geography depending on group makeup. Sometimes we have a healthy book discussion if a large proportion of us managed to read, sometimes we have a summary given by the few who did - we play a little fast and loose with the definition of "BOOK" club. I've heard of some groups that are more academic than ours, and that's cool if that's what you're into. I prefer keeping it casual with a nice healthy side of chit chat. We also happen to have a knack for choosing books that later get made into movies, so you can claim those bragging rights of saying, "oh, but the book was sooo much better."

So to me, THAT'S what a book club is about. We started through word of mouth, but in this era of the internet, sites like or your local library can be a great place to start if you're new to an area. You could even keep it real and just call it a wine club if you're not so much into reading. But I love it - hanging out with cool, genuinely nice people, expanding my mind when I have time, but not being shamed about it if I don't. I look forward to it every month, especially if I'm going through periods in my life where that might be the only socialization I get for whatever reason. Yeah, we had some awkward silences in the early days when a lot of us were just getting to know one another. I love that we've grown comfortable and grown together and have nights like last night. Yay books! Yay friends! And yay wine!