Thursday, January 26, 2017

Knit yourself a poncho

Hello again! Let's open with a beautiful, much loved, and completely neglected ball of yarn.

Oh the heartbreak. January and February are the time of year when I do the most knitting, so it's a particularly unfortunate season in which to have broken two fingers. I had hoped I could go for long walks in my newfound leisure time, if nothing else, but I haven't been able to get my splint through a sleeve and you can only be outside so long in winter with nothing but layered ponchos, you know? (Moving around too much indoors seems to be leading me to more small injuries, so I've learned to mostly sit still and live vicariously through UK real estate and cooking shows on television… SO much sock knitting time wasted!)

On Tuesday I graduated to the second level splint, which I have to keep on full-time for a week, and part time for another week, while doing excruciatingly painful finger curling exercises. Here are its mugshots:

 I named the last one The Claw but this one is called Lambchop in honour of Shari Lewis' hand puppet.

That's Lambchop, on the left.
See the resemblance? You have to imagine Lambchop with her hooves over her eyes, but still.

My Lambchop splint is made of molded plastic and is very painful to wear, so my physical therapist kindly layered a piece of adhesive felt where my knuckles touch it (aka 'slowly grind away skin, layer by layer.) The felt really only contributed an additional source of irritation so as soon as I got home I tucked in some unspun, supersoft fiber, a thing that every home should have, apparently.

Sweet relief! Since that first hour when I had just a little protecting two sore knuckles, I have added an entire slab to protect all four of my fingers.

I am so glad I did not break my fingers in July, because mohair + wool = steam heat.

This brings us back to today's theme: knit yourself a poncho!

Truly, whether or not you think ponchos are an attractive fashion accessory, you may very well need one someday and it's good to be prepared. Had I but known, I would've spent last winter knitting small neat swatches to tuck inside my splint without getting long strands of mohair all over Lambchop's Velcro straps. I would've knit more soft, loose cowls because they are easier to secure with one hand on a windy day. I would have knit long armed fingerless mitts – you know the ones that look so impractical? Because if it's warm enough to need a glove it's too warm to be sleeveless? Yeah. I would have knit those, and stopped them just above the thumb opening.

I got an email from Churchmouse Yarns and Teas promoting a new poncho pattern the day I came home with Lambchop, and let me tell you there was some serious tooth gnashing going on as I read it.

I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself though. If I'd known in advance I would need a poncho I would've known in advance not to run to the number 11 bus route… And even without knowing, this is the winter I finally gave in and bought a giant lambswool wrap at the winter fair, as well as a swingy cashmere poncho in a Boxing Week sale – well before I fell down and broke my fingers. Like Fate was stealthily giving me some assets in advance because it felt sorry for me and my blind devotion to handknit socks.

We can't always count on pity from Fate though, so I highly recommend having a poncho in your life, and Churchmouse has a dizzying array of options on their pattern page.

When I get my hand back, I am totally knitting some!

Friday, January 20, 2017

An early look at the new kitchen

It's been a while since I've shown you any pictures from the house, and since it's either that or a picture of the bowl of un-cast-on yarn that torments me from its position beside my phone, let's look at the custom cabinetry!

There is a lot of it. What you're looking at here is a view of the living room from the place where our kitchen table will stand. There will be a TV in the centre below a set of shelves that stand behind glass doors, but all around it we will be storing books. The really special books, like my original Judy Bolton collection, will go behind glass so they don't get dusty, and I'll try to make them look pretty too.

Digression alert:

I was of two minds when we bought our table… or rather when it arrived after being made for us. I had always wanted a white painted table, but when it came I realized it really is white, and everything else in our kitchen is off-white. I may paint it again, but I'm putting a tablecloth on it anyway and the legs are heavily turned so it may be okay in the end. The other surprise was the tabletop itself which is quite thin and has crisp edges all the way around in a way that looks more modern than I expected. I have come to love that though, now that it's got a tablecloth over it. It just ends up looking very clean!

Most people I think would have put an island where we are putting a table, but I think the table will look more traditional as well as being nicer for sight lines and more flexible if we are having a crowd in and need to move the table somewhere else either for seating/standing room, or buffet duty. And because we decided in the end to give up on the dream of cross backed French cafĂ© chairs and go with super comfortable, leather topped, square bench seats to position around it, the table will function like an extra workspace anyway. I mean it is much easier to quickly move a cookie sheet or vegetable platter onto a table if you don't have to pass over chair backs first. Frankly it would be very easy for someone to put an island in later if necessary, and though it couldn't inexpensively have power or plumbing there would be both right behind it… right here, in fact:

This vertical band of open shelving faces into the living room. At the bottom it is open onto the counter area beyond, but the top three shelves are backed by upper cabinets. The day I took this picture, we were waiting for our countertop to be templated. (The counter has since been cut and will be installed next time there are enough clients in the city all ready for our counters to go in, because the supplier is located about 90 minutes away.)

This particular bank of cabinets is for breakfast cereal and tea and toast… The small sink is at the far end and will be deep enough to fill a kettle without being in the way of anyone who is washing dishes or getting things out of the refrigerator around the corner. If we're having a party, it will probably serve as a drinks station, with a tray of glasses and different beverages easily accessible.

Just around the corner, as I mentioned, is the cosy section of the kitchen:

This part is what I imagine a galley kitchen in a small apartment in Manhattan would look like. It's probably too tight for some, and I'm not sure whether we will find it difficult to have the refrigerator in such a narrow space over time (it is tucking in at the end of the counter on the right, past the window.) But there was no other place to put it so we're living with it! The advantage of this layout is that the messy part of the kitchen – the sink, the refrigerator – is hidden from view if you are in the living room. The dining room is beyond through the doorway, but I am planning to hang a beautiful drape there so that if we are having a dinner party we can draw it shut and hide our food prep shame.

If you can believe it, that window was once over our tub – that's where our bathroom used to be. It was the only window we could keep on that wall so we are using it to bring natural light to our sink.

Standing where the range will go, you can see the shallow counter that faces the refrigerator and main sink, as well as the pantry area that frames it.

The pantry is only about 15 inches deep, which is perfect because we won't lose things in the back now, and it's very tall, reaching almost to the ceiling along with all the other upper cabinets.

My plan for those top, almost unreachable shelves, is to store seasonal decorations right there in the kitchen where I can get at them quickly as special holidays come up. Or maybe they will fill up with boxes of knitting, ahem.

Getting back to that shallow counter though – this is, to me, the second most special place in the kitchen! I am so excited to have a dedicated place to manage all the mail that comes into the house, all the paperwork we ever have to do. It is incredibly quiet in this space because of all the cabinetry around it. I plan to use it as a standing desk area, so that I'm not just sitting all the time when I work. And again, if we are having a party, it's a perfect table for setting out trays of nibbles or a jug of cider surrounded by some glasses.

I don't have a picture of the most special place, which is the baking counter. It will be on the other side of the kitchen table facing the tea and cereal counter and because there is no upper cabinet there, I can leave my mixer out all the time exactly where I need it. Yay!

It's just about a year since we started planning our kitchen, and obviously we have put a lot of thought into it, but in a year you can change your mind about a lot of things. If I were doing it today I would think seriously about the kind of cabinet door that is inset in the frame with a visible hinge. My understanding is that they're not as popular in North America as they are in the UK, and definitely they are a lot more expensive which really counts when you are talking about this much custom millwork, but I love the way they look like built-in furniture.

I still feel our colour choice was right for our house because in spite of many additional or larger windows than what we had originally it could be quite dark inside if we hadn't chosen so many light finishes. I have to admit though, the other day I saw the most gorgeous kitchen on a UK househunting show where all the cabinets were painted an amazing sky blue. The advantage of white cabinets is that they don't date and it's true that sky blue could get tiring and look dated fairly quickly. But the way that kitchen was done it just looked vintage and to me, vintage never goes out of style. It made mr feel so happy! I would be really tempted to do a blue kitchen if I were buying ours now. Even though obviously our kitchen is visible from other rooms and having a colour there would really limit what we could do elsewhere. Probably it's a good thing we chose this last spring, huh?

When you are working with a contractor like ours, who is really an artist and insists on a high level of quality control for every finish, you are going to be looking at a long renovation. Also you are vulnerable to setbacks like health issues or traffic accidents and we've had our share of those! Thankfully everyone involved with our project is fine right now and will hopefully stay that way, and the end is definitely in sight.

Underneath the heavy paper in these pictures is a beautiful hardwood floor in clear stained maple sourced locally and installed by a very good (and super nice) tradesman. The temporary stairway you can almost see from the living room door is about to be replaced with the final set, again in clear stained maple with white risers. We asked for a lot of fancy trim – crown moulding, complex window and door framing, and rich-looking baseboard – and that takes time to cut and install but it's nearly done now too.

And it all looks so beautiful. It's still a small house really, but every bit has been so thoughtfully finished, we feel incredibly fortunate to have it to move back to. The knitting pictures I will be able to take in this house… honestly I can't wait!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you back here again very soon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A winter hat I knit

Hello again, all - I found pictures I took of the hat I knit before I broke my fingers and then forgot to post. Yay, pantry knitting!

Two days ago I was on the subway, looking for a seat with protection on the left side so no one would hit my cast or brush my fingers with a coat or something, and the only candidate was directly across from a man who sat down, put his backpack on the ground, opened it, and PULLED OUT A SCARF ON KNITTING NEEDLES.  I mean, it was torture. Also, a really nice scarf. He looked like a beginning knitter, and was very intent on getting each stitch right, so I did not strike up a conversation to tell him how much I liked the two shades of blue he'd chosen. Anyway I probably would've drooled over the yarn and that would've been embarrassing for us both.

But I digress. I made my hat with very warm, very hairy yarn.

I've had it in my stash for years… I also bought it in blue and used that yarn for my Railyard Scarf, but I never used the red. It's like it was waiting for me to own a giant red parka that doesn't go with anything else!

Technically, there was enough yarn to make the entire hat from it alone. But this yarn is not elastic at all. In a scarf you want yarn that's going to hold its shape without necessarily stretching to a length of six miles... but the ribbing around the end of a hat is different. That's where you want some give, something that will stretch to hold the hat on your head and cling to keep the wind out. And the only yarn I could find with the same red in it was a very small scrap of "Ember" from Twisted Fiber Art.

Twisted specializes in this sort of striped graduation from one colour to another and as it turned out the deep grey and blue grey are perfect for the scarf I like best with the parka.

Unfortunately it also has this funny orange and the graduation is so short between the red and the orange that I have ended up with a seemingly unrelated colour in the most obvious spot on the hat, right at the edge above my eyebrows. I was not really happy about this.

There is another problem too. I shouldn't have been surprised, as I did completely wing this design, but still – the basic beret style ended up being very unflattering on me this time. My Instant Love hat is a beret shape and it's fine. It's also a pattern that uses a very chunky yarn and that may be the issue.

Okay - I have to make an opinionated style comment here about hats.

A few years ago, I noticed that all the pictures of the very pretty actors and actresses at the Sundance film festival showed them wearing slouchy ribbed hats. It took me a while to accept that that was a good look for a hat, let alone good finish for seriously pretty hair and makeup, and by that time it was out again. What's in now, at least around here, is a sort of giant, heavily cabled woolly cone that sticks up as far as 6 inches from the top of the wearer's head and ends with a fur pom-pom. I am really having trouble with this hat design because it cries out for really beautiful chunky wool yarn, handknit with love, and is usually machine knit from a cheap acrylic instead. I mean, not even a nice acrylic! I keep seeing them in posh stores and all the effort goes into the quality of the fur or faux fur pom-pom. It is so frustrating.

Not least because once you're used to seeing this giant cone hat everywhere, any hats that are shorter or knit with finer yarn look a little dumpy. Like, you know, my new red hat. So in desperation, I added a pom-pom, seen here without the twin distractions of rabbit and scarf:

It doesn't really save the hat. Maybe in a few years it will look great, when berets have their turn in the fashion cycle, but right now right here it's a bit silly. On the upside, when I was wearing it all the time before Christmas because it was so incredibly cold out, people were calling out on the street how festive I looked. (In my defence, they were usually people I knew.)

I had trouble taking a picture of the hat on me… This is as good as it gets:

It's slightly more flattering on my new rabbit, Cookie:

Cookie has been a great comfort to me while I'm stuck sitting and not knitting… she is yet another Jellycat but was made with a new fabric that is even softer than the usual, and I find the feel of the fiber in my hands is a big part of what I love about knitting.

In hand news, I saw my doctor yesterday and he told me to come back next Tuesday. I'll have another x-ray, meet with him again and also a physical therapist, and get a different cast which I think he said will be made of plastic. I am hoping that this new cast will be the removable kind he had mentioned to me as an option I could have chosen at first, if I were willing to have a little less functionality when my fingers are healed. He confirmed that I still won't have full functionality but that what I will have will be acceptable.

Lucky I have never dreamed of being a concert pianist, huh?

I wrote this post using voice recognition software (Dragon Speaks) and it does make it easier to compose while one-handed. It gets certain words wrong though, or will until I get it fully trained… for a while it insisted that the word 'knitting' was actually the word 'maintain', which I found alarming as though even the word was unavailable to me in this time of injury, sigh. It is recognizing the word sigh now though, and that is a big step up.

Hope you have been having a good week! I might do a house update to tide us over the weekend… I have some pretty pictures of the kitchen cabinets, and I know how we all love to look at cabinet doors…

(Yeah, my one-handed life is making me a bit squirelly.)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New yarn and new paint

The postal service does not observe tact protocols for the temporarily unable to knit, so this charming yarn turned up in the mail this week:

Vesper sock club, Christmas edition: "Comfort and Joy"

And I had less wistful flurry of excitement when I spotted an email from KnitPicks about their new square knitting needles made from wood, too... only to have my hopes dashed when I found they are using U.S. sizing for them.

My current square needles get SO much use they are wearing down, and they made such a difference to my hands I am not eager to go back to round ones... But their maker changed over to a material that bothers my skin, so a wood option would have been a welcome chance to extend the life of the original needles.  Not to mention freedom to pack sock knitting for a big trip! Because if my needles were in fact confiscated or lost, they would be replaceable.  However... U.S. sizing versus metric.

In U.S. sizing, one needle covers both 2.25mm and 2.5mm.  And since you go up a size for square needles (or anyway, I do, because of my gauge) I could effectively be using 2.0 mm needles for my 2.25 mm Vesper socks.  As I have learned to my cost, 2.0 mm needles produce a VERY different size sock than 2.25 mm ones!

But oh, who am I kidding... I will probably try a set anyway, just in case they lean to the larger size. 

One thing that has not let me down this week has been the magical balm of watercolour painting. As one would indulge an irritable newly-injured child, Pete bought me more paper and a second set with more colours in it - Winsor & Newton's Cotman 24 half pan plus - and I spent a happy afternoon watching him unwrap the little paint packs (definitely not a one-handed job) and setting them all up myself.

I'd read a tip about softening the paint with a drop of water...

... which I would have done with my old oral syringe but that's hard to fill with one hand. Thankfully I remembered that eyedroppers do pretty much the same thing and also, that we had one all tucked away on a shelf Pete could reach.  It is very satisfying to create patterns of tiny droplets, the better to mix paint or clean a brush later, and the eyedropper is very pleasant to use.

Once I'd sorted the colours into an order that makes sense to me, and painted this chart of what they all look like once they're on paper...

... I was ready to paint something special.

Do you know the mantra of Julian of Norwich?

All shall be well
And all shall be well
And all manner of things shall be well

Jan taught it to me a few years ago and I find it very helpful. I paired the last line of it with a tree trunk mostly because I like them, but as a bonus it reminds me to change my perspective when I don't like my situation. If you put your back to the trunk of a tree and slowly move around it, you are going to get very different views of what lies ahead.

(unless you are lost in the very middle of a forest, but let's not go there.)

Hope you have a wonderful weekend! And no getting list in forests either.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Knitting Withdrawal Day Five

Hello all! Did you have a great weekend with loads of knitting in wonderful fibers? Do tell so I can live vicariously through you.  The best (though not all) I have to offer you today is my exciting new Broken Finger Mug Shot.

... and front view.

This cast is ... not as beautiful as my snowy-white splint. To say the least. But it will work and when it comes to mending broken things function is MUCH more important than form.  It's also extremely heavy, and it impacts all four fingers on my left hand instead of just the two broken ones, while leaving my whole hand more flexible and accessible - but I am getting ahead of myself.

After sending me for X-rays, the hand surgeon who saw me on Friday said that the emergency room reduction (aka putting my bones back where they belong so they heal straight) was not a huge success.

Then he gave me two choices, neither of which was the terrifying "Surgery to insert metal bars that stick out visibly for four weeks before being removed again OW OW and EW."  I was so grateful! but it was a hollow victory because the choices were these:

1/ Do nothing. Take off the splint, get fitted for a removable cast, start straight into physical therapy (OWIE), and move on with a life in which the two now-broken fingers work well enough but never again go all the way straight or contribute meaningfully to the making of a fist.

2/ Do another reduction. Take off the splint, get just two more needles but in the wrist this time (AIEEEE), have the bones straightened back out properly, wear a plaster cast for three weeks, do physical therapy, and end up with a somewhat better outcome, maybe even a perfect one.

Obviously I chose option two but it was REALLY hard to say so. The eight needles I got in the emergency room were some of the worst pain I've ever felt, and I've been through some painful stuff.  But, as I'd just been reminded in Emerg., you often have to make a fist for a blood test. Or to clutch a cane effectively, or prevent your opponent from stealing a look at your cards while playing Euchre. What if I live long enough to regret disregarding my long-term fist-making needs?

And what are two more needles after you've had eight?

Well let's be honest, they are the world, but I'm the kind of person who is ashamed to tell a surgeon who rescues people at risk of losing all hand function after surviving some horrific accident that I will gladly take reduced hand function for life just to avoid a couple of measly needles.  Shame ate me up for about five minutes, all I was willing to waste of this man's very precious time, and when I had established that it really was as simple as not wanting to have to be brave, I decided I had to be brave.

And you know what?



As he was looking over my bloated corpse hand he said Hmmmm, looks like they injected straight into your fingers... we don't do that... and I was thinking PLEASE TELL THEM THERE IS A BETTER WAY.

After the second reduction he sent me off for more X-rays and when he'd reviewed them told me my pinky should straighten completely and my ring finger, almost completely. Even surgery with scary pins would not have been an improvement over that.

And now I just have to get through the rest of the three weeks.  Just 21 days. Probably only about 18 evenings I might have been free for knitting.

I lasted one.

I mean honestly, can you blame me? All four fingers move, my doctor told me to practise curling them downward, I can even put a little pressure into the grip between my thumb and forefinger, and strictly speaking that's all you need to hold a sock needle.  I had to rest after 16 slow stitches but my tension was good.

By the time Lynn responded to my brag message with a warning that I might regret it though, I already did.  See, I forgot it's not the grip - it's the twist!

My whole left arm is already under tons of strain from holding a 2.5 pound cast up higher than my heart (on the off chance it helps the swelling go down - no sign of success yet). I didn't even get through a single round, but after less than the length of one movie my arm was doing that crazy painful spasm thing you get sometimes in the middle of the night in your leg.

So: I am not knitting again anytime soon. But I did paint something nice, so at least I have something pretty and non-cast-like to show you another day... another day when I have about ninety minutes to type a whole blog post with one hand, that is. I am really going to have to figure out how to post from my phone. Smaller keyboard = my friend.

Take care of yourself in the meantime, okay? and tell me about your knitting!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

One last sock

Let's give my addictive green socks their moment in the spotlight...

... since it will be a while before the alpaca ones are done. And they are SO close to done! I could have finished them in one dedicated evening two nights ago and nearly did, but opted to do some housekeeping instead. And the very next morning I fell on the sidewalk and came home (after eight hours in the emergency room having tons of tests) with this little beauty:

They call this a splint??

Life lesson: never put off till tomorrow the knitting you want to do today. (though I am grateful, now, for all the neatly folded laundry I put away instead.)

Here is what happened. I saw from my handy Transit app that I had time to get to my preferred bus stop if I hurried, so I broke into a jog, and after about a block I lost my balance and face planted. Okay, I did try to correct my downward spiral to retain some measure of dignity, but nine more wide strides only made me fall harder... and in hindsight, if I had aimed left straight off I would have rolled onto a grassy lawn. By the time I did go down my only other option was cement steps. Ah, vanity.

Let's look at green socks, instead... two shades of green for the envy I feel for last week's me.

When I got to Emergency and explained what had happened, the intake nurse was very concerned about why I fell. I knew I hadn't tripped, and there was no ice to slip on, and I had been listing a little to the right in the first block and only corrected my direction with difficulty.  So... all the focus went to tests for stroke (I had my first EKG!) while I carried around an increasingly swollen hand and one of several bags of ice that various people kindly got for me.

Can I digress, and comment on how wonderful human nature is? Smile at someone as you pass them on the sidewalk and they turn back to see if you're okay when you collide with the ground some time later (how loud was I, I wonder?) And if you fix it so a mom can sit next to her son, she'll stop by an hour later to see if you need fresh ice.  Even the cardiac guy next to me, after watching me struggle to reposition my ice bag effectively, offered me tips on how to get faster help for a fracture (go to a walk in clinic.) 

Turns out that even after hours of pain and nothing to eat or drink and, eventually, fear from looking at my own increasingly disfigured hand, all my vitals came out totally average. No sign of stroke. Never have I been so happy to be clumsy!

But... I broke the baby finger of my left hand AND the ring finger beside it.

In good news:

I was clever enough to take off my wedding ring a few minutes after I fell, when the swelling first started.

I am right handed.

I managed not to swear during the excruciating pain from each of the eight needles it took to freeze my fingers before they were reset. The doctor gave me permission but I was very aware of the seriously ill man nearby whose family had gathered and were preparing for the worst.  I mean, it was just pain.

The plastic surgeon had a cancellation, and can see me tomorrow morning, so I'll know soon whether I have to endure more needles and/or surgery.

It is possible to knit with one hand using straight needles, and given that these bones take 4-6 weeks to heal, it may come to that. I will just REALLY miss my sock needles!!

I think this is all I can type with one hand today so if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go think about what an incapacitated crafty sort can write blog posts about during recovery.

Have a great weekend, and remember - no putting-off of knitting! Because you never know when the road will rise up to meet you, and not in that Irish Blessing sort of way...

Monday, January 2, 2017

A good outlook for the new year

Happy new year, you guys!  I've been busy doing creative things since I was last here with a new Hug, and I'm hoping you have as well, even if it's been creative tidying.  I mean it can't all be an exciting round of eating/remorse/treadmill shopping, right?  Here's my prettiest New Year's project:

I gave some friends little watercolour sets for Christmas and decided to buy myself some paint and paper while I was at it.  My only real memories of painting are Finger, in kindergarten; Something On A Thick Paste Brush, in high school; and Brush and Roller, as a homeowner with shabby old furniture to make over.  It was time.

Ady mentioned she has this little travel tin from Daler and Rowney (complete with a thumb ring for painting at an easel) so I felt it was a good place to start:

But in hindsight, I should have treated myself to the larger set which comes with grey and black, both of which I really missed while I was planning out my project.  Black pen to the rescue!

Watercolour is not something you can just pick up and do well - you have to experiment and thank goodness for the internet and Youtube, which in the end I didn't bother with because I found the wonderful site The Postman's Knock first. This is the sort of wonderful artist's rabbit hole where you can dive down and lose yourself for hours, but I particularly enjoyed the posts on laurel wreaths and beginner water colour painting.

My mind doesn't really work the way it has to, to be able to make art in this medium.  Artists think about composition and placement, whereas I am more about the overall tactile and emotional experience that comes from different colour and texture combinations.  This makes me a shoo-in for knitting and other fiber arts, but kind of a hopeless blob for paint.  What on earth would I do with these fun new tools? 

One thing I did know: I didn't want to draw flowers because it would just be depressing with so many of Ady's gorgeous paintings for comparison and contrast.  That realization deepened some thoughts I'd been having after reading Laurel Bern's New Year's posting (which is excellent, by the way, you should really read it as well as the link she shares, if you're looking for encouragement in your own life.) 

My takeaway was how important it is NOT to listen to the voice in your head that says you shouldn't even bother trying to reach your goals, because somebody else will always get there first and your own talent is crummy anyway.

Do you hear this inner voice?  I know practically every writer does, no matter how successful.  Lots of artists do too.  I am guessing it's universal and is just louder when you're actually trying to achieve something, leaving some of us more vulnerable to it than others.

Anyway: I decided to use my watercolour set to decorate a catchphrase I could use to drown out the negative self-talk when I'm trying to write this year. 

I did some brainstorming on my own and then with friends and came up with various ungainly options, such as:

Don't try to be the best, just try to be YOUR best

Others may be better, but nobody tries harder

Try now, panic later

All of which are probably useful but I didn't like the negativity.  I mean, 'trying'?? I try like I breathe - all the time. I don't need reminders for that. 

Finally I said The trouble is, there are just SO many books out there, and who am I to think I have anything new or useful to say?  I need to believe there will be room for my writing, with somebody, somewhere.

Everybody liked that idea and one person said, "There's always room for you."  So that's what I decided on.  It's an open-ended sort of positive phrase and if it works for your situation, please do feel free to use it!

I did a first draft with the very tiny pointed brush I'd bought and learned some interesting tricks that I quite enjoyed. 

For example, my set comes with little basins for mixing paint colours together - but I mixed several different combinations in just one basin because all you need to create a new paint is a drop of water, and it turns out one drop is easily separated from others thanks to the type of plastic used for the tin liner.  To add minimal drops I used the syringe I kept for some reason after having my wisdom teeth out and being told to use it for jetting water into the spaces left behind.

Also, I learned to let my brush sit for a moment in the area I wanted to colour, so that the water would seep onto the page.  After that I could move the water around within the black pen borders for a while, until it dried. 

Here's my experimental page, where I worked at getting just the right green for my laurel leaves (the final version was a mixture of two greens, a dark blue, and some brown):

After I did this draft I realized I would have to write freehand on the good copy - my ink didn't flow properly over a pencil tracing.  Also, that my little house needed a window, and I should draw bigger socks, and do a black outline on everything and not just the lettering.

Which left me with this:

A house to remind me that I know how to coordinate building one; two socks to remind me that not everybody can knit those and I have many grateful sock-recipient friends to prove it; and a hat, to remind me how many people appreciate my hat patterns (especially the chemo caps.) 

There's always room for somebody who can do what I do, and that means there's always room for me.  And I can guarantee that there's always room for you, too.

I have no idea what I'll paint next but I know it will be something, because it turns out, painting with watercolour is incredibly relaxing.  It's hard not to feel optimistic about personal victories, however small, when you start the year with another tool for your workbox.  Hope this gets you thinking about a way to give yourself an encouraging pat on the back, too!