Travelogue, pt. 1

A while back, my bestie HJ asked if Dear Husband and I would be interested in going to Los Angeles. His niece, Lizzy, asked for a trip to L.A. as her 18th birthday present and asked if we might want to go with them. Because of some other travel plans and obligations, we decided that Jose would stay home with the dogs – but I wasn’t going to pass up a trip to sunny southern California! So last Monday, I boarded a plane and flew to L.A. for four days.

(Before I go on, I have to give a thankful shoutout to Lizzy for being the only 17 year old I know who’s like, “Let’s invite these old people on my birthday trip!” She’s awesome, made me laugh a ton, and the whole gang made for wonderful travel companions.)

I’m not always great about taking photos of the places I visit. For one thing, I’m not a very good photographer and can’t be bothered to do anything more advanced than snap a photo with my phone. And as I told HJ, there are a bazillion professional photos of any tourist destination we visit – I can just google it if I want to see it again. But there is also the matter of capturing a moment, of being there in a time and place nobody else is… so I did take a few snaps along the way.

We saw some Hollywood tourist traps, like Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Madame Tussauds wax museum.

We viewed the Hollywood sign from Lake Hollywood Park. I took the worst car selfie ever on the way there which will hopefully never see the light of day. But, as we gays are prone to do, I did find the local bear community:

Let’s be honest, this isn’t a very good selfie, either.

Or something like that.

We looked at nice houses as we drove around Beverly Hills (including the really cool Spadena House) and shopped on Rodeo Drive. Well, the ladies did – I stayed on the sidewalk so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend more than I needed to. I had good company and it’s certainly a pretty view if you’re going to wait outside.

At Jose’s suggestion, we looked up los callejones in the fashion district and visited Santee Alley for some more budget-friendly shopping. I love me a good flea market and though this felt very much like one, it was considerably more. I bought some cute blue boots for $40 there and while I’m sure they’re really made of milk cartons and duct tape, I’ll get my $40 out of them!

We hit up the Santa Monica Pier, because it’s iconic and I wanted to see it.

And since we were there, we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway for a while. Talk about gorgeous! I’m an east coast kid and enjoy our coastline, but there’s something about the beach just bumping into the hills that makes it feel like a totally different country.

We also took a day trip to Palm Springs. There are a lot of guys in my knitting circles from Palm Springs, so it was nice to see the town I hear so much about. Looking back, I wish we’d spent a little more time wandering around the downtown area – there were a ton of shops and restaurants I would’ve been happy to investigate.

Random fact for those who don’t know me well: I grew up in the community of Indian Land, SC. Imagine my surprise when we arrived in Palm Springs to this sign:

I immediately texted my sister that I’d travelled over 2,000 miles to find another Indian Land. My elementary/middle school was torn down years ago, but this was so reminiscent of the sign in front of the school that I was instantly reminded of home.

I also joked that I should’ve taken a picture of every Starbucks we stopped at to make a massive photo collage. Starbucks are pretty common around Charlotte (as they are everywhere, it seems), but they were so conveniently located on every corner in L.A. that we drank a lot of coffee.

As you might suspect, we did more but we were limited by COVID and time. L.A. itself is large and the surrounding area is enormous – there’s no way to see everything in a few days and I would imagine it would take years to really get a feel for the place. Nevertheless, it was a fun trip and I’d go back to experience more of the culture, history, and local flavor. But for now? Back to life, back to reality.

Until next time,
-Tommy

Finally, a sweater!

Spring is finally here, and with it some beautiful color in my yard.

I’ve joked over the years that I’ve had a sinus headache since I was 19. It’s a pretty weak joke, because I have had chronic sinus and allergy issues over the years and frankly, it’s exhausting. So while I don’t love my allergies at this time of year, seeing the explosion of color makes me happy.

I’m struggling with my depression and anxiety lately. It usually starts to become more manageable at this time of year, but for some reason it’s hanging in a little longer than usual. It’s a shitty cycle, too – I’m tired all the time, my legs and back ache, I’m irritable and angry at nothing and everything… and yet, anxious that I’m not doing enough to stay afloat and that everything will go wrong at the same time, that everything will just spin right out of control with no way for me to stop it. Having a headache all the time certainly doesn’t help. I try to grab the good moments when I can, stay somewhat reasonable, and force myself to do things that I know are good for me when I can but it’s hard to do sometimes.

So the bright colors of spring are always welcome, and especially so this year. Bright colors always lift my spirits.

Kind of like the fun aqua color of this modified Flax baby sweater that I finally finished. What I worried would happen did happen: I wore myself out on the project and completely lost interest in working on it. I knew for a week and a half that I only had to do one sleeve to finish the sweater.

One small sleeve. That’s all. And yet, every time I thought about picking it up I made a face and groaned to myself.

I finally forced myself to work on it and wrap it up. I can see some areas that can use improvement (I bet y’all can see them, too). But, y’know, there’s nothing to do but work on that for the next one because I sure ain’t going back and fixing anything at this point.

In other news, I have all of next week off for vacation. I know you’re not supposed to wish your life away, but if offered a trade I’d give up the rest of this week for vacation to arrive sooner. Between now and then, I plan to get ahead of as much as I can at work, study for my Spanish class (I’ve been kinda slack lately; we’re learning irregular verbs and there is so much vocabulary), work on some crafts, snuggle with Rocco, and just keep moving forward.

And maybe listen to more Kylie Minogue, since she’s been in the background as I write this blog post and makes me happy, too.

Until next time,
-Tommy

Tell me something good!

A while back, I texted a friend (who happens to own my favorite bar) an idea for a party theme once we’re able to gather in groups and socialize without fear again: Tell Me Something Good. There should be a giant sheet of paper on the wall with markers available. On this paper, we’ll write all the good things that’ve happened while we’ve lived through the pandemic.

Two things stand out for me: turning 40 and finishing up my MBA. I’d planned to have a fundraising birthday party for my fortieth birthday with the proceeds benefiting my favorite charities, but by the time my birthday arrived in June it was clear that couldn’t happen. When I officially finished up my MBA in September, I celebrated quietly with my husband.

But through this party, we could capture the collective good that happened despite a tough year. We could document the highs during the low and be reminded that we find happiness in many forms.

But here’s what’s currently good.

I got my first vaccine shot! Kudos to Atrium Health for their well organized mass vaccination event at Bank of America stadium in uptown Charlotte. The most difficult part of the whole experience was waiting in traffic to turn into the parking deck. Other than a sore arm later that day and the next, I had no problems. I’ve mostly adapted to the radio signals I’m now picking up from space, too.

All. These. Needles.

I also got a tiny bit of a start on the sleeve of this baby sweater. I’d planned to finish it over the weekend because I need to finish it soon, but got distracted and didn’t make as much progress as I’d hoped.

And… I got my latest quilt back from being quilted! I asked my friend Susan to quilt it for me on a long arm machine, because at 96″ square it’s too big for me to quilt here at home. She did a fantastic job! Now I just need to bind it (ugh) and snap some pictures to share of the finished product!

So, there are my little bits of good for the day. I’ll have to remember to look for some more tomorrow.

Until next time,
– Tommy

WTDN?

Outside of work, I spent most of this week trying to relax. I made an intentional decision to not work on craft projects. Sure, I have some new interchangeable needles I want to play with and considered making a quick dishcloth, but decided against starting it.

Sometimes, you just need a break and that’s okay.

I made time for pug snuggles, spent time with my husband, saw my parents, and even managed to get in some exercise. The City of Charlotte opened greenway access down the street from my house last year and I finally made time to go for a walk. I recruited Sister Mary Hubert, of course, because she’s a good exercise buddy.

It’s a little early for things to be in bloom, but I bet this’ll be a fantastic trail once the world is green again. Assuming, of course, that I can still move my legs tomorrow.

It sure doesn’t mean that mentally, I haven’t been thinking about next steps. For instance, I have on my current project list: a Crazy Quilt (a long-term project), my Hexie Quilt (a long-term project), and the aqua baby sweater. Totally manageable, right? I’ll finish off the baby sweater over the weekend. But I also have a list of possible future projects.

I’d planned to start on the Activities Cap/Headband designed by my friend Joe of DoublePointed Designs. I even finally succumbed to the 1,437 ads I’ve seen on social media from Hobbii and found a nice cotton/merino blend to try at a very reasonable price. It took 12 days for the yarn to arrive, and I found it ironic that the yarn I ordered from Denmark was Mayflower brand considering the importance of the Mayflower name to American history.

It’s pretty, right? It has a great feel to it and even came with some free stitch markers! But alas, I’ve decided to hold off on another knit project just now. For one thing, it was 78 degrees here today so there is exactly zero rush for a hat. But also, I need a knitting break.

BUT OMG WTDN? What To Do Next?

Well, chickens, I’ll tell you: CROCHET! I might try my hand at a crocheted cardigan to wear around the house – though I live in North Carolina and it’ll soon be hotter than the armpits of a sinner in the seventh circle of hell in September. If common sense prevails, I’ll consider searching the depths of Ravelry for a smaller, more lightweight project. I can also come up with a new scarf pattern because (fun fact about TommTomm): I have never once followed a crochet pattern for a scarf. It’s much more fun to get started and see what pattern develops! If I had any sense, I’d write them down and publish the damn things.

And, of course, there are two quilts I’m excited to start – one of which I am considering publishing as a pattern if it works out like I expect. We’ll see how that goes when I muster the motivation to start on it.

Until next time,
– Tommy

The end is near.

The end of winter, thank goodness. I always find that the end of February/beginning of March is mentally the toughest time of the year for me. I’ve made it through most of winter and Mother Nature is starting to tease us with sporadic 70-degree days in the Carolinas, but we’re just not quite there yet.

Seasonal Affective Disorder makes this time of the year difficult for many. There are fantastic articles out there about combatting depression and S.A.D., most of which require you to have the motivation to be active, care about your eating habits, take showers, seek socialization, and generally be productive. You know: stop being depressed and do all the things that’ll keep you from being depressed.

Womp womp.

Golly, who knew it was so easy?

I’m hanging in, though. I did manage over the weekend to make a few more blocks for my crazy quilt. Well, okay, fine: I made three blocks. This brings my grand total of crazy quilt blocks up to nine.

Please, hold your applause.

I’m thinking I might make this a quilt as you go project. Traditionally, crazy quilts use decorative stitches and it would be fun to make use of the hundreds of stitch options my sewing machine supposedly has. That’ll mean selecting some fun thread to work with and keeping some bobbins loaded, but I have enough supplies to make that happen. I might also sash the blocks with an obnoxiously bright yellow fabric (as shown in the picture). Yellow is generally a happy color and one I know my mom likes (if I give it to her), but it might be overkill considering how busy crazy quilt blocks already are. Black, white, or gray would probably be a better option.

I also had lunch with Sister Mary Hubert on Saturday and finished a row of my hexie quilt on Sunday. All in all, not a terrible weekend. Now I just have to make it through yet another work week…

Until next time,
-Tommy

Hello, carbs!

After I quit smoking, I gained a lot of weight. I then gained more because I ate too much, wasn’t managing my depression well, and wasn’t exercising. So, I started doing keto. I’ve lost a little over 30 pounds and I need to lose a good bit more – I can literally lose 49 lbs and still be considered overweight.

But I’m going to L.A. the first week of April and don’t want to worry about carbs when I go. I haven’t been on a trip in a while and just want to enjoy time with friends. Buying keto-friendly snacks and lugging them around or stressing over keto-friendly restaurant meal options just doesn’t sound like a fun vacation to me. So yesterday, I decided to take the plunge and go off keto.

And let’s be honest: I wanted beer.

So for our semi-weekly Zoom Virtual Happy Hour, I had beer. I also had approximately three quarters of a pepperoni and pineapple pizza. I have exactly zero regrets. God, that pizza was delicious. And today, I had falafel from one of my favorite Charlotte restaurants, Yafo Kitchen. God, that falafel was delicious. I’ll have the leftovers for dinner.

But I need to be mindful of calorie counts and since spring is just around the corner, I might just get out and walk some. The city recently opened up greenway access about a block from my house, so it’s a great place to start. My bff, Sister Mary Hubert of the Ghetteaux Fabulous Sissy Bitches, will likely be recruited to walk with me.

I’d planned to finish my aqua baby sweater, but spent yesterday evening/last night on Zoom with friends. I did manage to finish one sleeve since Wednesday, and will start/finish the second sleeve over the weekend. I can still see some ladders in some areas of the sleeve, but I don’t think they’ll be noticeable once the sweater is washed. If nothing else, I’ll consider buying some 8″ or 9″ circulars for future baby sweaters.

We have no plans for this weekend, so I might finally get a start on my next quilt. I might not. We’ll just have to see how motivated I’m feeling when tomorrow rolls around.

Until next time,
-Tommy

Good morning, AI Overlords.

I’ve adapted pretty well to the “new normal” of life in a pandemic: masks, social distancing, lack of social interaction, work from home, etc. Going back to an “old normal” sure is strange.

I haven’t worked a full day in the office in 354 days. Today, I needed to be on site for the whole day to provide auditors with any gift documentation they might need. I set my alarm for 7:45 a.m. and was awake before it went off (thanks, dear husband and elderly dog). I showered, applied my deodorant and moisturizer, got dressed, made coffee, walked the dogs, and was out the door a few minutes early.

And then the weirdest thing happened. I started my car, connected my phone to the lightning cable, and my iTunes started playing. But Apple Maps didn’t pop up with a route recommendation and estimated time of arrival at work.

My phone no longer recognizes going to work as a normal routine.

I know that technically, it is no longer my norm. Nowadays, my typical morning routine is to roll out of bed around 8:50… ish, grab a cup of coffee, then schlepp back upstairs to work in my craft/office space until coffee or lunch beckons. But c’mon, our phones are telling tech companies everything we do. Wasn’t our AI Overlord paying attention when I told my husband I’d be gone all day? Am I so boring and routine that I no longer interest the bots? Dang.

Craft Updates

Sadly, I don’t have a lot of updates today. I added three more hexagons to my EPP hexie quilt – not even enough to bother photographing.

I’ve made no more blocks for my crazy quilt, because I’m lazy. I considered it, but… nah.

I did finish the body of the baby sweater I’m knitting. If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen this already:

I actually have one arm finished (minus the cuff), but it feels like entirely too much work to get my knitting bag out of the car just to take a photograph. I am loving the aqua color, though – it’s not a color that springs to mind when I think of a baby sweater, but I love that it’s bright and fun, as well as being pretty gender neutral.

By Friday, I’ll do my best to have the sweater finished so I have something to show for myself.

Until next time,
-Tommy

Finished is better than perfect.

If you’ve quilted for at least five minutes, you’d no doubt read this somewhere or had some well-meaning, more experienced person say it to you.

It’s true, though. None of us will achieve perfection in a quilt. I’ve seen some truly stunning pieces of textile and fiber art, only to almost inevitably witness the creator say, “If only I’d have done this…” At some point, though, you have to say that it’s as perfect as it needs to be and move on to something else.

I feel this way about the Crosstalk quilt I did a few weeks back. Once it was quilted and washed, the flaws I noticed just after piecing the quilt top aren’t nearly as noticeable… ones that most people wouldn’t have noticed, anyway.

Anyone else love the crinkly effect you get after washing a quilt? It looks cozy and hides a lot of imperfections.

I guess I need to go a little easier on myself in the future.

Until next time,
-Tommy

I am a knitting bad ass.

Ok, fine, not really. In fact, I’m a pretty apprehensive knitter. I don’t always know how to fix my mistakes so I get frustrated if something goes wrong. More often than not, I’ll simply scrap the whole thing and start again. I often look on in awe at my friends’ projects because I can’t even manage to knit a scarf without messing up somehow. As a result, I don’t knit nearly as often as I crochet, I don’t always enjoy it, and I don’t undertake large projects.

But I did something big.

Something major for me.

I hope you’re sitting down for this.

I KNIT A WHOLE DANG BABY SWEATER!

It ain’t fancy, but I’m proud of it anyway! The Flax sweater in Red Heart Super Saver acrylic yarn. Color: Frosty Green.

Before I committed to this, I used the almighty power of the Googles to do some homework. I wanted a baby sweater pattern that was beginner friendly, would work with the worsted weight acrylic yarn I already had, and something with a good bit of chatter about it online. My thinking for the last part (which thankfully was correct) was that there’d be ample documentation and helpful resources if I needed them. I finally decided on the Flax sweater from Tin Can Knits, which seemed to be a very popular pattern (with good reason). Besides a fantastic blog post on the Tin Can Knits site walking through the pattern step by step, there are a lot of videos and posts from other knitters about the construction of this sweater.

Is my sweater perfect? Not even close! The areas where I picked up stitches under the sleeves aren’t as tidy as I’d like, my tension isn’t always even, and there’s a slight jog alongside the garter stitch section on the sleeves (though I don’t actually know whether it’s from my own tension issues or working with double pointed needles).

It’s perfectly imperfect, and that in itself is perfect.

But you know what? I sure as heck don’t care. I knit a sweater, I’m learning from it, and I feel like a knitting rock star. Sweaters are useful, practical, and comfortable. I actually wear sweaters on a regular basis, and so I might get some use out of my own dang knitting now.

In fact, I felt so good about it that I started another baby sweater in aqua.

And I don’t know about y’all, but I personally feel prepared to help solve the problem of topless babies if it ever becomes an issue. That’s a definite win.

Until next time,
-TommTomm the Great

On Wednesdays, we wear short sleeves.

For a brief, shining moment, all is right with the world.

Yes, friends, it’s 72 degrees in Charlotte on February 24, 2021. That’s why on this Wednesday, we wear short sleeves of any damn color we like. Pink, if you happen to be a Mean Girl or just look exceptionally good in it.

For those of you like me who struggle with depression and/or Seasonal Affective Disorder, pleasepleaseplease take 10 minutes today and simply sit outside. Do nothing but enjoy the warmth and the sunshine on your skin, if you like. I promise, it’s a little thing that feels so special today.

Right now, I’m sitting on my back porch listening to the dulcet tones of pug snores and the energetic bops from Kylie Minogue’s Disco album. (Yes, I’m still obsessed with it. Yes, you should listen to it if you even vaguely like pop music. Yes, I know I sound like a broken record but I promise it’s a fun album.)

I’m also thinking through my project list. The other day, one of the guys on the men’s fiber work Zoom call asked how many projects I had going. I had to stop and think because I’ve had more projects than usual lately, but I was able to honestly answer that I had three active projects: the knitting I was working on (more about that on Friday), my hexie quilt, and my crazy quilt. Though I’ve picked fabric for my next quilt, I’ve not done anything with it so it doesn’t count.

The thing is, I have to pace myself or I’ll burn myself out. In the past, I’ve found that if I take on too many graphic design jobs, it starts to feel like a chore. Something I love starts to feel like a tedious job. I don’t want that to happen with my crafts, which is why I don’t work on commission. I’d rather teach you to do it so you can enjoy it, too, than feel like it’s a burden to make you something. Does anyone else feel that way?

So, this Wednesday’s work in progress update is fairly easy: I’m working on adding four more rows to my hexie quilt.

The top three rows are already sewn together. I’m adding the row of blocks directly beneath those one at a time, then I’ll combine the whole piece to the larger bottom section.

In other news, we survived the brief addition of a third dog in the house even though Rocco the Wonder Pug was not happy to share a bed with Pablo. It made sleep difficult for all of us Monday night. But if you follow my social media, hopefully you were amused by my posts. Rocco and Pablo made an interesting pair and I enjoyed making up fun back stories about their activities. I even included my coworkers in the fun:

Until next time,
-Tommy