Thursday, January 26, 2017

Daily Sketches

I have started making my To Do doodles in the new sketchbook I bought. It's a Canson XL Watercolor wirebound pad, size A4 (which is slightly narrower and longer than 8.5 x 11"). Since today is an auspicious day, I decided this would be a great first day. I have more space now, so I am going to add something at the bottom of the page - a quote, some notes about the day, and probably some more doodles - under my To Dos.

This system is working out great for me. I am eager to get my housework and other chores done, so I can have the fun of coloring in the doodles. Much more fun than crossing things off a list. And the thought of not finishing a page before the day is over really keeps me motivated. I still have one very important task to complete today, but I'm waiting until it's a more civilized hour on the West Coast.

I wonder what tomorrow will look like?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

To Do

Belated happy new year wishes! I've been distracted with my watercolor attempts, trying to figure out what I enjoy doing the most and practicing that. As you might have guessed, I am also doing some sketching. The other day I hit upon the idea of sketching the next day's to do list. Fun, and motivating, because I can only color in each sketch once I've completed (or at least started) that task. So if you'll excuse me, I've got some sweeping to do...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Chanukah Socks 2016

Many times since I first learned to knit socks in 2006, I have given my girls knitted socks for Chanukah. Not every year, but usually. Now that Meital is in the army, she rarely gets a chance to wear handknit socks, but Liat is always eager for another pair to add to her collection. But this year I was busy finishing up that big blanket for our nephew, and making hats and fingerless mitts for the teens in our city. Suddenly, it dawned on me that I could paint a silly little picture of a pair of socks, and give that to Liat instead. So I did.

And when she unwrapped it, she laughed and laughed. I'm happy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Watercolor Pencils

In trying to learn to paint with watercolors, I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos. A great one by The Frugal Crafter reminded me that I have plenty of watercolor pencils that I rarely use. Time to change that.

First I got out the pencils from the back of the cabinet, and took them all out of the big jar they were in. I remembered how, after buying a set in a lovely tin, I bought more colors in open stock and so had to find a new place to store them, so that they would all be in one place. Hence, the jar. But it wasn't very easy to see what colors I had, or to find what I wanted, and sometimes I worried that if the pencil dropped end first into the jar too hard, the lead inside might break. After some trial and error, I eventually remembered the tops to a couple of square tins that had once been filled with candy and given to my mother in law. She had given me the tins, which I used - without the lids - to store doubled-ended markers. Luckily, the lids had survived the recent purges of unused craft supplies. I glued some fun foam in the lids and now I have my pencils arranged so that I can easily find the colors I want. Plus, I made a color chart so I can see what each color looks like when activated with water.

And today, I actually started a small painting! With me, sometimes the organizing and arranging happens but the art doesn't. Does that happen to you, too?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Back in the days when I spent a lot of time each day on Facebook and Instagram, I sought out people and organizations to follow that would enrich my "feed" with inspiration. Artists of all kinds, people who cared about kindness... in short, positive, upbeat news items. All I can think of now is the saying, "be careful what you wish for."

One account I started following on Instagram belonged to the mother of a young girl who had decided she wanted to perform a specific number (I don't remember now what it was) of Acts of Kindness, in memory of her grandmother. Beautiful, uplifting, inspirational. But the longer I followed the account, the more uncomfortable I became with the almost daily recitation of activities. It all began to feel a little bit forced, a little too self-aware. And then the day came when, included on the list, was the time this little girl's act of kindness was... helping her father with something.

Seriously? Seriously?

I've spoken before about some of the problems I have with words like "charity." It seems like in today's selfie-driven world, Acts of Kindness and Random Acts of Kindness (always capitalized, naturally), are the trendy labels. It often feels to me like it's more about the label than the action. Maybe I'm just a dinosaur, a relic from long ago, but I get the impression that the emphasis has shifted from the emotion behind the action, to the  label and to the person performing the action. And of course, to the accompanying photo op.

Several years ago, in the course of an on-line conversation with my elderly friend Miriam in New Jersey (not a knitter), I learned that she did not own a winter hat. I immediately selected a pattern, grabbed the ball of yarn that screamed "pick me!" and made Miriam a hat. I didn't really think about it, and I certainly didn't consider it an act of kindness, much less an Act of Kindness. I'm a knitter, my friend needed a hat. End of story. (And to make it a really great story, Miriam later told me that the color I picked was her very favorite. Moral: listen when your yarn talks to you...).

All of this came back to my mind yesterday when I read in one of the charitable knitting groups on Ravelry that someone had made something for a co-worker. To me, that isn't charity. And it's not an act of kindness. It's being a good person. I wonder what has happened to our world, that some people think that doing something nice for someone they know, someone they presumably care about, is suddenly label worthy. Yes, it feels good to help others, and yes, it also feels good to be recognized for doing so. But if that has become our motivation - recognition, appreciation, compliments - then how "charitable" or "kind" are we actually being? Are we doing these things because we want to help others, or because we want others to realize how kind, how generous, we are?

I struggle with this myself. Of course it's fun when people tell you how great you are. But is that my only motivation? I have mostly stopped posting on social media about the things I do, with the exception of Ravelry, which is where I keep track of the things I make. In that charitable knitting group, we share what we've made and who it's for, and everyone gives each other a lot of support, encouragement, and appreciation. It's a great community, and people are lovely there. And I think most, if not all, of the people there do what they do because it brings them joy to help others. But sometimes I feel a little weird making an announcement to the group that I've done this, or that. It feels a bit self-aggrandizing to me. (Note: I don't feel that way about other people's posts, just my own).

Because to me, it shouldn't be about the label, or even about the action itself. To me, it should be about the emotion. Because the world doesn't need more labels, or more selfies. It needs more caring.

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's a Wrap

Or a blanket, actually.

Seven weeks, fourteen plus skeins of yarn, two crochet hooks, and lots (and lots) of ends woven in. Michael said he wanted dark colors, with an accent color (visualize hands weaving through the air) wandering through. Well, hopefully my wobbly attempts at surface chain stitching will be wandering enough. Now to get the blanket to his parents' house in Jerusalem and wait for him to come home for a weekend. Not sure when that will be, medical school is keeping him pretty busy down south in Beersheva. Hopefully he will come soon, because winter is finally here and I'm sure a warm blanket would come in handy about now.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Made My Day

The other day I got a text message that made my day. 

Six weeks prior, I had donated a bunch of hats, cowls, and fingerless mitts to an organization that serves at-risk youth in my city (the photo only shows a small sample). The coordinator, Oren, even came to my house to pick up the stuff, which is almost unheard of. He is a very sweet guy, who showed me the van they use to drive to a different neighborhood each night. The van is outfitted with a small table and a couple of benches, plus a stack of plastic stools, games, everything needed for making coffee and tea, and - for this time of year - blankets. He explained that the teens they meet are very hesitant to accept help, including gifts. He told me they would probably wear the things I made while they hung out with Oren and his volunteers, but would leave them behind when they left. He explained that the teens he sees do have a place to sleep at night, though it's not what you and I would call "home." 

A week later Oren sent me a bunch of photos of the teens wearing the things I had made. Is there anything better than getting pictures of the gifts you made being enjoyed? I asked Oren what else I could make for them, more mitts perhaps since I didn't get a chance to make many pairs. He replied, thank you so much but what we have will last us for quite a while. I confess I felt a bit sad, because I wanted to think the teens would keep the hats and things, and enjoy them every day - not just once a week when Oren came back to their neighborhood. And, selfishly perhaps, I wanted the pleasure of making more things for them. Certainly I had not been able to make enough that every teen Oren sees would get something.

Then the other day, Oren texted to tell me that the teens loved what I had made so much that the things were all gone, and would it be possible for me to make more. Wow. Of course it's possible! 

I don't think I can describe how happy it makes me to know that these teens felt able to accept a gift, to feel that they deserve to have a hat of their own. I hope they can feel the love that went into each stitch, and know that they are lovable just as they are.