Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Your 20 Questions Answered -- my yearly tell all!

Answering your questions has become sort of a tradition here at my blog.  Over the course of this past year I've received so many wonderful and lovely emails and letters from my blog readers -- while I make a point to answer all your questions as they come to me -- I also save them to share with you all in this once a year post.  I'm answering your questions publicly here -- some serious -- some just for fun -- and sharing with you some of my recent travel and activity photos~

Cartagena, Columbia
1.  "I bet you can tell some great stories in regards to your travels.  Have you ever had a really bad vacation?"

Oh yeah baby!  A few years ago, the Gardener and I went to St. Martin in the late fall for a 10 day vacation. It was raining when we stepped off the plane -- and it never stopped for the  entire trip. In fact, about 4 days into the trip the storm was designated a hurricane -- Hurricane Otto.  I have never seen so much rain in my life!  The entire island was underwater -- roads were closed -- on one trip out -- we had to drive across a golf course to get back to a highway.  Most of the restaurants on the island were closed. One of the restaurants at our hotel managed to stay open -- but the cook could not make it in-- so the maintenance man took over and fixed spaghetti for everyone.  It was an adventure to say the least. We read a lot of books -- and I knitted a lot!  Needless to say -- the day we flew home -- the sun came out. That's probably my worst vacation ever.  EVER!! 

floating market

2. "You used to have something on your sidebar that highlighted the books you were reading -- would you consider bringing that back?"

Well -- honestly, I thought my sidebar was getting too cluttered and I've tried to clean it up a bit! And--- I am such a slow reader, the books seemed to stay up there forever before I changed them out.  I LOVE to read -- it truly is a passion -- I can only hope that I live long enough to read even half of the books that I have as samples in my Kindle!  I usually only read about an hour at night before I turn out the lights -- that's really my only chance to read -- and I look forward to it every day.  When we travel, or in the summer when I am siting by our pool knitting -- I also like to listen to audio books. The last audio book that I listened to and loved was "Death in a Floating City". I loved it so much that I've added the other books in the series into my audio book list for later. 

I've been trying to list the books I read, my latest TV series that I watch,... in the updates at the end of my blog post.  So for now -- I'm going to share those with you there. 

Outstanding in the Field
Farm Dinner
Carriage House Farms
North Bend, Ohio
3.  "I know that you try to eat healthy  -- and I'm trying to, but it's so hard sometimes, especially when I am on the go or in a hurry. I'm desperate for a go to snack that is NOT a vegetable!  Can you offer up any suggestions?"

I totally understand the "always in a hurry" mindset -- and I think that is a challenge for everyone who is trying to maintain a healthy diet. I really do eat a lot of raw vegetables -- always have bags in the fridge of cauliflower, carrots, and yellow peppers already cut up and ready to go.  But -- like you sometimes I want something else. One of my favorite go to snacks are these NUGO bars. They come in several flavors, but the vanilla yogurt is my favorite -- so it's the only one I choose.  I buy them by the case at Amazon and keep them in my purse, take them along on travels, and usually have one every day at work.

I also love those bags of 100 calorie snacks -- but honestly, sometimes after I eat one of those bags I am still hungry!  I've found a new 100 calorie snack that I am now totally addicted to -- these bags of Skinny Pop popcorn.     This stuff is wonderful -- it satisfies my hunger cravings, and is truly delicious.  We usually buy it from Costco -- its the cheapest there, but I sometimes order it from Amazon also. 

~~~ a note about the photo above--
We attended our latest Outstanding in the Field dinner this past fall -- I have not had the chance to post those photos yet -- I was too busy with the Pink Scarf Project photos at the time -- but I plan to share this amazing dinner with you all in a post that is coming up soon!

Longbay Beach
(Mama Pasta Restaurant)
4. "How do you always look so tan? You seem to be tanned in every photo!!"

We are very blessed to be able to travel to warm places often. Between cruises and travels to our home in Florida - I usually do maintain a tan most of the year -- (and YES I absolutely do use a sunscreen!) In between times, I use a self tanner--I am a huge fan of the Jergens brand of self tanning lotions -- they work really well for me and I use them often.  In the summer when I am outside a lot, I use this lotion to even out my "mowed the grass all day" tan! In the winter -- somehow it makes me feel a little better to have a little tan on my face!

at the flea market
(my special flea market "coat of many colors"-
I wear it so that my friends won't lose me!)

5.  "Vicki -- I am in awe of the photos you've shared of your Sacred Yarn Room!  Seriously, do you think you will EVER knit up all of that yarn??"

Hmmmm - do you mean in this life or my next life?  Well -- I'm thinking that's it's going to be a really great yard sale--- I just hope that whoever ends up with all of this yarn will love it as much as I do!

Reflecting Pond

6.  "I read on your blog a while back that you were planning to do a post related to your weight loss and your own personal plan for keeping your weight off.  I've been waiting and watching for that post  -- do you still plan to do that? Please???"

I did promise to do that post -- and I feel really bad that it hasn't happened yet.  I really did have it planned for last summer -- but the Pink Scarf Project totally consumed my almost every spare moment. I promise you that I absolutely WILL do that post this spring or early summer.  You have MY word on it. xoxo

Cartagena, Columbia
(on the street "lending library" )
(I just loved all the books!)

7. "How many hours do you pack into a day girlfriend???"

That answer is easy -- a lot! I'm rarely not busy.  If I'm sitting still, I'm working on something.  And, I pride myself on being very organized.  I make lists -- and work hard to keep them updated.  I set deadlines -- and try hard to make them.  I've become a night owl -- watching some great TV late at night (love some of the old PBS series usually on Netflex or Amazon).  If I don't have to work the next day -- its nothing for me to sit up until 1 or 2 am.  I seem to get a lot accomplished in the late evenings.  My knitting projects go with me everywhere --- my travels, in my car for road trips, if I have a spare minute -- I seem to have a plan for it!  I am so very blessed to have a wonderful husband who helps around the house with everything -- so that I have the time to devote to my blog, my projects, and all the things that are important to me. 

boating in beautiful
St. Lucia
8.  "I'd love to start my own blog, but I'm unsure about how often to do a post -- or actually, what I should even blog about.  I know you probably get a ton of emails about this sort of thing -- if you could just send me a few suggestions I would be so grateful."

Blogging has been an incredible journey for me. Along the way I have learned so very much.  I think that more than anything, you need to be true to yourself when you blog.  Blog about things that are important to you.  Your blog  should be YOUR  own personal expression of your life and loves.  Things that matter to you. Things that interest you.  

When I first started blogging, I had those same concerns.  I constantly wondered what would my next post be about.  Now--- I keep a list of my ideas -- constantly updating it as new ideas come to mind --and that list is SO long that I will never get to them all.  

I spend hours and hours sometimes on my blog post -- case in point -- this one!  For me -- I do well to post about once every two weeks.  But there are some wonderful blogs out there who have new posts almost every day.  I just can't do that -- but what you need to know is that there is no wrong answer -- just do what comes natural and what works for you.  My posting habits are largely a result of how very busy that I am.  Whatever you choose to do -- just make sure that it is the right thing for you. You are blogging for you -- always remember that. 

a sinfully lazy day at sea

9. "I want to learn to knit.  NO one in my family knits and I don't have any friends that knit.  Do you have any suggestions as to how I should learn?"

Hooray!!!! Good for you girlfriend!  Knitting will change your life and reward  you in ways that you never thought possible.  My first suggestion would be to see if your local yarn stores offer knitting classes.  If that is not an option --(and it wouldn't be for me as there are NO local yarn stores in my area!!) -- then I suggest that you watch the UTube videos out there. 

There are literally hundreds of videos out there that will show you step by step how to knit and do the various knitting stitches. These are an excellent way to learn this skill.  I would suggest that you begin with casting on -- then the basic garter stitch -- progressing to the basic purl stitch after you have mastered the garter stitch. Feel totally comfortable with these stitches before you progress to other stitches -- and there are hundreds.   While probably any of the videos would be helpful -- you can definitely get some great instruction here  

 If I lived close to you, I would love to teach you to knit -- all of you!  Passing that skill on to others is truly a great pleasure for me.  I'm here for you -- happy to answer any of your questions -- offer advice -- direct you to where to go to get answers -- what ever you need - and I do mean all of you.  Knitting has changed my life - keeps me sane -- keeps me calm -- has made me a better person, a happier person, a healthier person. 

St. Martin
(that little girl in the pink dress was NOT going to move!!)
(gives the photo a nice pop of color, don't you think?) 

10.  "Do you take suggestions for your Designer nests?  I would love to see one in a red, white, and blue American theme."

Your suggestions and ideas are always welcome!  The idea for an Americana nest has been in the back of my mind for a while, but after this email arrived -- I began the process of creating it in my sketchbook. The process of creating a Designer nest takes months -- even a couple of years -- as the search for materials and embellishments can be quite an undertaking.  Also, I spend a lot of time researching artists so that I can incorporate some of their lovely creations into the design.  

This nest is in process~~Already I have begun to collect beautiful yarns and embellishments --- the sketch is in the early stages in my sketchbook.  If a design makes it that far into my sketchbook -- it will definitely happen. Sometime~

Cartagena, Columbia
(I love beautiful old doors!)
11. "Where do you purchase the beautiful yarns that you use in your projects.  I have looked at my local yarn shops and I cant find anything that compares to the yarns I see on your blog. I would be grateful for any help that you can give me -- I think if I could work with yarns like you do, I would be more inspired with my knitting."

Beautiful yarns are one of life's great pleasures! You need to know that when I sit down to create a project -- like one of my nests or one of my knitted wraps~~ I am pulling from a basket of yarns that I have compiled specifically for that project.  The basket (s) might easily contain a hundred or more yarns.  

Novelty yarns are my passion, and my designs primarily focus on those types of yarns. It is becoming harder and harder to find these types of yarns in local yarn shops.  While some shops do carry them, most don't-- so I have had to become creative in the search for the yarns I use.

First off -- I search for yarn shops whenever we travel.  I am blessed to have a wonderful husband who does not mind to tag along with me in search of yarn.  Because novelty yarns can be quite expensive (!!) -- I always go to the sale yarns in every shop that I visit.  I usually have projects in mind when I go to purchase yarns, so that helps me to know what I am looking for-- but if I find a beautiful  yarn -- project or not --I buy it!  Hence my stash has become quite large!

For the past several years, I have been purchasing yarns from both Ebay and Etsy If you don't have a particular yarn in mind, or don't know the name of the yarn you want -- just do a search by color.  You will find hundreds and hundreds of yarns to choose from in the color selections that you want. I try to purchase yarns without having to bid on them -- as I usually forget to go back and check on my bids!  When I have purchased a  yarn that I especially love and think I might like to use again-- I cut a sample of the yarn, wind it around the yarn label and drop it into a zippered bag. Then -- in the future when I want to search for a particular yarn, I just go to the bag and I have the info I need to look for that yarn again on Ebay or Etsy. 

It has taken my several years to accumulate a yarn stash, so don't expect to do this overnight!  What begins as one basket of yarn-- soon leads to two baskets -- and then before you know it you will have a stash that is worth of midnight yarn shopping! 

  Carriage House Farms
(Outstanding in the Field farm dinner)

   12.  "Vicki, I hope you can settle this question for me-- Do you read ebooks or regular books? My sister says that you are a "touchy feely" sort of person and she thinks you read actual books. I think that you read mostly ebooks because you travel so much. I have a bet with my sister on this and  if I lose I have to buy lunch for my sister at an expensive restaurant!"

Are you kidding me?? You would bet on this??? I can't stop laughing!  Fortunately for you -- I do read mostly ebooks-- but, your sister is right also as I truly do love beautiful books.  I read on my Kindle because it is easier and less expensive. When we travel, its so much easier to pack my Kindle than to add the extra weight of books.  And -- honestly, I have too much stuff and I am trying to cut down on adding to the clutter! 

But -- I love books. I love the way it feels to hold a book in my hands, I love to turn the pages, I love the beautiful covers~~ if I had a home that could hold floor to ceiling bookcases-- I would fill them with beautiful books.  But, for me that is just not practical. I do buy books from time to time, but after I read them, I usually donate them to our local library.  

In fairness, I think that both you and your sister are right on this one.  I suggest that you both go out to dinner at the wonderful restaurant, split the tab -- and have a drink for me! Make some wonderful memories with your sister~

(a beautiful day in port)

 13.  "What is your best travel tip?"

Ohhh - we could talk for hours on this one!  I think we all learn so many things when we travel, it's hard to pin it down to just one thought. Instead-- can I share with you some of my favorite finds that have made my travels so much easier?

I love coffee.  Seriously, I LOVE coffee.  And when we travel, I love to take my coffee with me in the mornings-- walking around in port, going to the beach,...  I've been on the GREAT COFFEE MUG search now for several years -- and FINALLY I have found the perfect coffee mug for me that does NOT leak! I love this coffee mug so much!  I can throw it (literally) into my purse, back pack, or beachbag and it does not leak - ever. My coffee stays hot for hours and hours.  You can buy this mug at Barnes&Noble or follow the link above to the Amazon website.  This mug comes in a plastic and stainless steel version and my only experience is with the stainless version. The mug is a little bit expensive but SO worth it to me! (Although this mug is supposed to be dishwasher safe - I do not ever put my mug into the dishwasher.)

Now for my second travel find ---
My IPhone goes with me everywhere I go.  I am constantly checking emails (I get lots of emails!) and I use it for photos a lot when we travel. There is nothing worse than being midway through your travel day and your phone battery is gone - dead -- end of story. This Jackery phone charger rocks my world!  While there are several models available in assorted sizes -- this is the one I use and LOVE! This charger will bring my phone from dead to a full charge 6 times on one single full charge from the Jackery.  There is a double port - so I can also charge my Kindle or Ipad at the same time -- or my husbands phone if I'm in the mood to share!

When we are spending the day at the beach -- I want to be able to check my emails and make calls -- all day!  That could never happen before I bought this phone charger -- now, I don't give a thought to using my phone all day long.  This charger is a little bit on the heavy side, but it fits easily into my purse, or bag and for me the weight is not really an issue. This is perfect for those long plane flights when you want to use your Ipad or Kindle Fire to watch movies. On a full charge from the Jackery - it will charge your Ipad or Kindle at least 3 times...I love this little thing so much that I gave one to everyone in my family for Christmas this past year!

Grand Canyon
(north rim)

14.  "What kind of hiking boots do you wear?  My husband and I are on a mission to become more active and I have tried hiking in tennis shoes and that just is not working for me.  I thought I would ask you because I know that you love to hike."

This question just keeps coming back to me every year -- it's one of my most asked questions -- go figure!  I love my Quest hiking boots!  They are so lightweight, easy to pack for travels, and they are waterproof.  I have never had even the first blister from wearing these boots and I've hiked up a lot of hills! I bought mine at Dick's Sporting Goods, but I am sure that they are probably available other places as well.  

Biltmore garden gate 
Asheville, NC

15.  "We are planning some extended travels and I would like to take my knitting along.  I have never done that before but I know that you do it all the time.  Can you offer any suggestions for projects and items I need to be sure to take with me?"

Packing my knitting for travels is just as important as packing my clothes and I spend some serious time making sure that my knitting projects are well prepared for my trip.  I usually start to pack my travel knitting about a month before my travels. 

I choose projects that are either already familiar to me or are somewhat mindless - meaning the pattern or instructions does not require a lot of concentration. (I'm going on vacation -- I don't want to have to think!)  In advance of my travels I usually cast on my project and knit a few rows, making sure that my needle size is right for the yarn that I have chosen.  Then I review each project and make sure that I have the supplies that I need for each one -- row counter, cable needle, stitch holders,... I package each project (yarn, instructions, and supplies) individually in zippered bags. 

If the patterns I am using are also online -- I try to download them to my phone Kindle app or if that is not possible, I take a picture of the instructions and keep it in my photo roll.  I find that it is easier to look at my phone for instructions, instead of trying to keep up with a piece of paper on the windy top deck of a cruise ship!  If I do take paper copies of instructions and patterns, I make sure that I have extra copies tucked into my luggage someplace. 

Seriously -- I put a lot of effort into packing my knitting for travels. There is nothing worse than being on an airplane - or in the middle of the ocean and finding out that you don't have the right needles, the wrong yarn, or don't have your needed supplies! Trust me on this -- I have learned the hard way --and ~~ did you know that you can use a straw as a cable needle! LOL!!  

(not sure where --- I swam to shore from our
boating excursion  so that I could visit this old historic house)

16.  "What is that noodle thing that you are holding in so many of your cruise photos? Do you pack a swim noodle with you when you travel on a cruise?"

This question made me go back and look through lots of my cruise photos -- I had NO idea that I was always holding that noodle chair, but sure enough, I was!  OK -- here is the scoop.  This noodle chair is amazing!  And YES - I pack it in the bottom of my suitcase and take it with me on every cruise!  It weighs nothing -- my clothes just go right on top of it and it's the best thing since sliced bread! 

In the photo above, we were on a boating excursion in Barbados. Our catamaran stopped just off the coast for everyone to swim, snorkel, and we had our lunch.  The Gardener and I were intrigued by the beautiful historic house on the beach in front of us. We swam about a hundred yards over to the beach so that we could walk around and take photos of the old house -- one of the oldest on the island.  My noodle chair was the berries for this task! Every time I travel with this chair I am always ask where I bought it -- if I had brought 20 with me I think that I could have sold them all!

Cartagena, Columbia
(street scene)

17.  "I've enjoyed your travel features in the past but I don't think I've seen any new ones lately. Are you still writing for the online magazine?"

Last year was unbelievably busy for me -- the Pink Scarf Project took my every spare moment and sadly, I just had to let some things go -- but you will see more travel features this year.  You can visit my already published travel feature stories here

Historic Old San Juan
Puerto Rico 

18.  "Vicki, your Pink Scarf Project was amazing and I am so proud that I was able to contribute in some small way.  It took me almost 6 months to knit the 4 scarves that I donated and I loved every minute of that knitting. Now that it's done -- honestly, I'm feeling kind of lost. Do you have plans for any more charitable projects? Will you do the Pink Scarf Project again? If so, I'm going to start knitting now so that I can stay ahead!"

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for every stitch and every prayer that you knitted into the scarves that you donated.   The Pink Scarf Project truly was a blessed project -- and now, still, when I think about it -- I am in awe of the generosity of so many folks just like you.  

While I do not have any projects in process at this time -- I can assure you that there will most definitely be another Pink Scarf Project in the future.  Not this year (2014) -- I truly do need a break for a bit as the project was all consuming --- but in a couple of years for sure.  I have some deeply personal reasons for wanting to do it again.  I see no reason why you couldn't start knitting now if  you wanted to!

 (somewhere sunny and warm!)

19.  "Your Designer nests take my breath away!  I am always too late to get on your waiting list and I would so love to have one of those beautiful creations.  Do you ever let people know in advance when they will be offered?

Who knew these little nests would be so loved?  I usually introduce the nest and the yarns about a year in advance of when the nest will actually debut.  But, honestly, at that time~ the spots to reserve the nest usually are taken within just a few hours of sometimes less.  I would suggest signing up for my posts by email so that you don't miss any of the posts -- just in case there is one about a future nest project.  But ---- here is a little advance notice for you~~ watch my blog in early January (2015) for the introduction of the next Designer nesting story and the preview of beautiful yarns - a sparkly, icy, snowy nest for a beautiful little winter bird~ (how's that for advance notice?)

St. Lucia
(one of my favorite photos of the Gardener)

20.  "Name 4 things that you have to have in your refrigerator at all times!"

Are you serious?? You really want to know this??  This is probably the funniest question that I have ever been asked -- it came as part of a much more serious hand written note, but the PS at the bottom said, "are you still collecting questions?  If so- here's mine~~".  This question made me laugh out loud- and since I enjoyed it so much-- I'm sharing it here with you~

OK - here goes~

Blueberries -- I drink a protein shake almost every day and I always add fruit to my shakes. I'm convinced that the almighty blueberry has magical antioxidant powers and I add them to my shake every single day. I have them in both my fridge and freezer- always.

Diet Pepsi-- don't laugh. It's my only true vice. I drink one every morning as soon as my feet hit the floor.

Laughing Cow Cheese Wedges-- I'm crazy about the stuff. I eat these with my raw vegetables almost every day-- if you haven't tried this, you need to!

Soup -- Admittedly, I am a soupaholic.  I have several favorite weight watcher recipes and I'm always on the lookout for a good soup recipe.  No matter the season, or temperature outside -- I could eat soup every day of the year. Either the Gardener or I make soup every few days -- we both love it. 

(I want to be there now!)

Alrighty -- I've answered your 20 questions as best I can~~ told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!  I hope that perhaps you might feel that you know me a little better now~

Was your question one of those that was answered?  I'll continue to collect your questions as always, and we will do this again next year about this time.

Some  updates~
The Vintage Spring nests are well into their creative process. There is yarn strung all over this house! While I work on the nests, I usually have something to watch on TV -- am I the only person in the world who had not watched the old Masterpiece Classic series "Upstairs, Downstairs"???  All 5 seasons of it?!! I'm on Season 3 and am totally hooked! (stop laughing!) (Lady Marjorie just bought a ticket for the Titanic -- I'm thinking that nothing good is going to come of that!)

Spring? I think it's coming.  One day the temperature is 70 and the next day it snows.  The birds seem to be busy -- and ~ one of our stray kitties is obviously pregnant-- yep, it's almost Spring! Right now -- my windows are open!!


ps - in case you missed last year's 20 Questions post -- you can find it here

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Shabby Treasure Nest - "a family story"

Every family has a story~

stories that link our past--
 to our future
stories that tell us not only who we are -
but WHY we are~

stories that live on forever
in our hearts~

we pass these stories on to our children,
and they, in turn,
pass them on to their children,
and on, and on
and on~

Precious mementos-- 
fragments of our lives,
often hidden away for years~
tucked inside
tattered boxes,
cluttered drawers,
places long forgotton.

 brought back to life-
a beautiful new place to be 
honored and cherished

This is Lisa's story~
   " the pocket watch belonged to my husband's Grandfather.  He lived on a 150 acre farm way up a holler in Greenbank, WV.  After he passed away, his family all gathered there to clean out the house.  This watch was found in an old drawer and the family was going to throw it away.  I just couldn't let that happen~"

"I found the ivory piece in and amongst a drawer of
 my Grandma's stuff. 
 I believe that it belonged to her sister,

 ~ "one of the rhinestone sets belonged to my Grandma Ella.  The other set belonged to my Mother.  The beautiful lace pieces came from a blouse that my Grandma Ella loved.  The other lace piece was from the tattered remains of her wedding dress. That crown pin was also a favorite piece of my Grandma Ella's jewelry."

~ "those dangle laces were made by my Grandma Meallie--
we found them among her sewing things.  She became a tailor in Italy at the age of 14 and later emigrated to the states when she was 19 years old.  She made wedding gowns for all her daughters, and for my Mother, when she married her son.  I still have that gown.  She made that doily and also the tatting."

~ "that vintage heart belonged to my Mother. 
 It was a gift from her sister Lois  (who was 11 years older than my Mom.)  
The heart was originally a gift to Lois from her boyfriend Byron, who was a merchant marine in the war.  During the war, when so many things were rationed, Byron saved so that he could buy gifts for Lois and for my Mom. That heart was gifted to Lois along with a box of chocolates and some silk stockings.  My Mom always treasured that little heart  ~"

These Shabby Treasure nests are a little variation
 of my Shabby Chic nests. 
 Like Lisa's nest--
each of them will be as unique and personal
 as the family stories
 that they tell.   

For more info regarding these little nests --
you can visit the "Nesting Updates" page
located on my sidebar --
click here

I want to say Thank you to Lisa
for allowing me to share her personal family story
with all of you~ 

Coming up next~~
I've saved your emails and notes for the last year and have compiled some of your questions into my yearly "20 Questions Answered" post.  Perhaps your question will be one of those that was chosen! (Although I have already answered each of these emails, I've been saving the questions to share with all of you in this special post.) 

Well, it snowed again. Big surprise there. First we got the ice -- then the snow -- thank goodness our power stayed on, I am so very thankful for that. I am telling myself that this is the LAST storm of the winter -- spring will be here shortly. Sometimes I can fake myself out like that~