Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NEW on Etsy: Lion Fish Watercolor Pencil Drawing

 I'm pleased to announce a new addition to my Etsy shop! 

Click HERE to learn more about this item. 

I'm hoping to add more fish to my shop soon. :-) 

Is there an animal you'd love a painting or drawing of? 
Request a custom order from my shop!

Adventure well; Live fully. 

Why the Hubster is a German Shepherd

I don't know how many of you have seen my Hubster when he gets really happy and excited, but he just sort of shakes all over as though he might burst. I love to tease him about this, joke that he's like a dog wagging his tale. But lately, I've been thinking about the dog analogy. 

I came to the conclusion late last night that my Hubster is like a German Shepherd. 

 Photo Credit: Anne Almasy                                     Photo Credit: doozydog.com

1) The wagging thing. I think it's seriously funny and adorable. John works really long hours, so when he has the energy to get really excited and happy, it's a treat!

2) Cuddling. The Hubster loves to cuddle. No objections here--I do, too!!

3) He loves to be outside doing something active. Biking, hiking, rollerblading, walking...you name it. 

4) He's always game for an adventure...unless it's really late at night, then refer to number 2. ;-)

5) He loves learning new things. The Hubster has been studying for IT certifications, and I love watching his motivation and listening to him explain things about computer networking that are way over my head. 

6) Good naps are practically a sport. This used to bug me...but I've been learning the fine art myself lately, and I'm appreciating it a lot more!

7) Food. Lots of GOOD food. My man loves his nutrition and a yummy experience--good thing I like to cook! 

8) Toys. Granted, the Hubster far prefers his Nokia Lumia to a frisbee, but you get the idea. Also, he takes seriously cool photos on that thing. Like this one:

Photo Credit: John Knight

Now, these things are all true, endearing, and wonderful about my Hubster, but I think there are more meaningful comparisons to be made, too. German Shepherds can be wonderful family dogs, but they also command our respect because they are powerful animals. Likewise, my Hubster is tender, but he is also admirable and commands my respect.

9) His love is very deep and true. I read an article yesterday that suggested that our society fears and thus demeans mens' love--the way a man loves his wife and the way he loves his guy friends. It got me thinking. I see that depth and strength of love in John. It's powerful, and I think the article may have been on to something when it suggested that we are anxious about that kind of power in our society. After all, it was love that took Christ to the cross for our salvation. J.K. Rowling showed us in her villain, Voldemort, how detrimental, shriveling and deadly it can be to underestimate love. We don't want to make that mistake--underestimating the love of our spouses, fathers, brothers, or Savior. As John's wife, I have a lot of security from his love, and I don't ever want to take that for granted. 

10) He provides. While we may not think of German Shepherds as providers, we do, I think, consider them working dogs. John works very hard to meet our needs and to pursue his desired career in IT to take care of our family. I think we have really experienced God's blessing on that work in these 7ish months of marriage, too, as we have been blessed more than we ever dreamed. 

11) He protects. Everything from falling asleep with one arm wrapped around me to investigating things that go bump in the night to killing scary spiders to making sure my tires are full of air before I drive to Atlanta...John looks out for my safety and peace of mind. 

12) He is patient. In dogs we tend to classify patience as loyalty, I think, and John is loyal, but I really want to highlight his patience. In the words of Steve Brown, "No matter what your husband says, you are hard to love." This is true of me, and I am daily reminded of how patient John is with me. What a blessing!

There you go...a somewhat humorous way of looking at 12 things I love about my Hubster. I hope all of you are as blessed and loved by your spouse as I am by mine!

Adventure well; Live fully.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Gloves

Hello, Friends!

My apologies that I've been so MIA! The Hubster and I have been sick, besides being busy having a very lovely Christmas. 

It seems like each winter some item rises above the rest as my most-knit item of the season. For several years when I first started knitting, this was, predictably, scarves. I knit oodles and oodles. 

Christmas 2006: lots of scarves!

 This year, though, it's been gloves. Gloves, gloves, and more gloves for about two months. Every now and then I feel a bit sick of them, but everyone who has a pair seems to love them so much (myself included), that I think they really are a worthwhile endeavor. 

So, I'd like to highlight a few pairs I've knit recently. 

First: cotton handwarmers. 
These are ribbed all the way down and have a longer cuff than the ones I've shared with y'all previously. I just sold a tan pair on Etsy, and I knit these for a friend. 

Second: Wool Fingerless Gloves. 
These were my mama's Christmas present, and I have to admit that I'm rather proud of them (though all photo credit goes to her and my dad--they sent these lovely pics to me this morning). They're trimmed with mulberry to match her coat. 

Third, and finally, my current project: Tree of Life Fingerless Gloves. 
I knit myself a pair of these two years ago, darned them last winter, but, as the photo shows, they're really in desperate need of replacing. So, I've finally started knitting myself a new pair! 

Love them? Check out the pattern at KnitPicks.

Well, there you have it, folks. My glove knitting mania in words and pictures. 

Remember, I love custom orders, so hop on over to my Etsy shop if you have a hankering for a pair of gloves knit just to your fancy! 

Adventure well; Live fully.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Little Things

My first thought this morning was simple and exciting: Christmas is in one week!

Of course, I immediately thought of those last few gifts I need to wrap. But I soon returned to a vision of a week hence: fresh waffles and sausage, opening stocking gifts (including a WONDERFUL Barnes and Noble gift card that I happen to know about), making a big lunch to be shared with my parents...the joy of being together on my favorite holy day. 

My thoughts also shifted to the task at hand: finals week. I think this week has been my least stressful finals week ever. Each morning I review, and at 2pm I take a final. Not too bad. This morning I was halfway through, but tonight I am 3/4 through. Tomorrow I will finish up, then take myself on a lovely shopping/coffee/book buying outing. Atlas Shrugged is at the top of my Barnes and Noble list. I've been looking forward to it for months.

Speaking of Christmas reading: I'm re-reading the Hobbit for the first time in a decade, and I'm listening to Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. Getting lost in books has certainly helped this week!

My hubster brought home two succulents yesterday that are living in mugs on my table. 

Contrary to tradition, I made Snow Day Cake for a party last night. It was wonderful. 

I also made Aunt Laurie's cookies. Yummmm. 

The echoes of a friend raving over my hot chocolate. 

A new book about fish arrived in the mail today. 

Friends coming up for an adventure on Friday.

I made a bright, colorful, far too large salad for dinner. 

So what's the point? 
 I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Christmas delight. 
Tonight, I remind you again:
We are busy. There's much to be done these next few days as we prepare for the holiday. 
But don't get so busy that you lose track of these little special things--new plants, favorite desserts, books, friends, yummy food...

They're small, rather daily things that we tend to lose track of this time of year. 

But these things are priceless. 

Treasure them in your hearts. 

Adventure well; Live fully. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Why You Gotta Be So Mean?"

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. Both business and art seem to attract criticism, so combining the two would certainly bring some. That doesn't really make it any easier to swallow, though. 

I got home late last night from a wonderful day out with John. On a whim, we ate breakfast at Panera before church. After church, we had lunch with friends, went to the Aquarium, and saw the Hobbit. We had so much fun! When we got in, I was surprised to see how many views my Etsy shop had received during the day and soon realized I had gotten a lot of traffic from one particular website. Intrigued, I looked it up and hunted for the page that apparently led to my shop. It was one of those websites that declares and tracks trends (whatever that means), gives ideas, etc., so I was hoping for something positive. Was I ever wrong. 

Granted, I'm not known for having a thick skin, but to have vulgar things said about something that I made...I don't know that there's skin thick enough for that. 

Being a youth of the 21st century, Taylor Swift swiftly ( ;-) ) lent her lyrics for expressing my feelings: "Why you gotta be so mean?" It's pretty much been playing in my head since. 

I don't know why someone thought it would be funny to gather things off of Etsy that they thought were sub-par and say mean, nasty things about them. That's a lot of cynicism and negativity. Is it really all that hard to say nice things? Maybe it's just hard to get one's mind out of the gutter. It's sad, really. 

So I've been thinking...
Maybe this person went through a particularly nasty breakup recently.
Maybe they were abused. 
Maybe they were bullied. 
Maybe someone they loved left or died around the holidays. 
Maybe they're a single parent and really need that job, even if it's an icky one. 
Maybe they're just really lost and sad and lonely and without a lot of hope or peace right now. 

Whatever the case, they have a big, fat need for grace--from me and all the other hardworking Etsy folks they said nasty things about. And, you know what? I need grace, too, because I'm not always nice either. I guess that puts me and this person in kind of the same boat. 

I don't really like that, but it's true. We're broken. Messed up. In real need of grace. 

So, person-out-there-who-was-a-meanie-face-yesterday, I'm sorry you don't like everything on Etsy, but I'm not going to let you decide what is okay in my shop. I'm sorry for the mean things I said in my head about you last night. 

Adventure well; Live fully.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

10 Tips for Surviving Finals

Maybe this post is a little late to help this semester, but maybe you're already thinking, "Next semester will be better. Next semester I'll sleep more, eat better, etc." If so, this is the post for you! A few ideas on how to relax, study efficiently, and, hopefully, be a little happier and healthier when you get home for break. 

1) Make like Hermione and create a plan and start early. Finals start in two weeks? Set aside a simple one hour per day to finals prep. That could add up to 12 hours of studying (assuming a 6 day study week--that gives you a "freebie") over a period of time which is perhaps more effective than you might thin. That's before finals week even strikes. In addition to that kind of plan (Which should include which classes you tackle which days), make a plan for finals week that include several hours of studying, but also leaves time for other things. 

2) Organize everything BEFORE your reading days. During that early study time? Take a few minutes for each class and make sure all your notes and other papers are in the same place (preferably a binder) and in some logical order. By doing this early, you'll have plenty of time to track down profs or other students for anything you're missing before everyone else's stress levels rise, too. 

3) No one's joking around when they say you should sleep. You're making your plans early. PLAN SLEEP. And don't mess around about getting it. 8 hours is best, but if you're worried about that, 7 is still way better than 4 or 5, or less. You will think more clearly on rest than caffine, and you'll be less mean by the end of the week too. ;-)

4) Eat. Eat well. Let's assume a few scenarios: If you're a meal person, value that time. Set aside a little extra time for meals: don't take your books, just enjoy the break. More of a grazer? Plan what you have on hand: make sure your snackage include proteins, fruits, veggies, carbs. Don't end up stealing easy mac from your roomie or buying chex mix from the vending machine. Remember this, too: You are stressed. You will want comfort food. Think that through, too. It's better to, say, buy dark chocolate or your own thing of ice cream and have a limited quantity than to go in hunt of comfort every night when you get frustrated with your homework. 

5) Exercise. Even if you just go for a twenty minute walk a time or two per day. Go to the gym, a jog, ride a bike. Something, anything. And, most importantly, don't take any homework. Eating and exercise are no homework zones. Give your brain a break and restore it and the rest of your body with good nutrients and getting up and moving. 

Okay, you've been planning and preparing. You have schedules drawn up, snackage stocked up, and classes are about to end. Reading days and finals are eminent. 

6) If you've been following the early study plan (so your stuff is already well under control) and you live close enough, take a reading day and go home. See your family; see your friends. They're a huge part of why you're so anxious for the break, so take some of the edge off and get some time with them. If you don't live close enough to go home for a day, take a day to do something with friends at school. Take a day trip, go hiking, even just do dinner and a movie. Give yourself a taste of break long enough to defrag. 

7) Don't study until bedtime. In addition to taking periodic breaks during the study stretch (which we all know is important), stop studying at least an hour before you're due to crash. Take an hour to shower and do your own fun stuff--read, draw, knit, whatever. Unwind. You don't want to fall asleep with equations or random facts parading through your head. That's miserable. Again, defrag. 

8) Speaking of showers, take them. Regularly. Daily. Don't be one of those grubby, I-got-hit-by-a-bus students. Gross. Bathe, brush your teeth, wear real clothes (at least jeans and a sweater or something), put on your make up, shave. You get the idea. You will feel better and focus better if you're confident and clean. 

9) Don't cram right before each test. That would be a great time to exercise and then shower. Go in to your test fresh. 

10) CELEBRATE after every test. Go to Starbucks for your next study session, eat some of that chocolate, pop a balloon. Something to give closer to each step CELEBRATE at the end, too. Plan that ahead of time so you can count down and look forward to it. (This semester, I'm spending the afternoon at Barnes and Noble reading Atlas Shrugged and drinking coffee, then going out for dinner and a movie with the Hubster. So much motivation!)

There. These are common sense things, but they will make a difference. I haven't been very good about this in the past, and I don't really remember the few days following finals for most of my college experience. I was often feverish and beyond exhausted. Finally, I got sick of feeling like that, and I'm trying to prevent it this semester. 

Here's a sample schedule, assuming one exam on this particular day.
7- Up, breakfast
8- Emails, social media, general getting things ready for the day
9- Gym
10- Shower/Dress
11- Study for Exam B (The following day's exam)
12- Review for Exam A (this day's exam)
1- Lunch/ Other non-studying necessities
4- Break
5- Study for Exam B
6- Dinner
7- Study (for Exam B or other subsequent exams)
8- Study
9- Study/ Other necessities
10- Wind down

Notice that this gives 6 potential study hours in just one day! That should be more than enough time, especially if you use it effectively. AND you won't be crazy by the end. :-) 

Adventure well; Live fully.

Monday, December 9, 2013

10 Reasons To Love the Tennessee Aquarium

This is a little off the beaten path for my blog, but if this is really all about adventures, I guess it works. I'm wrapping up my second year as an aquarium member and excited to start my third. I've mentioned my love of fish on here before (If you don't remember, refresh yourself on this fun post.). I've been reviving it a bit lately (compliments of Season 4 of River Monsters with Jeremy Wade. If you haven't seen it, learn more here.), and thinking about why I love the Tennessee Aquarium so much. So, here we go:

The pointed, glass roofs in the center are the aquarium.
Photo Credit: John Knight

1) It's HUGE. Two big ol' buildings, River Journey and Ocean Journey. Each building is probably 4 or 5 stories high--I've been a dozen or more times, and it still takes me several hours to walk through all the exhibits.

2) River Journey is a wonderful blend of small, regional tanks and bigger exhibits. Since my fishy obsession is freshwater, I really like the extra attention given to this 40% of the world's fish. 

3) Speaking of River Journey, let's talk about the RIVER GIANTS exhibit. It opened in April 2012, holds nearly 90,000 gallons of water, and is home to some awesomely large fish. My favorite is the Arapaima. 

River Giants
Learn more about it, the other giants, and the exhibit HERE.
Photo from the Tennessee Aquarium website

4) Another special exhibit is the river otters. Currently under renovation, this exhibit will reopen in Spring 2014 with "3x the otters and 3x the space." I'm more than a little excited. 

American River Otters
Photo from the Tennessee Aquarium website

5) Other super-cool non-fishy exhibits include macaws, butterflies, various (often very large) reptiles (including LOTS of turtles), and penguins. I love this because it reminds us of all the other critters who live in, on, or near water, and it draws our attention to ecosystems as a whole, not just individual species.

6) Speaking of ecosystems, the Tennessee Aquarium is extremely involved in freshwater conservation. This makes a lot of sense since the Aquarium is on the TN River, and wonderfully set up to work in that environment. Exhibits like the sturgeon tank and the Barron's Top Minnow Lab remind aquarium goers that the facility is about research and conservation, not just entertainment. I love that visitors can pet the sturgeons and see the Lab because it brings them closer to understanding the fragility, importance, and beauty of preserving our waterways and their inhabitants. 

7) Touch Tanks. There's one in each building: the sturgeons that I already mentioned above located in the River Journey, and the stingray tank in Ocean Journey. I like these for the cool factor, but also because, again, they help folks connect with these animals, fostering concern rather than fear. I don't believe that the "needs" of wildlife should come before human life (ie: we're not going back to living in tents), but I do think we are called to be stewards and protectors of the earth who use resources wisely and do our best to preserve the wonderful variety and balance of God's creation. 

8) Freshwater Rays. Did you know there are a variety of freshwater rays living in rivers like the Amazon and Mekong? Amazonian rays are colorful and moderately sized. Mekong giant rays are just that--GIANT! 
Zeb Hogan
Dr. Zeb Hogan with one heck of a ray. 
Learn more about him here.
 Photo from the Tennessee Aquarium website

 9) Jellyfish. Ocean Journey is dominated by a large salt water tank and lots and lots of jelly fish tanks. I had know idea there was such variety-- including upside down jellies and even black jellies! 

10) The main attraction of Ocean Journey: The big salt water tank. Sharks and fish everywhere! It's wonderful! Fun fact, did you know that bull sharks breed in freshwater and can be found 50+ miles inland in many of the world's rivers? Yikes! 

There you have it folks! Next time you're in Chattanooga, you really should visit the aquarium. If you live within a couple hours, it's worth the day trip, too. It's my favorite part of this city, and this top 10 list only scratches the surface of all the wonderful things about it! 

Adventure well; Live fully. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

WIPs: More gloves and scarves

Good morning, y'all! Happy Saturday! 

My sweet hubster let me sleep in a bit this morning, and I'm having a late-ish breakfast of pear, double glouchester cheese, and tetley black tea. mmmm. It's so foggy and wet outside, that I can almost believe that I'm in Britain eating my English breakfast. :-) 

It has been far too long since I updated y'all! I promise that my silence does not mean lack of productivity, as I really have been knitting a good bit, in spite of finishing up my senior thesis this week and beginning preparation for finals. 

I have two works in progress at the moment, one for a challenge and one to keep me sane while I work on the other one. 

First up, a chevron-striped, chunky neckwarmer.

This is my challenge project, and, so far, it's just a nub of progress. I'm working off of basic instructions for a chevron seed stitch (see my chevron peter pan collar here to get an idea of the stitch), but I'm attempting to do each chevron in a different color. The result, I hope, will be a chunky single loop neckwarmer with awesome green, blue, and grey chevrons. AND the yarn is made from recycled wool. Awesome? yes. But, these 5 rows (granted, they were the "getting started" rows which are always the "worst") took well over an hour, so we'll see if I survive. Did I mention that, at last count, I have 8 strands of "live" yarn to keep track of. Madness. 
(Sidenote: see how kinky that one knitting needle in the above picture is? That's the pair of needles that I learned to knit on--9 years ago! Those needles have knit more scarves than I can count, and, well, they might have been sat on along the way...)   
 Next up: more handwarmers!

A couple of things sets these apart from the others I've made recently. 
1. These are 100% pima cotton. Sensitive skin? Warmer climate? These are perfect for you. This cotton is unbelievably soft. 
2. CHUNKY. The others have been with finer yarn and smaller needles. This is a chunky thick-thin yarn (the same ones I use for my washcloths. Check those out here.) knit on wonderful size 11 DPNs. This is such a quick project compared to the other stuff I've been doing! 
3. Length. These fit from above the wrist down to your knuckles. It's like a fluffy hand hug!

Now, lest you be anxious about the rather wobbly appearance of this yarn when it's just lying flat, here's what these look like on:

Chunky, cozy, wonderful. :D 
Already in love? These should be up on Etsy in the next couple of days. As always, I'll let you know when they go up via Facebook and Twitter (all the info for that is over on the right and toward the top. ---> )

And, FINALLY, in case you missed it on Facebook and Twitter, I have to show y'all the WIP that we had the guessing game about!
I was knitting a women's headband/earwarmer that matches the teal tweed handwarmers!

This tweed headband/earwarmer is knit with wool in a fairly fine stitch. The first third or so is knit in horizontal rib, which gives the headband some nice stretch. It then switches to stockinette stitch, finishing in an arrow shape, and connecting with 3 bobbly, faux-leather buttons. I think it's both classic and funky, and I have to admit that I'm rather proud of it. :-) 
Love it? Check it out on Etsy by clicking HERE.   
Interested in the handwarmers, too? Those are here.

Thanks for reading, y'all-- I'll be better about blogging, promise! :-) 

Adventure well; Live fully. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Time is Here

"Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year 
Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share 
...Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year..."
~Charlie Brown Christmas

Christmas started while I was still at my parents' house for Thanksgiving, and it continued yesterday as the Hubster and I decorated our Burrow.

 I tried to study today, I really did, but I just keep getting lost in twinkle lights and wrapping paper. I've had my Christmas playlist on repeat, much to Hubster's amusement (I take Christmas a bit more seriously than he does. :-) ). There's already a pile of presents under our tree, plans have been made for family and friends to visit, and I've had a reading list a mile long since July to tackle over break. And all those things are good--wonderful, really--but they're not the point. Part of the point, but not all of it. I'm reminded of some wise words that were said to me about 7 years ago:

"A lot will ring empty here this time of year because it is empty. 
Delight-- TRUE delight-- is other worldly."
~Steve Bennett

I said a moment ago that loved ones, gifts, and enjoyable past times are part of the point. These things reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. And those things are other-worldly. They ring true because they come from Truth. 

My friend Brenda will be delighted to know that the Carpenters are winning my vote for current favorite Christmas album. I've always loved them because they're classic, but, this year, one song really caught my attention:

It's Christmas time and time for a carol
Time to sing about the little King
To fill the bowl and roll out the banel
Have ourselves a fling
We greet a friend or welcome a stranger
Let him sing on cheer him on his way
And celebrate the child in the manger
Born on Christmas day
Good cheer for you and for me
With pleasure and glee to share
Oh, we're so happy to be together
On yuletide square
It looks like snow and falls like snow
Take a moment, take a look about and say
As snowflakes fall
Merry Christmas to one and all
~"It's Christmas Time"

That's what it's all about. Not gifts, not a break, not the hokey-pokey. It's all about the Child in a manger who was the Savior of the world. 

I'd like to share a few words that help me to remember why this time of year is so special to us. 
Emmanuel- God With Us. After millennia of prophecy, each and every one was fulfilled by a child born of a virgin. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14a).
Ichthus- In Greek, this acrostic means "Jesus Christ, Savior." The baby grew up and became sin for us so that we might become children of God and heirs to His kingdom. 
Agape- Perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). God himself died on a cross and rose again because of His perfect, overwhelming love for us. 

For some of you, these words ring true. But for others, you're skeptical. You might even think I'm a bit kooky, even uneducated. Hope is out of fashion these days, and cynicism is all the rage--I get that. But we all believe that Christmas is a time for hope, kindness, generosity, and love--why can't we believe that every day of the year? What if our "Christmas spirit" is a lot closer to the real deal than our work-day cynicism and exhaustion? What if we were made for true, other worldly delight? 

Adventure well; Live fully.