Monday, May 28, 2012

In Memory

Today is the day we remember the men and women that have fallen in service to our country and though I have never lost a family member or friend, I have heard many stories of friends and loved ones lost.

When I was little my mother was a bartender at the Live Oak, CA Veterans of Foreign Wars post 7263 and I later became a bartender at the Forest Hill, TX Veterans of Foreign Wars post 8911. One of the stereo types of  bartenders is that we're good listeners, and I have to say that if you're a good bartender you fit the stereo type and if you're an even better bartender you remember the stories they tell.

I have met Pearl Harbor veterans, Normandy veterans, and Vietnam veterans. All of them have their stories and memories, and I have listened and share tears with them over a few rounds. 

We as Americans usually throw on our red, white and blue, celebrate being patriots today and give thanks to those that have fallen by having barbecues. Celebrating this way has been a tradition since World War 2 and though I think it's an excellent thing to celebrate being American, for reasons I cannot express in words, I feel like we're not doing enough for our veterans. Its as though that we should be ashamed about how we've treated our veterans and those that have fallen. 

In Girl Scouts we use to volunteer at soup kitchens and I spent a few Thanksgivings serving and then eating with the homeless at the large VFW post in downtown Santa Cruz. Many of the homeless we got on Thanksgiving were veterans of Vietnam and their generation failed them by not supporting them when they came home. Some went to war out of tradition, some were drafted and some believed in what we were fighting for, but many that came home did not have the assistance that we offer to many of our veterans today. 

To this day there was one particular story that I cannot forget, because that showed me many sides of the Vietnam War.

At the VFW Post 8911 there was a standing rule among the men that no lady was to close the bar alone. We would always have 1 or 2 men with us and they took care of making sure that they knew someone was going to be staying there. Around 12midnight people would start to go home and you'd usually hear the men start to plan out who would be closing. We ladies would in turn make sure that the men that stayed till closing got home safe. My two favourites were Manny and Jesse.

Jesse was the commander of the VFW and his best friend Manny was the Quartermaster. These two were as different as night and day. Jesse is very reserved and would always make sure things were in order while Manny was the life of the party and made sure everyone was having a good time. They both treated me like a little sister and always made sure I was happy and smiling.

One night they were both closing with me and had finally convinced me to sit down and have a beer with them after I closed my register. Earlier we had a marine in that was a son of one of the other members and this type of thing usually made everyone nostalgic of their time and cheerful bragging would break out. Jesse and Manny had joined in, but as I sat down with them a different feeling settled on the bar.

Manny was talking about some great shots he'd taken in the war. He was a sniper in Vietnam and while protecting a caravan of supplies he spotted an enemy sniper at the same moment the sniper had seen him. Manny shot and took out the other sniper. He started celebrating and shoving the shoulder of his partner Rick while telling him about what he saw through his scope. Manny then looked at Rick, because he was not celebrating with him. The sniper that Manny had just shot had shot at the same time and hit Rick in the head. Manny then realized that he had his friend's blood all over him from the spray of the bullet hitting. 

As Manny cried silently into his beer Jesse began telling us of his best friend from high school that was drafted at the same time as he was. Though they never saw each other in the service Jesse remembers all too well what it was like when they met up again after the war. His once cheerful and outgoing friend now was shaky, disconnected from his surroundings, tired and would start shouting out at random. Jesse remembers at times he would act like the guy he grew up with and whom he'd been the best man for, but most of the time Jesse would come over only to find him in a quiet state and then check with his wife to see what needed to be done around the house. 

Jesse then went into how back then they were just finding out about Posttraumatic Stress, but many of the mental hospitals were being closed and the families did not know how to help the veterans. Within a year of coming home Jesse's friend ended up putting a bullet in his head. 

These are the stories of how 2 men died in service to our country. One while doing his job for our country and the other one when we did not do our job for him. 

Today lets remember those that died on the field and those that died when they came back because of what they did for our country. When you see a veteran giving out poppies for donations pause and thank them even if you can't make a donation. Make sure your children know why you are thanking them and giving them a donation. If you can spare just $1 a month why not sign up for a monthly donation (they take PayPal)? If you can't spare that then maybe think about volunteering at your local VFW. Also, many posts have a weekly dinner that is open to the public that you can attend and for under $10 a plate, meet new people and support them.

If nothing else just take a moment at your barbecue and raise your beers to those that have fallen.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Home Run!

So a few days ago I dipped my toe into the crazy and decided to do the Giant Race.

It is a half marathon along the northern coast of San Francisco. You can find the route map here.

I also managed to rope my friend Toni into it (around 3am in the morning) and we will be going on our first run together tomorrow so she can see how slow I am.

I'm very excited about getting back into running and I have to keep reminding myself to stick to the training schedule. Such as today I wanted to go running but I need to save myself for tomorrow.

Toni really wants me to keep my enthusiasm up and has been telling me I should just sign up for a marathon. I might.

You see the last time I was running I was training for the Las Vegas Rock and Roll marathon, but injured myself 2 months before it. I cried and cursed at the fact that I had come so far and could not finish. I would still really like to run it. So this time I'm going to sign up after the Giants Race. If all goes well and I finish the half on September 16th I'll be signing up for the full marathon in Las Vegas.

For the next couple months Saturdays will be Runner's Day on the blog. You'll get to hear how its going and cheer me on.

Fun Fact: Between the now and the Giant Race I will run a total of 222 miles.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Its Been a Week

7 hours ago I was just sitting here staring at the blank page and wondering what to say. Where do I  start? What shall I include and what shall I exclude?

This week has been one of the busiest I can remember in a long time. 

It started off on a good foot with my getting the summer job at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Monday. That was also the day I got my fabric order and then realized I had 1 week to make 50 bags, including the new large style ones.

I'm not sure about you but I love pockets. The new large bags have 5 pockets total, 2 of which fit 4 oz yarn cakes.

It's also huge on the inside. When taking the photos I used 20 oz of yarn to stuff it and it was only half full. The outside dimensions are approximately 5” deep x 13” tall x 12” wide at top.

I also have a new line of bags that you'll start seeing to support some wonderful causes like this one:

Though these new bags take me a longer to make they are for a good cause. For each one I sell $5 will be donated to Doctors Without Borders as part of Knitters Without Borders. Here is a map of where DWB is currently and you can click on any part of the world and find out about what they are doing there:
View MSF Activity Report 2010 in a larger map

My very modest goal is to raise $100 by the end of July. If you look at the top of the blog to the left you will see a new progress bar for how close I am to this goal!

I’ll be giving away the bag on the right for May's giveaway and I'm also opening up this month's giveaway to people that have already bought bags. If you have bought a bag in the past post a picture of it in use here and list one of your favorite things about it. One photo entry per person.

As usual the regular way to enter is to make a purchase! Every item you buy in May will be one entry and on the first of June I will announce the winner!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Handmade Movement

Sorry but today I'm going to be standing on my soap box as I talk about something I love.

Growing up I was poor and every year my mother and I would make things for our relatives because we could not afford to buy many presents. As I was growing up we baked cookies, crocheted scarves, embroidered and cross stitched towels, made ornaments, did paintings and made jewelry. Every year had a different theme and I learned the value behind one of a kind handmade items.

I have carried that sense of craftiness and respect for handmade items with me to my adult life and into my store. I have made it my goal to produce items that are made in small batches so that you can feel like it is truly yours when you buy it, and that is why the saying that I and my dyer's use is "For Artists, By Artists". The only machines I have are a sewing machine for the bags, knitting machine for the ombre yarns, my standard size oven for setting dyes and my regular size top loading washing machine to rinse the yarns.

You will not find me hiring workers to sew the bags I sell, producing my colorways 50+ skeins at a time, or making 100's of stitch markers that are exactly the same at once.

Every single items that passes through my store has been handle and created by me in some way. I order all the materials, skein every single skein of yarn (usually twice), make every yarn blank, find fabric for bags that I have not seen, research what is missing in the market (Dr Who Bags anyone?), and the only time anyone else comes in to help is my friends to just apply dye to yarn on occasion and Ben when I need something built. That's it. The only help I ever ask for is for my artists friends to spend a few hours 3-4 days a year dyeing with me (and usually they are chopping at the bit to dye) and Ben has made my warping board for striping yarns and a skein winder.

The idea behind Etsy is that its the "Handmade Marketplace" and for "very-very small businesses". Their intent is that the smallest of us can help shape the economy with handmade items. However, recently many of us sellers have noticed that they have been not standing behind their statement and rules.

For this reason many of us will be closing shop for May 10th as a protest against the fact that they do not enforce their own rules and they are allowing businesses that are not small be part of it.

Next time your surfing Etsy notice how we now have graphic designers mass producing t-shirts and mugs, how buttons makers are making 50-100 of the same items, and how some shops are selling so much that they are farming out the work instead of making it themselves. Take a look around and maybe buy from that seller that is new, has a similar item and is just waiting and praying for each and every sale.

I will end my rant with the request that you refrain from buying anything on Etsy on May 10th, and that if you have a store please put it on vacation mode for that day.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

Something few know about me is that 2 years ago I was training for the Rock an Roll marathon till a foot injury took me out for 3 months.

I was training hard and I was doing my long run for the week, 14 miles, in the Aptos hills. If you know anything about Aptos you'll know its hilly and there is shit for cell phone reception. Around mile 10 I was going up a hill when my foot started hurting. I had no cell phone reception and my car was at least 4 miles away at the post office I'd left it at. It took me an hour to walk back to my car and a few days later my doctor told me I'd pulled a ligament and was not to run, take stairs, wear heels, or do any physical activity for around 3-4 weeks. It took me about 4 months to feel normal again and then about 6 months after I first injured my foot I fell down the garage stairs. I had the option to fall onto an engine block or my foot. I chose my foot in that split second and this is what my sprained ankle looked like the next day:

We called it my zombie foot.
Notice the entire foot has a slightly
yellow tinge 

Well today I got back into my running shorts (a little tighter then I remember them) and got back out.

Now I'm not a person that loves running or sweating. I'm not build like a runner. I'm short, tend to be a little soft, and find the entire thing to be really boring. Through high school I played softball and Amtgard, but nether have you running just to run. There is something to pay attention to, there is action, there is a problem which you must solve, and the best part, you get to hit something.

I do brazilian jiu jitsu because it's really fun to be matching your strength and brain against someone else in what feels like a game of physical chess. They make a move, you make a move to counter it and try to gain the edge.

I also love my cardio kickboxing class because there is nothing better then hearing the wonderful thud as you kick and punch a bag. Last night was really good because I've gotten the hang of roundhouse kicks and heard the thud almost every time.

But the problem I have is that before we train for bjj or kickboxing they have us run around the mat to warm up and I'm always out of breath. None of my workouts have more then 5 minutes of running and I'd like to be able to run.

So I'm hitting the pavement again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We Now Return You to Your Regular Broadcast

Wow what a weekend.

I would apologize for disappearing off the radar like that but I'm not sorry. Not one bit.

On the 29th it was my 25th birthday and I took my girlfriends on a trip to Napa for wine and then Petaluma for food and fun.

We first went to Sterling which has this awesome tram that takes you up to the winery and you get a great view of the local hills from:

They have bells!

These hold the larger batches of wine they do
These hold the small batches of wine
The trip down the tram was even better then the trip up and we saw
wild turkeys 

After Sterling Anna and I really wanted to hit up Chateau Montelena because of the movie Bottle Shock. I like the movie for the scenery and I love Alan Rickman's dry humour.

Me marching quickly towards the chateau to get a better look.

Here is something that shows my rebel side. See the big doors under the flag? Well there are 2 handicap buttons to open it and I naturally said we should press them. Courtney looked mortified at the idea, Anna was eh, while Stina was doing something somewhere else. Then this car rolls up:

 An elderly gentleman and a dog get out. The dog sniffs around us for a minute and the man says hi (we confirmed via pictures that he is the owner). After the man and dog disappeared and the girls started heading up to the tasting room and I went and pressed the button. Sadly someone else had my camera but it was filled with 2 storey stainless steel tanks for fermenting the wine in. Courtney started yelling Anna was all "Oh Gil....", and Stina walked faster to the tasting. I really have to say that if they wanted people not to open the door then they could lock it, remove the buttons (because doesn't everyone want to press the big button), and what were they going to ask us to do? Not press the buttons? Ask us to leave before we gave them money?
These are only some of the wine bottle sizes with their names

Wine tasting was okay. I can really say that I'm a white wine drinker.

After a walk around the gardens and chateau we headed off to Beringer. It turned out to be my favorite. They have good whites, I got some dishes for 70% off, 2 bottles of 2010 Riesling, chocolate and we got to sit at the nice house.
Beringer had live music.
 This building holds 2 tasting rooms out of 3. Now something to keep in mind if you ever visit is that each room has different wines by if they are red, white or blush. Since I am a white wine drinker and the girls are red wine drinkers they went to the main house and I got a glass of white and went shopping in the first room then met up with them.
Because they were close to closing they just poured all 8 different wines into glasses and sent us out onto the porch to taste. You can see my half drunk glass of Riesling at the end of the line. Stina and I drank most of them and boy was that walk back to the car fun.

Us in front of the main house. There was a
very drunk man helping people get pictures here.
 Anna drove us to Petaluma to stay at the Metro Hotel. I had us staying here because it was so much cheaper then Napa and I like the town. The hotel was done in more of a 60's Pop French vibe then the country French I was expecting, but that just made it even better.
Courtney's and my bed.

Anna in the other room. See the goose on the left. That's the
lamp for this room. Told you it was cool.

This is an ice cream parlour and shout out to Rachael Herron
When we got to Petaluma we did not know it but it was Butter and Eggs Days which is known for its parade and drunk after parties. So needless to say all the pubs were packed so Courtney suggested we go to a really nice place since it was my birthday.

We ended up at Cucina Paradiso where the owner was serving us and when he found out it was my birthday he said several things in Italian that I could not understand and pinched my cheek. He also disappeared right before giving us the check and returned with waiters and tiramisu to sing happy birthday to me. I had a glass of Pinot Gris (my favourite) with a seafood spaghetti. I'll be dreaming of that dinner for years I think.

The next morning because I'm an early riser I got up around 6am, did all my bathroom stuff (4 girls and one bathroom means I try to get in early), grabbed my computer and headed out to do my usual birthday reflection and to find internet to get some work done. No internet, but I did get to wander up and down 4th St and Kentucky St as they set up the antique's fair. Eventually I settled down with a large coffee and a muffin out in front of the Knitterly hoping to catch the eye of the owner because I had not brought anything other then a tank top to knit on and I needed something simple to knit at that point. Her daughter came to the shop at 9am and they let me pop in early. I did a little shopping and then got the call that the girls were ready to be picked up from the hotel.

Since our tea party reservations had gotten pushed back we had an hour to wander the fair and I just knit on a sock while the girls looked around.

The Knitterly and I Leoni both had chicks in the window for
Butter and Eggs Days
One of the best houses on the tour
After we got dressed for the tea party and checked out we had some time to drive around so the girls could see my favourite part of Petaluma, the houses. I only got us lost once and they got to see cows and vultures so it was okay.

After that we headed back into downtown and struggled to find parking till I went down this street that was marked "Not a Through Street" but there was the back entrance to this tucked away parking lot that was 2 blocks from downtown and half empty. We parked, triple checked that there was no signs saying we could not park there and hustled to the tea house for the actual birthday party.

Newly 25 with a tiny hat on
One thing I did not know about going to a tea house is that it takes a long time. We got tea and then were there for 2 hours eating. Now I love a good sit down with tea and friends, but usually I have knitting and we were on a schedule that had already been pushed back because the tea house had to move back the reservations. So needless to say that after 2 hours I rushed us out of there, ended up 2 hours late to my parents and then an hour late home to Ben.

Even though we were running super late I loved it. I'm going to take us to tea again when we have time to sit for hours (and I have something to knit). 

Best birthday ever.