30 Days of Gratitude

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

While this holiday is Mighty Distractible's favorite, you may have noticed that we've spent slightly less time talking about awesome spookiness than in past years. I blame this on our respective recent health distractions.

And, with that, I'd like to share a little information with our readers. In early August, I received a breast cancer diagnosis. Two weeks later, I had a single mastectomy and nine lymph glands removed. By the grace of whatever higher-power you believe in (science, God, the Universe, whatever) I was given a clean bill of health three days after my surgery. All the cancer was gone - it hadn't spread into my lymph nodes or lymphatic system, and the tissue surrounding the cancerous area was cancer-free. No chemo or radiation. No "I can never remember the name of the estrogen blocking drug". My post-surgery meeting with the oncologist was kind of funny because she really didn't have anything to add to the conversation other than, "we'll keep an eye on things."

No one knows why I got cancer. I have absolutely no family history of the disease and I live a relatively healthy life. I don't work in any high-risk industry, like ones that use a lot of chemicals and stuff. And no one expects me to ever have a recurrence.

So, basically, I had a surgery - like an appendectomy or a gall bladder removed. The recovery has been long and exhausting. I'm having implant reconstruction (with augmentation on my other breast - YEA for having a matching set!) in early December and, as soon as that's over, this becomes part of my history and ceases to be part of my current story.

I've had a lot of people get really irritated with me because I refuse to wrap myself in pink ribbons and own my "cancer". But, to my mind, I didn't have cancer. I certainly didn't have BIG C cancer. We need to save the term "survivor" for the brave souls who sit in a chemo chair every week, lose their hair and throw up until they've lost a third of their body weight. Or the people who get to have their skin burned by radiation over and over for months on end. I had a surgery with a four week recovery and I get new boobs for Christmas, courtesy of the insurance company. I came out of this on the "win" side.

Tomorrow is the first day of November. The DreamBank (which I've mentioned here numerous times) is doing an installation called "30 Days of Gratitude" and I've decided to co-opt the idea. So, for the next 30 days, I'll be posting a quote about gratitude on our Twitter account, @distractedminds. Here's the one we're starting with:

Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.
Brian Tracy 

I encourage everyone to take a few minutes each morning - before you get out of bed - to quietly make a mental list of things you're grateful for that morning. It can be as simple as "I'm grateful to have a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in" or "I'm grateful I have a job to go to". Or, if it's easier, do the same exercise just before you fall asleep. Falling asleep with a head full of positive thoughts is guaranteed to bring you sweet dreams. :)

Let's be thankful, friends. Life is good.

- Alex

The War of Art

I have a cold that has flattened me. You might find a little bit of knitting in my hands these days, but mostly I've been reading. This book is amazing. Pick up a copy for yourself now. It's life-changing.

I keep thinking that the powers that be may have given me this cold to make me slow down and take the time to read something I needed for my soul. Okay, you have my attention God...you can take the cold away now! :)

Peace out,


Friday Finds: A NEW CAR!!!!!

I feel like I need the announcer from The Price Is Right announcing my day today.
Rod Roddy
Or maybe Oprah - "And YOU get a new car!!! And YOU get a new car!!! And YOU get a new car!!! And YOU get a new car!!!"

Today is the day I pick up my new car. I've driven the same car for 10 years and this will be the first car I've ever owned that is brand-spanking new. I think it has four miles on it. I'm only slightly excited (and nervous about having a big old car payment after years of not having one. Bleh.)

I wanted a station wagon and, sadly, they don't make too many for the American market. Audi's and Volvo's are gorgeous but too expensive to keep up. Volkswagon stopped making the Passat wagon and the Jetta wagon is too small for my taste. So I landed on the Subaru Outback. It doesn't look as much like a wagon as it used to - they've jacked up the chassis to give it a lot of ground clearance and they body style is really sporty now. Between the ground clearance and the all-wheel-drive, I'm going to be a winter ninja this year (and for many years to come, I hope).

So,  here's my car - the 2014 Subaru Outback Premium in Tungsten with tan interior. :)

I'm stylin' baby!

- Alex

Beginnings and Endings

 A little slice of my world this week....

: My latest quilt is done and off to my friend Gael to quilt for me. Ahhh, what did folks do before the long arm? I'm so excited to see it quilted!

: Quilt design iterations done. Time to start thinking about the next one.

: Home made bread and cream of mushroom soup (old old vegetarian cookbook). Heaven.

: Little projects to catch up on. More monster patches are in order.

: Re-knitting the eaten sweater. It feels so good to have yarn in my hands in the fall.

: I've been dreaming about a Schoolhouse Tunic for me. Anna Maria Horner LouLouthi voile on sale made it happen sooner rather than later. Can't wait to dig in!


Back on the Needle(s)

It's cold. 

I broke down and turned on the heat last week. Most Wisconsinites try to make it to November 1 - it's a source of pride if you can tough it out that long - but I gave in. I simply can't sit around my house in a hat and coat... I want to be barefoot. And, if I'm a little cold, a blanket on the sofa should be enough.

Of course, with the cold weather comes the desire to knit. Since I prefer to knit wool over all other yarns, summer is a low-knitting time for me. But, once the temperatures drop below 50 degrees for any extended period of time, I get the itch to get back on the needles.

For about two months, I've been staring at this gorgeous skein of yarn that was gifted to me when I was sick. It's a hand-dyed, rough-spun Cascade - which I didn't even know they made. It's also variegated, which is normally something I dislike but the colors are fantastic - black, grey, and white.

Ah... the joy of breaking out the needles!
So, about a week ago, I started looking through my patterns to find some one-skein thing to make with this beautiful yarn. I wanted something cozy, so I focused on scarves and cowls, and I landed on a madelinetosh cowl which you may recognize from the stitch pattern. Three years ago, I learned this stitch pattern from someone who was making this exact cowl and I used the stitch for a hat and "gator".

The Honey Cowl
The madelinetosh Honey Cowl is a stunner, at 42" long for the large size with an easy, but beautiful stitch pattern. On Ravelry, there are over 1,200 projects for this pattern and each one looks great - even the ones done in variegated yarn. ;)

Sadly, my one skein of Cascade wasn't enough for the large size so I decided to alternate rows with the variegated and a flat, black DK wool. Every other row of this pattern is knit - I think it give some space between the rows so that the slip-stitch pattern stands out more. It made sense to use the flat black for the knit rows and, honestly, I think this ends up making the pattern really pop.

The cowl so far.
I've made a couple of mistakes in the pattern (I think I may be a bit rusty - or just lazy), but you really can't tell with the variegated yarn so I'm not going to worry about it. I love the way it looks and can't wait for it to be done so I can wear it!

42" is a LONG cowl...
I'll be sure to post pics when it's finished. Also, the Honey Cowl is a free pattern on Ravelry. Hope all our knitting readers are making something cozy and winter-appropriate too. :)

- Alex

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Regular readers of Mighty Distractible are well aware of our love of Halloween (and all things creepy, if truth be told). So, today, as the hallowed day approaches, I thought I'd do two things: 

1. Post links to some of our previous Halloween-themed posts (because, honestly, there's some good reading there!) and...

2. Steal Reprint this amazing article from mashable.com

Vintage MD Halloween-themed posts include lists of awesome scary movies, scary books, a couple of recipes, and even a "how to throw a Rosemary's Baby party". Here are the best ones:
And now, the best Halloween article I've seen this season... a great list of mostly current, very scary books from contributor Molly Horan at mashable.com called "9 Books Scarier Than Any Horror Movie". Enjoy!


9 Books Scarier Than Any Horror Movie

by Molly Horan, published October 14, 2013

There is nothing better than a good ghost story.
It might be tempting to pop in one of your scarier movies when you want to get into the Halloween spirit, but there are plenty of novels sure to keep you up for just as many nights.
Just be careful if you read these titles in a public place. You might mistake the woman who just wants your extra chair as your book's monster. And no one wants to go viral as "shrieking girl in Starbucks."

Gumdrop Pillows

Hi everyone!

On Sunday Alex and I got to have some fun. We met our friend Missy down at a wonderful local fabric store, The Sewcial Lounge, and took a class on the Amy Butler Gumdrop Pillows.

The three of us have been wanting to make these gorgeous tuffets for ages. The only thing holding us back was the cost of so much fiberfill...seriously, it takes an insane amount of those little bags you get at the craft store to fill up one of those pillows. But the cost of this class was reasonable and included the fiberfill. Perfect!

It was a blast. We laughed, sewed, nibbled on snacks, and stuffed those pillows for a half hour until they were full! Our teacher was the owner, Sara. What a doll. So sweet and helpful. I've taken many classes in my day, but I've never had a teacher who jumped in when you weren't looking and pinned your pieces or pressed your seams. She was a master at making a class clip along and gave invaluable tips and tricks that the pattern never mentioned. I would definitely take a class from her again.

Stuffing action shots:

The pattern itself was really pretty easy. We finished our projects during this three hour class. As a matter of fact, each of us has the notion to make more of these soon. By hook or by crook!


Seriously, how adorable are these?


Classic Aran - Take 2

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Four inches were knit on a little Aran sweater, and then the Roomba ate it while no one was home. True story.

Like many other Roomba owners out there, we often let it run when we leave the house for a while. Well, my knitting was sitting in a basket on the floor...and the tail must have been over the edge of the basket. Just over enough for Roomba to grab it like a piranha.

Felted all over the place.
I can't be mad at Roomba, it was just following it's instincts. But I am mourning those hours of knitting gone to waste. So much so, that after I finally decided to pull the needles out of the lifeless knitting, I let it sit on the coffee table for a day before tossing it out. It was tough throwing it in the trash can.

The pattern I've decided to knit for the boy's winter sweaters (notice that I'm not saying "holiday" sweaters...who needs that pressure?) is Mariah by Janet Szabo. A very classic Aran sweater. It had been a  little while since I knit cables and I missed it. I'm still in the early stages with this pattern but it's been easy to follow so far. I think Ms. Szabo knows what she's doing.

I have to make two of these little beauties, so I better stop typing and get to some knitting!

Peace out,


Indoctrinating the Masses

Cassandra and I have an evil plan. Well, it might not actually be evil but we kind of like the idea of being slightly dark and mysterious.

We want to teach everyone to craft something. 

Frankly, it doesn't matter what a person's interest is, we just want them to join the club and become a maker of things. Making stuff is great for the soul and the mind. It gets you out of your routine and gives you something to focus on that will provide a finished project at the end. For those of you who are readers, you know that sad feeling you get at the end of a good book? Well, making something is the exact opposite of that. Even if your finished project doesn't come out exactly as planned, you've CREATED something - which is an awesome feeling.

To this end, we've been doing our part to bring crafting to the masses. And, while the term "masses" may be overstating it a bit, we believe that every little bit counts. In recent months, we've taught a Beginning Knitting class and, yesterday, I taught a Beginning Embroidery class.

Me, teaching. Note my new hairdo!
We're lucky to have this cool community space in Madison called DreamBank where they'll pay for all the materials and advertise the class. All you have to do is teach it. The students get to go home with a new skill AND all the materials. So, yesterday, seven people tried their hand at our Bear embroidery pattern*. They received the pattern printed on linen/cotton fabric, a 6" hoop, a #5 embroidery needle, a skein of floss, and handouts on how to do the stitches needed for this pattern. Plus, of course, they got two hours of instruction from yours truly.  ;)

Interestingly, teaching embroidery was MUCH easier than teaching beginning knitting. All my students were women (two of them teenagers) and they seemed to intrinsically understand the stitch work. My star pupil was one of the teenagers who just plowed through her pattern with abandon and did a great job. Her mom struggled a bit but I was able to find the right words (and process) to help her understand what she was doing and she eventually caught on and was successful.

The best part was watching people "branch out" and try things that were not strictly on the curriculum. I encourage this behavior because I think it makes more fearless crafters.

Anyway, a good time was had by all and I'm pretty sure that a few of these folks will actually finish their project. Hopefully they'll continue on and make more wonderful stuff.

- Alex

*Click that link for free downloads of Bear, Hare, Fox, and Owl embroidery patterns!

Coraline Sweater

I've been knittin', kittens!

I just finished up my Coraline sweater. This is the second Ysolda Teague sweater I've knitted and much like the first one...I loved it. Ysolda's patterns are always so well written. She explains possibly complicated techniques in a way that walks you through them with such ease.

Coraline is knit bottom-up and has some lovely details that I haven't encountered on other patterns... 

The bottom band is doubled. It provides a little weight that adds to the drape of the garment.

The bottom of the sleeves are cast-on with an i-cord and then increased quickly. It gives you a beautiful edge and a little "blouse" to the sleeve.

The top is embellished with a little smocking pattern. At first it confused me, but if you can cable, you can smock. Don't let this stop you from tackling this sweater.

The yarn I used was Knit Picks City Tweed DK in the Romance colorway. In retrospect I might have used something solid. I'm not sure the smocking shows off as well as it should with the tweedy texture. But it's not horrible or anything. I actually think I'm going to get a lot of wear out of this sweater partly because of the color.

Do you like the buttons? Not having any luck finding the right ones in my box of vintage ones, I ended up finding these little blue flowers at JoAnne Fabrics. (Why am I always so surprised when I find something perfect at JoAnne's?) I could have gone with a black or red buttons, but for some reason I couldn't resist using an unexpected contrasting color. 

The one thing that I'm not sure about yet are the sewn button loops. It's been warm so I've only tried this sweater on a few times, but I'm concerned that it will come unbuttoned easily once the sewn loops stretch out a bit. Time will tell.

My Coraline was knit at a leisurely pace over the summer. I've now cast-on for some little traditional aran sweaters for the boys that I need to pick up the pace on if they are going to be done by the holidays! Knit on my friends, knit on.


(editor's note: Let's see if Cassandra posts something the week before Christmas about how she's freaking out because the boys sweaters aren't done yet... LOL!   - Alex)