Put the phone down……for a minute.

I recall one occasion where I almost lost my iPhone. I wasn’t paying attention & left it in the computer lab at my job. Lucky a coworker found it and returned it to me. Another time I didn’t lose my phone but it froze and I couldn’t get it to function again. Fearing it was broken, I took it to a local Apple store where an employee did a simple move and reset it for me. Those moments remind me how we become so dependent on a small piece of technology that without it, we seem lost.

One of the only times when I didn’t feel connected to the phone is during travel & vacations. And that is only because I was in places where cell phone reception was unavailable, such as aboard a cruise ship. Or overseas in countries with sporadic reception unless I wanted to pay exorbitant roaming charges.

But how truthful and accurate is this video? We get so focused on tweeting, face booking & instagramming every moment of our lives, we sometimes forget to live in and enjoy the moment.

Pottery class, part 1

I’ve thought off and on about getting one of these…

yarn bowl

I admire those yarn bowls, but most bowls made will only fit average size skeins of yarn & I haven’t been able to find a yarn bowl large enough to fit a skein with a lot of yardage. Then one day I’m browsing groupon and spot a deal for pottery class and suddenly I had dreams of creating my own yarn bowl from scratch.

So thanks to one of those groupon deals, I signed up for my first pottery class. It was only an introductory course but the thought of coming home with an original piece I made of my own I couldn’t resist.

Not knowing there were several types of pottery classes available, at first, I signed up for a hand thrown pottery class, then had trouble with scheduling because all the classes had been booked. While waiting for more classes to be scheduled, I then found another deal also on groupon for a wheel thrown pottery class at the same studio. I thought it was a good chance to compare the two methods & see which one I would prefer.

So on a warm late saturday afternoon I head downtown to La Mano Pottery in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, just around the corner from the world famous Fashion Institute of Technology. I arrived about 10 minutes early for the scheduled 6 PM class, and the guy at the reception counter instructed me to return at 6:00.

After a bit of window shopping, I come back and get set up for class. The environment is an open studio, with separate areas for individual students and artists to work on their crafts, as well as separate teaching areas for wheel throwing and hand throwing pottery. The studio offers introductory as well as multiple week courses for adults & children.

Classes are small with about 12-15 students, each sitting in front of individual potter’s wheels. I think clay artisans in the ancient days must have been mostly short in height because you’re sitting on a small folding stool that is relatively low to the ground. Someone who is tall may experience a little back pain after a while from the constant having to bend over the wheel.

But this is how you start. Each student is given a few balls of clay,a couple of tools to help shape the object you’re constructing, a bucket of water & a sponge.

starting with the potter's wheel

starting with the potter’s wheel

The instructor went through beginner techniques. How to shape the clay, center it on the wheel, spinning the wheel and manipulating the clay while on the wheel. There were a few mishaps during class. I and another student had to move to new wheels because the instructor found they were spinning in the wrong direction. The clay wouldn’t stay centered on the wheel. I couldn’t figure out the optimal speed for the wheel; either it was spinning too fast or too slow. One woman expressed she found it therapeutic just playing in the clay. Another student looked as if she had taken classes before, although claiming to the instructor it was her first time. She created one sculpture after another, while I struggled just to get basic techniques down.

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After several mishaps, I began to get a feel for the technique. I got the clay to open up as if to begin making a bowl or cylinder:

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Then it turned into this:

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And after a good deal of time had passed, I finally was able to create my first “masterpiece”. A miniature bowl. Too bad none of the pieces created during wheel throwing class could be saved. This would’ve made a fine ashtray, or maybe a shallow candy dish.

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After 2 hours, it was time to clean up the mess. A fun time was had by all. But unless I get a lot more practice, I think my dream of making my own yarn bowl might be deferred at this point. I have a second class in hand thrown pottery at the same studio the following week. Maybe I’ll have an easier time there.
Meanwhile I’ll leave you a video for one of the experts to show you how it’s supposed to be done.

Finished projects

Look what I’ve made over the past couple of weeks…

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I posted about this project a few months ago while a work in progress that’s finally done. Actually, I finished it a long time ago, but somehow never got around to finishing off the seam.

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The original pattern I think was made with a softer yarn so it doesn’t lay as flat. The wool is a little bit scratchy at the moment, hopefully it will soften after I wash it & look forward to wearing it when cold weather returns.

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One of my aims was to get back into doing some crocheting this year and I did with this pattern I found on Ravelry. I used some thick Lion Brand wool yarn I bought at Michael’s a few years ago that I couldn’t quite find the right pattern for.

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This will be perfect for those really cold days. It’s so thick I will have to wear it outside my coat. Still have some leftover yarn, maybe enough to make a matching hat.

This baby blanket was made at the request of a coworker who was pregnant. It’s another pattern I found on Ravelry, it’s a pretty design & the ease of the pattern directions made this a relatively quick knit. I didn’t finish knitting in time before she had the baby and it still needs blocking but since it’s acrylic, and machine washable, though I would not advise it with this pattern, she’ll still get plenty of use out of it when she receives it.

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close up of pattern:

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Next up, I’ll be attempting to make pottery, and soon I’ll take a stab at spinning my own yarn. And of course, I’ll still be knitting and crocheting in between.

The PuffCuff: A Review

I’ve been wearing my hair natural since 2000. Worn almost every natural style; twists, locs, braids, afro, twist outs, etc. I don’t consider myself a product junkie, but a couple weeks ago, I saw this Youtube video posted on Facebook about a new hair band for creating afro puffs:

Over the years I’ve worn out too many bra strap hairbands to count creating afro puffs. Plus the bra strap style hairbands have become so hard to find now, I only know of one beauty supply store that still carries them, when I’m in the neighborhood I always stock up. So I was excited to try this new product that would save me the trouble of having to search for replacement hairbands.

Watching the demo video, the creator has about twice the length of hair as myself and perhaps not as thick. I was a bit nervous would this work on my very thick, kinky hair, and did I have enough hair to fit into it. After watching a couple of review blogs and video posts, one of which featured a blogger whose hair was similar to my own, I took a leap of faith.

Let me start off by saying I’m not being paid by any advertisers nor provided with any promotional products, so my review is totally unbiased. I’m a regular customer who did just like any other ordinary consumer would do and ordered the PuffCuff from Amazon, though you can also order it directly from their website as well.

I got the product in the mail a few days later. It resembles a huge banana clamp, except that it’s round. It’s made of the same type of plastic other hair combs are made of, strong enough to withstand ordinary use, but I would treat it delicately as it’s held together by only a small piece of metal at the center when it’s opened.

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Putting it in is as easy as it was shown in the video. Gathered my hair in the center of my hair, added the cuff around it and fastened the hooks. It took me a little while to get used to the look of it in my hair. The site recommends putting it in while your hair is damp, but I had no problem with using it while my hair was dry. If your hair is extra thick like mine, you may want to blow your hair out a bit to make it a little easier. I thought my hair was a little too short and wasn’t sure I liked the look but after a few days of wearing it, it grew on me. And after looking at a couple photos, I like it.

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One plus with the PuffCuff is that you don’t have to have loose hair. It will also work for updo styles if you wear your hair in twists, braids or locs as well. The only drawback I see is that it’s available in only one color, black. At the moment, they only sell it in one size which will tackle even the thickest heads of adult heads. But plans are in the works to add child size PuffCuffs as well. At $12 a pop, some folks may take issue with the price, but I’ve spent more on years worth of headbands that lasted for only a few uses.

I give it a definite thumbs up. I know this will get a lot of use, especially as my hair grows longer, And it’ll come in very handy on those days when I’m having a bad hair day or when I just want something simple and quick.

Fashion Show

I never got around to uploading this video, but it’s a fashion show at Vogue Knitting Live I went to back in January. Some nice inspirational garments and accessories. Enjoy!

Vogue Knitting Live 2014

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Soon after I woke up, I looked out my apartment window and it was beginning to snow heavily. Normally I would call it a good day to stay in, curl up on the couch with some hot chocolate & knitting and watch a couple of movies. Instead I had plans of trekking out to the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square to attend this year’s Vogue Knitting Live.

I unfortunately waited too late to buy my ticket in advance online, which would’ve been slightly cheaper. But I found a coupon on KnitPick’s website for $10 off purchase of a two day marketplace admission ticket. I didn’t plan on attending both days but with the discount, the price would be the same as if I had bought the one day ticket online. When I got to the ticket booth, somehow the man behind the counter somehow misread the coupon because he only charged me $10 for admission. I’m not one to complain about an unexpected discount so I took my green wristband and kept it moving, LOL!

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I haven’t been to Vogue Knitting Live in about 3 years. The vendors are mostly local knitting shops & some yarn manufacturers. It’s not nearly as large or extensive as the annual Rhinebeck festival. It looks like they’ve expanded a bit over the past few years though, because this year the vendors were spread out on two floors. Even if you’re not into knitting, you could appreciate the gallery of sculptures from fiber artists displayed outside of the gallery.

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I already have a pretty substantial stash of yarn so I wasn’t really looking to stock up. I didn’t want to necessarily leave empty handed either, but it was going to take something spectacular to move me. And as usual, it’s a bargain deal.

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The 5 skeins in the middle are from Full Moon Farms in upstate Gardiner, NY. The woman at the booth had a trunk full of mill end skeins that normally sell for $25 but were reduced to $10 each. By the time I got there it was a small crowd around the trunk, so I had to put in some work going through the stash & competing with fellow shoppers to find enough skeins to make a project and came up with these. The vendor even took off an additional $5.00 for paying in cash. WIN!

The gray yarn in the bag is from Black Sheep and Ewe The two skeins included are enough to make a beautiful cowl they had on display I unfortunately did not get a picture of. I bought the bag mainly for the pattern, and to try out the new yarn, which the vendors say is good for folks who are sensitive to wool.

The pink yarn on the right is from Freia One of the stalls I was looking forward to checking out, because they have these fabulous hand painted yarn that variegates when knitted up as if you mixed the colors separately. These balls came from their discounted yarn bin. Don’t know what I’ll make with it yet. It’s sport weight yarn, so it will most likely be a shawl or cowl of some sort.

Why I knit…

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This is my current work in progress, a large cowl scarf. I could’ve taken the easy route & bought something from a department store, but it probably wouldn’t be a design that I wanted or a material that I would like. Plus I’m one of those folks that looks at something in a store and start mentally deconstructing the pattern thinking, why should I buy this when I could knit it myself, LOL.

I came across the article below while reading my facebook feed. I’d never heard of the term “slow clothes” movement before, which advocates being conscious of where & how clothes are produced. It’s sort of a spinoff of the “slow food” movement that promotes knowing where your food is grown. I can identify with all the reasons the author listed. My primary reason for knitting though is because I often can’t find what I like in the stores. Necessity being the mother of invention I guess.

It’s a short, concise read. I think you’ll agree. I like the idea of making something with my own hands that’s higher in quality than the same item mass produced by machine of often cheaper materials. Though sometimes it’s higher in cost, the time & effort put into creating your own article of clothing, regardless of how small it is, is worth the investment.

What about you? Why do you knit, crochet, sew, quilt or whatever is your hobby?

Why bother knitting a scarf?

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

I’ve been hearing a bit more about this home remedy for boosting immunity and treatment of colds & flu. Got even more interested when I read that studies showed elderberry to be just as effective if not more effective than tamiflu for treating the flu. My state is currently experiencing a flu epidemic so although I have my flu shot, I’m always willing to have some extra insurance. Elderberry syrup can be bought at the drug stores for around $15 a bottle. After some google searching, I found out it was pretty easy to make at home.

I ordered a bag of dried elderberries, and following a recipe I found online, I gathered the ingredients together. Elderberries, cinnamon, ginger, cloves & honey.

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Directions stated to boil the dried elderberries and spices together for about 45 minutes. After letting the mixture cool a bit, strain out the elderberries, then add honey and voila! You have syrup.

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Usual adult dose is about 1 tbsp daily for boosting immunity. If one contracts the flu, take the same dose every 2-3 hours until symptoms subside.

Happy New Year!!

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Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2014!!!

RIP Nelson Mandela

We’ve lost an icon today. Along with other major civil rights figures like Martin Luther King & Malcolm X, no one can deny the influence that Nelson Mandela had on the movement around the world for social justice.

While the accomplishments and contributions of MLK and Malcolm X are undeniable, I only knew about them from reading books, hearing the stories my family told and watching archival footage of civil rights marches. Mandela was another story. What made “Madiba” different from the others is that unlike the others, Mandela was one of the only activists whom I was alive to witness in action.

I came of age during the height of the struggle to end apartheid. I watched the news of anti-apartheid protests in South Africa, that sometimes turned violent & deadly. The grass roots struggles in black communities in the US to pressure the US to denounce apartheid. Remember the boycotts here in the US against corporations that did business with the apartheid gov’t in South Africa. When Mandela was released from prison after spending 27 years in captivity, his first visit to the US after leaving prison, the ticker tape parade for him in NYC, the concert in his honor at Yankee Stadium.

Then there was him being elected president of South Africa after the fall of apartheid. Amazed at the news footage of the long lines of South Africans who waited in line for days just to vote for their first black president. Can you imagine a man, a black man especially, going from being an inmate in prison to the presidency happening in the US?

I could go on forever, but I’ll end with one of my many favorite quotes from him.

“Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely daydreaming, but vision with action can change the world.”

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