Book Review – Mini Habits

Stephen Guise has written a very powerful little book.  Mini Habits is a quick read about how to get big results from small life changes.

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Mr. Guise details how habits are formed.  There is a chapter on motivation vs. willpower, and then a lot of information on how to implement mini habits.

My favorite recommendation from this book is “make your habits stupid small”.  Even I can do something difficult for one minute.  The hardest part is getting started, right?  Once I have a minute in, it’s easier to add another.

Other good advice includes “if you feel strong resistance, back off and go smaller”.  And “be happy with all progress”.  These both ease pressure when making changes, and that’s clearly a positive thing.

The principles in this book have helped me create a habit of flossing daily.  I was terribly lazy about this before, and I noticed a big change at my last dental appointment.  It was quick and easy to get my teeth cleaned, instead of the usual rather torturous experience.  It worked!

To build my new habit I used brushing my teeth in the morning as a cue.  Immediately after brushing I got out the floss.  I told myself I only had to floss two teeth, but of course, it was simple to just do them all.  It’s become routine and easy now.  It takes less than 90 seconds and makes me feel great.  I am doing something good for myself, and ensuring I’ll hold on to my teeth for a long time!  No one ever said “I wish I hadn’t taken care of my teeth”, right?

Stephen also has a blog that’s worth following, he is an interesting and intelligent guy.  He recently published a post entitled “Why Mini Habits Is the Greatest Personal Development Strategy Ever”.  Read it.

Reading this book can help you improve in any area.  Habits can be created around your health, work and even parenting.  Do yourself a favor and give this book a few hours of your time.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

And here’s a fiber picture for the addicts.

Production For The Indiana State Fair Is Ramping Up
Production for the Indiana State Fair is ramping up.  These are worsted weight superwash merino yarns that will not be in the Etsy store.  You can purchase by emailing me at http://www.indigokittyknits.com.  $20 includes shipping in the continental US.

 

Spinning And Dyeing Yarn – A Book Review

I ran across this wonderful book by Ashley Martineau at my local library.

spinning and dyeing yarn

I love it and think it’s a must for all beginning spinners. My five top reasons are:

  1. Great instruction on building your own fiber equipment, including a spinning wheel, drying rack, kick spindle (must try!),  and a niddy noddy. She even shows how to build a sturdy lightbox that will store things waiting to be photographed. Lots of fun for the do it yourself crowd, and you won’t need to invest much money until you know you really enjoy spinning.
  2. Directions on spinning fabric.  I want to try that, I have lots of fat quarters and bits of quilting fabric piled up with no particular plan for their use.
  3. Information on core spinning, including on a hand spindle!  I highly recommend starting to spin on a hand spindle.  The portability is wonderful and its so inexpensive to get going.
  4. Clear directions on washing wool.  I want to buy a fleece (or two) this year and process it myself, just for the fun of it.  I’ve been hesitating because I was intimidated about washing it.  Will I felt it?  Will I get it clean enough? How do I even begin?  These clear instructions make it look pretty straight forward.
  5. The inspiration factor – there are dozens of pictures of gorgeous fibers.  Yarns, roving, batts, it’s all here.  If these colors and textures don’t make you want to immediately begin nuzzling your fiber, maybe you aren’t quite as crazy in love with fiber as I am.

Five stars for this book.  Its perfect for beginners and a great resource for those looking to up their game and try new techniques.  Clear instructions, excellent pictures and even a section on going pro make this a winner.  This one deserves a spot in your fiber library.

This post’s fiber picture is something new.  We’ve recently begun making spinning batts.  Here’s a lovely one, its now available in my Etsy shop.

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Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You – Book Review

Decidopobia – The Fear Of Making Decisions – yeah, I’ve got that.

Last night at a local hamburger place I had to choose from an overwhelming menu.  I did make a choice, but it took me a few minutes.  I noticed many of my friends had to look at every page numerous times and had trouble choosing.  It seems the more choices a menu has, the more difficult choice becomes.

Why?  For me, it’s the fear of missing out on something “better”, or making the “wrong” choice.  This is obviously ridiculous.  How can there be a “wrong” hamburger?  Is this going to be my last one?  Unlikely.

While vacationing in Rhode Island recently, our little tourist group visited a tiny independent bookstore where this small book grabbed my attention.  I bought it, partially as a souvenir, but mostly because I am working on transforming many areas of my life.

A Very Cool Book
A Very Cool Book

This journal is all about making scary decisions.  The quotations help defuse the fear of coming to a verdict about some possible action. There is a section on each page to record details of your choice.  You can skip around in it using any page that catches your fancy, or take the pages in order – that’s the way I use it as I’m a pretty orderly type of person, especially when it comes to books.

For me this isn’t a daily thing.  I keep it on my desk, and when I’m turning a decision over in my mind I pull it out and read the next quote.  Today’s was the Decidophobia quote above. Another favorite of mine was “Behold the turtle.  He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”

It will be useful to look back over the book later to see choices that frightened me at the time I made them.

We all have things in our lives we want to transform.  Maybe you want to lose weight, find a better job, or grow a business.  It’s going to take a lot of new choices, and a lot of discomfort to get there.  This book is both a tool to help making it easier and a record of the choosing.  How cool is that?

Today’s pretty fiber picture –

Soccer Mom Mitts - Pattern Coming Soon!
Soccer Mom Mitts – Pattern Coming Soon!

 

 

The Book That Changed The Way I Think About Fear

I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic last month, and it has changed the way I think about many things.

Before I start talking about this book, a word about her earlier books, just so you know I am fairly objective.  I read Eat, Pray, Love – or more properly, I should say I tried to read it.  I just could not connect with it.  So, I’m not a huge fan of all her work.

big magic

One of the most intriguing things she talks about is that fear we all feel from time to time when we try something new, or meet someone new, or think in a new way.  She points out that fear actually does serve a very important evolutionary purpose.  Our ancestors who paid good attention to their fears survived to reproduce.  Life was chancy and danger was everywhere – people who were cautious lived longer lives than careless risk takers.  The ones who put every unknown berry in their mouths lived a shorter life.    Since evolution weeded out risk takers, we’ve inherited that fear mindset.

Life is much safer now in general, when was the last time you met a tiger in your back yard, after all?  But fear doesn’t understand that.  And when you try something new or undertake a project with an uncertain outcome it can easily take over the show.

Ms. Gilbert explains all this in much more detail and more elegantly than I can, but additionally, she gives a great tool for overcoming fear.

She says we cannot and should not eliminate fear entirely, it’s purpose is still important at times.  It keeps you safe when something really is about to go south.  But undertaking a new art project is not terribly dangerous.  So, she gives you one way to put fear in the back seat where it belongs.

She advises talking to fear as if it were a person, and telling it that it’s not going to get to drive on this road trip.

Now, that may sound silly, but I’ve been doing this and it’s made a big difference in the amount of anxiety I feel at various times, especially when beginning a creative project in an area in which I don’t consider myself very expert.

Acknowledging the fear and putting it in the back seat helps me feel safe enough to move forward with things that seemed overwhelming in the past.  I don’t worry so much about what people will think about my work or even about me.  Fear seems to cooperate and sit quietly watching the scenery.

I liked this book so much I copied a section into my journal and read over it several times a week.

I recommend every artist and creator (and that’s all of us, isn’t it?) read this book.

If you are reading my blog hoping for juicy pictures of fiber, this picture of a new handspun yarn is for you.

Hanspun Silk And Wool Yarn
Hanspun Silk And Wool Yarn

Book Review – Pinterest Power

I randomly picked up a book from the New Books shelf at the library last week. It was a lucky find – I think it’s going to teach me a lot!

Pinterest Power by Jason Miles and Karen Lacey outlines the reasons businesses should be using Pinterest to market their business, build their brand, and increase sales.  Then they give you specific, detailed information on how to do it.

Pinterest Power

Jason Miles and his wife, Cinnamon, own Liberty Jane Clothing, a wildly sucessful business which creates clothes and patterns for clothing for American Girl Dolls.  Cinnamon has gorgeous Pinterest boards and they are clearly experts at using social media to grow their business.  Jason also wears some other hats, including teaching as an adjunct professor at Northwest University’s School of Business Management in Seattle.

Karen Lacey is a writer and a guru on entrepreneurship.  She’s written several books and screenplays.  Her newest book is  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Elance (which I have not yet read, but it’s on my list!).

Pinterest Power is well written and easy to read.  As I read, I find I’m very motivated to apply the information I’m gathering.  I’ve created well thought out pinboards, each with it’s own theme, and done some brainstorming to better understand who my customers are – both things the book recommends.

Maybe none of this is advanced business knowledge, but I am finding it very helpful in creating a coherent plan to fully utilize Pinterest (and other social networks).  My copy of the book is heavily marked up, full of stickies, and I’ve started a little journal for notetaking.

I also am finding this book is helping me to think like a business owner.   That’s a big benefit to reading it.

Jason has written several other books, Price It Like Picasso and Craft Business Power, both of which are on my short list to read in the near future (I bought them both).

Some of my favorite take-aways from this book so far:

1.  Not all social media is for every business.  My business is very visual, so Twitter isn’t a very useful venue for me, and I’ve decided not to spend a terribly large amount of time on it.

2.  How to decide if my Pinterest personality should be personal or corporate, the pitfalls and advantages of each, and how to create the personality I chose.

3.  How to build relationships with other pinners and encourage them to repin my pins, thus increasing my product’s exposure.

I recommend this book to everyone who has a business (for profit or nonprofit) who is looking for free and time efficient ways to grow their sales.

Jason has a blog called Marketing on Pinterest.  Check it out!

My Very Favorite Vegan Cookbook of 2012

Someone asked me recently which new cookbook of 2012 I liked best.  I’m afraid I will show my greedy little sweet tooth here, but the winner is 150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes by Camilla V. Saulsbury.

150 best vegan muffin recipes

I use this cookbook three or four times a week (I have a lot of teenagers who eat endlessly).  The things I like best about it is that almost all the recipes use easily available ingredients and the recipes are very easily customized to your family’s tastes.    I have switched her recommended soy yogurt for coconut when that was all I had, with great results, which makes it very useful when cooking for someone with a soy allergy.

The author includes a tip with almost every recipe and some of them are quite useful, for example, how to choose a good mango, or how to store wheat germ.  She also suggests substitutions that can change things up a little bit.

So far, I’ve only found one stinker – Mashed Potato Muffins – and, to be fair, she states to mash the potatoes with a fork, which I think must mean they should be chunky.  Mine were very very smooth, potato puree really, and the muffins just weren’t anything special.

But, the others I’ve tried are fantastic!

My favorites (in no particular order)

  • Gingerbread Muffins
  • Dark Chocolate Muffins
  • Pumpkin Spice Muffins (I see my copy has a note in it in my handwriting which says  “add walnuts” and another that says “add ginger for pumpkin gingerbread”.  I’ve tried it both of these ways and they were smashing.
  • Chai Latte Muffins (favorite of the teens)
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.  I add a tiny sprinkle of sugar to the top of each of these before baking to get a crunchy top.

Tonight’s menu is potato and kale soup, toasted french bread and to finish, the lemon poppy seed muffins.  Can’t wait!

Beginnings and Endings

I’ve been looking at a newish knitting book (published 2012), Cast On, Bind Off, subtitled 54 Step–by-Step Methods, by Leslie Ann Bestor.

What a great cover! This book contains 33 casts ons and 21 bind offs.  It seems it’s easier to begin a knitting project than to finish one!  I know I start more than I complete.  My UFO pile (unfinished objects for you non-knitters) grows continously.  Maybe someday I will take a couple of hours and rip all that stuff out, as I’m obviously not going to finish most of them.  I have good intentions, but if something sits incomplete for over a year, the bloom is kind of gone for me.

The first cast on I learned, the Backward Loop, is in this book, of course, as it’s probably the cast on everyone used to learn first – although it’s certainly not the “best”.  It’s easy to do, but really shouldn’t be a commonly used beginning for almost anyone, it’s main use is adding stitches to a work already in progress.  I didn’t learn that for a while and my early projects have pretty cruddy beginning edges.

For a long time I used a plain Long Tail cast on, and that became my very favorite, until I began making a lot of items for which the pattern began “cast on 307 stitches” or some similar number.  I quickly got tired of running out of yarn before I got all stitches cast on, so I knew some other method had to be more appropriate for things like this. Nowadays  I almost always use a Knitted cast on, which I find easy to do, depending on the yarn, and I also like the edge it forms.  It’s not terifically stretchy, but for scarfs, cowls, shawls, etc. I like it very much.

I am intrigued by the Old Norwegian cast  on (which I had never hear of) presented in this book .  It’s very elastic and had a neat edge, it’s recommended for cuffs, mittens, gloves and hats – places where a stretchy start is ideal.  I did try it, but I did not find it very easy to do, it’s quite fiddly and will definitely take some practice for me.

For socks (which I always knit toe up), I use the Turkish  cast on, also known as Middle Eastern cast on, which is also outlined in this book.  I find it easy to do and I love the way it looks on the toe of a sock.  And it makes me feel so clever!

There’s a good section on provisional cast ons (which I truly hate because I find them so difficult).  Maybe I’ll eventually get to be an expert at those also.

Bind offs are also here, including my new favorite for lace, the every so boringly named Elastic bind off.  I tried it when finishing a shawl and liked the way it allowed the edge to expand and really look it’s best.

I just wonder how necessary this book really is in a knitter’s library, thanks to YouTube, there are even a lot of videos there of the Old Norwegian cast on out there.

If you are a book lover like me, maybe you will enjoy having a book with all this information on your shelves.

I finished the Wingspan shawl.  I knit this from 2 skeins of Noro Silver Thaw, which gave me enough yarn for 7 “wings”, instead of 8.  I did make some changes to the pattern, see my Ravelry project page  for details. Here’s a picture of it blocking.

I love it very much and plan to keep it for myself, which is a bit unusual for me, normally I give away or sell most of my knitting.  Can’t stand the thought of parting with this one, though!  Maybe I’ll grow tired of it, or someone will admire it enough that I think they need it more than I do.  It’s been known to happen!

I really like this pattern, I think it’s brilliant actually, and I plan to knit a lot more of these (or variations thereof) in the future.  It’s easy to understand and memorize, no need for a pattern after you choose a yarn, decide how many stitches to use, and get it cast on.  That’s my kind of project.

I have a gift card for a local yarn store burning a hole in my pocket (many thanks to Sandy S for her wonderfully generous birthday gift last time!), maybe I’ll stock up on yarns for Wingspan.  I’m thinking Mini-Mochi, more Noro, Zauberball….

Current knitting is a scarf for sale in Rowan Colourscape, Frosty colorway.  It’s gorgeous – how can it not be with that fabulous yarn?  Should be done in just a couple of days.  That’s another pattern type I love – quick ones!

I leave you with a picture of the next yarns I plan to knit.  I’d love to hear any pattern ideas anyone has for these wonderful yarns.  This group includes 3 skeins of Noro Transitions (in a cream, tan, blue, green colorway), 1 skein of Rowan Colourscape (Heath colorway), and 6 skeins of Noro Blossom (in a blue-y colorway).