Friday, February 22, 2013

Be well.

During the latest round of colds that it seemed like everyone except me suffered from, I reflected once again on what a true blessing health is, one that too often goes unappreciated until it's gone. In this area I am particularly fortunate, as I hardly ever get sick. I can't really remember the last time I was well and truly ill...aside from some minor colds that I have given myself once in a while through deliberate abuse (more on that later), I think the last time I was really really sick was nine years ago when my ear drums exploded. 'Swiss cheese' was the description my doctor shouted to me, as I was all but deaf for a while. It was horrid. Ahem. Circumstances beyond my control into which we shall not delve now. But besides being haunted by the ghosts of sickness past, I have remained in the pink.

It is also a feature of the habitually vibrant and vivacious to be heartless, and I have been known to (repeatedly) say such flippant things as: I don't believe in getting sick! My insurance plan is to stay healthy! You can't get sick from your children, their germs are too small and puny! Hah-hah!

Yes, hit me now.


But of course, while I may actually be endowed with a vigorous immune system, it's likelier that I remain well as a result of some beneficial habits I have acquired in my adulthood. And now seems like an opportune time to share them, in case there are those of you out there muscling your way (wo)manfully through your third cold of the season and are filled with drastic and morbid visions of Kleenex and cough syrup. I am sure there is little or nothing here you haven't heard before, but let me add my weight to the efficacy of these methods. Be advised that I am not a medical professional, just a well-meaning citizen, and it is always best to check out anything you read on the internet with an actual healthcare provider.


* Gargle as soon as you get out of bed. Especially before you eat or drink anything. I usually do this with mouth wash, more to dispel the taste of nighttime than anything else, but it has the added benefit of getting nasty bacteria that's waiting to enter your system via your esophagus out of your body. If I feel like getting sick is a looming possibility, then I gargle with warm salt water, occasionally with some added lemon. {Incidentally, it is actually helpful to keep gargling salt water when you are sick, especially with throat ailments, since the hypertonic solution reduces some of the inflammation in your throat, thus also relieving soreness. Thank you high school microbiology.}

* Wash thy hands. Thoroughly. Again and again. Especially when returning home, before eating, and especially before rubbing your eyes. To be safe, never touch your eyes, they are your most permeable gateway to disease, lacking the protective enzymes and bacteria that your mouth has as well as the tricky hairs and membranes of your nose. And invest in some decent lotion, since cracked and bleeding hands are not only unpleasant, but vulnerable. I was always fairly good about hand washing, but extended proximity with Alex (a hand washing zealot, dare we say extremist?) did have an amplifying effect on me.

* Use a Neti Pot. I have done so almost every day since I was in my late teens to no detrimental effect. I  admit that I do so mainly because I hate having boogers (I never realized this until I stopped having them because I was washing my nose out every morning, so it became a bit of a cycle), but it has similar benefits as gargling, and is also wonderful for allergy sufferers. It reduces the duration of the highly irritating 'faucet' portion of the common cold, and is much kinder to your nose than tissues. It has become part of my shower routine, I keep the pot and a pint-sized container in the shower. I put a rounded 1/2 tsp coarse Kosher salt in the container before I get in the shower, fill and shake while in the shower, and Bob's your uncle. If you can never seem to get your salt mixture right, try using equal parts baking soda and salt (1/4 tsp each per side/nostril, 1/2 tsp each if using my method and pre-mixing your solution for both sides). I use the container to mix first because I learned that undissolved salt from trying to imperfectly mix in the Neti pot itself is no picnic.

DEFCON 1 (when you feel yourself starting to get sick):

* Assiduously continue with all above, but even more so.

* Load up on immune system helpers: Vit. C, Vit. D, Zinc, Elderberry, aromatics, echinacea, goldenseal, immuno tinctures, Yin Chiao, mushroom extracts, etc. Whatever floats your boat. My favorite in the past has been chewing on dried Osha root. Ka-pow, it packs a mighty punch and is not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, I've noticed many ailments tend to be fainthearted at the outset. They only become bullies when they have their armies of clones assembled.

* Eat no sugar. Heh heh, my old nemesis. The few times I've gotten sick in the past decade or so, it's because I failed right here. When I KNOW BETTER, I still succumb to the come-hither flutter of some morsel's delectable lashes, and then it's bye-bye health. This was almost my downfall last week, as I had a tiny sick person glued to me for several days straight -- usually not a problem (tiny germs, remember?) -- and I bafflingly made not one but TWO batches of cookies. That of course I had to eat by myself because everyone else was sick. Duh. That put me in Defcon 1 territory right quick, but all's well that ends well. Anyway, sugar depresses your body's capacity for immune response, so it gives the germs a free several hours to get up to all the mischief they want without resistance, which is often more than enough time for you to get well and truly sick.

* Eat no dairy. This one is less strict than the above, but you generally want to avoid anything that creates more mucous for your body to deal with. Gross. Interestingly, this includes oranges and orange juice for many people, so don't be tempted by all that juicy Vitamin C, and just get a pack of Emergen-C instead. Bread is often a culprit here, too, so proceed in moderation.

* Take care of yourself. You know, don't go out partying (alcohol has the same deleterious effect as sugar, since it's basically sugar on steroids), ease up on stressful situations if possible, go to bed early, relax with the laundry or dishes or whatnot for a day, the world won't end and it's better than being out of commission for a week.

       >> Amendment to the above: a hot toddy or two (or something similar) is a perfectly acceptable tonic when battling sickness, it's just the excess combined with stressors such as long nights out while inadequately dressed for the inclement weather that you want to avoid.

There. Now pat yourself on the back, marvel at your fortitude, and go about your business. Be sure to look noble and benevolent when the discussion of illness comes up, you wouldn't want to let the side down. I am sure I've left things out, in my former life I was on a track to become a physician and wellness remains a particular area of interest. If you have questions I am always gleeful glad to offer (uncertified, untrained, etc.) opinions and advice where I can.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Social Experiment

It should come as no surprise that I am below the curve in social networking. I have spent the last few years casting a wary eye on these newfangled meeting places that are sprouting up on every virtual corner. Although I am technically of the internet generation (ah, the Millennials!), when it comes to my personal (cyber)space I am still lighting fires with sticks.

I exist only nominally on Facebook, I use Ravelry solely for pattern selling and purchasing, I routinely forget that Pinterest exists, Flickr just stores the photos that I use to blog, and I blog, well...sporadically at best. I do not pretend to loftier ideals or more productive usage of my time, I am a good little voyeur. The thing is, I am not a chattery sort of a person. The wallflower in me withers at the prospect of so much small talk -- and if nothing else, Twitter epitomizes small talk. I cannot pretend, even to myself, that more than a treasured few people want to hear my inanities, and let's all admit that online there is pressure to be surpassingly clever at every turn. I love community, but in an old-fashioned, one-horse-town sense, when community was what you had as an option to wilderness (I also love wilderness). It used to be we had communities because there were interstices between them, and either you made peace with your neighbors or built better fences. The internet and its social networks have effectively abolished the interstices, and now we are expected to commune with the cozy billions that occupy our dear little planet. Admit it: it's a daunting thought.

But when you grow up it's time to face facts. These tools fuel our world. They have made nobodies into superstars and compressed the circumference of our globe even more than the airbus was able to, and ignoring them may be a bit short-sighted. Especially when one is trying to be artistically self-employed. From home.

So yes, I am now a cautiously proud Twitterer. Er. Tweety? Tweeter? Whatever, I am sure the lingo will come. You can find me and my inanities @vivian_aubrey, and I am trying to tweet at least once a day. Heaven knows what I will come up with to say that often, but I am giving it the old college try. I don't want to fall into the trap of just always blabbing about my business, because surely if anything is more boring than dirt or hearing about my breakfast toast, it's constant and unapologetic self-promotion.

Unsurprisingly, Instagram has been a far more natural fit (all photos in this post from Instagram). Let the pictures do the talking, I say. I know, there was some kerfuffle about privacy and permissions and whatnot a while back, but I assume that nothing is sacred once you birth it into the ether anyway, so I'm not very bothered. And wow, what a rabbit hole of delirium this place is, people are lending some real weight to the undeniably bogus-sounding term 'iPhonetography' (and for us Android users, what...'Droidography'? Ouch). You can find me @vivianaubrey. I have put some really (technologically) ancient photos on there, like from my old flip-phone camera. These are the photos that inspired me to break out of film and go digital, to think maybe this leap into the future wasn't the devil. The resolution on them is pretty poor so let's keep them tiny, but they are still some of my favorite pictures.

The rest is where you, the reader, come in. As far as I can tell there are maayyyyybe five of you out there. While I take full responsibility for my own actions, let me just say that none of these things exist in a vacuum, and what's more, most of us wouldn't bother if they did. So if you are there, give me a little wave or a wink in the comments, maybe tell me what you like or wished I showed more of. Leave me links to your blog, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Ravelry profile, and I'll follow you and listen/look/read, too. And maybe others will as well. Come watch me take my first tottering steps out of my fussy old-womanish ways and into the brave new world, and show me how it's done like a pro. And then this whole virtual community thing will get just a little bit bigger, and maybe work just a little bit better. At least, that's the idea anyway.

Let's sweeten the deal: everyone who comments (even you friends and family members) has the option of sending me (vivianDOTaubreyATgmail) your mailing address and I'll send you a one-of-kind block print card by yours truly, with a nice little note on it just for you. Yes, it's perfectly acceptable to tell your friends. Thank you.

(**Edit to clarify that all these photos are still mine, I have not gone on a cybernetic crime spree, ruthlessly scalping others' hard work and trying to pass it off as my own. Carry on.**)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013



Anaiah turned eight months old a week ago, but she had a wretched cold and to be honest neither of us felt much like having a photoshoot. So here we are, or rather, here she is. Crawling, unpacking bags, reaching! for everything!, listening to the world's myriad sounds, making new teeth, snuggling, speaking her mind (and making no bones about it), finding the edges, exploring the corners, getting stuck under furniture, flirting with all and sundry, waving to the populace and laughing herself to sleep. I mean, come on. I want that life.





Obviously we got to spend some time outside this weekend in the comparatively balmy February weather. We planted bulbs, trimmed shrubs, ate moss, made piles and generally dreamed. The sun is shining, folks, and I know it always does this in February, and that March is snickering right around the corner, just waiting to break our hearts, but it feels like spring. Time to go clean something.

Monday, February 4, 2013



A few years (!) ago, I wanted to make this cowl. Before I had even learned of the ombre rage that was sweeping the internet, I wanted a cowl that merged the colors of this yarn that I had just bought:


It's Black Trillium's BFL sock, and I have long since lost the tags so I can't even tell you the colors with much authority. So I made up this cowl, and had it test knitted in a four color version and took photos and then...dropped it. I fell out of love with it all of a sudden, I think because I had stared at the dang thing too much (a common problem with my work), and also I made the mistake of using BFL, which my eyes love but my skin does not. So I wadded it up and stuck it under my mountain of softer neckwear and then actually completely forgot about it until I was putting together that hat pattern the other day to publish. Then I saw the folder labeled 'Patina', and the light went back on. I opened it up and thought, Oh, pretty!


It's still sad that I cannot wear it myself until I make a new one, but I went ahead and put the finishing touches on the pattern to get it out there in the world for anyone else who wants to have a go. Just remember the limitations of your own tender skin, and you should be fine.


You can pick up the pdf for yourselves here for $3.50:

Also, this must be some kind of record around these parts for posts that not only feature knitwear but MY knitwear. Don't get used to it, there is no way I can maintain this breakneck pace. Just enjoy the ride with me while it lasts.

** EDIT: it turns out that I was a good little kitten and included the colors on my Ravelry projects page for the blue version -- Honey, Bumblebee and Dark Horse. Let that be a lesson, kiddies, to be like me and always write this stuff down somewhere indelible so that you, too, can totally look less dudley than you are.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dotty for elephants

Watch this:




Awww. She knows her name. From a photoshoot for Twisted, pattern is "Lily & Rose" for the first 2013 installment of Twisted's Itty Bitty Baby Knits Club. In honor of the Oregon Zoo's newest little addition to the elephant parade.