I cleaned my desk this week. I’d been thinking about it for months, so it was a little embarrassing to realize it took less than half an hour to tame all the stacks and piles. I even dealt with all the unfinished business the scraps of paper and notes represented in that short time. If I hadn’t been so sure it was a monumental task, I might have been enjoying a clean desk for months now.

My clean but cluttered desk. Works for me!

My clean but cluttered desk. Works for me!

As soon as I was done, I felt like throwing a party. My desk was clean! But even as I was tweeting my joy, I realized that other people might look at my desk and think I had more work to do. In the past, I would have thought so myself, because I keep a lot of stuff on my desk all the time.

I often admire the crisp, clean lines of a modern room that has minimal decoration and only the essentials present. The bare surfaces and empty spaces look so peaceful, I was sure I was missing out. When I visited someone with a clutter-free home, their stark, neat space felt cold and dead to me, and I didn’t like it. But I kept thinking I should.

Everyone's desk should look like this... right? (After you put the book away, of course.)

Everyone’s desk should look like this… right? (After you put the book away, of course.)

Then I found this article about remodeling your office and learned how a person’s best mode for learning predicts the sort of environment they are most productive in.
Visual learners love color but need things tidy. Auditory learners are extra-clean, and prefer neutrals to strong colors. Kinesthetic learners care most how their space feels.

I learn most easily by seeing and doing, a mix of visual and kinesthetic modes. Knowing that, I look at my clean desk and see it fits who I am. I have the colorful things that make my desk feel like home, all tidy and in their place.

I like to have lots of books within easy reach, especially reference books, my reading journals, and my current notebooks. I also have toys and talismans to look at, things that make me smile. I keep my daily planner open on the desk because I value the ease of instant access to my schedule over having that space clear.

A few of the precious items I like having close.

A few of the precious items I like having close.

When the piles begin to grow, my Visual Learner gets cranky. But since my dominant Kinesthetic Learner doesn’t mind the mess, I put up with it for long stretches of time, until the sobbing of the Visual Learner finally gets to me. Then I take pity on her and spend a little time making things look neat.

What about you? What does your clean desk look like? Does the link between learning mode and preferred environment apply to you?

My knitting binge continues. (One of these days, my spinning wheel will be ready to go and I’ll be spinning instead.) This week I knocked out a pair of knitted leg warmers, another pattern from Lace One-Skein Wonders (edited by Judith Durant).

These leg warmers are actually purple.

Lacy leg warmers!

These were fast and easy. I’m not used to knitting with big needles and am always astonished at how quickly I can finish a project. Despite my speed, I was a little too slow. As I was binding them off, we suddenly hit 70-degree weather. Fortunately, I live in Colorado, so I’ll probably get to wear them before summer gets here.

My next project is going to take me a lot longer to finish. I’ve started a pair of cabled socks.

My new project: pattern, yarn, and sock cuff. Traveler's socks pattern by Stefanie Bold, in Interweave Knits Fall 2012

My new project: pattern, yarn, and sock cuff. Traveler’s socks pattern by Stefanie Bold, in Interweave Knits Fall 2012

As you can see, tiny needles and tiny stitches. I make socks all the time, but I haven’t done any as complicated as this before. This is my first project to use cables. I’ve made cable swatches before, but nothing with cables actually as part of the product.  Looking forward to seeing how these turn out!

I’ve lived many places in my life, but seven years ago I moved somewhere I had never thought of living. I’d heard of Colorado, driven through Colorado, even camped in Colorado, but I never once thought about living here. The funny thing is that of all the places I have lived, Fort Collins has turned out to be my favorite. As great as the town is, I know the real draw for me is the prairie. Here’s some of the reasons why (in no particular order):

1) Raptors: I enjoy watching birds of all kinds, but raptors have a special appeal. I see them daily, flying overhead or perched high above a field. Red-tailed hawks and American kestrels are the most common in my neighborhood. Bald eagles, a bird I’d never seen in the wild before, fly right over my house, and I am always thrilled when I catch sight of them.

2) Sky: We just have more of it here. The drama is endless. A giant storm can be raging away and yet seem remote. I can watch it drift across the plains, pouring onto houses or fields, from miles away. I’m constantly astonished by the beauty and variety of the clouds here.

Mountains nearly hidden by the clouds.

Mountains nearly hidden by the clouds.

3) Mountains: We have a clear view of the foothills and the Rocky Mountains from roads and trails all over town. The mountains stretch along our western horizon from north to south and add yet another layer to the weather we can observe. Mountains wrapped in cloud emerge covered with snow, while the sun shines continuously down on the flatlands.

4) Sunshine: Because of our higher altitude (5000 feet) and our low humidity, the sun we get is more intense, brighter and stronger than the sun I grew up with. You can feel it. And the majority of days are sunny, even in the winter, which helps make the bitter days a lot easier to bear.

Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. I know it doesn't look like much, but my heart thrills at the sight of it.

Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. I know it doesn’t look like much, but my heart thrills at the sight of it.

5) Grasslands: Our community protects the prairie with 36,000 acres of designated natural area. We can hike in many of these open spaces, surrounded by acres of wild grasses and enjoying the landscape and wildlife of the prairie.

6) Elbow room: I’m uncomfortable in crowds, so the emptiness of the prairie appeals to me. I look around and I am in the middle of a vast space, able to see for miles. I know long before they arrive if someone is coming.

7) Prairie dogs: Although they are often treated as pests, small colonies of these spunky animals survive in the margins along roads or in parts of the natural areas. They bark with indignation at my approach, a squeaky staccato warning to their buddies, while their black tails quiver with annoyance. They make me laugh.

Coyote!

Coyote in the prairie behind our house.

8) Coyotes: On clear nights, when the moon is bright, we hear the yipping coyote chorus all around our house. It brings home the fact that I live in the West and that it is at least to some degree still wild.

9) Summer mornings: On certain days, the early morning air is dry and clear, yet you can feel the heat of the day to come. I used to get the exact same feeling when I visited my grandparents in eastern South Dakota, so these magical mornings take me right back to the joys of childhood and summer vacation.

10) Timelessness: The prairie landscape is like the ocean, a landscape caught up in the events of the moment. The grass bows to the wind; clouds tumble over the mountains and stretch out over the prairie. Everything changes so quickly, so radically, that you can only be sure of this instant.

The prairie reminds me to enjoy the present, whatever it may be, and what better reason can I have to love it than that?

Life is Sweet: a small art quilt I made in 2005 to celebrate my first sugar-free birthday.

Life is Sweet: a small art quilt I made in 2005 to celebrate my first sugar-free birthday.

Last month, I celebrated my husband’s birthday, my birthday, and our wedding anniversary. I did it without cake, cookies, ice cream, or any other sugary treat. That’s because I also celebrated my ninth anniversary of living sugar free.

For me, “sugar free” means no foods that are sugar-delivery systems. No desserts, no sweet breakfast baked goods, no meats or vegetables swimming in sweetened sauces, no sodas diet or otherwise. I do occasionally eat foods with traces of sugar in them (restaurant salad dressings, for example), but if I can taste the sweet, I know there’s too much sugar for me, and I give it a miss*.

When people realize I do not have cake for my birthday, pie at the holidays, ice cream on a hot day, they often suggest sugar-free replacements, thinking that will solve my problem. But there are two mistakes in their assumptions.

The first is that the sugar-free look-alike food is a good choice for me, even though the version with sugar is not. Too much sweetness of any kind brings back the cravings for sugar. There was a time when I thought I would die if I didn’t eat sugar every day, and I do not want to go back there. Sugar makes me hyper, then exhausted, anxious and ravenous, fat and sick. I’m much better off without the sugar.

Also, those “sugar-free” foods are rarely truly sugar free. When the sweetness isn’t from a brand-name artificial sweetener, it’s often hidden, or even worse, some “better” sugar source: honey, agave nectar, stevia, fructose. I wish I could say the “better” sugars are OK, but they’re not. My body can’t tell the difference and just starts up the old destructive cycle.

The second assumption is that not having the cake or ice cream is a problem for me. It’s not. I won’t lie to you. There are times (usually Christmas) when I see all the pretty treats everyone is enjoying and I get a bit cranky about not being able to eat the fun food, too. When I am really angry about it, I make art like this.

But is it deprivation when you choose not to eat something you know will make you sick? Hardly. It’s a relief to be free of the vicious cycle sugar put me in, to have steady energy throughout the day instead of a roller coaster of highs and lows. It’s also easier to keep my body at a healthy weight when I’m not constantly hungry, like I was when I ate sugar.

My life since I’ve been sugar free has been full of a different kind of sweetness: I’ve been healthy physically and emotionally in a way I never was when sugar was part of my diet. Today it’s second-nature to me to avoid sugary foods and I am grateful that it has gotten so much easier for me.

It took me eighteen months to stop eating sugar once I realized I really needed to let it go and lots of practice and mistakes with other sweeteners along the way. But I am grateful and amazed to be here, nine years down the road, living sweet sugar-free days.

*Except ketchup. I occasionally have some with fries, but only a tablespoon at a time.

Thanks to some extreme fatigue this week, I had plenty of time for knitting. Add to that birthday money spent on yarn and a book on lace knitting given to me as a gift, and you have this week’s finished projects, both from Lace One-Skein Wonders (ed. by Judith Durant).

Lace1Skein

The first is my very first try at knitting lace. I wanted something small that I could use scrap yarn on, so I went with Myrna A. I. Stahman’s Circular Magic Trivet Set. I repeated her lace pattern six times, winding up with a snowflake-like hexagon.

My "snowflake" ornament. Of course it's purple.

My “snowflake” ornament. Of course it’s purple.

The results of this pattern are understandably curly and she mentions the importance of binding off loosely and blocking your trivet when you are done. But I decided it would be faster to just make a second hexagon and stitch them back-to-back. The two hexagons would pull each other flat and I would have a knitted ornament I could hang up, no blocking needed. It was not fast, however. It took me three tries to get the second hexagon made, and it still could use some blocking. But I think it looks good.

Once I had a chance to get to the store, I was ready to tackle a harder pattern. I seem to have lost most of my winter hats, so I started with Meg Myers’ Lacy Liberty Wool Hat. I loved the lacy rib design that covers the hat, and once I got the hang of it (and thought to use a post-it to mark which row of the pattern I was on), it went pretty quickly. I haven’t blocked it yet, either, but you can see what a nice design it is.

My hat (with a towel in it to help show off the lace).

My hat (with a towel in it to help show off the lace).

For those worried that I have forgotten all about quilting or spinning, I’m including a picture of the UFO I am quilting at the moment. I am still waiting on new parts for my used spinning wheel but hope they will arrive soon.

My Green-Yellow-Orange quilt in the process of being quilted.

My Green-Yellow-Orange quilt in the process of being quilted.

I’m finding this practice of posting my finished handwork makes me feel a lot better about my progress with my projects, even though I’m in the middle of a knitting binge and am not clearing quilting projects out of my studio as I’d intended. Giving myself credit for things accomplished, no matter how small, is showing me I do finish things, no matter how long my UFO list is.

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