Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pictures of Lily

No, I'm not talking about the song by The Who.  I'm talking about actual pictures, of my dog Lily.

If you're not a person who's ever experienced a strong attachment to an animal, it's probably impossible to convey what that relationship is like (especially if you're one of the it's just an animal ilk who uses rational arguments about anthropomorphism and displaced maternal feelings to deride the legitimacy of the human-dog bond).  But if you have ever really connected with a pet, you'll understand what I mean when I say I loved my dog more than almost anything in the world, ever.

We found Lily on an Easter Sunday.  I was learning to drive and my parents had let me take control of the family station wagon on the way to breakfast.  After we ate I suggested we stop by the Alameda animal shelter because we'd been thinking about getting another dog (we already had a family dog, the loyal and wonderful terrier Virginia).  My parents both knew, they later said, that it would be closed, but they let me drive over there anyway.

The Alameda SPCA is off the end of the street I currently live on next to a marina.  It's tucked away on a dead end road after a series of left turns, surrounded by boats up on blocks for cleaning and weird little rental shacks and mooring stations.  When we pulled into the parking lot I finally connected the dots and realized the place was closed.  I was about to turn the car around when suddenly there was a flash of movement near the door and the three of us simultaneously noticed that outside, tied to a bike rack, was a little white dog.

My family, my mother in particular, is known for having a soft spot for animals.  If there's a dog on the street, my mother will stop her car and get out to help it.  If someone gets sick and can't care for their pet, they will come and stay at our house.  And a few months ago my mom got into fostering (with Muttville) and that's how they wound up with their house guest, Luigi, who really is a super sweet funny little dude (if you're interested in adopting him).

So it's no surprise that in the presence of an animal in need, we piled out of the car and scooped her up.  She was shaggy and goofy looking and I suggested that we offer her to our friend Dana, who was also talking about getting a dog, but my step-dad Jim (who had the fluff ball curled in his arms) looked up and said, "Well, I don't know about that..."

Being responsible people, we of course posted "dog found" signs around the neighborhood and listed Lily with the ASPCA, but no one responded and after a few weeks we decided she was ours for good.  We named her after the Easter flower in honor of the day she was found, and I trimmed her hair to reveal the most adorable face on any dog, ever. 


Only a few days after bringing Lily home my parents headed off to Chicago for a week, leaving me to watch the dogs on my own.  This meant that Lily bonded most closely with me, especially since for the first few nights she was nervous and unable to sleep and the only way I could get her to lie down was to put her on my chest and pet her until she finally drifted off.  From that point on she slept with me, curled in my arms like a little doll, and every morning I woke up to her sleepy face tucked snugly under my chin.

At her first visit to our family we learned Lily was about a year old, and in spite of their roughly 8 year age difference Lily became fast buddies with Virginia.  Ginny had started to slow down around then, but with this new young puppy in the house she immediately perked up, romping and playing like she had when we'd first adopted her (from the Oakland SPCA) in 1989.  Virginia went on to live another 9 years with her bestie by her side, something I don't think would've happened if she'd remained an only-dog.

Lily, as you may know, lived only a few months more after Ginny left us.  In fall of 2005 Lily had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  Virginia died of old age shortly after our 17th anniversary on Halloween of that year, and Lily hung on until summer of 2006 before her little body finally gave out.

Knowing that she was dying was terrible and painful, but it also meant we had a lot of time to prepare for losing her.  One of the ways I handled this was by taking hundreds and hundreds of photos of her, so while she's on my mind today I'd like to share some of my favorites with you.





For more photos from the Brisk photo files, check out my flickr account at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Famous In Iceland?

Inspired by Stephanie's recent blog post (one of my favorite NSLT features, Fun With Keywords) I decided to visit Statcounter this evening and check out my own Fun With Keywords.

Unfortunately for me, my blog postings don't include as much Googley fodder as Steph's seems to: popular means of finding my blog via Googling seems to be by looking for "" or "Brisk knits Renee" or the slightly more interesting "Do you like gloves?".  My favorite so far, though, is "buy puppets," but only because I love the idea of some person out there (and so far there's only been one) entering that into the Google and somehow finding themselves on my blog.

Whoever you are, heart.

More interesting at this point is the visual representation of visitors to this blog who, amazingly, seem to have come from many places around the world.

Check it out: someone out there in Iceland has been to my blog!

Also pretty amazing is that I've had (single) visits from Estonia, Turkey and Pakistan.

So what gives, Russia? 

Then there's pie chart detailing the duration of everyone's visit, which is equally interesting.

More often than not, people stay for 5 seconds or less, which is kind of crazy to me.  I'm trying to picture what happens when I click on a link and I think in general I tend to spend at least 15 seconds evaluating where I've wound up before concluding that I don't want to look at it anymore, but maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe all of us are taking things in far faster than we realize, and if nothing jumps out at us immediately we're gone in 4 seconds or less.  If so, how bizarre!

The next biggest chunk, however, is longer than an hour.


So either people are completely disinterested and close the browser window before even taking the time to scroll half a page down OR they're so enamored that they stick around for more than 60 minutes.

That's longer than an episode of Mad Men!
That's more time than I spend at lunch with my parents!
That's like four finger puppets knitted and accessorized!

That is, simply, awesome!  Double heart to my yellow pie peeps.

Last but not least, there's another pie chart displaying trends with my returning visitors.

So let's look at this: I have (for yesterday) 175 new people.  Welcome to you guys (and kudos if you stuck around past the 5 second mark)!  Then there's the 32 of you who were coming back for a second, third, fourth, or fifth time.  You rule.  Now onto the special few who've been back for 5 to 10 visits--only 3 of you.

This is where it gets most interesting: who are those three?  I can't even happen a guess because it seems equally likely that they're friends, or people I haven't met in person, or maybe even people I've had no contact with whatsoever.

Whoever you are, I'm intrigued.

Oh, and if you're wondering who those 2 people are that have been to the Brisk blog more than 10 times, I'm 99% sure it's Oleg and Stephanie.  Maybe I'll have to make them special Elite badges for their own web pages, ala Yelp.  Or maybe I'll just tattoo BRISK across their knuckles (because knitting, as we all know, is totally hard core).

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Bain of My Etsystence

So for anyone who's unfamiliar with the Etsy world, one of the primary means of promotion within the Etsy community is The Treasury: a gallery of user-compiled collections in the same style as the Etsy home page.  In fact, it's from this treasury (for the most part) that the Etsy wizards choose what will show up on their front lines (note the "Handpicked Items selected by" credit above the choices).  Sometimes they take an entire Treasury listing by an Etsy user, other times a staffer will pick and choose featured items from a selection of Treasuries and compile a unique page with them, but either way The Treasury is the gateway to Etsy homepage stardom.

This being the case, it's in every Etsy shop owner's interest to try and get into a Treasury collection.  To do this you can try one of two things:

Cross your fingers and hope someone else lists you


Make your own Treasury collection, stealthily including the one-allowed listing from your own shop.

I have been trying to do this FOR MONTHS.

Why so difficult, Renee?

Well, to put it bluntly, loyal reader: the Treasury creation process is retarded.

To create a Treasury page you have to wait until enough pages expire that the number of listings comes down to 333.  Why 333?  Because this is the number of magical craftasticness chosen by the splendiferous craft fairy Etzmerelda with her wand of sparkly bedazzlement.  Any more and the fantastical land of Etsy will implode, any fewer and all the crochet Amigurumi will wither and die.

But really, the choice seems utterly arbitrary.

Because Etsy Treasuries have a 2 day lifespan, and listings are expiring every hour, you basically wind up stalking the Treasury, waiting for enough pages to breathe their last gasp so you can get in on the creation frenzy.  Unfortunately if you have a life that requires you to do things like work, eat, sleep, or leave the house for any reason at all, it's really tough to coordinate being at a computer at the precise moment that the Treasury hits 333, and if you miss this moment, you're screwed.

Le sigh.

Still, in spite of my continued Treasury fails (or probably because of them) I've compiled a pretty decent group of favorite Etsy shops and listings to use to make a Treasury page, and (having no craft news of my own) it's from this selection that I'd like to share today.

Jackie Peppermint

I've mentioned this shop on Twitter for Follow Friday, but I just can't get past how much I love Jackie Bos's illustrations.

Check out this awesome set of pillows:
If I could draw, I like to think I'd draw like this--a little Dali, a little vintage, all awesome.

Oh, how I love finger puppets.  This shop makes me want to get more into sewing, a craft form that I continue to shy away from for no apparent reason.
These finger puppets are the animals that my finger puppets would choose to ride if and when they amassed enough numbers to form a proper army.

Another awesome illustrator, the Box of Birds shop also features a selection of super cute felt items that (again) make me want to take up sewing in a more serious way.

This print is totally cute.

I bet that if I showed LoveFoxx this shop, she would start sporting selections.

This hand-painted shirt dress thing is just one representation of the Shanghai designer's eclectic style, but visit the shop and you'll find awesome coats, shoes and bags that will make you wish you had the kind of lifestyle that would justify such sweet threads.

I don't know what it is with me and illustrators--maybe it's my love of paper goods or my jealous feelings at their drawing skills--but Whale and Bee is another place with adorable and unique images that make me smile.

The banana print is pretty fantastic, but I also like the mixtape friends print and the rabbit ninja notebook.

Ahh, jewelry.  There's so many jewelry makers on Etsy, but this is one of my favorites.  The wings ring makes me feel like I could so get into metallurgy one day.

Steph doesn't agree with the vintage section on the Etsy (see: not handmade), but here's my bid to change her mind.  Check out the awesome, Steph:

You have to give it to Timeless Vixen for collecting so many fantastic dresses in one place.  Yes, they're super expensive, but they're so pretty that I don't even care.  Some day maybe I will have enough money (and be tall enough) to wear this.

Until then, it's back to the gym for this girl.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Don't Want To Work, I Just Want To Knit Finger Puppets All Day

I am in love.

I am so in love, I think it's about to border on obsession.

Yesterday, I made my first finger puppet.

This guy.

Then at craft night, I made three more.

Now all I want to do is knit these funny little things.

There's something about the simplicity of them coupled with interminable variety that's just infatuating.  Add to that the fact that you can't look at one without busting a seam giggling and it's a finger puppets FTW situation.

Here's some more photos of my growing finger puppet army.


Inspired by Oleg's mustache party fuzz monster:

The red hat was an experiment that turned out hilarious.

 This is where I kind of lost my mind a little bit.

So that's what I'll be working on for the next few weeks, I think.

Another benefit of craft night (apart from hanging out with Team Awesome) is getting the occasional gift.  In this case, it wasn't a gift so much as a delivery, but it was still awesome.

Adam had a 100 robots contest (of sorts) to see if he could paint (and sell) 100 robots.  He did, and the results were (like most things we're involved in) awesome.  I of course got in on the robot action but I didn't care what number I bought so Adam assigned me number 99.  This was fine with me at first, but eventually I got really impatient because it meant I was going to have to hold out to the bitter end before I could take my painting home.

Finally, after months of waiting, I got to take my little dude with me last night.

Here's the little dude, in all his (forgive me) awesomeness:

Another thing that finally happened was the gift exchange where Stephanie gave her previously undisclosed craft away.  This means I can (also finally) post the original photo, sans unicorn, so here it is:

Best bacon scarf ever.

Here is Ryan, enjoying the bacony goodness:

I told Steph she needs to write out the pattern because it's by far the most awesome looking bacon scarf I've seen; she's still debating, since when she was actually in the process of making the scarf she was just doing it ad hoc.  If you want to see a pattern come to fruition for reals, comment on this post and she'll see it--and maybe it will motivate her.

Last but not least, I also finished the FREE pair of gloves won by lovely miss Amy Gibbons, aka Bagsofblessing.  They will ship out today to find a happy home, I'm sure.  Amy opted for the Lily's Gloves in a light blue yarn, and they look fantastic!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yes, Those Are Lollipops

The crafts are back!

After a brief hiatus from craft-related blog posts, I've finally gotten it together to put up some photos of the stuff I've been working on.

First off is the baby hat attempt, which I was sort of planning on giving to Joel (see previous post re: lemon eating adorableness) until I realized the hat was too big for his 1 year old head because, duh, when I wrote it I used the toddler/child size measurements.  Oh well--I'll just have to find another kid to try it on, and maybe keep it.

So this is how it came out:



To make it, I knit the body of the hat in the round (the pattern is made with a series of shifting slip stitches and decreases) and then pulled up about 18 stitches at the base to make the cable strip.  When the strip was long enough (it's a heart cable pattern...or so they say) I decreased to about 4 stitches and then sewed them into the top of the hat.

I was toying with leaving the strap as a kind of free-floating accoutrement, but in the end I sewed it into the hat so that it lies flat against the body.

This is not my favorite creation ever, but I had to start somewhere, so that's that.

I also finished a pair of elbow-length Hinoki gloves in gray, a special order for Apasara.  I l-o-v-e-d the yarn I used (and thankfully over-bought, so I have 2 whole skeins left--YES!) and I super love how the gloves came out.

Nnekay stopped by to have some coffee the other day and I seized the opportunity to make her model them.

They're so soft and comfy, and again I'm left wanting a pair.

By the way, if you're wondering what happened with my desire for a pair of the Rococo gloves in that dark blue-gray, I went to knit them and felt like a nerd for doing the same pattern again so instead I made an elbow length version of Marin's Gloves.  When I was finished with the first glove I felt underwhelmed, like I should've stuck to my instinct and just made another Rococo even if it wasn't original.  Now I have this single long glove hanging out with the rest of my in-progress projects (hello, angry face glove...) that I will eventually need to decide what I want to do with.  Perhaps I'll post a photo soon and you can tell me what you think.

Finally, in gym news, we've implemented these spirit days for our team girls.  I always hated that crap growing up, but the kids are so psyched about it that I don't mind encouraging them.  Previous spirit days have included Twin Day and Senior Citizen Day, both of which were pretty cute, but nothing compared to this past Saturday: Valentine's Day Day.

Spirit day works like this: the kids know about it a week before hand and come in on Saturday morning with their costumes in tow.  At the end of work out we give them about 2 minutes to get dressed, then they come out on the floor and line up at the edge.  Kids who've dressed up come out front and the rest of the team votes on a winner, and the winner gets a dorky prize from a prize bucket.  Mostly harmless, usually very sweet, sometimes fun even for the coaches.

Valentine's Day Day had only 2 entries: Jewel, who had a sign that said, "Free Hugs!" in gold glitter, and a dual entry: Nichole (Jewel's little sister) and Sarafina, who'd made heart-halves that they wore sandwich board style to form a completed heart when they stood beside each other.

It was so cute that the whole gym went, "Awwww."

I never do this, but I actually went all the way upstairs and got my camera so I could take a photo.

Yes, those are lollipops.

That's Jewel to the left, and about half the Level 4 team behind them.  Super cute, and really amusing to me, a former spirit day abstainee.

Sometimes, I really love my job.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Music Monday

Not all crafts need to be tangible--at least, not at first. 

There are a handful of things I've been involved in on a (nearly) life-long basis.  You know about a few of them--gymnastics and crafting take up a fair amount of blog space--but one of these things hasn't yet enjoyed its moment in the spotlight, and that's one of my favorite additions: mix cds.   

Coming from a long line of musicians meant that I was raised amongst a smattering of instruments (piano, drums, guitars, bases, even the occasional trombone) and records (The Who, Ritchie Valens, The Hollies, and Duane Eddy were my favorites).  When I was little, you'd regularly find me happily rifling through my parents' collection, spinning vinyl before I could tie my shoes. 

Like any child of the 80's, I eventually moved on to making mix tapes--by holding my tape recorder up to the radio and standing very, very still.  When the 90's hit and the dual tape deck became a staple of every home stereo system I nearly lost my mind with excitement.  Emily (my long-distance BFF) and I spent most of middle school mailing elaborately decorated cassettes from Oakland to St. Louis and back again.  My walkmans lost buttons, plastic casings, head phone covers...I went through them like chewing gum. 

When Napster exploded I was in the epicenter: Boston, 1999.  It was there that my roommate Emma and I figured out how to hook the computer up to a boom box and started making our first MP3 mix tapes.  I thought this was the best thing that would ever happen to mix making--and then, heart of hearts, on came the cd burning revolution, from which I haven't looked back.

Almost a decade later, I still have a reputation with my buddies as a mixing addict.  You'll know we're friends when I finally open my purse to reveal your own personalized mix cd.  You'll know we're best friends when you have a shelf of them.

In the spirit of Twitter's #musicmonday, today's blog has zero to do with knitting, crochet, sewing, or screening, and instead contains a throwback to my younger years: my most recent mix cd.

No, you can't listen to it, but you CAN visit and build your own version.  And Emily, don't peak--this one's for you.

1. Purple Mushroom by Punk Bunny
2.  Bounce by MSTRKRFT (featuring N.O.R.E.)
3. Awesome by The Bloody Beetroots (featuring The Cool Kids)
4.  Don't Stop The Rock by The Freestylers
6. Back Of The Van by Ladyhawke
7. Forever by Walter Meego
8. Little Secrets by Passion Pit
9. Only If You Run by Julian Plenti
10. Can You Discover? by Discovery
11. Through A Keyhole by Walter Meego
12. Low Life by Steve Aoki
13. It Don't Move Me by Miike Snow Vs. Peter, Bjorn and John
14. Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La by Calvin Harris
15. Mind Drips by Neon Indian
16. Psychic City by YACHT
17. The Equalizer by Junior Boys
18. So Insane by Discovery
19. Baby Please by Walter Meego
20. I Am Not A Robot by Marina and the Diamonds

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sick Busy


This week is flying by.  Took a two day mini-vacation to Avila Beach over the weekend, then returned to the chaos of gym life.  Yesterday I started feeling a little ill which isn't surprising--when I'm under a lot of stress, it eventually starts to effect my health.  Didn't think things had been wearing on me enough to manifest in a cold, though.

Luckily I have today off to recuperate.  There's so much stuff I need to do, especially after having been out of town, but I don't think I'm going to be able to take care of it today.  Cleaning the house sounds exhausting, as does driving around running all the errands on my to-do list.  I think all I'm going to accomplish is this blog post, and then finishing the screen I'm making and printing a few shirts.

Wanted to post a photo of the elbow length gloves I made last week, because they came out so nicely.  Yesterday I made an elbow length glove in the same color but used Marin's pattern.  I'm not sure I like it as much as the Rococo version, so I might just have to finish this pair and sell it, and then make the Rococo pattern gloves for myself.

See how cute they are?


In contest news, we have our winner!  The lovely Amy Gibbons (aka Bagsofblessings) reached and surpassed the 20 referrals mark, and now she's getting a FREE pair of Lily's Gloves.  Woo hoo, Amy!

Alright, energy is running low so I'm off to work on that screen and maybe take a nap.