It seems a little silly to be posting a year-in-review halfway through February, but these are some of my favourite posts to write and read later on, so I’m doing it anyway! I actually wrote three different wrap-up posts for 2014 (here, here and here). Writing just one post for 2015 is rather restrained, for me anyway.
I recently discovered Blonde on a Budget, and her writing and style of blogging has really resonated with me. Inspired by her year-in-review post, I’m going to do this review month-by-month. I’m a little wordier than she is though so this is going to be a long post!
I started January with a goal to get more sleep. Given that this is still something I’m working on more than a year later, you can guess how well that went! As usual I also started the year with a great enthusiasm for finishing some of my many WIPs scattered about my apartment. That carried me through some mending and a quilting binge on a Quilts of Valour quilt top (still languishing in a drawer somewhere!) before it petered out. I spent as much time as possible skating on the Canal, even though it was one of the coldest winters I’ve ever experienced. One day I wore ski goggles on my walk to campus because my face hurt in the cold. I knit a Honegart hat for my boyfriend and finished a pair of dainty Sweet Tea fingerless mittens for myself. I read seven (!) books.
On January 28th my grandfather passed away from pneumonia. He was 87 years old, and had been declining steadily over the months before, but it still felt very sudden. We were very close and it took me a long time to come back from.
My goal for February was to be more mindful. The goal was very vague, and I’m not sure how much it actually had an effect. It is still something I strive for. I got all the quilt blocks done on the quilt top, then had some trouble getting the rows to line up, and abandoned it. I think I need to pass it on to a better quilter who can rescue it. My parents came to visit for the Family Day long weekend, which also happened to be the coldest weekend of the year! We did not go skating, and my Dad still talks about how cold he was that weekend. It may have been slightly traumatizing. I knit a fun little monster called Thwickeds, started knitting hexipuffs again, and read 3 books.
March was a very full, crafty month. It started off busy: my best friend came to visit (more skating!) and I participated in the 3-Minute Thesis competition at Carleton and made it to the top 10! I also knit a Snowstorm Hat/Cowl set that I promptly gifted to my Dad for his birthday…only a month or so late. I based the cowl on a scarf pattern and decided to graft the two ends together, which turned out to be far more challenging than I expected. It all worked out in the end, though. I then cast on a charity blanket that took up most of my knitting time for the spring and summer. I finally blocked the Citron shawl I’d finished a month earlier, dug out my serger to hem some handkerchiefs, and did some piecing on my Stained Glass quilt top (still, sadly, unfinished). I signed myself (and the boyfriend) up for a 5K race in May and started running semi-regularly again. With all that I also managed to finish 6 books, although to be fair two were cookbooks and one was a knitting pattern book.
I started off April committed to both decluttering and running. I mostly kept up with the running but decluttering fell off my radar as I got busier throughout the month. I finally upgraded from a single to a double bed, but ironically struggled with getting enough sleep. My thesis work started to pick up and I started having trouble balancing school work and my volunteer commitments. This led me to take a short break from this blog, and my crafting output decreased significantly. I mostly just knit on the never-ending charity blanket, although I did finish some tiny Baby Uggs (a baby shower gift) and cast on a Mother Bear. I read 8 books in April, and several were very powerful books that still have an effect on me now (notably Better than Before by Gretchin Rubin and Internal Time by Till Roenneberg).
May was full of tulips and quilts with both the annual Tulip Festival and the biennial Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild quilt show on the same weekend. I started doing user studies for my thesis research, which I really enjoyed but took up a lot of time. All of this led me to declare “calm” as my goal/theme for the month of May. Towards the end of May I successfully ran a whole 5K race with my boyfriend as part of the Tamarack Race Weekend, which was a blast. I had been worried going in that I wouldn’t be able to run the whole thing but Dennis (aka the boyfriend) wouldn’t let me give up. I haven’t run much since but I would love to get back to that feeling again. Cross-stitch took over my crafting time when I started an embroidered ornament kit, and most of my knitting was on the charity blanket. I only finished 2 books in May, which is not surprising given how busy I was.
I started June off by taking a class in hand applique; sadly I have made no progress on the pillow since the class. My volunteer commitments started to wind down for the summer, and I was able to focus entirely on my thesis. My goal for the month was to “write first“, and despite a couple of setbacks I managed to hit my page count goal by the end of the month. My crafting was reduced to knitting on the charity blanket and a few hexipuffs, although I did make progress on finishing small projects. I think this progress was so important to me because it was so immediate, and my thesis still had months of work left in it at the time. I read 6 books in June, including The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, which sparked some serious decluttering. I’d dabbled with decluttering in March and April, but reading this book hit a nerve in me, like it has in so many others, and I got rid of more clothes than I ever have in previous purges.
Objectively June should have been a more difficult month for me than May, since partway through the month I found a problem in my research project that meant I had to do a ton of extra work to graduate on time. While that was certainly stressful, I actually found the weight of the extra work kept me laser-focused on the task at hand. I had fewer distractions, and I had a very strong reason to say no to anything not related to my thesis I’m not sure I want to be that focused all the time, but it made me realize how much of my stress this year came from trying to do too many things at once.
My workload eased a little in July, since I finished most of the “surprise” extra research work in June. My boyfriend and I celebrated our one year anniversary by walking from Byward Market to Rideau Hall and back, and then having a lovely dinner in the Market. I continued decluttering my clothing, and unearthed mending and sewing projects I had been ignoring, so they came out to live on my kitchen table again for awhile. I drove out to Almonte to visit the Mississippi Textile Museum, and cast on a Vivid blanket to use up some Shetland yarn from my stash. I finished my first knitting projects in months when I bound off and blocked my gradient Age of Brass and Steam shawl and Apple Cheeks Hat. I sewed myself some cotton boxers to wear around the (air-condition-less) apartment, and attempted a cooling neck pad filled with rice that sadly didn’t maintain its coolness long enough to be effective. I also finally finished the charity blanket, although I didn’t manage to blog about it until August, and read a total of 7 books. By the end of July, I had written 90% of my thesis and was feeling like the whole thing might, finally, be coming to an end.
I spent the first week of August visiting my family in Burlington, which is where I finished most of the final edits on my thesis. I also got a chance to make chili sauce with my brother, continuing a tradition that I cherish and thought might have disappeared with my grandfather’s passing. We continued another family tradition by getting my Dad’s side of the family together for a holiday at a cottage over the long weekend. It was the first year without my grandfather, which was hard, but I’m glad we kept up the tradition. Hopefully we’ll manage a repeat this year. I submitted my written thesis on August 10th, which was a huge relief. It meant I had a lot more free time in the rest of the month, but also meant I lost that focus that I had enjoyed in June and July.
I filled the rest of August with lots of extracurriculars. I got through some more decluttering, although by this point it was less exciting and more plain hard work. Knightley and I tried to stay cool during a mid-month heatwave. One day I explored Laurier House and the surrounding neighbourhood in downtown Ottawa. A few days later I toured the East Block of Parliament and the Supreme Court. I tried some new work-from-home rhythms that were very helpful in practicing for my defense. For some reason I only read 2 books in August. I think I was just spending as much time as possible outside.
I successfully defended my Master’s thesis on August 31st!
September was an odd month. Despite being “done” with the thesis work I still had final edits to wrap up, and then I re-wrote a much shorter version to submit to a conference (it didn’t get in). My volunteer commitments also started again, and took up a lot of my time. I spent a week in Bermuda with my boyfriend visiting my aunt, a lovely post-graduate-school reward. I also tried to cram in as many adventures as possible before settling done to a regular 9-5 existence: I visited Gatineau Park for the first time and toured the Mackenzie King Estate, watched a Soapbox Derby in Montreal, and went to Almonte for their annual Fibrefest. I fixed the seams on an old crochet blanket and decluttered my bookshelves. I read 3 books, and then added a ton of books to my “to-read” pile during the decluttering. After all the craziness of the summer I started reading and listening more and more about slow living, particularly the Slow Your Home podcast (and many of the blog archives) and Tsh Oxenreider‘s book Notes from a Blue Bike. Those ideas still really resonate with me now, though I have yet to put them fully into practice.
I spent most of October job hunting. My blog posts from that month are all catch-up posts about things I did in September. A friend got married, the first to do so in my social circle, so that was both awesome and slightly odd. I definitely don’t feel that “grown up” yet. My family came to visit for Thanksgiving and we went ziplining in Gatineau Park. Then I visited them the following weekend for my birthday and a belated Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family. I started sewing hexipuffs together into a beekeeper’s quilt, and realized just how many more I needed to make a blanket of any reasonable size. I read 16 books, mostly short fiction that I was re-reading in order to decide whether or not to keep the books. I also had a lot of free time.
On October 24th I took a break from blogging. Two days later, I started working at a full time job as a software developer. At almost exactly the same, Knightley started to get sick. For the next three weeks my entire life was adjusting to a new job, and trying to get Knightley better.
Knightley passed away on November 14th. My parents, best friend and boyfriend were all visiting to attend my Convocation. We went to the Convocation in the morning, and in the afternoon we were at the emergency vet saying goodbye. I mostly just endured the rest of November. Working helped, since it got me out of the house. I spent several weekends in Montreal with Dennis, to get away from everything. I read 15 books, again mostly short fiction, first to escape the stress of Knightley’s illness and then to escape grief. I’m sure I knit on several projects, but I didn’t finish any knitting projects between August and November.
December was a busy month, especially since I was still trying to figure out how to balance my volunteer commitments and my new job. The holidays were a welcome break in the routine, and I was able to spend over a week visiting my family over Christmas and New Years. Dennis and I went to see the new Star Wars movie on opening weekend. I finished a hat for charity and made a Christmas garland out of knit balls and the embroidered ornament kit I’d started back in May. My reading rate decreased slightly to 4 books in December.
Overall, 2015 was an incredibly difficult year for me. I lost my grandfather at the beginning of the year, and my cat Knightley near the end. I finished my Master’s thesis, a mountain of work that at one point I thought I would never emerge from. I started a new job and transitioned to working life. I crammed a lot into one year, more than even I realized until I started writing this post. I had a lot of great adventures, and some very tough moments.
It’s not surprising that I was drawn to writings on simple, slow living by the end of 2015. I have definitely over-committed myself and tried to do too many things at once. I thought my theme for 2016 would be “simplify”, but I’m starting to think it is actually more “self-care”. I need to prioritize my own mental and physical health, and simplifying is a part of that, but not the whole.
I’m very glad I’ve had the chance to write this year-in-review post, as it has given me a new outlook on my 2015. Stay tuned for another post on my plans for 2016, such as they are.