Swimming Lessons (Not the Kind You Think)

This post is about swimming, and I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, I want to share with you a sneak peek at a couple new crochet patterns I’ve been working on this week.

crocheting and swimming

Both of these photos are part of the step-by-step instructions for the new patterns I’m working on. I’m really looking forward to sharing the patterns with you.

crochet and swimming

Besides working on several new crochet patterns this week, I’ve been swimming for exercise. Recently, I had an epiphany at the pool; it was almost funny.

Lessons at the Swimming Pool

I have been making a huge effort to exercise more, and this particular day I was at the pool. I had just finished doing my exercises and decided to try to swim a lap or two since there was no one else there to see me. (Am I the only one who prefers to exercise alone?)

I strike out to start my lap, and soon I start floundering; I’m flailing at the water and failing miserably. I couldn’t seem to stay above the surface. Panic was setting in.

I’m going to drown. I can’t swim, anymore–I’m going to drown. There is no one around to see me. I’m swimming all alone. It’s against all the swimming rules. My mother will just kill me for swimming alone. What am I doing? I am failing! 

All these thoughts were running through my mind at lightning speed. Then, suddenly, I heard a voice–

Karen! This is silly, put your feet down. You can stand up! I did it; I was standing. What a relief, I was not going to drown! (Please, don’t tell my mom I was swimming alone.)

I was swimming in what is known as an arthritis pool. At the deep end, it is 4’5″ which allows me to stand flat-footed in all depths. I knew that I could stand up, but I forgot in the struggle of the moment. It took serious, conscious effort to override my adrenalin surge and stick to the truth; the truth that I can stand up and I will not drown. (My mom does not need to know that I’ve broken the cardinal rule of swimming: never swim alone.)

Life Lessons

The swimming pool isn’t the only place where we can feel like we’re drowning. I have been feeling out of my depth in much of life these days as well, but I am sticking to the truth so as not to drown.

The first truth I am remembering is that if you are called to do something, it will not always be easy. Sometimes it will feel overwhelming, but the Lord is always there to help carry our burdens.

The other truth I am remembering is that even when you know how to do something, you can still fail miserably. Keep your courage up and keep trying. Think of all those Olympic athletes that trained so hard and failed so many times. The would not have made it to the Olympics if they had given up. You can’t have success without failure and do-overs.

Talk to you later,


Priorities Come in All Shapes and Sizes


Grapes and PrioritiesOur family has always worked together to bring in the fruits and vegetables. I remember doing this as a young child at my grandma’s house. Back then, it was either corn or purple hull peas. Our treat at the end of the work session was cold, homegrown, ripe watermelon. Grandpa and Grandma always had a big garden–that’s how they put much of their food on the table–and any family who lived nearby came to help. Family helping family has always been one of our priorities. Yet we don’t think of it as a priority, even though we make it one. It’s just something we do, like other families who attend football games together.

Our children have grown up with this tradition of helping as well. When we had an apple tree, all of the kids helped with the apple harvest; they helped make applesauce, apple pie filling, and apple jelly. Last week we worked on the grape harvest at my father-in-law’s. It was hard work, but many hands made light work. It was incredibly hot at 102–August in Oklahoma is always pretty hot–but the grapes were good.

After lunch, we loaded up and headed home for more work in the air conditioning. We juiced the grapes and placed the juice in the freezer, where it is now waiting until we are ready to make jam. It’s going to be so good!


Crocheting (another one of my priorities, of course!) has been fun the past week as I have finished up an afghan and also several fingerless gloves. The pattern writing was hit or miss, but thankfully more hit than miss. These particular designs are fun, quick and easy, which will make them perfect for the Fall. Watch for their release in a week or two.



The end of summer has come all at once in a rush, and BOOM! school is starting soon. The get-ready-to-start-school meetings have begun, and they keep me out at night, which means less time at home to crochet. Yesterday I spent time mapping out our weeks, trying to make sure that the necessary and important times are listed first.  Rather like the jar of rocks story. Have you heard that story? It goes something like this …

The teacher stands in front of the class. He has in front of him a pile sand,  a pile of pebbles and a pile of larger rocks next to a jar. He fills the jar with rocks until it is full.  Then he turns and asks the class is the jar full. They all nod yes, the jar is full. 

Then he adds the pebbles, and they slide in around the rocks until no more pebbles fit in the jar. He asks the class is the jar full. Yes, they all nod.

He then takes the sand and it slides in around the rocks and the pebbles completely filling the jar. Is the jar full he asks his class? Yes, they all say.

They are surprised to see him pick up a bottle of water; he then pours the water in the jar over the rocks, sand and pebbles. Now the jar is full he says.

The rocks represent things that have real value; the people in your life,  and your health. The irreplaceable things; we must make sure to make time for them.

The pebbles represent things like your job, house, car, etc…

The sand represents small stuff–laundry, dishes, returning the library books, errands–things that will always be there.

The water represents the spirit or attitude that we have when are doing everything else. It will color our lives and make or break relationships and jobs. It will touch every grain of sand, pebble and rock in that jar, just as being happy or grumpy can affect everyone we meet.

This story is in my mind as I go about writing a schedule for our school and work. Rocks first, then the pebbles and finally the sand. All encompassed in a spirit of prayer.

Talk to you later,


PS: How do you get ready for school? Leave a comment and share your planning tips with me!


So You are New to Crochet: How to Weave in the Ends

Here is my next installment of So, You are New to  Crochet: How to Weave in the Ends. Crocheting so many granny square afghans has given me so many chances to learn how to weave in the ends. I have used several different methods on weaving in the ends and have finally stopped with this method. I like it best.

The week is a busy one with the brick and mortar shop Lokal and Main’s Grand Opening last night and some gardening later in the week. The shop was overflowing  with people so I didn’t take any photos. I will try to stop by later this week and take a few photos so you can see how lovely it looks.

So You are New to Crochet: How to Weave in the Ends, Chocolate Dog Studio, chocolatedogstudio

Today is bittersweet for me. I remember my father today as this is the day he lost his fight to cancer 10 years ago. He fought a long hard fight for 15 years, and it was devastating when the news came that there was nothing more that could be done. He was cheerful  and sweet tempered to the end and I never heard him complain. Dad was usually the first to share a joke and a laugh.  One of Dad’s gifts was the ability to change the mood in the situation by making people laugh. I watched him time after time enter a hospital room or hospital waiting room where family was waiting nervously and by sharing funny stories help people relax and laugh. He did that for me more times than I can count.  Today, I want to remember him as he lived, laughing.

I don’t normally share so much that is close to my heart but today I  just had to share. I am doing  a little planning today and later I hope to be spending time with the crochet hook as I keep working on a new afghan. I can’t wait to show it to you. It uses such beautiful wool yarns and it is another granny square afghan. It makes me so thankful that I learned how to weave in the ends. It truly is a crochet skill worth having!

So You are New to Crochet: How to Weave in the Ends, Chocolate Dog Studio, chocolatedogstudio

Talk to you later,


P.S. Remember long ends are easier to weave in!


Get Yourselves Organized!

How do you  get yourselves organized? I use a variety of organizational methods to keep myself organized, but first one of my favorite movie clips.

This movie clip has one of my favorite lines “Get yourselves organized down there”. Sheep on a motorcycle doing acrobatics.  I often hear “Get yourselves organized” in Wallace’s voice while I am working in the studio. It must be something to do with the sheep = yarn thing.

The design idea can start with the flash of an idea, a color theory carried over from another textile, or an outgrowth of another crochet blanket, a photo off of instagram. Keeping track of ideas has been difficult. Brief flashes of insight are difficult to write down on paper and keep. Visual ideas are even more difficult.

Recently, I have been working hard to write down and keep these ideas trapped and in my mind. Often I will draw out an afghan plan. I keep these in a notebook or binder.  A place where ideas sit and incubate until they are ready to hatch. The incubator is a compilation of different places. It is a little bit secret Pinterest board, a little bit composition book and binder combination.

Many times the yarn itself tells me how to use them in a pattern, I will do some color play with the yarn to get an idea of how it will look when it is finished.

2016-04-07 11.39.01    2016-04-07 11.38.02   2016-04-07 11.37.45   2016-04-07 11.39.41

If it is a fabric that has given me an idea for color striping, I will take a photo or print out a photo of the color stripes. I will use this photo as a basis for my afghan, adding colors and taking colors away until it is truly a design of my own.  This is what I am doing in the photos up above.

It can also look like this.

Get Yourselves Organized! www.chocolatedogstudio.com

Here I am doing a little math to see how many squares I need for an afghan I am working on.

or even this

Get Yourselves Organized! www.chocolatedogstudio.com

Ideas often sit in my scrap yarn bucket just waiting for the right time.

I work hard at not copying another’s design work. It is difficult with the media bombardment to keep your work original. There are so many avenues to search out patterns and to generate new ideas.  As a crochet designer, I feel it is important to be as original as I can be and not knowingly copy another’s design work.

Talk to you later,


How is your WIP (work in progress) going?

Send me some photos via instagram… just tag me in the photo and I will pop by and comment.