Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Prize to Give Away!

I am going to give this prize package away to a lucky winner!  I have extended the deadline, and will now be accepting entries until January 8, 2010.  I will announce the winner here, on my blog.  The winner will be randomly selected.  To enter, just make a comment on this post.  After I announce the winner, I will ask them to email me with their snail mail address.  I will ship anywhere in the world, so this contest is open to all!

I am celebrating the fact that the Blossom Necklace Pattern, now has been made a favorite by over 130 people on Ravelry!  I love these Pony knitting needles, glitter crochet hook and French knitter, for introducing children to the needle arts. Thank you so much for your interest and good luck!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Aslan Trends Knitting Challenge

I just noticed that Aslan Trends has put up photos of the winning entries for their "Knitting Challenge".  They are here if you would like to see them.  I would love to see all of them on a live model.  Especially the "Fit & Flare Cathedral Maxi Dress". 

I am planning to photograph my "Silhouette Shawl" soon, so that I can get the pattern up for sale!  It is one of my goals for the new year.  There is a special person who has given me great encouragement in my design career, that I want to give the shawl to before winter is over.  So I have a great incentive to do it soon!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Etimo Crochet Hooks, a Review

I just received a box of goodies I ordered from America, and inside, was my long awaited set of Etimo crochet hooks!  They are a gift to myself for selling a design to a yarn company. 

The first thing I noticed was the case.  It is so stylish, it looks like a fashion accessory.  It has lovely flecks of silver running through the fabric.  It also has a nice little magnetic closure.

I got the set of the larger size hooks, sizes"D" through "J" with the addition of a 4.5mm hook.  The set also comes with a small pair of Italian made scissors, a 4 1/2" ruler and tapestry needles in two sizes.  They also sell a smaller size set that includes sizes 0-14 (8 hooks).

I love the ultra smooth rubber handles.  They are firmer than I thought they would be.   For some reason, I thought the handle would be slightly squidgy.   They are comfortable to hold and are a nice weight.  I am thrilled with how the yarn moves so easily on the the hook.  It is much smoother than a Boye or Bates hook.

I do like working with them, but they will take some getting used to.  I have found that the throat of the hook isn't quite as deep as I would like it to be, so the yarn slips out sometimes.  The other thing I have to get used to, is the large handle.  I hold my hook with a pencil hold and have found it is a little awkward when I rotate the hook.  When I hold it with a knife hold, it is fine.  I am just not as comfortable holding the hook that way. I will have to practice with these hooks to find the best way to work with them.   I am not ready to use them for designing just yet, but I am determined to make them work for me as they are such nice hooks!

I purchased this set by email from Knitty City in New York, a shop I hope to visit in person one day!  The owner, Pearl was very helpful and dispatched the order the next business day.   This set cost me $79.95 plus shipping.  They also sell the hooks individually if you would like to try one before investing in an entire set.

UPDATE (September 7, 2010):  Please see my latest blog post on Etimo hooks for new online availability information.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Inspiration from the Souq

I have been enjoying the new digital camera that my husband bought me for my birthday.  You never know where inspiration will strike!  This time it was in the form of color and texture.  We were shopping in a traditional market in Kuwait called Souk Embarakiya.   There were several prayer bead stores, but this one was the most colorful.  The turquoise walls just set off the colors of the beads.
 I also found the basket shop a charming example of old Kuwaiti life that is still relevant today.  I especially love the gold baskets with the colorful tassels.  I want to buy one some day for a festive occasion.  

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Blossom Necklace Pattern

The "Blossom Necklace" is a new version of the "Blossoming Fleur-De-Lis Necklace" Pattern that I did for the 2006 Accord Publishing Crochet Pattern A Day Calendar.  Since that calendar is long gone, and I love the design, I decided to offer it as a free pattern download.

To the old version, I added an extra row of stitches to the foundation and some embroidery embellishment.   I also changed the yarn to Berroco's Ultra Alpaca Light, because it comes in many beautiful colors and is really nice to work with.

This necklace would make a great gift or a lovely addition to your own jewelry collection!  The link to the download is below, under the pattern details.

This elegant necklace takes very little time or yarn.  It is a versatile piece that is easily customizable.  Make a wool version for winter to wear over turtlenecks, and a cotton version to wear in the summer.  You can also make the blossoms multi-colored and add beads or sequins to them.  The possibilities are endless!  This blog post features the necklace with beaded blossoms, and here is a pattern for earrings inspired by this necklace.


Skill level:  Intermediate
Finished Measurement:  17”


Yarn:  Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light, (a DK weight Alpaca and Wool Blend)
Color A:  8 ½ yards, Turquoise Mix, #4294
Color B:  4 ½ yards, Oceanic Mix, #4285
Color C:  1 ½ yards, Pea Soup Mix, #4275

Hook size:  (E) 3.5mm
Notions:  Tapestry needle

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Friday, December 11, 2009

New Logo, New Blog!

Finally, my logo is finished, thanks to the wonderful help and patience of my talented friend, Jennifer Jacobs, a graphic artist and embroidery designer at Southeastern Embroidery Works in Atlanta.  I am thrilled with it!  I had some time today to add it as a banner on the blog. I wasn't able to make a large banner with the old "dots" template, which I really liked, so I had to make a major chang to the blog.  I am still tweaking it here and there, so it make take a little time to settle in, but I am hoping that it will look better than ever!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Like Mother, Like Daughter

While shopping for yarn in my local yarn shop this week, I came across these adorable knitting needles for children by an innovative company in India called Pony.  My 3 1/2 year old daughter was immediately drawn to them and wanted all the colors.  I did too, but bought one set for now to see how it goes.  She chose this bright pink yarn and promised the saleslady there that she would come back to show her the scarf she was going to make.  She doesn't quite have the attention span for knitting yet, but I will keep these until she does.  I am looking forward to the day when we can sit side by side knitting or crocheting! 

I read about teaching 5 year olds to knit, so I am hoping that in another year, she will at least be able to work on the  French knitter that I bought her last time we went yarn shopping.  I found some good tips on teaching young children to knit here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

At the Mall....

Yesterday, I was on my way to Ikea to buy some curtains for my studio, and this amazing window display caught my eye.   These balls are knitted.  I would love to create some light fixtures that hang down from the ceiling like this!  The shop windows this winter are so inspirational!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Most Useful Piece of Crochet

Less than 30 yards in front of my house is an Iranian bakery that makes the most delicious flat bread. The balls of dough prepared are flattened, and next, the flat disc of dough is flapped between the hands very quickly. Then it is stretched in an instant on a convex shape covered with the cloth. Finally, the bread is thrown very abruptly on the inside of the oven where it will stick and cook, forming bubbles.

It is a very simple operation and when you buy bread, you either take it by hand, or wrap it in the newspaper they sometimes provide. The bread becomes dry very quickly, so you must keep it covered after it cools. I crocheted a large single crochet square with a crab stitch border. Then, I put velcro in the corners to close it in the middle. That way, it stays covered, but the steam can escape. We use it several times a week. I love it when I can create something so useful and functional!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Help for a Fellow Designer

"Tammy Hildebrand,  has been a major force in the advancement of crochet as a leading needle-art form and fashion statement for more than a decade".  (A quote from Crochet! magazine).

She has been diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease. It's a dibilitating illness which requires expensive medical treatment and, unfortunately, it is not recognized by the medical industry as a whole. It is not covered by her medical insurance.  Kim Guzman, another fellow designer,  has put together a website to help raise money for Tammy's medical treatment. 

Crochet Guild of America members have donated various crochet related items ranging from signed books and patterns to sample garments and one of a kind pieces.  Everyone who donates to the cause will be entered into a drawing on December 20, 2009, for these items.  This one of a kind freeform necklace and brooch are my contribution to the drawing.  I would be greatful if you would consider donating.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Inspiration and a Photographer in the Making

I am in the midst of getting inspired for my next project.  You never know when inspiration will strike....The other day, my daughter was playing dress up in her room and styled this outfit herself.  When she sat down in front of her doll house, the colors all worked together so well, it was a perfect photo op!  Most of the time she doesn't like to have her picture taken, but that day was an exception as she was so proud of herself.  She has since taken over my new camera and has taken hundreds of photos.  It is great to see the world from her point of view!  
The colors and patterns in this photo have inspired me for my next project.  Something whimsical for sure!  

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Aslan Trends Design Contest 2009

I am so thrilled and am celebrating tonight!  I just received an email from Aslan Trends yarn company, regarding my contest entry.  I won second prize in the accessories category!  I am considering it quite a victory as it was billed as a "Knitting Challenge" and I won with a crocheted item.  Yeah for crochet!  I will receive a cash prize as well as some of their beautiful yarn.  They will be posting photos soon, but for now, here is a photo that I took before I sent it off.  I am planning to self-publish the pattern and offer it for sale, as soon as I get the shawl back.  I created this "Silhouette Shawl" using their 100% merino wool Del Cerro yarn.  It was really lovely to work with!

Here is a complete list of the winners, if you would like to see them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Studio Sneek Peek

The Studio is coming together and it is so exciting!  I want to spend all my time there.  I was originally going to carpet the floor, but I fell in love with this parquet flooring.  I chose it because it looks modern and with all the different colors, it goes with any furniture I put on it.  I have furniture pieces that I want to use from my life before marriage.  Some of it is cherry, some pine and some walnut.  It all works when placed on this flooring!  Now, I just need to research how to clean it, to give it a bit of polish.   I am deciding where to hang my pictures and posters now. The "yarn man" will have a home very soon!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Celebration Cake!

I don't usually need an excuse to make a cake, but it was thrilling to see loads of lovely strawberries at the supermarket.  It is spring weather here in Kuwait,  and that means that we don't have to buy expensive strawberries from the USA.  I have been saving this recipe from Cooking Light Magazine and today was the perfect day to try it out.  It was a beautiful cake,  but not terribly exciting in the taste and texture department.  I was going to post the recipe, but I think there are better recipes out there....

I am celebrating today, because I just sent off the pattern and sample for a design that was accepted to be published in the new online magazine, Tension.  It will appear, along with one of my favorite recipes, in their "Lemon" themed Spring 2010 issue.  Their first mini issue is up now, and the winter "Cinnamon" issue is coming out soon.  This is the first design that I created after making the decision to pursue a career in crochet design.  I hope that it will be the first of many!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I love a good podcast!

It is rare that I have quiet time, but this morning I was lucky enough to listen to two podcasts while finishing up some design submissions.  The first, was the latest "Getting Loopy" with Mary Beth Temple.  She had Lily Chin on as her guest.  What an amazing woman!  She has written a new book:   "Lily Chin's Crochet Tips & Tricks: Shortcuts and Techniques Every Crocheter Should Know".   I think I must have this book for my library.  Then, I listened to "Yarn Thing" with Marly Bird.  It was the first of the season.  She didn't have a guest on, but she always has something interesting to talk about.  During the podcast, she mentioned her lineup of upcoming shows. There are some great guests on the list; Debbie Bliss, Nicky Epstein, Kristen Omdahl, Debbie Stoller, and Kathy Merrick, to name a few.  I always learn so much when I listen to a podcast and I find it less distracting than watching television.  The shows are archived so you can listen anytime you want.  I am looking forward to my next quiet morning to catch up on a few that are in the archives!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Working on my logo....

I have been working on my logo so I can make professional letterhead and a pattern layout template.  I am doing a line drawing first, and then I will work on a graphics tablet to add color.  I am hoping that it will come together this week as I have some samples to crochet.  Deciding on colors has been the most difficult aspect!  I think I am narrowing it down now after several mock ups.

I took a little break from drawing today to make chocolate chip cookies.  I think it was one of my best batches ever.  I altered the traditional Nestle Tollhouse recipe a little, based on some tips I read about.  I added a little more flour, a little less sugar, and melted the butter.  I especially like melting the butter so I don't have to wait for the butter to soften, this means I can make cookies at the drop of a hat!  I also mix it very well with the sugar, which makes a smoother batter.  Finally, I let the dough chill for about an hour before baking.  The following is the altered recipe:


2 1/4 cups + 1 TBS all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter, melted
5/8 cup granulated [white] sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups (12-ounce package) chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixing bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if you are including them. Drop by rounded tablespoon sized balls onto ungreased baking sheets.  BAKE in preheated 375-degree [Fahrenheit], or 190-degree (Celsius) oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Romanian Point Lace

Until I saw a class offered through the Kuwait Textile Arts Association, I had never heard of the beautiful craft of Romanian point lace.  To begin, you must first crochet a cord,  then you baste it to a piece of fabric that has the design outline drawn on it. ("Sunshine's Creations" has generously put up a tutorial on her blog, if you are interested in learning how to make the cord) .  Finally, you fill in the spaces with various embroidery stitches.  The white sample is the piece that I made in the class.  The red variegated sample is one I did later as a color experiment.  I am planning to use this technique with yarn instead of thread to include in my freeform crochet work.  I haven't found too many resources about learning to make this type of lace.  However, there is a how-to video, with step by step instructions, available for sale here.  The best book I have seen is "Romanian Point Lace" by Angela Thompson and Kathleen Waller.  Unfortunately, it is out of print.  I was lucky to get a copy before it went out of print.  It must be rare, as the price of the book now, if you can find it, ranges from $199-$250.  It is a beautiful book.  If you see a copy at a reasonable price, snap it up!

Monday, October 26, 2009

When life gives you scraps .....

When I am working on a project, I accumulate a lot of yarn scraps.  If they are longer than 3", I save them to make a "magic ball" by randomly tieing them all together. I like to use the the Russian join for this.   You don't have to use the Russian join, but it gives you a neat finish and keeps the tails from getting in your way as you work. A magic ball is a great way to kick start your creativity when beginning a freeform crochet project. 

When I am teaching freeform, I have the students make a magic ball at home, and then we draw stitch types from a basket and roll dice to see how many to make. Then, we write it out like a pattern to follow.  The only thing the student has to decide, is where to put the stitches.  Most of the time they put the "pattern" aside after they see the piece developing (which I encourage), creativity takes over and a unique piece is made.   This freeform game gives them the confidence to be more free with their crochet.  Students that are more comfortable with a pattern can still create a freeform piece as well, by continuing with our written "pattern".  It is an activity that works for all types of students and it is very exciting to see their freeform style emerge.

These photos are of a cuff that I made using a magic ball while playing the freeform game.  I was so pleased with how it turned out, that I embellished it with sequins and beads.  I didn't know I was making a cuff when I started,  that is just what it became!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Studio colors!

I haven't finished cleaning out the studio space, but to keep myself motivated, I have bought some paint colors to try on the wall.  I know that I want a pear color.  I have chosen three different paints to sample. One is more green, one is more gold, and one is in the middle of the two.  I think the middle one (the largest sample) is my favorite.  I have mostly magnolia walls in my house, so I decided to splash out with some color in the studio!  I think the "Altogether Charming Wools" (yarn man) print will sit well on this color.  It is bright and cheerful, without being an obvious choice.  I can't wait to see the entire space painted.  I have to remember to take some "before" photos before it is too late!  Next, I get to decide on the flooring.  I am going to try to finish the cleanout this weekend.  Woodworking dirt requires a lot of cleaning...  I am keeping my eye on the big prize though!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The right place at the right time!

I was enjoying a recent "Getting Loopy" podcast on Monday, and the host Mary Beth Temple, mentioned that she was teaching a new online class called "Self-Publishing Crochet and Knit Patterns". Since I have a few patterns that I want to publish, this announcement came at the perfect time!  The class started yesterday and I got the last spot!  I think this is the help I need to get my patterns out there.  I am hoping by the end of the three week class, I will have a pattern ready to sell.  I am so thankful for the internet for making the world a little smaller and making it possible to attend a virtual class from anywhere in the world.

Mary Beth also teaches an online class called "Designing for Print Publication" if you are interested, you can find more information here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Crochet memory lane

While cleaning out the future studio space, I came across a suitcase filled with all of my daughter's baby things that I have saved.  It hasn't been that long since she was a baby, but I have forgotten about so many things.  Including some things I crocheted for her!  My favorite thing is this bunting.  Here in Kuwait, they are very popular to carry new babies and to pass them around to adoring family and friends.

First, I selected the cheerful spotted fabric, and then I was lucky enough to find coordinating yarn colors in the same store.  Kuwait isn't known for its yarn shops, so this was very fortunate!  I sewed and quilted the main part of the bunting all by hand, since I have yet to buy a sewing machine. ( I am hoping to buy one to grace the studio once it is finished).  Then, I crocheted a shell edging and the hanging bits and bobs.  I think the combination of yarn and shaded pink pearl cotton work well together.  I might convert it into a bag by folding the top over (as shown in the photo above) and adding a strap and a button and loop closure.  For now, my daughter is enjoying using it for her baby dolls and marveling that she used to fit in it!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Amazing widget!

I just got this new translator widget from widgetbox.  I love useful widgets (although I didn't know what they were until I started a blog)!   I also like that it doesn't take up much room on my sidebar as I am planning to add some patterns for sale soon (time permitting).  It is such a thrill to see my words instantly transformed into any language I choose!  I hope this will make my blog more accessible to the world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My fairy shawl

This is a bit of a diversion from crochet, but I thought it was relevant as I very often embellish my crochet projects with embroidery.  In a recent post , I  mentioned some fairy embroidery transfers I got in a vintage magazine.  I had the idea to embroider them on a wool shawl.  It was quite a challenge because I couldn't iron them on as you would on cotton fabric.  I also wanted to keep the transfers intact.  So, I traced them onto a water soluble material and basted them onto the shawl.  I stitched through the material, and then carefully cut it off after I finished.  I was going to use water to remove it, but that proved too messy.  It wasn't an easy job, but I was determined to have these lovely fairies on my shawl!  I get the most comments on the hair.  I did a series of French knots to achieve this look.  I used Brazilian embroidery thread as I had quite a stash of it from a class I took.  I am glad that I still have the transfers intact, because I would like to use them again for some greeting card making.  Either drawn to look like embroidery, or with an actual embroidered piece that can be used in some manner by the person who receives the card.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Better luck next time!

Congratulations to all of the winners of the Berroco Sock Star Design Contest!   I was hoping to be one of them, but it wasn't in the cards for me this time.  It was thrilling to be chosen as a finalist, and I did get some wonderful feedback on my design.  I plan to offer the necklace pattern along with a bonus matching ring pattern for sale in my Ravelry shop as soon as I get it ready.

To cheer myself up a little, I have ordered myself a deluxe set of Etimo crochet hooks from Knitty City, the only retailer that sells them in the US.  I have been told that they are the "Cadillac of crochet hooks", and that they are sheer heaven to crochet with.  After I have had a chance to use them, I will post a review!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My studio mascot

Until the studio space is ready, I am putting together a collection of things for it.  When I was studying fashion design in London, I used to love to go to "jumble sales" on the weekends.  One lucky day, I came across a wonderful Needlecraft magazine from the 1950's.  Inside, there were embroidery transfers for  the cutest whimsical fairies, which is really why I bought the magazine and made a shawl that I still wear.  I will take photos of it for another blog post!

After I got it home, I discovered this "charming" yarn ad and I have saved it to hang in a special place.  I never knew where that would be until now.  I want to hang this yarn man in a prominent place to watch over me as I work.  Now, I just need to find a great frame for it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New family members

I have been wanting a dress form for a long time.  My niece is willing to be a model for me which I am thankful for, but I need someone who is able to stand for hours as my designs evolve.  Luckily, I came across these while I was shopping for supplies for my latest design submission for Interweave Crochet.  I was excited to find the child's form as well.  They aren't the quality I was hoping for, but they are definitely better than pinning on myself or bothering a real person!  I have named the lady form "Layla", as my dear friend Layla got me started on the path to crochet design when she sent me a surprise gift of a French crocheted bracelet that I had admired in a shop window while visiting her in London.  I am going to let my daughter name the child form.  She tried making her first garment on it yesterday and I was amazed at what she put together.

They are the first addition to the design studio that my husband and I are planning to arrange.  He is into woodworking and is moving his workshop to a new space, so that will free up some room for our design studio.  I have big plans, but I am not sure how much space we will have until all of the woodworking equipment gets moved into the new workshop.  At least I will have a dedicated place to design, and I am hoping to buy a sewing machine, now that I will have a place to put one.  Now I just need to decide what is essential for a design studio.  Good lighting, drafting table, filing cabinet.....  I can't wait to move in!

Friday, September 25, 2009

I am a finalist!

This is a design I submitted to the Berroco Sock Star design contest.  I am so thrilled, I just found out today that I am one of the finalists!  The voting is taking place online from now until Monday (September 28th) at 11:45pm EST. 

Here is the link to the voting:

If you like my necklace, it would be great to have your vote!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Purses to match

My daughter is a purse collector, so everytime she gets a new dress I like to make her a matching purse.  I pick out an element of the fabric print and use that as my inspiration.  I usually use a combination of crochet and embroidery.  For the green floral basket purse, I used a large tapestry needle to do a buttonhole stitch around the top edge, so I would have a base to crochet into.  I traced some of the flowers from the dress and cut them out of felt and added embroidery and sequin details and stitched them with invisible thread to the basket.  I also stitched one of the felt flowers to a clip for her hair.

The black purse is the newest addition to her collection.  It is entirely crocheted with embroidered accents to emulate the fabric print. 

These are fun small projects that make the outfit special and I love that she really appreciates it when I make her something.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I have a mentor!!!

Wow, I didn't know it would happen so fast!  I just got an email from the mentor coordinator telling me that the legendary Margaret Hubert has agreed to be my mentor.  I am so fortunate!  Margaret has been designing, writing and teaching crochet and knitting for almost 40 years and is very highly regarded in the industry.  I am going to try to work hard to make the most of this opportunity.  I think my mentor is just the boost I need to get on the path to a professional design career.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

CGOA Design Contest Entry

This pillow was my entry for this years Crochet Guild of America's design contest. I was thrilled that it won 2nd prize in the home decorating category. It is freeform crochet with some embroidery embellishment and made up of a large collection of yarns and threads.

Now, I am thinking about next year's entry (assuming that CGOA will continue the contest tradition)! Last year I won 2nd prize in the accessories category. Maybe I will try to make something for the fashion category this time.....

Here are the photos of the winners of this year's contest.

This is the first chapter!

I have been wanting to start a blog for a long time, and I think now is the time! I think the first post is the most difficult, as it is an introduction. I am a definite "newbie" to the blogging world. I love reading them, and I am hoping to love writing one!

In the past 2 months, I have decided that it is my desire to become a professional crochet designer and have been taking steps toward achieving this goal.

I joined Crochet Guild of America, (CGOA) last year just to be able to enter the design contest and renewed my membership this year to enter this year's contest. I just realized how much I have been missing out on! I just found out about the mentor program for aspiring professionals. It is a perk of being a member, so there is no additional fee and after being accepted as an "associate professional" you have the benefit of being assigned a mentor who is a crochet professional. This mentor is a generous person who is giving their time to help others reach their goal of becoming a professional and hopefully elevate the crochet industry as a whole.

I was notified by the professional development chairperson, Robyn Chachula last week that I have been granted "associate professional" status and that I will be assigned a mentor. The same day, I got an email from the coordinator, Ellen Gormley, with a questionnaire about my experience and goals. I sent it back to her and am patiently waiting to be assigned a mentor. It is extremely exciting! I can't wait to "meet" my mentor! I am jotting down things I want to ask my mentor and am anxious to start on the path to reach my goal.