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Friday 27 December 2013

Gift Exchange

This year I participated in my first online gift swap. I signed up for a newbie swap and was paired with a lady from Louisiana. We were both supposed to gift something handmade and we had an opportunity to ask each other some questions to get a sense of what to make.

I decided to knit her a pair of fingerless gloves. She said it doesn't stay cold for long where she lives so I opted for a light wool yarn.

And I couldn't believe what she made for me.

A gorgeous PURSE! It has a lining and pockets and even another sash to match!! I was so surprised. I hope that my dinky hand warmers were enough of a handmade gift for me to deserve such a lovely present in return. Definitely an inspiration to participate in more swaps!!

This photo is terrible, I took it inside in the dark when I opened the package. I have been meaning to get outside and take better photos for about a week now and I'll update this post when I do.

I just had to tell you about it.

Speaking of which.... I have now been blogging for two months and have about 25 entries, and not one comment. Sometimes up to 200 people a day visit my blog. (Not many in the internet world, but still, it's more than nobody)

So, if you are reading this, please leave me a comment!
Thanks for reading!

Merry Christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas this year. It was the first year since I was a kid that I really celebrated and got into the "Christmas Spirit" and played holiday music, put up a tree, and left cookies out for Santa.

Most of all we remembered the reason for the season, which for us is the winter solstice and the turning of the earth to once again tilt towards the sun. The days have now started to grow longer by a couple minutes each day and I welcome the return of the light!

I finished David's stocking on Christmas Eve, just in time for Santa and his goodies.

I used some of the beautiful Christmas fabric my mom sent and embroidered David's name in green at the top.

And I tried out one of the "fancy stitches" on my new machine.

For the back of the stocking I used a solid piece and free-form quilted it to the flannel lining.

The machine itself and all the fabric were gifts from my parents so I was happy to show my mom what I've been working on.

I can't stop making quilted oven mitts and potholders, either!

And what is Christmas dinner without PIE!?

I have some pumpkin from the garden steaming right now for a pumpkin pie, I have to go attend to it.

All in all it was a beautiful Christmas and I am ever grateful to my sweet family (MOM!) for sending us so many lovely presents.

Fabric and cookie cutters!

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Photos: Slushy Snow

A recent slushy snowfall reminded me that I'm not the only one who has cold fingers.

Poor David had to wear socks on his hands because we couldn't find his mittens!
I made him a new pair and wrote out my pattern so I can share it.

Those thumbs are like something out of a Tom Robbins novel!
The needles were small and the yarn was thick, so they are tightly knit and should be snow-proof.

As for me, I have another secret weapon against chilly breezes.

You can't tell but my purple hoodie is actually a HOODSIE.
Yes. It is a onesie sweatsuit.
Somebody start blasting Olivia Newton John, please?

I was really bummed that my camera battery died because David went sledding with his friend and they were totally cute! The snow has now melted and the sun is shining again.

I let David crack open a few presents already. Waiting is so hard!

I just had to get into that Christmas fabric that my mom sent. I'm making David a stocking. Hopefully it will be finished in time for Santy Claus!

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Recent Projects

This past few weeks I have gone through some of my beautiful yarn stash and made a couple of things for... MYSELF! What a great idea, huh?

I really needed a new hat and some gloves. I made a ribbed hat (almost entirely knit 2, purl 2, except for some decreasing at the top) and some cabled gauntlets. They are beautiful and lovely but I'm afraid my fingers are still cold this time of year so I'm putting a pair of colorful Fair-Isle mittens on my to-do list.

"Selfies" may be lame but if I didn't take photos of myself, I wouldn't have any. As it is, I have a twinge of sadness that there are not more photos of me with my son when he was a little baby, and of me in my garden or with my goats.

 I'm so lucky that my sister visited last summer and took lots of pictures of us.

Ever tried to photograph yourself with a goat? They just don't pose, I tell ya.
This is me with my sweet Bessie Mae, my first goat.

Other projects I have on my to-do list are two quilt tops that are almost finished and are waiting to be assembled. I need to put a mouth on my little knit froggy and finish up some more quilted oven mitts before Christmas.

My mom's Christmas package arrived today full of beautiful presents and goodies and David and I ooed and ahhed over all of the beautiful boxes and trimmings. I saw that she sent me some quilt batting and then... a bag... full of fabric. Christmas fabric. Gingerbread boys and presents and snowmen and stripes and polka dots and reds and greens and Santa Clauses.

(A little reminder that I pretty much use exclusively salvaged materials. I cut up clothes, unravel sweaters, and collect scraps. I want to make a stocking for my son and this is what I've got:

... a couple of used gift bags and a little Christmas tree table-runner.)

My mom's present to me was stuffed full of new and beautiful cloth! I can't wait to dive in there. I will post better photos. The little tag on it says "Make a Christmas Quilt for David"

:: melt ::

I have lots of pattern ideas in my head, I've been wanting to experiment with triangles but I also love stripes. David is going to adore a quilt made of Christmas things. He especially likes scenes and pictures where there is a lot going on and he can point at this and that and talk about it.

Somewhere in the back of my head I am thinking "I had better finish up my current projects so I can get started on something new...." But getting started is the hard part, right? I am more thrilled with this stash than I am with my other two quilts on the go and I must follow my passion!

Graham Nash: Wild Tales

Please enjoy my long-winded book review!

My bio rhythms are totally off these days, ever since the full moon and this book kept me up reading until 4 am. It's the autobiography of Graham Nash, who is so egotistical and full of himself it was almost nauseating. But his music, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and their sweet harmonies and ballads are so important to me, I forgive him. That music touched a nerve in me and changed me forever. Go ahead and have a big ego, Nash. You rocked my soul.

I found out that Nash played for years with the magnificent instrumentalist DAVID LINDLEY! I never knew! David Lindley is one of my favorite musicians, if you have never heard of him, look up "Rosie" by Jackson Browne or "Pay the Man" or "Never Knew Her", he is an incredible musician, a true string genius with a knack for harmony and a beautiful falsetto. In the book Nash talks about how Lindley once was soloing on the violin and set off some idle acoustic guitars on stage to vibrating. Instead of stopping his solo or moving the guitars, Lindley kept playing and changed the song to accommodate the resonance of the guitars. Typical. He is one of those musicians that sings through his instruments, putting all the notes in that sweet place where they belong. Never too busy or too boring, always just right. Like Goldilocks's porridge. Love that guy.

One thing that really blew me away in this book was a little tidbit about Joni Mitchell. Not only did Graham Nash meet her and fall in love with her and get to hear a lot of her amazing music first, but he explained one reason why she plays in all those odd tunings. She is known for tuning her guitar in sync with ambient noises like train whistles and faucet drops but what I never knew is that she had a childhood brush with Polio and her left arm is slightly weaker than the rest of her body. She started experimenting with open tunings because she wasn't strong enough to form an F chord with her left hand.

For those of you who don't play the guitar, the F chord is kind of like a great divider... everybody and their brother can play some chords on the guitar, but it is often not easy for beginners to form an F because even though it is close to the end of the neck, it is a barre chord, and you have to be able to depress multiple strings with one finger. It was a challenge for me as a player to get this chord down and to hear that the great genius songwriter Joni Mitchell herself could not form an F basically floored me.

Reading this book also inspired me to explore more of my own songwriting and to play more music. I play more piano than guitar these days but playing music is like riding a bicycle, like meeting an old friend. Picking up my neglected instruments always feels good and I had better keep a pen and paper handy for the lines and melodies that erupt out of me like a volcano and need somewhere to go, NOW, before they are lost, as they so often are.

Neil Young stormed into the woods and wrote "Ohio" in it's entirety after reading a Kent State headline. He was gone for an hour and came back with that song. Boom. Gotta let it out!!!!

Every year around this time of the season I want to play Joni Mitchell's "I Wish I Had A River" - I still don't have any sheet music but it is on my to-do list. And if you haven't seen any of her paintings, Google it, NOW! Go do it!

What an amazing person she is.

Psst... and I stayed up late and completed my little cabled gauntlets! I love this blue yarn. These babies were made with the heavy 1970's LA music scene on my mind. Why was I born so late?

Sunday 15 December 2013

Cookie Swap

I hosted my first-ever cookie swap today. The theme was Gluten Free and of course, Christmas.

I made 8 dozen gingerbread cookies for the swap.

My Gluten Free Gingerbread Recipe
2 cups rice flour
2 TBsp tapioca starch
1 TBsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c molasses

Roll into 1 1/2" balls and bake at 350 F for about 12 minutes.

I wrapped them in wax paper and put them in the top of an egg carton.

While I was packing them all up, David swiped a package and treated like his own little "present" and opened it and started stacking the cookies elsewhere and three of them were destroyed. It was the first time I have considered actual punishment. I don't believe in inventing consequences for someone so young. But, he knew that he wasn't supposed to open the package. I let him know I was mad and that it was not a joke. 

He is lucky I had some reject cookies to spare.
As if I was going to whip up another four separate colored batches of icing. Hah! One lucky person went home with some delicious abstract art on a few of their cookies.

At the swap there were rice krispie squares, shortbread, macaroons AND macarons, two kinds of fudge, some nutty chocolate bars, and some almond flour cookies. 

I drew names for a winner of some quilted oven mitts I made.

Now I have eight dozen different cookies and I don't have to do any baking for a while! Success.

Now if you will please excuse me, I need another rice krispie square.

Homemade Ornaments

David and I made some fun ornaments for our little tree.

We mixed up a few cups of flour, a couple TBsp of salt, and enough water for a consistency akin to play dough. Then we rolled it out and cut out cookies and baked them at a very low temperature (about 170 F) until they hardened.

I used a straw to poke a hole into the ornaments before baking.

Even though these ornaments must have tasted like salty hard tack, David ate the heads off of almost all the gingerbread boys and chomped off the points of some stars. Yuck!

After they cooled, we decorated them with acrylic paint.

I strung them with some yarn and we hung them on our spindly Christmas tree.

My favorites were the candy canes.


...With the gingerbread boys a close second. I strung some sparkly yarn around our tree and made a popcorn garland for the birds to eat after Christmas when we put the tree outside.

I also made a few snowflakes out of white pipe cleaners.
Now our tree has some shred of dignity.

David loves to use paint and I try to let him explore with color. I helped with the yellow dots and the star.

Today at the cookie swap he showed off the painting wall in his room to his kiddie friends and said,
 "I painted this."

It made me pretty happy.

Monday 9 December 2013

Photos: First Flakes

David and the hairy dog loved our recent snowfall.
We made snowballs and a tiny, sawdusty snowman. I forked the carrot up out of the frozen garden. David kept eating the snow off his mittens.

Like any two year old, mine is really into presents and packaging. He helped me wrap all the gifts for my family, and then kissed them all and stacked and re-stacked them delicately into piles. 

Then he opened his aunt and uncle's presents and I had no time to re-wrap them or I wouldn't have gotten them in the mail today. Oops.

To add a little flair to my half-wrapped package I fashioned a box out of scrap cardboard and wrapped it up in carpentry tape. Mighty unsightly. Highly kid proof.

David took the delivery of this package very seriously and suggested involving the fire chief.

He helped me put the stamps on when it was time to ship.

Speedy travels, little box. I hope you get there in time for Christmas!


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