Thursday, January 22, 2015

Un-Framed

Ever since we've moved into our house, we've had two framed prints on our living room wall -- I'd picked them up at a yard sale before I was even married, and they "worked." You know, that "worked" which is far less than ideal, but better than a blank wall? In the end, I'm glad I didn't end up updating them until now, because I only found the idea for their replacement recently! 





When I saw these DIY Photo Clipboards on Love Grows Wild, I knew exactly what I wanted for that wall! I changed mine up a bit (using different size boards for an array of sizes, and not distressing them quite as much), but other than that I followed Liz's excellent directions. I'm so pleased with how they turned out -- I found the little bulldog clips in the scrapbook section at JoAnn's, and I think they're just charming.




I also added a slate to the wall, for a little bit of variety -- I've had it since I lived in Pennsylvania as a child (it's a real roof slate), so it's funny to me that you can now buy them in craft stores. The text was the inspiration of the moment -- i.e., my eagerness to actually get these up on the wall -- with a chalk pen, but I like it. I may change it later, but for now it stays.




I'm hoping to add a plate to the left side of my grouping; I've always wanted to try using Sharpie on a white plate, so I'm thinking of an anchor with the lyrics to "Eternal Father" around the edge -- it's long been a favorite hymn, and with my dad formerly and my husband currently in the Navy, it seems appropriate! But that will probably be at our next home, considering how little time we have left here. Which reminds me that I should probably be doing something other than writing a post right now...

May God bless you as the week comes to a close!


Monday, January 19, 2015

Last Minute

I can't seem to fully wrap my mind around the thought that we are leaving soon -- very, very soon! I think it's partly been the "not knowing where or when we're going." If you can't make plans for the future, you tend to live in the present. I'm suddenly thinking of innumerable ways to make our living situation more efficient, or thinking of little upgrades I could make, and then I remember that increased efficiency for three or four weeks is probably not worth the effort. Still, you have no idea how much stuff I've reorganized in the past month, despite that!

But it's mostly been sewing projects and home decor and friends coming over for tea. I've been blessed to share time with friends lately! I know we'll see most of them again, Lord willing, but parting is not such sweet sorrow and I am not looking forward to leaving dear friends behind. Sorry, Shakespeare.

It was good to have an excuse to (finally) try make tea bag cookies. I'd had them on my Pinterest board for quite a while, and they always call to me when I'm scrolling by in search of something else.




I used a short-bready recipe given to me by a church friend, which couldn't be simpler. The dough rolled out nicely, and a pastry wheel and ruler made short work of the shapes. I used one of those disposable bendy straws to make the little holes for the string (occasionally snipping off the end of the straw as it became clogged with dough!). Melted chocolate, a spatula, and a tray covered in wax paper took care of the decorating part. I used vintage tatting thread and scrapbook paper for the labels, though I'd love to try something fancier next time. 




Oh, and I finally tackled a new ironing board cover! Ours has long been in shambles, which, considering it was the original, uninspiring white-with-stripes-in-various-colors cover that came with the board five years ago, was pretty sad. It was simple to fashion a replacement from quilting cotton, using the original cover as a pattern. Why didn't I do that three years ago?


I did struggle a bit with "camouflage," though, as I was using some of the same
brown fabric to fashion the new baby's activity gym mat!

The baby's blanket is mostly done now. I'm still not sure if I'll knit the recommended number of rows, knit until the yarn runs out, or knit until I feel it's big enough. Perhaps all three options will coincide, thus relieving me of the need to make a decision? I'm eager to finish and block it before we move, so that it can be tucked away in readiness with all of the other little things for the baby. Considering that his arrival may follow pretty closely on the heels of our "removal," I'd rather have everything ready far ahead of time.




I've redone the Activity Gym I made for Rosa -- I wanted something new, anyway, and the pieced top was starting to disintegrate. It's not something I'll be needing right away, but I doubt I'll have the time once the baby arrives, so it's nice to have it out of the way. I just need to take some photos.

There are a few more projects that I'll probably try to tackle before it's time to pack, but other than that I occupy myself with making lists. My hospital bag list, the baby's hospital bag list, food to take on our upcoming journey, things that need to be done before we leave... Having some semblance of order and control keeps me sane when there is so much "unknown." Or something close to sane, which is all I can ask for right now!

So if you don't see much of me in this space for a bit, you know what I'm up to. I think it's time to start haunting the liquor stores (of which there are many in our town...) for good packing boxes!


Friday, January 16, 2015

Handmade Christmas

Christmas has its challenges when it comes to children -- how does one achieve that delicate balance between giving gifts without fostering materialism? While we're probably far more conservative than average, it's still easy to get carried away. There are so many toys that I know our children would love! 

This year, we tried to augment current "collections," or upgrade toys that they already love but have outgrown. And always books -- this year Rosa got A is for Annabelle, Little Man got Curious George and the Firefighters, and they jointly received The Tale of Three Trees and Journey (which is now one of our favorites; it's delightfully whimsical, and surprisingly "well told" for having no words!)  

Rosa's other Christmas gift included play food, a new apron, and a little tin tea set. She has this Stephen Joseph kitchen set (a gift from her "Mumsy") so a few accessories seemed like a good idea.

The apron was simple -- I used a little canvas apron (via the Publix Preschool Pals club) as a template, rounding the bottom edges for a more feminine flair. A little bit of trim, bias tape, and a wee pocket later, it was ready! All done in less than one nap time.


The pink polka-dot fabric came from a visit to Denver Fabrics about seven years
ago! It's a lightweight canvas, perfect for an apron. 

For play food, I settled on a slightly breakfast theme -- pancakes, eggs, strawberries, and orange wedges. I'd like to branch out over time, but I knew those particular foods would go over well (and I already had the necessary felt!). I also stitched a simple grocery bag, loosely following the instructions from Sew Magical for Baby -- I reduced the size to be more suitable for little hands, and kind of winged the construction process. It's a hard pattern to mess up!





And then, a week before Christmas, I found the tea set of my dreams while browsing World Market's website -- searching for "tea tins," I came across their Floral Tin Tea Set. Rosa is fascinated by tea, but I'd thought it would be a while before she was ready for a tea set due to my aversion to plastic sets and the likelihood certainty of a porcelain set shattering within weeks (or days, or even hours!). But a tin tea set? And one that evokes Cath Kidston, at that? Never mind that fact that it already perfectly matched the apron I'd just made for her! Granted, her pancakes are bigger than the plates -- but so far she hasn't complained about that. *wink* It even came in a little case, which makes storage simple.


The orange wedges are a bit primitive, but I'm very fond of my seeded strawberries!

The tea set necessitated a little stash of tea bags -- I saw some that had been made using a real tea bag as a template, so I tried that. Did you know that a tea bag is actually a tube of filter, folded and stapled? You do now! Some sheer musliny fabric from my stash served for this miniature versions, and I did actually fill them with a sprinkling of Earl Grey Moonlight. They smell heavenly! Ric rac and felt for the tags, and they were ready.




And here's a snapshot of the wee little lady herself on Christmas morning -- she lost no time in serving out steamy cuppas  (though for some reason she insisted on removing the tea pot's lid before using it. Hmm.).




I was less involved in Little Man's present, simple by nature of what it was! We went with a Robin Hood theme for our outdoorsy boy, which meant a bow, quiver, arrows, and a felt cap. Pablo had made him a small PVC bow and a single PVC arrow about a year ago, but it was time for an upgrade. This time Pablo made a nicer PVC bow with more shaping, and applied a shoe polish "stain" that looks like a real wood grain. I fashioned some black leather into a grip which was glued/stitched on. Oh, and Pablo made eight wooden dowel arrows, complete with fletching and carved nocks. Plenty for a young marksman!





The quiver was also made out of PVC, slightly flattened into an oval shape. We covered it with pleather (resorting to some interesting techniques to finish the bottom!), and riveted a leather strap to the top and bottom. 




The felt hat, of course, was my domain! I used this free tutorial for Little Man's Robin Hood hat, printing it out at 80% -- the size is perfect! I may make a sturdier version in the future (his is just felt, and rather thin felt at that), but for now it's just right. Little Man has been wearing this ensemble almost non-stop since Christmas, especially since we recently watched the old Erroll Flynn Adventures of Robin Hood movie as a family. 

Lessons learned this year? Get an earlier start! In fact, this year I really want to be more prepared for gift-giving events in general. Birthdays and Christmas are quite predictable, so why not be ready early and avoid last-minute stress?

But overall, considering the innumerable cups of "tea" I've been served and the frequent archery exhibitions I've been invited to view, I'm pretty sure we can count this year's Christmas gifts a success!

Friday, January 09, 2015

A Maple Crinkle Teether for Baby Boy

This particular project has long been on my radar -- so long, in fact, that I purchased two maple rings when I made our set of wooden peg people. And now it's done!





The 3" wood ring is from Casey's Wood, and was only $2.75 for Maine maple (the regular imported wood rings are $1, but I was willing to pay a little extra for the maple).

The fabric is from JoAnn's; what is it with me and woodland creatures? I actually bought it for a quilt, as I'm planning to re-do my activity gym. I used a layer of cereal bag in the center to add a bit of crinkle -- I love using something that would otherwise be thrown away! 




I looked at several tutorials and designs to come up with the shape -- actually, my first attempt was a bit of a failure, as it ended up being shorter than I wanted! The second time around, I lengthened the fabric strip to 15" and countoured the center to reduce bulk.


Buntings on one side, and foresty greenery on the other!

I like the idea of a removable strip (easy to wash!) and also real wood as a teether -- I'm just not a fan of plastic teethers, though that's all I've used in the past. Hopefully our little guy will agree, though at less than $3, I won't be devastated if this investment doesn't pan out!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Winter Eats -- Leek, Potato, and Ham Soup

I've been longing to try a leek and potato soup since... well, it's been a long time. The simplest way to go about this is to purchase both leeks and potatoes at the store, along with any necessary seasonings. But having never to my knowledge purchased a leek (or even held one), I gave in to my fear of the unknown. Which is a shame, because my husband declares that this is his second favorite soup -- our homemade version of Panera's broccoli cheese soup is forever his favorite, so second best is fine with me!




I used this recipe as a base, but beefed it up a little. Well, "hammed it up" would be more accurate, since I used leftover Christmas ham -- my husband does not eat vegetarian dinners! Really, any meat would do (though I think ham has the best kind of flavor for this soup), or it could be omitted altogether. I'll provide ingredients and instructions below, but this is a super easy and super flexible recipe that could be altered to your tastes or ingredients.

Leek, Potato, and Ham Soup

Ingredients:
  • 2-3 leeks, diced (about 1/4" 'squares' -- I used quite a bit of the dark green stem, too)
  • 4-5 medium potatoes, diced 
  • 2+ TBSP of butter 
  • 4 cups of broth (chicken, vegetable, etc.)
  • Seasonings to taste (rosemary, thyme, sage, salt, pepper, minced garlic)
  • 2-3 cups of ham, diced (or another meat; optional)
  • Toppings (oyster crackers, bacon, and shredded cheddar are amazing!)



Instructions:

  1. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a large pot and add the leeks and potatoes. Saute until the leeks are soft, adding more butter if needed. When this step was almost done, I threw in some fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme, along with a bit of minced garlic, some freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of salt. Use your imagination!
  2. Add the broth and bring to a boil; I used rabbit/chicken broth supplied by friends from church (They raise their own meat rabbits! How cool is that?), which is amazing. Reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes, or until potatoes are tender. I threw a piece of ham bone in while it simmered, for additional goodness.
  3. Put about half of your soup -- or all of it, if you prefer -- into a blender or food processor (be careful doing this with hot liquid! Either wait for it to cool, or make sure your appliance is well vented to avoid explosions). Pulse until delicious, then add back to the rest of the soup. I actually used two "fresh" potatoes because that was all I had, and added in two cups of leftover mashed potatoes during the blending stage. I worked out just fine!
  4. Add the diced ham, if desired.
  5. Serve topped with cheddar, bacon, and crackers, with a side of buttered, toasted bread. And a salad, if you're feeling extra healthy.


Bon appetit!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Loafers and Loss

With some scrap brown linen on hand (salvaged from a $1 thrift store dress), I decided to whip up another pair of tiny TOMS, using Leisha's marvelous pattern. I actually purchased the pattern to get all of the sizes, because they're just too cute to make in one size!

The constructions process was smoother, since I worked out my desired alterations last time. I do get frustrated working with such small pieces (they're so fiddly!), but the result is worth the effort.




I must say that I think the sizing might be a bit off? And my children have tiny feet! I'd definitely measure to be sure you make the right size (compare to a store sizing chart if you're making a pair for someone else). In any case, these will be ready for the wee feet that are currently occupied with creating strange bulges in my midsection.


I have a habit of pulling my elastic pretty tight -- I'm always so afraid that little shoes will slip off! I guess I'll have
to wait to find out whether or not that was a good decision...

Sewing helps pass the time until our little one joins us. The waiting seems endless, and I think that's partly because my last pregnancy ended so abruptly. It just kind of feels like I've been pregnant forever, and I should already be there. Today marks a year since our miscarriage -- it's strange to think that so much time has passed, when in some ways it feels like yesterday. There are so many emotions to feel.

The sheer pain of loss.
Longing for the baby girl that would be six months old by now.
Gratitude for the new life growing within me.
Joy at the prospect of his coming arrival (Lord willing).

It's an unreconcilable set of emotions; this baby boy that we love so much would not exist if we had not lost our sweet daughter, but it doesn't make her loss easier. Thanks be to God that I do not have to reconcile those emotions; grief and joy are somehow mixed in this muddled up world of ours, and by His grace (and grace alone) I need only trust in His plans.

And so, a new year is upon us -- with a baby and a move on the horizon (probably both before the end of March), it's looking to be an adventurous one! I pray that God will give you peace as this worn out year draws to a close, and joy as the new year begins.


For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are My ways your ways, 
declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are My ways higher than your ways, 
and My thoughts than your thoughts."

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Jingle All the Way

My husband and I are dedicated to having a live tree at Christmas -- The fragrance, the texture, the not-having-to-assemble-a-box-of-smooshed-branches-on-a-metal-pole. What's not to love? Oh, I guess that would be the needles all over the floor and the fact that we have to shell out cash for a new tree every. single. year. But it's our one Christmas splurge (and a 6-7 ft. tree doesn't put that much of a dent in ye olde bank account!)

Plus, I feel like we get a bit extra for our money. Each time we buy a tree, I raid the bin of free trimmings like a bandit. Free trimmings = free live wreath! A live wreath always seems like a luxury to me, because it's the kind of thing I'd never buy.





The first few times I wired my trimmings to a grapevine wreath, but the process of un-wiring the wreath after Christmas was both tedious and painful! So now my super-secret, super-professional method is to shove trimmings into the grapevine wreath, and pin down any straggling branches with old-fashioned v-shaped bobby pins. Turns out they're good for more than just stray tresses!

As for the rest -- the pinecones-on-sticks came from a floral arrangement we received when Little Man was born, the berry clusters were pillaged from a strand of fake garland that we were trashing, and the jingle bells are part of my stash (via Dollar Tree -- they come nine in a box, and are delightfully vintage looking). I did pay for red burlap ribbon this year, but I also used that for part of our tree topper. 





It's quite festive to get a whiff of evergreen and a cheerful jingle every time we open our front door!

I'm still not done assembling Christmas gifts, but I'm getting close -- the handcrafted part of Rosa's gift is done, and I can't wait to show you! For now it's waiting under the tree (probably collecting some of the aforementioned needles).

May you all have a peaceful time of worship and reflection as the Christmas bustle comes to a close!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ready for a Wee Noggin

One more project to slash off my list of "nesting" projects -- the Dayton Cabled Baby Aviator Helmet! It's such fun knitting for a baby; the small size means less time between me and that gratifying sense of accomplishment. Surely I'm not the only one who likes that?




I knit this pretty much as-is, using Knit Picks City Tweed DK in Chipmunk. It's a lovely merino and alpaca blend, with a super soft hand (even softer after blocking!). About half-way through I felt a growing terror that one skein would not be enough -- at one point I even weighed my remaining yarn on my kitchen scale to get an idea of how much I'd already used! In the end I had leftover yarn, so apparently my yardage estimation skills are scandalously bad. 




This poor hat sat for quite a while on my needles once I reached the cable section, primarily because I had to change needle sizes at that point. That meant that this project didn't qualify as "grab and go," which is all I really had time for just then. Besides, I had some pressing birthday and Christmas projects to attend to! At any rate, I finally tackled the rest. Why are cables so satisfying? Before trying them, I thought they would be incredibly difficult. They look difficult, don't they? I still love to pore over any knitted item with cables; unlike many things that lose their "magic" when you know how they're done, I think I'm even more fascinated by how the cables twist and weave now than I was before.




I'd love to make this again, as it would be a perfect baby shower present. Though next time I will certainly knit it in the round -- it would require a few modifications to the pattern, but nothing drastic. I might rewrite the cable bit anyway, as I found the organization of that bit slightly confusing (too much "repepat rows 1 and 2" -- it makes perfect sense, but is not the easiest thing to read when in the middle of a project).





At any rate, our little lad should have a warm noggin when he finally makes his appearance in a few months -- assuming his little "helmet" fits (as I think it will). He's been celebrating the start of the third trimester by making sure that I *know* he's there. I certainly welcome his (admittedly pugilistic) reminders!