Wednesday, December 11, 2013

DIY: Felt Flower Ornaments

Life has been busy - incredibly busy.  In between running errands, loading kilns and my monthly coop shift I sat down for a few minutes to make ornaments with Ivory and Sylvan.  These are quick.  They are simple enough even for Sylvan to remain engaged through out the duration of the craft. 

Materials:

assorted colors of felt pieces
ribbon
thread
sewing needle
scissors

How To:

  • I ask the kids to choose their colors and then I cut the shapes for them: 1 set of leaves (or more if desired), 2 flowers, 2 stars and 2 small circles.
  • The flowers, stars and circles are cut while holding two sheets of felt together


  • Make a loop out of ribbon and tack the open end together
  • String the large flower, the star and the small circle onto the needle (Sylvan can do this with assistance, Ivory on her own)


  • Scrunch them down against the loop and return the needle to the center through the flower, tacking the stack of felt to the loop
  • String the remaining flower, star and circle in the same order and scrunch against the backside of the first flower 


  •  Sew through all the layers of felt a few more times tacking them together and tie off the thread. 


The finished ornaments.

I am trying to talk the kids into making more to use as gift tags...  but of course they don't want to give any of them away.

Total cost to me: $0

All of the materials used for this projects are tucked into drawers around my house. I bought a giant bag of felt pieces for $3 (I think) at a thrift store a few years ago.  I have used it to make cards, crowns, and now flowers..   I used double fold bias tape for the loops...  also a thrift store score...  maybe $.10?.  Quick, Easy, Affordable and Adorable.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gently Rocked by Ocean Waves - DIY Baby Blanket Pattern

As I wrap blue yarn with hints of pink and green and purple around my knitting needle and pull one stitch through the other an ocean grows.
The sky is dark and the water is reflecting the stars, the moon, the whole universe.
There are shimmers of light on gentle ocean swells.


The swells rising and falling and swirling.
Cradled in the middle of it all is a baby.
A tiny speck in the vastness of everything - gently rocked, safe and snug and warm.


Materials:

3 Skeins Lion Brand Yarns Wool-Ease, Blue Mist
   (the gauge listed on label is 18 stitches by 24 rows to make a 4" square on size 8 needles)
size 10 needles

short note on yarn choice:
I chose this yarn because it is machine washable and dryable and contains 20% wool.  I prefer to work with yarns that are composed of natural fibers, but since this is a gift for a young mom and her first child I figured that utility, affordability and appearance was allowed to over ride my yarn snobbery. (And my favorite yarn store closed so for now I am stuck with Joanne's) The blankets I knit for my kiddos were made of 100% cotton and were very stiff until they had been washed a few times.

Finished Measurements: 29" x 36"

How to:


  • cast on 105 stitches
  • knit two rows
  • on the third row start following the stitch chart below and repeat the pattern set 11 times
  • so, Row 1 would be k2, ssk, *yo, k1, yo, k2, [k2tog] twice; repeat from *to last 2 stitches, yo, k2
  • all even rows are k2, p to last 2 sts, k2


  • repeat the 8 row pattern 21 times or until the desired length is reached
  • on the final repeat of the pattern, end on row 7 
  • knit 2 rows 
  • bind off knit wise on wrong side



Because of the pattern, the whole blanket is pulled into a diagonal shape and blocking is required to achieve the final dimensions.

This pattern was inspired by a pattern for a Lace Friendship Shawl I found in the book Knitting a Kiss in Every Stitch by Nicky Epstein.

Monday, November 18, 2013

S is for Slow, Saturday, Sunday and Shy

Stitch by stitch the blue yarn is becoming a blanket.  It covers my lap, warm and soft.

We have had a lazy Saturday and a slow Sunday.

The kiddos are on a train ride to California.  Every chair in the house in a straight line.  Lamb and Tiger, doll and bear, Ivory and Sylvan passengers in one giant adventure. Sylvan drives. Ivory serves tea. Ivory drives. Sylvan is the caboose.



I knit. I dream. I observe. I think. I remember.

I picture myself crouched down, peering into Ivory's face, my arms wrapped around a tiny Sylvan and scolding her: "When someone tells you that your hair is pretty, you say thank you.  When somebody says Hi to you, you say hi back.  You are being rude when you just ignore people."
She looks back at me with tears in her eyes: " But Mama, I'm shy."


I was exasperated.  I couldn't imagine that my little girl who seems to have no problem approaching strangers, dominating other mother's laps and leading gangs of children around had any shy in her.
"No Ivory, that was not being shy.  Ignoring people is rude."
I'm frustrated.  I feel like I am somehow failing at teaching proper social graces.  That this somehow defines me as a bad mom.

She still meets stranger's complements at best with complete disregard and at worst with a stare that should send the complement giver hiding in the nearest hole.  I no longer reprimand her. We have talks about saying hi back to friends, and about other folks feelings, but with strangers I smile and say thank you and we move on.

A few days ago we had our first parent teacher conference.
Her marks are great, with only one discrepancy.  Ms. F points it out and says: You can see she tested a little low here, but I'm not worried.  I know she can do these things, but she was tested by a stranger, and she is really shy."

Wait.

What?

She is SHY?

SHE is shy?

She IS shy.

We have been moving through our world in a bubble.  A bubble filled with me, and Adam, and Sylvan and a handful of friends and kids of friends and in that world Ivory reigns supreme. She is bold and confident, her thoughts and words pouring out of her like a waterfall.

I had no idea.

I should have noticed, or rather, I should have understood what I did notice.  Those strangers that approach, even if it is only for a quick complement (usually her hair), infringe on our sphere uninvited. She ignores them.  She stares them down.  She silently asks them why they invaded her space.

She is shy.  She told me so herself.

The train has reached it's destination.  The sofa has exploded into a fort.  The living room into a field of blankets.  This bubble is safe and warm and filled with love and it is perfectly fine to be choosy about who gets to come inside.



Lazy Saturday Egg-Less Muffins 

(there is no way I am going to the store to get eggs) 

1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups apple juice 
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup of oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 small apples
1/2 cup finely chopped Walnuts (I have to hide them from Ivory) 
  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • grease a 12-cup muffin pan
  • combine dry ingredients
  • add wet ingredients
  • stir in the apples and walnuts
  • divide evenly between muffin cups
  • bake or 25 to 30 minutes
  • cool for 5 minutes and then remove from the pan









Friday, November 15, 2013

My name is Heidi: I am Destroying YOUR Country

I am face down on the floor in child's pose, inches away from the furnace warm air blowing over my body, tears pooling on the floor.

Adam took Ivory to the bus stop.  

Sylvan is playing. 

I am crying.  

I have been crying and crying and crying. 

I got the day wrong on which I was to deliver the salad to the staff lounge at Ivory's school and it was the last tiny little snow flake to land on a mountain of snow and set off an avalanche.  It is rushing down and nothing will stop the force of gravity until it reaches the valley floor. 

I will be the first to admit this is one part hormones mixed in with a million other things:  The feeling of failure that has been building for months.  The feeling that I am okay at many things but not great at anything and not being able to figure out at which skill I am supposed to excel.  The years of sleepless nights.  My constant battle against the natural state of the universe - chaos.  The clash of schedules and occupations in our house hold.  At this point I want, no need, to get into the woods with an insane desperation, and Adam after having been in the woods all week wants to be home, needs to be home to finish things around here.  The weeks and weeks of it just being me.  The obsessive canning because I am terrified, all be it unreasonably, that someday there will be no more food.  The expiration of the Recovery Act. 

The thing is, I can tell you exactly the moment this started.  The moment at which the fear and self doubt started to take over.  I was digging a new garden bed that now holds garlic and strawberries in wait for next summer.   Adam in Idaho (on a job for the forest service).  The government shut down eminent.  (Yup.  That project got furloughed and thankfully rescheduled.)  The content on my Facebook feed had shifted, sure there were the petitions to remove pay for the members of congress, the bi-partisan bitching that was to be expected, but underneath it all there is a more terrifying attitude of which I caught a glimpse.  Did any body else notice it?  It haunts me.  It grabbed me and it will not leave me alone.  It is this:  according to my Facebook feed it is not those with money and influence that are ruining this country - no - it is me.  Me. ME.  

A friend liked this text.  A friend I thought I liked - liked this text.  So, I read it.  I read the comments. I couldn't stop reading it. I know the ideas and stereotypes embodied in these paragraphs are ignorant.   I took enough sociology classes, and political science classes and have enough life experience to know the absolute ridiculousness of these words and yet -

It crushed me. 

The thing is these posts keep coming:
Monster energy drinks can now be purchased with EBT benefits.  (I don't agree with the logic of this either, but in my opinion most of our grocery stores are filled with non-food items, but no one is complaining about instant pudding or white bread or lunch-ables or go-gurt or American cheese - because the discussion isn't really about food - is it?) 
The welfare mom vs. the veteran.
The us vs. them.
The responsible vs. the irresponsible. 
The worthy vs. the unworthy.

I am an EBT card at the grocery store and to some, I am destroying the integrity of this country one swipe at a time, but for this moment -

I am crying.  

I am crying because the only thing left in the garden is kale.  
I am crying because when I try to talk to Adam about this all he hears is your not good enough, you don't work hard enough - which is not what I am meaning, but what I am hearing as well.  
I have not told him about the Facebook post.  I will not. 

When Adam walks back in he says nothing - just presses is hands into  my lower back - and then pours me a cup of coffee.  I thankfully note that he is for once not offering suggestions, fixes, frustration at my frustration.  What is there to fix? 

I cry until I everything is calm. 

I am empty. 

I get up and go. 

I take the salad to the staff lounge. 
It fresh and crisp - lettuce with apples and carrots, walnuts and raisins, a sprinkling of feta and home made honey mustard dressing.  



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lessons of a Growing Season and a Jerusalem Artichoke Soup Recipe

I don't consider myself to be an experienced gardener.  

Every year is new and every year new lessons are learned. 

This year cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and Jerusalem artichokes were new additions to my garden.   The cabbage needed more sun.  The broccoli provided us with a nice dense head of green followed with crisp little side shoots for the rest of the growing season.  The Brussels sprouts resulted in cheers when I served them to my kids.  And the Jerusalem artichokes - well they did great, but dominated the sad row of tomatoes I planted next to them.  While the sturdy stalks of the sunflowers reached preposterous heights, the tomatoes barely survived.  

I know now to not plant anything close to these vigorous plants. 


Rather than having the abundant harvest of tomatoes I had hoped for, beautiful fall bouquets brightened up our living space. 



After a few light freezes, a serious cold snap was predicted and our whole family went to work.  We pulled the last few things out of the garden: carrots, Brussels sprouts, onions, tiny heads of cabbage (lack of sun), horse radish and the few remaining broccoli shoots.  We pushed garlic into the ground (a little late) and mounded leaves around sensitive plants.


And then we unearthed the Jerusalem artichoke tubers.



This spring I planted half a dozen, wrinkled Jerusalem artichoke tubers that had been stored in the bottom of my fridge all winter and they yielded an amazing bounty of roots.


It was only after we dug them all up that I went inside and leafed through the pages of my gardening books.  

How do I store these? 

They are best left in the ground, mulched heavily, and harvested when needed. 

Yikes!


  I am already composing a to do list for next spring:
     - dig more garden beds
     - thin out the strawberries
     - amend the soil (it is in desperate need of nitrogen)
     - plant more parsley
     - successfully grow winter squash (I'm done with containers and crappy potting soil)
     - more space between plants
     - plant a non dwarf variety of kale as well as my favorite Dwarf Curly Blue variety

For now we are eating Jerusalem artichokes.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup 

1/4 cup butter
2 onions, minced
1 lb Jerusalem artichokes, diced
2 potatoes, diced 
  • cook 10 minutes covered, ook 10 more minutes uncovered
1 Tablespoon flour
3 cups broth
  • simmer 5 minutes (or until potatoes are soft) and then blend
3/4 cup of cream of half and half
salt and pepper 
1/4 fresh parsley
  • stir in the remaining ingredients
(optional variation: add a few pieces of cooked and crumbled bacon as a garnish) 


Sunday, November 3, 2013

'Tis the Season

of Maple Leaves

A cold front blew the golden leaves off of the trees.  
The branches of the maple trees dark against the sky. 
The branches of other maple trees are bare against the sky.  
Our maple is a silver maple.  (A lesser maple.)
Its leaves yellowing, curling, most still clinging to the branches and some still stubbornly green.  
What leaves have fallen are curled, mixed with sticks, not the sort of leaves that beg to be piled and jumped into. 
So we rake the golden drifts that have blown into our drive way from across the street, down the alley, all across our neighborhood and pile then in our yard. 


Ivory and Sylvan laugh and shriek and jump into the pile and toss leaves into the air.
They run back and forth bringing more leaves by the arm full, the wagon full, balanced on the rakes.


Their cheeks flush and eyes shine. 
I try to remember the last time I heard this much laughter and marvel at the simplicity of this pleasure. 

of Pumpkins 

After dinner we finally pull the pumpkins onto the table. 
Sylvan and Ivory and I picked them out a week ago.  They have been shuffled around the house, colored on, grouped and regrouped waiting for an evening when Adam was home too. 
Ivory and Sylvan draw faces and we trace their lines with knives.  The seeds toast in the oven. 





















Adam blows out the candles while the rest of us are cuddled up in bed reading bed time books. 

of Halloween

"Mama get my cheese so Ivory can eat me!!"  Sylvan can barely contain himself while I unbuckle him from his car seat.  I manage to slow them to snap one picture and they are off to join the hoard of neighborhood kids at a potluck that has long since become tradition. 


As the light fades a hoard of children takes over our neighborhood. 

of the Festival of the Dead

Our silver maple has shed its leaves.  
It stands just as bare as those other maples that once were gold. 
The pumpkins sit unlit next to the front door.
It is brisk, but I shoo the kids outside.
We have passed from one month to the next. 
One season to the next.  

We make our way down town for our favorite parade of the year.  
It is the Festival of the Dead. 


Black and white, trumpets and drums, political and intensely private motivations, the living impersonating the dead - move down the street - stepping solemnly or dancing.

The skeletons of trees stand against the sky.  It is as much a celebration of the season as of life and living and all those that have lived and are remembered.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

One Button, A Square of Tulle, A Circle of Felt and a Hair Clip

Ivory threaded the needle up and down through the button holes. 
Tacking down the tulle, sandwiched between the button and a layer of sparkling felt.  
I stitched the whole thing to hair clips. 

There they are: 


We are ready to go to celebrate a birthday!

Friday, October 25, 2013

One GIANT Stocking

This took me 10 months to finish...


and it is all wrong - wrong yarn, wrong gauge, wrong size.

I knew it was all wrong just a few rows into the project.

I finished it anyway.

I learned new skills.

Next time I attempt this, I will splurge for nice yarn, the correct gauge and make two that are a reasonable size. Now that I know what I am doing.

This one I am giving to a friend to use as a display for toys in a shop window.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Painted Trees, Painted Leaves and Colored Paper Creatures

"Mama! Painted trees!"

I glance back at Sylvan in my rear view mirror and then back out of the windshield to try and decipher what he is telling me.  The car smells of apples.

"Painted Trees!

He repeats his phrase until my eyes rest on a line of small red Norway maples that line the road leading into a yet undeveloped development.

Oh.  Painted trees.
Yes, they are beautiful.

This is the first autumn that Sylvan is really taking in.  He wades through the dunes of yellow maple leaves to pick up they few red ones and hand them to me.

"Painted Leaves."

Ivory begs daily, reminds me constantly: "Mama you promised that we could make Halloween decorations."   "Today. Yesterday. Tomorrow.  Before dinner. After dinner. After School. Now!!!!!!!!"

I know I promised. I sigh. I feel guilty.
I say things like: "We have to make food for your dad first." or "It is too late." or "later." or simply "oh, Ivory."  and feel guilty.

This is the first Halloween that she wants to decorate.
It is all she talks about.

"Can we make bats? Cats? Spiders?"

So we take walks.  Pick up leaves. Piles and piles that flutter away a short while later.

I clear my afternoon, move all those self imposed projects aside.
The pears can wait another day.
The dishes can sit till evening.
The pottery really needs to be done - but not now.

We cut.


We glue.
We google - how many eyes does a spider have?  Eight. Most spiders have eight eyes.


We staple.


We string string until our porch is a giant web and we hang a few spiders.


It is autumn.  It is almost Halloween.
Ivory wants to be a mouse.  Sylvan doesn't care.

The leaves are fluttering down - faster and faster.
Did someone mention snow?

Slow down.

SLOW DOWN!










Sunday, October 20, 2013

Adam Borrowed A Sawzall - I Decided Our Closet had to Go!

Our house looks pretty much like it always has.
A drab white exterior, peeling paint on the windows and trim.
Over a year of home ownership has passed and we are the only ones that know that things are changing ever so slowly.
It is a constant balance of doing those things that need to be done and doing projects that are temporary but increase the immediate functionality of our house.
While Adam had in his possession a borrowed sawzall, which he was using to cut through the old steal sewer plumbing under the house, I casually suggested that this might be the perfect time to cut away the wall of our closet.
The opening into our bedroom closet was less than twenty inches and those clothes that hung in a neat row in it's confines simply stayed hanging.  It was too much of a pain to retrieve anything. The ceiling panel was a mysterious few inches lower than the rest of the ceiling and I had long decided it all had to go.
The wall went, the ceiling panel went, the old layer of fabric wallpaper that contained a frightening quantity of black dust went, and we were left with a tongue and grove ceiling and three walls.


Adam painted. 


I decided to take a cue from those who came before us and I dug through my stash of fabric until I found a piece that matched our room and was large enough... and we simply covered the ceiling back up with fabric and a staple gun. 


Adam made custom trim, and after a week of all of our clothes laying in a pile on the floor in the kid's room, everything got put away.  Finally.


Since then, our house has been sported by a net work of 6 strong beams.  The bathroom floor has been redone and for the first time since we moved into this house we have a properly seated toilet (don't ask me about the details on that project.).

As the flowers fade and leaves flutter off of the trees the climbing vines that screened our porch in a vibrant green and once were dotted with bright purple flowers are brown.  Our house is melting into drab.  The heater is turned on.  All the access points under the house are closed. We are hunkering down for winter.  The peeling paint on the windows and trim will have to wait till next year.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stocking the Shelves - The Growing Season Will End Soon!

Do I have a stopping point?  An end goal? 
I can't remember any more. 

Six quart jars of Amarito Pears line the back of my kitchen counter and six more are ready to go. 
I am out of shelf space. The extra shelves Adam hung in our kitchen are filled to capacity.  


I am stuck between projects.
The things on my list are forever long.
I have moments of panic when I remember some thing that I need to do and have not yet done.
With only a box and a half of pears sitting in the back room, I feel that I can finally take a moment to sit down - reflect - and recall the sequence of the season that is now filling the kitchen shelves.


June 

6 - 1/2 pints of Rhubarb Orange Jam
            I opened the first jar two days ago - It is fantastic!
3 pints of Pickled Baby Garlic


July 

5 - 1/2 pints Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
6 - 1/2 pints Cherry Jam with Apple as Pectin
6 - 1/2 pints Cherry Jam (with Palimosa Pectin)
11 quart bags of cherries (frozen)
3 - 1/2 pints of Cherries with Thyme (frozen to be served with Brie Cheese)


2 quart bags of Cherry Pie Filling (frozen)


August

3 - 1/2 quarts Strawberry Syrup
4 - 1/2 quarts Strawberry Butter
5 pints Gingered Apricots
7 pints Cucumbers (dill slices)


4 pints Apple Butter
7 pints Dilly Beans


September

5 pints Honeyed Bread and Butter Cucumbers
6 pints Cucumber Chips
10 quarts Peaches
4 - 1/2 pints Peach Jam
7 pints Peach Salsa
12 - 1/4 pint, 2 - 1/2 pints and, 1 - 12 ounce jar  pizza sauce
20 pints Spiced Tomato Sauce


8 pints Zesty Salsa


6 - 1 1/2 pints Tomatoes
5 - 1/2 pints Tomato Basil Jam
8 - 1/2 pints Chinese Plum Sauce
5 - 1/2 pints Cardamon Plum Jam
3 pints Pickled Chanterelle Mushrooms
3 - 12 ounce jars, 1 - 1/2 pint of Cardamon Plum Jam
7 quarts Unsweetened Applesauce


October 

3 apple pies (frozen)

2 gallon bags (half full) apple pie filling (frozen)
10 - 12 ounce jars apple chutney


8 - 1/2 pints Chinese Plum Sauce
11 - 12 ounce jars Pear Hhutney
3 -  1/2 pints, 2 - 12 ounce jars Pear Cranberry Conserve
4 quarts Slightly Sweetened Cinamon Apple Sauce
12 quarts Amarito Pears

Now I remember.

I do have a stopping point: when there are no more fruits and vegetable to store away for later. There is an end goal: to taste the seasons one ripe fruit at a time - and it has been a yummy year.  It is going to be a yummy winter. The insanity of the end of the growing season will pass.  It will pass much to fast.

Most recipes are from: Canning for a New Generation
and the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preservation

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Life is Good (I turned 30)

I passed from one decade of life into the next.
Cups clanked, water boiled, voices volleyed and I stared up at the dome of the tent above me.
I pulled Sylvan closer.
My little snuggle bug.
My last baby - who hardly is confined within the parameters of a baby anymore.
Ivory slept all night in her own tent.
Her zippered flap just a few feet from mine.

I smelled coffee - breathed deeply:  Life is good.
I shimmied out from under the covers and crawled out of the tent.
Loons raced across the lake.
We were camping with friends and it just happened to be my birthday.


After rounds of breakfast, adult canoe rides, observing never ending dizzying games of tag all the families piled into cars and set out on their respective adventures. We picked up a handful of national forest flyers, a forest service map and we huddled over the lines in the front of our car and picked a spot on the map - Morrell Falls - That is where we will go. 


We picked huckleberries on the way, picnicked on fallen trees, and stepped one foot in front of the other until we were greeted by this view:




Hours later we arrived at the car hungry, tired and ready for a swim.  Ivory had walked almost five miles.  At the camp site, we dipped into the water.   The children splashed, fought over inter tubes, tossed rocks until the sun sank behind the trees. 

The next morning I sat at the shore with my line in the water.  


Sylvan joined me.  We sat. We caught nothing.

I passed from one decade to the next.
Cups clanked, water boiled, voices volleyed under the trees, up the hill, somewhere behind me.
I pulled Sylvan closer.
My little snuggle bug.
My last baby - who hardly is confined within the parameters of a baby anymore.
Ivory slept all night in her own tent.
Her zippered flap just a few feet from mine.
I smelled coffee - breathed deeply:  Life is good.



On a side note:

Gifts:  There was really nothing I wanted...  a pitchfork maybe... that is still on my wish list.  But how romantic is that? - "Hey Honey, I got you that pitchfork you wanted!  You can finally turn that compost pile in an efficient manner."
But after a perfect birthday weekend with no cell phone reception filled with sunshine and laughter, Adam borrowed a truck and drove to Potomac to bring me this:


A super, awesome, fabulous sink that will someday be in our kitchen.  Perfect. Really. Just what I wanted.  (I say this with absolutely no sarcasm!)

AND!  we got to see my favorite band: 


The Polyphonic Spree!!!!  I have been wishing and waiting for them to come to Missoula.
I danced.
I sang.
I laughed.
It was amazing.