Monday, January 26, 2009

A bowl of cherries

"If you want to be happy for a few hours, get drunk. If you want to be happy for a weekend, get married. If you want to be happy for a week, butcher a pig. If you want to be happy for all your life long, become a gardener." (Old Chinese proverb)

I thought a Chinese proverb was appropriate for today, the first day of the lunar new year celebration. Ed, Sam and I went to a Tet party on Saturday. I'll blog about that on Dear Sam and Sophie soon.

Anyway, in reference to that proverb, this is going to be about being happy for a few hours! It's about my homemade/handmade Christmas gift for my parents and for my sister and brother-in-law. You might remember that last year I made them the very time-consuming Jesse Trees, which I finished just hours before leaving for my sister's house. This year, even though I started their gifts back in the summer, I was once again crafting all day the day before we left.

What I started last summer was this: it's called Cherry Bounce and is a Schlumpf family tradition. (We have a lot of traditions that involve alcohol!) You start with a bunch of tart cherries from Door County, Wisconsin (that's the pointy part of Wisconsin that sticks up into Lake Michigan for you non-Midwesterners). Sorry, but you can't use bing cherries. Ed and I got the cherries when we were up in Door County camping in late summer.

Recipes vary, but they all call for a cherries, sugar and liquor. I used a quart of vodka. You mix it up then put it in a jar, and every so often you "bounce" it around to keep it mixed. By Christmas you have a nice cherry liquor. Then you're supposed to either drink it all or drain it off and fill the jar with white wine. Again, bounce every few days or weeks, and by Easter you have cherry wine. After you drink that, you have some very potent cherries.

My parents made some Bounce back in the 1970s and they still have the orange and yellow Sun Tea jar with the wrinkled cherries in it. At parties my Dad will offer the cherries to adventurous souls. I decided it was time for a new batch for them. And I knew my sister would love some too. But then I got this great idea to make some matching cherry cordial glasses.

I got these at the Crate and Barrel Outlet, then picked up some glass paint from the craft store. Then, inspired by this cherry martini glass on etsy (OK, more than inspired--I copied the design), I started painting. The red took two coats, and those stripes took forever. On top of it, in addition to making four for my parents and four for Amy and Andy, I made four for myself (Ed and I have some three- or four-year-old Bounce from the first time we went camping in Door County). Then the glasses have to be heated in the oven and cooled overnight for the paint to set. I thought it would be a two-hour project, but it pretty much took all day. Thank God Ed was entertaining Sam most of the day.

Then I went cherry-crazy, wrapping the gifts in cherry-printed fabric, adding a cherry spreading knife and a bow from cherry ribbon. I was bummed that I didn't have time to knit these little cherries to match. (Why do I love knit food so much?) Still, the gifts were a hit. Some people thinks it tastes a bit like cough syrup, but I think this batch was actually pretty good. Maybe it was that $5 vodka I used.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Handmade Christmas 2008

"It is expressly at those times when we feel needy that we will benefit the most from giving." (Ruth Ross)

I'm playing a little catch-up here, with some photos of some crafty Christmas gifts from 2008. I'll go into a little more detail later, but I did some handpainting on glass (a new thing for me, as you can tell by the very homemade look to these cordial glasses). This was part of a cherry-themed gift for my parents and my sister and brother-in-law.

Another first: I designed my own dishcloth pattern. I searched everywhere for one with the Notre Dame logo and tried to use this one from a scarf pattern (Ravelry link) but it was a little wonky, so I finally just charted it and created my own pattern. I will be offering it free here on Spiritual Knitter soon. (Ignore that this photo is upside down so the D looks backward. I'm having a hard time rotating my photos.) I knit two sets of these for some of my friends in South Bend. I also knit an angel dishcloth, using this free Angel of Welcome pattern, for my aunt but forgot to take a picture of it.

I also knit this cute bobbly bath mitt and paired it with handmade soap I bought from Enterprising Kitchen, an organization that helps women work toward economic independence. (They're here in Chicago but you can buy their stuff online.) The free knitting pattern is Mira's Bath Mitt from a blog called Give it a Purl. The bobbles give it a texture for scrubbing, but boy were they a lot of work--and hard on my hands since I was knitting with cotton (the pattern calls for chenille). This one was for my friend Karen, whose birthday is after Christmas.

I also made one for my godparents. I had plans to make a bunch of these, but they took longer than I thought (those darn bobbles!). This will be a nice gift for future Christmases or birthdays, though.

Finally, I made a knitter's wreath for my Aunt Pat. Sorry for the bad photo. I'll have more details about the cherries and the ND washcloth pattern soon. I also have one still-unfinished present that I hope to have done in the next week. After all that cotton knitting, I can't wait to get back to wool.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy MLK Day

"While our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed. What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry — an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels." (President-elect Barack Obama, speech at Philadelphia train station, Jan. 17, 2009)

I've been excitedly following all the hoopla leading up to the historic inauguration of Obama tomorrow. I wish I could be there, but I am living vicariously through my sister, Amy. She and her husband, along with their friend Kathy in Baltimore, have tickets not only to the actual swearing in ceremony but also to the Illinois ball, which Obama is likely to drop by. Lucky for all of us, she is blogging about her experiences. Check it out at: Inauguration Vacation. Even though I can't be there, my clothes are. Amy is wearing one of my formal dresses to the ball.

Why I've been AWOL

"Even after all this time, the Sun never says to the Earth, 'You owe me.' Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky." (Hafiz)

One word: Sam. Those of you who have written to ask if I'm still alive correctly guessed that I've been a little overwhelmed with the new baby. He is doing wonderfully, seems well attached and is healthy and thriving. His parents--not so much. We love him to death, but the sleep deprivation was really severe there for awhile. He had gotten used to co-sleeping with me, so I was bearing most of it, though thank God Ed was home most days to let me get some naps.

Well, now I am back at work, teaching two nights a week, so Sam had to learn to go to bed with Daddy. It was pretty traumatic, but I think things are getting a little better. He now goes almost four hours between bottles at night, though he still sometimes wakes up very frequently (every half hour or hour) to be soothed. We have introduced the pacifier (thanks, Amy!) and that seems to be helping. He also is sleeping in the crib for the beginning of the night.

Now that Ed and I are sharing the sleep deprivation, it doesn't seem as bad. I get a good night's sleep three nights a week (before and after teaching) and Ed gets to sleep the night before he works as a substitute teacher. The other nights we sleep with him together. Of course, it doesn't help that it's been COLD here in Chicago and we have a bit of cabin fever from being cooped up in the house, too.

Anyway, enough about our sleep troubles. To any of my readers who have stuck with me these past two months with no posts, I do hope to post again somewhat regularly about knitting and crafts. Believe it or not, I actually did do some knitting for Christmas! I'll do a little Christmas catch-up in the next few posts.

Meanwhile, here are two cute pictures of the little guy. He has such a happy little personality, and Ed and I are just in awe that we have this amazing little boy to care for. We're trying to see this difficult time as an investment in his attachment needs and future mental health. He's "this close" to walking on his own and really babbling now. His first words (in addition to Mama and Dada) are "cup" and "hop."