Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our girl is 2

"There is only one thing necessary: to be what God wants us to be." (Thomas Merton)

Sophie has a dreaded between-Christmas-and-New-Year birthday, but we are trying to make sure it doesn't get lost in the holidays. This year Grandma and Grandpa hosted a party for her in Wisconsin, with the Manions also in attendance. 

Sam eventually got some "birthday spirit," but for weeks had been erasing the birthday cake on the dry-erase calendar. I knew he wouldn't want to share the felt birthday crown I had made for him (but thought would be used by both kids).

So I made her one of her own. I put a cupcake on it, and was going to do some stars and balloons, then decided to embroider "Happy birthday" in Chinese. 

You can see the Chinese characters a bit better in this photo. The cupcake is a little catty-wampus, but it works.

This was Sophie's first birthday with us and her first Christmas. I can't believe it's already been almost a year since she came home. It's funny that she's rarely smiling in photos, because she is a very happy little girl. Such a sweetie. And now, the terrible twos..

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Handmade holidays #2

"One kind word can warm three winter months." (Japanese proverb)
Looking back, I did actually make more gifts than I thought. This was a last-minute one for my Dad--a small felt bag for carrying candy canes when he is portraying a certain Jolly Old Elf. I just created my own pattern, and used felt from sweaters. Cost: $0.
My niece wanted an eyelash curler and some makeup, so I made this little makeup bag to hold her gift. I was so excited to make it out of something from my stash--a pair of silky boxers with a makeup print. I can't find the tutorial I used, but it was very similar to this one. I was pretty happy with how it turned out, but, boy, was that satiny fabric hard to sew! In retrospect, I probably should have lined it. Again, cost: $0. (Zipper was from my stash.)
Finally, I made a couple of these little mini-stockings out of felt to hold Borders gift certificates for my godchildren. Felt from sweaters, a few buttons, a little hand-sewing, and voila! Cost: $0.
Of course, the other handmade gift this year was little jars of raspberry jam made from raspberries from our back yard. I gave this to a bunch of people this year, wrapped in some fabric with a cute little tag. 
Nothing major, but these small, handmade items made Christmas a little more special. And all were free, or nearly free.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Handmade Holiday #1

"Not only is the Bible extensive in its teaching on wealth and poverty, but it is uncomfortably clear and plain. There is not the ambiguity and complexity that one finds in some other subjects ... The Bible is clearly and emphatically on the side of the poor."  (Bob Sabath)

Although I have little time for crafting--between a full-time job, freelance writing and two toddlers--I am still committed to making as many gifts as possible. Not only is it more meaningful and economical, but I am trying to be more committed to not buying into (pun intended!) the whole commercial culture of stuff and more stuff. So it's even better when I can make something out of something that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

One of my favorite media is felt from recycled sweaters, of course. And I've wanted to make some coffee cozies for a long time. It's a double environmental whammy because then you don't have to use a disposable paper one. I had the idea to make some with the ND logo for my South Bend friends. I was initially going to embroider it, but then decided to go with felt applique. I just used a paper cozy as the pattern, cut the outside, navy felt with pinking shears, stitched on the gold felt and appliqued the ND logo, which I had cut from navy felt.

Here's one being modeled on a Packer cup. Now I just have to make one for myself. I always forget to do that!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stash-busting for charity

"There is no enlightenment outside of daily life." (Thich Nhat Hanh)

A while back, actually a long while back (BK-Before Kids), I started knitting up some of my stash yarn into hats, scarves and mittens, with the idea that I would donate them to a charity. Then they sat in a bag in my craft room for too long. This year, our giving tree at church had some tags that said "Women's knit hat" so I grabbed two, plus one that said "man's knit scarf."

My first women's hat recipient got this grey wool-blend hat with pink flower detail, plus matching mittens and a scarf. This flower comes from a tutorial from the first blogger I ever read. It's here.

This men's scarf was a stash-buster for a bunch of wool and wool-blend green yarns I seemed to have accumulated. I did straight garter stitch and a random color blocking with two strands of yarn. Then I added fringe. It was super long, so I hope it keeps its recipient nice and warm.

Sorry for the blurry photo. Here's a close-up. Ed had his eyes on this one, but I told him it was already promised to charity.

Finally, I knit a purple hat using Soule Mama's favorite hat pattern , but when I knit only 4 rounds of the pattern, it was way too short, so that one got tossed in the kids' hat basket. The second one, knit with 2 strands of worsted, was more adult-sized. I paired it with a scarf that combined a soft purple yarn (can't remember which) with the same purple wool.

Getting these projects off to good homes felt good! But believe it or not, I had three more possible sets that I wasn't able to finish in time for the giving tree deadline. Maybe next year...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Things I've thrifted 2

"You sanctify whatever you are grateful for." (Anthony de Mello, SJ.)
I picked up these napkins earlier this year. Love the 70s colors and prints. I think they'll be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. We're hosting Ed's brother and sister-in-law from Kentucky along with their two kids (almost 4 and 1). I hope the cousins get along!
This year I'm so grateful that our family is complete and our kids are doing well (not sleeping the best, but otherwise doing well). It's been a bumpy few years, but I'm happy with our life. It's busy, but good.
Ed's brother brought cranberry-pear pie, homemade bread and wild rice stuffing. We're doing the turkey, brandied sweet potatoes (family recipe), mashed potatoes, cranberry orange relish, salad and pumpkin pie. Should be a feast. 
Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. Among the things I'm grateful for is the community I've found online. Happy Turkey Day!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yes, I can!

 "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." (Albert Camus) 

Wow, I can't believe it's been almost three months since I've posted to this poor, neglected blog. That would be when the new semester began and my life got crazy busy with teaching, writing and of course trying to keep up with the kid and things at home. There has been precious little crafting, but plenty of food preservation going on here.

Today I:

  1. Made applesauce with apples from our Indiana apple picking adventure. I canned four pints and had some leftover for the kids to eat today. This was my second batch this week, so we now have 8 pints of applesauce in the basement.
  2. While I had the canner going, I skinned, chopped and canned a pint of tomatoes. I had a TON of green tomatoes at the end of the season. They're in paper bags trying to ripe, but I'm not having much luck.
  3.  Except with the cherry tomatoes, which are ripening nicely. I dried a batch of those in the oven today. I think I've done about 5-6 batches of these this fall. They're yummy. Can't wait to put them in salads, on pizza, in spaghetti sauce. 
  4. Chopped, cooked and pureed two small pie pumpkins--froze half the puree and made a pumpkin pie out of the other half. Pumpkin seeds are soaking and reading for drying/baking tomorrow. 

Whew! I was on a mission. And I still have several pumpkins left and a bunch of apples that I think I'll try freezing. I had food preservation on the brain, because I recently wrote a column about it for National Catholic Reporter. I'll link to it once it's online.

I have done a little bit of knitting and have just started some Christmas crafting, so will try to do a little catch-up and get back in the habit of blogging. Although I'm not posting, I'm still out there reading (a bit). It's the only relaxing thing I do to unwind after a long, tiring day.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Well preserved

"My deepest vocation is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch." (Henri Nouwen)

Here is what I have preserved so far this summer:
  • 1 batch 3-berry freezer jam with agave (not sweet enough)
  • 2 batches watermelon pickles (about 6 pints each batch)
  • 12 small jars raspberry jam (for Christmas gift-giving)
  • 1 large bag frozen raspberries
  • 6 jelly jars of blueberry/agave jam (many already gifted)
  • 5 pints chopped tomatoes from the garden
  • 3 pints canned salsa (w/tomatoes from the garden)
  • 7 batches of frozen pesto (plus two batches we've already eaten and several gifted!)
  • 2 batches of dried cherry tomatoes (frozen) from the garden

This is actually fresh salsa. No recipe, just tomatoes, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, red onion, cilantro and lime juice. So tasty!

I do actually have some knitting to post from some late-summer projects and hope to get to that soon. I know everyone is in back-to-school mode, and so am I with lots of class prep and Sam getting ready for his first day of preschool. But the blog will probably still be very summery for the next weeks, as I finish up preserving as much of the bounty from our garden (and the farmer's market) as I can. 

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    Raspberry jam

    I'm catching up with photos of all the preserving I've been doing. Here's the yummy raspberry jam made from raspberries from our (and a neighbor down the alley's) raspberries. I still used the Pomona for gelling, but went with real sugar this time.

    I bought these cute little jars for the jam, and got 12 whole jars out of this one recipe. This is so going to be one of my Christmas gifts this year!

    My canner is really just a garage-sale seafood pot with some cake racks in the bottom. I use regular tongs. I've recently read (on my favorite canning blog, "Food in Jars," that some makers of these ceramic top stoves say you can't use them for canning, but I've had no trouble."
    Here they are all canned. I love hearing the "pings" when they come out of the water. I've never had a problem with anythings sealing yet (knock on wood).

    This is what was left, so our family ate it up. It was especially yummy on top of a bagel with cream cheese.
    Today I saw new raspberries on our bushes, so I think we're going to get a second crop. So far, none on the bushes down the alley. I would love to do another dozen of these!

    **Sorry no quote on this post. For some reason Blogger is not letting me insert text before the first photo.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Ode to summer

    "Some things ... arrive on their own mysterious hour, on their own terms and not yours, to be seized or relinquished forever." (Gail Godwin)

    Is that gorgeous or what? I've been harvesting basil and tomatoes like crazy these past few weeks (and taking lots of pictures but too busy to post them here). I've also been "putting up"--canning, freezing, drying. It's so fun!

    On a much sadder note, a 9-year-old boy from our parish (a family from our adoptive families group) drowned in Lake Michigan last weekend while on vacation with his family. If you could, please keep his parents and sister (from China) in your thoughts and prayers. 

    Tuesday, August 03, 2010

    Xie Xie*

    "Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others." (St. Augustine)

    Some of you may remember this cute "3 Little Pigs" blankie made by my blog friend Diane of Woolie Wanderings, who lives in Scotland but travels all over Europe doing fun things. I live vicariously through her! And congratulations are in order because she just bought a new flat and is busy decorating. 

    Well, no sooner were we home with Sophie than she was emailing me wanting to make a matching blankie for her. Sam's pig one referenced his being born in the Year of the Pig, but she had a hard time making a "rat" connection for Sophie. So she went with Little Red Riding Hood. Isn't she adorable?

    The blankies are made from recycled felt and have tons of cool detail (including a squeeky toy inside). She does beautiful embroidery (and also is quite the knitter). Arrival of this beautiful gift was delayed by the volcano ash, and I've been very remiss in not posting pictures and thanking Diane publicly. 

    She included a little mousy/rat, too. We still haven't finished Sam and Sophie's room, but I have an idea about how I want to display these--and some other handmade gifts the kids have received. Stay tuned...

     *** Xie Xie is "thank you" in Chinese (Mandarin).

    Saturday, July 31, 2010

    Things I've thrifted

    "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." (Dr. Seuss) 

    You'd think from my lack of posts about thrifting that I never hit the thrift stores anymore. Though I did slow down while we were still in the condo and things were getting, ahem, "crowded," now that I have a basement and craft room I'm free to buy a few treasures again (though still trying to have some restraint. Our house isn't that big!)

    I do find a little time to occasionally shop the thifts; I just don't have time to write about my finds! So rather than feel guilty that I don't document my purchases right after I buy them, I'm instead going to do some occasional posts about "Things I've Thrifted" in the past months that never made it onto the blog.

    That said, I bought these three Pyrex bowls just last week at the Salvation Army. While running an errand to the grocery store, I braved the SA with both kids in tow. I don't think I've ever been there in the morning before, and they were just putting things out--which is why I think I scored these. They were dirty (still need a little better cleaning as you can see from these photos!) but is a gorgeous set of three "Cinderella" bowls in the cool aqua color. 

    As you can tell from this ebay listing, my set is missing the largest teal bowl. A set of all four goes for about $60. I paid $12 for all three, which is no super-bargain, but not bad. I can't decide if I want to risk using these in the kitchen (breakage a very real possibility) or save them for display in our "new" kitchen (kitchen redo on hold for now unfortunately) or in the craft room.

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Happy update

    Our friends for whom I made the "Cutest. Dress. Ever" (post below) got their referral the day after I posted this! YEA!!!!! And it's an 18-month-old girl who should fit into this dress perfectly. They hope to travel by fall. I will keep praying till that little girl is home with them. So excited for them (and for Sophie, who will have a little friend only two weeks older than she is!)

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Cutest. Dress. Ever.

    "The secret of patience... to do something else in the meantime." (Anon.) 

    This is a very special dress--for a very special little girl. Our friends are in the process of adopting from Nepal, and about a year into it, the process has not been smooth. The mother-to-be just got back from a visit to Nepal, where she stayed in a few ashrams and unfortunately contracted Typhoid. She's all better now, and back to waiting for news of a referral.

    The dress is the Soli pattern (ravelry link here). I knit the Size 4 with Patons Grace on Size 7 needles, so it wouldn't get too dense and heavy. I love the pink/brown combo and the seed stitch top (make that: I love the look of seed stitch; I hate knitting it.) The skirt is a ton of stockinette. 
    The flowers were my own design element. I used this easy flower pattern from "For the Love of Yarn," an online knitting 'zine that is no longer published but still up. 

    I learned to do something new with this project: CROCHET! The pattern calls for single crocheting around the armholes and neckline, which I was going to skip, until I read a Ravelry comment that warned not to, otherwise the neckline will stretch horribly. So I followed an online video, and did it! I don't think I"ll be taking up crochet anytime soon, though. I have a hard time with the tension.

    Now, back to praying that our friends get a referral soon--and that it's a girl! (I started this back in December for her shower; they've since changed their paperwork to say they're open to either gender.)

    This has to be one of the cutest things I've ever knit. I know another little girl one would so adorable on. And I have some yarn left...

    Friday, July 09, 2010

    Berry berry good

    "So tell the earth to shake / With marching feet / Of messengers of peace / Proclaim my law of love / To every nation / Every race." (Thomas Merton, from his poem, "Earthquake")

    I am having so much fun harvesting and preserving from our garden. My favorite so far has been our raspberry bushes. The kids love to pick a few for breakfast in the morning. Luckily, I have discovered a gold mine of raspberry bushes that have grown into a nearby alley--and the owner does not pick them at all! Almost every day I pick about a pint!

    I made some three-berry freezer jam with raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, using agave instead of sugar (having learned from fellow bloggers about Pomona's Universal Pectin). It's definitely not sweet. I think I'd use more than 2/3 cup of agave next time.

    Here's my little helper! This week I harvested enough raspberries to make some raspberry jam in jars. Speaking of food in jars, I've been getting lots of tips from this blog.

    Also on deck: another batch of watermelon pickles. And tonight we picked our first ripe tomato--a cherry one, which Sophie promptly popped in her mouth, then spit out!

    Thursday, July 01, 2010

    Gardening as grace

    "Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace." (May Sarton)

    Here are some garden "before" and "afters"--or really "before" and "durings." This is the herb garden. On the top is when it was first planted; in the middle is from a few weeks ago; and the bottom one is most recent. I had to add a fence to keep the kids out (Sophie pulled the basil in the corner.) I added another basil, a dill and a cilantro plant (visible in third photo). I've never had much luck with cilantro--it has always burned and gone to seed, but that was in pots, so we'll see. Everything seems to be growing really well.

    We have 10 tomato plants, a variety of cherry, plum and regular. The top photo is the ones planted against the garage, with some strawberries in between them. (We had a few berries, but bunnies or squirrels ate them before we ever could.)

    Here are the three heirloom plants, again from a few weeks ago. I added those cages a bit late, but just in time. Now they are about 4 feet tall and over the tops of the cages. However, to be honest, there aren't a ton of blooms and no fruit yet. But they are huge. It's amazing to see something grow so fast.

    These three plants on the right are also quite a bit taller now. I see a few cherry and plum tomatoes on them. (That's a strawberry to the left.)

    And these are a mixture of tomatoes I planted in another bed, just to compare which area does better. These are rather small; and I haven't even put cages around them. But there are quite a few plum and cherry tomatoes on them. It's a constant struggle to make sure Sam doesn't pick them!

    I'll have some updated photos soon, hopefully showing some early harvests!