Handmade Holiday #5 (I think!)

As I said several posts ago, I wanted to give handmade gifts this Christmas even if I didn’t do the making.  Well, I am so excited that dear Ol’ St. Nick held up his end of the bargain.  Santa enlisted the talent and imagination of a fine knitter from The Paws Button.  Two of the sweetest little friends came to join our family on Christmas morning.  The pup’s name is Winston, and the bear is Francisco.

Francisco arrived wearing a wonderful blue cape–a delight to our often cape-wearing 5 year old.  Of course, little brother wanted a cape for his puppy, so on Christmas morning I cut a puppy-sized cape from wool felt.  Now, Winston is better known as “Super Puppy” in our home.  Our 2 year old especially loves these fellows.

I love to support artists and crafters.  It makes me feel great to know that people really can devote themselves to making beautiful things and be rewarded financially and personally, whether or not they are “professionals.”  I’ve become a frequent visitor to Art Asana.  Eliza, the blog’s author, is really living her dreams in both art and yoga, and I admire her talent and dedication SO much.  I don’t do yoga, but I love Eliza’s reflections on the body and living without fear.  She is a real find!  So when I was trying to think of a Christmas gift for my niece Stephanie, the Art Asana shop came to mind.  I wish I had taken a snapshot of the print before wrapping it for Stephanie, but the piece that I chose is a brightly colored mixed-media creation featuring a beautiful tree and the word “Trust.”  The print seemed perfect for a young woman’s apartment as she bravely works her way toward finding her own path in the world.  “Trust” is a confidence word.  Trust is about having faith and leaning into it.  How different would our daily lives be if–filled with faith and trust–we just let go and waited for God to come in and meet us right we surrender?  Would we take greater risks?  Be willing to give our dreams a real test run instead of just daydreaming about them?  Hey…maybe I need to get the picture back from Stephanie!  Haha…I know I need that message myself 🙂

So…thank you to Eliza and “The Paws Button” for bringing the magic of handmade goodness to my family.

Flowers in My House

There are flowers in my house.  We had a celebration on Sunday afternoon (1/9)–a simple meal, a crumbling (but yummy) homemade cake to cheer a much-loved husband into his next year of life.  I scrambled to dust and sweep and remove the grime from the refrigerator door–hoping with each swipe that everyone does this in the minutes before guests arrive.  Last Friday, into the grocery store I trooped my two little men (zipped into puffy coats that always rub against the winter crud of everyone’s vehicle).  I had finally decided that the birthday cake would be a Boston Cream this year.  I needed eggs, flour, and unexpectedly, the small bouquet of white carnations for only $1.99.  Now, there are flowers in my house.

 My mom is great at “keeping house.”  Sometimes I wish she wasn’t so good so I wouldn’t have to feel like an incompetent lug when dishes pile up and the bed goes unmade for days.  (Important Note: Mom never tries to make me feel like an incompetent lug.  In fact, she constantly reminds me that I don’t remember the days when my sister and I were tiny girls and Mom scrambled around trying to gather toys before Daddy got home, and the drywall dust from Dad’s latest home project covered everything like powdered sugar on a warm brownie.)  When Mom has cleaned her whole house, leaving tidy vacuum tracks in the dining room carpet, she lights candles.  I also light candles after a good cleaning, but best of all, I love to have flowers in my house.

That bouquet of $1.99 carnations brought a little extra life to our kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.  Three small vases of white blooms remind me of the growth that happens even in these winter months.  They remind me that a celebration has happened here.  Almost a week later, the tidy vases still bring a note of festivity to a January home. 

(Oh…I should admit that I learned the flower trick from my mom, too!)

“Handmade Holiday” Part Three

Ah!  Something I actually made.  Months and months ago, my mom-in-law asked if I could make her a roll brim winter hat like I made for my older son last fall.  I was so pleased that she asked!  Her favorite colors are hunter green and purple, and I loved this 100% wool from Cascade.  I used the free “Knit Roll Brim Hat” pattern from www.redheart.com, although I did change the top slightly.  The finished product coordinates with the scarf I made a few years ago (before I knew that stockinette stitch rolls up no matter how much you block it).  And guess what!  I actually finished it before gift-giving-time on Christmas Eve.

“Handmade Holiday” Part Two

I was born into a do-it-yourself kind of family.  We love to tell the story of my parents’ home.  My mom and dad were engaged and in their twenties when they began looking for their future home.  Dad liked the plot of land along the river.  It was a camp with two tiny bedrooms, a little kitchen, and a space that was sort of a living area with just enough room to turn around.  The realtor shook his head and asserted that they “could never actually live there.”  Dad (of course, no one called him that then!) had other ideas.  He bought the camp.  He made lots of drawings.  He made lots of plans.  They married in May, and they moved into the camp despite my Grandma’s concerns.  My mom got to work sweeping out dried leaves that squirrels used as bedding, and she sewed curtains for the kitchen window.  Dad wasn’t trained in building a house, but with books and friends and a heap of common sense, he turned the camp into a home.  He needed a basement, so he dug a hole.  He needed heat.  The furnace broke; he literally tossed it into the driveway and installed a wood burning stove.  That was just the beginning of a life of DIY.  That kind of life has definitely rubbed off on me.  I hate the idea of hiring people to do things, and fortunately, we’ve been able to avoid that so far.  (Thankfully, I have a husband who is always willing to learn and to try, a dad who loves to help, and a father-in-law who is handy as well.) 

I have been taught–often simply by observation–to value work and effort and creative problem solving.  I learned very early on that creating things with my hands  and my imagination is fun and rewarding.  Even when the cookies burn or the stitches run crooked, I love the sense of play that comes with cooking and crafting and fixing.  I especially love sharing these creative pursuits with family members–making cards with Mom (or just admiring hers), reminding my sister how to knit (even though she has decided that sewing is her thing).

When I get wrapped up in all the wonderful things that I read on other people’s blogs and I’m feeling all giddy with inspiration, I sometimes forget that this urge to create and discover and build a life of creativity came a long time before I discovered blogging or got a library card to a well-stocked urban library.  My mom and dad, along with my grandparents taught me to love doing things myself–sometimes out of necessity, sometimes just for fun.  Oh, the stories I can tell!

This Christmas demonstrated that the people who love me know what I value and support my efforts even when I fall short of the holiday perfection that I planned.  By my calculation, too few of the gifts we gave were homemade, but the gifts I received said, “We know you.  We love you.  And we know that you can do so many things.”  Thank you, precious family.

My parents gave us a cute little one-pint ice cream maker.  We made dessert on New Years Day!

Dad bought me this gorgeous Dutch oven in our extended family gift exchange.  I am totally in love!

Mom and Dad gave me Artisan Breads EverydayCan’t wait to get baking.  My sister and her hubby gave me Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table.  You can learn more about Molly at her wonderful blog, OrangetteI’ve placed her on my Links list to the right.

And the yarn.  Ah!  It’s heavenly.  My sister and my brother-in-law gifted me with this sweet, sweet cotton, especially chosen for a dear little summer baby.  I’ve been browsing patterns, and I’m looking for just the right tiny something.

I had trouble capturing the perfect, baby green of this yarn, but these shots come close.  Doesn’t it look soft?  It is!

1-1-11 and “A Handmade Holiday” Part I

Happy New Year!  Good-bye, 2010.  We had a blessed year in 2010.  My hubby completed his degree.  We watched as our sweet son turned five and successfully entered Kindergarten with barely a glance back.  We learned that we would soon welcome a third child into our family.  We’ve watch our second child grow tremendously in his speech over the last few months, and that means that we get to enjoy twice as many of the sweet (and funny) things that kids say.  I never want to forget that our two year old wished everyone a “Merry Pick-us” this year. 

When 2010 began, I had two primary resolutions.  First, I would learn to sew.  I’m still not an expert by any stretch, but as you’ll see below, I can now handle the basic operation of my sewing machine.  I love sewing, and I hope to set aside more time for it in the coming year.  Secondly, I resolved to move forward with my graduate studies with “vigor, enthusiasm, and commitment.”  That particular goal took an unexpected turn in May when I decided to postpone the final stage of my work and perhaps shift subject-matter entirely.  Well, it wasn’t completely surprising to me.  I contemplated the choice at length with perpetual prayer and a critical eye, but I think it might have been largely unexpected for many people in my life.

As I enter 2011, I have the freedom to learn new things every day.  I can practice a knitting technique or read up on the latest research on overuse of antibiotics.  I can make clay animals with my sons or sit down with my husband for a cup of Earl Grey when our little guys are in their bunk beds.  I can read Little Women AGAIN just because I feel like it.  So…given this freedom, how will I resolve to improve myself and my family in the coming year?

1.  I will keep a tidy (not perfect, just tidy) home.  Organization does not come naturally to me, so I will be putting a very specific plan into place in order to work toward this goal.  More about my plans later. 

2.  I will listen to more music.  Okay, this might sound like a silly goal, dear readers, but I have some real reasons.  I promise.  Sometimes, even a house full of the sounds of two very active little boys seems too empty, too quiet.  I find myself turning on and leaving on talk radio or random podcasts even when I don’t have a real interest in the topic. My recent pattern is the masked return of an old habit that I thought I had broken.  I used to put on the television…not to watch, just to have sound…when my husband wasn’t around or he was working in our home office (a.k.a. the attic).  My brain would feel frantic without sound.  Once my kids started paying attention to the TV, I made myself turn it off.  But little by little, I’ve noticed that I’m giving into the need for sound again.  Pretty harmless, right?  Probably.  But sometimes I find myself placing more attention on the radio show than the play of my kids.  I become disengaged from the learning and fun right in front of me, and my mind heads into thoughts of politics, religion, and other assorted topics.  The solution?  Music.  Good music that lifts my spirits and exposes my children to new, rich sounds.  I can have the sounds I need without being distract from the present.  And if the music gets us up and dancing, even better!  I’ve been in a music rut for years, so I’m eager for your suggestions!

3.  I resolve to appear in more of our family photographs.  I will not stay behind the camera!

On to Christmas…

Way back in the summer when Christmas felt like forever away, I promised myself that I would have a “Handmade Holiday” this year.  I would make gifts for loved ones, and the gifts that I didn’t make would be handmade by another crafter or would support a private business.  In the fall, I made my commitment official by signing up here .  (But I see now that I’ve been deleted.  Hmm…I was there a couple of weeks ago.  I guess I didn’t update my blog enough.)  Anyway, as Christmas approached, I was disappointed that I didn’t have as many handmade gifts as I had hoped.  I felt sad that the end-of-semester rush kept me from making some of the projects I had planned, but throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the aesthetic of “handmade” that I so love kept coming up in small but inspiring ways.  I’ll share our bits of “Handmade Holiday” in several posts.

On Christmas Eve, the boys and I made salt dough ornaments inspired by this amazing post by Katy Elliot. 

Wow.  This project certainly brought back memories.  My sister and I often played with salt dough at Grandma Kitty’s house.  I clearly remember a dough birthday cake that we painted pink with watercolors.  We poked holes in the top of the cake so that we could stick the required number of candles in it.  So much fun!

That’s my sister’s pretty little hand putting one of our ornaments on our parents’ tree.

“O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by…”

I’ve had this owl pennant on the list of potential gifts for months.  I found it here at Moonstitches.  I have no idea how I came across this blog or its 2007 post, but as soon as I saw these spunky little owls, I knew I had to make them for my sister.  Then, I grew so fond of them that I decided that my mom needed a set as well. 

The original pattern calls for linen for the belly pieces, but I chose to use wool felt to avoid fraying or any need for ironing.  I hate ironing.  I just slipping the jiggle bells over the twine, so my sister and my mom can easily remove the bells if they want their pennants to be year-round decorations.  “Joy” isn’t only for Christmas, you know.

I’ll have more to share soon.  Wishing you a healthy, happy, and creative 2011!