Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More Handmade Gifts

I'm dreaming of spring gardens.  On Christmas Eve, the new Burpee catalog arrived, maybe that's what started it.  I have been getting Last Chance! emails in my In Box regularly from several seed and plant companies, but the new shiny catalog really caught my eye.  And now that all my Christmas projects are over, I have time to consider a new direction.  But before I delve into all my green aspirations, I thought we should visit the last of the Christmas projects... 

I had big plans that did not make it to the Done list this year - knitted ornaments for all my loved ones, embroidered gift tags for all my gift recipients; ah well.  I did make a Calorimetry for my brother's wife, who actually said she wanted "one of those big headband things."  I wish I'd gotten a picture of it on her, it looked much cuter on her than on me.  Of course, I bought the yarn with her in mind so that's as it should be.  But first, I made these Toastys for her which are just like mine that I love.  This is actually the same yarn I used but different colorway, and I worked to get the color change at the same spot.  Since this is 100% wool, I just broke the yarn where I wanted to start and felted/spliced the piece I broke off to the end.  No waste! 

And now for the felted hat.  BFJ's brother told me he wanted a Scots Bonnet.  When I looked that up on Ravelry I was surprised how few there are, because I know there are a lot of Scotch/Irish lovers who knit.  There was one pattern that looked like it would work.  Now, what color?  I was knitting a sock (currently mateless) on Thanksgiving when he walked by and said, "That's the color of yarn I've been looking for."  Luckily he doesn't shop at yarn stores and was having a hard time finding 100% wool (for felting), so I knew I'd beat him to it.  If you're a knitter and you've never felted you should definitely give it a try!  Here's the hat before felting, modeled by Zoom... 

And here it is after felting, again modeled by Zoom, and with a grosgrain ribbon edging. 

I knew what was going to happen, but I still found it amazing!  I'm not sure I ended up with exactly the hat my brother-in-law wanted.  I think he might have had something more like this in mind.  Regardless, he seemed to like it and I loved felting so much that I think I'm going to make myself a felted hat or two this year!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Handmade Christmas Gifts

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  Our end-of-week was packed, and we're not done yet!  But now that most of the gifts have been opened, I can show you some of the things I made. 

Shamrock Fingerless Gloves
Last December, I decided that I was not going to let another Christmas go by without making something for my sister-in-law.  She's always there when I need her, she's intelligent and funny, and one of the best friends I have.  Being part Irish, she likes all things Irish.  In February I spotted this pattern on Ravelry, I knew I wanted to make these for her.  I was hoping to get them done by March 17th but being a new knitter, that was laughable; I had never done color work.  That didn't stop me from trying, though.  Luckily I bumped into Marly several times while I was working on these and she gave me some pointers.  Having just fallen in love with my own fingerless gloves, I decided to make these fingerless as well.  So here they are:

Yarn:  Knit Picks Palette Yarn (recommended on pattern) in Bittersweet Heather, and Clover
More details on Ravelry here (you need a Rav membership to view).   

The major modification I made was drawing up a new color chart so that the vines fade out into the background.  I made one glove the "right" way and it was too small.  At that point, I considered other colors since I was going to have to make two more; there are several great color combinations on Ravelry that have nothing to do with green.  Eventually I decided I did want green, though, so I went back to the colors I started with. 

This sister-in-law just started knitting but fortunately she did not have a Ravelry page yet, (but now she should get one!), and she liked them.

Cabled Socks
I love the photo-to-yarn-dye process on Knitting on Impulse.  When my mom asked for more socks for Christmas, I had a great excuse to buy some.  My mom likes blue so I got this Lupin color in superwash merino and silk.  I've had this yarn for a couple of months but other things kept taking up my time and I didn't get a chance to start this project until we were already into December.  I also had a hard time picking a pattern.  In the end, I made up my own.  I had to try them on (to make sure they fit, and for pictures; you know!) and think I'll make myself a pair.  I'm glad I took good notes.  I finished these on Tuesday!  My mom loved them.

I have a couple of other gifts to show, including a felted hat, but I think that may have to wait.  I received some yarn shop gift cards from more than one person and they're burning a hole in my pocket!  Plus, LOADS of laundry to catch up on, trash to pick up, kids to feed.  I'll be back in a day or two!

Happy end-of-the-year. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Top Ten

Ah; here we are, warming bellies by the fire. 

Sorry that's blurry, I didn't use a flash because I didn't want to alert them to my presence.  I'm working away on my last handmade Christmas gift, and my last batch of Christmas cards.  It's been snowing since last night, nice and Christmassy, and we've had a fire going this evening. 

What we ended up with for our last host/ess gift was homemade marshmallows.  BFJ made one batch that turned out like this: 

So he made another batch which luckily turned out like this (after cutting):

I am so excited to show you some of the gifts I've made but I guess I can wait a few more days.  I felted my first item this week.  That was nerve-wracking.  I don't know why I waited until the last minute to do that.  I didn't leave myself much margin for error but it turned out very nice. 

Thimbleanna posted her Top Ten favorite things about Christmas and I thought I would do the same, only a little different...

1.   Favorite smell:  fresh cut pine
2.   Favorite song:  Silent Night
3.   Favorite story:  the original
4.   Favorite movie:  White Christmas
5.   Actually I have more than one favorite movie:  A Charlie Brown Christmas
6.   Favorite memory:  being in the house by myself, lights off except for the Christmas lights, Christmas music playing.  (I grew up in the parsonage, so the adults were not far away.) 
7.   Favorite seasonal activity:  going downtown to see The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol. 
8.   Favorite gift received: a dollhouse my grandpa made
9.   Favorite holiday food:  oh it's so hard to choose; chocolate cookies and green bean casserole (not together) are at the top
10. Favorite thing to do on Christmas:  sit and read/do a puzzle/stitch, by the fire

We're finally getting down to the point where we can start counting the hours instead of the days!  Finally.  I don't think I can keep explaining how many days left, how many days between, whether the white link on the chain is Christmas or Christmas Eve... 

Friday, December 18, 2009

More and Less

I got a facial for my birthday; that's what I said I wanted and thoughtfully he granted.  While I was laying in the semi-dark, facing a new year in my life, a new year on the calendar, I had some time for reflection.  This isn't a list of resolutions; I'm not quitting anything, just doing a little less of some things and a little more of others...

  Less    More   
soda    water
driving    walking 
 talking    listening
planning    doing    
     wistfulness   being content   
watching   reading 
watching    playing 
lecturing    loving   
saying   being
  chocolate...   just kidding

Let's don't get crazy, now. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hat and Butterflies

Hello out there!  I am still swimming through Christmas projects.  I have had to eliminate some in order to enjoy the season.  I am putting those off for next year; something to do in January.  In the meantime, I can't remember if I've ever posted about this but I designed my own hat!  I made it last January when I was working at the stock show and needed something to keep my head warm on the way too and from the car.  I had only been knitting three months so maybe I should call this my Beginner's Luck Hat.  I won't, though.  I love this hat, it is so warm, and I love cables, but it does look like it could use a little blocking.  One day soon I'm going to publish the pattern! 

And since we're discussing me, I'm a year older this week.  Happy Birthday to me!  I'm not one of those people that hates birthdays.  Even if I accomplished nothing in the past year, I'm still alive so therefore have all the potential in the world to do something Incredible the very next minute from now.  You just never know.  

As previously mentioned, I made two of these little Whirligig Shrugs; here's the second.  I hope the mommy's not reading this but I'm going to risk it.  I made this for my one and only niece.  You can't believe how hard it was to find an outfit that complimented this AND matched.  I was looking for red but apparently red was not The Thing the month I was looking.  (I should have waited until December, of course.)  I embroidered a little butterfly on the sleeve of the shrug to match the pants pocket.  I love the way it came out if I say so myself. 

Pattern:  Whirligig Shrug by Stephanie Japel
from Interweave Knits Weekend
Yarn:  Cottonease

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Downtown Denver

I love going downtown, especially at Christmas time.  I was hoping for more shots, of the May D&F Tower, of 16th Street...  but the little wrestlers in the back did not allow for a long car ride.  Maybe next time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Slipper Socks: Medium.

I have a lot of things in my head that I wanted to blog about before Christmas but the month is getting away from me!  I'm going to cram some of it in today. 

I heard this advice a few years ago and it has not steered me wrong:   Don't buy something for a gift that you wouldn't want to receive yourself; unless you know the recipient specifically wants it.  For example, all the piles of kitschy little gifts in the middle of all the department store aisles: those are not for your friends.  Unless one of them is like BFJ, he likes those. 
This sentiment is epitomized by a scene in The Ref.  Everyone has spent years sucking up to the family matriarch, hoping for her blessing on business enterprises and such, as she holds all the family money.  Christine Baranski plays a woman who receives slipper socks from this tight-fisted mother-in-law for Christmas.  When the truths start boiling over among all the players and Christine's character speaks up, Mother Rose asks "Who do you think you are?"  I love the reponse: "Slipper socks.  Medium." 

I think a small but lovely gift is never out of place.  Consider some excellent chocolates, some luxurious body butter (one of my favorites is from The Body Shop); better yet, give a little of yourself: your favorite book, a fat stack of your favorite new line of fabric or skein of yarn you'd buy for yourself.   How about writing thoughtful letter stating what's so great about this friend of yours.

And now for a little more etiquette:  how about thank you notes?  I admit, I don't send them out every time, and sometimes I don't get to all the gifts.  I try to write thank yous for people I don't know well, like the boys' friends, or for shower gifts.  I don't mind if I don't get a thank you note every time but when I get a thank you for something that was handmade, or a sincere note of appreciation from a friend, that is special.  And I want to pass that on.  I do make the boys write a thank you note here and there, because they should, and they should appreciate the thought that goes into gifts.  Oh and let me just say how much I love a hand written letter.  Come on now, everyone does, right?  I am working hard to write all my Christmas cards this year. 

And finally, some holiday music.  I was going to write a Random Review Friday: Christmas Music post, but haven't gotten to it on any Friday so far, and they're almost gone for this month!  So here are some of my top picks, in case you are looking for something new:

I grew up with volume I and it brings back such memories.  I was ecstatic when I found this on CD; previously I had only heard it at my parents' as a child, and that on vinyl.  Why should you purchase these?  They are simply the richest harmonious arrangements of a cappella Christmas songs around.  If that's not enough, I can't help you.

A Festival of Carols in Brass by the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble
Instead of all voices, this album is all brass instruments.  The production is high quality and the regality of the brass fits the season so well.  Again, a wonderful array of songs and arrangements.  The two trumpet players in my family also love this disc.  And only $6.99 as of this posting?  How can you say no?

I also love Harry Connick's holiday albums and a new favorite is Alan Jackson's Let It Be Christmas.  And if you grew up or raised children in the American 70s, I'm sure you'll want A Charlie Brown Christmas

Does this post read out of breath?  Well, I am off to drop off a little boy at a birthday party and then some grocery shopping.  I spent the morning in bed.  I'm germy and sick and took advantage of it to spend a couple hours reading the new book club selection:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  This would also make a great gift for a girlfriend who loves to read.  But more on books later, I really must run!

PS  The little angel in the last post two posts ago was made by my mother, many years ago. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hey There I Am?

As I sit bundled in layers I'm dreaming of my spring garden.  I was just perusing the garden blogs I read which I haven't done in awhile.  I have been consumed with knitting this year, if you couldn't tell, and did not get the most out of my yard.  But that's okay.  Different years have different priorities.  As I was strolling through old posts on said blogs, I stumbled across this post.  To clarify, the picture in the post is mine but the shed is not; it's my mother-in-law's.  You can read about my shed if you follow the link.  Despite the confusion, and the fact that I found it eight months later, I'm thrilled to be mentioned on someone else's blog! 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Please Respond!!

Growing up with a minister for a dad, we often had Sunday Dinner company, and out-of-town missionaries staying the night.  When we traveled it was usually to see family or friends, and most of the time we stayed with someone we knew instead of in a hotel or motel.  When friends or family were in town, they always stayed with us.  I guess that is why I like to entertain.  Being the guest is lovely, too! 

I'm sad to see some of our gentilities slipping away so I thought I would remind us all of some holiday etiquette guidelines.  Okay, I can't skirt the issue any longer.  One of my biggest pet peeves is that people often no longer respond to this little accronym: RSVP.  It's  french: respondez, s'il vous plait, which literally translates to respond if you please, or please respond.  In elementary school terms, check 'yes' or 'no'.  It says to the hostess (or host), I value your effort as much as you value my company.  And feel free to keep any rejection as simple as, "I'm sorry, I can't make your party."  Someone actually told me once, "I'll come if I can't find something better to do that night."  Well.  
If circumstances change, it's wonderful to call the hostess back: "We're sorry, we won't be attending tonight, little Johnny's sick." In the event that it goes the other way, how about, "our plans have changed and we'd love to come if it's not too late."  After all, she did invite you, she'd probably love to have you!     
The lack of rsvping has gotten to the point that I've tried begging, reminding, even threatening  - "in order to make sure we have enough hamburgers for everyone...."  I'm tempted to offer a prize to the first person who replies.  I'll confess, I've missed a few RSVPs myself, but I try very hard not to.  Sometimes one doesn't know right away if they'll be able to attend, so try not to lose your invitation.  Of course if I can make it that's lovely, and I respond as soon as I know I'll attend. There's no reason to be aloof, I'm secure in my social status, especially among friends. 

This brings us to the Hostess Gift.  It's not always necessary, if I'm going to a pot luck and bringing a dish I'm sharing in the effort.  It is always nice, though.  There's no need to be extravagant.  A candle or food item can do very nicely.  At this time of year with the germs going around, how about some holiday scented hand soap?  It's polite to ask, "What can I bring?" when one is invited to dinner but often I find that a hostess replies, "Nothing."  In that case, I usually buy flowers.  I love flowers and they're a nice surprise, a little luxury for the hostess; or a nice bottle of wine, for someone who drinks wine.  If one is the guest of honor, as in a bridal or baby shower, it's better to bring a gift for the hostess than a side dish!  

Do you have any favorite hostess gifts to bring?  I can always use new ideas. 

I know I'm probably "preaching to the choir" here, no pun intended, but just in case someone out there hasn't given it any thought...  I can think of several other etiquette tidbits I'd like to mention but it occurs to me that I'm attending a brunch this Saturday and haven't lined up a hostess gift, so I'm off!  

Happy holiday gatherings to you!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

O Christmas Tree

Today, we went up to the mountains with Nana, Grandpa, two aunts, two uncles, two cousins, and cut down some Christmas trees.  The forest is full of pines and aspens but what I really wanted was a fir.  I had just about given up finding one when I heard my dear loving husband had spotted one and was awaiting my approval.  As I was headed toward him I heard the WHACK of the axe and knew the decision had been made.  He told me later that someone else was hovering, waiting to see if he was taking it, so he decided to give the man a definitive answer.  Luckily, it was the best tree; I guess he knew what I liked.  As we were loading up our many trees, several different people stopped in the road to ask us where the fir trees were.  It's a very slim tree, narrower than two of the boys at least!  Here's my little helper putting the gold bead garland on, and then all done.  When we were young newlyweds and didn't have a tree topper, BFJ suggested putting a bow on top and a ribbon around it, and we liked it so much we do it every year. 

When I was little, my brother and sister and I always got to sleep out under the Christmas tree the first year it was up.  This is the first year my boys have been big enough to do it!  (Boy, is there a lot of giggling coming from the living room tonight.) 

By the way, the US Forest Service provides this opportunity because it helps the forest.  The trees that remain have a better chance of growing stronger and healthier.  You really have to hunt for the right tree, though! 

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I'm happy to finally show you some knitting pictures!  I made this Whirligig Shrug back in September or October.  My little friend's mom reads my blog so I didn't want to put it up here before I got a chance to deliver it.  It's the 12-18 month size and she's a petite 14-month-old so it's a little loose but will be perfect for her spring fashions. 

Since I didn't get a chance to go right down and deliver this sooner (various people have been sick), I tried it on my niece to see how it was going to fit.  It fit her perfect and it was so quick and fun to make, so I made the 24 month size for her.  I just have the edging left to do.  That's on my list of Christmas projects to finish, and I'm hoping to embroider it but I'm not sure what I'll embroider, what color, and where.  There's not much front to it, so the sleeve or the back?  Then again, I might not have time.  I'll let you know. 

Pattern:  Whirligig Shrug by Stephanie Japel
Find it in:  Interweave Knits Weekend
Yarn:  Cottonease

One more picture of it on my little friend:

I bought the magazine for this pattern but I also like the Hero Pullover and some of the other projects.  

As I was visiting this friend, she surprised me with an early birthday gift!  She gave me some stitch holders, which I could definitely use for my FLS sleeves and beyond, and also a book, Amigurumi Knits.  I have seen some cute projects from this book, including a mobile made with all the sea creatures.  This is in no way a hint.  It's really not.  However, if I ever happen to have a good friend, who likes the sea, and ends up expecting a baby, I might be very tempted to try the mobile myself.  Although I might not have the physics knowledge to make it balanced.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where You At?

This Black Friday ad cracks me up.  I was at Old Navy at 3:00 a.m., got jeans for more than 50% off, and was back in bed by 5. 

Catching Up

I'm happy to be back to red here at Short Story Long.  Happy December to you! 

Just 23 days left until Christmas, you know.  I spent a lot of November working on some projects that left me with mixed emotions.  I was asked to knit some things, and I was flattered that my friend thinks I'm a good knitter, and pleased to be asked.  I was frustrated that I struggled with so many steps.  That was part of the process, finding mistakes, but I like to do things right the first time, especially when it's time consuming.  On the plus side, I learned a lot.  My friend joked that  my FLS would be a piece of cake.  No joke; I wish I had time to knit myself a sweater before Christmas, but I don't know if that will happen.  Anyway, I am left to my own devices, now.  Hurray!  There's a list in my head just waiting for some little check marks.    

We had a nice Thanksgiving with BFJ's family, and on Friday we went to Aunt Banana's.  There were 29 people for the parade and then dinner; Aunt Banana took it upon herself to entertain the nine boys under ten.  Wasn't that nice?  I caught glimpses of Bingo and Reindeer-Reindeer-Santa (a.k.a. Duck-Duck-Goose.)  Aunt Sharol had some delicious Pineapple Cheese spread that was great with pretzels.  She said she'll send me the recipe.  Oh by the way, if you were thinking of trying the pie, don't bother.  The unanimous opinion was that it was weird.  I don't blame BFJ; it was just weird.  Although pretty.  He also made homemade marshmallows last week, per his mom's request.  I'm not a big one for marshmallows but I know they are disappearing around here.  

While we were out of school, we went to a late-ish showing of A Christmas Carol with Aunt Kina.  I think we all enjoyed it although there was some arm-grabbing when Marley appeared.  (You're probably getting jealous of all our fabulous aunts.)    

It's snowing today, just in time for some new blog header pictures.  We were supposed to get a couple of inches, and we're quite past that, so that has skewed my plans for the day.  However, I have SO many things to do, I'm sure I'll find something to check off my list.  I believe Natalie and I have discussed before, or maybe it's just me: when I have a list, and then I get something done that's not on the list, I add it to the list just so I can have that satisfying *swoosh* of the pencil across the item.  And every swoosh across the list will give me more reasons to blog, so I'm planning to be back here shortly.  Like, every day.  Okay, maybe not every day; but a lot.