Thursday, December 30, 2010

Handmade Gifts

I really enjoy making gifts for other people but I wonder how the receivers feel.  I know there are some people who really like a handmade gift and appreciate the effort and time that went into it, but on the downside, when you get a handmade gift that just "isn't you" or doesn't fit, there's no exchanging it.  This year, I tried to keep my handmade gift projects limited to people I thought would enjoy them the most, or things specifically mentioned.  The exception is that I can't help making cute little sweaters for my niece and goddaughter, so I think they are going to be stuck with some crazy-Aunt-Karen gifts!  Hopefully when they're old enough to start telling me what they want, I will not take it personally.  Or maybe they'll think my stuff's wicked-awesome fashion and ask for more!  Anyway, here are my handmade gifts for the year.

Saroyan  for Kristina

As you can tell from the photos, I finished it last spring!  I have always wanted to try one of Liz's patterns and really enjoyed this one.  It is written in a way that allows you to make the shawl as wide and as long as you want.  I went by the yarn I had and it ended up between a scarf and a shawl but will keep your neck nice and warm!  It is sort of the shape of my favorite scarf.  I knitted a sample out of this yarn for Marly in 2009 and wanted to knit another project with it.  Wool gives this yarn stability and the bamboo content gives the yarn a nice sheen and more warmth.  I was thinking of Kristina when I started this project and when I got done, it seemed like it definitely wanted to belong to her!

Pattern:  Saroyan by Liz Abinante - free!
Yarn:  Bamboo Ewe from Debbie Stoller, Lipstick red
Ravelry details here.


Socks  for my mom

My mom loves handknit socks so I had intended to make her more than one pair through the year but I just did not have the time.  However, I did start this pair for her in August.  I traded Dawn some pictures of her Autism hat pattern for this yarn.  It was nice to work with.  The pattern is from Sensational Knitted Socks and the only problem I had is that I misplaced the book after the first sock.  Now I could have borrowed this book from several different friends, had I not altered the pattern slightly.  Agh!  I did manage to get the second sock knit up by following the first sock.  Unfortunately I did not have these done by present-opening time but I finished them before I left my mom's house.  (I also had to undo my cast on row because the cuff was too tight.  I just put all the stitches on needles as I undid the row, and bound it back off with the EZ Sewn Bind off.  I really like this bind off, it's flexible; here's a video if you want to see it.)

Pattern:  3x3 Cable with Moss Stitch by Charlene Schurch
Yarn:  Louet Gems in Charcoal from Ms.Yarn
Ravelry details here.

Eyelet Sweater for my niece

Wow, this post has lots of craft drama!  This project was no exception!  Someone gave me this yarn and I thought the texture was really fun.  I found this sweater online and thought it looked like a fun knit.  I swatched my yarn and my gauge was a little small so I thought I would knit my own size between the sizes available.  This would probably have been fine if I had picked the right sizes to work between but when I tried it on her in November, somehow I made it too small!  I had enough yarn to start over so I did, and the second time I went by the 3T size.  Since I knew the pattern already, it came together really quickly.  I used vintage buttons of my grandmother's for the closure.  I don't actually know that this sweater fit my niece, but hopefully it does!

Pattern:  Eloise Eyelet Sweater by Lion Brand Yarn - free if you sign up to their website
Yarn:  JoAnn Sensations Stellina, red, 3 1/2 balls
Ravelry link.

And my finally project was not a knit!  I wrote it all up but I am having a lot of problems getting my pictures to load and this one is absolutely refusing.  I'll see if I can post it later.

*In weather today, we've had snow falling ALL DAY!  Finally.

**And on a personal note, BFJ and I have been married fifteen years this week.  And he's still my best friend. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winding Down

As Christmas was winding down, I enjoyed the very last of my Holiday Tea in my new Alice cup.

I'm looking forward to the clean slate of a new year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Crafter's kids:  someone put a fabric swatch on Baby Jesus.

I hope you are having a merry and meaningful day!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Random Review Friday: Independent Lens, Between the Folds

(It's not quite Friday but almost...)

Last Friday, as I previously mentioned, BFJ took the day off from work, and we had a leisurely lunch out.  We sat down at a table where someone had left a newspaper, and I happened across an article about the movie Between the Folds.  It sounded like a great film for our whole family so we looked it up that evening on Netflix and called the boys in to watch.  I couldn't believe how much moaning and groaning there was!  I told them they had to watch the first ten minutes and then they could leave.  I'm pleased to tell you that they all stayed to the end!  Origami is the subject of this movie, but it's not just about paper cranes.  This documentary really speaks to the ingenuity of art and the human mind.  During the middle of the film, Speed got up and brought back a stack of copy paper and began folding and folding.  I knew this movie would connect with him especially.  Many aspects of origami are showcased in this film, beginning with three different artists (I was transfixed by Eric Joisel's work), and moving on to other topics such as the scientific applications of origami, papermaking, and sculptures with just one fold.  There are so many different avenues of art within this one medium.  We all really enjoyed this movie.

If you don't have access to Netflix or other place to rent it, I understand it will soon be on PBS's Independent Lens series on television.  Keep your eye out for it!

ETA:  Sally commented that it will be airing on PBS on January 18 and the DVD is available now.  See comments for a link.

Coincedentally, I made this bow last week prior to seeing the film.  I don't know if I'll have time to make more but it was kind of fun.  I like making my own... everything!  You might have noticed that about me.  You can see a few more on Allsorts (what a pretty blog!) and find detailed directions for the bow at Craft Ideas.  Good luck making your own! 

One more day!  One more day!  One more day!  One more day! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse

Did you stay up to watch the lunar eclipse?  Zoom kept reminding me that it was tonight, and wanted me to wake him up, so I did.  Hey, no school this week anyway!

Here's my first picture, before I woke him up. 

And a little later...  These two pictures are basically the same time but different exposure.  In the second one, you can see how the moon is turning red.  You can see a star in the left third of the picture, toward the bottom. 

Here it is almost complete.  Again at the longer exposure first to see the red (and with stars), and then the same phase but shorter exposure to see the eclipse! 

And then we were having so much fun that we decided to try and shoot Orion.  I can't believe I got such good pictures, I've actually learned something about photography!  I know lots of people have great pictures of constellations and the moon but this is the first time I've ever gotten better pictures than I expected, instead of much worse. 

And one final picture of the eclipsed moon with stars.

SO MUCH FUN.  Totally worth getting up for, I'm glad he asked me to do it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More December

I finally got a picture of some snow on the garden fence.  After a few hours, it was gone.

The best Christmas gift we've gotten so far (okay, the only one) was the roast from Aunt Mary, packed with dry ice!  BFJ happened to take the day off Friday and we spent several minutes putting chunks of the dry ice in a glass of water.  We saved the rest in the freezer to show the boys, but by the time they got home from school, it had disappeared!  I guess we should have left it in the packaging. 

I finished a gift for someone from school, and already delivered it, it's the Just Enough Ruffles scarf from Laura Chou.  I have one, and I love it, so I knew it would be a good gift! 

I have several other projects in the works and hope to get them all done before Christmas, except one.  I started a blanket for my boys, a snuggle-on-the-couch-watching-cartoons sort of blanket, but I have had other things going on and missed my goal of December 1, so it has been on the back burner. 

I'll have to show the rest of them to you next week! 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December Moments

First, thank you for your thoughtful comments about holiday stress.  I have been enjoying my month since I last posted.  Sometimes it's about frame of mind! 

Secondly, Anna asked whether it wasn't time for a picture of my garden in the snow, so I took this picture yesterday morning.  We have had three snows this fall, and each time I think I'll wait until it piles up a little, but by the time an hour has passed, the snow is all gone.  I guess I should be watering the yard still; we could be having some nice green grass! 

I've mentioned my mom's homemade soup recipe.  We've had lots of runny noses and sore throats around here lately, and when I saw my sister-in-law Thursday morning, she was also sick.  I knew it was time to make some chicken noodle soup.  My niece helped me roll out the noodles. 

She also had fun getting her hands floury like Aunt Karen was doing. 

After my sister-in-law was feeling better, she brought me the most delicious smelling lemony candle for making her some soup.  Wasn't that nice?  Lemon is definitely one of my favorite scents:  it's the smell of summer lemonade, clean house, fresh ingredients. 

Yesterday evening, we went out to dinner with some friends and had a great time just visiting.  I had some fajitas with excellent guacomole and Mexian Coca-Cola.  It was so fun, eating and laughing.  And one of these friends gave me my first birthday present of the year, some Godiva chocolates!  I love chocolate. 

This morning we went to my cousin's house for the sixth annual family brunch on my mom's side.  Some highlights of the gift exchange are pictured below: 

Aunt Banana started out with the Gopher, which she used to pick up trash for several minutes until it was stolen by Aunt Carol. 

My dad did end up with the Handerpants - underpants for your hands.  I guess every body part needs an extra layer of clothing at this time of year? 

And Uncle Radish (he's married to Aunt Banana) will show up to the next party with bells on - bells on his shorts, that is! 

There was lots of good food.  We hear next year there'll be food judging so luckily we have a year to plan our dish.  There were prizes for December birthdays, and this reminds me to wish my mother-in-law a Happy Birthday!

The afternoon wrapped up with a trip to the theater to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  I really enjoyed sinking into this movie, the fantasy, the beautiful boat, the regal costumes.  As with most books made into movies, not all the details fit into two hours, but it was a fun family movie.  And then, more wonderful birthday gifts!  I left the party with a plate of Aunt Sharol's peppermint cheesecake brownies.  Think I'll end the day with a few bites!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Now If Only I Had a Catchy Title.

New "wreath" for the bathroom.  Someone asked if I decorate every room, and I don't, but I decided to!

As I look back through the more than 30,000 (literally!) pictures I have in my files, there is a distinct lack of images from the holidays and winter. Is it because I like shooting outside, and it is cold during winter? Or is it because of the light? Or lack of inviting scenery? Perhaps it is because I haven’t taken the time to pause and notice the details like I do during other seasons. When I discover a new, beautiful blog, I frequently go back through their archives from Decembers past, hoping for inspiring pictures, and general eye candy. I have been perusing my usual faves this year, hoping for lots of red and green, but there isn’t as much as I expected. Is this because everyone’s keeping secrets ‘til Christmas? I had been thinking about this at the beginning of the season and intended to post pictures of all my best, most fun, most beautiful.

However, I have struggled to get here and post the past couple weeks because the joy is lacking. I have had two or three personal confrontations that have turned defensive. Every time, I was so taken aback. I don’t know how I get so blindsided, and why does this always happen at Christmas? People are always saying how they are stressed out with money, and relatives, and so on. Well I don’t like it! I am not going to take it! Besides this being my holiday along with everyone else, my birthday is next week. And I want to like this month of crafts and surprises and visits. I can’t help that I’m getting old but I really enjoy life and so many things about it. Every day holds wonders. I like having birthdays! So people with mean words coming out of your mouths, step aside. I am not going to hear you anymore this month. There; I just had to “say it out loud.”

I am resolved to declutter my life from commitments I should have said no to, or that are simply too much for today. For one thing, I’ll have more time to make chocolatey cookies with my kids! I’m going to let go of the bitterness I have that my Photoshop is no longer compatible with my operating system. I’m not going to feel guilty if people give me weird things for gifts, especially strangers. Gifts don’t always define love. Sometimes they are just supposed to be fun. Sometimes it is a bridge from someone who doesn’t really know you, but wishes they did.

I don’t like whiney bloggers. I think that negativity begets negativity. But, I do enjoy a funny rant, and sometimes, I need to be informed. It’s got to be clever, succinct or to a point. So my point? I know the meaning of Christmas: Jesus loves me.

I’m just going to laugh out loud when they least expect it. Maybe that will remind someone nearby that life is FUN. And I invite you to do it too.

PS Natalie, I love shopping for you. I never know what to buy you, but it makes me appreciate all the aqua things and orange things and sparkly things that I don’t usually look at :).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Cookies

In anticipation of all the sweets of the season, I picked up the Holiday Cookies edition of Martha Stewart a few weeks ago.  Finally this week we found time together to make a batch and we started with Double-Chocolate Cookies with Holiday Stencils (p. 62).  Upon the first read through, I didn't catch that only part of the chocolate was to be melted, but fortunately it did not adversely affect the finally result too much.  The first few actually had stencils but by the end we were just going for the free-form powdered sugar dusting!  

Pretty easy, and very good!  (And all gone.)