Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Solstice and Handmade Gifts

We have a tradition of giving the boys one small handmade gift at Solstice.  This year when I was wondering what I could possibly make for my 16 year old son he sent me a picture of this hat.  It looked simple enough so I googled and found a simple pattern on this blog.  After a quick reminder for myself on how to do a half-double crochet I got to it.
I'm pleased with how it turned out and, better yet, so is he.  It really does do a mama's heart good to see her teen son wearing some handmade goodness.  If you look at that first link you'll see that the hat had a label that said "Love" on it, I barely resisted the temptation to make one up that said "Mama's Love" to torment my son with.
Happy Solstice!
May the return of the light help you find much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Simple Shawls and Simple Fudge

Today I finished another shawl.  I'm pleased to have these two shawls made and looking forward to gifting them.  The last four years some very special women in my life have had cancer - these two shawls are a celebratory gift to two of these women who have recently finished their treatments. 
I'm hoping they will keep them just a little warmer and cozier this winter and that they will feel wrapped in love and healing thoughts each time they use them.
This last one I finished binding off with just this much to spare!  And, during those last tense moments, when I thought I might run out, I wondered why on earth I hadn't just done one less row to be sure I would have enough yarn to finish.  I've made a mental note to remind myself next time but feel free to remind me because I'm sure to forget (I've done the same thing before).
I did make sure that I used a bigger needle to bind off rather than trusting myself to bind off loosely - it makes the shawl lay so much nicer if it is not bound off too tightly.
I really love this shawl and have one on the go for myself as well (using odds and sods of wool).  It is a simple but pretty shawl (free download Herb Garden shawl on Ravelry) and I especially love the rounded bottom instead of a pointy one.  If you've never used a shawl I highly recommend them - there really is a reason why women have used them for centuries.  They're Just Right for a little added warmth and comfort (and Perfect if you like to sit up and read in bed).
E has been wanting to try fudge for ages and so we decided to make a very simple recipe that I used to make when I was younger.
Not health food for sure but a delicious treat all the same (we used 2 cups of chocolate chips and 1 cup of butterscotch chips).
And since teens don't get the concept of Christmas baking being for Christmas...another batch of brown sugar buttons to replace the one that was scoffed eaten.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gingerbread House Simplified

Throughout my childhood we had a fun tradition of making a gingerbread village - complete with church with stain glass windows, lights, skating pond, people and several houses.  It was all set up on a large board that covered the entire top of our piano. And, to my candy-loving young self it was Divine!  I loved it.

And so most years I have tried to make sure my boys have had the chance to have their own gingerbread houses.  We've never had a whole village but we have at least had one handmade house and sometimes a couple of them.  This year, while discussing ways to simplify the holidays (with the purpose of freeing up more time to spend doing the things we really value - time with friends, family and nature), we had talked about gingerbread houses and the boys had decided that they liked the plain old candy (a rare treat around here) as much as they did the gingerbread house making and so we had concluded that we wouldn't do gingerbread houses this year. 
Then one evening I was sharing this information with a friend as we talked about how different the holiday season felt compared to when our kids were younger.  After she left I went and talked to E a bit more about it and he decided that it was, after all, important to him to make a house.  So we decided we would simply buy an already cut and baked gingerbread house (instead of spending a few days making the dough, rolling it and cutting out house patterns and then baking)  thus meeting our want for this traditional treat as well as our need for simplifying. 
The next afternoon I quickly put the bought house together with melted sugar and then the boys spent an hour filled with laughter, royal icing, sticky fingers and taste-testing while they decorated their house.  Gingerbread Houses Simplified...leaving more time for a walk in the winter woods with friends - lovely.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Goodies and Greenery

E and I have been enjoying watching A Victorian Farm and A Victorian Farm Christmas together.  It's fun to know that the way we decorate our home is not unlike the way a Victorian farm family decorated their home for the holidays. 
(we drove by these guys on our way to find a tree, by the time we got the camera all we could get was a bum shot)

We've been collecting greenery on our walks for some time and last weekend we set out to the woods to get our tree.  We came home with red cheeks, a sweet little tree (which, I admit, took some getting used to after two years of massive trees) and assorted other greenery (we are fortunate enough to have yew, ivy and lots of other greenery right on this property including these gorgeous red berries, no holly but oregon grape leaves do in a pinch).
I've had some fun making two simple green decorations outside - one in an old milk can and one in an old cream separator.
The rest of the greenery has been placed throughout our home - I couldn't resist tucking a string of white lights under some old glass insulators on our mantel.
Simple, lovely and all able to be tossed back outside afterwards to compost - my favourite kind of decoration. ;-)

We've been doing a bit of baking, some of our favourites - toffeebrown sugar buttons, seedy crackers - with shortbread, gingerbread men, thimble cookies and nanaimo bars still to go.
Yesterday we made a treat for our favourite canine companion and, since I've been working on planning a new business, E and I talked about a business idea for him - homemade dog biscuits sold at the farm stand.  This batch - carrot, apple, molasses - seemed to go down a treat so it will be a keeper recipe.  Happily we have our own very willing taste tester dog (and actually E tested them out too as they are made with ingredients that non-furry creatures can also enjoy). ;-)
And, I don't usually like to post photos of myself (camera shy and all that) but I thought I would share this one because I wanted to show this great hat.  I wear it all the time because it is so warm (felted wool). I've had so many compliments on it and I love being able to say, "Thank you, I got it at the dump.".  Fun to see the looks that gets.  This summer we were camping on a little island and they have a re-store at their dump, it is a place where people can drop their stuff off and then others can buy it for a small donation.  There is a similar place up near my folks' house (although things are free at that one).  I LOVE the idea of this and wish there were such places at all landfills.  Such a wonderful idea and interesting to me that it is often in island communities where you will see these.  I'd like to be able to say that I usually look much tidier than this but, no...that's me, hair knotted in a bun, stuffed in a hat and off I go. ;-) get back to that knitting.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Owls, Angels and the First of December

A special young friend is celebrating a birthday soon and so when we went to visit yesterday we took along a handmade gift.  I Love having a young girl with an appreciation for crafts in my life, my boys have always enjoyed my handmade things but there is something very fun about crafting for a girl too (I've had fun, fun, fun in years past making her gifts).  This girl has a connection to owls and so, when I saw this post, I couldn't resist making a woolly owl for her.  I still have my sweater scraps from my patchwork blanket so I chose a gray one and got started. 
I dug out our needle-felting supplies which haven't been used since we moved and needle felted the eyes and beak. 
I stuffed it with some batting. The feet were cut from another felted sweater bit.
And then I used some buffalo wool (also in thrifted stash) to crochet a nest.  The entire time E eyed it covetously and so I think I know what to make him for his Solstice gift.  He does have a fondness for felted animals and I thought it was so cute that I might just have to make myself one too.
November has passed by so quickly that I could hardly believe it was already time to get the boxes of decorations out last night so we could find the advent calender.  We put up the calender and then got out one of my favourite childhood decoration - this angel chime candle.  We sat together and watched as the candles burned down and we talked about what we look forward to in December.  This was always the first decoration I would set up when I was little, that way I could listen to it chiming as we set about putting out the rest of the decorations and there really is just something magical about candlelight, isn't there.
This afternoon E and I made some paper snowflakes (as we do each year) to decorate the windows then E lit the advent candle because the first day of the month always takes a bit longer to burn down than the other days (there are markings on the candle and we burn one section each day).  And, as I took this photo I gave thanks again for the grace that brought us to this place...right here...right now.
Here's to a magical month.