Thursday, April 16, 2015

Crochet corrective

I started crocheting hexagons this week. I think they'll become a blanket for our bed. I don't normally start making blankets in the spring, but I figure I'm going to need hundreds of these hexagons to make a blanket, so I can spend the warm months making them and the cold ones turning them into a blanket. I think I'm join them with cream-colored yarn. I'm envisioning something like a paintbox. The colors are soft, meant to coordinate with our duvet set. I plan to add more colors, some warmer ones like gold and rust, as well as greens and purple, maybe brown and tan. I'm using DK acrylic yarns, several brands, lots of loose ends and small bits. It's a great stash-buster. Now I just need to stop buying yarn.

I love crochet for many reasons, but one stands out above all the rest: it keeps me busy. I love to read and write, but when I'm truly frazzled, nothing else can comfort me the way crochet or stitching does. I spend plenty of time in unproductive ways too, don't get me wrong, but I find that everything in my world works better when my hands are busy. Other people notice it too; the Bear always knows when I'm in between projects. I'm different: I fidget, I talk too fast, I pick at my nails, I eat too much. You could say that I'm in withdrawal. Handwork is a balm to my soul.

This week was difficult, with the Bear traveling for work and all the normal daily-life stuff falling to me and the extra worry and stress of the LB's medical stuff. I haven't had much time for blogs or Instagram this week; I've been feeling a little low and keeping to myself. The LB had a test on Wednesday morning. We had to be at the hospital early; a neighbor who is also a friend took the GB to school for me. Thank goodness for friends.

After the test, I had him sit down in the lobby for a snack (I'd brought juice and a cereal bar with me). An elderly woman commented on the bandage he had on his arm (he'd had an IV during the test). She told us she was there for brain surgery, on a benign tumor taking up a large portion of her brain. She was remarkably calm. I noticed she had a bag on the chair next to her, with yarn and knitting needles inside. She was prepared to knit while she waited for her brain surgery. I was alarmed and touched and inspired all at the same time. I wondered if she would be able to knit again soon after the surgery. I hope it helps her heal.

I've only made a small start on these hexagons but I felt their power this week. I felt better about everything in the afternoons when I sat down to crochet, with the radio on and the windows open to the breeze. I'm glad to have this kind of work to do. It's fulfilling and centering. I love having beautiful handmade things to admire, of course, but the work itself - the emotional satisfaction and soothing nature of it, the way it girds me and grounds me - is by far the best thing about making creative handwork a part of my life.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Learning about plants at home and around the neighborhood
Noticing star shapes in almost every flower
Stopping under our wisteria just to inhale
Picking chocolate daisies in our yard
Eating springtime fruits in mass quantities
Teaching myself to crochet hexagons (they're fun!)
Changing the beds and straightening up the bedrooms
 Enjoying cupcakes we baked over the weekend
Reading and reading (all three of us)
Another Monday in the life!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Happies

Hello! I hope you've had a good week. Thank you for the kind, supportive words regarding the LB's medical situation. I appreciate it very much. We all do; it's wonderful to know that people are thinking of us.

For those who may be wondering about his situation, he has serious congenital malformations of his kidneys. I don't discuss it much here, but this is an ongoing problem - we've been dealing with it since before he was even born. Mostly, we're on an even keel with it all, but then we have phases, like now, where a lot is happening at once: lots of appointments and tests, probable surgery, general anxiety and concern all around. Needless to say, it isn't easy. I want to talk more about it, eventually, but not right now. It was kind of a crappy week, but it wasn't without its bright spots. And you know me, I really do try to look for them. I haven't done this on a Friday in a while and the spirit moved me, so here I am with a few happy things from my week...

I reveled in my grocery shopping this week - I went early in the morning when the store was empty, I was alone because my children were back in school, I had made a good list for once and they were unusually well-stocked. I certainly ate more than enough candy in the run-up to Easter, but I treated myself to a bar of Lindt white chocolate anyway, because I take great comfort in candy, right or wrong.

In my downtime, I've been practicing my embroidery skills. This is actually a Martha-related project that I'll share later this month (it's based on ideas from the March issue). It's a piece of cotton duck that I'm stitching on with needlepoint wool in stem stitch. Its enjoyable and my stitching is slowly getting better.

I have a stack of books next to the bed. The Nigella cookbook is mine, my favorite cookbook of hers. The others are library books. I'm reading the top one, In the Woods by Tana French, right now; I've read it a few times before.When I'm done with that, I have The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Both are authors I've enjoyed in the past. If you need me, I'll be over here, holed up with my books and my Lindt bar.

The Easter Bunny brought the most amazing bubbles for the small Bears. You have to try them. Mommy The Easter Bunny bought them on Amazon; they're called Gazillion Bubbles and they make huge, very long-lasting bubbles, loved by big and small Bears alike.

These tulips bloomed during the week. I can see them from my place at the kitchen table. It makes me so happy to have my own tulips blooming here in my yard. Like, truly elated, in the purest, song-in-my-heart kind of way.

I crocheted a dress for the GB's baby doll, Nellie. It's my own design, and it worked! I'm planning to share my pattern soon. I'm a little scared; I can crochet with ideas from my own head but I'm not great at putting them into words or instructions. I'm working on it.

I found the LB like this during the week and it made me chuckle. Oh, you know, just sitting here on the patio in my bicycle helmet, using my 1950's manual typewriter to write a dramatic, action-packed story about my hens...

Do you have weekend plans? It'll be a quiet one here. Some work in the yard, probably a trip to the library, maybe a cup of coffee. I'd like to do a little baking; it's been a week or two and I'm in the mood to putter around the kitchen for a while.  I'm planning to roast a chicken on Sunday. I've been sorting yarns, trying to clean up my little craft-storage area and get an idea of what I have, yarn-wise (plenty, it turns out). Foolishly, I bought yarn today, a few balls of baby-weight acrylic in soft colors. I'm thinking about trying hexagons, which are my final crochet frontier. I didn't need the yarn but it was pretty, and cheap. At least it wasn't more candy, right? That's what I'm telling myself.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mama bird

We have babies on the way! Well, this dove does, to be more precise. She is nesting in a juniper on the side of our house, in a space along the edge of our property between the house and the fence which separates our lot from the next-door neighbor's. The small Bears discovered the nest last week and within a day or so, there was an egg in the nest. The dove began sitting on the nest shortly after that.

We're excited to be able to watch a life-cycle activity in progress, right here in our own yard. Unfortunately, she is nesting just a couple of feet from our trash and recycling bins; we store them there in between weekly pick-ups, behind a locked gate since this passageway leads directly into our backyard from the street side of the house. We've had to change some habits to accommodate our nesting friend, but we don't really mind. We'd rather see her do what she needs to do, and it's interesting for us as long as she can keep doing it!

I try not to bother her, and I'll only take one child at a time back there to check on her. We creep along the narrow alley-like space as quietly as we can (it's much quieter when I do this alone). The juniper has an open area at the front and we can look right inside to where she nests. The nest itself is beautiful, a work of art and function. She's a pretty bird, with her bright eye-markings and smooth, pewter-colored body. I'm amazed at how still she sits, just inches from me. She seems very afraid. I don't stay long; she has an important job to do and I can certainly relate.


Thanks for listening to our podcast! We're having fun with it. We listen to many podcasts and we started thinking we'd like to try it too. We've recorded several already. I'll let you know when new ones are available.

I just wanted to say thanks, too, for the kind comments, lately and always. I have some things going on right now, and for the next couple of weeks, with our son's medical situation, so please forgive me if I don't manage to keep up with your blogs for a bit. Thanks for being peaches.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A matryoshka in return

Over the spring break last week, I kept busy with a crochet project. I tend to pick up smaller crochet projects in spring and summer, fun things like toys and decorative household items. I made this matryoshka pillow last week, from a pattern I bought a while ago on Etsy, from the designer-blogger behind Annaboo's House. Annaboo has a lovely blog with lots of creative crochet products and helpful tutorials. I was drawn to the matryoshka doll. You know how much I like matryoshkas.

I made this pillow for my husband's aunt Jill. She is a businesswoman, owner of an aircraft company. She builds custom airplanes for collectors. She is also a pilot and she used to be a wing walker. Have you ever seen a wing walker? I have, and it's terrifying. Jill is a very special woman. Her aircraft company relies heavily on parts manufactured in Russia and she travels there frequently to meet with business contacts and make purchases. She learned to speak Russian for her business. She often brings back interesting souvenirs from her travels in Russia and has given me two beautiful, handpainted matryoshkas, which I keep in my china hutch with other treasures. Jill likes matryoshkas too; her office (inside her airplane hangar) is full of them.

We visited Jill and the Bear's uncle in December, when we went to Arizona. They were wonderful hosts, taking us to see the London Bridge in Lake Havasu. Jill took us on a tour of the regional airport where they work (and live, in an apartment above their hangar). She led the small Bears on a scavenger hunt, helping them find interesting artifacts lying on the airfield since World War II. They filled boxes with old glass and metal bits, screws, wires and rocks.

Jill even let the small Bears help with simple tasks in her hangar (yes, that's Vladimir Putin on the bulletin board). Here, she had made a treat for them after our morning on the airfield, hot chocolate with whipped cream. They were in heaven - airplanes, a hunt for junk, "work" in the hangar and now cocoa! Jill doesn't have children of her own but she has many nieces and nephews and she's an amazing aunt. After our trip, I decided to make her a matryoshka pillow, just because we love her so much.

I really enjoyed making this pillow. The pattern calls for two identical crocheted pieces, which were easy to make. I did a better job with the second piece, the one on the right. My tension was better and I had mastered the two-single-crochet-together stitch used for decreasing. I'd only done a 2dctog before this project and I'm glad to know how to do both now.

The face and embellishments were really fun. Like Annaboo, I made the face from felt, cutting out one large circle for the face and two smaller ones for cheeks, along with a shaped piece to look like the doll's hair. I made the "dress" from a small piece of rosy fabric. I pinked the edges, as suggested by Annaboo, to help prevent fraying, stitching the dress onto the crochet with small overhand stitches all the way around. I also glued a bit of pink polka-dotted ribbon along the top edge of the "dress" fabric, sort of like a belt.

Initially, I glued the face onto the crochet, as suggested in the pattern, but my glue must not be sticky enough. Or maybe it would have been if I'd used cotton yarn instead of acrylic. In any case, it didn't stick. I stitched it onto the crochet instead, with small running stitches. Annaboo suggested using a marker to draw on eyes (I also added a mouth), but this is something I'd do differently next time. My markers bled into the felt and it looked a little sloppy. So I stitched those too, right over the marker eyes and mouth. I did the eyes in satin stitch and just outlined the mouth with back-stitching. It looked neater, though you could still see a bit of marker. I liked doing the stitching, actually; I've been interested lately in improving my embroidery skills beyond cross-stitch, so this ended up being a good opportunity for me.

I stuffed my pillow and slip-stitched the edges. Here she is on the GB's bed (the light is always good in her room). I'm happy with my pillow. Her neck seems a little long, but it's part of her charm. I really like her face and the dress. I also added red heart-shaped buttons at each end of the ribbon; I thought it needed a little more finishing. It looks cute, I think. I like her!

I'll send the pillow to Jill soon. Here, she poses with the matryoshkas given to me by Jill. I adore them both. The one on the right has nicer painted designs but the one on the left has a huge number of dolls inside, all the way down to the smallest at about half an inch tall. My children, especially the GB, are fascinated with that tiny innermost doll, which has a hand-painted face just like the others. The GB says, "This doll just keeps on going!" She really does, and it's wonderful.

Yarns: Stylecraft Special DK, in Aster and Pomegranate
Hook: Clover G/6 aluminum
Fabric is from the Lecien Flower Sugar line


I have exciting news - the Bear and I have begun recording our own podcast! It's called Thistle and the Bear. We're having a lot of fun with it and we're ready to share it with the world! We'll be talking (and talking...) about topics of interest to us - hobbies, parenting, family life, etc. Our podcasts will be available on the Bear's own website, Ink of Park, and we'll add more as we record them. Our first podcast is about bread-baking. If you'd like to listen, just click the button on my sidebar, near the top.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Love and light

Wishing you love, light and chocolate this holiday weekend!

Thistle, the Bear, LB and GB

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring things

Spring break started last Thursday and continues through this week. We've stayed close to home, mostly, just enjoying some time off. It has been great to relax. We've continued to learn at home over the break, as we always do. We've taken it easy, though; lots of playing, taking walks, learning about plants, taking care of the hens, painting, drawing and music. We do a little math every day and continue to work on handwriting. We'll do these things in the summer as well, along with plenty of reading. I like spring break because it feels like a taste of summer without the serious heat or unpredictable monsoons.

These are all photos I've taken in the last week or two, just documenting the break as it goes by. We're spending most of our time in the backyard, playing with hens, inspecting our garden's growth (me) in between daredevil-racecourse stuff on bikes and scooters (them). The tulips I planted last fall and late this winter seem to be coming up nicely and our poor, struggling apple tree has put forth blossom for another year.

I bought a potted hyacinth for inside the house and I've been enjoying it very much. I keep it on the kitchen table where I can see it from three different rooms. The scent goes all through the house, especially now that the back door is open all day to the breeze. I have some sunflower seed packets ready to plant in the backyard. I'll probably plant them by the end of the month. I've acquired some new t-shirts and a new phone case too, all very spring-like. I saw the robin's-egg blue phone case on Amazon and had to have it for spring and summer. One of my new shirts is almost the same color, I realized. I'm not even sure if it's a good color for me to wear, but I love it anyway.

Speaking of shirts, I changed the small Bears' dresser drawers last week, putting in their short-sleeved shirts. We're not ready for shorts just yet, but the GB has capri pants now. Whenever the kids start wearing short sleeves, they (the kids) seem smaller to me. Did you ever notice this? I think it's because I can see their skinny arms again.

I've been planning my Easter menu and have most of what I need for the meal. We're having ham, scalloped potatoes and asparagus. We'll be dyeing eggs on Friday. The Easter baskets are ready for filling (well, they're still in the garage; we'll take them out on Saturday night to leave for the Bunny). I can't wait to dye eggs, it's the highlight of the Easter weekend for me every year.

I hope you're having a good week. Thanks for your comments lately, you're all lovely and kind and I appreciate it.
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