Friday, December 31, 2010

Potential


As Ben and I started looking back on this past year, we were somewhat shocked to realize all of the transformations and new things that have emerged. New friends, new jobs, new life for goodness sake! First steps, first days of school, first projects. A year is such a short unit, but it is full of single moments budding with potential. And on that occasion that we took full advantage of what the moment had to offer, we were time and time again surprised with unexpected beauty.

New Year's Eve can start to feel like an arbitrary landmark, and in truth, I imagine we will ring in the New Year with a sleepy house. But I can't help but marvel at all of this new growth and wonder, what changes will this coming year bring?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

While I Was Out


I have noticed that I will often leave the children to do some little task, like start the laundry, or answer the phone, or pop in the shower, and return to what can only be described as creative mayhem. There is the time that salt had been poured all over the table, and the children were "drawing" in it. The many times that my littlest found her way to a source of water and created her own waterpark. The refrigerator has been opened and emptied, the trash gone through, you name it, we have seen it.

And while there is a little (who am I kidding? substantial) part of me that cringes at the disruption of order, I have to hand it to these kids, they are creative! There is beauty in their curiosity, and I love every little bit of their journey into the world.

So I have decided that just as I document our joint creative endeavors, I will do my best to capture these little moments. And just so you don't have a heart attack, I will start with a tamer incident.

Above: Zosia and Lily discover a bag of donation clothing and create their own dressing room. For the record, Lily chose to wear the sweater just like that, half over her head, for the majority of a morning.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Birthday Boy



It's Ben's birthday today. Whew, he's all grown up! And what better way to celebrate than with cupcakes (with sprinkles and sea salt, because what wouldn't be improved by sprinkles and sea salt?) And of course he gets special treatment: sleeping in, coffee made, and even a fire started before he got up (sort of... I'm still working on starting fires). After all, it's only your birthday once a year, and boy am I happy that this one was born!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa and the Elves

It turns out Santa did come this year. Phew! And when the little ones walked into the living room, they discovered his most special present, a play kitchen that Ben, oops, I mean Santa, has been working on for a little while now. That Santa is quite the craftsman, don't you think? I'm sure all those elves help.


Wishing you and yours a cheerful and silly Christmas. And there is a snow storm headed this way tomorrow! I'll wear my pajamas inside out just in case (have any of you ever had success with this? Here's to hoping).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Oplatek

In my family, Christmas Eve is a time of counting blessings and wishing them for the coming year. There's a Polish tradition called oplatek (pronounced oh-pwa-tek) in which we share a wafer with one another while sharing our wishes for the coming year. It's meant to be a time of renewal, forgiveness, and new beginnings. So to you, my dear friends, I wish a year filled with love, peace, and hope. May your blessings be abundant and your eyes be renewed to see the most priceless gift of all, Jesus in our midst.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yarn Along


Oh my, what have I gotten myself into? Three unfinished projects at various stages of completion. And with all those projects, you would think that I have spent the last few days feverishly knitting? Nope. Not a stitch since Sunday. I've spent my time at the sewing machine instead. Oh brother, I've got some work to do.

There's the armless sweater that Lily has actually been wearing nevertheless (with its arm stitches on waste yarn). Perhaps we can start a new style?

The fingerless mitten that is currently partnerless and topless, too.

And the scarf that I started this weekend while at work (the kids came down mid-row and I promptly forgot which row I'm on, explaining why I'm stopped at such a precarious spot).

Well, I certainly have my work cut out for me these coming days. But somehow, all these unfinished projects feel perfectly appropriate, because aren't we right in the throes of Advent? Waiting for the most beautiful project of all to reach completion. I suppose I'm in good company.

Can't wait to see what all you other yarn-alongers are up to this week!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bean Bag Tutorial


1. Cut two scraps of fabric, any size you like (mine are about 7" square)

2. With right sides together, sew all around using 1/4" seam allowance, leaving small (2-3 inch) hole for turning. Clip corners and turn.


3. Fill with whatever grainy pantry item you are looking to get rid of: I have bags with beans, barley, and brown rice (each yields a bag with a slightly different texture). Don't overfill, but make sure the grains can move around a bit.

4. Pin hole shut.
5. Topstitch around the bag, making sure the grains are pushed away from the needle while sewing.

Viola! Enjoy your new beanbags. Ever Lily has taken to the bean bag toss around here. A truly easy project, and a fun little last minute gift to make!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Nesting

It really is incredible, the energy that an imminent birth can create. From baking to sewing and just all around tidying, it is unstoppable. And sure, the pregnancy hormones can help, but I think that anyone who has anticipated something incredible, a guest, a dream, a trip, has experienced it too. Our whole being tries to prepare our space for a wonderful new thing, and it is exhilarating.

My sister the artiste helped frost the gingerbread this afternoon. I just want to move into one of those little houses.

I have been stealing moments to sew classic totes for gifts-- really quite easy, and I am smitten by the french seam!


And these two are full of wonder and curiosity, asking questions like, "Is it the real Santa, or the fake Santa who comes on Christmas morning?" Even their imaginary games have taken on an Advent theme, with characters like the wise men and shepherds entering the scene. Lily runs to our evening Advent celebration each night going "Fft! Fffft!" which is her noise for blowing out the candles.

Yes, I think "nesting" starts to capture the excitement in our little neck of the woods. Any nesting where you are?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Nativity


We received this paper mache nativity in the mail yesterday, and I tell you, a riot almost broke out among my children. It's that good! I am always looking for religious items that are approachable to children, and this definitely fits the bill (for gifts we don't make at home, I really love Ten Thousand Villages... they are fair trade and have beautiful religious items).

They're colorful and whimsical, and the children really love them (and after an afternoon of practice have even learned to share the pieces). There's something about the characters from the Christmas story that truly capture a child's imagination. Where is the baby Jesus? Why, he won't come out until Christmas morning (do you do that too?). Just a little illustration of what all this waiting is about.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Baking (and a recipe!)



We've been doing all sorts of baking and prepping around here. From the classic german Hazelnut balls to the new addition of some peppermint bark this year, the kitchen has been full of working hands and delicious sweets. Zosia is the family sampler, who, despite initially being horrified by the fact that anyone would crush perfectly good candy canes for any purpose whatsoever, decided that peppermint bark is a good thing. All the girls happily placed nuts in my hazelnut balls, sometimes two per cookie, but who's counting?

And Lily quite simply came up to the table when all the goodies were packed into jars, gathered as many jars as possible close to her little self, and declared, "Mine."

Just in case you have a few spare moments between now and Christmas, here is our family Hazelnut ball recipe, passed down through many generations of German women on Ben's side. You know they're genuine because there is no real flour, only nut flour (which I ordered here, because we don't have a nut grinder at home) AND the measurements are in grams. The result is quite tasty-- chewy and sweet, and nice and filling because of all of those nuts!


Hazelnut balls

Yield: 80 balls

  • 80 whole nuts
  • 550 grams hazelnuts, ground (about 4 1/2 cups ground)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 500 grams powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
  • 2 vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites, slightly beaten
Mix in order given, except for whole nuts. Use hands to mix. If too sticky use more nut flour. Divide dough into 8 pieces. Make each piece into a roll, and cut into 10 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Press the whole nut into the center of the cookie, one per cookie.

Prepare cookie sheets with bees wax candles (rubbing them), paraffin, or baking parchment.

Bake at 325 for 20-23 minutes.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Baby Prints


On the morning that sweet Lily was born at home, many things happened. We ooed and aahed at a wondrous new life. We made some introductions (Lily to a sleepy Zosia, Lily to a beloved aunt, Lily to a grandma).

I took a long hot shower, which was amazing. Then we all settled down for a well deserved nap. Somewhere in there, Lily was weighed using the cutest little scale , and then footprinted. And, I hate to admit it, but those precious newborn little footprints just sort of lingered on our dresser, accumulating dust and the occasional coffee stain (notice very few pictures of our delightfully cluttered bedroom!).

Now those of you who have spent time with a newborn know that few things stay tiny for long. They grow, and oh how quickly they grow. So those tiny footprints are a treasure!

The other day, Ben scanned the stained tattered original for me and we printed the footprints onto some nice cardstock. They are now framed and protected, and I smile when I look at them, because not only are they a reminder of a wonderful day, but a wonderful new beginning.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Yarn Along

Alright, I do have a question to all my fellow yarn-alongers. How do you find the time to both knit and read? Perhaps some are agile enough to do both at the same time? I want to know your secrets!

I have been knitting up a storm around here this past week, and am afraid to report that my book is more a representation of wishful thinking. For now, it's either knitting or reading. Or maybe I can convince Ben to read aloud to me? Yes, I'll have to work on that one.

This week I have a classic raglan pullover for Lily on my needles (which, I have been informed, will make me a true knitter upon successful completion), and after one stressful night working on double pointed needles because I didn't have the right size circular needles, it is now smooth sailing... circular needles really are so much easier. I can hardly wait to do the sleeves and collar!

Check out Ginny's page for more yarn along!

Warm Legs


We did go outside yesterday! And it was still cold. Brr. But it is refreshing to pop out for a bit, and I am a sucker for bright red baby cheeks.

I am still learning ways to keep little ones warm, and I have had a bit of a dressing conundrum. Real pants, things like jeans, corduroys, etc, are not well liked around here. The girls have realized they aren't that comfortable (and who can blame them?) and flat out boycott them. So the girls are perpetually in leggings, which is just fine by me, but really doesn't keep them warm in the middle of winter. I tried my hand at Ginny's leg warmers tutorial, and am happy to report that they are a hit! Zosia likes them because she believes that leg warmers are something that a ballerina would wear, and Lily decided that she does like them, even though there was a bit of frustration at first that they are neither pants nor socks. Oh well.

But the real good news is that they are made out of wool and seem to keep the girls a bit more comfortable outside. Now to resolve the issue of keeping a 1-year old's hands (who politely refuses to wear mittens) warm in the cold. Any ideas?

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Quiet Space


It has been a blustery week. My goal of spending a bit of time outside each day has sometimes just become unreasonable, and we have been finding ways to transform our little home into a creative abode. For me that has meant sewing, knitting, and other little craft projects, which I hope to share more of this coming week. For the little ones that has meant a bit of everything: coloring, "cooking" with dry beans, playing doctor, and pretending to be dinosaurs. And I must say, a week into this, I am not feeling the least bit stir crazy. Just content, warm, and feeling lucky to have this quiet space to be together.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Advent Rhythms




Each year's Advent rhythms are a bit different. There are years with babies, years with toddlers, and years in between. "You've been pregnant for the last six Advents," Ben insists. Not quite, but I do understand how it feels that way. And that certainly does lend a magical air to the expectation of the season.

Our own traditions have developed, expanded, adapted. Last year our attentive toddler and tiny little baby didn't mind sitting through our full adult Advent readings. It was beautiful and special, and made our nightly gatherings especially nurturing for our adult spirits. This year, we have a livelier bunch at our feet. We sing, dance (Lily has a little ritual of going to her rocking chair for the entirety of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" each night). It's our first year using Jesse tree ornaments, which has added a new little ritual-- finding the right ornament, telling the right story.

But even these traditions are fluid. Some stories truly capture our imaginations, others are just a bit too mature for our family this year. We adapt as need be. There are nights when my eyes fill with tears as I read the words, and my whole person fills with a great Amen. And then there are nights that I just laugh as the little ones gather to blow out the candles, and carry on with my evening. And isn't that just right for the season in which we prepare for the great mystery of the Incarnation? A little bit sacred, a little bit ordinary, and absolutely perfect in every way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Photo, Christmas Dresses

Phew, that was a long time coming! Why is it so hard to take a picture of the whole family together? I am quite happy to check off the "make family Christmas card" box on my to-do list.

And Lily's naps have been quite full of sewing this past week: the other day, I made each girl a Christmas dress, with Zosia helping me by pressing the "gray button" which turns the machine on. Nothing fancy, just a simple dress based on an existing dress that each girl had. And Lily got a fancy collar because I just couldn't quite get the original collar right. Perhaps I'll make Zosia a white sash so they're more matchy-matchy. They look a bit like a certain cartoon mouse, don't you think?


I hope your Advent is drawing your whole family inward!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Yarn Along


I just finished up Zosia's Christmas vest last night: a simple repeat of a vest I have made for both girls before, this time with no cable both for ease of knitting and reversibility (for that toddler of mine who loves dressing herself). Now I just need to block it, which, for some reason, always seems to take me forever. Lily's still fits from last year, so I'm deciding whether to make her another or do something else.

And other than that, there has been a whole lot of Advent around here. Ben and I have yet to get into the full swing of things with our favorite book for spiritual preparation, but have been delighting in the rich children's literature that's out there.

And did I mention St. Nicholas? That sweet old man came by and filled our shoes... albeit a day late.

Oh, and pop on over to Ginny's page for more yarn along!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Two Little Monsters



I've been wanting to make some fleece hats for the girls. The requirements: something silly, with extra coverage around the ears and neck. A friend's son had a cute fleece hat, and it only took a moment of looking at it to realize, "Hey, that would be easy to make!" Of course, my sweet bit girl dreamed up what she called a "dino hat," which essentially meant that I sew on two extra buttons and put a bit of jagged edging on the top of the hat. Same idea, though.

I was thinking about putting together a tutorial, but in truth, it's just too simple for that.

1. Make the four pieces for the top of the hat by tracing the top of an existing hat like this (in other words, you'll cut out two of each of these pieces):


2. Using the same hat, sketch out two longer strips that will be the bottom of the hat. It will look something like this (you'll want to hold up this piece to your model to make sure that the chin strap reaches all the way around):


Now, I am no expert sewer, but here's how I assembled the hat.
  • Sew together the bottom seam of pieces E and F (I'll call it EF now). Flip right side out.
  • Next, sew together part A to B (I'll call it AB now), and part C to D (I'll call it CD now).
  • Sew the outside seam of the hat by placing the right sides of AB and CD together and sewing the two outside edges.
  • Finally, pin the right side of the top of EF to the right side of the bottom of ABCD, and sew (you will be sewing through three pieces of fabric).
  • Sew a button for the neck strap, and make a button hole on the other end.
  • Check on your model and make adjustments as needed.
Whew, does that even make any sense (if not, I can snap some pictures while I'm making another one of these)? It really is easy to whip up-- under 30 minutes, I would say. And fleece is an absolute dream to work with-- no fraying, and so nice and warm. The thing I love the most about the hat is that the ear cover part is two pieces of fleece thick, which held up for a morning at the park even in today's freezing temperatures. It certainly feels like winter around here!