Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Decorating Rest Between the Seasons

I know that, officially, it’s still fall, but once Thanksgiving is over, I’m ready to put away my fall decorations. I’m tired of looking at dried grasses, leaves and gourds, but it’s still too early for me to decorate for Christmas. So my family home is taking a decorating rest between the seasons as I hunt for winter decorations in nature.

My family room has returned to its family/travel theme, with photos of the Grand Canyon and hot springs at Yellowstone National Park. Soon, I’ll mat and frame some family portraits and a photo I took of the Grand Teton mountain range that I never got around to framing.

While on our walk today, I found some interesting sticks to, um, stick in a vase on my family room bookcase. I plan to hang blue and silver Christmas balls on them, and once Christmas is over, I’ll adorn them with little sweaters that I’ll knit from Knit Picks Snow Day kit.
The best thing about using gourds and leaves for decorating is that I don’t plan on keeping them, so I don’t need to find a place to store them and spend time and energy packing them away. Not only will they rot before next fall gets here, but we don’t have much storage space, so this is a good system for us. So I launched most of my gourds out the back door to see what grows from their seeds next year.

But I didn’t have the heart to chuck them all into the yard – some were in perfect condition, plus my house started looking empty without all the fall decorations. So I saved a few gourds that remind me of my little, three-member family and left the bittersweet wreath above the baker’s rack.

In the coming weeks I’ll share my Christmas and winter decorating ideas. In my family home, we only keep our Christmas decorations up for about three weeks. So I also incorporate seasonal decorations from nature that I’ll leave up for the duration of winter. I have a feeling it’s gonna be a long one, so I’d better come up with something good.

Happy seasonal decorating!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

So Much for which to be Thankful

Last year Nathan was born on Thanksgiving, and even though this year his birthday falls the day after, the day he was born will always be on my mind on Thanksgiving. My husband and I have so much to be Thankful for this year – most of all, Nathan. But also our families, our friends, our health and happiness, our jobs and our future together as a growing family.

This year we hosted Thanksgiving so we can be with both sides of the family on this special day. My husband is on call on Thanksgiving, so we spent the last three years eating turkey all by ourselves (and last year, in the maternity wing of the hospital).  So this year it was special to celebrate with both of our families, who don’t get to spend much time together. We enjoyed becoming one bigger family and sharing a meal together on this now incredibly specially day.
My felted leaves table runner and napkin rings were a nice addition to our Thanksgiving table, along with beeswax candles, fall leaf garland on the window, and the flower arrangement, sent by T.J.'s mom.

I wish I’d taken more photos of my family, but I was busy trying to feed Nathan and myself at the same time, and I was hungry!  I scarfed down turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, mashed turnips, carrots, cranberry sauce and gravy – all of it homemade and from scratch.  The food was delicious, and a group effort by the women in our family and my husband, who, despite having to work, found the time and energy to make the best gravy I’d ever had and carve the turkeys.

My husband carves the turkey while Nathan and my brother Mike, also Nathan's Godfather, grin at each other.
I’m especially thankful for my husband, who works an impossibly difficult and trying job so we can raise our family and give our kids a great life on this amazing property. Nathan and I benefit the most from my husband’s hard work – I’m able to work part time from home instead of full time for someone else, so Nathan doesn’t have to go to daycare.  Instead, I have a wonderful babysitter, who I’m also thankful for, and I get to dedicate almost all of my time to being a mom.

I benefit immensely because I’m fulfilling my dream of being a stay-at-home mom, and I get to bring up our son myself, the way we want him to be raised.  I see no way to repay my husband for doing this physically grueling and mentally draining work, and there’s no way to thank him enough.  All I can do is be the best wife I can be, and consciously work to be nicer and better to him…  and, in my estimation, that still won’t be enough.  I wish he could know how grateful I really am.
I took Nathan for a walk this morning, despite how windy it was on the farm. We used the bunting for the first time, and he stayed toasty warm, with some help from a knitted hat, mittens and sweater. Going for walks on the farm is good physical and emotional exercise for me; when I take in the beauty around us I remember how hard my husband works and the freedom he gives up in order for us to live here, and for me to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m the most thankful – and humbled – during this time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} is a Friday ritual.  A single photo -- no words -- capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nathan’s first birthday party; the farmer is in

Nathan’s first birthday party was a time to celebrate and reflect on the past year. He seemed like he had fun playing and interacting with his first and sweetest friend, Gino, and enjoyed his first taste of homemade, real chocolate cake.

The old-fashioned chocolate cake recipe came from America’s Test Kitchen; the crown, from Mum Paints Lives; and the sweater, knitted from ZoĆ« Mellor’s Adorable Knits for Tots.
Our guests seemed to be enjoying each other’s company, and there was more than enough food and snacks to go around.

Lookit Grandpa cheating on Nathan with adorable little Nora!

My husband shot some really good video of Nathan opening the generous gifts from our friends and family and smearing chocolate cake on his face while it was en route to his mouth.

One of my gifts to Nathan was Farmer Fred, a take on the Dapper Dan doll I had when I was little.

It’s based on the 12-inch doll in the round pattern from Wee Folk Art. I used brown yarn for overalls and black for shoes and embellished him with straps for the overalls that Nathan can button and unbutton when he’s older, a neckerchief…

…and a handkerchief I knitted out of fingering-weight yarn to go in his pack pocket.

My husband suggested I make him some green muck boots to make him look more farmer-like. A pitchfork would have been nice, but he’s too young for such a potentially pointy accessory.

Now I’m off to prepare for our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow and welcome our out-of-town guests tonight.  So much to do, so little time!   We have more than ever to be thankful for this year, and I’m glad we get to spend Thanksgiving with both of our families this year – a new Patla family tradition!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Boy is About to Turn One

I haven’t posted in a while and missed this week’s Yarn Along because I’ve been getting ready for Nathan’s first birthday party on Saturday.

The birthday crown idea came from Mum Paints Lives.
In my free time (insert cynical laugh here), I’ve been weaving in all the ends on my Gallatin Sweater and trying to finish the gloves in time for my husband’s birthday, which is just over a week away. Once I’m past the party, I need to finish getting ready for Thanksgiving, and that means sewing together my felted leaves napkin holders. I really don’t enjoy sewing, so… that’s why that hasn’t been done yet.

With my work schedule and feverish knitting (Nathan’s farmer doll is complete—here’s a peek at him. I’ll show the whole project after the big reveal at Nathan’s birthday party), I had to cop out and buy most of the decorations and food.

My farmer doll details are built on the 12-inch doll in the round pattern from Wee Folk Art.
However, I did make his birthday crown, some festive stars from the Magic Onions and an old-fashioned chocolate cake entirely from scratch.

I’ll be sure to share photos from Nathan’s first birthday celebration soon. I can’t believe my little boy is about to turn one.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Pictorial: The last of the fall colors

Nathan and I enjoyed the last of the fall colors on our walk today. It’s hard to believe the colors are already fading and the leaves are almost gone when the weather is so unseasonably warm.

 Standing in the shadow of the silo, we admire the fall colors that dot the landscape.

The Japanese maple blazes red against the deep blue sky.

The farm fields are ready to rest.

Bittersweet berries remind me that winter is near.

All that’s left to shade us are towering pines.

 I’ve enjoyed fall so much. I don’t want to see it end!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yarn Along

Last week I gave you a peek with just a sleeve of my sweater; here's a better look.  I'm saving the big reveal for when it's actually cast off and all 100+ ends are woven in. 

I'm also knitting gloves for my husband's birthday present and socks for a friend's Christmas gift. I have so many more projects in the works, but it would be too time consuming to share them all.  Instead, I'll share them when they become FOs (Finished Objects).

I'm reading Show No Fear by Perri O'Shaughnessy, and I'm considering ditching it.  The writing isn't great (I should say the contrary), but I'm really curoius about what's going to happen next.  I guess thrillers are like that.  I may need to switch genres in order find writing I'll actually enjoy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On to a New Phase of Babyhood

I was surprised and amazed to find that, just as quickly as my milk rushed in three days after Nathan was born, it abated in just three days when Nathan weaned himself over the weekend.  Women’s bodies are so incredible.  How can people say there’s no God when our bodies function so perfectly to create and sustain life?  Our design was no mistake.

I silently mourned the fact that this facet of our mother-son relationship is over.  It was such a sweet time, even near the end when he was squirming to get away, preferring to do just about anything else to drinking his mother’s milk.  I kept my sweet sadness to myself, because I’m proud of my son’s independent nature and that he weaned himself on his terms when the time was right.  He’s growing up, and I’m not about to let my feelings get in the way.

Even though I’m still a little misty, I’m so proud of my boy and happy for his perfect development.  And I’m a little bit relieved, too.  Even though it’s he who is moving on to a new phase of babyhood, we’re doing it together.  What’s right for him is also right for me.  And nothing makes me happier than being his mom.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Cold, Windy, Gloomy Day Spent Indoors

When the overcast sky gave way to sleet, I changed my mind on running errands and dragging Nathan out on this cold, windy, dark day. I live in a rural area where it takes about 25 minutes to get anywhere worth going, and running a few errands can take two or three hours. So when the sleet started coming down, staying home was an easy decision to make. Plus, Nathan’s getting over a cold, so it just seemed more kind to keep him indoors today.
There's still some green and fall color in the front yard, despite the gloom.

Nothing but gloom in the backyard.
Instead of bearing the blustery wind and dodging icy sleet, I pressed some leaves...

...and, with a cup of coffee and a sock on my needles, played with the cutest boy on earth.

Daddy had fun with us, too.
It could have only been better if I’d remembered to bake pumpkin cookies.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Felted Leaves Table Runner; Wool Felting Tips

I just finished up my felted leaves table runner and napkin rings for my Thanksgiving table.  As I did the somewhat boring task hand felting, I thought about all the things I’ve learned about felting over the years and thought I’d share them here.  If anyone has any wool felting tips to add, please share them your comments!

Here goes:

  1. Machine felting is perfect for objects that won’t get distorted by all the agitation in the washing machine.  (Loosely knit or crocheted objects and things with long straps, like some purses, are most likely to distort in the wash.)  I hand felted my table runner pieces before stitching them together.  Here are a few machine felting tips:
    1. If your washing machine water doesn’t get hot enough on the hot cycle, add a kettleful of near-boiling water.  If you can comfortably leave your hand in the stream of water that fills up your washer, it’s not hot enough.
    2. Put your wool pieces in a pillowcase and tie it shut to keep the inside of your washing machine free of wool fibers and to minimize distortion.
    3. Toss a towel (I’ve heard old jeans work, too, but I still wear my old jeans and care if they fit!) in alongside the pillowcase and set the washer to the smallest hot setting available.
    4. Check the pieces often, especially if there is a risk of distortion.  Don’t let them go through the rinse or spin cycles.  The cold rinse halts the felting process and spinning can distort and cause deep creases in your pieces
  2. When hand felting in the sink, wear rubber gloves for more friction during the felting process.  I’ve found that wool felts faster when rubbed against rubber gloves than when rubbed against itself or other wool pieces.  Also, rubber gloves help your hands tolerate hotter water.
  3. Add near-boiling water to hot water from the tap for faster felting.
  4. Pre-soak your objects in really hot water before starting to felt them.  This helps the wool fibers relax and open so objects felt faster when you start agitating them.  You can do this on the stovetop for the hottest near-boiling water possible; fish out your pieces with a pair of tongs.
  5. This is my favorite tip yet, something I did for the first time with my napkin rings: For small objects that aren’t too loosely knit or crocheted, machine felt them first in a pillowcase, and THEN hand felt them to lose stitch definition.
In the washing machine, my napkin rings shrunk and tightened up very nicely, but didn’t lose any stitch definition.  At all.  So I sighed, broke out my rubber gloves and put on the kettle.  I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly they lost stitch definition – and I didn’t have to wait for them to shrink and tighten up!  It was awesome, and quite the revelation.  Before putting these bad boys in the washing machine I presoaked them in a pot of near-boiling water on the stovetop, which I think helped with the shrinkage, but clearly not the loss of stitch definition.  The problem was they were too small to feel any of the agitation going on in the washing machine.

This is the first time I’ve felted something crocheted.  Crocheted fabric doesn’t lose stitch definition as nicely as knit fabric does.  Also, these were crocheted so loosely that I had to felt them more gently than I would have liked.  The napkin rings came out better, since they got tightened up in the washing machine and I could felt them more vigorously. Photos coming soon.
 I hope you find these tips useful for your next felting project.

Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, November 5, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} is a Friday ritual.  A single photo -- no words -- capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yarn Along

I'm following Ginny from small things in posting what I'm reading and what's on my needles.  I'm knitting a sweater for myself, gloves for my husband and will soon cast on socks for a friend's Christmas present.
I just finished reading Why I Fight by B.J. Penn and haven't yet picked up a new book.  What are you reading and knitting?
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