Over the years I have made many things for my Oma for Christmas; nothing big or fancy, just little handmade tokens of love, which I know she really enjoys, appreciates, and treasures.
This year I made her a butterfly. She loves butterflies.
(This was actually my second attempt, the first being quite unsuccessful, possibly because I was distracted by watching The Crown.)
It's a little thing, I know, but she'll love it, she'll find someplace to put it in her home, and making something for my Oma is a long standing tradition; she still has the picture I drew her when I was in kindergarten on the basement fridge door.....
Inspired by the yarn in my yarn basket and how well it matched with the quilt on my bed, I began my color block blanket journey back in July.
When I started my blanket I was deep in stash-busting mode, but after crocheting several blocks of color using only yarn from my stash, my blanket was quite oddly shaped - wider than it was long - so I needed to purchase some additional yarn. Isn't this how it always goes? You start off trying to use only what is in your stash for a project but then halfway through realize that more yarn is needed. In truth though, after making this blanket, my yarn cupboard is a little less stuffed, so all in all, even though a yarn store trip was necessary, I am calling this a stash-busting success.
Are you ready to see my blanket laid out in all its glory? Well then, may I present to you my beautiful color block blanket:
Now, in making this blanket, I learned an important lesson about yarn that I feel is my duty to pass on to my fellow crocheters: Bernat Handicrafter Cotton is not the same thickness in all colors. I crocheted eighteen rows of purple, orange, teal, and yellow and the width of all the color blocks is not the same. I did not actually come to this realization until I was working with the navy blue - which is much thinner than the other yarn colors - and by then it was too late to go back and fix the the other color blocks. If you just look at the blanket and don't actually measure the width of the blocks, it is not too obvious, but still, this was not what I was going for. I wonder if this is the case with other yarn types, is it the dying process that changes the thickness of the yarn? Anyone know?
Also, does anyone else keep all their yarn labels until the project is finished and then throw them out?
Lessons and imperfections aside, I am very happy with my blanket. Making this blanket was a very happy journey and one perfectly suited to sitting on the couch after a long day, watching a program on television, and crocheting away. And I do love the large blocks of color and the fact that there were only a few ends to darn in, unlike my Cozy Stripe Blanket which had millions.
During this very full time of the year, I believe it is even more important to be intentional with our time, energy, resources, and spirit. And I am trying. Some things have been easier than others, no doubt, but all in all, I am feeling more present this year, more relaxed. In the end, I want to enjoy the holidays, not merely survive them and come out on the other end a frazzled mess, and by doing the following, I think I am well on my way:
I've kept Christmas decorating minimal. We have our tree up, and a few Christmas vignettes here and there, but not much else. I love the way my decorations blend into the normal decor and look of my house rather than overwhelm it, and I love that it did not take me days to decorate everything. How minimalist I've become...
We got our calendar organized early on and intentionally left some days empty to just relax and see what comes (good thing, because we were just invited to a photo exhibit this coming Sunday that I am super excited about)
Letting go of disappointment and hurt and accepting that all I can control is what I do and how I react to things (not easy, but it does bring so much peace when you just let go)
Christmas cards made and sent by the first week of December. I love doing this every year as it is such a fun and creative family activity.
Getting the shopping done early
Accepting what is not for us. I will probably not be doing any Christmas baking and I am okay with that. I don't love baking cookies and would rather spend my time in the kitchen making other things. And the girls don't seem to miss it. The last few times we baked Christmas cookies, they lost interest very quickly and were off playing together while I was left alone in the kitchen finishing up the decorating and not really loving it...all this to say that Christmas baking is not our thing, and that is perfectly okay.
Taking some time in December to do some things that are not Christmas related. I don't know why, but this is important to me, to not do Christmas all month long and sort of wear it out...is that weird?
Finding encouragement - this post was particularly good.
Being present for the holidays is the best present I can give myself. But then, a year of intentionally trying to be present in the Now rather than rushing on to the next thing has really been the best gift I could have given myself...
How are you staying in the Now and enjoying the holidays?
My focus for the year was Now is Now. Read all my posts about being present in the moment here.
"A portrait of my girls, once a week, every week, in 2016."
Bridget: a morning spent rock climbing with your friends, followed by pizza, cupcakes and some very thoughtful gifts...you declared this to be "the best birthday party ever" and that you are "a very lucky girl".
Claire: an actual conversation we had this week
Me: Claire, are you always going to be seven and sweet?
My friend, for whom I made a little duck, also requested an owl and I was happy to oblige.
What a cute little guy he is...big owl eyes and a little beak...
To make him, I followed a pattern in my all time favorite amigurumi book; seriously this book, and the other two by the same author, are so full of crochet cuteness...if you have ever been interested in amigurumi, I would highly recommend these books. The patterns are clear and simple and the toys that you can make are adorable, as you can see here.
Finishing up these two and seeing them sitting side by side has really inspired me to make more amigurumi friends. I've earmarked the patterns that I want to do, but that is as far as it will go for now. For the next month before Christmas I need to focus on gifts that I want to make. I'll just add my amigurumi friends to my 'to make' list for the new year. Isn't it wonderful to have a lot of crafty ideas? Can you imagine how boring life would be if that was not the case?
"A portrait of my girls, once a week, every week, in 2016."
The Queen of Hawaii and her Royal Fashion Designer
To begin, let me just say that my girls do have toys, they just preferred to spend the day, as they do most days, playing with paper, scissors, toilet paper rolls, and the stapler.
We spent Saturday evening at the theater watching a fantastic performance of Cinderella, and Bridget woke up the following morning bubbling over with inspiration and excitement. Before Steve and I were even out of bed, both girls were in the basement - Bridget hard at work designing and making dresses, while Claire was the ever-patient model, attending fittings as needed. Throughout the day, all wardrobe essentials were created: dresses, shoes, purses, bracelets, anklets, crowns, headdresses, skirts, shirts. There was a battle gown, a traveling crown, and a jewel festival outfit. And it was all made out of paper and stapled together. The girls had the best time - "a great day" - and were even planning what else to make while getting ready for bed. The headdress with the toilet paper rolls was so iconic that it got both Steve's and my vote as our favorite creation of the day. The imagination and creativity that pours out of these girls just amazes me and I often wonder where it will lead; I am excited to watch and see.
The final box: apples, kale, carrots, red onions, potatoes, cabbage, squash, tomatoes and spinach (not pictured).
After picking up our produce box for twenty-two weeks we have reached the end of the season and with that I have thought a lot about what I loved about this program, what I was not really keen on, and what I would do next year.
Let me start with what I loved:
that we had fresh, organic produce every week
how much better this local produce tasted compared to what we could buy in the stores
increased knowledge and appreciation for what grows local to us
trying new recipes (my favorite thing!!)
it was fun
meal planning was simpler as I planned our meals based on what we got in the box
I got to drive into the country and visit a beautiful garden center every week when I was picking up our box
after the initial cost of paying for all the boxes back in June, our weekly grocery bill was greatly reduced
On the flip side, there were things that I did not love:
receiving herbs in the box - it was very difficult to use large bundles of herbs before they went bad
sometimes we had a lot of the same produce - for example, too many onions at the beginning of the season and too many carrots at the end - and it was a lot to use up before the next box arrived. I did manage to use everything in the end, but it definitely required a bit more work and organization and was a wee bit stressful at times
the recipes that were included with the box this year were not as good as those we got last year, though to be fair, I have become very particular about recipes and about what I cook
Looking ahead to next year, I would definitely participate in this program again, but more likely every second week rather than every week. This would create a little more balance - all the things I love about the program while eliminating a fridge full of lettuce and onions, or three varieties of peas, and the pressure to use everything up before the next box arrives. Also, we having been talking about expanding our backyard garden and if we do that a produce box every week, plus what we harvest from the garden, would be too much.
As for writing these posts about our produce box and what foods I have cooked, I have really enjoyed it. More interestingly though is that as I spent more time in the kitchen trying new recipes and playing with food presentation, I fully embraced the creative aspects of cooking and realized that cooking has indeed become a hobby of mine rather than simply a necessary chore. And while I was a little hesitant at first posting about food and cooking here at Crafty Cucumber, worried that it would not be a good fit, once I saw it for the creative outlet that it had become I knew that it belonged here. I hope you have enjoyed reading these posts as much as I have enjoyed creating them.
"A portrait of my girls, once a week, every week, in 2016."
"Mom, we are freezing...hurry up and take the picture!!!"
Winter arrived this past weekend; the temperature dropped dramatically, the snow whipped against the windows and accumulated ever so slightly in the corners of the yard. Inside we tried on winter coats and boots, searched through drawers for hats, mittens, and scarves. While winter stretches out ahead of us - long, dark, and cold - I find myself looking forward to the quiet of the season, to hibernating and spending some cozy time with my girls.
I had to dodge raindrops to get a photo of this week's box: carrots, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, butternut squash, Jerusalem artichokes, apples, and apple butter.
I tried two new recipes this week:
(from left to right)
Jerusalem artichokes, have you ever heard of them? I have not, and these were not at all what I know artichokes to look like. Luckily there was a recipe included with our produce so I had some idea how to prepare them: boiled with a little melted butter on top and a sprinkling of parsley and lemon juice. They were met with a full range of reactions when we had dinner: Bridget loved them (but she loves everything), I thought they were good and liked that we had a new vegetable to try, Steve and Claire had looks of utter disgust on their faces when they put them in their mouths.
Simple Roasted Butternut Squash Salad. I got distracted and roasted my squash a little too long - some pieces were a little crispy - but it was still delicious, the avocado being an especially delicious touch. I am happy that between this week's salad and last week's risotto, that I have found a few things to make with butternut squash other than soup.
I made a little duck for my friend to give to her daughter; her daughter loves ducks.
The pattern that I used (from this book) also included instructions for an apple hat which I made as well....because it is very cute, and what little girl does not want an accessory for her little friend.
I hope she loves it.
Of course now that my girls have seen this little duck, and my pattern book has been out on the kitchen table, I have received quite a few requests for toys that they would like....
Another great box this week: beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, apples, carrots, tomatoes, butternut squash, cabbage and watermelon radishes.
I was feeling a little experimental this week and tried a few new recipes:
(from left to right)
Loaded Sweet Potatoes - this recipe is from Oh She Glows Everyday. In the past, when I have had sweet potatoes on hand, I have either made a soup or simply cut them up and roasted them. This recipe offered something very different and I was excited to give it a try. The bean mixture on top was delicious, but what really made this dish was the avocado sauce (green).
Butternut Squash and Kale Risotto - Butternut squash is another vegetable that usually becomes soup in my kitchen, but not this time. This dish was delicious, time consuming with all the stirring needed to cook the rice properly, but delicious all the same.
Watermelon Radish Salad - I was so excited to see watermelon radishes in our box because I have had this recipe from The Forest Feast earmarked as 'one I want to try' for years - I could just never find watermelon radishes in the grocery store.
Great food again this week thanks to an inspiring box of delicious produce...love it!
There is something so familiar and comforting about getting the same holiday decorations out year after year, and this seems especially true for children. My girls love to go down into the storage room, pull down the box we need, and excitedly take out the decorations that they remember so fondly from years past. Last night this happened as we got ready for Halloween, out of the box came these friends.
The girls remember exactly where in the house we had put each decoration the year before, they remember the games they played with them....they were so happy to see these friends reemerge for another year....
And I remember how the ghost fit so snugly in Claire's chubby three-year-old hand when she grasped it, and how delicately Bridget handled the witch after I finished it and told her how much work it had been - "it needs to be carried carefully, right Mommy" she said.
Lots of goodness in this week's box: carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, red potatoes, red onion, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, grapes, green pepper, and annaheim peppers.
The grapes were delicious, although a bit tricky to eat as they were full of seeds; along with the apples they were a nice addition to our school and work lunches.
I do not like eating green pepper raw, so I diced this one up and froze it for later use. As for the annaheim peppers, the note that was included in our box warned that they could be a little hot so I cautiously tried them and was pleasantly surprised; they had a bit of a kick but not too much.....that is until I accidentally ate a seed. Oh. My. Goodness. My lips and mouth were on fire and there was nothing I could do to make it stop but wait for the burning to go away....which took about twenty minutes, I kid you not. Not fun.
I roasted the carrots with cinnamon, garlic powder, salt and olive oil, a slight variation of the Red Roasted Carrots recipe from The Forest Feast, and they were delicious.
I also tried a new recipe: Sweet Potato Chowder from The Forest Feast Gatherings. This was one of the simplest, most delicious soups that I have made, one that I will definitely be making again soon.
I want to apologize for the lack of food pictures lately. With the seasons changing it is dark by the time we eat dinner - not great for photos - and I have been making lots of soups which do not photograph well (by me, they look great in cookbooks, but not when I take pictures of them).
"A portrait of my girls, once a week, every week, in 2016"
(In this case portraits; sometimes picking one is too hardand I do love the story captured here.)
A perfect October afternoon spent playing in the leaves: running off the deck and jumping into the pile, laughing, throwing leaves in the air and at each other. The weather does not always cooperate - some years the leaves are too wet to play in - but this year was perfect and you girls had such a great time together playing in the leaves.