Wednesday, December 31, 2008

For the New Year I Wish You Enough

Somehow I lost a day and thought we still had one more day of 2008 until my son told me this morning that today is New Year's Eve. ;-) I love this time of year - time to reflect on the year past, time to dream and plan for the next year. As always I have lots of dreams and plans on the go and look forward to more living, loving and learning in 2009. Last week I came across a story in the little local newsletter from where my folks live. I loved this part of it and think it a very fitting wish at the beginning of a new year. I'd like to share it here.

I wish you enough sun
to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain
to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness
to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain
so that the even the smallest joys in life may appear much bigger.

I wish you enough gain
to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss
to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos
to get you through the final goodbye.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Handmade

This is the time of year when I not only have some time for crafting but also when I tend to look around - at my home and my life - and consider what I want to get done. For many years I have had many projects hanging around in various stages of completion. I've set myself a goal of getting most of them done by April and during that time also deciding what projects I no longer want to work on and getting rid of those supplies.

I finally got this rag rug finished up this morning and will either do one more (for the cats because this one is meant to be for my mom) to use up the remainder of the sheets that I've had for years or find someone who wants to try their hand at it.
Just before Christmas I decided to make some felted handle covers for cast iron fry pans. My son has been wanting me to make these for quite some time - he has managed to burn himself a few times. I made some for a friend too and now will make some for my folks. These are a great way to use up odds and sods of wool. You can use up bits and pieces to make stripes.
Or knit them up plain and then needle felt embellishments on.
I also wanted to share a photo of this gift that my husband made for E - to go with his wooden sword and knitted chainmail. It is a simple to make wooden shield (which can be painted with an emblem) - board cut to shape, edges sanded slightly and a wooden trowel handle attached on the back. Fun gift. E is now all kitted out to be as knightly as he likes. ;-)
And E also got his own artist's tote bag - in a more manly plaid. ;-) It really was a handmade sort of Christmas this year. My mom also made gifts for the boys again. They got pajama pants and night caps like they usually do but they also got white chef hats and aprons made for them. Fun.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Simple Christmas

We're back from Christmas at the lake. We had a wonderful time. One thing that I have learned over the years is that it is often hard to have things live up to people's expectations. I guess by that I mean that I think many people peg so many hopes - for love, for comfort, for connection as well as quiet time, for peace as well as being surrounded by loved ones, for excitement as well as rest, for joy in giving as well as pleasure in receiving along with so much more - on just one short day instead of doing this on every day throughout the year. I feel that in the consumer culture we live in that we are definitely encouraged to think this way. I think perhaps such unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment for many. I think people tend to do this on many "special days" - Christmas, birthdays, weddings - and it can lead to frustration. Years ago I decided to make a conscious choice to just enjoy what was on Christmas instead of fretting about what I hoped it would be. It isn't that there was ever any thing wrong with our celebrations - I have always enjoyed them very much but I think often there was a feeling of relief that all the planning and organizing was done and also a feeling of it being an awful lot of work for just one day. I think perhaps as an adult I expected to feel the same sort of excitement of the day that I had as a child and now I am able to look at it differently while enjoying watching my kids enjoy a similar excitement to what I had as a child.

Traditions play a very important part in all our family celebrations. All through my growing up years my Dad would read this book to my brother (a gift to my brother on his first Christmas) and I each Christmas eve before bed...then we would hang our stockings by the fireplace, have our picture taken, put snacks out for Santa and the reindeer and go upstairs to bed. He continued reading it to us loooong past the age when one would normally no longer get bedtime stories. ;-) And now he reads it to my boys. I love seeing this and feel blessed to have parents who will carry on many such traditions for my own children.
Now on Christmas day I get a lot of pleasure from giving handmade gifts. I make time for time outdoors - sledding, walking, lying in the snow and bird watching. We eat...and eat...and eat some more - all our seasonal favourites. We play games. This year we also had a slide show - my mom got out all the old slides from early days in our family and we had a trip down memory lane. What fun. After the slide show we ate some more; it was time for the Christmas pudding! I've never had a Christmas without Christmas pudding - it is a Must Have! in our family. It is quite hard to describe to someone who has never had it before since it is not at all like pudding and telling someone that it is like a moist steamed cake doesn't quite do it justice. Also if you happen to tell anyone some of the ingredients ( grated potato and grated carrots) then they think you must be just a little bit crazy to eat it. ;-) My Dad's family always had his with white sauce (which is like a hard white icing) and my mom's family always had theirs with a caramel sauce so there has always been friendly argument in my family as to which is more delicious. I solved this simply when I was a child by always having both - the white sauce on first followed by the hot caramel sauce which sort of melts it all into a lovely sweet saucy mess. My husband and boys were pretty quick to see the sense in this. ;-)
So...Christmas for me now is about family, traditions, food and fun. And that is more than enough to make it a pleasure for me. Something else that I find at this time of year is that our traditions help me feel a connection with past generations of my family. A few of the slides in my mom's slideshow showed family sitting down to Christmas dinner - so heartwarming seeing my grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and other family that has been gone from our lives for years sitting together to enjoy their Christmas dinner...on plates that my mom still has. It reminds me that time passes quickly, that life is precious, that family is what matters and that I am lucky to be surrounded by family, that I should never hesitate to celebrate because life truly is good.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Solstice Traditions

I love Winter Solstice. For me this time of year really does tend to naturally bring about a time of quiet and time for reflection - simply because of reality of the season here: it's colder, dark earlier and there is no garden work to do.;-) I feel this is part of the natural cycle and if we can embrace it then it can be a really joyous part of life. I also think that celebrating these times of years brings a deeper connection to nature.
Yesterday we started our day with waffles and peach butter. Then we headed up the mountain to enjoy some time in nature. It was so beautiful up there - everything was covered in fresh powdery snow.The boys sledded, we walked, the dog romped and plowed his face through drifts of snow.The boys like to play board games on special days but yesterday we also had some fun playing this game out in the woods. One minute you see him...the next minute you don't.
It's called Stand Under a Tree, Give it a Shake and See How Much Snow Falls on You. Very fun! It's important to make sure you are dressed for it - you don't want all the snow falling down the back of your coat collar. Brrrr. It also helps to have loads of light powdery snow around. ;-) This was played A Lot!!

And it is quite the trick to try and time your picture taking to get a snap of the main release of snow falling down. See here? There are at least two people under that tree. :-)Our dinner was homemade pizza (with a new favourite dough recipe given to us by a friend). We also had our fire ritual - the same as last year, when we write down something in our lives that we wish to let go of and then burn the paper we've written it on.

We then say what steps we will take to replace those negatives with positive things. I encourage the boys to think of at least one action that they can take to make what they want to happen happen.

We all really enjoy this tradition. I find that my children really love having traditions in their lives. I wonder which of ours our boys will choose to carry into their adult lives. After this serious business ;-) we did some fire writing (or played Jedi - depending on your preference) and then the boys ended the evening by opening their solstice gift. It was a wonderful day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Knitted Chainmail

I definitely work best under pressure. What's with that? It was at least at least a month and a half ago that I cast on for this chainmail. I saw it on Knitting Iris' blog and knew it would be a perfect solstice gift for E. It languished on the needles (hmmm, that seems to be a recurring theme with my knitting) until just the other day. I worked on it every chance I got yesterday and just finished it this morning. I really like it. It is just made out of scrap yarn that I already had so there are different shades of grey and different thicknesses of yarn but it turned out just fine. W tried it on for me because part way through because I thought that the neck hole seemed too small to get over a head. I yanked and tugged at it trying desperately to get it over W's head eased it gently over W's head and managed to pull so hard that the yarn finally gave up and stretched just before its breaking point thankfully, the yarn gave way with my gentle persuasion. Whew! I really think he will be thrilled with this gift.

Fingerless gloves and a snow day

Wednesday night just as I was finishing the thumb on the second fingerless mitt our phone rang. I could tell by my husband's end of the conversation that his sister was thinking she would not be making the drive over the mountains to come visit us for the weekend as planned because of the ton of snow we were having.
I found this a bit funny because I was actually finishing the mitts for her with time to spare and now we wouldn't be seeing her 'til February. I finished them up and planned to give them to her when we saw her next and then didn't worry about tidying up the spare room or doing anything else to prepare for company since she wouldn't be coming. Late last night the phone rang with the good news that she would come after all.

We had a crazy amount of snow yesterday. We happen to be right in a pocket that got a particular weather pattern coming in across the lake with the result of over 42 cm of snow in one day. We shovelled...and shovelled...and shovelled. E and I went for a walk in it last night and in parts he was slogging through snow almost up to his hips.

Soon we will be having our solstice fire out in this area. Looks like we might need to do a bit of digging out before that happens.

The boys are thrilled with the amount of sledding we are getting in. They were out playing with a friend 'til past bedtime last night. And I am thrilled with the amount of knitting I am getting in. E's solstice gift is almost done. I just need to join the side seams.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thimble Cookies

Thimble cookies have always been a favourite of mine. I love to make them at this time of year and find it pretty easy to round up a helper to do the thimble imprints.The dough is so simple with only a few ingredients. I like to use fresh lemon juice in them.
We roll them in ground walnuts - the walnuts come right from our very own tree. Then make an imprint in them with a thimble so that we have a spot to fill with jam.Bake them and then fill them with our own jam or jelly. I always use raspberry, blackberry or currant - I like that bit of berry tartness with the sweetness of the cookie.

Here is a link to a recipe that is the same as the one I use. If you decide to make them then make sure to double the recipe. ;-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More handmade gifts

Yesterday I was reading Soulemama's blog and saw the fingerless mittens link. A click and an peek convinced me that I should make some for my SIL. I finished weaving the ends in this morning on the mitt and then it occurred that we say "a pair of mittens" in two mitts, not one. I would need to make a second mitt to go with the one I'd already knit. Ahhh, thought I...there is a SMS (second mitt syndrome) just like there is a SSS (second sock syndrome). I was undaunted. ;-) I cast on a second mitt immediately to ensure that I would not succumb to SMS. (something that a knitter such as myself would definitely tend to do)My second sock may still be languishing in the knitting cupboard but the second mitt will not meet the same fate. I have a deadline...and it is Friday afternoon. Just the sort of motivation I need. ;-)

I also finished the slippers for my Dad and I really love the colour combination of navy top and black bottom. My Dad has definite ideas about which colours can be worn together - blue and green should never be seen is something I heard regularly through my youth - but I know that he considers navy and black a suitable combo.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Felted eyeglass case

I liked needle felting that make-up bag so much that I decided to needle felt a knitted eyeglass case as well. I knitted up a simple case and felted it at the same time as I felted some knitted slippers for my Dad.
I searched online for a bit of floral inspiration and then ended up doing this.
Now...what else can I felt???

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hand-dipped beeswax candles

Lately our home has had the sweet honey smell of beeswax filling every nook and cranny. E has been busy dipping candles. He spent much of the autumn learning all about pioneers and knew that he wanted to dip candles in this "pioneer" way ( and make butter and spin wool and weave a basket and make ink and and and...) ;-)I loved watching him patiently dip, dip, dip and then decide which set of candles would be give to each person. He also enjoyed writing a little article about candle dipping for an online newsletter for the virtual village we are part of.
This is the kind of learning that we love in our family - the kind that employs all our senses...that is simple...natural...practical...and is meaningful to us in some way.

He has them all ready for gifting and is quite pleased with the process and the thought of having lovely handmade gifts for all his loved ones. He even made some for me to put in one of my favourite Christmas decorations.