Sunday, December 19, 2010

Waiting.

Sometimes, during a rough time in life, a moment of peaceful thinking comes upon me. A moment of clarity. A little bit of wisdom that helps me relax, step back, and stop stressing about the situation.

For the past weeks, I've been struggling with the emotions of carrying an "overdue" child. Much like an overdue bill, my phone keeps ringing about it. Much like an overdue bill, there's not much I can do about it. When you can't make it happen, you just can't, as I have explained to bill collectors in the past. I'm doing the best I can, I've also explained. But the calls are relentless, in both situations.

My emotions about this little one's impending arrival have been varied. Some days, I'm able to keep a calm, "it will happen when it happens" attitude. Some days, I wake up with a feeling of stress, disappointment, and failure sitting heavy on my heart. Some days I'm thankful for the extra time to finish my holiday crafting. And some days the emptiness of my arms make me sit and cry.

This morning, I've come to a place where I can recognize that parenting is hard from the very beginning. Children test your limits before you even meet their gaze for the first time. They are unpredictable, and very much their own person, which is what makes them so amazing. And if I could read my child's mind, know exactly "what the baby is waiting for," it would make parenting easy. Thankfully, we can't read our children's minds. Not as turbulent teenagers, not as frustrated toddlers, not as simple needs infants. That would make the art of parenting much less magic. Make it unnecessary to get to know your child.

So what is this baby waiting on? I presume he or she is waiting on his or her birthday. Unfortunately, we don't know when that is, so it's hard to plan for it. Maybe the baby is waiting to put on a little extra weight... it's awfully cold out here in December. Perhaps the waiting is for a special event - a few days from now, we are having a beautiful celestial event in which a full moon, a lunar eclipse, and the winter solstice all occur on the same day.

In any case, this baby is waiting, and teaching me a lesson in patience. Helping me to be thankful for the gifts I'm getting instead - plenty of time for crafting, a last few quiet moments with just me and POSSLQ, the promise of a travel-free holiday.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Traditions

I think the holidays take on a new meaning when you become an parent. Though the holiday season has barely begun, and my child is still snug in his or her little cocoon, I find myself having a different relationship with the lights, the beauty, the energy of the holiday season.

Growing up, we had certain traditions every year that we could rely on. My parents spent only one holiday season alone before I was born, and they have had children in the house each of the nearly thirty years since. For that reason, I always thought many of our traditions centered around making us, the children, happy. As I've grown into an adult, and my siblings have done the same, I've come to suspect that our traditions make my parents just as happy as they make us.

I remember going to pick out a "hunt and cut" tree every year - each of us campaigning for our tree of choice, the whole process taking much longer than it should have. I've always had a soft spot for short, chubby frasier firs, and my sister prefers tall, slender trees. My mother likes a tree that is perfect from all angles, and my dad tends to look at the practical aspects of the tree - straightness of trunk, ease of trimming, strength of branches. As the youngest child, my brother never got much say in our tree choice - though he always seemed to want whatever tree meant we could go home and decorate the fastest. Once we'd get the tree home, we would spend untold amounts of time trying to get the perfect side facing, straighten it in every direction, and finally start hanging our ornaments.

Ornaments... Yet another tradition our parents started for us. Each year, we got to pick out an ornament to hang on the tree. When I moved out of the house, I took a box of ornaments with me, and today, when I hung all my trinkets on the tree, I was able to look back over my childhood and remember what things were important to me each year of my life. Our tree is a reflection of my growing up, and each little hanging ballet dancer, rocking horse, special bulb, has a little story with it.

Close to Christmas, after we were out of school for the holidays, my mom always set aside a special evening just for baking cookies. Each year we would try out a few new recipes, but always have our faithful standbys - mint pixies, cookie press cookies, butter crunch, peanut brittle, fudge. Even though we are scattered across severalhouseholds now, we come together each year to make a tremendous mess in my mom's kitchen, and make enough batches of cookies to feed an army of elves.



From an early age, and I'm not sure why it started, we were allowed to open one gift on December 24th. Then we'd pile in the car, go to the candle light service at church, come home and perform our "Christmas skit," and all three cuddle into one bedroom for the night. Again, I'm not sure why we started sleeping all in one room on Christmas Eve,but I'm sure it made things a little easier for those distributing gifts...

As we have grown up and moved out, our traditions have changed slightly, but many things have stayed the same, and we have incorporated our partners into those traditions. This year, my sister and I have the blessing of introducing our babies to those traditions. We will also start our own traditions for our little families to enjoy, and hopefully reflect on with as much love and fondness as we have for our childhood memories.

Though we haven't put up a Christmas tree in several years, it was very important to me to decorate one this year, and POSSLQ was kind enough to drive us to the tree farm three times - we just couldn't seem to get there when it was open! Finally, we hunted down the perfect little tree yesterday. After shaking, wrapping, and paying for our happy and only-slightly-chubby frasier fir, we loaded it up and then spent a good amount of time here at home trying to make it stand up straight. Just like when I was a kid - it made me smile.


As I began to string the lights and hang the ornaments, the little one in my belly rolled around a little, and I smiled to think about trying to hang ornaments next year with a one year old stumbling around the house. Then I ran across the now tarnished little bear with a faded snapshot that is engraved "Baby's First Christmas," and I thought about how my mother probably felt the first year she hung that ornament on her tree.
I quilted little stockings for us several years ago, and through the past few years they have changed "assignments" depending on who needed a stocking - the dog, the exchange student, etc. This year, I'll be embroidering our names on them and making their assignments quite permanent.

I've put a few small decorations around the house, and am working on a crafty little fabric garland for the staircase. I saw a beautiful pine cone door hanging in Family Circle magazine, and was inspired to make one for ourhouse - thirty minutes with ribbon and a glue gun never looked so good! I also cut up a pretty floral arrangement I found at the local big boxmart, and arranged all the little twigs into a basket for our dining room table.




One of my very best friends crafted a beautiful wreath for us, which she brought over to me the other day, just as I was lamenting the empty space on our front fence. It is made with pine cones and berries from the heavenly bamboo bush POSSLQ and I planted the first spring we were dating. It's just breath-taking, and each year we will be able to decorate it a little differently.

As I decorated the house and waited not-so-patiently for this little person to make an appearance, our first beautiful snow fell on Saturday afternoon and evening. We usually don't get snow this early, and some years we don't get any at all, but this makes the second year in a row we've had a good snowfall in early December. That, along with time spent with family and friends, truly makes it feel like the holidays. I can't wait to see what the next few weeks bring.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An Ode to A Midwife

Every now and then, I get reminded that we are making the absolute right choice in our journey to bring this little spirit into the world. I mean, my heart knows it every day, but every now and again, something happens that really reminds me.

I haven't taken time yet to gush over our midwife, so I'll do it now... We met with Sam when this little babe was only a tiny thing, having grown for not quite three months. Our meeting was at her house, and the atmosphere was gentle and comfortable. It felt like a home we'd been in before. Sam's very presence puts me at peace. She makes me confident in myself, and our relationship, and our choices during this pregnancy, and the first meeting was just the same. We talked for more than an hour, but my heart knew in the first few minutes that this was the person to have with us on this journey.

Each appointment since has been amazing. Sam has a calming countenance, and a friendly, positive energy about her all the time. She is infinitely patient, extremely knowledgeable, and exceeding fair in every discussion. Her hands are loving and soft, gentle on my belly, quiet and peaceful to our baby. She whispers to the baby when she's feeling my uterus, and shares all her thoughts with us through her exams. Her confidence reassures me, and I feel safe in her care.

This past week, we had our 29 week midwife appointment. When we arrived at her house, Sam suggested we take our meeting outside, to enjoy the beautiful autumn weather. As she spread a blanket and made a comfortable area for us to sit and talk, I started to think about how very lucky we are to share this wonderful experience, the growing and birth of our child, with such an amazing spirit.

POSSLQ said at the very beginning that he felt a midwife was more than a caretaker, she would become a part of our journey, our family. He was right, and Sam has done just that. I feel exceedingly blessed each and every day to have a care giver, a partner, during my pregnancy with whom I feel so safe, and so loved. Sam greets us each with a hug, and embraces us again at the end of our meeting. I can imagine no better hands to usher this new life into the world. I can imagine no better energy to greet our child upon his or her arrival, and I can imagine no better person to make us feel safe and comfortable, and so very happy, with the choices we are making.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

One Love

POSSLQ and I are very lucky to have a huge circle of close friends we think of as family. We love them like brothers, sisters, parents, and more. Many of them we've known longer than we've known each other, and some we've known for the better part of our lives. We've got this huge network of love and support that spans an incredible age range, some of the youngest just learning to walk, others undoubtedly old enough to be our parents. People from every walk of life, but all like-minded, caring, loving, with passions for peace and love, music, dancing, and creativity.

When we shared the news that we were bringing another spirit into the circle of love, we were overwhelmed by the joy. Our friends were often more excited than our family, and being able to share this experience has been such a blessing. Our friends have gotten to watch this little person grow just as we have, and we can hardly wait for our little love project to meet all these aunties, uncles, honorary grandparents; this big extended family so full of love.


I feel so blessed to be able to carry this little one to so many of our favorite annual events. This child has an incredible appreciation for live music, and is learning how to dance already. So many of our favorite people have gotten to see and feel this little one groove on the energy we try to manifest, and each time we have a "family get-together," I'm reminded of how much love this child will know, and is knowing already. Belly rubs make me smile in the knowledge that our baby will soon be enveloped in the loving arms of our friends, and the little chats our friends have with my growing belly are making these voices familiar to the little one. I just can't wait to share this incredible little spirit with everyone, knowing that each person our child comes to know and love is one more person who will teach him or her how to love, how to be peaceful, how to live for your beliefs, how to be a true friend and a true human.



St. Patrick's Day 2010 - there's a baby in there, but we didn't know it yet!


DID June 2010 - the first time I felt that little spirit wiggle around, the Celthix (& friends) were playing "Copperhead Road."


Floydfest July 2010 - No denying there's a baby growing, and a taste for excellent music being formed.


Front Porch Fest Sept 2010 - Baby made it known that music is meant to be danced to, and once again we got to feel the love that surrounds this beautiful group of people.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Baby Sewing Makes Me Happy...

... Especially when other things make me blue, like POSSLQ being out of town for a week. But my mom scored some long sleeve side snap baby tee's (which are impossible to find, and only come in the smallest sizes), so I thought it was time to dress them up a bit!

Then I thought, what a great thing to do a tutorial on! So here it is, a little lesson on my method of applique. And pictures of my other appliques I finished.

Step 1 - Gather your materials. Print your applique design. Remember, long, simple lines are better, but pretty much anything goes, if you have a good sewing machine and some patience. For example, the whale was easy. The snowflake was hard.

You'll need - your printed applique, some fusible interfacing, stitch witchery, your fabric of choice, and the material you are appliqueing on (t-shirt or other material). And, of course, your trusted sewing machine and a high quality iron. (I have feelings about irons, which is why I paid more for my iron than I pay to go to the dentist.)


Step 2 - Trace your pattern onto your fusible interfacing or fabric. In the case of my little elephant, his ear is a different color than the rest of his body, so I did the ear first on the interfacing since it's an easy design. After I traced, I fused the interfacing and cut the piece out.



Then, I traced the body straight onto the fabric after I fused the interfacing. In the picture below, I've fused, and am getting ready to trace.


Step 3 - Zigzag your edges. Don't cut your piece out yet! Go ahead and sew it. You'll find it much easier to do this way, and the interfacing makes the fabric SO much more stable! I highly recommend testing your stitch width and length on a scrap first, since this dense zigzag edging is a PITA to seam rip. I usually set my machine to a width of about 2.5-3, and my length to a hair above "0."

Step 4 - Cut out and fuse your applique to your base piece. Since I have a two layer applique, I had to fuse the ear to the body first, but the process is the same. First, cut your applique along the zigzag stitching, being careful not to cut too close, or you'll cut the stitches! I actually leave just a breath of raw fabric on the outer edge, because I'm going to sew over it again, and most of that will unravel and disappear in the wash. I lay my applique down face down, cut out stitch witchery to cover the whole back of the applique, lay my base piece (t-shirt or whatever) over it right side down, then carefully fuse the two together. I really like my critters to crawl along the lower edge of my baby shirts, but you can place your applique wherever you like!

Follow the directions that came with your stitch witchery. Mine likes me to cover the fabrics with a damp pressing cloth (AKA clean towel I spray with water) and press without moving the iron for 10 seconds. Then do the same thing on the opposite side.

Step 5 - Sew your applique to your base piece. Turn your stitch length up a little (you are just attaching, not going for that super close edging look here), and sew over the edges, attaching the applique to the base piece. If I'm sewing onto knits (t-shirts and such), I like to use a ball point/jersey needle on my sewing machine so I don't create runs beside my applique. Add some hand sewn embellishments (I've added a backstitched tail and a french knot for an eye), and Ta-Da! You're done!


My other recent baby-related project? Turning newborn sized onesies into t-shirts that a cloth-butt winter baby can wear. Super duper easy. Cut off onesie bottom as close to snaps as possible, zig zag the bottom edge, add long sleeves, and patiently wait for baby to arrive.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Other Crafty Project

First a word from your friendly Dachshund


Some pictures below show the milkmakers.
(Read: mild adult content.)
Avert your eyes if it makes you squirmy.



17 weeks...
6 weeks...And back to 17 weeks...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

It's a Dyeing Kind of A Day... (part 1)

I've been tie dyeing for close to fifteen years now. I was the "tie dye lady" for many years at 4-H camp, then passed my late nights, stained hands, and hours at the laundromat down to others. Now, I tie dye for fun only. Until recently. I have so much fun tie dyeing that I've decided to use this little talent to make a little extra money this summer. You know, to help support the other crafty project I'm working on.

Loads of people have asked how I get such bright colors, such good designs, etc, so I thought I'd put together a little tutorial based on my many years of experience.

Step One - THE FABRIC

I always recommend using new fabrics for tie dyeing. As we wear and wash our clothes, the fibers pick up detergents, body oils, and other grimies. Of course, I have successfully dyed older items before, so don't let me stop you from tie dyeing your white tube socks you've had since 10th grade P.E.
100% cotton items take dye the best. Why? Unless you are using RIT dye (which I don't recommend), the dyes we use for tie dyeing are specifically engineered to bind to plant fibers. Hemp (being a plant) dyes well too, but unfortunately is much harder to find in our country. That's a discussion for another time...

Step Two - THE DYE

It's very tempting to use a "tie dye" kit you buy at your local friendly big box mart, but resist the temptation. The dyes are pre-mixed, and I've never had good, vibrant results with those kits. It's much better to find a brick-and-mortar source for tie dyes (Earth Guild in Asheville, NC carries all the colors you could possibly want), or order from a reputable dye company - I've had great experiences with both Grateful Dyes and Dharma Trading Co. Both sites have great instructions for tie dying, which is where I learned most of my stuff!

Step Three - THE FIXER SOAK

This is the step most often left out of tie dying, but in my opinion, one of the most important. Dye fixer helps to open the fibers in your fabric, grabs more color, results in less bleeding and blending of colors, and over all makes me a happier person. Plus, it's a basic (as in pH) solution, so it makes your hands all slimy and soft, which is a cool chemistry lesson! Most dye distributors sell soda ash fixer, which I used for years, but the shipping on that can be pricey, since it's so heavy. A little tip I picked up from another blog this year - pH balancer for your swimmy pool is the exact same chemical, so head on down to the local hardware store, or your local big box mart, and pick up a bottle of pH-Up. The chemical is sodium carbonate.

Mix the fixer at 3/4-1 cup per gallon of warm water. Energy saving tip - use your outdoor hose on a hot day, and let the water sit in the sun for an hour or so before adding the fixer. TaDA! Solar warming! Soak the fabric for about 15 minutes, then wring them out and tie into your favorite designs.



Step Four - TYING



First of all - make sure you have proper adult supervision, as I clearly have in the above photo. There are countless designs for tie dye, but a few of my favorites are the simplest - spirals, scrunches, and accordion folds. I'm not going to delve into all the methods for tying, because there are loads of other websites that do just that (and many provide video, a feature I'm not ready for here). I will, however, share a few tricks with you.

1. Some sites recommend folding/tying before soaking in fixer. I find the wet floppy shirt much more fun to handle than the dry shirt. But try both ways and do what works best for you. Exception: designs that are sewn in, like hearts and peace signs. MUCH easier on a dry shirt.

2. Rubber bands are your friends. Learn to work with them, and be kind to them, and they will be kind to you.

3. Some designs are hard to rubber band, such as the accordion fold. I use my rubber bands like stretchy pieces of string and tie them in knots for these designs.

4. Once your fabric is tied, allow it to sit in the sun for a few minutes. It dries up some of the fixer, so your colors don't go all crazy wicking all over the fabric when you squirt them on.

Step Five - MIXING DYES

Oh, the fun is almost here! Mixing dyes is a blast, and just so messy. I love it. But first things first. Don't mix your dyes into plain water. Use urea (it's made in a lab, not in a kidney) to help your dye powders go further. Through some magic I don't really understand, urea makes colors darker using less dye powder. It prevents those little "bursts" of undissolved dye powder. I like to mix up a big 'ol batch of urea water (sounds yummy, huh?), then just refill my squirty bottles from my large batch. And it keeps for a while, so if you're going to be tie dying several times over the course of a month or so, mix up a batch and put it in a recycled juice or milk jug. Just make sure to label the container! I mix my urea water at 1 TBSP urea to 8 oz of water. Oh, and where do you buy urea? The dye company, or a big craft store like Michael's. P.S. - Urea water will kill your grass. Imagine 75 neighborhood dogs peeing in the same spot on your lawn. Dispose of it properly.

Make sure you wear a mask when mixing dye. I never used to do this, since I was mixing outside, but this year I don't want to mess with the quality of my other crafty project, which means no inhaling harsh chemicals. Wearing safety gear is just good common sense.

When mixing dye, I usually start with 1 1/2 tsp of powder, then add more to get darker colors if I need to. You can really limit how much dye powder you have to use by using the proper chemicals and lots of bright sunshine.

Also, you don't need to buy every color dye powder available. Remember your elementary school color wheel? Use fuchsia and turquoise to make purple. Use turquoise and yellow to make green (though green is a little tricky). Use less powder to make lighter colors, more powder to make darker. Don't use every color you have on one shirt. My rule of thumb is three or less colors per item, with very few exceptions. The more colors you use, the more chance you run of making a big muddy mess - a brown tie dyed shirt. The best jobs I've ever done have had two or sometimes only one color. I'm really partial to shaded work too, though I haven't done much of that so far this year.

Step Six - DYEING!

Now for the really fun part - applying color to your fabric. There are very few rules here, except to go slowly and carefully. Make sure both sides of your item are colored. And don't fret if the dyes run away from you a bit - the magical part of tie dye is how amazing a shirt that you think is ruined will look when you unfold it. Wear gloves and old clothes. Unless you like your hands to look like you have a skin disorder. Take off your shoes before coming in the house, because a splash of dye always makes it onto the sole of your left shoe.

Once you are satisfied with your colors, come inside and sit in front of the air conditioner. Or do this frequently during your dyeing session, if you are like me. Let your items sit in the sun for several hours. The longer, the better. Watch a movie. Take a nap. Write a blog.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So Much, Sew Much, Sow Much... To Do!

I'm not sure how this happens, and it seems counter-intuitive to me, but the more work I do in our yard and garden, the more work there is to be done... The first summer we lived here, all we did was mow the yard. Now, only a few years later, it seems every time I turn around, there's more added to my "to-do list," and fewer hours "to-do" it.

Thanks to a lovely gift from a dear friend, we were heaped up with flower bulbs - I spent days and days planting bulbs before the weather got too warm. Hopefully I'll see some shoots this year, even if the blooms don't happen until next spring. What a wonderful explosion of color that will be - we have tulips, daffodils, glads, crocuses, and several other flowers, all in a huge variety of colors, planted all over our property.

Thanks to a lovely gift from the Arbor Day Foundation, I also found myself the owner to ten baby trees this spring. By baby trees, I mean, little twigs with some hairy roots on them. They came in my mailbox, and I guess we'll see how they do! I don't know anything about them yet, except that I have two purple, one blue, two white... You get the idea.
Garden season is upon me, and I'm trying to get an earlier start than I did last year. I've planted a bunch of seeds over the past two weeks, and right now I have broccoli, tomato, and eggplant seedlings growing big and strong in my studio/grow room.

The garden, of course, has to be expanded this year. In addition to all the veggies I grew last year, I'm adding some melons, eggplant, and who knows what else. I've decided everything needs a little more elbow room. And to continue with the garden improvements, I'm removing all the red rock I put in as paths last year. This red rock (sort of like lava rock, but not as fancy) has been the bane of my existence since we moved into this lovely little house. I detest it, but also didn't want to throw it away, so I've been moving it around and around, trying to find a use for it. Now, I've found a great place to move it - MIL's house! Along with buckets and buckets of red rock, she's also taken several other things off my hands - a few red hot poker plants (which I also detest), and a fair amount of the flower bulbs I couldn't find any room for!

In addition to all the outdoor work I've been doing recently, I decided yesterday that we desperately need house plants, so I went out today to the Big Greenhouse at the local nursing home and picked up some great plants - a devil's backbone, a foxtail fern, and a dragon tree. If I can succeed in keeping them alive, they will be a great addition to the house.



I've been at the knitting needles quite a bit lately as well. I finished a great pair of sock/stockings for St. Patrick's Day, though I don't have a great picture of them yet.

Also, I made a second (so much more successful) attempt at Skew Socks. I spun the yarn for this project - my very first handspun socks. I know they don't match -at all- but I don't really care. Fraternal twins deserve just as much love.

I've been at the sewing machine at least a few times a week lately, though I'm sad to report I have no new pictures to post quite yet. I'm working on a few new projects - some gifts for friends, and a really big project I'm quite excited about. But more on that later. For now, it's back outside I go - there's far too many chores to be done to sit at the computer one second longer!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Success and Disappointment...


Are both a learning experience, I've found. Often, when I'm exercising my crafting muscle, I run into problems I didn't anticipate. Recently, I decided to make a wall plaque for a friend's young daughter as a birthday gift - this child is extremely creative, and her parents haven't dampened it a bit, which I admire. She is always trying out new mediums (she colored on paper with chalk for an hour one day) and cutting and pasting paper together. I found materials that match her bedroom decor, and started sewing several hours before the party. What I didn't anticipate, however, was the amount of time it would take me to embroider... I was literally putting the finishing touches on the plaque moments before walking out the door. But what a success - it turned out beautifully, and may have reenforced the lesson (which I've learned numerous times) not to wait until the last minute to get a great, crafty gift idea. But it seems my creative mind works best under pressure.

My next crafty lesson this week was this - never trust a dye job you didn't do yourself. I've had this great little sock yarn in my stash for a while now - a friend who stopped knitting gave it to me. I haven't worked it into socks yet because the dye pattern features very short color repeats, which nearly always results in "pooling" of the colors on my sock - a yarn trick I detest. But I found a pattern I wanted to try, and decided to use this yarn as the guinea pig.
The pattern is a neat construction that features knitting on the bias (the stitches move diagonally across the knitted plane, not horizontally), and the heel is "oragamied" together in a neat little swirl.
It took me less than a week to knit these cute little socks, and less than two minutes to have them ruined! Of course, I didn't take any pictures of the socks before I washed them (I always wash my newly finished knits - to get out any oils and dirt, and to shape them). I plunged them into the bathroom sink, and they immediately turned the water to mud...
What we have here, folks, is a failure (on the yarn dyers part) to exhaust the dyes. Black dyes, and other dark colors, tend to leave excess color on your fiber, which must be washed out thoroughly or it will bleed into the lighter parts of the yarn. Many people experience this with dark colored clothes, or the whole "red sock in the white laundry" dilemma. But for me, it came in the form of destroying a week's worth of knitting in two seconds. Of course, when I showed the socks to POSSLQ, he admired them and didn't seem to notice the dull, darkened colors of my previously bright socks. Bless that man, he is good to me. But here's some pictures of the unused portion of yarn, and the mucky socks for comparison.

A little lift to my spirits this weekend (especially after the sock disaster) was eating dinner with POSSLQ at my brand new dining room table! Here's the dining room, all ready for table...

And here's the dining room all full of new dining table!!! Thanks, Leigh Ann!