Snow. Just snow.
Snow. Just snow.
I was all set to do WIP Wednesday this week, and then life happened.
So here it is, a little belated.
start date: 8 January 2017
time elapsed: 3 days
Númenor has a January birthday. It’s tough, having a birthday a few short weeks after Christmas, because everyone is kind of over buying presents and eating to excess. And your poor parents are likely feeling glutted for toys and books, not that I would know.
People can’t spend the kind of money and time on January presents as they could on summer birthday presents, but you are just as special to them as you would be if you were a Gemini.
So the things you get are simpler, more likely to be homemade, more likely to be experience-based than object-based, but life is still good. For one thing, a January birthday is a great excuse to get new add-ons and accessories for your favorite Christmas presents– a sequel to your new favorite book, perhaps, or an extra set of wheels for your fancy new building set.
And, of course, everyone is ready for a little deviation from the usual winter flavors, too. A strawberry cake in November might seem unseasonable and strange, but a banana cake in January is refreshing and novel.
And so is ice cream.
This knitted and crocheted ice cream, for the smalls’ play kitchen, is high in fiber (alpaca and wool!) and warm to the touch, making it perfect for winter. And it’s festive enough to be a gift for the happiest of birthdays, of course!
Project details on Ravelry. The ice cream sections are my own improvised patterns.
This luxurious blend of oils encourages healthy, supple hair and skin, supports new hair growth, and helps fight dry, itchy winter scalp.
*citrus oils can cause photo-sensitivity, so please substitute these for another favorite essential oil (rosemary, sandalwood, or lavender would be nice) if your intended recipient will be getting a lot of sun
Weigh the carrier oils into a small bottle with a dropper top. Drop in the essential oils, cap, and shake.
To use: apply a few drops (2-4) to the face at the roots of the beard or crown of the head and use fingertips to massage in a circular motion. Best used immediately after a shower.
I have this heady fantasy that someday, while I’m browsing the shelves of a used book store, I will happen across an old, stained, turn-of-the-20th-century book with a title like “Too much of a good thing: how to use up an excess of anything.”
This fantastical book will have chapter titles like “What to make with too much ________” and “How to use up extra _______” where the blanks are filled in with those things I usually don’t have enough of, but sometimes manage to be totally buried in. Things like milk, and little scraps of leather, and decorative rivets, and palm-sized bits of cotton calico, and those temptingly sturdy boxes fancy chocolates come in, and jam.
Right now, I have a scraping of raspberry preserves, a scraping of quince paste, two and a half jars of quince jelly, and about 3/4 of a jar of huckleberry compote all clamoring for my attention in the fridge. And we *just* managed to use up a pint of strawberry jam, after I shamelessly instructed Ithilien to scrape out the last spoonful and eat it straight. I know how this happened: we were out of jam at the end of the summer, so I bought a jar of raspberry preserves on special. Then I borrowed some strawberry freezer jam from my parents to make Ithilien’s birthday cake. Then I found a forgotten pint of quince paste from last time at the bottom of our canning jar stack. Then we canned our quince jelly for this year, and had an awkward half-jar leftover, plus two jars that didn’t seal. Then my dad got some huckleberry compote for Christmas that wasn’t sweet enough for his taste and I volunteered to take it home because, for real, who wouldn’t accept free huckleberry jam?
And here we are.
So I’m spending my new year making homemade Pop Tarts and Jammie Dodgers in the desperate attempt to turn the preserves that we use sparingly at breakfasts and on the occasional PB&J into things we can eat up right away without any particular effort.
Which I suppose bodes well for our new year, because an embarrassment of riches is an auspicious way to start anything, right?
Happy (and sweet and sticky) 2017 to you and yours! May this year be as kind to us all as possible.
A hot water bottle cover! I made mine in classic red, for 16th-century warmth (did you know that Europeans believed that red cloth was warmer than other colors of cloth?), although a steely gray fox would be just as cozy.
This cuddly guy is worked in the round from top opening to tip of the tail. Legs are picked up and knit in the round from the body, but the head is knit separately in the round and sewn on once complete.
Using size 9 needles and red yarn, CO 44 stitches. Join in the round.
For the ribbed cuff:
Work k2, p2 ribbing for 3.25″
*k1, kfb* around (66 sts)
For the body:
Switch to size 10 needles and work in stockinette (knit all sts) for 10.5″
*k2tog* around (33 sts)
knit one round
switch to size 9 needles
*k2tog* to last st, k1 (17 sts)
*k2tog* 4 times, k1, *k2tog* 4 times (9 sts)
*k2tog* until only 4 sts remain.
For the tail:
*kfb* around (8 sts)
knit 3 rounds
*kfb* around (16 sts)
knit 3 rounds
switch to white yarn
knit 1 round
*k3, kfb* around (20sts)
knit 2 rounds
*k2tog* around (10 sts)
stuff the tail until plump but squishy with the stuffing of your choice, remembering to add an extra knob of stuffing if you’re using wool or another stuffing that is prone to compacting over time
knit 1 round
*k1, k2tog* 4 times, k1 (6 sts)
knit 1 round
*k2tog* around (3 sts)
Break yarn and thread through remaining stitches, pulling to cinch closed. Secure the yarn end firmly.
For the legs:
Put your water bottle in your cover and mark the four “corners” of the cover with waste yarn or removable stitch markers.
At one of your corners, use size 9 needles to pick up 16 sts.
Using black/brown yarn, knit these sts in the round for 2.5″
Stuff the resulting tube until plump but squishy.
Divide stitches evenly between two needles and graft together (you can also use a three-needle BO if you prefer).
Repeat at the other 3 corners.
For the head:
The head is worked from the ears down. Ears begin as I-cords.
Using brown/black yarn and size 9 DPNs, cast on 2 sts.
kfb, k1 (3 sts) do not turn
kfb, kfb, k1 (5 sts) do not turn
knit one row, do not turn
*kfb* to last st, k1 (9 sts) do not turn
knit one row, dividing sts evenly between DPNs to begin knitting in the round.
*kfb* to last st, k1 (17 sts)
knit two rows
Divide sts between 2 needles.
Repeat from I-cord start for second ear.
Using red yarn, knit across the front of one ear, CO 2 sts, knit across the front of the second ear, knit across the back of the second ear, CO2 sts, and knit across the back of the first ear. (38 sts).
Place marker after 19 sts.
knit 2 rows
k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain before marker, ssk, k1, k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain, ssk, k1 (34 sts)
k2, k2tog, k until 4 sts remain before marker, ssk, k2, k2, k2tog, k until 4 sts remain, ssk, k2 (30 sts)
k3, k2tog, k until 5 sts remain before marker, ssk, k3, k3, k2tog, k until 5 sts remain, ssk, k3 (26 sts)
k4, k2tog, k until 6 sts remain before marker, ssk, k4, k4, k2tog, k until 6 sts remain, ssk, k4 (22 sts)
knit one round
k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain before marker, ssk, k1, k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain, ssk, k1 (18sts)
Repeat this row 2 more times (10 sts).
Stuff head more firmly than you did the limbs, but leave some squishy-ness.
Leaving a generous tail, break yarn and attach black/brown yarn.
*k2tog* around (5 sts)
k2tog, k1, k2tog (3 sts)
Break yarn and pull through remaining stitches to cinch.
With a yarn needle, embroider two French knot eyes on the decrease ridge on your fox’s face.
Using your red yarn tail, sew the head securely to the topmost rows of the stockinette section of your cover.
Secure and weave in all yarn ends.
Fill with hot water, snuggle and be cozy!
I am honest with my children.
No matter what.
It’s difficult. It means sitting with a lot of uncomfortable truths. It means prefacing a lot of statements with “I think” or “basically.” It means admitting to my own ignorance and failings more often than my ego would prefer.
It also means we don’t do those childhood myths designed to scare or haze children: no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Sugar Sprite, no Boogeyman, and no Tooth Fairy.
We do preserve the parts of those traditions that are important or fun, because growing up is significant and life should be fun, but there’s no fanciful explanation for it. My kids know that Robert hides the Easter eggs, that I make the majority of their Christmas presents, and that the house takes a cut of their Halloween candy action (which is only fair, since we supply transportation, room and board, and attire).
And most of the time I feel like it’s magic enough to have a loving and stable family,a safe home, and a beautiful world to explore.
But for some reason, when I looked in Númenor’s mouth a few months ago and saw two VERY loose front bottom teeth and the permanent teeth already erupting under them, I felt a little tug of sadness about the fact that our house is a Tooth Fairy No-Fly Zone. I worried, just a little, that somehow this milestone wouldn’t be as important or as marked as it should be.
So I thought about how we should shape our family traditions as we turned this new corner. Here’s what I came up with.
Some practical equipment, namely toothpaste. Until now our smalls have been brushing their teeth with just water, which works fine, but we want to be extra-careful with those new permanent teeth coming in because they have to last. So now Númenor has his own little pot of baking soda, bentonite clay, and coconut oil to help him clean and polish.
A special gift for this special first tooth, in this case, the A-frame play tent I’ve been planning. There will probably be a special gift for the last tooth, too, when we get there.
Two tiny bits of tradition: a tooth traded for a gold coin, and a special place for the dead drop. The trade is the magical part, and the pocket money is the bit kids actually care about.
This is the beginning of the end of the little-kid parenting in our family. Now that those first teeth have dropped, Númenor is just a regular kid, no longer a little kid. There are still others coming up the ranks, of course, but we will have one child who is too old to be called little anymore.
Which is equal parts frightening and wonderful.
And plenty magical.
It’s Advent and time to get ready for Christmas! In celebration, here’s a list to help with your elving. It’s current as of 2016, and I will update it as necessary in the future. I hope you find something to inspire you here– enjoy!
If you’re like me, you have no problem coming up with presents to give people for the holidays, but filling stockings is a bit more difficult. Picking out a dozen appropriate trinkets is much harder than finding a couple big gifts!
As I have filled my children’s stockings over the past several years, I’ve struggled with exactly what belongs. I don’t want to fill them with cheap junk, or with too much candy, and I don’t want to spend a lot of money or time on stocking stuffers. I want the things in my family’s stockings to be worth getting, but still small.
So I brainstormed up a list one year, based in part on what I’ve found works and in part on what I predict will work but haven’t had occasion to try yet. A lot of the things on this list (I’ll use an asterisk * to denote them) can be made at home with only a hobbyist skill level.
Stocking Stuffer Idea Masterlist
For babies and toddlers:
For symbolic functionalists (ages 3-7):
For concrete operationalists (ages 7-10):
For tweens and teens:
Here’s what I have:
The world has gotten scary. People are dying in the streets. The white hoods are back. The government is torturing Indians in furtherance of giving them poison to drink. Children are learning that hate is an American value.
There are two things that I know are true, that we can use against this terror and darkness.
Over the past weeks, they have seemed like laughably inconsequential things and impossibly large things, but they’ve never stopped being primal.
The first thing is love. We can love ourselves. We can love each other. We can love fat people, not-conventionally-attractive people, “fours”, “losers”, black people, people who don’t speak English, trans people, disabled people, gay people, people who have had abortions, Muslim people, native people, people who have been “grabbed”, all the people. We can love them. We can love us.
And that’s the most powerful tool we have against hate and fear: we can choose love instead. We can reject the notion that some are so different that they are unlovable. We can laugh in the face of the cultural rubric we’re supposed to use to judge the value of femmefolk and just love them instead.
We can practice self-care. We can make safe spaces for each other. We can help one another. We can reach out. We can stand in the street in front of the mosque and say “These people are my neighbors. I love them, and I won’t let you harm them.” We can give a colleague a hug and say “You are loved.” We can offer flowers to strangers, like hippies, and we can tell them– yes, those people we don’t even know– that we love them. We can see someone struggling and offer our help. We can ask what the family down the street needs to be safe, and help them get it. We can love. We can love the white working-class, and let them know that there’s a place for them in the future. We can raise children who know, like Mister Rogers used to say, that there’s no one in the world quite like them and people can like them just the way they are. We can tell gay kids and fat kids and brown-skinned kids that the world is fucked up, but they are just fine the way they are. We can listen to people, especially when they say they are being harmed.
We can love the earth, too. I know that this is like, “Again with the hippie nonsense?!”, but it’s still true. We can love the trees. We can lovingly plant wildflowers for pollinators to find. We can pick up trash at the beach because we love the ocean, and the birds, and the sand. We can sit outside and breathe deep and love the air.
We can reach out into our communities and our world and love what we find. We don’t have to withdraw and fear what’s outside. We can offer love as an alternative to hate.
That’s the first thing.
The second thing is a bit harder.
Yes, harder than loving strangers.
But it’s just as important.
The second thing is independence. We can do it ourselves. We can stop relying on the state to protect our interests. We can stop calling the police. We can stop shopping at the Wal-Mart. We can stop expecting anomic society to take care of our problems. We can take responsibility for our own needs. It doesn’t matter how horrible, how corrupt, how oppressive these institutions become if we deny them legitimacy and reject their attempts to shape our lives. They need US, not the other way around.
We don’t have to participate in systems that oppress us or others. We don’t have to be complicit in the state’s oppression of its enemies. We can choose and build our communities for ourselves. We can think critically about our actions and listen to those who are harmed by them, even in steps of the process that seem beyond our control. We can make slave labor, deforestation, pollution, and factory farming unprofitable for businesses by refusing to profit by them ourselves.
We can vote with our dollars for the future we want. We can support local businesses run by our neighbors and friends. We can see our supply chains and improve them. We can offer help to people who are struggling instead of reporting them to the authorities. We can share our resources with those in need instead of expecting the state to feed, clothe, and house them. We can clean it up ourselves instead of filing a complaint about litter. We can leverage our privilege to protect marginalized people. We can protect each other and set expectations for our communities instead of relying on the police to enforce the state’s rules. We can learn to make things ourselves. We can grow our own food, or join CSAs. We can buy things from independent artisans instead of faceless factories. We can get together with our neighbors to do hard things together. We can raise barns and put up jam and bring homemade bread and soup to the old lady next door who has trouble walking. We can start a childcare co-op, or shop at the farmer’s market, or learn to sew our own clothes. We can choose a midwife instead of submitting to industrial medicine. We can learn about the natural world around us and work with it instead of destroying it. We can buy good things, made with love and designed to work well, and maintain them. We can mend things that break.
We can be proactive and make a better future for everyone. We don’t have to accept the options the state-industrial complex offers us, and we don’t have to chase the 1%’s definition of success. We can make our own society.
And together, if we all work on those two things– love and independence– we will be unstoppable. Whether you can only participate in little ways, or you have the resources to make big changes, everything will make a difference.
I’m not saying that the dark forces at work in our world won’t matter or won’t be able to harm people, but we don’t have to sit back and let them take over. We can both choose not to be bullies ourselves AND not to allow bullying around us. We don’t have to give up ground. We don’t have to stop pushing forward. We can still make progress if we all work together.
We can find the way forward– or make a new one for ourselves– if we can all practice love and seek independence.
That’s what I think, anyway.
With love and gratitude for all of you,
This very easy method makes realistic, conical strawberries, resembling the prized Hood variety grown in Oregon.
I made 20 strawberries to fill a punnet, varying the size, the yellow thread (I used butter yellow and goldenrod), and the green felt (I used a tightly-felted grass green sweater and a sheet of apple green felt) to give each of my berries individual character.
Super-easy blueberries for a play kitchen: seriously, it doesn’t get easier than this!
I made 35 berries in two colors– a navy blue 100% wool felt sheet, shown here, and a smoky royal blue felted wool sweater– to fill my mini-punnet. I found that the wool felt sheet was much easier to cut and gather, but the thicker felted sweater makes a more convincing blossom end.