Friday, July 30, 2010

Holidays, and a Giveaway

Early yesterday morning it occurred to me that it was almost August. I felt a moment of panic, like the time had flown without my awareness, and in some ways that is so. Recently, my children have been responding with "Just a minute" when I ask them to do something.

I know where they've learned this, and when...it has been over the past few months as I have become more and more dedicated to this blog, and to following the many wonderful blogs out there. Every "free" moment (i.e. when the kids are watching a movie or playing on their own, or in bed for the night), I am "connected"; hours can be lost just browsing other people's blogs. I was reflecting on that terminology: how, when I'm off the internet, I'm considered "disconnected". But I've found that since I started actively blogging and following other blogs, I am actually disconnected from my real life.

So, I'm going to ease back a bit, just for the month of August. I have a few music gigs booked (just getting back into performing after years off having/nursing babies), and want to get started on my Christmas gifts. I also have to prepare my classroom for September. Oh, and spending time with my kids, getting this house in order, maybe painting the livingroom, doing some sewing...just a few things on my to-do list!


Even moderation should be taken in moderation, so rather than taking the month off entirely as I'd initially intended, I'm just going to post once or twice a week.

Now, for the giveaway! Awhile ago, Twig and Toadstool offered a "Pay It Forward" Giveaway, where the winner would then post a giveaway on HER blog, and on and on. The winner of the first giveaway was Sheepish, who then offered a sweet felted toadstool purse as a giveaway. And I won that!

Sheepish not only sent the purse to me, but added some other wonderful treats to the care package. Imagine my delight at finding a parcel in my mailbox, containing some lovely handmades PLUS a lovely skein of hand-dyed sock yarn!

So, today I present my own item for the "Pay It Forward Giveaway"! The lucky winner will receive a Mushroom Cottage, handmade by yours truly, plus a few other little items that I will pull together. Please enter your comments below; if you're a Follower, you can post a comment every day until next Thursday, August 5 at midnight, EST. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Friday, August 6.

The only stipulation is that if you win, you need to "pay it forward" by offering a giveaway on YOUR blog!

Enjoy the August long weekend, Canadians...and everyone else, enjoy your usual weekend!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Comedy/Tragedy of Rural Life

Lady Cluck, our favourite hen, survived the attack.

Last night as we were watching a movie at about 11:00 p.m., we heard terrified chicken-shrieks outside. My husband threw his size 11 (men's) feet into my mom's size 8 (ladies') Crocs, grabbed the axe, and tore outside. I followed in my red plaid rubber boots, and an apron that I hadn't removed after dinner, wondering what he planned to do with the axe...chop up a raccoon?

Because our children dismantle/wear out the batteries of every flashlight that crosses the threshold, we had to rely on the motion-sensitive porch light to guide us. We saw loads of reddish feathers at the barn door, then saw that the door of the coop had blown shut which meant that the hens weren't able to get into it at dusk.

We quickly found several hens, who seemed to instinctively stay very still, pressing their bodies as close to the ground as possible. We were still short a few, plus the roosters, so continued wandering around our small farm in search of the traumatized birds. Chickens are just so darn vulnerable.

The young rooster (Big Boy) was up by the firepit. I didn't know how fast roosters can run until last night. They run REALLY fast. His instinct was to lure us AWAY from the coop, so try as we might, we couldn't corral him towards a place of safety.

Such a handsome devil, isn't he?

I don't suppose it helped that my husband was chasing him, axe in hand, loudly cursing the hen that laid him. I knew I shouldn't be laughing at this dramatic moment, but I couldn't help myself. Just when we'd creep up to the rooster, he'd tear off in a crazy zigzag. At one point, Big Boy disappeared into the chest-high grass around our pond...imagine my long-legged husband, high-stepping through the foliage, trying to track the intermittent waving and rustling that traced our fugitive's cunning path...

We finally gave up on the roosters, trusting them to fend for themselves for the night.

The "boys" alerted us that they had survived the night with a 5:30 a.m. crowing contest loud enough to wake the dead. So, out I went in my nightgown and rubber boots, and tried to chase the bugger into the coop. I managed to entice "The Boss" with some kitchen scraps, but Big Boy was having none of it. I went back to bed, closed the windows and turned the fan up a notch, praying that my neighbours wouldn't complain...

It looks like we're down three hens, although we haven't found any corpses. Lesson learned: no more leaving the lock up till after dusk.

PS...I've never considered myself a violent person. But if I had had a gun last night, I would have shot that predator if we'd seen him. Alas, if I had a gun, my roosters, too, would now be dead, shot in mid-crow.

Garden Party

I love spontaneous gatherings! Friends of ours invited us to a Garden Party late in the week, and we were especially delighted to attend, as they live a mere 10 minute drive from us! I spent the morning picking raspberries and making pastry for homemade mini-tarts, boiling up some sugar and mint for Mint Juleps, and baking a HUGE quiche, then we were off.
A hammock under a willow tree, and a puppy for company: what more could a kid want?

...aside from maybe a cob of corn.


Anya, our gracious hostess, has a keen eye for garden juxtapositions.

This contrast of red and green is particularly striking.

Their pond was a draw for all the kids (although I think their frogs must be traumatized...Violet even kissed one full on the...lips? Do frogs HAVE lips?

As per usual, her clothes came off within hours, and she was content to contemplate the wonder of being three by the serene garden waters.

A rare snap of me (I'm usually the one behind the camera), with my girls.

Margot spent the day grazing at the picnic table...love how tiny her face looks here, peering over daddy's shoulder!

At the end of the afternoon, Margot helped to finish off dessert: Eton Mess (a marvellous swirl of berries, whipped cream, and chunks of meringue). She used a wooden spoon to get it into her mouth and was quite pleased with herself (and with all the attention she was getting).

We had a scare when Margot fell into the pond; she is used to wading into shallow shoreline water, and we imagine she just stepped in; we were closeby and saw her hat floating, then realised that that was her floating beside it, face-down and not struggling at all. We didn't even hear a splash, and the many children around the pond didn't notice anything amiss. A quick Daddy-scoop out of the water, a bit of sputtering and crying, and then she was off toddling happily around again. A frightening reminder of how quickly your child can get into trouble, even when you're standing closeby. She enjoyed the pond later in the day, but this time with mama's hand firmly around her tummy (as she was intent on plunging in again)...sigh. I whispered a thanks to the Angel that whispered to us to look over when we did, or this post might have had a very different ending.

*Special thanks to Anya and Jay for the loan of their camera, and to Jenny who emailed me some of the ones she took!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Letter Love, Love Letters

If your oldest child isn't quite at the developmental stage where he/she is taking an interest in literacy, brace yourself...it is a joy akin to watching your child taking a first step or saying a first word!

I've always been one of those Maria Von Trapp type-teachers...the one that kids love, and talk about adoringly to their parents (or so I'm told!)  My classroom is a fun place to be...I haven't forgotten what it is like to be a child, or the qualities that I adored in my own teachers. Being gentle but firm, consistent but flexible, and humourous but professional are skills that have taken years to hone. I haven't perfected them yet! But I still have lots of years ahead of me to work towards that!


I also happen to be an incurable bibliophile. I have books set strategically throughout the house, so that at any given moment of peace I can pick one up and read. This includes stacks of children's books: in the bathroom (to be read aloud while the kids splash in the tub!), on their nightstand, on OUR nightstand, on the woodstove, in the summer kitchen, potting shed, and living room. We read a lot of books in a day.

SO, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that my first child
a) had no interest in stories as a baby/toddler
b) wasn't saying a word when he was 2, and
c) was not into board games and activities aimed at introducing the letters of the alphabet

When he was first diagnosed as having a speech delay, I was filled with anxiety, worry, fear for the future, and guilt (did we do something wrong??) After a few months of this, I realised that all of these negative emotions were NOT going to change anything, and that all we could do was focus on what we could accomplish each day. Wondering if he'd struggle socially/academically when he started school was pointless, as it was a long way off. We just worked diligently at all the suggestions of his wonderful speech pathologist, and watched with joy as he began to progress. It's been a long road, and from this journey has sprung my parenting mantra: Faith and Patience. Jude still struggles with receptive language, and we continue to practise various aspects of speech to help him communicate more clearly.


One of our favourite stories is Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus. It is the story of a little tiger who cannot do the things his peers can (eating neatly, talking, writing, drawing, etc.) His father frets and frets, but his mother says "A watched bloomer never blooms!" Sure enough, Leo does bloom in his own good time. It is heart-warming, and particularly poignant for parents who have a child who isn't quite like his/her peers.

They say that boys aren't often ready for "literacy" as early as girls are, and I would say that this certainly seems to be the case in my kindergarten classroom. I work hard at not being the teacher-parent (having grown up in a house where my dad was a teacher...); I try to turn it off and just be mommy when I'm home. I do catch myself chirping, "Let's practise your letters!"...the Mary Poppins voice doesn't seem to have the desired effect, and my active little man usually disappears before I can pin him down.

So you can imagine my delight to find him doing this:


In his own good time, my little late bloomer has bloomed. He is always asking for his pencil to be sharpened, and finds a little corner in which to create maps, lists, magic spells and signs that read: " iNoANieNGN" (No Bear Hunting Allowed). This is a beautiful developmental stage in early literacy: invented spelling. You may get the well-intentioned urge to help your child "sound out" the words, or at least create some semblance of sense.

Resist that urge! This experimentation is wonderful because it means your child now understands that the printed word has POWER and MEANING! We find signs stuck to garbage cans, walls, doors, and mirrors, and Jude tells us what each one says. He makes lists of things to bring on our camping trip, to buy at the grocery store, and of items in his toolbox. He gets it! Words are useful!

Another way to support your young child's developing literacy is to help them create a story. These may make no sense at all, or have no ending, or no consistent characters or plot. That's okay! You have the power to record their ramblings, and to capture this stage of their development, by scribing their exact words.

Here is a story Jude created for Daddy as a Christmas present (with me acting as a scribe):

                                              
Jude copied the title from my example; I encouraged to independently write the letters he knows.
                                        
I used fabric and watercolours to enhance his already-adorable illustrations.

Don't you love the octopus?

 
You've just got to love a satisfying resolution like this!


The highlight of the whole project: proudly presenting his creation to his Dad,
a wonderful, thoughtful, handmade gift.

To create this simple book, I folded two sheets of cardstock in half, and sewed a seam down the fold to hold them together. I have another great book tutorial that I can't share with you, not because I love to leave you in suspense, but because my camera is broken (boohoo!). I'll save that for another day. You can find another lovely book-making idea at Childhood Magic.

Read to your child every day. Let them see you reading, and talk to them about what you read (explain what a road sign says, talk to them about a recipe, discuss the news, etc.). Take them to the library as often as possible, and show excitement (but not so much that they kick you OUT of the library!) about books on many topics. Write down what your child says, and without pressuring them, show enthusiasm for recording their stories. Instead of more plastic toys, encourage your relatives to give books (or bookstore gift certificates) as gifts. Fill your house with books, and read them, and you just might find someday that you have raised a reader!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Poetic Monday: A Reluctant Ode to Mice

(photo borrowed from the web!)

Mice
I think mice
Are rather nice.

 
Their tails are long,
Their faces small,
They haven't any
Chins at all.
Their ears are pink,
Their teeth are white,
They run about
The house at night.
They nibble things
They shouldn't touch
And no one seems
To like it much.

 
But I think mice
Are nice.
~Rose Fyleman



We have a bit of a mouse issue here at the Knitty Gritty Homestead. I think most people who live in old country farmhouses must be hosting the 1000th generation of the mice that moved in when the house was new. Our mice are friendly, and bold...they dash towards our feet while we watch a movie in the evening, and enjoy any bits of food left on the counter at night. My "bulk" cupboard is an all-you-can-eat buffet (did they ever enjoy the hemp hearts I forgot to put in the fridge last week), and they leave their calling card wherever they go...we clean up a lot of mouse poop. Sprinkling whole cloves in the tea-towel drawer has discouraged them from napping there.

Some people have mouse-phobias. I don't like when they startle me, but I think they're kind of cute. This doesn't stop me from setting traps every night (and they always spring about 5 minutes after we've set them...sunflower seed butter with an almond sliver garnish seems to be the most effective bait). I do have to set a certain standard of hygiene, after all! I'm not squeamish about live mice, but pass the task of emptying the traps to my dear husband.

Still, every summer, we get our unwanted guests...big-eyed, wild-looking field mice who thumb their noses at our cats and make hay with our dry goods. I could declare out and out war and hire an exterminator who might accidentally poison my cats (no, the irony of being overrun with mice while the cats doze the nights away is not lost on me). Or I can just live with them. A favourite scene in one of our kids' "Little Bear" movies is when Little Bear and Emily are singing "Emily's cricket sings at night, and the mice come out in the firelight! Oh, what fun to be a mouse, dancing on the hearth in grandma's house!" This conjures such a cozy scene, where we embrace (within reason) the critters that grace our rural lives.

Do you have a favourite animal poem?



Friday, July 23, 2010

The Flip Side

This bag sat here unsorted for at least 3 days.

Let's pretend you just popped in for tea. The pictures in this post are what you'd find here at the Knitty Gritty Homestead. They were taken weeks ago, but things are pretty much the same here today.

When I started this blog, I was intent on making sure it wasn't one of THOSE blogs...you know, pictures of my perfect, imaginative, quirky kids dressed in handmade clothes, my perfect home, the perfect meals I cook, my perfect life. Today at the beach, a dear friend who hasn't really been following my blog told me she'd had a look today. Her response? "I felt like an inadequate mother!"

Another sinkful of nice hot water that will get cold before I get to the dishes.

Wow. I know that feeling well. I've been to blogs where the absolute decorative perfection of the house (white couches? in a house with kids??), or the prolific craftiness of the mama (does this woman ever sleep?), or the amazing meals she creates with apparent ease (while I ask my kids "How 'bout scrambled eggs...again??") is enough to intimidate and dishearten the most accomplished and well-intentioned mothers.

I KNOW that blogs do not represent the whole picture, and I've actually been grateful that in my daily search for a post I am encouraged to pick out the very best moment/recipe/craft of the day or week. It helps me focus on the positive, and I know that other bloggers do the same thing.

Food and craft preparation blend into a picturesque mess
(see how the paint colours reflect my happy bowl? I meant to do that...)

As bloggers, we do tend to put a bit of a shine on our daily lives. And who can blame us if we want to focus on the best parts of our day? We all deal with whining kids who won't eat the food we cook, follow behind us and sabotage our every attempt to tidy up, mess their clothes several times daily to ensure you do not have one day without laundry, overwhelm us with demands for food, drink, and crafting opportunities, and challenge our creativity and patience every minute. Why would anyone want to read about this?

See that pretty violets tea cup? With (wilted) violets in it to match the violets tablecoth?
See how my family has destroyed my pretty display?

Perhaps the isolation and inadequacy a lot of mothers feel would be lessened if we WERE more honest about the nitty-gritty of our days. In addition to the berry-picking, pie-baking, toy-knitting, and tea-drinking that goes on around here, there's also a lot of stress, chaos, tantrums, mess, less-than-perfect parenting, junk food, baggage from childhood, miscommunication, jobs to avoid, and mouse droppings in the drawers.

Note the crying child in the background. I think she slipped on something (I can't imagine what)
and banged her elbow...

So for today, I present to you the flip side of those pictures I take, where I clear a space on the island to place my lovely cake, or examine the backgrounds before I press the shutter to make sure there's no crap lying around on the floor. I feel like coming clean (haha! no pun intended) with what my house really looks like; my efforts to keep it tidy are half-hearted at best, as it seems a futile activity...

Welcome to the Knitty Gritty Homestead! Where I choose knitting and blogging over housework, and the tea is always hot.

*The winning number of my knitted hat giveaway, selected at http://www.random.org/, was 20
which means that Stephanie G. is the winner! Thank you for all your sweet entries...I may have to make this a monthly thing!

By the way, Maureen at Twig and Toadstool started a "Pay It Forward" giveaway awhile back; Karen at Sheepish won that one, then offered a toadstool bag as her "pay it forward" item. And guess who won? ME! Thanks, Maureen (who lives down the road and wins an UNBELIEVABLE amount of giveaways!) for starting it all off, and thanks, Karen, for participating! Now it's my turn! I have a lovely little knitted set to pass on...so watch this space.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stranded

Smiling through it all (photo by Violet)

You know that question, "If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want to be with/what would you want to have with you?" Well, I've essentially been "stranded" for a few days here on the Knitty Gritty Homestead, and I'm astounded at the room it's given me to think about a few things that don't like to be thought about.

Things are financially tight for us right now. That's one of those things my mind does not like to explore too deeply. I've lived happily in a state of denial for quite some time. I made the decision to work part-time for a few years, after 5 years of on-again/off-again working (between babies). We knew this would be a challenge, as I'm the "main breadwinner" (that is such an archaic term, I know...), but we are optimists at heart, or perhaps we're just really unrealistic.

On the weekend, we accidentally left my camera in the beach bag with some damp towels. Now it won't work. This is another one of those things that does not want to be thought about, as I'd been dreaming of a better camera, but working determinedly to be grateful for the camera I DO have until I could afford a new one. The implications of having NO camera are many, but mostly, I feel the loss of freedom in what I post in this space. I certainly have enough photos in my files to patch something together, but the spontaneity is a bit strained. There have been so many moments where I've risen from my spot to fetch the camera, only to realise that that precious speck of time will only live in my memory.

In addition to this, my husband had a conference to go to in Ottawa for three days. He let me know on the morning that he was leaving that he wanted to take our laptop...our only computer. This sends me into a mild panic, as I live on a farm with 3 small children. I know I can SURVIVE without the computer, and that blogging is not ESSENTIAL to my well-being. But I still had to talk myself down as he drove down the laneway...I was ready to paint my hand red and stamp it on a soccer ball just to have some adult company ("What was that, Wilson?").

About ten minutes later, he called to say that his gas tank was leaking badly and that he'd have to come back to take the VAN to the conference. Say what? This control-freak had had about as much as she can handle, and it wasn't even 7 a.m. I burst into tears and called my sister; hubby arrived, took the carseats out of the van, and drove away again, not only with my connection to the wider world, but also my means of transportation.

The car has had gas tank issues for a couple of months, but we couldn't afford to get it fixed. Now we HAVE to get it fixed. I'm going to be stranded until next Tuesday (without a vehicle). My parents are going to help me get the kids to swimming lessons, and I imagine I'll spend the time cleaning the house and playing with the kids.


To top the morning off, I had NO groceries. I am pretty creative, but I had no bread, milk, butter, fruit, or yogurt. I had planned on going to the grocery store as soon as I got the kids dressed. I am a chronically independent person, and do NOT like to ask for help. So, it was in tears that I called my mom to see if she'd come out so I could use her car to get groceries.

So, the desert island is the Knitty Gritty Homestead. The people I would choose to be with me are here...my three little poppets, eyes open and ready for the next adventure (although maybe Gerard Butler might like to stop by)...the objects I'd bring with me are here as well...lots of wool and a set of knitting needles! I could knit a hammock, a yurt, clothing, a net to trap coconuts...you get the picture. I like this space to be a place of joy and humour. But my blog description also includes the word "chaos", and that's the way things feel right now. I embrace the chaos as a part of life, as vital as joy and humour (though a bit more uncomfortable!)

Please bear with me as I try to create posts using old pictures! I'm staying positive that we'll figure out how to get the car fixed AND replace my camera. I'm thinking of starting a secondary blog...I'll keep you posted as the idea hatches into reality.

Until then, do enter my marvellous giveaway! You only have Thursday left, as the winner will be chosen randomly early Friday morning (EST)! Best of luck!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Please Standby

Due to techincal difficulties, I will not be posting again until Friday when I will annouce the winner of my fabulous GIVEAWAY!!

Followers: Enter daily!

Until Friday,

Stephanie

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Poetic Monday

Do you carrot all for me?

 Do you carrot all for me?
My heart beets for you,
With your turnip nose
And your radish face,
You are a peach.
If we cantaloupe,
Lettuce marry;
Weed make a swell pear.
~Anonymous
My heart beets for you...

Today I launch "Poetry Monday"....I have no fancy button to add for you to put on your blog, but if you'd like to participate, just post a link to your favourite children's poem in the comments below! We can start a splendid circle of poetry-sharing, and maybe have enough to share with our children every day of the week!

Let me clarify: the poems don't have to be FOR children; they can also be about parenting, or about children, or even just musings about life in general. What would make it even more wonderful would be a photo that somehow corresponds with your chosen poem...

So, today's poem is a silly love poem...my husband once wrote it out for me with watercolour illustrations all around. It is by that most famous of poets, Anonymous..."Do you carrot all for me?"


Peas marry me!

PS...Don't forget to enter my amazing giveaway!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

My cookbook is starting to look like my mom's; recipes entitled "Lorna's Sugar Cookies", "Luscious Lenore's Lovely Ginger Cookies", and "Adam's Mom's Butterscotch Square" abound. My favourite from my mom's tattered old book was "Carole Dowdall's Pink Dessert". I can't say I have made it, or want to, but to me it is such a reflection of a time when adding Jell-o, Miracle Whip, maraschino cherries, and pistachio pudding to all salads and desserts was the norm.

Today I peeked through my cookbook for a quick recipe; the people who sold us our house were passing through the area and wanted to pop in. I always like to have something just-baked when guests arrive...in addition to the lovely, welcoming aroma that fills the kitchen, I think it's rather homey to serve something lovely with tea.

I came across this recipe for my grandma's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake; the first time I baked it was when I was in early labour with the baby-who-would-be-Jude...I remember calling my grandma for the recipe between those early, sporadic contractions!

Stephanie's Grandma's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 can pineapple rings, or one pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced into rings.


Start by melting the butter in an 8 inch round pan; sprinkle with brown sugar, and line with pineapple rings. You may put maraschino cherries into the centres for a nice decorative touch; I try to avoid foods that have so many preservatives, archaeologists will study them in 4000 years...but it's up to you!

Sift together:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

In a separate bowl, beat together:
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. pineapple juice (if using a fresh one, squeeze the extra bits through a sieve or just use orange juice!)

In yet another bowl, beat
2 egg whites (until stiff peaks form)

Then add 1/2 cup sugar to the whites.

GENTLY fold yolk mixture and flour mixture alternately into the whites mixture. Pour over pineapple in cake pan. Bake at 350 degree F for 35-40 minutes.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then turn onto cake platter ~ serve with whipped cream!

The topping is a delicious gooey mess of butter, brown sugar, and pineapple!


I had a bit of a tear in my eye as I baked, as when my Grandma gave me the recipe 5 years ago, she was still living in her own home, with her own cookbook. She told me this story:

When she got married, my grandma didn't know a thing about cooking. My grandpa was in love with her, and very patient and indulgent, so he didn't mind testing out her first attempts. In their early marriage, grandma would make two desserts when company was coming, just in case one didn't turn out!

One evening, when Grandpa was bringing a friend home (a man I would later meet; they were lifelong friends), she made this cake, and wrapped it in waxed paper to set in the snowbank to cool (as they had no fridge). When she went to fetch it, she found that a dog had made off with it!

Upon hearing this, Grandpa turned to his friend without missing a beat, and quipped, "That explains the big dog we saw lying dead in the ditch a ways back!"

Recipes that are handed down carry so much more than food ingredients with them. I always think that this recipe also carries the ingredients of a good marriage: honesty, patience, perseverance, optimism, and especially a good sense of humour.

My Grandma is now almost 92; she's lived without Grandpa for the past 21 years, and moved into a retirement home 2 years ago. All of her meals are now cooked for her, after about 70 years of feeding her husband, four children, and many grandchildren (all her practice paid off, and we enjoyed many wonderful meals together).

The other night, when Grandma was having dinner at my parents' house, she asked for the recipe for the meal my mom had made. When mom and dad reminded her that she doesn't have to cook anymore, it took a moment before she said, "Oh, that's right...I forgot".

Well, Grandma, I won't forget this story. It is now part of our family history. I have her story written with the recipe in my cookbook, along with "*May 14, 2005: got this recipe from Grandma - early labour activity as we waited for the arrival of our first babe!"

I encourage you to collect the recipes that accompany your family history, and write down the stories that go with them. You just might find the ingredients for a happy life.

P.S. Don't forget to enter my awesome giveaway!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

100th Post Giveaway!

To celebrate my 100th blog post (which was actually a few days ago, but let's just pretend it's today!) I present to you my very first giveaway! I've decided to offer some options, as I am fond of so many of my creations.

This is giveaway to celebrate the mamas, sisters, daughters, grannies, nannies, and girls out there: the "gift" is a wonderful, unique knitted hat!

Because you are unique and have a superb sense of style, I offer two choices:

The Rosie Posie hat, made in an adult size...I can also make a smaller rose, in the same colour as the hat, omit the leaves, add a "posie" (a small grouping of roses), or any variation on the theme that you wish! I can also offer a variety of base colours.

Okay, this is a picture I borrowed from Ravelry, so it's a bit fuzzy; I've made several of these hats but have no photos to show the great detail of that moss-stitch band and oversized button! Not the best pic (and the model is nowhere NEAR as cute as the one at the top ~ haha!), but a fair representation of the "Robin's Egg Blue hat" that is being offered as an option in this giveaway. Again, the colour choice is yours.

This giveaway is open to everyone! If you are just stopping by but are not a Follower, please comment only once under this post. Followers have an advantage: you can enter a comment under this post every day until the contest closes. (*if you really want to win, it's easy to become a Follower: just click the button on the right that says "Follow"!) I encourage you to pass details of this giveaway on to others. Let the games begin!

The winner will be chosen randomly on Friday, July 23, and announced the same day! We'll exchange emails, to discuss the details: sizing, colour choices, and where to send it.

I will happily ship to anyone, anywhere in the world! Best of luck!




Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Take a Picture

Take a picture; it'll last longer...

My husband often talks about that great day when the kids' toys are out of our livingroom. I've stepped on enough Transformer arms, wooden blocks, and other unbelievably hard and angular objects to understand where he's coming from. But I secretly dread that day. That is when my kids will no longer be underfoot, when I will have to call them down for dinner, only to have them disappear into their lairs again once they've eaten. Our playroom is evidence of the presence of the most wonderful kind of humans in our house: children!


It can be so easy to get caught up in the desire to have THAT playroom...the one with a gorgeous, colourful, and miraculously lint-and-cat-hair free rug, wooden play arches and mounds of playsilks, woolen foods and beeswax crayons. I LOVE seeing playrooms like that. I understand the motivation: plastic is terrible for the environment and for children. Natural materials are aesthetically pleasing and durable, and more healthy for our children to play with. They encourage more imaginative play, appreciation of the natural world, and an awareness of the skilled work of human hands.

My reality is that I can hardly afford gas for my car some weeks, let alone $300 for a pretty wooden play kitchen. Ours comes from a set that was being chucked from our kindergarten classroom. I do know a high school student who is willing to build me one in shop class. Will it be as professional and pretty as the one I saw in the Nova Natural Toys catalogue? Doesn't matter. What matters is spending money responsibly, and recognizing that my kids don't really care. Instead of play arches, we hang blankets from the hooks that we've installed on the window frames, and drape them over chairs to create play spaces.


I have finally reached the point where I can say, "No, I don't need that". Do I want it? You betcha. For lots of reasons. Do my children know the difference? Nope. While I'd love uniform, labelled containers to store our toys in, I just don't want to spend the money on them. I use maple syrup buckets for storing Jude's driftwood collection (magic wands, walking sticks, lazer guns, conductor's batons), and plastic fruit baskets for keeping our playfood together. Yep, the playfood is plastic, too. And they love it. I can knit wool food. And I do. But I haven't yet found the time to replace every piece with a wonderful handmade.

(I did make the strawberry and the orange wedge at the bottom right!)

Here are some things I think are essential in a playroom, and they don't need to cost a lot of money:
A place to create art (this easel came from IKEA). These papers are AMAZING: they're Wall Post-Its by 3M. I LOVE them! Quick to stick up, remove, then stick somewhere else for display.
A good trick for painting is to line a cup with a small zippered plastic bag, and put the paint in it. When the painting session is done, just seal up the bag and store for next time!
A cozy place to cuddle up, daydream, draw, read.
We often drape a blanket across this window to create what the kids call their spaceship.
Crayola makes great window crayons that children LOVE. They're really appealing to use, and easy to clean up. Just wipe off with warm water!
A place to store odds and sods. This armoire was at my Nanny's house when I was little. Mom passed it to me recently and it has been a big help in keeping all those craft materials organized (glitter, pipecleaners, googly eyes, stickers, etc. are all tucked neatly away!) I plan to brighten this thing up with paint one of these days when I have some time to kill...check back with me in about 15 years...
And some bits of nature, to touch, hold, play with, draw, and experience. Driftwood, rocks, nests, flowers, and so on can be found in corners all around our playspace, and you need only step out your door to find them.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to create a lovely space for your children. What I find most important is really picking through the toys regularly, cycling things out and back in, and trying to give everything a place of its own. My children wander aimlessly and complain of boredom when the playroom is a mess. And although it sometimes feels futile to tidy it up (as they'll tear it all apart in under an hour), I do find they will sit and really PLAY when they know where things are. I also feel more motivated to sit and play WITH them when the chaos has been subdued. And they'll also happily tidy up when they know where things go.

This state of tidiness is fleeting, which is why I'm happy to have the above records of our playroom in its perfection. I'm happy at the end of a busy, creative, fun day to see the little messes my kids have made. It's like a message carved into a picnic table-top: We Were Here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My First Blog Award!

I was blown away to see that I'd won an award for my blog, presented by Cat at Amlo Farms! I'm honoured and flattered and totally humbled to be acknowledged for something that has brought me so much creative pleasure. Do check out her blog, and her favourite blogs...it's a spirally rabbit-hole, the blogosphere...entire afternoons can be lost perusing the worlds of other people. But what a Wonderland it is! And I don't want to wake up!



The Rules for Acceptance of this Award are fairly simple:

.:thank the blogger who bestowed the Award on you.
.:sum up your blogging experience, philosophy and motivation in five (5) words.
.:pass the Award on to 10 deserving bloggers.

The five words that most capture the essence of my blog are:

*KISS*Keep*It*Simple*Stupid...

Just kidding...hmmm...5 words:

Inspiration*Encouragement*Community*Growth*Simplicity

I could add 10 more tomorrow...my motivation is ever-evolving...

And now the hardest part...the 10 chosen ones. As I spend more time blogging, my list grows and grows. There are so many women out there who have become my inspiration, and feel like friends. I love them all for different reasons...and appreciate the support and encouragement I've received from them all! Do take a moment to add yourself as a "Follower" (and if 'following' is not your style because you pride yourself on being a non-conformist, add yourself anyway and think of it as being a sistah! or a fan, or a valued member of the cheering section!) I know other bloggers put as much thought, heart, and substance into their blogs as I do, and if their reflections resonate with YOU, dear reader, let them (me!) know by clicking "Follow" or leaving a comment, please!

Here they are, in no particular order (drumroll, please!):

Farmama

Childhood Magic

The Chickadee Tweet

Sheepish

Gardenmama

Green's Going Green...and Everything in Between

Natural Suburbia

By Hand At Home

Tulsileaf

Getting There

Once you've taken a moment to check out these marvellous spaces, go down my blogroll, too; there are so many amazing sites with such talent, love and substance...you won't be disappointed.

I didn't include the blogs of my friends/family as they know I love them and I didn't want to seem biased...but while you're at it, check out this art blog, this craft blog,  this letter-writing blogthis farming blog and this gardening blog! (Yes, I know I totally cheated by adding five more to my faves! Naughty girl! I win one award and think I can get away with anything)!

Take care, and pass it on!

With gratitude,
Stephanie

Monday, July 12, 2010

Home Sewing Part 2: Revamping Old Oven Mitts!

In last week's home sewing post, I showed you how to create a simple log-cabin table runner. You can make one even if you don't live in a log cabin, as this refers to the style of the quilt block...I'm sure it would perk up apartments, farmhouses, yurts, and igloos just as much as a log cabin!

When I finished that, I was feeling mighty chuffed...so of course I looked around to see what else I could sew. My eyes immediately fell upon my old, crusty, oft-used and rarely-washed oven mitts! I remembered my mother sewing new covers for her old ones, to match the kitchen decor...dusty blue, or reds and yellows...it seemed like my mom was always re-imagining her kitchen and I have fond memories of giving the old wainscotting a fresh coat of white oil paint in the summertimes of my teenage years.

This is the second set I made, to match my runner...I couldn't help myself!

So, here's how it's done. If your old oven mitt is a padded object inside a fabric mitt, pull this out. OR you can just trace the whole thing (the pair above was the quilted-padding kind). Place the old fabric "outer" on a double layer of your chosen fabric (right sides together!) and trace it, giving it a generous allowance (an inch would be lots). Remember to leave some fabric at the bottom to allow for a hem.

Sew a 1/4" seam around the whole thing, then hem the bottom (just turn it up about a 1/4", then again, and sew around). Before you turn it right-side out, you'll need to make a few snips at curvy parts, like around the top, and around the thumb (be careful not to snip through your stitching!) This prevents the fabric from bunching and buckling when you have it right-side out.

Also make some snips in that "joint" between thumb and fingers:

Turn it right-side out, insert the old pad, and Bob's your uncle! I am in love with my new oven mitts...they're so fresh and clean and cheery. And they're gingham...how good can it get?

Can you fit in 15 minutes today to perk up your oven mitts?