Friday, November 28, 2014

Advent Adventure

If you've been a follower of this blog for a few years, you'll know about our little Advent exchange. By "our" I'm including some dear friends: the dynamic duo behind Twig and Toadstool, the Wabi Sabi Wanderer, and the lovely blogger behind Embracing the Now. For years now, we have rallied our pre-Christmas energy, assembled our supplies, and spent our free moments lovingly hand-crafting little items to share with one another. It is a tradition that I can see continuing into the far future, and I dream of a day when we will gather to put together baskets for our grandchildren, perhaps inviting our own grown children to add their handmades to the gathering.

This year, we welcomed two new members to our little group, so instead of creating 5x5 handmade items, we each created three different crafts, times seven. We filled in the little gaps with storebought items (such as candy, beeswax candles, etc.) and pulled together a basket with 25 goodies for our children to open each day during Advent.

As much as we are delighted by the creations of our friends, it is the gathering itself that ignites that first spark of excitement for the coming Christmas season. We arrive at the always-festive home of Maureen, and baskets, tissue paper, string, scissors, snacks, and coffee are scattered across the table. 

We do a little show and tell, then begin wrapping each item. Words aren't sufficient to describe the delight and awe with which each item is greeted, and the warmth that arises from knowing that human hands, those of people who actually know my children, created these little gifts. This gathering of kindred spirits is a quiet pause before the busyness of Christmas is upon us. We prepare our hearts, breathe deeply in the presence of dear friends, and set our hands to the task of wrapping.

I remember the years past, when my tousle-headed children descended to open one little gift each day, and how I said the words, "Maureen/Erin/Shanti/the WSW made that just for you!" Now we'll add the names Gwen and Anya to the list of  women who love my children enough to spend their free time creating beautiful gifts for them.

Each year as we unpack our decorations, we remember Christmases past, and celebrate how we now have a tree full of ornaments that were made by hand, by women they know. My children feel the love.

And so do I, so deeply.

Monday, November 10, 2014

at our kitchen table

It's a place to gather. 

We create here: masses of paintings and drawings, grocery lists and to-do lists, meal plans and blog posts, storyboards and comics. 

We read here. A recent topic for parental reflection is whether or not it is bad manners to read while eating. The older kids are completely enamoured of the Amulet series of graphic novels, and dinner times have never been so quiet. One of my favourite things is reading while I eat, but I've gotten out of the habit because I don't want to be a bad role model. My husband thinks it's bad manners, but I'm into reassessing this judgment as our children become independent readers. The kids put Amulet into his hands and guess what? I caught him reading at the table. 

We also eat here. We gather in the morning; the children eat while I circulate, brushing hair, delivering vitamins, urging them to put down their books and focus on eating. While they brush their teeth and get their shoes on, I sit for a moment to eat a quick breakfast. The toddler sees this as an invitation, and climbs on my lap to nurse. I love this connection before we part for the day.

At the end of the busy day we reunite and connect around the table, each of us sharing a happy or hilarious highlight from our day. As the days grow shorter we light candles and enjoy the warmth, noise, and nourishment of gathering together after a day apart. It sounds idyllic and I don't wish to shatter your visions of my perfect family, but there is also quite a bit of arguing, nagging, and bad tempers. We are human after all.

On the days that we're home, we sit here for tea in the afternoons. Margot was sick with a stomach bug (she asked me, "How big is the bug, mommy?") last week and I spent a day at home with her. Our favourite tea, harvested locally by our friends at the Algonquin Tea Company, kept her hydrated, and it helped that I served it in a pretty mug that was a gift from a faraway friend. 

Sometimes I feel like the safest place in the world is right here at this kitchen table, its scars, spills, paint splotches, and smooth spots telling a story of our life as a family. When I get ready for work upstairs and hear my children's voices rising and falling in conversation and laughter, I know I am blessed. When we sit at it at the end of the day I am reassured that we are all home and safe, together and well-fed.

The kitchen table just might be my very favourite piece of furniture.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Woodland Gnome: A Tutorial

You will need:
 2 5/16" wooden peg doll
bulky yarn, in red (I used Patons Classic Wool Roving)
9 mm knitting needles
white raw wool (or roving)
a felting needle
a tapestry needle for weaving in ends

Gnome's Suit

CO 10 stitches. 

Work 6 rows in stockinette stitch. Break off end, leaving a long tail. 

Using a tapestry needle and starting at the opposite end, thread this long tail through the live stitches. 

Slip peg doll up into the loop you've created, then tighten the stitches around the doll's neck.

Stitch up seam at the back and weave in loose ends.


Needle felt a small amount of white roving or raw wool into a beard shape. Slipping your felting needle in sideways, lightly attach this beard to the top of the gnome's suit.


CO 10 stitches.

Rows 1-3 Knit in stockinette stitch. 
Row 4 (wrong side): *P1, P2tog* Repeat to last stitch; P1.
Row 5: K all stitches
Row 6: *P2tog* Repeat to last stitch; P1.
Rows7-10: Knit remaining 2 stitches as i-cord.

Slip yarn through remaining stitches and weave in loose end.
Take a piece of roving and twist it into trim for the hat. Needle felt this twist around hat brim.
Needle felt a small ball of roving to the top of the hat as a pompom!
Tuck ends of roving inside hat, and sew up back seam.

To attach the hat, I needle felted the sides of the beard to the edge of the hat. I also gave a few jabs of the felting needle to the back of the hat where it meets the top of the coat. You could secure the hat to the peg doll with hot glue if it will be involved in active play!
This little guy was so quick to make, I'll be adding some of his brothers to our annual Advent exchange!