Thursday, December 13, 2012

And then there were two

We started with four houses. This year I bought a kit instead of using milk cartoons and graham crackers. The kiddos were ecstatic! I unceremoniously glued them together with the included frosting and we went about our day. The plan was to frost and decorate the houses the next day.

When I returned downstairs a bit later, the house on the right was gone. All that remained were a few crumbs and the shiny foil base. I checked on the floor for it. I looked on the other counter. I then sought out my youngest kiddo. He quickly admitted to eating it. It was just too enticing.

Left with only three houses, we all pledged not to nibble. The next morning, we still had three houses. I gave my house to the littlest for decorating. He was pleased. With frosting bags and candy, the three decorated their houses. Each took a different approach glueing on the candies or making the frosting the major design element. There was also a lot of licking involved. They each tok their job of sampling the products seriously!

The finished houses were displayed with pride for daddy and the grandparents to see. Once everyone saw them, Benton set about deconstructing and munching on his next house. He eagerly shared with his siblings and anyone else who wanted a test. So, now only two houses remain. Eamon and Aine are hoping to save theirs until Christmas. I am not sure if Benton is part of their plan.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let it Snow

This week has been quite productive. No. I still haven't finished Eamon's shawl. Too hard to be top secret right now. Instead I finished up my wreath. It looks fantastic. The kiddos helped make pom-poms for it, and we all love the result. It was a quick and easy pattern, which I highly recommend.

After the wreath was complete, I cast on for a hat. The pattern I used is by Stephen West entitled, Aurora Expanse. It knits up very quickly and is quite cozy. I am hoping to wear it when we head up north this winter. The brim is folded, so it is extra warm around the ears. For the body of the hat, I used a gradient yarn which really looks nice with the detailing. Another project that turned out well.

After the hat, I set about making holiday gifts. My youngest niece will be celebrating her first holiday season this year. For her, I knit a basic teether in pinks and red. I used stash yarn leftover from Aine's shawl, the pompoms and my recent shawl. With a bit of felting and even some time in the dryer it came out well. I will be making one more as another niece or nephew will be joining the family soon.

The last item this week is actually a bit of crochet. Every year I gift my nieces and nephews an ornament. My sister and I started the tradition thinking that when our kiddos left home they would have a box of ornaments to decorate their own trees. It has worked well so far. Last year my kiddos loved sorting through the ornaments in their individual boxes remembering each one. This year, I decided to crochet white snowflakes based on a pattern from Lucy of Attic24. I am making 12 flakes and have about 10 done so far. I ran out of white yarn at the park yesterday, so I will probably finish up today. I used more leftovers from the pompom making. I am so very pleased with how they have turned out. My crocheting skills continue to improve and I am able to read a pattern fairly well. Just a bit of water and starch for blocking and they will be on their way to new homes.

Reading has also been productive this week. I finished Fannie Flagg's I Still Dream About You. I enjoyed the story and the bit of twists and turns. It was a quick read, but I felt a bit more could have been done with some of the story lines and characters. I also finished the audiobook, The Marriage Plot. It was an okay book. I appreciated it more after listening to an interview with the author. The story and characters were well developed. I enjoyed the intermingled story and change of point of view throughout. One of my good friends said she liked Middlesex better, so that is my next read of his.  My current audiobook is The Newlyweds. I am too new to the book to make a comment on it. My nighttime reading is more of the non-fiction which threatens to topple my bedside table.

The kiddos finished Mr. Popper's Penguins as well as The Castle in the Attic. Both were quite good. Mr Popper's Penguins is unlike the movie. We liked the print version much better. Our current audiobook in the car is Five Children and It. It is a whimsical tale of the trouble with wishes. The kiddos are enjoying listening to how the various requests get muddled and become quite complex.

So, have you been busy this week? What is in your knitting basket or on your bedside table? Do share as we yarn along with Ginny.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Art of Making: Ceramic Mugs

Last year, I noticed a fantastic gift idea floating around the interwebs. This year we decided to make it our own. The kiddos and I found some great white mugs in assorted sizes at the dollar store. The mugs were a collection of regular coffee cups and larger soup mugs. A friend suggested using Sharpie markers; she assured me that it had worked for her.

First the kiddos drew their images on paper plotting out what they would design on each mug. They each had ideas about what their recipient would like. Each cup was designed with that specific person in mind. There were tools, rainbows, a bike, holiday decorations, just initials and even Minecraft creepers. With a plenty pack of markers at the ready, the kiddos set to decorating. They decorated for over an hour creating their designs. A few mistakes were made which were easily corrected with a dab of rubbing alchohol.

The finished mugs were collected and placed into the toaster oven to bake. The baking set the inks after about 20 minutes. We noticed some of the colors changed, but it made it even more interesting to watch. Benton decided his mug would be his own. He could not be convinced to wrap it up for the intended giftee. So we headed out for a few more mugs and a repeat session. It was that much fun and so very easy!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Deck the Halls Part II


This weekend, I finished up the last of the pom-poms for our holiday wreath. It looks fantastic. The flexible blue pool noodle was the right size for the internal framework. Just a bit of duct tape sealed the ring into shape. A quick seaming in the back brought the wreath together. The pom-poms just seal the deal. I love it.

Friday, December 07, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - Joining Amanda in a Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Not that hot

The other morning while Aine was off with her grandmother, the boys decided to test the swimming pool. They both determined that it would be warm enough to swim, since the daytime temperatures are in the 80s. Not so much. The water was cold. Each of them got into the water and then quickly got out. Benton waded on the seat for a bit, but soon grabbed his towel. It was much more fun to launch boats across the water to each other and watch GrandDad help scoot them across the big pond.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Deck the Halls

Last week I truly believed my next project would be Eamon's gift or a hat. I was wrong. I did finish the multi-colored shawl I was knitting, but I found a totally different new project. While browsing my fellow Yarn Alongers' blogs, I noticed a holiday wreath that I had to have. The kiddos and I set off for the local craft store for some bulky yarn that would be easy on the budget. After much debate on the color of the wreath we settled upon a light blue with a sparkly thread running through it. This was not my first choice. or even my second. I had visions of a brown wreath or even a white one. Aine apparently had visions of a dark purple one with sparkles while Eamon thought red and green stripes would be best. With these conflicting ideals in our heads, the light blue yarn was a fantastic compromise!

I began knitting the wreath on Friday at the park. It sped along very quickly. My dad offered to check on pipe lagging while he was at the hardware store. We tested my work against the pip lagging and found it a bit wonky. The form was a bit unstable and would bend inward at times. I decided to try to find a better wreath form and put the knitting aside for a bit. I tried the big box craft store again with no luck. Then it struck me. Here in the land of sunshine we have something akin to pipe lagging in most homes. At least most homes with a pool or one nearby. I realized my solution was the ubiquitous "pool noodle." It worked perfectly! With a wreath form found, I returned to my knitting.

As I switched cable direction at the midway point, I noticed one side of my long cable was missing. I had twisted it to the back. Ooops! I had a decision. After all the work to get a form, could I live with a mal-cabled wreath? Nope. So I ripped it all out and started again. I am now about 6-8" from the end, and I will be so relieved when this project is done. I am hoping today I will finish, and the kiddos and I will make pom-poms for it. It will then be hung proudly as it is a really nice pattern.

My book group selected a book for our next meeting, so I have been busy with that. It is I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg. The person selecting the book this month chose it because the author also wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. So far, it is about a woman whose life has not been quite how she hoped. Although she is beautiful and appears to have it all, she is unhappy and is planning her exit from life. It has been a quick read thus far, and I feel a twist coming. I am also reading my pile of non-fiction from last week. So many good books, so little time.

On my children's reading table, we also have a pile. We finished our read aloud along book, Comet in Moominland. The kiddos enjoyed it. We found a few videos on youtube that we watched after the book. I think it helped solidify some of the characters for them. The next book on our list is The Prince and the Pauper. It was a tough beginning as we all adjusted to the vernacular or the times. Aine is quite enjoying the story, and we like that Twain wrote it for his children.

Do you have any knitting projects to lure me away from what I should be doing? I seem to have a case of "oooo, shiny!" lately. Or perhaps a book to add to our list. Do share!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Art of Making: Wooden Crafts

With a gift list in hand, the kiddos and I have begun our holiday crafting. Inspired by a toy we saw at a friend's home, our first task was painting and finishing some wooden peg people.  A few of my nieces and nephews will be finding these little people under the tree this year. I found the people and cups at one of my favorite online wood shops, Casey's Wood. We decided to use non-toxic watercolors since the recipients will be on the younger side. Watercolors are not ideal for painting wood, but worked quite well for us. The medium left a more stained look on the wood.

Armed with the watercolor palette, we painted the people a rainbow of colors. Each of the kiddos got into the action throughout the day. I was a bit strict about how I wanted the colors applied and how each peg person needed a matching cup. Fortunately, we had a few pieces leftover and each commandeered several for their own. Eamon decided to use his as a gift for the person he drew in our homeschooling gift exchange. Aine painted hers for her dollhouse, and Benton just likes to carry his. Those extra pieces were painted magical combinations of colors which pleased both mama and kiddos.

Once all the paint was applied and allowed to dry for a few days, we lightly sanded the toys. A very fine grade paper was used to smooth the edges. This went quickly with so many hands. In order to help seal the watercolors a bit, we mixed up a finish for the toys. I heated 1 ounce beeswax in a double boiler. Once it was melted I added 4 ounces olive oil. With this mixture, we polished all the toys and even quite a few wooden spoons we found int he kitchen. The polish really brightens up the toys. All that is left is sewing a few cloth bags to hold the toys and mail them off. We are sure the recipients will enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them.

Monday, December 03, 2012

An Old Time Smithy

Homeschooling provides our family with so many opportunities to meet interesting people. I especially enjoy meeting people who do what they love each and every day. People who have a passion for life and show this through their work. On Friday we joined many other homeschooling families on a trip to visit one such person. We visited Bill Smith, a blacksmith in our community.

I think initially we surprised the artists at Cattletrack with the size of our group and the eagerness of the children, who ranged in age from preschool all the way to high school. After splitting our tour into two groups, we made our way into Smith's shop. It was full of all sorts of tools of his trade. He answered questions from the kiddos smiling as he told of the age of his anvil and hammer (Benton asked about the anvil). He showed the piece he was currently crafting. It will become a brand for a rancher; he was currently working on the "B." Smith explained how he began his career in Scotland, making horseshoes and shoeing horses. The kiddos were amazed to see the size of one of his horseshoes intended for a Clydesdale. They were equally impressed with more of his current work which includes bed frames, swords, flowers and door pulls.

I think the best part for my children was watching this quiet man in action. We watched as he fired up his furnace, which uses coal just as it has done for years. The hot coals of the fire heated a piece of steel to a red hot color. He then fashioned that rod into a ring with several blows from his hammer. As Benton remarked loudly to him, "That is so cool!" That single statement summed the experience up quite well.