Monday, December 31, 2012

Handmade Christmas 2012/grey hat for me

Benjamin's family draws names at Christmas.
That way each adult only needs to buy a gift for one other adult
(with 9 adults in the family, this is really nice).

This year I drew his middle brother's wife's name.
I got her a fabulous kitchen knife from her wish list
on a good Black Friday sale,
but I really wanted to use my new-found knitting skills
to make a pretty hat for her as well.

I entered my search requirements
into Ravelry's wonderful system:
the pattern had to be free,
include a picture,
use a size of knitting needles I already owned,
and be within my skill level.
One of the few patterns that met all of my criteria was

I made a cute orange version for my sister-in-law
(I didn't have time for photos before wrapping and mailing it)
and liked the pattern enough to make one for myself as well!

For the record,
I chose grey because I liked it, not just to copy-cat Hermione.
I also tweaked the proportions of ribbed band and the cables
to be more to my taste.

Perhaps it's because I'm still pretty new at this not-flat knitting thing
(as in something other than a washcloth or scarf)
but I find how the decreases work and look
so fascinating and exciting.

I am really quite proud of how it turned out
and have been enjoying wearing it
on some of these chilly winter days.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Handmade Christmas 2012

Benjamin has about six other people in his department.
We wanted to give them something thoughtful
yet low-cost and relatively fuss-free.

I made a double batch of caramel
(this is my favorite recipe, though I omit the crushed peppermint).

I wrapped them and then packaged them in cute little pillow boxes
made from cardboard upcycled from cereal boxes.
I added some festive ribbon and calligraphy tags
(Believe it or not, while all of this took thought and effort,
it really was relatively fuss-free for me.)

And then the boxes started popping apart
because the paper was too heavy
and the boxes were stuffed too full of caramel
and the adhesive I was able to purchase in town
was simply not strong enough to hold it all together.
I was frustrated and discouraged.

However, after taking a few days to regroup,
I tried again,
making slightly larger vellum (lighter weight) pillow boxes
and repackaged the caramels in them.
The new boxes looked beautiful and did not come apart!
(No pictures, though...)

Ben enjoyed giving them away,
and at the company Christmas party,
some of the recipients told me how much they enjoyed them.
Overall, I'd call it a success.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Handmade Christmas 2012

I'm not even sure if this really counts as a handmade gift,
Since I'm being extra easy on myself this year,
and I have a hard time figuring out what to make for Benjamin,
I'm counting it.
Benjamin gets "hand taken photos" in his stocking this year
to replace the outdated ones he has in his office at work.
Little Man has been camera shy lately,
but he consented to pose
after I explained what the pictures were for.
He's so excited to be in on this gift for his dad
and has done a very good job of keeping it a surprise.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Handmade Christmas 2012

My dad ended up being the lucky one
to receive two handmade gifts from me
during this year of minimal Christmas making.

He liked the boys' "helmet hats" so much,
(and he's a hat person, so to speak, so I knew he'd actually use it)
that I couldn't resist making him one of his own.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

he's back

This one's for Benjamin,
who at first look
thought that my hope lantern
was a Tardis.
(I'll blame that one on the fact
that it was a tiny, poor quality phone photo
not that my art is that uninteligible.)
I have to admit that I was, in fact,
counting down days to the Christmas special.

Handmade Christmas 2012

The pun-loving side of me
gets a smirky giggle out of this particular hand made gift
for my dad.
I purchased a "create-your-own collage tumbler" from Starbucks
and simply embellished the insert with the kids' hand prints
and quotations about their favorite things to do with Grandpa.

I thought that the boys would get a big kick
out of getting their hands messy on the ink pad,
but no, they objected to the requisite hand washing
and actually had to be coaxed to participate.

Oh well, it still turned out pretty cute,
and I know their Grandpa will be delighted to use it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Handmade Christmas 2012

Now that Christmas is over,
and I don't have to worry about my grown-up family members
who might read my blog
finding out about their presents,
I can start sharing the handmade gifts
I did manage to make in spite of my current life-craziness.

One of the first gifts I made
was a second Urban Jungle hat for my mom.
I let her choose the color and the button
(we're bad about keeping surprises like that),
so I feel quite confident that she'll like it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fear Not

Warning: I am  a little loopy on pain medication.
If I say weird things or use worse grammar than usual,
please cut me some slack.

It's been a wild December.
In addition to the turbulent current events rocking our country,
we have had a host of personal trials.
We had a week of plumbing problems,
and we had to replace our furnace.
Our picture window broke.
I had my first trip to the emergency room
followed by a  long day in the hospital
due to scary-bad abdominal pain.
(It was the worst pain I've ever experienced,
though thankfully it turned out to be nothing more than kidney stones.)
We've had emotional issues to hash out
and some very difficult small-town drama to work through.

At a time like this,
the simple message
"fear not"
has a profound and powerful impact.

Fear Not.

"There were shepherds out in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were filled with fear.
And the angel said to them,
'Fear not,
for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.'"

The message of hope
and the reason for that hope
is just as much for us,
for me, for you,
 as it was for those shepherds
all those years ago.

That's something to hold on to.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Today's entry in my art journal.
No matter how dark or chaotic the world is,
it's always there.
Sometimes it's just harder to see than others.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Handmade Christmas 2012

I love pretty wrapping.
(I even have an entire Pinterest board dedicated
to pretty and clever gift wrap.)
I like to think of the wrapping as an extension of the gift I'm giving.
Of course, I do my share of shoving a present into a gift bag
and topping it with a wad of tissue paper,
but it sure would be nice to make every gift I give a work of art!

This year I was delighted to have a little extra time
to put a little extra care into my gifts.
(I should have realized ahead of time, though,
that sitting on the floor wrapping presents for a couple of hours 
is not so smart when you're 36 weeks pregnant.
I was hearing from my back for days afterward.)

For the kids' gifts
I chose a mix of  bright paper I bought on clearance a few years ago
and kraft paper I bought this year
after realizing just how much I'm loving
the brown-paper-package thing.
I labeled them with initials cut from scrapbook paper,
and finished the packages with curly ribbon.
(I don't think I will ever outgrow curly ribbon!)

Mum's package was the most labor-intensive,
and is also probably my favorite.
I actually used hot glue for the flowers
which is a minor miracle.
(I still hate hot glue, but nothing else was working, so I caved.)

The guys' (Benjamin and my dad) packages 
were a little simpler.
I seriously considered
re-cutting the B to fit inside of the green oval,
but decided it wasn't worth it.
Hey, some artsy battles are not worth fighting with yourself.

Benjamin teases me
"This is keeping it simple?"
What can I say?
The prettiness makes me so happy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"helmet hats"

After using my new and exciting knitting knowledge
to make a few very basic little hats,
I thought I'd try making something just a little more challenging
with some leftover yarn given to me by Mum:
a still-basic hat with ear flaps.

I decided that I wanted the ear flaps to be a little smaller
than the ones pictured on the pattern,
so I knitted them on size 8 knitting needles,
switching to the larger needles on the last row.

The ear flaps turned out just about how I wanted them,
but the combination of the extra-fluffy yarn I used
and my mistake of using knitting needles
that were half a size too big,
resulted in a hat that was huge.

I was disappointed.
I had intended the hat to be for Brother,
but instead it was big for me!
However, the next morning Little Man discovered it.
And he loved it.
He calls it his "helmet hat."

Apparently it's perfect for jumping and spinning around the room.
His delight delights me.

Of course then Brother wanted a "helmet hat" too,
so I made one for him as well.
I tweaked the pattern to make it a little smaller,
and I'm afraid that it turned out just a tiny bit too small.
Go figure.

I don't really think he minds, though.
The other day he insisted on wearing it over his coat hood.
So funny.

Size issues notwithstanding, it was a fun pattern to make.
I really enjoyed learning some new techniques,
and the bulky yarn and large needles made it nice and quick.
I will say, though,
that the author's use of unexplained knitting abbreviations
drove me a little crazy.
(I'm stilla pretty inexperienced knitter, after all.)
Not that I have too much room to complain:
it was free, and Google is always willing to help.
: )

Monday, December 10, 2012

custom calligraphy

Last week I sent off another of my best-selling
I love knowing that I'm bringing beauty
to other people's homes with my art!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sweet Pea's flower hat

Okay, I am not planning on turning this into a knitting blog.  That said, though, you'll probably be seeing quite a few knitting projects around here.  I'm so excited to be rediscovering and becoming more skilled at an old favorite craft!  Plus knitting is just such a perfect, cozy activity for long winter evenings, and its portability and sedentary-ness caters to my current beached whale stage of pregnancy. : )

I was so pleased with how the flower-embroidered baby girl hat turned out, that I thought I'd do something similar for Sweet Pea.  I used a different pattern for larger needles and some bulky yarn that my mom shared with me.  The hat turn out soft, fluffy, and warm, but it's still quite a bit too big for her. (Good thing there's always next year).  Plus the bulky yarn flowers just didn't turn out as well as the smooth yarn ones on the other hat (I'm not quite sure of the proper terminology yet).

I'm moderately pleased with how it turned out.  It's not a failure, but it's still not quite what I had envisioned.  I definitely was not discouraged enough to stop knitting!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

tree trimming and pumpkin carving

Thanks to my lovely Mum, our house is decorated for Christmas!
I have noooooo motivation to decorate this year,
but Little Man had his heart set on setting up our little tree.
Mum very patiently lugged all of the boxes up from the basement,
supervised the chaos that ensued,
and even strung my lights and fragile ornaments
safely from the curtain rod like I did a few years ago.
It looks so nice now.
I regret being all Scroogey. : )
(Many, many thanks, Mum.)

And then the next day my dad carved the boys' pumpkins with them.
(Yes, the ones we purchased in October.)
I truly intended to carve pumpkins with the boys,
well, in October or November,
but it just didn't happen.
What can I say?
Some things I'm on top of, others...not so much.
Since the pumpkins were carved so late,
the guys opted for Christmassy designs instead of faces.
So fun, right?

Our holiday mantle/hearth is all ready for the winter festivities!

(And just in case you were wondering,
the fireplace isn't functional,
so there's no fire danger from all the stuff we have around it,
and the terrarium to the right contains hermit crabs.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

my "urban jungle" hat

Speaking of last October and our trip to Utah,
here's another project I finished back then:

When I realized I had it pinned three times,
I decided that I really should just make one.
The pattern was well-written and easy to follow.
It turns out that puff stitches are fun and easy to make!

By itself it looks rather lumpy and plain.

But when I put it on and scrunch it up a little,
it looks all cute and, and...
well, almost a little elfish.
Or maybe it's more like a dwarf hat.
(you know, like a snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarfs dwarf hat)
I'm not entirely sure either is really a good thing,
but I still like the hat.
A lot.

It goes perfectly with my leaf necklace.

And is, as Brother would say, delightfully "cozy and warm."
Yes, I like it a lot.

Monday, December 3, 2012

friend photo session

Way back in October when we visited Utah
I had the chance to take some photos
of my sweet sister-in-law
and her two best friends from high school
who both happened to be visiting at the same time we were.
These girls were so much fun to hang out with.
We had a great session;
the following are a few of our favorite shots.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

more family photos

I love it when one of my clients
can hook me up with a gorgeous location on private property.
It's always fun to work in a new and different place.
Last week I had the chance to take family photos for some friends
on the ranch where he is employed.

First we took indoor portraits of the baby,
then we moved outside for their family photos
to a gorgeous lake-side location
with breathtaking mountain views on every side.
Too bad it was windy and chilly,
and their little lady had soon had enough--
I could have stayed for an hour.