Saturday, February 7, 2015

Old toys, new friends

We met a new friend today and were able to pass along some of our old treasures. The friend is the 1 year old niece of Rob's coworker, Jen. She is also a good friend to our family.
Our new friend is as cute as a button and my kids were thrilled to pass along their outgrown items to her. A few days ago the idea of parting with these old toys was scary. Today they kept coming down with more and more things that they thought she might like. There were no battles, no tears, just smiles, laughter and the joy of sharing. I had a strong suspicion that would be the case since both of my kids have loving, generous hearts.

Our new friend was a bit overwhelmed by it all but I believe that she will find much delight and entertainment from her new toys, just as my kids did. Jen was also a bit overwhelmed I think, she offered to pay us something for all that she was getting. We all said "No way." Much of what we have is because of the generous hearts of others, that is the way that it is done. It is also one of my favorite parts of being a mother (a parent,) being a part of this community and the traditions of motherhood. I think providing care and support to one another is the greatest gift we give and receive.

Many blessings to you on this fine evening.--Kate

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Joy of Felting

It has been good for me to set challenges to try to complete old projects and use up my cascading piles of art and craft supplies. It has motivated me to resurrect techniques that I have long ago set aside. This has brought with it some wonderful firsts and some new favorites.

It is a wonder it took me so long to try my hand at felting. I love yarn, I love trying new techniques, but somehow this one just seemed like to much work. Which is ironic considering I have had a few unintentional felting experiences. The first was a favorite pretty pink cardigan I inherited from a friend in high school, the second was a nice pair of socks. So clearly felting is not difficult to master if you can manage to do it with no more thought then it takes to wash a load of laundry.

So finally I took the plunge (literally, into the sink,) and gave hand felting a try. I had a blast and ended up with some really vibrant, dense and soft fabric.

The biggest thing to remember with felting (or fulling) is that it only works with animal fibers. Also lighter colors take longer. Once you have your knitted project worked up there are just a few simple steps to take you from the open airy fabric to a lovely thick, tight felt. There are three key components to felting: temperature, water and agitation.
You need hot water to felt, but in hand felting it is also important that it is not so hot as to cause you damage. When I worked up my squares I chose to use the kitchen sink and I mixed the hot tap water with about a quart of water I boiled on the stove. For the first few minutes I kept my hands out and just agitated the water (washing machine style) with a wooden spoon. Oh and don't forget to add the soap. I just used some liquid dish soap.

The first thing you notice after pushing the fabric around for a while is that it actually starts to stretch out and get bigger. Do not panic the hot water first relaxes the fibers before they tighten and close.

As soon as the water cooled enough that I could put my hands in without scalding them I increase the agitation by rubbing the fibers between my hands.

The whole process was lots of swirling, splashing, squishing and scrubbing. It was hot, wet and tons of fun. I also found that it was a fairly quick process, even though many of the articles I read made it seem like it would take a long time.

When the project is felted you have to rinse out the soap and wring out the water. I did my rinse with cold, then used old white kitchen towel and rolled up the felted work and squeezed out the water.

Once the fabric was only damp to the touch, I laid them out on dry towels and worked on straightening out the edges. I used straight pins to hold them. This is called blocking. By morning they were dry and ready to be turned into my Felted Needle Book.

I enjoyed this technique so much I am sure that you will be seeing more hand felted projects in the future.

Many blessings to you on this very fine but rainy day.--Kate

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Outgrown Kid's Toys

With children it is easy, far to easy, to find yourself in a house overflowing with kid toys. This is partly due to the undeniable fact that "toys are fun", and not just for the kids. The temptation to buy something that looks like it will be cool is hard to resist.

Another great reason is that grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren. This is usually the source of the large and loud toys. I suspect the motivation is the sparkling delight the toy inspires in their grandchildren, but I am also sure there is the adjoining thought, "I am so glad that toy is not in my house."

My favorite reason though is that other parents, who are in the same boat, do their very best to pass on as many toys as possible to new parents who do not yet know any better. I am honestly glad for this (even if the end result is toy chaos,) because we have inherited some truly wonderful toys this way. Toys that have brought with them hours of exploration, entertainment and joy.

All of this brings me to the current issue, toy chaos. New toys keep getting added, but the removal of outgrown toys seems nearly impossible. Outgrown toys are hard to part with for many reasons.

First, toys have the uncanny ability to go into hiding. Once they are no longer the favorite, you no longer have to overturn every stone to bring them back to their, impatient and at times hysterical master. It is a wonder the places I have found toys. If left alone, forgotten toys will quietly settle beneath the debris and hide out until the next major excavation clean up brings them back to the light and to memory. This is where the second hurdle comes in.
Now that the forgotten toy is back the child remembers how much they once loved the toy. They see it and think of all the many adventures they have had. It does not matter that they have moved on to more advanced, challenging and exciting toys. The idea of parting with this once treasured item is like saying goodbye to an old friend.

If by some miracle the child is willing to part with the toy there is still one final challenge. Are you willing to part with it? Seeing these old toys, brings up your own memories of days gone by. Of little hands, little bodies and little laughs. Days you do not get back. For as much as I love watching my kids grow, as excited as I get for their next achievement, I miss the sweetness of their first days.

Finally, we have a good sized pile of toys set aside to pass along. Though none of us are yet convinced we are willing to part with them. Perhaps once we meet the new friend we have agreed to give the toys to that will make the separation a little easier. There is nothing that heals the loss like seeing your old favorites go to someone who is excited to receive them and will love them just at much as you did.  Here's hoping.

Many blessings to you on this fine night.--Kate

Felted Needle Book (part 2.)

Allow me to explain why I chose to make a felted needle book, besides the fact that the pattern I found looked really cute. I made this book because I have a lot of needles, I mean I have a ridiculously large number of needles. I am also constantly misplacing said needles in any number of random locations.So this little needle book will definitely come in handy.

In the end the needle book pattern I found turned out to be no more then inspiration. Perhaps I will make another needle book that more closely resembles the project that began all this. I am thrilled with how mine turned out though.
Once the pieces dried I figured the best way to put the book together, was to bind the pages and then stitch them on to the cover.

I am a big fan of bees and thought that the bee colors would contrast nicely with the deep red of the cover.

The big question now is whether this will help cut down on the number of missing and misplaced needles.

Many blessings to you this fine and very early morning. --Kate

On a personal note. This post is so very late tonight because I spent most of the day taking care of my youngest who picked up a yucky stomach virus. There is nothing worse then a wee one who does not feel well. Here is to hoping that it will have passed by morning. Poor Bug!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Felted Needle Book (part 1.)

Buried deep in my yarn stash I had a knit kit for making a felted "Sushi Wallet." Yes that is right, a wallet that has little embellishments on it to look like sushi rolls. The kit appealed in every way, clever packaging, unique design and beautifully colored yarn.  The only problem was that it was a felted project, which I was interested in trying but had only done unintentionally to date. So even though the project looked intriguing, it got lost for a few years in the black-hole of yarn.

Very recently I came across a charming pattern for a felt needle book. My plan was to use some 100% wool felt I had left from a market bag project I did as a Christmas present a few year ago. The more I thought about it though I figured that maybe it was the perfect excuse to try felting.

 Out came the sushi kit. I quickly worked up a square in each color. Then I sought a little guidance from the internet on how best to felt the pieces by hand.  I was not sure if they were big enough to felt well in the washer. I had to felt them in three batches because I did not want the darker colors to bleed into the lighter colors. It was hot, splashy and minimally messy, but oh so much fun. It was amazing to watch the yarn go through the felting process. I am sure there is some awesome science behind it. I think that when my kids are older and I do not have to worry so much about hot water safety, I will let them try their hand at making their own felt. For now I have four cute little felted rectangles that are drying so they can be turned into a needle book. When it comes to transformation projects this experience was one of my personal favorites.

Many blessings to you on this fine night.--Kate

P.S. Tomorrow will be the wrap-up of the Felted Needle Book. Then on Friday I will walk you through how to do your own felting by hand. So stay tuned.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Chicken Salad

A wonderful basic Chicken Salad recipe that can easily be embellished.

-3-4 cups  Chicken-cooked and chopped
-1 cup  Celery-diced
-2 Tbsp  Green Onion-chopped
-6 Tbsp  Vegenaise (Grapeseed oil-a purple lid)
-3 Tbsp  Pecans-chopped
-1 Tbsp  Lemon Juice
-1/4 cup  Parmesan-grated
Salt and Pepper to taste.

*How to cook the chicken to keep it nice and moist.*
--2 Tbsp coconut oil (to coat the pan.) Heat pan on med/high heat. Cook chicken breasts on one side for 1 min and turn them over, (if the pieces are quite thick I cut them a bit thinner.) Cover and turn heat down to low. Cook for 10-15 min on low (depending on the thickness of the chicken.) Then turn the element off and continue to let the chicken sit covered for an additional 10 minutes. Remove lid and check to make sure the chicken is cooked through. The key is to not remove the lid for the entire 20-25 minutes.

 *Putting together the Chicken Salad.*
--Cube the chicken and then mix all the ingredients together. This dish can be served hot with Parmesan sprinkled on top. Chilled and served as a sandwich, or turned into a casserole. Put in a greased casserole dish, top with organic or raw Parmesan or Cheddar cheese and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
*Great additions could be grapes, cranberries or apples. Good veggie alternatives could be cucumber or Bell peppers. Nut options could be chopped Almonds or Cashews.


Many blessings to you on this fine evening.--Kate

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Life Unexpected

Life is a strung garland of unexpected moments. Like running into a long time friend, whom you have not seen in a while, when out running errands. A beautiful snow storm after a week of spring time temperatures. A really bad choice in the last twenty seconds of the big game. (Really, what were you thinking Seahawks?)

Sometimes an unexpected moment turns out to be a life changing moment. Sometimes a quiet, expected Saturday night is shattered when you receive a phone call letting you know that your mother is in the hospital and is really not doing well. Sometimes your whole world turns upside down when Pneumonia turns into Congestive Heart Failure and that turns into emergency open heart surgery. Sometimes you are not sure you will catch your breath again and at the same time wondering how you are still holding it all together. Every moment you pass through seems to be precariously balanced. I have sat in many medical waiting rooms but the day spent waiting with my sister to see if our mama would make it through her valve replacement was one of the worst.

She did make it through and she has been a wonder in her healing process, made all the more miraculous knowing how very close things where to having a very different outcome. That has probably been the most amazing thing about this entire experience, the feeling that my mom has been held in the Lord's hand the whole time. From the very beginning, even while she waited for the ambulance my mom said she could feel her angels with her. The doctors and medical staff that surrounded my mother in the next few days were amazing. My husband who could not be with me because he was working at a different hospital spoke with everyone he knew to find out who the best surgeon and surgical team were and then pulled every sting he could to make sure my mom became their patient. They were an AMAZING surgical team.

This whole unexpected moment has been terrifying and faith affirming. I also feel really blessed that my mom made it through. I certainly have many more unexpected moments that I want my mom to be here for and I know that she is not ready to be done with a life full of her own unexpected moments.

Many blessings to you on this fine night--Kate

P.S. It is nice to be back.