Wednesday, December 30, 2015

16 in 2016

I love making goals. I'm not always so great at the follow-through but I love the potential that each goal carries. Last year, I tried to do something slightly different. I wanted to split my goals by month. Have a different theme following each month and just try to find the joy in making. I didn't succeed very well. None of my goals were really tangible. Quantifiable. That being the case, my accountability flew out the window and I did not accomplish much.

This coming year will hopefully be very different. I constructed a tracker in my journal/planner that will hold me very much accountable and I am really excited to begin ticking things off my list and coloring in boxes.


1. SRT 365 days of truth (find the plan here) // 2. Wear dresses for half the year or 184 days // 3. Try 50 new recipes (I did this one way back in 2012 when we were living in Glasgow and loved it) // 4. Read 24 books // 5. Make 6 dresses for the girls, 3 each // 6. Make 4 shirts for the boys, 2 each // 7. Sew 2 dresses for myself // 8. One completed quilt (start to finish in 2016, the already started ones from this year do not count) // 9. Learn to knit, start with a scarf or potholder or socks // 10. No soda // 11. Knit a Baa-ble hat // 12. Knit a Weasley Christmas vest // 13. Project life for 2016 // 14. Create a sewing space // 15. Weekly game night with Husband // 16. Move!

Sidebar: Number 16 is purposely ambiguous. I don't know where. I don't know how. (...but I know something's starting right now, watch and you'll see, soon I will be, part of your world) Okay, now that's out of the way (please tell me you sang along) I really have no details as to that one, it's just something that I think/hope might just happen, big or small, here or there.

Things that didn't make the cut: any type of photography goal (project life doesn't really count). I struggle with making goals when it comes to my photography. Someday I would love to have a business and I had a lot of fun shooting my niece and my friend's family. One of the coolest 2015 experiences was seeing a photo I had taken on a Christmas card that wasn't my own. I'd also like to do a 365, but man alive that pressure gets to me and my stomach ends up in knots // any type of weight loss, I just don't think I am ready to commit to that type of goal, food is definitely a source of comfort and although I know it's important to be healthy and lose the boys' (yep I still haven't lost Little Man's) baby weight, I just don't think I can, I would fail and that would be worse I think  // I do want to include some sort of financial goal but not quite sure how, I don't want to set a savings goal because it feels like inviting karma to do something nasty like rupture my husband's appendix and have really nasty side effects following surgery that we'll be paying off for months. I would like to budget better, but I don't think that needs to be on the 2016 list, it should just be done.

Do you like making goals for the New Year?

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 wrap up

I love wrap up posts. I love seeing the year in a snapshot. I love reliving the magical moments, the hysterical moments, the ordinary moments, the ta-dah moments, the duh moments, all the moments. 2015 was a heck of a year for us filled with an awful lot of down, but also some pretty spectacular ups.

Baby boy was born at the beginning of the year which is by far the biggest UP and definitely sustained me through the rest of the year. This baby is such a mellow, happy, joyful little soul and his birth was pretty much the perfect birthing experience, you know except for all the pain at the very end. He has never been much of a fusser and loves to be surrounded by his people, unless they get too rowdy and in his face then he lets them know it. He is determined too (just like Wookie. It's so amusing and interesting to see the similarities and differences in each of my children.) So tremendously grateful for this little guy coming into our family.

Opportunity doors slammed shut in both March and June (and October but that one wasn't as big as a surprise as the first two). Somewhere there's a window and we are still searching.

Poor husband lost an organ (appendix) the day of Nins's birthday party, but luckily (miraculously) a whole slew of family were in town (for said party) and kept the kids entertained and Husband company. We took the chance (after he was released from the hospital) to spend a wonderful, magical day at Bear Lake. My poor shoulders are still sunburned, which is only a slight exaggeration, British skin and all that.

I got a slight promotion at work and began in a different department (which leaves 5 down 5 to go (just kidding...sort of). There was a pretty steep learning curve and a big difference in workflow but I am finally getting the hang of it. Husband published two books (and they're available through Amazon) and is working hard writing more. I love this series and am so proud of him. He's home with the kids all day and still manages not only to write and read for himself, but is teaching the kiddos so much. Little Man is so quick and keeping up with Wookie, which is huge. Eleven months means a lot at this stage and he's super sharp. So sharp that playing Uno with him around is problematic because he shouts out the colors of your cards. They are all great learners. Which brings us to school.

School was a big and exciting change this year and with school clearly glasses are necessary, right? Nins loves going to school. She has a fantastic teacher and I really love the administration. They've made the transition from homeschool so easy and I'm so grateful. Fall brought football in all it's glory. Thanksgiving at my parents, Christmas at home, Boxing day and New Year's in Idaho (two months in 14 words).

This year I haven't done nearly as much sewing or stitching as I had intended but I did read quite a few books. Twenty-one for the year. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. If I had to choose, my favorites were My Antonia, It's What I Do, Marius Briggs & the Bonnie Pretender, and Heidi. Really of the whole list, there was only one I didn't like. Several of these books were the product of reading to the big kids in the evenings. I am loving this nighttime routine. We're on book three in the Chronicles of Narnia currently.

As far as sewing goes, I did finish one quilt. I also sewed five Geranium dresses. And finished crocheting a blanket (I completely forgot about it until I was review pictures). I am excited for the quilts and clothes that will come out of 2016.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cabin Fever

In the process of piecing this quilt together, I threw the biggest, most magnanimous temper tantrum that puts my Irish twins to shame. When living with toddlers do as toddlers do, right? Now, I honestly can't remember why. I know it had something to do with the sashing, and a couple of the squares don't line up quite right, but the proverbial straw is elusive.

In the end it looks okay, I hope. I spent so much time on this quilt. Actually, focusing on each step, to ensure that I didn't botch it last minute. Good intentions and all that. Of course the one little step I chose to overlook is pretty much the most important. Karma.

Originally, this quilt was for Nins, but upon closer inspection of my children's bedroom they each have piles upon piles of blankets on their beds, all of them handmade, three made by me. So this one is designated to the living room, keeping friends with the Cozy Cottage blanket. They're best buds.

Sewing is hard. Quilting is harder. I lack the patience for it, but I'm learning. I'm not sure why. I don't seem to have the passion that many of my favorite sewist/bloggers have. I'm a bit into metaphors so the I find the idea of taking something, fabric, yarn, floss and turning it into something else appealing. A creative outlet. Stress inducing stress relief.

Anyway, about this quilt. I bought the fabric from various places and have no idea about the brand names. I tend not to notice them too much unless I'm making something really specific or if I see something that I absolutely love. (Anyone else totally and completely anxiously awaiting the release of Somer by Sarah Jane. I swear that lady can do no wrong.)

The color scheme is reminiscent of one my earliest memories living in the UK. I was playing in the garden (which my mother had carefully cultivated with beautiful flowers that she can tell you the names of) when clouds covered the sun, so I ran inside and changed into warmer clothes, continued playing, then the sun reappeared, and I ran inside to change back into the warm-weather clothes. I must have changed at least half a dozen times. The mix of the grey and yellow and "rain-drops" and flowers all remind me of that memory. And the strawberries, oh the fresh strawberries.

I followed what I think is the typical Log Cabin fashion with 3 inch squares in the middle surrounded by 2 inch strips. One (or maybe two) of the blocks got a little off somehow so I had to add an extra strip to one side before adding the border to the sides. Sew and learn, and all that.

I used a flat sheet I picked up from a local thrift store as the backing and hand-quilted the squares. I was surprised to learn that one of the local quilting stores does not carry hand-quilting thread and received such a look of confusion and was pretty much told it was a waste of my time, which I guess it would be when you have uber fancy machines that can guarantee you a finished quilt in four days or it's free. But I like hand quilting. Or at least I liked it until I poked a hole in my finger, thimbles are around for a reason. I used a scrappy binding of all the left over 2 inch strips and discovered a super cool tutorial from Missouri Star Company on binding using one of the fancy stitches. I am pretty pleased about the binding. For some reason that is the part that scares me most on quilts and I was glad to switch it up from straight stitch.

So that brings my quilt count for this year to the grand total of ONE. Wowzas. I really didn't do the half of what I wanted. Better luck next year! I already have plans and fabric so hopefully I will manage to complete more than one in 2016. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

R & R

I did almost zero crafting last week. One kiddo got a bit sick and needed to be "quarantined" from the other kiddos. Baby is getting another tooth and going through a growth spurt. All of this together, at the same time has been rough. I definitely hit a rut with crafting. Did I take on too much? Maybe. Did I lose a bit of inspiration? Yep. Did I read two books instead of taking out Lady Jane? You know it.

For some reason, I struggle, a lot, with the balance between reading vs. crafting. Why is there a struggle, you may ask. That crazy little construct; that thing we all wish we had more of; that fleeting element that the more children I have seems to disappear before I know what I'm doing. Time.

Plus, I love me some books. Truly, ask my mum to show you a video of when the final HP came in from Amazon (on second thought don't, because it's really embarrassing, just know that I love books and made quite a ruckus when she announced that the package had arrived and then spent the rest of the day consumed in words).  But, I also love me some crafting. That sentence is actually quite hard to write, but I don't think I can deny it any more: I love crafting. I struggle and am at my most humble when in front of the sewing machine but I'm also super duper excited when things go right. Or even if they go wrong my family tells me it (whatever it may be) looks great. The girls love their dresses and the other day at church someone asked me where I got them. Biggest compliment EVER!

I work 40 hours a week. I like my job; I like to think I'm good at my job. But that's 8 hours out of every day (8 of which are for sleeping) so that's 16 hours already eaten up. Plus, having four children eats up a lot of time. In an amazingly great way, but once they are asleep I only really have 2 hours to be with my husband, finish up an extra chores, Netflix binge, craft or read. I don't have a designated sewing space so sometimes it honestly feels like more of a chore to get everything out and set up, sew for an hour and a half just to put it all away again. It gets tiring. And I'm already tired. Plus, I haven't figured out how to read and stitch and sew at the same time. Really, what I'm saying is that I have no finished projects. BUT I have several almost finished projects.

The other thing I can say is that of the Wrinkle in Time series I think that Swiftly Tilting Planet may just be my favorite. I love the complexity of characters and the plot and the relationships between Meg and Charles Wallace and everyone else. Connection. Human connection. It was nice to be reminded that in one way or another we are all connected. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lucia's light

I absolutely love this holiday! I am so pleased we instituted it last year and that everyone was on-board, nay, excited and insistent to do it again this year. I'm pretty sure this is now a hard and fast tradition and I couldn't be more pleased. A lot of time with traditions it feels like I am forcing things that no one really wants to do, but not St. Lucia. This is a holiday everyone in the house gets on board for (even if it is just for the food).

We started the festivities on Saturday by visiting the lights at gorgeous Temple Square. We met husband's sister, ate an early dinner, explored the incredible City Creek Mall (the fire in the fountains was a big hit), and munched on Rocky Mountain Chocolate. So delicious.  We heard rather than saw the nativity presentation, there were so many people and it was super chilly. But soul filling.

I made Nins a brand new St. Lucia dress (using the same Geranium pattern as her Thanksgiving dress, but lengthened the skirt and fully lined the inside since you know, white). Her one last year was a haphazardly, patched together old t-shirt of mine that was here Leia dress for Halloween; so this year, I made her one special. Traditionally, the oldest daughter wears a crown of candles, though usually electric ones are used until about 12. Of course, this year I ran out of time to make the crowns, next year. We ate heartily on Swedish pancakes for breakfast (so so good) and homemade Swedish meatballs for dinner while listening to this beautiful video surrounded by the soft light of candles.

There couldn't be a more perfect time for this holiday; the days sure are short here in the valley and the nights are long, but I love any excuse to turn my tree lights on at four in the afternoon (heck if I'm home they are on all day). This beautiful festival of light was originally held on what was thought to be the shortest day of the year or Winter Solstice. It proclaims light and joy and hope.  Perfect for paving the way for Christmas where the birth of the light of the world is celebrated.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Geraniums

Growing up, my parents instituted dressing up for major holidays. Imagine my papa dressed to the nines -- waistcoat, bow tie, and cuff links -- sticking his arm up a goose's bum for Christmas dinner. Yep, it's amazing. When we moved to the States, we welcomed the same tradition for Thanksgiving, but substituting the goose for a turkey. It's a tradition I haven't really stuck to with my own family unfortunately, but as we were visiting my parents this year, I wanted to make 'special' Thanksgiving dresses for the girls (maybe I'll get to making waistcoats or button-ups for the boys next year).

I bought Rae's Geranium dress (both bundles since my girls fall into age categories that span both sizes). It's the very first time I have actually succeeded at making a dress  that not only looks like a dress, but can actually be worn. (insert hands on face/mouth open emoji)

For Wookie's dress, I got the fabric from JoAnn's during that frenzy I talked about. It's such a sweet floral pattern and I really enjoyed working with it. The first go around with the bodice was more difficult than anticipated, especially with the "U" cutout that Rae uses in her dresses; so, after one failed attempt, I opted for the regular round neckline.

I tried the "U" cutout with Nins' and had better results. But Lady Jane (my machine) has decided that buttonhole making is an overrated venture. I'm really disappointed and am hoping to take her to a specialist or at least someone who knows more than I and getting the function fixed. No matter what I try the buttonhole function won't work properly. It bunches, and stalls, and unravels, and restarts in a different place, and won't measure the button correctly, and the foot won't hold the button even when it's shut it will gradually expand as the machine moves. It's a mess. I've followed the manual exactly. I've Googled, and read blogs, and researched, and watched videos, and still can't get it right.

So I used hooks and eyes to close the dresses. It's not my favorite and as Wookie says, "I don't love that." But it will suffice for now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Leaving Before the Rains Come and Yarn

I have been having so much trouble sticking to one book or one project. It feels like every five minutes or so I'm switching it up, starting something new, or just adding a few stitches here and there before quitting and doing something completely different. In the last month, I had read the first 5-10 pages of three different books, before settling down; then I undid the whole chevron blanket because it was driving me crazy. Gaping holes in the valleys and a general dissatisfaction with the look led me to pull it all apart and begin again with a much simpler, more rhythmic pattern---Lucy's granny stripe. Part of why I like crochet is that I can lose myself a bit. My focus can drift and yet my hands keep moving because they know what they're doing especially with a pattern like the granny stripe. But even with the simplest of patterns, somewhere there's a snag. Like this wonderful ball of yarn (standing as the metaphor of my life). It's one enormous mess, but somewhere, somehow structure emerges, at least I hope I can get this yarn (and my life) to cooperate and make something beautiful out of both.

I've just finished Leaving before the rains come, by Alexandra Fuller. It is such a beautiful, haunting read. Her imagery and descriptions are stunning. I love how the past is interspersed with the present, showing how time is a man-made invention insufficient for its purpose. The fluidity of time is so fitting of real life. Nebulous not static. Events don't occur of themselves; events occur within a given context, a specific place, with specific people, and after they have occurred they are never really finished; they are recalled again and again in different context and situations so that they take upon them the additional memories created by new events.

I had to limit myself to just a few favorite quotes to give you a taste of Fuller's writing:

"The truth is, most of the things that change the course of ourlives happen fleeting unguarded moments; grief buckling us at the knees; fear shattering through us like buckshot; love pulling us out on an unseen tide. And finding ourselves in the grip of these overpowering emotions, we then invent reasons based on the flimsy evidence we have accrued why they have happened, trying to make sense of the insensible with armloads of self-justification distortions, and deliberate misinterpretations" (23-4).

"It is the perpetuating tragedy of all families: each of us believing our congenital pathologies and singular pains end with us. We think of ourselves as individual dammed rivers, the blood of generations stopped up in our veins, the accumulated habits of a lifetime ceasing at the border of our skins. We don't think of our present, our current conditions, and our immediate decisions as incurable infections or persisting gifts that will cross through porous vectors of inheritance and time and blossom into the future. In spite of biblically ancient warnings, we don't think of our contaminating or blessing not only ourselves but also our children, their children unto the third and fourth generations" (129). 

"I thought then of the collective memory of land, of the ways in which people and animals and geological events cannot help but leave scars, sculpt wonders, and weave stories onto its cover" (167). 

"There is no loneliness quite like the loneliness that comes from living without ancestors, without the constant lively accompaniment of the dead" (186).

Isn't her word choice incredible? I recently saw a meme-thing about how every book that was ever written consists of the same 26 letters in different orders. Mind-blown. It's something so simple and yet so beautiful, hopefully like Rose & Toast, and this blanket, and my life. Simple. Beautiful.

Linked to Ginny's Yarn Along

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Free Book Contest/Giveaway from Rudiments and Sundry

Check out this awesome and inventive giveaway from Rudiments and Sundry! 

I wrote a little bit about the book here and would highly recommend reading it. Plus the giveaway itself gives you the chance to stretch your creative wings by making a parody of "Let it go" from Frozen which will hopefully bring in some pretty hilarious comments! So head over to Rudiments and Sundry (dot) com for a chance to win a free copy of Marius Briggs and the Bonnie Pretender.

Friday, August 28, 2015

It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

I had fully intended to have finished the cross stitch I've been working on and have a post ready for today, alas, I was thwarted in my plans. Though I do have an amazing book to share: 

I am shamed to admit that I had never heard of Lynsey Addario prior to reading about her in Freya's post proclaiming her excitement about the upcoming book. That one sentence, not even a full sentence, mentioned the book with a bit about how she (Addario) balances photojournalism with having a family. The last couple chapters deal with this balance in particular, but the rest of the 341 paged book is jam-packed with Lynsey's beautifully tragic, remarkably courageous and joyfully uplifting journey in the career of photojournalism.

I was completely blown away by this memoir. I cried...a lot. At one point, I even had to close the book for a bit of a breather. And yet her words continued and I was insatiable with my desire to finish this book only hoping that it would magically sprout pages so that I would never be finished. The cliche of living a life through someone else's words were never more true than they were in this book and I am so gratefully glad that I read them from the comfort of my bed and living room.

Lynsey is admirable in her quest for beauty in some of the most tragic circumstances: "It seemed paradoxical to try to create beautiful images out of conflict...Trying to convey beauty in war was a technique to try to prevent the reader from looking away or turning the page in response to something horrible. I wanted them to linger, to ask questions" (190). Her memoir stands as a testament to the truth of this statement.

She is also poetic in her descriptions of the places and people she visits:"Everything that make India the rawest place on earth made it the most wonderful to photograph. The streets hummed with constant movement, a low-grade chaos where almost every aspect of the human condition was in public view" (52).

And, "Mohammed's wrinkled map of a face reflected a lifetime of war, repression, and poverty, and obscured any trace of his youth" (64).

Her description of motherhood left me reeling from its unequivocal accuracy: "My dreams for my child were the same ones that I knew compelled so many women around the world to fight for their families against the most unimaginable odds" (335). What mama bear wouldn't fight to keep their cubs safe?

Coupled with the realization that in motherhood, "somewhere along the way my mortality began to matter" (341). I think there are moments when every mother realizes, one way or another, that their own mortality matters. That there are little people, and some big people, who are dependent on them completely. The situation doesn't have to be as dire as being kidnapped (twice) as Lynsey has, but can merely be a close call in the car or a slip on wet grass.

I loved this book and recommend it wholeheartedly. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Marius Briggs and my aptitude for blankets

Last week, I realized something about myself and my crocheting skills - I'm pretty good at blankets...but not much else.

I tried my hand at the Lalylala pattern for Kira the Kangaroo and, putting it lightly, I butchered the poor pattern. It's terribly disappointing because I love those little creatures. I've tried the pattern a few times and just can't seem to get it right. Then I stared sullenly at my hooks for about three days before hopping back on the horse with a blanket I've been working on for a year or so with very little progress. We're in for a cold spell (hopefully) so I'm anxious to start making blankets again. I've got my eye on this pattern from Alicia Paulson in these colors from Lucy.

Between the crochet debacle and extra crafting projects (mostly hand stitching), I managed to sneak in a few books. Marius Briggs and the Bonnie Pretender is a super short novella at 77 pages long. It's the first book of the Marius Briggs series. It is so inaccurate historically but wildly funny. I read the whole thing in an evening and kept laughing out loud and reading passages to my husband. It tells of the adventures of Marius Briggs, a Scottish privateer, aka pirate, who takes on the responsibility of basically babysitting the Bonnie Prince Charlie. If you know anything about Scottish history then you know that legend has it that in order to escape Great Britain after his failed attempt of stealing the throne, Charlie disguises himself in a dress and flees to France. The authors exaggerate this tidbit into a full-blown farce. For more information and a bit of a review check out this post: Sun's Out, Book's Out! I was completely entertained and would highly recommend it.

Linked to Ginny's Yarn Along 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Reflections on Kisses from Katie

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis is remarkable story of courage and kindness. I admire Katie's faith and her work ethic. She has a big heart and showers love on everyone she meets. I would like to meet her someday and thank her for all the work she has and is doing. I would like to be more like her too, filled with charity and say "yes" to the Lord regardless of what He asks of me and to be thankful, as Katie is, that He does not let me have control.

"I am so thankful that God in His grace does not allow me to win. Because usually the fight is not really about what He is asking me to do...It is about me trying to figure out just how much control I have over my own little life. At this point, not much." (227)

After a brief visit to Uganda over the Christmas holidays, Katie returns to make the red dirt land her permanent home. Not only does she begin a non-profit organization in order to provide opportunities for education to hundreds of underprivileged  Ugandan children but she also provides them with basic medical care. Many of the children in Uganda suffer from one disease or another, including scabies that burrow into their feet, lay eggs, and leave open sores. Treatment is usually quite simple but for one reason or another too many families are going without medical aid of any kind. Heck, even a bath is a luxury for most children. I considered this thought as I bathed my own children in a clean, white, porcelain tub where water magically comes from a temperature controlled faucet and happy smelling shampoo is applied to clean the dirt and food from their faces and bodies. I don't know how a shampoo can smell happy but this one does. I wrap them in a warm, dry, hooded towel and sing a little song. They get into their clean pajamas, snuggle into their clean sheets, on their own mattresses with their stuffed animal friends snoozing beside them. That scene alone makes us more blessed than almost all the children in Uganda. And I take it for granted every single time. It is not a luxury for our family, it's just part of our routine. Our routine also includes three square meals a day filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, typically with snacks eaten in between.

We recently bought new shoes for the girls, and we spent a little more than usual because if you buy cheap you get cheap, and I want these shoes to last because they have to. According to US standards, my family is well below the poverty line; however, after reading Katie's book I realized that for me (and this directly applies to me and my family and no one elses) the idea of poverty is my own invention. I am able to work and provide food and water and baths and clothes and new shoes to my children (maybe the last three don't happen every day but still, they are provided for). I am able to wrap them up tight in their blankets and not worry about mosquitoes biting them all night and giving them malaria. They receive routine immunizations to prevent diseases from ravaging their bodies. Their health alone makes me wealthy and with the addition of everything else, I am rich beyond measure. I am so blessed and grateful and should remember that more often. 

The wonderful and amazing thing about Katie is her faith that the Lord will provide. I am jealous of her faith. A single drop of her faith could move mountains. Through the grace of God, Katie heals the sick, feeds the hungry, and teaches all those willing to listen. I value her honesty as she states often throughout her book that she is not perfect, none of us are, but she listens to the Lord and follows his promptings. By doing so, she is often found in hard places, helping those who need it most and sacrificing when it looks like she has nothing left to give.

"God has a way of using inadequate people and sometimes He calls us to reach a little higher or stretch a little further, even when we feel we can't do it anymore." (109).  

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Wookie cross stitch Reloaded

When May 4th rolled around, I posted about the Wookie cross stitch. At the time, it was a work in progress, but I was so excited to share and got a bit ahead of myself by posting anyway. I am really glad that I did because I have learned a lot about my creative process and my own expectations when it comes to making things.

As I had said in the original post, I loved working with the cross stitch but then struggled with the quilting part. Quilting is challenging. Cutting is challenging. Being able to recognize that something needs to change in order for the vision in my head to become a reality is challenging. So much changed about this little quilt. Because my vision wasn't quite matching reality, my instincts were telling me to scrap the whole project. My own little Wookie kept begging me to finish so I powered through, but not without making some changes.

The "original-ish" quilt had a couple of problems: The binding was too small, which is my own fault for not paying attention to the seam allowance; the quilting was uneven which made the back bunch awkwardly; and I had sewn several "layers" of a log cabin effect using two contrasting fabrics. I didn't like the contrast at all.

So I removed the binding, ripped out the quilting, and started again. The finished product is still a bit flawed, but I, and more importantly Wookie, love it. It can be hung on the wall, but right now she has a little "Wookie corner" on the top of the dresser so it's hanging out with the rest of her ever-growing collection.

For me this project seemed to epitomize my whole experience with crafting. I'm a novice. An impatient novice at that. I see what other people can do and I expect that just by looking at an image that I can replicate what many of these women have spent many many years working toward. I need to slow down and appreciate the process of making, for the sake of making.

Each project has specific phases and each phase exhibits a variety of emotions. The exciting planning phase (I love planning and planners so for me this is the most exciting phase), the joyful stitching phase, the cathartic cutting phase, the mandatory piecing phase, the not-quite-right phase, the disheartening ripping phase, the hopeful rebuilding phase, and the hallelujah!! it's finished phase. Each phase is equally necessary to building a craft. You may not experience the same emotions for the same phase of different projects, because each project is unique. What does apply universally (at least for me) is to take the time to really focus and work out the kinks to create a treasure that you (and the recipient) love.

I'm a rush-rush-rush kind of lady, always pushing for that end result, but I'm learning to slow down and really enjoy each phase. I'm also working on recognizing that if I don't like something, it's perfectly alright to change the plan. By being open-minded and evaluating each phase, I can save myself from ripping the work apart, and ultimately come to love the finished item as well as the process of making it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Wrinkle in Time (and playing hooky)

"Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself."

Hot on Antonia's heels, I read the much beloved A Wrinkle in Time. I needed a bit of youthful escapism after the depth and breadth of My Antonia. I read it one evening, like I used to do as a teen, and loved it as much as I did when I read it the first time many years ago. I found the escapism I was looking for, but also stumbled upon bigger, more intense questions and answers than I remember.

The darkness of sameness and a lack of responsibility ultimately being detrimental to society hit me hard, especially after my feeling of 'playing the adult'. Of course I'm glad to be responsible for all the little people in my life and of course I really do like having decisions to make. Visualizing the opposite of choice as portrayed on Camazotz was frightening and poignant (especially after having watched "The Winter Soldier" the day before). It all had a very "big brother" feel. I am so grateful for my agency and hope to use it for the benefit not detriment of society.  

It had been a long, long time since I had picked up my hooks at all. Summer has been ridiculously hot and the idea of my sweaty hands playing with yarn made me cringe. But Nins picked up her hooks yesterday and told me that she was making me a scarf for Christmas, so I decided to follow her suit and play around a bit with Christmas in mind.

Linked up to Ginny's Yarn Along 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sweet 'n' Sour

T'other night we had the most amazing sunset! The sky literally looked like it was on fire. My first gut reaction was - 'holy crap it's the apocalypse' - and my second reaction was to grab the camera. It was just so beautiful -- so much so that we pulled Nins out of bed and made her watch as the rain began to fall. The combination of dark gray sky mixed with bright orange that swiftly transitioned to pink and purple was mesmerizing and I snapped away in the rain trying to capture on camera what my eyes were seeing.

The sunset reminded me that life is sweet; life is good. Oftentimes, I forget the sweetness and dwell heavily on sourness instead. An eternal pessimist, as some would say. It's so easy to get caught on the pity party train that I sometimes unpack my bags and stay for a while. I am trying, some days are more successful than others, to redirect my focus. I need to pull out my rose colored specs and take a stroll about town. A filter isn't always a bad thing.

For perspectives sake, I want to just remind myself of the sweet 'n' sour and how they mix together like the gray and orange of the sunset to produce a beautiful image and a good, good life.

- Oh, the babies! I have had four pregnancies and three babies in four years! Yowza! No wonder my hormones get a bit fritzy now and then. I am so immensely grateful for my children. Each and every one of them teaches me something new about the world and I love getting glimpses of how they think it should and could operate. I am constantly amazed by how they communicate with one another and how I see so many similarities between them yet so many differences. I adore being their mother.

- Constantly moving! None of the aforementioned babies were born in the same city. Wookie and Little Man are 11 months, 2 weeks apart and they were not born in the same city. Let's just have that sink in for a moment. Little Man and Chubs are 2 years apart and even they weren't born in the same city. In those same four years, we have lived in Idaho, Scotland, Idaho again, Virginia and Utah. That's five moves in four years, one trans-Atlantic and one across the country and back again. Phew! I wish I could say that I have loved living in all those places, and I think as time goes I am beginning to realize the blessings we received while there, wherever that may be.

- Glasgow, Glasgow, Glasgow! Always and forever my home will be Glasgow. I may find other homes along the way, but Glasgow was the first place that I was truly stretched and pulled into a better person. Because of Glasgow, I got to go to Paris, and Dublin, and Iceland and fuel my apparently insatiable bug for travel. Because of Glasgow, I have a Master's degree in a fascinating field. Because of Glasgow, I experienced labor au natural, not by choice, mind you, but vowed to do it again (missed the boat with Little Man but managed it with Chubs). Because of Glasgow, I am committed to seeking a path full of wonder and hardness that will refine myself and my family to be forged of invisible steel.

- Virginia Sweet Virginia. VA is always calling my name only to spit me right back out again. I spent an academic year at a small, rural liberal arts college in the pink bubble of VA. It was an interesting and intense time filled with magic and charm, monsters and chaos. For one reason or another, I chose not to return. Fast forward 6 years: Sweet Virginia called me back only to eject me after three months. We experienced a lot in those few, short months: We traveled to DC, Chesapeake Bay, and explored the city of Richmond.

- Debt reduction. Without going into too many details, we have been able to pay off debt. By the grace of God, we have managed to stay afloat financially through unemployment, more schooling, underemployment, and possibly even more schooling. Not only have we stayed afloat but we have reduced some of our debts. We are eternally grateful to each and every person who has ever helped us out financially. Someday, I hope to repay the kindness.

- Presently! I live in a state I had vowed growing up I would never ever in a million years live. Here, I have been stretched in a lot of ways too, admittedly though, it often feels like flattening rather than stretching. I have been humbled. I have been terrified. I have been defeated. I am slowly being brought back up (I hope). I'm sure I'm learning something but since I'm in the thick of it, I'm still not sure what that lesson is or more accurately lessons are yet. Maybe in a few years, I'll look back on my time here and smile. After all Mr. Chubs-man was born here and that is definitely a thing to smile about.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Reading My Antonia

I had never read My Antonia. It wasn't a book I read in high school, college, or grad school, so I'm coming at it with fresh, unbiased and unforced eyes. In other words, I am loving it. It is so very fitting for my mindset lately and the imagery is nothing short of heavenly. The landscape is as much a character as Antonia or Jim. Work and play are interwoven and in my heart of hearts I wish to have that type of lifestyle for my family. It's not without hardships, but it's also full of pure, unadulterated joy.

Willa Cather writes beautifully and evokes so much peace and tranquility even within Antonia's hardships. Cather gets humans. She gets their nature and is able to portray characteristics that I found I could relate to perfectly though I've never been to Nebraska or lived on a farm. My Antonia speaks accurately about the human experience: the sadness, the joy, the insecurities, the mistakes, the redemption.

 "It must have been the scarcity of detail in that tawny landscape 
that made detail so precious."

This book raised questions of what it means to live a fulfilling life and how do we choose to remember the past. Is it romanticized? Absolutely. For myself whenever life feels stagnant my immediate reaction is to flip through photos of our time in Glasgow. I've romanticized our time there because it was such a stretching, growing, challenging, and wonderful chapter of our lives. But I had miserable moments there too.

My Antonia also takes a round-about look at the future. So much changed in such a seemingly short amount of time from the moment Jim and Antonia step foot off the train to the final promise Jim makes to Antonia's boy. He's found his path and he's sticking to it. Choosing the right path isn't always easy. We don't ever have all the variables, which makes decision making a giant pain in the rump, but it's also what makes the mess potentially exciting. For me, it feels like my whole adult life has been one major decision after another, and most of the time I feel like I'm a toddler playing dress up, when if fact, I actually have toddlers who do play dress up.

Of course, I couldn't read this novel and forget to mention hard work and perseverance. Nothing comes easy, except perhaps the trials; poor Antonia just doesn't seem to be able to get her feet under her, until the very end. The success stories are the ones least likely to be labelled: success. The whole novel could be chalked up to one long lesson of the hardships of life and the brevity of the quiet, unhurried moments. However, in those tranquil moments, the world stops and peace prevails.

Monday, May 4, 2015

May the Fourth // Wookie cross stitch

I love the original three Star Wars. I mean the nickname of one of my children is Wookie which shows a level of devotion unseen in most fan-clubs (I jest...sort of). The nickname came about because when she was an infant, she didn't really cry she trilled like Chewbacca and now it's stuck. I had promised for her birthday to create something fitting of her nickname but kept putting it off (her birthday was months ago). Knowing that May 4th would soon be here (and quickly pass away again) I was determined to make something Star Wars themed. She already has an "I Speak Wookie" embroidery hanging on her wall (and I have my eye on a "Wookie of the Year bobble-head doll from our local bookstore), so I needed a fresh take on the wookie motif. With that in mind, I set out to create this Star Wars inspired mini-quilt. It's not quite finished but I just had to share.

I used the left-over scraps from the Stars baby blanket (Liberty Kevin from Jones and Vandermeer) and pale blue satin-ish strips (not pictured) from a dress that I made the girls a long, long time ago (in a galaxy far away). It was a bit awkward using these two together as they tended to slip against each other and not line up properly so I ended up pinning A LOT, which surprised me considering it's size.

The cross stitch portion measures 5 x 6 and the strips were 2 inches wide and who knows how long. I began by having multiple colors as pictured but then, after experiencing some trouble with the binding I ended up ripping out the quilting and cutting off much of "frame." I had originally played around with lines in the quilting - diagonal lines shot out from each corner (like the Millennium Falcon going into hyperdrive) and rectangles framed (like the windows of the Death Star). Leftover grey minky was used on the back and I plan on using random cream colored ribbon to hang it.

I used cross stitch for the first time in years. It was so relaxing and so. much. fun. This project turned out so much better than I had imagined, even though there are a few little flaws I'm willing to overlook them because I love the overall project. The feeling of accomplishment and pride was so different than the deflated, let down feeling from the Lily embroidery, even after all the little human errors that I made. I am so chock full of ideas and feel so eager to get each project rolling. I already have plans for at least two more cross-stitch/mini quilt combos.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What I'm Reading // Drawn to Nature

Spring has definitely sprung here in the valley. We've had a decent amount of rain (and one big ol' blizzard) in addition to a few spectacular thunderstorms. I love the way the world smells after it rains, even the dairy cow smell gets washed away, and the earth seems brighter, the grass greener, the sky bluer, the clouds whiter and fluffier.

I've been reading Clare Leslie Walker's Drawn to Nature, while working on a crochet chevron throw. This book isn't so much about reading as it is about devouring her images while snacking on words. She challenges her readers to look around. See the sky. See the ground. Hear the birds. Notice nature wherever you are. So I have been. Though it's been rather easy to do since we live so close to the canyon and experience monthly sightings of deer and daily sightings of pheasants. I've been looking more closely at the other birds. We get sparrows and starlings, ducks and wild turkeys, and a lovely woodpecker waking us up in the wee hours of the morn.

Over the weekend, we visited the grave of the Swedish ancestor. While at the cemetery, we witnessed several magpies ganging up on what I can only presume was a small hawk or falcon of some kind who had caught another bird and was attempting to feast but to no avail. We also drove up Scout Mountain to have a campfire roast and saw the biggest bumble bee I have ever seen in real life and heard chirping crickets among the staccato sound of someone somewhere target shooting.

We are lucky that "nature" is right in our backyard or only a ten minute drive away. We experience the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets over mountain ranges in both the east and the west. Golden hour is by far my favorite time of day. Time stops and everything is magical for those minutes of the setting sun.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cozy Cottage Blanket // crochet

If you are remotely interested in crochet, Lucy's site at Attic 24 is perfection.

Everything Lucy does is spectacular and oh so colorful; this Cozy blanket is no exception. Lucy hosted a Crochet Along or CAL that began in October of 2014. In several posts, Lucy shared the progress of other participants and when I saw someone's use of the Cottage color pack (purchased through Wool Warehouse as part of the Attic24 packages) I just knew I had to try this color combo.

Well, the CAL is now looonnnngg over and Lucy has shared her "Ta-Dah" with this blanket, so I'm a bit behind (but that's not groundbreaking news). I received my pack just after Thanksgiving and worked slowly and steadily. Taking time felt good. I wasn't in a rush since this was purely for my own enjoyment. There is serenity in simple stitching. And I took full advantage.

The colors in this pack are completely reminiscent of a country cottage. They come in a meshy bag to store all fifteen skeins. It has been a lifesaver when surrounded by all the other piles of projects I have; at least this project has the appearance of being organized. I followed the Cottage Ripple color pattern that came with the pack, with a few variations once I decided what colors to use for the border (raspberry, plum, and pale rose). The pattern is simple and only requires the knowledge of a double crochet stitch (US terms, treble in UK).

This twin size creation is the largest blanket I've made to date, which makes my husband really happy because he can actually use this one whereas all the others have been much too small.

I absolutely love the border. Spiky yet subtle. And it's rosy, which is a total plus and very fitting. Even before I had completed the project the girls were fighting over who got to use it. To avoid sibling squabbling, I put it in the living room so that all who want to use it can. It looks so cheerful laying on the couch where little hands can grab and all can cuddle.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Swans and Swallows: A Remix and a Giveaway {Closed}

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, I am so wonderfully pleased to announce the paperback edition of my husband's book

Back in November, Husband and his brother self-published a book through Amazon. It was originally only formatted for ebook so if you have a kindle that copy is still available (for super-super cheap). For all you others who, like me, want to hold the book in your hands, flip through the pages, write in the margins, and dog ear particular passages, their book is now available for purchase in paperback! 

I am so, SO proud of all the work they have done on this book. 

A couple of book-keeping things (see what I did there??) -- The subscript "a comedy" has been removed, because, well, it isn't really a comedy. It is satire. And it is hilarious (truly laugh out loud funny... at some parts). But it is quite serious too. Gregory is a likable guy, with a bit of a problem. He's a total narcissist (and addicted to sensation, among other things), and his antics are, though slightly exaggerated, pretty realistic which at times are both hilarious and heart-breaking. It's a great read, and before I get accused of being biased, my opinions are solely my own and my husband would still love me even if I didn't like it, but luckily that's not the case, because it really is a wonderful book. 

For a chance to win this awesome book leave a comment below and for double the chance to win find me on Instagram (@rosieliljenquist) and leave a comment. The giveaway will close Sunday at 11:59 pm MST and the winner chosen and notified on Monday. Take Luck!

Update: The winner has been chosen and notified. Thank you sincerely to those who participated! 

{ Linked to Ginny's Yarn Along. }