Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Change Your Thinking One Day at a Time? Right.

I walk my dogs every morning from our cozy little spot on the hill down into the town and along the waterfront. We walk along the fishermen's wharf and wave hello to the regulars who congregate there. My trash-collecting habit amuses some of the guys, who laugh at me and shake their heads, and others thank me for my "service". I find all sorts of things from empty cans and bottles to scratch tickets and even occasionally discarded waitstaff shirts from a local eatery or two - I've started a collection of these just to see how many I can score in a year. Thank you, disgruntled staffers discarding their summer jobs and the shirts along with them!
Yoshi hoping for a duck dinner on our morning walk
Since absenting myself from the knitting world, social media, and this blog I've been pretty introspective. I've spent a lot of time in prayer and Bible reading, and a lot of time allowing God to show me who I am and what I am supposed to be doing instead of trying to do everything all on my own. The truth is I have no answers to anything on my own, although I've spent a lot of time trying to prove that I did. I've stopped trying.
Low tide at the wharf
It's probably not a secret that I have struggled with anxiety and depression. I have not handled stress nearly as well as I might have. And I've had an uneasy relationship with money; once I get into any sort of a role where I begin making it for my own benefit, even in small amounts, I run fast and far in the opposite direction. Success terrifies me. My thought stream tends to be negative. I compare myself to others, which is self-defeating on all levels. I want those things to change.
Really low tide in the bay
One of the things that's always puzzled me is the ability of some people to be so damned cheerful in the face of...well, frankly, life in general. How do they DO this? How can they just be so bloody happy, as if nothing around them matters, like they cannot SEE the giant horse on the dining room table, and how can they not SEE that huge thing?!? Then add on the peculiar experiences of some of us, and I wonder how anyone even gets out of bed, let alone chirps along joyously, quipping about the beauties of life. Maybe I just started off on the wrong foot. My role models were, I suppose, not exactly what you could call "healthy". Even my father, for all of his awesomeness, struggled with the day to day thing we call living, and often ended up a bit more on the side of pessimism and sarcasm than might be considered ideal. And I have said before I am a slow learner. I think I meant it.

Since becoming a Young Living independent distributor and setting some goals related to that, I've become increasingly aware of just how much negative thinking I do, and how much that leads to self doubt and negativity, depressive feelings, stress, anxiety, and the lot. I'd also like to point out here that I have set myself up in an attempt to be successful in a field with something like a 92% "failure" rate - multi-level marketing, network marketing - these are areas where the vast majority fail, and very few succeed. And here I am; pessimistic, negative, freaky little me, thinking this is something I can do.

And now we get back to the walk, the one I take every morning with the dogs. As I walk along I think about things. I plan my day. I consider what I am going to do with all the can and lottery ticket money (I've decided to donate it). I think about deeper things - about life and choices and consequences, and about how I need to step back and allow God to change me, from the inside out, one day at a time.

The steps and revelations are TINY most days. I try not to even look at "how far I've come" because the snail pace would put me under a quilt (or possibly my crocheted Noro Silk Garden afghan), tucked neatly and tightly around my (wide) eyes, quaking with panic.

Today as we were walking along I saw a can behind a fence in a public area. It was covered with spider webs and all manner of ick. I wanted it. I will bend over for a nickel, it's true, even if I have to rinse that nickel out and take it to the local bottle center on Monday morning (where they guy now recognizes me, jokes about my "coffee money" and congratulates me on my weekly "earnings"). I love gleaning cans even more now that I have a plan for the money that puts it into better hands than mine. So there was this trapped can, and I wanted it. I thought to myself "I can't get that can. It's behind the fence and it's covered in spider webs. I can't." Doom and gloom and pessimism and a lost nickel!

But what if ...and it hit me heavy, this small, simple thing... what if I chose to look at that can in a completely different way? What if instead of saying "I can't..." I said "That can is behind a fence. I can get it if I want to. But... (Wait. Red flag! NO BUTS!! Instead say...) That can is covered in spider webs. I CHOOSE not to put my hand through the fence to get that can." And I walked away, leaving the nickel behind.

So. Simple.

So. Small.

So important.

Day by day, one day at a time, one small step at a time, my entire way of thinking, of viewing the world, of engaging with others, of being in spaces is changing. And I love it and I am SO grateful!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Avoiding the Plague While Saving the Planet

The boys and I go for a walk in our new home town daily. During these walks I have a tendency (this is a mild word for my search and destroy missions...) to pick up trash and bottles and cans from the side of the road.  Yes, I am THAT crazy lady in your home town! This drives Mr. W up a tree when he walks with us, so I try not to do it when he's along for the ride unless it's something irresistible, like a case of empty beer cans, or  those darned loopy plastic can holders that strangle birds. But the rest of the week you can find me bending and stooping to pick up everything from empty nip bottles (there but for the grace of God go I) to scratched lottery tickets ($25 in dropped winners to date - you can't win if you don't pick 'em up!) and soda cans, to the occasional bit of used drug paraphernalia. I carry hand sanitizer and gloves, and I am not afraid to use them. But having grown up with the "Crying Indian" commercial, I can't very well just leave it all there.
I just can't! Besides, I "make" about $2.00 a week in bottle returns - what my bottle guy smiles and calls my "coffee money". We move at a good clip in spite of all the bending and stooping, and average 3 miles a day. It's fun, and since running is off the menu, the trash retrieval gives me something to occupy my mind in the face of the reduced pace. Running just had so many benefits...but I digress.

I have gone through hand sanitizer like underwear in the last few weeks. It's summer and people are leaving half-full cups and containers of all sorts of things on the waterfront and side streets, and thrown between the rocks of the jetty. I empty gooey and drippy things when possible, avoiding contact with cup rims or straws, and add them to my "trash" bag. Returnable cans are similarly emptied and added to the "nickel" bag. I reach for the hand sanitizer quite often, and today I ran out.

Now, nothing beats a good soapy scrub with warm running water. And I am not a fan of heavy chemicals, and certainly am very aware both as a health care professional and as an educated kinda crunch-berry granola-type of the issues surrounding our obsession with anti-bacterial this and that. Hand sanitizers often harbor chemicals I'd probably rather not come in contact with - but they seem a better alternative than nothing when soap and water are far away.

For example, the label on the bottle of an alcohol free version by my side reads: water, cetrimonium chloride, glycereth-2 cocoate, behentrimonium chloride, acrylates/dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate copolymer, lactic acid, tetrasodium EDTA, fragrance. Kind of makes me wish they'd just left the alcohol in, you know? I could probably fiddle with some of the root words and make some guesses about what the unpronounceable bits are, but really, wouldn't it be nicer if my hand sanitizer just read more like my new DIY foaming facial scrub bottle does? (Doc Bronner's liquid soap, glycerine, aloe vera gel, sweet almond oil, essential oils, and water). I think so.

So I set out to see if I could find a recipe online that would let me make my own hand sanitizer, preferably featuring Young Living Thieves essential oil blend, and ideally with some good old rubbing alcohol in it. For this first round I chose the most basic recipe I could find. It contains only three ingredients - rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel, and essential oils. I had all three on hand, and the limited number of ingredients appealed to me after reading that label up there.
I combined 1/4 cup aloe vera gel (I used plain aloe gel that I had obtained for my facial cleanser - this can be difficult to find, but keep trying! Most of the big-name aloe gels contain a host of other ingredients. We are striving for purity here, so less is MORE. If you can't find it at a health food store near you, try Amazon. I like Lily of the Desert brand) with 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol in a bowl, then added 10 drops of Thieves oil.

I whisked the whole thing together and ended up with two (well, one and two thirds, but I didn't scrape the bowl!) bottles of DIY, low-cost, minimal ingredient hand sanitizer. I put it into my two cleaned and recycled empty bottles and put them in the backpack I carry every day on my walks with "the boys".
I would not call them "gel" sanitizers as they are fairly fluid and I will experiment more in the future with different recipes and different ratios. The gel, really, is purely convenience. I can cup my little palm and use these just the same as the thicker gel versions - and sleep better at night knowing what's in them!

In a first trial run at the sink I found the fragrance to be much improved when compared to the chemical stuff. The alcohol evaporates fairly quickly, and while the aloe leaves a faint residue on the skin until it dries, I've had similar residue present with the creepy chemical versions.

Try some yourself! Unless you think unpronounceable "irritating, toxic and slightly flammable" ingredients are something you want on your skin - I know I don't want it on mine!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What Follows The Storms

I love weather. I track radar for severe storms, and gaze hopefully at the sky looking for signs of funnels or bright flashes of light. Hurricanes make me very happy. This shifts only in winter when severe weather means snow and ice. Give me a good thunderstorm with no injuries or deaths, just some high winds and a little hail and some nice lightning and I am a happy camper. And then there is the calm that follows a whopper of a storm, when the air is fresh and the earth glistens with possibility.

As an adult I subscribe to the “if you hear it, it can hurt you” rule and am careful not to head out if there's a strong threat. I enjoy my watching from inside spaces once the thunder is audible. Thanks to a radar mishap this morning, we nearly got caught out in this:
Suddenly, mid-walk, the sky turned very dark, and the distant thunder began to roll in, with a few flashes visible in the morning light. As we (dogs and I) raced home at top walking-but-not-quite-running speed, sweating (me) and panting (them) all the way, I was poked by the finger of memory. The tale I am about to tell made me smile all the way home, a bittersweet, wistful sort of smile.

When I was a little girl I was very much afraid of thunderstorms. I would cry and carry on and generally melt down. It was a horrible experience on the inside, but it seemed to be even more burdensome to my parents and older siblings who, confronted with a hysterical child, did everything in their power to soothe, rationalize or discipline me into some sort of more socially appropriate behavior besides loud wailing and whining. To be fair, I did have a good reason for my terror – when I was about two and a half Captain Kangaroo exploded into blinding electrical light about five feet away from my little face when a bolt of lightning struck something very close to the small one bedroom cottage in which we lived, blowing up the television I’d just been watching (literally - glass everywhere, awful smell and smoke, the works).

By the time I was five or six this paranoia had grown quite deep and become a real source of annoyance to the adults and my siblings. They wanted to sit on the porch and play Monopoly or Parcheesi and wait for the storm to pass and a cool breeze to blow. I preferred to sit on edge of a very indoor chair, windows closed, body braced for impact, family gathered close so I knew they were all safe.

On one very memorable occasion, in an attempt to prove to me that there was nothing to fear from a little thunderstorm, my father trotted off the porch steps and into the front yard. First he checked on our watermelon plant. Then he proceeded to cavort, dance, and generally make a fool of himself (all for my benefit). Each crack of thunder and flash of lightning sent me into further realms of terror, screaming “DADDY! DADDY!!” and shaking from head to foot. “Dan…” said my mother “she’s only getting worse…”

Then he thrust his arms out to the sides and shrugged in the manner typical of those both challenging God and attempting to prove a point, and said “Look, Melissa. See? There is nothing to be afraid of!” At that precise moment the world around him burst into a chaos of noise and light and he became a blurry silhouette of blue uniform against a blinding explosion of crystalline white and fragmented electricity. He ran for the house, turning to look behind him. There, not more than 40 feet from where he had stood, lay the neighbor’s maple tree in pieces.

Lesson learned. My father, it turns out, wasn’t God after all – he was quite human and fallible, and very capable of being wrong. As for Dad? I think God probably saw him cavorting, sighed heavily, and cast a finger in his direction. “Don’t tempt me, Dan.”

Later this morning there was a tornado warning about ten miles south while I was at a new-to-me doctor's office undergoing a minor procedure. Only a few miles away and me tied to a stupid doctor's office, unable to investigate and give chase! We just moved "here" a few weeks ago - or rather "the boys" and I moved. 
Mr. Wonderful has been more or less living in this neck of the woods - in a rented basement room - since last fall. We finally found a rental that would accept both dogs. We don't want to buy because we are not sure how long we will stay here. We entertain visions of seeing new places. In a bittersweet twist, the loss of both of my parents and maturing of all our kids had freed us up to do things we've always talked about, like live and work in new places. Our house sold - thank heaven! - and since both of these things occurred nearly simultaneously, it seemed like a "perfect storm" of life events. The boys LOVE their new home.
There's beaches and waterfront wharves and breakwaters to wander and explore. We like to go early in the day, as tourists are afoot by 9 am, especially this week with the holiday looming.

After the often stormy experiences of the past near-decade, it feels nice to just rest and walk and breathe. Last night we took the dogs for a moonlight beach walk at 8:30 at night. We walked for an hour or so along a delicious beach, waves breaking softly on the rocks, twinkling town lights in the distance, and even a brief home-grown fireworks show. I like it here.
It feels a little decadent, and a little indulgent, but I believe after all of that craziness since 2007 when I sat down and composed a little book about socks it's exactly what God wants me to have; just a nice, peaceful little interlude, for as long as it lasts. I am grateful, and hope it continues long enough for me to feel balanced again. 

Job 42:12

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Life and Death and The Changing of Things

I figure it's time for my annual update...just in case anyone is around to read it!

A few years ago I stepped back from blogging, knitting, teaching, traveling and writing to focus on things that were more immediate, the things that make up the most important parts of our lives: family. As any regular former reader knows, my mother died in November of 2011. It was not a comfortable time for me at all. My mother had struggled with mental illness for most of her life. She had tried many different therapies and medications, and finally with the advent or Prozac in the very late 1980's, things seemed to stabilize. As she aged, things fell apart and she chose to stop all medications and treatments. She began alternately indulging in days of starvation juxtaposed with days of massive sugar intake in an attempt to induce a diabetic coma, ultimately dying uncomfortably in a nursing home following a stroke. It was a long row to hoe, and there were a lot of things I could not share, or did not feel comfortable sharing with the general public. My greatest supporter during that time was my father who, by virtue of their marriage, knew her better than anyone else in my circle of support. We shared a lot of stories during that time; many of them laced with sarcasm and sardonic humor, and a fatalistic awareness that she would, in the end, get her way as she always did. And she did. And when she was dead my father in many ways was the only person who understood what a relief her death was for me. Everything changed. I felt free and like I could take a good long breath for the first time in forever. He had divorced her. He knew what that liberty felt like. Conflicted joy. Joyful agony. Sort of the deeply emotional equivalent of eating a whole pint of Ben and Jerry's at one sitting - so sweet on the lips, and not really regretted, but boy do you feel like a horrible person for being so damned contented when it went down! 

My father was (past-tense spoiler alert!) also the best and most faithful supporter of this blog. He rarely, if ever, commented, but would call and say he'd read the latest installment and ask me what I was up to next. I'd tell him he needed to wait and see. He was always so excited about anything I wrote. During my mother's dying process it became harder and harder to write about anything not related to her. Once she died I thought my mojo would return and things would resume, given some time, their more normal flavor. I expected the blog to take on a more "every-day life of Melissa" sort of line again. 

But that didn't happen. Instead I found myself increasingly drawn away from the whole public sharing thing, and more and more turned toward family and home and "real life". Thank God. Because it wasn't very long after my mother died that my father's condition began to clarify. It's hard, when you are a nurse - even a non-practicing one - not to mentally assess people you love, and come to horrible conclusions very quickly. I struggle with this in my daily life even now - when to express concern, when to point out the red flags I can so clearly see (but it could just be that I am paranoid...and I am not a doctor after all...and really, the person I am looking at skeptically is an adult and they'd know enough to call if things got bad, right? Right?) 

To say that the years since my mother's death have been a little crazy would be an understatement. Four kids got married, and one got divorced, the house we called "the pretty house" sold (thank heaven - it was entirely too big for our empty nest!) and we moved into "the downsize house". Mr. Wonderful's job has moved, and he now lives in someone's basement during the week and comes home for weekends while we try to sell our house - which has been on the market for over a year. In between all of that there were little moments of life and chaos and highs and lows. And thankfully the house did not sell last year. Because this last year has been about the worst and best one yet. 

The year and everything in it matters less than the outcome. In March, my father - my most beloved, cherished champion, the man I was convinced for most of my life was perfect, who was then revealed in my adolescence to be merely super human, and ultimately proved to be, simply, a Very Good Man and An Excellent Father -  died. Obviously it wasn't unexpected. The hints I had been reading in his color, the way he stood, the change in his gait all pointed to a painfully progressive illness that ultimately would (and did) end his life. 

The thing is that between all the insanity of weddings and births and divorces and moving and living and dying I was being drawn into a much deeper awareness of a Father infinitely larger than the one I idolized for so much of my life. You would think that this experience, this watching someone I care for so, so very deeply die a slow and painful death would make me resentful or angry or doubting of God, but all it's done is draw me more firmly into a love and peace that pass understanding, and into a Relationship with God that I didn't think could ever exist for me. I rather coveted the relationship others had, but it wasn't, I thought, for me. It's a subtle change I think. I talk to God all the time. I read the Bible every day, and I spend hours learning more about it - about the meanings of words, the history of stories, the different books and what they are, and about the human authors. 

And so in the last hours of my father's life I found myself lying beside him, holding his hand, breathing his breath, thanking God with a gratitude nearly blinding to me for every moment of this man's life. Of my life. Of the lives of those I love, and even some of those I don't always love so well. My father died, and my Father stepped into the gap, and I am grateful. Hurt, sad, pained, grieved and often in tears - but underneath it all just so very grateful. 

This is not what I expected. I anticipated anger and resentment, pain and fear and misery. I fully planned a nervous breakdown and a deep depression for the weeks after his death. But what I am left with is so opposite that; sometimes shockingly so. My father lived his life in service of others. He lived altruistically, giving without expectation not just of his money, but of his time and his very self. For someone who claimed not to be a Christian (at times; at other times he said he believed, and at still others said he believed almost everything the Bible said, but he was pretty sure Mary was "...a really good saleswoman") he lived the most Christ-like life of nearly anyone I know - except maybe Mr. Wonderful who, also in professed disbelief, spends most of his time laying down his life in service of others. But don't tell him I said so because we don't want his head getting all swelled, and he is a man and you know how they can be! It's important not to let one's husband think he walks on water. Which he doesn't. 

That's all that I have on my mind for now...except that my house is still on the market, we are still trying to move someplace WARM, and I may or may not be back here more in the future. But you know we're still kicking, anyway! 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Apropos of Nothing

This is a completely non-knitting post. It's also non-family, non-craft, and non-a-lot-of-things. But it is about an issue that's close to my heart. And maybe it's really about family after all.

When I was a small girl I had a lot of interaction with a certain fashion doll. It was a love hate thing. I loved the wardrobe. I hated that she made me feel shorter and rounder than I already was. I sort of vowed that I would not allow her into my home if I had a girl child. Skipper, sure. But know who.

When Girl was a small Girl, and of an age to show interest in fashion dolls, I expended a great amount of energy explaining that we did not purchase those sorts of things because they were purveyors of objectification and unrealistic body image. In fact, by the time she was about 4 she could recite "Barbie promotes an unrealistic body image that is harmful to me and to other girls" almost as well as she could recite "Santa Clause is a mythical figure developed to turn Christmas into a retail event". Yup. I was THAT mom. Ice cream for supper? Sure. Dirty feet and pj's at the drive in? No problem. All the books you can read? You've got it! But Barbie, Santa and the Easter Bunny? No way.

Somewhere along the way I obtained a doll called "Happy to Be Me". My Aunt Blanche made her a whole wardrobe using custom-made patterns that she designed (I still have them). I gave her to Girl, and she did play with her - along with a few of those *other* dolls that she received as gifts from various well-meaning if misguided friends and relatives. Just the other day my granddaughter and I dragged my doll stash out...I was a little sad to discover that Happy's face had gone all green (matches her eyes beautifully). She has two friends - one blonde female Mattel doll that Girl kept because her make-up bleached off when she was left in the sandbox for a few months, resulting in a more 'natural' look, and an original straight leg 1966 Francie. They have some clothes - all of which fit either Happy or Francie brilliantly, but don't even come close to fitting what's her name. If it were up to me, I'd pitch the blonde, but Meg seems to want to hang on to her. It would be nice if Happy and Francie had some buddies to pal around with, and some updated accessories and clothes. Maybe someone a little fit and sporty? Someone with some shoes, since Happy has none? Someone who could fit in around here but still be fun to dress and play with and sew for?

Enter Lammily! You may remember that a year or more ago there was a bit of internet storm around images of what Barbie would look like if she had the proportions of a real actual woman. I was pretty excited to see it, and really hoped that someone would once again make a doll again based on that model. The closest I've come since Happy is a doll called Feral Cheryl from Australia that I still have failed to score - although I question her suitability as a play-buddy for my dolls here, with her bag of home grown herbs...we don't want any legal entanglements. But now here's the possibility - a small glimmer of hope - in the form of this new doll. Well, hats off to Mr Lamm, and here's hoping he hits his goal!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

And Then There Were Three

I don't even know where to begin with this one. Well. Maybe I do at that. It all began like this:

One day last summer the kids showed up at our house for a party of sorts. We were slow to move that morning. We had experienced a bit of disrupted sleep - I had a very vivid dream, woke up in the middle of the night, poked the man into awareness, and announced that our oldest and his wife were going to have a baby, and promptly went back to sleep. In the morning he said "You're nuts. You can't know that." But when the kids arrived and got out of there car, I watched them come in to the house, and I said to Mr. W "They are. She is. I just know it." He rolled his eyes. As I recall it was Father's Day weekend. There was sangria, an oddball clambake about to begin. But first there was the usual kitchen chatter - food prep, fruit chopping, and one little bit of business to clear up. 

Our oldest son handed me an envelope and said "We are going to want you to make us a couple of things, not right now, but within the next year, if you can. No big deal, just if you can...".

I opened the envelope, and found knitting patterns. Not just any knitting patterns - we are talking pitter patter of little feet type patterns - an adorable hungry caterpillar cocoon and the cutest little stuffed rabbit. I yelled "I KNEW IT!!" and Mr. W. turned to me with a surprised look on his face and said "You were right. How did you KNOW that?". I truly don't know how I knew, but I did.

The party that day proceeded with greater joy than might have otherwise been - and we are usually pretty good at joy around here. I love a party. Especially baby parties. Girl loves her sister in law, and wanted to have a shower for her, but doesn't have the space in her newlywed apartment for such things. Well, of course I offered up my humble abode - and assistance! After a lot of discussion of themes and plans, we decided on "Whimsical Woodland Baby". It started with an Etsy download of woodland clip art, and built from there.

We made a banner out of large pieces of scrapbook paper. I chose to use stash rather than print paper using the clip art files to save some trees and some pennies. I used my large simple wedge from Missouri Star to cut the triangles. We cut letters from cardstock to attach with glue stick onto the triangles to spell out a welcome for baby. Girl hole punched the triangles about an inch and a half in for ribbon to thread the letters on to.

The morning of the shower we hung it over our fireplace to good effect, I think - although I am biased.
Girl found a picture on line of cupcakes stacked on a cake stand made of wooden slabs. I loved the concept, and began looking for wooden slabs to make one of my own at local craft stores. The cost seemed a little prohibitive, and I thought I would have to discard the idea entirely, but the husband of a friend came through with slabs from a log in his yard. He also cut me a host of smaller logs, about the size of soup cans, to use as dividers between the levels of the stand. 
After some time with the drill I decided that drilling through the full length of a soup-can-sized-log is not worth the effort, and I substituted empty cans instead. If only I owned a drill press, right?! Each level of the cake stand was drilled through, and a central dowel was used to hold the whole thing in place. The soup cans were covered in birch bark that Girl and I peeled off of trees in my back yard. We glued the bark into place using a high-temp glue gun.
I love my high-temp guns. When I think back to my first glue gun - a little mini low temp job I had in the 80's? My how times and tools have changed. 
When we were done, we had cans that looked authentically birchy. 
And a stand that looked authentically woodland-y, too, right down to the part where it looks about to tumble down! We adjusted it for actual presentation, I promise.
Girl also found cupcakes with the most adorable red-capped toadstools made from meringue. I love meringue, so I jumped on that idea.
I made the caps and stems separately using this recipe. Once they were dry, I made holes in the caps with a chop stick and tucked the stems in, gluing them a bit with more meringue. They had another round in the oven to completely dry the "glue". When they were done, I carefully inserted a toothpick into the base of each mushroom so I could attach them easily to the cupcakes. I popped the picks into a couple of egg cartons to keep them safe and upright.
Early on the morning of the shower, I got up and painted the tops with awful, sticky, gloppy Wilton melting candy, then dotted on jumbo white nonpareils. If I had this to do over again I would find a better top for the mushrooms as this did not make me at all happy. A nice red glaze of some sort would have been a big improvement. These went on top of the red velvet cupcakes (adapted Alton recipe) with green-by-accident cream cheese frosting. My original idea was to frost each cupcake with regular cream cheese frosting, and place a single mushroom pick in the center of each cake. I had bought a special "grass" tip (Wilton #233) and thought I could then make a green butter cream, and pipe "grass" at the base of each 'shroom. Well, I made up the cream cheese frosting (Martha's), and without even thinking I dumped the green paste into it. At that point I could either scrap the whole batch and start over (expensive and I was running short on time) or just ice the cupcakes green and pop the mushrooms into place. I went with option two, and I am sad to say that I don't have a single picture. This is why I stink as a blogger. Once life starts moving forward, I don't stop for pictures. I just roll with it! You'll have to trust me that the effect of the cupcakes and whoopie pies scattered over the surface of the tree cake stand was both charming and whimsical. It was, I promise.
This bring me to favors - I had seen acorn shaped cookie and kiss combinations on pinterest, and so we decided to make some of our own. Finding just the right cookie was a challenge. I really like the look of mini peanut butter cookies because of the textured surface, but finding them was like looking for hen's teeth. We did find mini vanilla wafer cookies, though. And we had two types of kiss - dark chocolate and caramel filled. I loved the idea of the dark chocolate with a peanut butter cookie, and the vanilla cookie with the caramel filled kiss, but the elusive peanut butter cookies were ruining my schemes. After a long shopping day, I was on my way home and stopped at a gas station to refuel (me, not the car  - I needed a little Dunkin love!), and there I found exactly three serving-sized bags of miniature peanut butter filled cookies! Exactly what we'd been searching for for weeks, and exactly the quantity I needed! I bought them all, and we got to work.
We melted some mini chocolate chips in a custard cup. Each cookie was dipped into the chocolate, and a kiss attached. On the top of the cookie, a mini chip was similarly attached to form the acorn stem.
We placed 5 or 6 of the finished acorns into a glassine bag, then attached a little note of thanks to each, and placed them by the door for guests to take when they took their leave. I used the clip art in Publisher to make the tags.
 Adorable, if we do say so!
We also set up a onesie decorating station that featured two options for decorating. 
Grandma Mary had graciously assisted me by making a big pile of iron on shapes, and Gramma Jo contributed t-shirts and permanent markers. (Yes, the baby has three grandmas. We are an all-American family!) We set up a flat iron, directions, and laid out the pre-washed and re-pressed onesies, markers, and a box of shapes. I really loved this activity. It gives guests something to do, and is a great ice-breaker and conversation starter.
The t-shirts all stayed here, and I machine appliqued around all of the shapes so they will stay attached to the t-shirts during washing. Blast off! The shirts are adorable - again, you're just going to have to trust me on this.
We made so many things...let me see...oh! This was fun. A guessing jar stuffed full of needful baby things - each guest could guess the total number of items in the jar, and the guest who came closest won a prize. 
Mommy got the items from the jar, of course!
An unusual guest book idea - instead of the usual writing of names in a book, I used the clip art fox and traced him onto a piece of plain paper. Girl and I then hole punched a bunch of hearts. After guests write their name or sentiment on a balloon, they are invited to attach their heart to Mr. Fox's balloon strings. 
I love this, too! I also love that fox, bits n' pieces, I do.
Through it all, my faithful assistants stood by, ready to help in any little way they could.
On shower day, they were relegated to the bedroom where they did their best to contribute to the general chaos and noise of the gathering, per usual. Although they don;t know it, I even made them special "Do not open this door, please" signs for their rooms using the clip art and printed papers. They should be grateful, but they mostly were just glad when everyone left and they got their couch back.

When things got back to normal, Omie got to work on baby linen. Crib sheets, receiving blankets, swaddles. And everyone waited. We took a nice warm vacation to help pass the time. Baby even got to swam with dolphins before he was born.
And we waited some more.
And some more.
And a little bit more.
And then? Well. Let's just say the best things in life are extremely well worth waiting for.
 Don't you agree?

Monday, February 17, 2014

So There Are Still People Out Here?

I just sort of assumed everyone ran away! Since you've asked, this is a spinning wheel made by Betty Roberts in 1985. I posted pictures here because it gives me a link location for various websites where I am trying to sell the poor girl. She's a beautiful wheel, but I can't let her just go to anyone, so her value is a little high. $1600 high. Actually for a Roberts wheel, that's a really good price. You can see more images of Betty with some of her other wheels here. Mine is older than the ones pictured. Mine was made in 1985. It has lots of lovely turning, and the Betty's signature - "B.Jo" in tiny flowers embedded in the resin of the lower wheel.

She came to me sort of by accident, really. I remember the day I saw her in the barn of an estate clean-out shop near me. I had to have her, and I am glad I got her. But now things are changing here, and I have to find her a new home. Her name is Baby Rose. She can spin anything, with a huge range of ratios - although none are stated in her original paperwork. You just have to play with it and figure it out as you go, but she is can be used as either a double or a single wheel depending on how you tie up. Technically she is a single treadle, but the treadle is wide enough that you can comfortably sit and treadle with both feet, or with just one.
There's also a board that fits neatly along the back, not shown here, that holds an additional 4 bobbins. I have managed to keep most of the bobbins intact - only one has broken. There are 7 bobbins in all.
The problem is that these wheels do not, from what I've read, travel long distances well. The resin has a tendency to crack. They were (and are still) made in the Pacific northwest, and I really have no idea how this one wheel ended up on the east coast. But here she is. And we are set to travel next year - relocating - and I am afraid that with the amount of downsizing we need to do to make this move, there won't be room for her. If the right buyer doesn't come along, I will find a way to make room, because I adore this thing. It actually hurts me to think about parting with her, but sometimes life just makes changes for you.

That's all about the Baby Rose! But stick around - I am thinking about posting about a little celebration we had here a few months back. I could update you on what's going on in my knitting life, too, if you're interested! ;)