To Amuse and Delight

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tea with Squirrel

I’ve never had a tea cozy of my own. Sure I’ve made them to sell and made them for gifts, but never made one for myself until today. Each year when the temperature drops and I have need of a cozy I grab a kitchen towel, wrap it around my teapot and that’s that. It works so well that the real need is gone so I figure why waste the time making one when there are so many other things pressing. This adorable squirrel pattern was so simple and quick that I couldn’t resist it. I whipped it up today from a piece of berry wool felt. It would have been done even faster but my sewing machine has issues with metallic thread and I wanted  gold stitching for this festive Christmas season. Tonight while the children were finally nestled all snug in their beds it was just me and the squirrel for tea. He did his job while I glanced through some of my inspirational Christmas books for more ideas of things to make and do.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

knitting glasses

There's something new in my knitting basket. Is it that great book, 'Vintage Knits'? Or my first ever intarsia project? Besides those things you also knitting glasses. For a few months now I have been needing more distance between my eyes and whatever I am reading, sewing, or knitting. Well, I finally went to get my eyes checked out. After the initial eye chart reading the doctor said , "You have impeccable eyesight', she wrote 20/20 on my licsence renewal card. "O.k.", I said, "If they're so perfect, how come I can't see when I'm knitting?".  "You're a knitter?!", she exclaimed. "Yes", I replied. "Obssesive?", she asked. "Can be", I said. Her reply? "Oh, we've got to get you some knitting glasses!"  When she checked my eyes with that very close up magnifying device she said, "Oh, yes, you're a knitter. I can see a lot of fibers stuck in your eyelashes.". That was strange to hear. Maybe my knitting glasses will work as a shield to protect my eyes from all those fibers!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall & Mushroom Hunting

With summer activities over we are getting back to a quieter rythm of learning. Lots of nature walks and collecting things to study. Mushrooms pop out of the green, soon to be brown landscape, surprising us with their unique colors and shapes. Mushrooms add a freshness to the same well known paths. We never know what we will see from one week to the next. From the minuscule to the monsterous. Letting my younger daughter lead me down a path we’d never been, we found these adorable lemon yellow spotted mushrooms. 
We usually take a few mushrooms home to look up in the field guides. But sometimes if there is only one and it looks really perfect where it is, we'll take a picture so it can remain there to delight the next passerby.  I can’t  believe these colors! My first really purple mushrooms. Of course I automatically think, “How can I wear this?”. The softness of this purple needs to be a sweater or shawl to wrap me up in.
O.k., this bunch was not hunted, but bought. You never know where cute inspiration will pop up. These happened to be at an asian grocery store where I regularly go for my nori and condiments. I couldn’t pass by this pure white bunch of cuteness. They are all connected, growing out of one base. I wanted them to keep their shape and texture, so I cut them apart and dipped them in an eggy batter. I shallow fried them so they were crunchy, while keeping their natural chewy texture.
Of course field guides are the best for identifying mushrooms, but the book ‘Katya’s Book of Mushrooms' is a very good way to introduce children to the fun of mushroom hunting. Katya’s love of mushrooms, whimsical drawings, and overall joyous spirit make it one of my favorites, even as an adult.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  I opened up my e-mail and read a prayer request from a good friend who is scared because her brother is to be deployed to Afghanistan today. Here we are ten years after and I am struck by the fact that this is not and cannot be over. I think about repercussions. I picture a rock being thrown into a river and how the ripples keep going and going and going. We went out for a walk yesterday and it’s funny while I was thinking about these ripples that I happened on this picture. There were many birds in the water, all being kept in captivity because they were broken in some way and couldn’t survive in the wild. They caused constant ripples to occur everywhere in the water, coming from all directions. No deliberate act stands alone without consequences. The ripples of one unselfish brave act or kind word spoken at just the right time can also cause eternal rippling. I’m thinking about the ripples I’m causing and the potential they have to effect generations after me. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My New Black Tee Shirt

A black tee shirt goes with everything, right? It's cozy and comfortable. The only problem is that I don't like to wear t-shirts anymore. Maybe I'm getting too old for them. I like something a bit more crisp, more like 'real' clothes (Whatever that means!).  I still want to FEEL like I am just wearing a t-shirt though. Here's what I came up with. It's made from jersey that looks like black denim. I cut out a regular ladies t-shirt body and then I began to play around. I made a few different neckbands before I came up to this nifty thing. Kind of jaunty and sailor-ish. For the sleeves I ended up with something quite short and wide, so it's a bit flouncy. I really like it. The bad thing is that there is no pattern and I want more! Unfortunately, I will have to trace it off to make a pattern. This always happens when I "wing it". The best things happen when you are just playing around. With sewing and with food. I know when my kids really like something I've cooked. They ask with trepidation, "Is there a recipe for this?". They groan when I say "no". I know how they feel now because I really wish I had the 'recipe' for this one.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Learning to Sew

She looked up at me and said “How old was Sissy when she learned how to use your sewing machine?”. “Oh, around seven”, was my reply.  “I’M SEVEN!”  That’s how it all started. We ended up taking the whole day to sew. The first thing I did was get her used to the machine, threading it, changing the bobbin. Then she started straight stitching on some scraps. Once she had all that down she worked on curves and corners. I don’t enjoy practice exercises, who does? Once I could sense she was getting the hang of it I asked her what she would like to make. She said, “Abigail needs some underwear, she can never leave the house because she doesn’t have any underwear. She can’t even go in the car”. 
Abigail is her favorite doll. She used to be in my grandmother’s doll collection. Abigail is almost as old as I am. She has been waiting a long time for some underclothes. My daughter knew exactly what she wanted. She picked out the fabric and lace and did all of the sewing herself. The pattern is from a favorite book of ours, The Dolls Dressmaker. It’s the only book you will ever need of this type. 

As soon as the drawers were done of course she needed an undershirt to go with it. Abigail has been wearing only this for a few days now because it’s so cute and since it is summer I think she can get away with it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My day off

Everyone can use a day off. Working folks get holidays off.  Moms at home usually work overtime during holidays. My husband often suggests that I go off and do something "fun" by myself. My problem is that I can never think of anything worth doing. Or the day finally arrives and I decide it's just too much trouble. Everything I really enjoy doing I do at home, all the time. Fun events or nature excursions I enjoy most with my family. But, when my husband suggested that I go down to the city (NYC) to my favorite store (Kinokuniya Bookstore) and also browse the fabric shops I took him up on his offer. I am not a person who sees shopping as a form of entertainment, if fact it is quite the opposite. Except at my favorite store where I can stay for hours looking through oodles of japanese craft, sewing and food books. All of the sewing books come with full size usable patterns,
Working in the garment district for years, hustling and bustling to meet deadlines, I could never appreciate it. This time I just puttered along browsing from one fabric shop to another. Imagine, if you like fabric, streets of nothing but fabric and trimming stores just waiting for you to come in and haggle over prices. It can be fun once in a while. As for the noise and crowds, I've had my fill for a while.
Speaking of noise and crowds, Grand Central Station. I decided to go home a couple of hours earlier than I had planned. It's funny that I felt like I needed a day out to get some peace and I end up running home early for the same reason!
Ahh, home. They picked me up at the train station and the girls beseeched us to let them pick up driftwood by the water. The train parallels the river. It's good to keep a pair of  rubber shoes in the car, because you never know when you might need them. It's also good to get out once in a while so that you can appreciate what you have to come home to.

Monday, May 23, 2011

After the Rain

It has been raining here a lot. A whole lot. Like every day. I found myself slipping into “snowed in” mode. For me that means not leaving the house, reading, sewing and baking. That’s alright when it really is snowing. But it’s Spring. I should be out there planting, wandering, foraging, smelling Spring, being dazzled by the colors. Finally there was a break. We were sitting at the table reading. I was thinking about what to bake and out it came. The sun! I said to the girls “We need to get out, now! This might not last long.” We ran off immediately for a woodsy walk. 
I am so glad we did. It seems we were not the only ones rejoicing in the sudden break in the rain, all kind of critters were scampering around us. The birds were shaking the water off their feathers and singing. So many mushrooms had popped up everywhere. Even a snake seemed to be enjoying the sun, stretched out relaxing so close to us I could touch him.
My advice is to get out there and grab the blessings while you can. When it rains again you will wish that you had. 

(The photo is of my little one playing with some interesting clumps of mushrooms. She was making believe that she was the "Mushroom Lady",  that her umbrella was a giant mushroom and that she was causing the mushrooms to grow. )

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I love Easter.

I love Easter and Springtime. Flowers that I planted years ago come back to surprise me. I seem to have forgotten them. Now they amaze me with their colors and scents. New life is everywhere.

I look forward to baking my Easter babkas.
And eating them.
The lamb cake is always fun.
I make ready the clothing for little girls to be in their ‘Easter best’.
I collect treats and hide them so they can find them.
I love Easter because Easter is “real” to me. Because my Savior rose from the dead to show me that one day I can too. I will follow him. If I didn’t believe this these little things I do would be futile. I prepare good things for my family- I plant, bake, sew, arrange. Things to delight them, to make them happy. I create with the intent to bring joy. Why do I do this? Because this is what I was made to do. Because I was created in God’s image and this is what he does. As I prepare my surprises I am reminded how Jesus after his resurrection went on ahead to prepare surprises for us. Things that I cannot begin to imagine.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

Friday, April 1, 2011

The stretching of a dish.

  I made a big bowl of this: corn, beans, cilantro, onion, salt and the juice of a lime.
It's made from canned beans and uncooked frozen corn, no cooking!

 I immediately started devouring it with chips.
 For lunch it resurfaced as my salad topper.
For dinner, I still had a taste for it.  So I threw it in with some pasta and feta cheese.
The next morning there was only a smidge left.  I ate it for breakfast with some neufchatel cheese.
This was the easiest thing to make and to eat. Does anyone have another easy, stretchable dish?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Seeking Solitude

I have been a bit absent here, I know. For a couple of months my life has been a social whirlwind, blogging is a social arena too and I just needed a break. We all need time with our own thoughts, quiet times when we can recharge. One of the books I am reading right now is ‘Freedom of Simplicity’ by Richard J. Foster. I read this passage a couple of days ago and it pretty much sums up what I have been feeling for weeks.

“Many of us would find great relief in discovering our own cycles of activity and quiet. For example, I function best when I alternate between periods of intense activity and of comparative solitude. When I understand this about myself I can order my life accordingly. After a certain amount of immersion in public life, I begin to burn out. And I have noticed that I burn out inwardly long before I do outwardly. Hence, I must be careful not to become a frantic bundle of hollow energy, busy among people but devoid of life. I must learn when to retreat, like Jesus, and experience the recreating power of God.”

Foster says, “I can order my life accordingly”.  Those moments aren’t just going to happen naturally, especially in our too fast culture. I am deliberately making room for those quiet times. I am forcing myself to say “no”, even to  good things. (See Andrea, I am taking your wise advice!) Last Sunday I took a walk with my family. The girls were off gathering nature bits to make fairy houses, my husband was off studying trees, I had a chance to sit and just think and be still.  I took this photo of the swans, and now I am using it as a reminder to me to be proactive in seeking out quiet moments and not just sitting back, waiting for them to happen. You have to make them. It does takes effort, it may mean saying “no” to people. If you are like me the benefits will be so great that when you don’t have breaks of solitude you will feel very lonely for them. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine and Sugar Plum

First, I want to wish you all a Happy Valentine's Day.
I took this photo last month at The NY Botanical Garden, garlands of perfect hearts.
There are many dolls in my everyday life. It's about time I put one up on this blog. 
This gal is The Sugar Plum Fairy. I snapped a quick shot of her as I was running out the door to a little friend's birthday party. She was all wrapped up, ready to be a happy gift.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

felted flower-saved

It's cold outside! I wanted to make a new hat that wasn't so tight that it flattened my hair down. A nice loose, comfortable warm hat. This knit hat pattern was supposed to have a felted crocheted flower on it. I have never felted anything before, so I thought it would be a nice experiment. Even after the shrinkage from the felting process this flower is too big for the hat. So, I pinned it on my lapel for a corsage. The consensus around here is that as a corsage it's still a bit too big. I like the flower. I didn't want to just chuck it on the pile of half done "maybe someday I'll do something with this" pile. 
So, I figured out a way to love it and make it useful. I sewed it to an elastic hairband and it finally found it's place. I think it's so spiffy that now I'm going to make a bunch more in different colors.

Friday, January 21, 2011

bumpy-lumpy neck warmer

I have always found myself attracted to textiles with round designs and patterns whether they be printed on or even better, textured. I have never gone for geometric shapes or grid type patterns. I guess it’s because I am most inspired by nature and rounded things seem more like living, growing  things. I love the look of things  with lumps, bumps and even circular things covered in spikes.
I had the idea of a scarf with random little bumps all over it. Like they were growing here and there, not in a perfect mechanical pattern. So I started to crochet. 
I got this far when I realized that this would not be a very comfortable scarf because the pattern was so stiff and tight. It would never flow and wrap around nicely. So I stopped there and added four matching little pearly buttons. For a bit of unnecessary whimsy I made a tiny ball to dangle from the end. It’s like one of the balls in the scarf actually broke out and is just hanging there. I am really glad it worked out this way, it’s a lot more interesting than my original idea.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Three Kings Day

Today, January 6 is Three Kings Day, so I made Rosca de Reyes. It is the sweet celebration bread of the Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men (or Magi) traveled a great distance to honor the Christ child. Along their way they met King Herod and told him about the birth of the new king. He ordered them to find the baby and return to him with news of where the Messiah had been born. They found the baby and offered him their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. As they were leaving Bethlehem, the three kings were warned by an angel that they should return home by another route because Herod intended to kill the baby.
The bread has a bean (or small doll) hidden inside it to symbolize the hiding of the baby Jesus from King Herod. The person who finds the bean in their piece is obligated to give a party on Candlemas Day (Feb.2). Here is my bean all ready to be wrapped up in dough along with the filling made of sugar and ground almonds and orange juice.
The dough rises with a greased bowl in the center to keep the shape. The recipe can be found in the book Celebration Breads by Betsy Oppenneer. This book has been an invaluable source of information and inspiration for me.

My daughters, two of my best lady friends and I ate up more than half of this very large loaf tonight as we knitted away the hours. But nobody has yet to find the hidden bean. I was hoping I would. Then I would have an excuse to have a party! We’ll see what happens when we finish up the bread tomorrow at breakfast.