Saturday Crochet on my Sunday Shawl

At this point, I’m having a hard time putting this down, but I have to now, because today is a writing day and it’s time to get to work. But I’m getting close to the end, and I’m only falling more in love.

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This is all KnitPicks Swish (deep stash here), but I threw in some leftover handspun for fun, and I’m loving the results.

Five rows left – perhaps my reward tonight for finishing my work.

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For the Holidays :: Vegan Cranberry-Orange Muffins

One of the most popular posts on my blog is my recipe for Vegan Cranberry-Orange bread, my own extra-orangey adaptation of a Vegan with a Vengeance recipe, which itself was an adaptation of an old Fannie Farmer recipe. In that post, I mention that the recipe can be made as muffins as well. But I’d never made it as muffins myself until this past weekend, and I have to admit, it will be mighty tempting to make it this way from now on – muffins bake up so much more quickly than bread, meaning these babies go from “Hey, let’s make muffins!” to “Hey, I have muffins in my belly!” in a flash.

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One of these days, I’m going to figure out what I need to do in order to make a recipe into a pdf that you can print off if you’d like. But for now, I’m just putting it here like this, old-school.

Vegan Cranberry-Orange Muffins

3/4 C orange juice
1/4 C canola oil
1 C sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground allspice
1 T grated orange zest
1 1/2 C fresh cranberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly grease a muffin tin.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the orange juice, canola oil, sugar, and vanilla.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and allspice. Mix until smooth – batter will be quite thick.
  4. Fold in orange zest and cranberries. (Also, if you’d like to add walnuts or another add-in, now would be the time to do that.)
  5. Scoop batter into muffin tin, filling the muffin cups 2/3-full. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Let muffins cool in tin for about 5 minutes (that’s the hard part). Release onto cooling rack. Enjoy!

These are sooo good, and such a quick and easy way to use up leftover cranberries. Pretty soon, I’m going to try making a paleo version, and if those go well, I’ll be posting that recipe here too.

Cranberries are so festive and delicious, I like to use them as much as possible during this season. How about you? Do you have a favorite way of using cranberries, other than in cranberry sauce?

Slow Stitching on a Simple Project

Is grief like a baby, in that once you hit the 3-month mark you stop counting time in weeks? I’m not sure if I can stop counting that way. Every Thursday marks another week without my mom, another week of getting further away from her death, further away from her life. Today it’s been 13 weeks. It has also been exactly three months. Am I ready to stop measuring time by weeks? I don’t know.

Lately, I’m also marking time with slow stitches, and not the knitting kind. With my broken hand keeping me from knitting, I have been pushed to find other outlets for my impulse to create. And so it is that I found myself digging out a little cross-stitch project I started five years ago (can that be right? I just checked, and it’s right.) I bought this pattern from sewingseed on etsy, on Black Friday five years ago. I promptly got to stitching, but only sporadically. I lost it for awhile, then found it again the following November. I made some more progress and then put away again, until a year ago, when I picked it back up right after Thanksgiving. I had gotten this far:

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I think I worked on it for another day or two at that point, and then put it back down again for a year. I guess when given a choice between cross-stitch and knitting, I always pick knitting.

But during this time without knitting, I’ve picked it up again, and I’ve made more progress:

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I just need to finish the snow and then I get to do the deer. The strange thing is, as easy as cross-stitch is, I have found the stitching lately to be very slow-going, especially those white stitches. I feel clumsy and slow and frustrated. It gives me lots of time to think and to breathe.

Despite some of the frustration involved, I’m going to keep going this time. The progress is painstaking, but, as is often the case with my crafting, it is reminding me that, if I just keep stitching, no matter how slowly, eventually something beautiful will emerge.

I am choosing to keep believing that this will be the case with grief, as well. It is painfully slow stitching, y’all, and I can’t see the whole design of it from this point. But I trust it will yield its gifts, its wisdom, and its beauty, if I persist.

Knit vs. Crochet

But before we jump into that exciting topic, let me first say a huge thank you for your amazing Advent activity suggestions on yesterday’s post!! I haven’t had a chance yet to respond to comments, but they were really wonderful. If you are looking for some ideas to do with your own kids, you really should check out the comments from that post. Thank you so much for everyone who took the time to offer ideas!

There is also this great comment on Facebook from a friend of mine:

One of the things I do every year is discover at least one new Christmas cd (either newly released or just new-to-me). A couple years ago it was Cee Lo Green’s “Magic Moment”; this year it’s been Diana Krall’s “Christmas Songs” and a French album of recognizable songs (Marie-Eve Janvier and Francois Breau). Justin Bieber’s Xmas album is pretty fun (hate to admit it). Other ideas: read one Xmas story per day (Norman Rockwell’s anthology is classic, but I also highly recommend Tolkien’s Letters from Santa Clause); wear an ugly Xmas sweater; search YouTube for old Xmas tv specials (He-Man and She-Ra totally have Xmas episodes); go ice skating; put $5 inside a Xmas card and leave it inside a book in a bookstore (this happened to me – I found a card with $5 and a holiday message for the lucky discoverer inside Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in the Ann Arbor Borders, one year).

Those are some great ideas, and I especially LOVE the idea of putting money inside a Christmas card and leaving it inside a book in a bookstore and that is DEFINITELY going into the Advent calendar. I hope at the end of the season to give a recap of what I ended up doing. We’ll see if I can keep up with documenting it for myself.

Okay, onto the provocative topic of Knit vs. Crochet! My friend and colleague, Amy, posted on Facebook yesterday saying she couldn’t decide if she wanted to learn to knit or crochet, and wanted people’s thoughts. She got lots of good comments, and of course my answer was: learn both! But it got me curious to know what my blog readers would recommend. Which do you prefer, and why? Have you tried both and found one to be easier or more interesting? If you do both, what kinds of things do you like to make by knitting and what kinds with crochet? And if you were advising someone about what they should learn, what would your advice be? (There was a time when I saw and heard a lot of snobbery in the online knitting community towards crochet – is that still the case? I hope not.)

As for me, I’m improving my crochet skills these days, thanks to the broken hand (which prevents me from being able to knit but apparently is not too impaired to crochet). I have to admit that it’s pretty amazing to watch how fast crochet grows. I’ve now gotten to the fun part of my Sunday Shawl:

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Advent Activity Calendar :: The Middle School Edition

How it got to be December already is a mystery to me. Also a mystery to me? Why I decided six years ago to set myself up for endless pressured creativity and activity for Advent every year. But when my sons were in kindergarten, that’s exactly what I did, by creating an Advent Activity Calendar for them, with a slip of paper for each day with a family activity on it. I was such a gung-ho Mom back then. Also, my kids were young and seemed to appreciate any idea I came up with.

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But my kids are in their first year of middle school now, and let me assure you that they no longer automatically appreciate any effort or idea. Also, I am tired and not very gung-ho.

And yet, my little men-children still want an Advent calendar. When I raised the possibility that perhaps they were too old for such a thing this year, they were shocked, scandalized, and horrified. What? Not do an Advent calendar? That is unacceptable. (It was basically the exact same response I got when I suggested they were maybe too old to go trick-or-treating.)

And that is how I found myself last night, hanging up the garland.

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Those little mittens bring me so much joy, even though I’m now faced with the daunting task of coming up with 24 family activities that middle schoolers would enjoy. I’ve been working on a list, but if you have suggestions, I’m certainly interested to know what they are. Each year, I do some of the favorites from years past (making homemade marshmallows, for instance, is an absolute tradition at this point), but I also like to introduce some new possibilities, too. My ideal activity is one which engages the kids, is in harmony with the spirit of the season, and doesn’t wear me out. Pretty tall order, eh?

If you are interested in seeing what I’ve done in the past, you can click the Advent Activity Calendar tab above, or choose the Advent Activity Calendar category on the right side of the screen. I used to be way better at documenting our activities than in recent years (like I said, I’ve lost my gung-ho-ness), but those first three years have plenty of ideas you can use or build on.

And whether or not you are making an Advent activity calendar, I can’t recommend the Smitten holiday garland pattern highly enough. I’ve made two sets so far and could see more in my future someday (possibly handspun). These little mittens are so fast and so fun and so absolutely adorable.  If you are looking for some instant gratification or quick gift, you can’t go wrong in casting on for a single wee Smitten (but you probably can’t stop at just one).

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Smitten Advent Garland

For a Little Fashionista (Handspun In Threes Cardi)

Earlier this year, I did what is for me a nearly unprecedented thing – I finished a handknit present a whole six weeks before the gift-giving occasion. This feat was made even more remarkable by the fact that I also spun the yarn up first. I then made up for this extraordinary punctuality by waiting more than half a year to blog about it.

I think I did show you the yarn last spring, but just in case not, here ’tis:

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This is Southern Cross Fibre “Dragon Fruit” on Bond/Silk, the February 2015 Club Offering (my first SCF club!). I spun it up as soon as I received it, and it was a dream. I ended up with 252 yards DK 2-ply, perfect for a toddler cardigan.

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This picture doesn’t do justice to those juicy colors. Oh YUM, I love them.

The knitting was fast and easy, and one week later, I was done:

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This is the In Three Cardigan, and it was a very sweet knit. After finishing up, I had enough yarn to crochet this precious Flower Accent, perfect for embellishing the sweater or attaching to a headband. I found some gorgeous green bakelite buttons from Sewing Vineyard on Etsy.

The sweater was for my great-niece, on the occasion of her first birthday. I made the 12-month size but with a slightly bigger gauge, figuring it would fit for fall.

And it did…

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Oh mercy, y’all. She is KILLING ME with the cute! And those grey boots!!! With those jeans! There may be nothing I love more than seeing someone I love wearing something I made for them. And when one of them looks this good in it, it just makes my heart explode.

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Cyber Monday :: Shameless Self-Promotion

I get so much use out of my Shameless hat and mitts this time of year, but especially the hat:  


 In a bit of shameless self-promotion, I’m joining the Cyber Monday fun and offering 20% off all my knitting patterns from now through Saturday. 

  
No code required – just go to my pattern page and click “Buy Now” on any pattern, and the discount will be automatically applied. Or go through my Ravelry pattern store. Either way, happy knitting! 

Saturday Spinning

I have a new favorite fiber, y’all. It is Eider Wool and it seems very similar to Shetland, but with maybe a little more poof after washing.

 

Southern Cross Fibre “Water” on Eider


David (of Southern Cross Fibre) is a genius with color, as you can we’ll see.

This is 226 yards of DK-weight 2-ply, and I’m extremely pleased with it.

  
I’m planning to use it as weft for a scarf I’m going to weave, with some Hello Yarn Kent Romney Lambswool as warp:

  
I’m pretty excited about this project and hope to get to warping it soon!

Grey Friday

I don’t shop on Black Friday. I stay home with family and stay cozy. Today was grey and rainy so it was especially nice to be cuddled up inside. While staked out on the sofa, I decided to try something new…

  
I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thanksgiving :: Feeling All the Feels

It’s amazing to me how grief and gratitude can both occupy so much space – at the very same time – in my heart. This day has been full in the best possible way and also hard – I have wanted so many times to call my mother, to ask the most basic questions (how long do you heat a spiral-sliced ham? I don’t want to know what the Internet says, I want to know the way my mom does it), and give her the full report (I finally did everything right to get the Bundt cake to pop out of the pan perfectly and intact! I did a buffet line this time instead of putting all the food on the table, and it worked so much better! Charlie was so happy we had ham in addition to turkey – just like you, he likes ham much better than turkey.), and also let her know how wonderful it was to have my dad and brother at the table for the first time in 15 years even though it just emphasized for all of us all over again how she is gone and everything has changed.

There’s been a lot of missing her today (which is true every day) but also so much gratitude – for her; for all she taught me (about cooking and hosting and mothering and so much more); for my entire family; for the amazing honor of feeding 13 people.

  
And I’m so grateful for you, too. My virtual community is more than virtual – it is a real support for me, a net of kindness and care during this difficult time, and I am grateful.

I tried to make you a little video of me saying thank you, but I looked far too earnest and also a little bit teary (which I honestly wasn’t). So instead, you get this goofy time lapse video, of me feeling all the feels and trying to show my love.

  
Thank you for being my people. Happy Thanksgiving!