Tag Archives: crochet

a homemade christmas

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This year we’re getting into the holiday spirit, which says a lot because both A. and I have been scrooges in our adult lives — though I always knew that would change if I had kids.

C., who turned two this month, is old enough to get the magic of Christmas. And because I’m turning into a six-bedroom house at 30 weeks pregnant, family — including my 18-month-old niece — traveled cross-country to the desert, where the skies are California blue with highs in the 60s, but it’s cold enough in the evenings to light a fire.

So this year was our chance to decorate with homemade family ornaments and stockings that will last year over year and create our traditions.

We made ornaments to deck the halls. A. turned wood and glued on rocks I tumbled to make wreaths.

wreath ornaments

We picked up pinecones lying haphazardly in our backyard and strung jute through them. I made a bulb (picked up a small plastic one from WalMart) filled with pine and pomegranates.

A. made a bell out of wood, using a tumbled rock as his knocker.

homemade bell ornament

I found a recipe for homemade gingerbread ornaments and made stars, snowmen and Christmas trees.

And A. made a star for the top for the top of the tree out of wood and painted it our kitchen yellow.

Over the past month, A. and I crocheted stockings (see photo above) to hang on the mantel. I spent a few hours looking for patterns — for the big red stocking to the far left, I followed this pattern, and for the big white stocking with red stripes, I followed this pattern.

But I really wanted to replicate a cream-colored knit stocking I saw in the Anthropologie catalogue.

The Anthropologie stocking

The Anthropologie stocking

So I made up my own pattern (the two cream colored ones above) — I’m thrilled I’m getting good enough to make my own patterns. A. crocheted three of them, including the Dr. Seuss boot and small red-and white-striped one. (We think you can see our personalities quite clearly though the stockings.)

I’ve been reading C. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and “Santa Mouse.” And we plan to leave Santa homemade cookies — with a handwritten note and a thick glass of milk — near the fireplace before C. goes to bed on Christmas eve.

We’ll have a wood-burning fire and cuddle under blankets and play board games and watch C. and his cousin sing “Jingle Bells” on a homemade stage A. made.

Yes, I’m excited about Christmas this year. I hope you are, too. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

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our first fall in the desert

The leaves are turning — golden hues that light up our backyard. It feels like fall in the desert with a few cloudy days, and I’ve been bursting with happiness.

falltree

Our days are still quiet, but I’ve finally, finally — after nearly a year of living in the California desert — invited a few friends over for playdates. The kids are kind, and the moms are cool. C., our almost two-year-old, who is saying things like, “We’re having a conversation, mama,” and, “It’s cloudy outside, mama,” and “You’re my angel, mama,” is ready to be social and gets giddy when I tell him N. or K. are coming over. We sit on our backyard patio in the morning in slippers and sweaters, eating vanilla chai scones and chatting, while the kids chase each other under the pomegranate trees.

Last week, I realized that it would be nice for the little ones to have a table to sit at on the patio. So, in three days, A. made a kiddie picnic table out of cedar, which I love. A. often designs his own furniture, but he “stole” (his word) this idea from a woman in Alaska, who provides drawings and dimensions on her beautiful blog, though he added his own touches.

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C and his picnic table

The cooler weather makes me want to read in the evenings, snuggled up under blankets, feeling the baby kick me gently (I’m 25 weeks already, where is the time going?). I’m crocheting like a madwoman: my latest challenge is to teach myself how to cable. I made mittens (using a pattern provided by this woman, who is also from Alaska) and I’m in the midst of making a hat that is more complex. Next, I’ll  turn to Christmas stockings to hang on our fireplace, since family is coming to us this year.

cabled mittens and hat

During C.’s naps, I warm hot chocolate or malted milk with vanilla, bake muffins or bread and listen to author interviews on NPR. I’ve been experimenting with cooking: carrot soup with lemon tahini sauce, sweet potato and kale frittata, roasted spaghetti squash with parmesan. I’m putting pomegranate seeds on everything: my morning oatmeal, spinach salads with feta, apple muffins.

The days are still warm — in the 60s — so I can enjoy walks along the bike path and marvel at the mountains.

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I love fall, and I love that though we’re in the desert, we still get a taste of it before the high winds blow, the leaves fall off of the trees, and the ground freezes over.

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antsy to create

Two weekends ago, about 30 artists in town — painters, wood-workers, potters — opened their studios to the public. It was to raise money for the local museum, and for the artists to show off their creations. Lois, my pottery teacher, invited three of her students to throw pots in her studio while she sold hers. She opened the floor-to-ceiling garage door so we could see the mountains on a gorgeous October weekend, and we threw pots from 9:30-5 both Saturday and Sunday. We chatted with the crowd, ate taquitos and meatballs and chips, wiped clay all over our pants and helped Lois wrap her sales.

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My butt muscles hurt at the end of the day, but I learned how to throw plates and I honed my skills to throw big bowls and mugs. I threw 16 pieces, which I’ll go back to glaze in the next few weeks. And again, I walked out invigorated, like I do every time I spend my days on the wheel, chatting with wonderful women.

I said to A. that Sunday evening, on our one-year anniversary, while we gazed at the Milky Way from Robbers Roost, about 20 minutes out of town: “I could do it all day every day.” And he said, “Wow, have we found your next profession?”

I confess that I have looked into fellowships, and the closest community kiln where I could fire should I buy a wheel. I’m still not ready to pull the trigger, especially with baby no. 2 arriving in four months. Chances are, we’ll move to a bigger town after living here — with a university where I can take classes. But I do think I’ve found a hobby that I truly love.

Since then — knowing I have to wait a few months till the next class — I have an insatiable urge to create. One thing that mildly tempers it is crocheting. I made my first full-sized blanket and some baby booties, and I’m thinking of what I can do next. I’m antsy — and I’m exploring this crazy feeling and how to satisfy it.

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three-day streak of strange luck

I’ve experienced a series of mishaps lately, which brings out my superstitions. Is it a full moon? Should I get home before anything worse happens?

They’ve been small inconveniences and scares. Last week, A., C. and I flew to North Carolina to see A.’s parents who moved from New Jersey into a beautiful newly-built house outside of Winston-Salem. We ate barbeque with lots of slaw, went on a hike, played tennis and visited with family. It was a quiet few days sitting on their plush couch in their sun-room, enjoying the green of the east coast.

We flew home on Sunday — a 1 1/2 hour drive to Charlotte, a five-hour flight to Vegas (someone said to us, “Whatever you do with your toddler, you should patent it.”) and then a (usually) four-hour drive through Death Valley. Little did we know that it had rained (rain in the desert?) and the pass we normally take was closed. Orange cones blocked the way and a sign said, “Panamint Valley closed due to flooding.” It was 8 p.m., we had a sleepy C. in the back seat, my body ached from driving, my stomach growled. And on we went, toward the mountains, winding through deeply dark desert roads. In my haze, I missed a different turnoff and added yet another half hour to our drive. Our trip turned into sixteen long, tired hours.

Then, yesterday I took C. to the bookstore, his request since the library is closed on Mondays. He loves to push a used pink doll stroller through the store — even though one of the white wheels constantly pops off. Whenever we go, I keep my eye on him, loosely. This time, he wandered into a back room, and I was about to follow him when I heard a loud crash and a wailing C. I ran in the room to see C. underneath a six-foot mirror, his feet sticking out like the wicked witches in the “Wizard of Oz.” Horrified and shaken, I picked him up, his face red and scrunched from crying, but he was unscathed thank GOD.

Today, I got a call from an “unknown” and Wanda on my voice-mail told me that I’ll be served today in the “first of three attempts” and that if I had questions I could call my “case manager.” Of course, I called immediately, my heart beating loudly (what could this be about?), and the woman told me that I had a $2,897 outstanding Mastercard bill and haven’t responded to multiple notices.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “But I’m pretty sure you have the wrong Erin.”
“You live on North Broadway, right?” she said.
“What city are we talking about?”
“New  York.”
“Nope, that’s not me, I’ve never lived in New York.”

After giving her the last four digits of my social and my birth date, we determined they had the wrong Erin and she said she would close my file.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been ultra-domestic. I’ve made four batches of muffins (apple spice, pear banana, sweet potato cranberry and lemon lavender). I’ve been completely engrossed by fiction: Jesmyn Ward’s “Salvage the Bones,”  “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie” by Ayana Mathis and now  “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. I’ve bought baskets to organize odds and ends and new PJs for C. I crocheted my first blanket (I’m moving up, people!). And I haven’t been feeling guilty or anxious about not working (a big deal for me).

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Yes, I’ve been quite content, besides these scares and inconveniences. So I’m hoping this three-day string of strange luck is at its end. OK, universe? Hey, thanks.

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quiet moments and creative inspiration

On Friday after a Mexican dinner out — once C. was asleep in his crib — A. and I migrated to our bright yellow kitchen. A. stood and painted lettering on hand-held signs for our friends’ wedding in Soho in NYC in two weeks. I sat cross-legged on a chair and crocheted a hat for my niece. The table was full of paints and paper and water and yarn and we worked in the quiet, enjoying each others’ company and the warm night breeze through the window screens.

I find I work best in quiet, whether I’m writing or photographing or throwing pots. It’s in the quiet that I can really focus. It’s true for A., too, who never wants me to interrupt him while he’s wood-working.

Here are a few things we’ve made out of our recent quiet — plus a cool sewing project from my MIL. All of these things make me smile.

Purple flowers in our backyard. I love photographing flowers (and I need a better macro lens). On Friday, the after-sunset splash of color — like a painting — surprised me.

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A hat I crocheted a few weeks ago with yarn I bought in L.A. It gives me the urge to throw on a thick wool sweater and go to Nova Scotia and look out at fishing boats while sipping steaming hot cocoa. (I must be ready for a cold-weather vacation.)

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Wedding signs A. made for friends on request — he bought and cut the wood, painted the pieces pink, put on the dark gray border, sanded off spots to make it “shabby chic” and then wrote the script. I can’t wait to see the stunning bride (who’s marrying this guy) holding them. (Also, maybe A. can have a side business?)

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This photo that I took about a month or two ago of C. wearing a robe that his nonna sewed for him. It fits him so perfectly that it makes me consider pulling our sewing machine down off of a shelf in our closet. With zero shopping in our quiet desert town, maybe I should make myself a skirt or two. (Hmmmmm….)

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What has inspired you lately?

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help. i can’t stop making hats.

I think a zombie has overtaken my body, and all it wants to do is crochet hats.

Before C. was born (he’s a December baby), I had the hardest time finding a cool hat for him, so I ended up putting the only hat I could find on our baby registry. When C. was 8 days old, our best friend and talented photographer S. did a photo shoot of him, and this hat made us double over and squeeze our eyes shut with laughter. Poor kid may get me some day for this one.

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So now I keep thinking of friends who are pregnant and will need hats for their babes and I’m crocheting like a madwoman so I have gifts on hand. C. in Alexandria, Va., who has two girls already, could have a boy! C. and J. in Maryland are having their first boy, and wait, so is W. in Chicago.

It’s a bit insane to make so many hats when it’s 80 degrees in the desert and will only get hotter.

A. grinned at me the other night, as I sat on our brown couch under a blanket, crocheting away in the quiet and totally zen.

“You’re going to be the best grannie,” he said.

“Get away,” I said. “You taught me, so you can’t make fun.”

But he’s right: I’m out of control. So much so, that I haven’t been reading or writing or doing much of anything else. Our joke is, “One more row.”

It’s satisfying to create — I can make a hat in one evening — and see quick results. For you crocheting addicts, I’ve mostly used this pattern, and I’m drawn to this half double crochet pattern, too.

The zombie is getting better with time (among the first, top right, looks like a football helmet from the 1920s). But I have to exorcise it for now and put down my hook and tend to other matters that tug at the heart.

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a rustic table from old 2x4s

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A few weeks ago, A. and I stumbled across a pile of wood while on a hike. A. examined the boards, and decided two of them were worth heaving down the mountain. Our guess is this wood is old — very old — maybe even nearly a century old. Luckily, we didn’t have C. with us, so we could arrange the boards in our Ford Fiesta.

One of them was rotting, so A. had to cut off the end to be sure it didn’t have any termites. And when he did, we saw a beautiful red color under the blackened surface — cedar! The wood was so weathered, it gave off a trillion little splinters like a cactus. So after working in his shop for a few hours, A. would lean against the bathroom counter with tweezers and steadily pull splinters out of his hand.

A. designed and assembled this table for our living room — to sit next to our plush red chair — and it’s our favorite piece yet. I tasked myself with crocheting a few coasters for it (you can tell I’m a beginner — more are in the works).

Now A. is excited about working with salvaged wood. Soon, instead of going on a bear hunt, we’re going to go on another wood hunt.

coasters

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my latest obsession: crocheting

About a week and a half ago, A. taught me how to crochet. That’s right, my husband taught me how to crochet. He learned from his uncle’s mom (he calls her grannie) while home on break from college and eventually made a huge blanket that we use regularly. He also crocheted gifts for family: a round blanket for his cousin’s newborn, Rangers outfits for other cousins’ kids, socks for his dad, a doily for his mom, you name it. Then, he says, he retired.

A. was excited to teach me. Except he kept grabbing at my project when I asked for help, so we got into a few “fake” fights. I called him bossy and threatened to stop working with him.

I decided to start with a scarf to get used to stitching and get in a rhythm.

Then I became obsessed. I don’t think I’ve done much else than crochet in the past week and a half. I even stayed up past midnight two different nights. One more row, I kept thinking. And then I’d be exhausted and sick to my stomach that I couldn’t stop.

I finished the scarf on Sunday, wrapped it around my neck, and sauntered around the house, very proud of myself.

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Yesterday, I made A. a hat and a coaster (I plan to make several more coasters — they will be better than this first one.)

And can I just say: Damn does it feel good to actually create something useful. We’re off to Mammoth on Thursday (our first night away from the boy!) and I can’t wait to get use out of our new scarf and hat.

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