MuddyFingersMeg

Eat, drink, (garden, knit, quilt, think, fix, read) & be merry

Spring.

Hi, friends!  I wish I had a compelling reason for my lengthy absence lately but I don’t.  BUT it is a whopping 21 days until I am in the first person in my family of origin to graduate from college!

It’s spring – which came ridiculously early – and spring brings loads of heavy emotions.  The lilacs are blooming (my dad’s favorite flower) and Mother’s Day is just around the bend.  I’m wrapping up a semester of 20 credits and preparing to enter a graduate program.  It’s no wonder I’ve been tired lately, no matter how much I sleep.  My brain is either learning or processing all the time!

The lilacs aren’t as sad as usual, though.  I miss my dad, surely, but it’s a dull ache now, and only when I press on it.  My mother’s absence isn’t as sharp, either.  I count her absence by holidays more than months, and it’s been nearly a dozen since she’s made any sort of effort.  It makes it easier to really close the door.  But, as “they” say, the closing of one door opens another and so it goes here.  I’ve decided since I did much of my own rearing, I’m going to celebrate myself on Mother’s Day.  It feels hokey and funny to me, but I, at a deeper level, like the idea.  I’ve finally given myself permission to give myself a little credit for who I am and how I got here.  In many ways I’ve been my own mother, and I was often a mother to my brother and other children that lived in our house.  I read bedtime stories, said prayers, and tucked in tiny children that lived in our house.  I woke them in the mornings and sent them off to school while I stay home, in a house by myself.  All day.  When I was seven or eight.

So I welcome the coming of May.  To me late spring feels like the beginning of a new year.  And this year I’ll be a college graduate, beginning a new career, free of my mother, with the world wide open before me.  It’s a transformative spring, and I welcome that with open arms.

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Wooly Wonderfulness

As promised, there’s more stitching to show.

This.  This thing of warmth and beauty.  Last time I put it on the scale, it weighed in at 3+ lbs of wooly warmth.  I really, really wanted to finish it before the end of 2011 (Happy New Year, btw!!) but the blanket is a now a behemoth and the knitting is a bit strenuous.  It wasn’t fun anymore, so I took a break and I’ll tackle those borders a little more slowly this time.  One finished, three to go.

P spoiled me with 100% silk yarn (So unbearably wonderful) for both my birthday and Christmas!  A skein of the birthday yarn was immediately slotted for a growing leaves cowl.  As much as I love all sorts of wools, even baby alpaca and merino irritate my skin, especially my neck.  Oh, I still wear them, but this silk isn’t irritating in the least.

It’s just about finished.  Once it’s done it’s headed for a brilliant blue iDye wash.  I’m hoping the straw colored yarn will come out a handsome green.  We’ll see.

For the Christmas silk, P found 10 (!) skeins of affordable orange silk from a de-stashing woman on et*sy (Isn’t he thoughtful??).  I have enough of this to make something substantial.  I think I need to knit a lovely shawl.  I couldn’t find anything on Ravelry that quite suited my fancy, so I’m going to pick up some stitch pattern books from the library and create my own.

Several months ago I finished the linen washcloth/facetowel travel set.  And then I promptly put the washcloth through the dryer.  Now I have a facecloth and mini-washcloth set.  No matter.  It’ll still get plenty of use!

A friend gave kindly me a gift certificate to my favorite LYS for my birthday.  And then the shop had a holiday 50% off sale for selected merchandise.  I promptly headed over and scooped up these three gorgeous skeins of blue, aran weight, merino wool.  After the sale and the gift certificate, each skein cost me for $1 (normal retail of $13/ea)!  I can’t decide if it wants to become a big, delicious, squishy scarf or a couple of baby sweaters.  Any thoughts?

I still have several blog posts that need to go up – a Christmas recap and my One Little Word for 2012.  We leave early Tuesday morning for a week vacation to the Yucatan, so I’ll try to squeeze them in tomorrow.  If not, I’ll see you in mid-January!

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And now for something a little different

It’s no surprise a lot of knitting goes on around here.  I love knitting because it’s so portable – a few stitches on the bus, before class, while waiting for a doctor – and soon something beautiful arises from those stolen moments.  It took me several years before I was good enough that I actually liked what I made.  Most of my early projects were “frogged” over and over because, in my opinion, they weren’t worthy of existing.

But during break I have time at home which means it’s time to set aside the knitting and pursue the crafts that aren’t as portable.  I love sewing because it’s faster and the possibilities are limitless.  Unfortunately, because I’m less practiced and almost entirely self-taught, I’m not often pleased with the results.  And unlike knitting I can’t just “rip-it, rip-it” and start over.  No sir – once the fabric is cut it’s a done deal, which makes sewing even more intimidating.  But only practice is going to improve my skills, so I’ve spent some hours in front of the machine and here’s what I’ve come up with:

I’ve made two pairs of mittens using this fabulous tutorial.

Here’s P’s pair, made from his favorite sweater that finally got too hole-y to wear.

I lined them with horse print flannel because his name means “lover of horses” which gives us no end of amusement around here.  As a side note – I took scrap pieces of the sweater and needle felted them on the wrong side of the hole-y bits and you’d never know there had been holes if you weren’t looking for them.

I put these in his Christmas stocking and he said that it was one of the best presents he’s ever received – on par with the quilt from his mom and grandma.  🙂

Here’s my pair, made from a thick, felted, thrifted sweater and lined with fabric from XL wool/cashmere pants I once found in a garage sale free pile (score!!)

I needled felted on some fall-colored leaves with green yarn for a stem.  I’m not thrilled with the needle felting job – but every little bit of practice helps, right?

You’d never know from looking at them how many times I ripped sections out to sew them again.  sigh.

I’ve been dabbling a bit in making stuffed animals.  Again, the photo hides it well, but my skills are seriously lacking.  It’s cute, but it’s not what I wanted it to be.  Alas – practice, practice.

I do love this little infant-friendly felted wool tail!

I made this little wristlet using this fantastic tutorial.  It came out so cute!  It’s the first time I’ve inserted a zipper, and I’m very pleased with the results.  This cute little bag will be going with me on vacation next week!

It even has three little pockets on the inside.  If I were to make it again, I’d probably make a pocket on the opposite side to hold my phone.

P and I bought new curtains for our front room to replace the old-lady lacy ones that came with the house.  We ended up with linen I*KEA curtains that you cut to your desired length and then use iron-on fusible web to “hem” them.  As a result we ended up with lots of long, narrow scraps of linen.  I used a few of those scraps to make… napkins!

It’s my first time doing fusible applique so I was just playing around a bit.  I cut the flower and leaves freehand and used cookie cutters to outline the rest.

You can tell from the “Minnesota” napkin that there is a reason the instructions tell you to cut out your images in reverse!  Ooops!

I used this tutorial to make this adorable little fabric basket (how did people learn to craft before the internet and people’s generous tutorials??).

I found one slight error in the tutorial – when you cut the fabric for the lining it says to cut a piece 9 1/4″ x 12″.  That was too small for my basket and I had better luck with a lining that was 10 1/4″ x 12″.  Fold along the 12″ side so the 10 1/4″ sides make the opening.

I think this will live on my nightstand to catch all the little bits that land there – earrings, hairbands, etc.

I’ve still got more knitting to show you, so I’ll be back soon!

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A Few Stitches

December was a whirlwind of knitting and crafting.  I entirely lost track of all the projects, and unfortunately, many of them slipped through my fingers without being photographed.  But they all were finished, blocked, boxed, and gifted.  Most were received with heaps of enthusiasm, which is always both gratifying and surprising.  I’m embarassed to say this, but homemade gifts were… looked down upon when I was little.  But, both times and people change and I’m happy for the opportunity to make things for people who love and use them.

P’s Sweater.  It’s an Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern (Saddle-shouldered) with Kn*itpicks Tweed (70% merino wool, 20% alpaca, 10% acrylic).  If the sleeves hadn’t been too long for me, I may very well have kept it.  It’s so soft and cozy.

P’s hat.  This fall, when I asked him if he wanted a new hat, he said yes.  I was pleasantly surprised when he asked for a hat that was red and cabled!  He typically asks for things that are plain and grey (or black).  It’s a lovely splash of excitement to his wardrobe!  It’s this hat knit up in a merino wool.

This cute little bunny is knit up in a merino wool for a friend’s baby, due in early January.  It’ll soon be gifted with the blanket below.

I do love this baby blanket.  So simple yet so beautiful.

And here is where I’ll sheepishly admit I didn’t get photos of the two mohawk hats I knit for my nephews, the two princess hats (and wands) I made for my nieces, the cute little bear hat for another niece…  I do have a few more items around the house I can still photograph, so I’ll be back for another round soon.

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The Other Side

Well, folks, it sure has been awhile.  In August I wasn’t sure if I’d ever made it to this point – the point where all that remains of my 18 credits is one test and the remnants of a paper.  Where only one semester of my undergraduate career remains.  The point where my large, unwieldy  directed study is done.  The point where no farm work remains, although the same can’t be said of farm meetings.  The point where I happily turned 30.  The point where I have occasional meetings with M to check-in and continue honing my new skills, but those meetings aren’t the only thread holding my sanity together.  The point where the sadness is more of a faint, background note than a clanging gong.  But I did, I made it, and it feels so good.

In fact, this may very well be the happiest I’ve been in my entire life.  There have certainly been more exciting times in life – India?  Thailand? Iceland?  – but this is, by far, the most consistently peaceful and content I’ve ever felt.  I type and erase, type and erase, trying to find the words to explain what happened, what it feels like but I can’t nudge the right words into the right places.  It just feels good and it’s (mostly) felt that way for several months now.  I feel loved, safe, secure.  And there’s no better way to head into the holidays.   Xoxo

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Sticking with it

Today is the 20 year anniversary of the great H*alloween blizzard of 1991. I was 10 years old. I’ve always loved a good blizzard, especially one that lasts for four days. In addition, halloween is my hands-down favorite holiday. By all accounts I should remember the snow storm that shut down my great city. I should remember the enormous piles of snow. I should remember the shock of adults, the delight of children, the amazement of a multi-day blizzard that closed out October and ushered in November.

But I don’t. I vaguely recall dressing up as the devil and my legs were cold through the thin red tights. Did I even wear tights? Perhaps my legs were bare. I do remember that my mom’s boyfriend wouldn’t let us trick-or-treat (ever), but my brother and I dressed up anyway, and walked around the neighborhood.

I’ve always ignored the fact that I don’t remember this momentous night.  But today, when thinking about it, I stuck with the unsettled feelings that arose rather than pushing them away.  I accepted those feelings, let them in, listened to what they had to say.  And I realized that this lack of memory aches because I want so badly to remember that blizzard. I want to remember what it was like to be ten years old and be caught in an enormous city that was stopped in its’ tracks because the plows were without blades, because the snow just kept falling, because it was blizzarding in October. I want to remember because I was there. I was in a place where something big and incredible was happening and I have a story, I just don’t know what it is.  I want to weave my narrative in with others.  I want so much to be a part of that clear snapshot of Minnesota life on a cold October that nearly everyone remembers in striking clarity.

But there are no memories. Like so much of my childhood, like so much of my life, despite my physical presence, I remember nothing. Despite years of frantic searching in my own mind, I still only find darkness.

And, you know, it’s okay to lose most days.  For the details to drift off into vaguarities of daily monotony. But big days, days that acquaintances swap stories about, days that pull communities together, days that build bridges between people, well, it hurts to lose those days.

All this serves as a further reminder that it all was that bad. Life was bad enough that not even an epic blizzard could break through the dissociated state in which I waited out my childhood.  I wish it hadn’t been like that.  God, I wish it had all been different.

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The UpSides

It’s Friday and I’ve been on spring break all week. I had so many things I wanted to get done this week. But I didn’t really do most of them. Nor did I do anything particularly fun. It’s been a snot-fest around here with me spontaneously bursting into tears, not the least of which was last night after I burned the maple syrup I’d be carefully boiling down for two days. My one accomplishment of the week is charcoal, and so is my favorite pot.

But! But! There have been some upsides. And for the sake of distraction, I’d like to record them.

1. I’ve improved markedly in my fiddle playing. I’ve played my small, imperfect repertoire dozens, maybe even hundreds, of times this week and I think I’m sounding better.

2. My house walls are full of chipper post-it notes with uplifting messages such as, “My best is good enough” and “It’s okay to make mistakes.”

3. I’ve been on several walks in the woods.

4. I’ve done a lot of crafting. Not much knitting – my wrists still hurt – but I have been working on my needle felting. And that has been really enjoyable.

5. I’m all caught up on sleep. (If only it felt like it.)

6. I’ve made some important and helpful realizations.

7. P and I have spent a lot, and I mean a lot, of time cuddling.

8. P and I built the beehive for the farm this week.  And I’m going to paint it a ridiculous, brilliant orange. That makes me happy.

9. I got out of my own little head for a weekend and went and protested in Madison. That also felt really, really good.

10. Tonight P and I are going out for a fancy dinner and dancing. We haven’t done that in ages

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A little trip

P and I went on a little trip with his parents to the southwest over New Year’s.  It was so cold!  The Grand Canyon was -20F at night.  We had to shuffle a few things around as roads were closed due to some major snowstorms.  But we still had a lovely time.

We flew into Las Vegas, stayed the night, and then headed to the Hoover Dam.  Here I am with my sweet MIL under the new bridge.

And then off we went to the Grand Canyon.  We almost had to skip the Canyon because of weather, but the roads cleared and we made it.  I was so excited!

It was so cold there were few people hiking.  We had most of the lookouts to ourselves.

We spotted a few Elk and mule deer.


We stopped at Montezuma’s Castle on the way to Sedona.  A five-story dwelling built into the side of a cliff more than 800 years ago.  Wow!

There were Sycamore trees in the area.  In the summer you can feel the water rising skyward under the bark.  In the winter, though, they’re just pretty.

We took the back roads to Sedona and it was unbelievably beautiful.

We arrived at sunset and the red mountains were brilliant!

In the morning we went for a little sunrise hike

In Phoenix we visited with some of P’s family.  They had three grapefruit trees in the backyard.  We picked a suitcase full and brought them home.  That was a highlight, for sure!

I love climbing trees.  Especially when it involves food.

Some of the fruits were enormous!

Finally, on the way to the airport, we drove up South Mountain to see the city and find some Saguaro cacti for a photo-op.  I couldn’t pass up this guy with a face!

I hope you, too, had a wonderful start to 2011!

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A Homemade Christmas

We had such a lovely holiday.  We had mountains of delicious food, cookies galore, and so many dear friends and family from both near and far.  Many of the gifts given and received were both thoughtful and homemade.  Let me share a few highlights.

P and I made and decorated sugar cookies using this recipe.  So, so good.

We made mint slice biscuits using this recipe, but omitting the chocolate coating.  They’re pretty good, although they’re a lot of work.

P’s family did a holiday gift basket exchange instead of individual gifts.  It was so much fun to put together a single basket rather than running around town to buy gifts for a dozen people.  I made a basket with a “winter warmer” theme and put in a handknit scarf, brownie mix in a jar, homemade hot cocoa mix, alcoholic whipped cream, beeswax candles, and a bottle of irish cream.  It was the one of the most frequently stolen basket during the swap, so I think it was a hit!

I made the beeswax candles from beeswax I brought back from Peru.  They smell divine.

The hot cocoa mix is made using unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla sugar, salt, cayenne, and a little cornstarch.  I no longer buy commercial hot chocolate mix because this is tastier and more affordable!  The “brownies in a jar” recipe is found here.

My sister made this wonderful peppermint sugar body scrub.  I can’t wait to try it – yum!

My foster mom made these awesome pillowcases for everyone in the family.  Mine is this fantastic mushroom fabric.  I love it so!

P and my foster mom share a love of baseball, so it’s only fitting that his pillowcase is made from baseball fabric.

What were your holiday highlights this year?

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December Blooms

Tomorrow is my last final – hurrah!  It’s been a really tough class, more because of personality conflicts than academic difficulty.  That bums me out. It makes me feel like I’m failing on a personal level, which is harder than struggling with the material.  Alas.  Just 24 hours to go.

Last week the hort club had their Christmas party which included making flower arrangements.  I don’t think I should quit my day job (ha!) to become a florist, but it’s been so nice having these at the other end of the table, peeking out from the piles of books and papers.  One has sweet peas that smell divine.  Blooming flowers – what a treat this time of year.

I love daisies.  They’ve always been my absolute favorite flower.

 

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