The Best Housewarming Gift Ever

As I have dedicated my holiday giving to handmade items, it has gotten me thinking about all of the handmade and creative gifts I have given in the past.

My friend Colleen reminded me of a housewarming party we both went to in our very early twenties. J and I picked up Colleen and her boyfriend so that we could arrive at the party together. Our mutual friend, Andy, had bought his first house which was a rarity among our student group, and we were ecstatic for Andy even though his very small house literally sat on a very busy main road with no yard to speak of. The house, itself, was in horrible shape and was absolutely bare, but we envied it beyond belief. As I was trying to find a parking space, we drove around the block behind his house, and we spotted a giant sofa on the curb in front of another derelict house. I don’t know exactly who shouted out first that we should take it for Andy, but there was no denying that it was a fantastic idea. So we let the boys out, so that they could drag it around the block to Andy’s while we parked the car. The homeowners ran out and exclaimed that they had an even nicer sofa in their basement for us to take instead. So with that, the boys helped these nice people drag the nicer sofa up the stairs and out of the house and around the block to Andy’s little porch where it has been for ten years now. I don’t know if Andy still sits on it. I would imagine it is super grungy by now, but that night, it was the perfect hangout for us while we drank ourselves silly and laughed at the people just walking by – there was a public telephone right outside his door, and one of us would call from inside the house and watch the walkers jump out of their skin when the phone would ring. This is very funny when you are in your early twenties and drunk out of your mind. I don’t remember much more from that night, and may not have even remembered the whole incident had it not been for Colleen and I reminiscing about our wild and crazy days. But since I’ve recalled it, I have chuckled to myself many times, and it just needed to be shared. Just try to beat that gift – I dare you!



Faux Bois

How does wood keep you warm without burning it? Stick it in the bottom on your door of course!Closer inspection reveals that it's actually a draft stopper made out of wood grained fabric and filled with lentils and scrap fabric. Not only am I being energy efficient by keeping the cold air from coming into the house, I used up old pieces of fabric to fill it with instead of buying fibre fill. I like my branch, however, I still have to make sure that it's pushed up against the door every time it is opened and closed. A small price to pay for keeping in the heat I suppose...and it is COLD today!Note the three types of wood in this picture! Ok, there are really only two types of wood.

What beautiful mermaid paper by the way. What little girl doesn't love pretty mermaids (and unicorns)? You are ingenious. Time to go put dinner on. I am happy to return to eating solids after the weekend's bout with food poisoning. Yuck. On that note....



I found this ‘wrapping paper’ in a store in St. Thomas that I keep to myself as a secret shopping weapon. My arm would have to be severely twisted in order to give away its tricky location – even my mum has no idea where, and she lives there! Anyway, back to the ‘wrapping paper’. As far as ‘wrapping paper’ goes, this stuff is not cheap, but as a poster for the littlest’s raspberry bedroom, it was a steal! Honestly, the sheet was $4 at the most! So I did what any natural loving mummy does, and I framed it in one of those clear clip frames, and I hung it up in her room. It looks beautiful. For the biggest’s peking blue bedroom, I bought a piece of paper with limey green and yellowy birdies in a pattern. This could be another one of my handmade holiday ideas – I just have to think for whom.


Nutrition Break

Just taking a few minutes to breathe and refuel before the last 30 rows of the clapotis. Here's what's happenin'.
I'm eating tomato basil rice soup.
I'm procrastinating on this pair of mittens. These will be a Christmas present for J. I would hope for his sake that he wears them. Not wearing them could constitute ample reason to strangle him.

I am literally on the last lap-otis of the clapotis. And see these ladies below?

London has loads of knitters if you just look really hard for them. They call themselves the Forest City Knitters, and they are an awesome bunch. I say this because the next meeting is a potluck! Now that's my kind of knitters. How did they know that I LOVE to eat as much as I LOVE to knit??? I like the first picture because Kat was trying to show me a picture of teensy snowmen scarves while I was snapping away (see the bottom right-hand corner?). I am great at paying attention, folks.
Looks like I need to get sewing up some pyjama pants of my own! Is that flannelette?


Finally Some Sewing and Some Felting...and Knitting

Things are starting to happen around here, N. Oh yes, things are happening.

First of all, I'd just like to mention that I woke up at 5:30 this morning to take advantage of some "door crashers". Doors were crashed and I got the 7.5' artificial, pre-lit Dakota pine that I came for. Those crafting ladies were lined up at the door and by the time I parked the car they were letting people in. Good timing on my part.

Anyway, the sewing consists of one pair of pajama bottoms, which I fudged and then fixed but will now have to keep for myself. I'll just consider them the practice pair.Then the felting is the ballet slippers for my sister. The yarn is Cascade 220 and the colour is...shoot, I threw out the band. Let's just say it's fuchsia. Here they are before felting.Here they are after felting.I think they are awfully cute. Cuter than the felted clogs, don't you think?

And then the knitting is the completed pair of Peekaboo mittens. I like these too and am tempted to keep them for myself, but I wont.So, I've been busy but it feels good to get some projects completed. There are lots more to do and I'm sure you have a ton as well. Thanks for the info on the coasters. They would make a marvelous hostess gift. Sending good crafting and St. Jacob's shopping vibes your way.


Another Dreamy Message from Hawksley

well i wake to snow this morning. lovely. a white mist. i didn't see the autumn here. my body has been hither and scattered. cells catching resonance in airports in tokyo, berlin, london, paris, st. john's, halifax and toronto. i have my first cold in a long time. i remember the last visits from hummingbirds here. and the deer tracks in the garden where the last parsnip tops were munched away. the partridges are back in the trees. the trees are skeletons again. craggy and fingering toward the sky, they make the fatted pheasants look so conspicuous against the fading twilight. funny how the body is slow to arrive in new places. the eyes tell lies till the body begins to believe in every new surrounding. and even then the soul needs to believe in the permanence of a room and bed and angle of light brushing against a city skyline before it unfurls it's belongings. i really must glow about a day where mr. lonely and i rode rented bicycles from akasaka to asakusa. the loveliest, most respectful city streets i've ever pedaled over. long alleyways tethered together with bundles of cables held up by poles and knots. quiet and seemingly never ending. cats and temples hidden in the wrinkles of a rebuilt city. sometimes i feel lost. when i sing i feel found. it feels like so long. i'm so pleased to have a new record to share. i made this record in the spring of this year. while walking muddy bush trails and planting seeds in newly tilled garden beds. over the last couple of years i have recorded a number of records. this one speaks very clearly of a moment. a month of seeing snow melt away in warmer days. of wearing rubber boots to town to buy nuts and fish. of the familiar sense of new hope when the days get longer. of seeing rhubarb blossom and bright, green moss defy the last stubborn patches of crusty, granular snow. it's been a funny time lately. a time of great learning. and stumbling. of feeling strange polarities. knowing and wondering. living and forgetting. waking up with a tired soul and relearning that which i didn't know i had to cling to with such strength. even on a tiny planet it's amazing how often one can feel so far away from home. it always makes sense to look in the unlikely places. to listen carefully to the lulls. to save energy for discovering the little bursts of magic that happen in the wake of what's obvious. for those towering distractions, those glowing watersheds, those obvious, clanging epochs, happen in between what is truly beautiful. may we all serve the blessings of what is simple, fragile and delicate. that which lives in the echoes of trumpet blasts that leave seaward on the wind. let us believe in rest for weary souls. and time to mend and nurture love.

warmest and sincere wishes. h.

It's Business Time

It’s Business Time.

Here are the specs for the patchwork coasters:
I used this tutorial for my patchwork roller’coasters’ of love. I made my seams a little too wide, so I added some extra rectangles that I had cut to widen the patchwork to the correct size. Rather than buy expensive cotton batting, I used some yucky coloured felt I had in my stash, and it did the job. It wasn’t too bulky, it was free, and it was available immediately. I really like how they turned out, and for the record, they can’t be considered really complete yet because I still need to hand-sew the little gaps for turning them outside in. What a pain.

Now to choose the lucky recipients. I have a wedding to go to in February, but they would also make excellent hostess gifts for all the holiday parties for which I am sure to be invited!

This weekend coming up, I am heading to St. Jacobs to hang out for the entire day with my friend, Julia. I am so excited because it’s a haven for handmade goodies. I hope to get much of my holiday shopping finished that day. Anyone have any suggestions for shopping? It has been years since I was there last. I am thinking high school, and that was like 13 years ago!! I am sure much has changed.

Tonight I am visiting the Forest City Knitters Group at their monthly meeting. I’ve heard the seating is really comfy and the atmosphere is conducive to knitting. I am pretty stoked. And their minimal annual fee comes with nice little discounts at some regional yarn stores. I’m very interested. I was never one to pass up a bargain.

And speaking of mittens, I am working on my own pair of chocolate brown alpaca wool mittens from my Knitting Pretty book. It’s not actually my copy of Knitting Pretty because I lent that out to a beginner knitter, so I had to borrow from the library. That would be a first for me – borrowing a book I already own. That’s weird.

“Teambuilding Exercise ‘99” I can’t get that mother-flipping song out of my head.



I have changed my mind yet again. I've decided on mittens. Mittens for family members, along with flannel pajama pants and probably some other knitted items that I'll knit up on a whim. This first pair of mittens will be for one of my sisters, I'm not sure which one yet, they're hard to keep track of.

The pattern is the Peekaboo mittens from Megan at Pensive Frog for Mag Knits. I've been wanting to try this pattern for awhile now and love the utility of the open palm. I'm a mitten person all the way but trying to find stuff at the bottom of my (bottomless) purse was always a challenge. I probably wont get around to knitting myself a pair until after Christmas. The yarn is Pattons Soy Wool Stripes in Natural Plum. I really like the colour changes.Ever since you sent me the pattern for the stars I've been knitting them up constantly. They finish up really fast and satisfies the need to complete a project. Thanks again for the fun pattern! Here are some of mine, hanging from the geranium plant.Well, off to make some phone calls, then lunch, and then Target. Oh yes, Target.


Roller'coaster' of Love

With the exception of a little playdate, I spent my day getting ahead on my handmade holiday pledge. First up, a picture of my knitted star ornaments using Elizabeth Zimmerman's pattern in the Knitter's Almanac. I've actually knitted four of these in no time flat. There are definitely more stars in my future!

Using some old green metal frames that the management was throwing out to the curb, I framed a few of my snowmen sketches. I am liking how these turned out. I may have to keep one for myself.

Then I dug out my cutting mat and ruler, and cut a gazillion little rectangles and squares. Here we are halfway through my project and also illustrating the true colour of my fabric:

Much later . . . 12 patchwork coasters . . . looking a little orange and yellowy - not even close.

I also brewed up some yummy chickpea and pasta soup for dinner. Is it weird to want soup for dessert?

UPDATE: Daylight pictures of completed coasters


The Stone Roses

Just a few pictures that are inspiring me right now to get my butt moving on my handmade pledge. I can count the hours I have been browsing etsy!

It's been a busy week here in the Forest City. Strategic Planning was a blast from a sidelines perspective - lots of critical issues, solution brainstorming, and political forecasting. Quite glad it's over really. I must have written about 50 pages of notes -now I am dreading putting them into an electronic file. It's always something really.
Last night, I went back in time with a handful of friends. It's funny how some things and some people never change, and on the other hand, how some things and some people are completely different. I'd like to think that I have grown up and changed considerably, but I still LOVE the same songs. I am just glad that I made the decision to stay sober - we didn't need Drunk Nadine hugging and loving everyone and dancing the Elaine dance. I managed to retain my dignity. A vodka jello shooter was forced upon me at some point during the evening, but it didn't impact me at all. Once the girls grow up, I think I will put some much-needed energy into building up my alcohol tolerance so that I can be a serious casual drinker if there is such a thing. I would like to drink, but I become a blubbering idiot, so it's just best to not. Know what I mean? All in all, I had an excellent time. I got out of the house to do something other than knit (my clapotis was in my bag just in case), I got to hang out with some really cool people, I got to listen to some great music, and I think I managed to clear my somewhat geeky reputation. Don't ask me how - I just have a hunch. I wore a cool shirt, okay? And the toucan keds. No, that might have been a wee bit geeky. At least I didn't look like a crackpot Professor Snape - you just had to have been there. :)

I must head back to my weekend's regular programming. Olivy Bean's birthday party is this afternoon, and until then, ma petite famille is lounging around reading and playing and enjoying each other's company. We don't do that often enough. I might even manage to take a few good pictures in the daylight.



Baby It's Cold Outside

Dear N,

The highlight of my day will be taking the car for a wash. Yes, it's sad, however, I do enjoy having the car spotless inside and out. They are surprisingly fast at the car wash I go to. Plus I have a coupon.

Off the needles this week:I've blogged about the sweater before but I have since added an umbilical cord hat to match. It will be a Christmas gift for my little nephew who is simply exploding. I am just hoping that he will be able to fit the sweater by December. My sister has real fat babies.

This is a pair of mittens for the fat baby's preschool sister. I haven't figured out how I should embellish them. They are quite plain as is and think that they could benefit from some applique or something like that. Please pass along any suggestions.
Well, it's off to the car wash. With my luck it will rain this afternoon.


A Million Ancient Bees & A Silly Sleepover

Where do I start?

Well, the Soup & Chili Lunch went fabulously on Friday! We raised $500 for the 2007 United Way Campaign, and even the local TV station crew dropped in to film our crazy load of crockpots! I even managed to lure some municipal, provincial and federal politicians to our little event. How super cool is that?

Friday night, we had the pleasure of watching my sister's three kidlets. The boys were thrilled to each have their own computer on which to play, and Olivy Bean and B made rice krispies, drew tons of O's, shared a bubbly bath, and read stories. El escaped to a friend's house for the night - have I mentioned how smart this kid is? As soon as the boys and I figured out how to turn on the video games, their parents returned. It figures - poor guys!

Saturday, B and I drove to Brantford to visit my cousin Dee-Dee and her three kidlets - Hannah-Banana, Bup Bup, and Chubby Bubby. I was super excited because Dee-Dee is the absolute FUNNIEST and coolest girl in the world. And she is passionate about food, and I like to eat! A match made in heaven. So without waiting for an invite, I packed our pyjamas, Sunday robes, and toothbrushes, and told her we planned to sleep over. Dee-Dee did not disappoint! We put the kids to bed at 9, and we stayed up 'til 2 knitting and laughing and telling preposterous stories! I promised we would leave first thing in the morning.

And then the morning came, and Dee-Dee whipped up some apple p-cakes all around! Oh dear, they were so delicious. And instead of leaving early first thing as promised, we trailed behind them to church. And after church, I couldn't refuse the offer of homemade chicken and rice soup, so we stayed longer. And then, coffee and butter hogs were in order. I finally made my way out the door at 2:30 in the afternoon with a tear-streaked B sobbing in my arms . Only after promises of returning very soon!

B, Bup Bup and Hannah Banana posing for the camera.
A typical walk to church with Dee-Dee.Here's Chubby Bubby wearing a hat I whipped up the night before with a Nubby as per Dee-Dee's request. To my surprise, it fit him perfectly - and shockingly I did not swatch or measure his wee head.

Poor B sobbed all the way home. She didn't want to ever leave. Me too, B. Me too. My favourite part - listening to the same seven songs of which six were Dutch Christmas tunes. Oh, and the China Hole - everyone should have one in their backyard.

"on the radio we heard November Rain, that solo's really long, but it's a pretty song and we listened to it twice 'cause the DJ was asleep . . ."


Hot Head

Dear N,

We are having people over tonight for dinner so I have to run and think of dessert #2 to make. I know, I tend to go overboard with desserts but isn't that the best part of the meal? Of course T is making his coconut mussels which I love.

Here is a hat that I started on Friday and finished this morning after church. It knit up quickly and I like the braid stitch, however, it's a little short (my sisters tell me I have a big head) and doesn't quite cover my ears but I think I can still wear it during the fall. I completely forget where I got the pattern from but it's a really easy braid stitch.

I think I've decided on chocolate shortbread. I've got the apple tart cooling and the house is tidied. Hope you have a really nice rest of the weekend!


Clapotis Cake

I think knitters everywhere are going to want that buttony scarf pattern including me!! I also think that not having to work during the day allows one to take better pictures. The lighting is most wonderful on those last few shots.

My knitter-y friends dropped in last night, and we gabbed, wound wool cakes, and knit. I could host a million of these little gatherings! I was horrible at winding yarn, but something must have stuck because today I was able to wind up two before B's ballet class without a snag. It was very liberating. Am I the only person that thinks cakes of wool are the most beautiful thing in the whole world? I should have taken a picture of my mantle because it is slowly being taken over by these little bundles of absolute joy!

Here's the alpaca I have chosen for my clapotis. It doesn't look too camouflage to you, does it? Just lie, and say no.

And thanks to Kat's suggestion, we whipped up this little sock knitting bag. On both outsides are pockets. If you lift up that flap, you can throw a pattern and some notions into the folds.

And you can throw your yarn and sock-in-progress into the middle pocket. How cool is that?

All that's left is to run some stitches across the top about a half-inch or so to run some cords through to make it a drawstring pouch. Voila! We threw this together in five minutes. It took longer than it should because I insisted on pinning the seams. Kat laughed at me. It really wasn't necessary.

I hear the Law & Order chimes, so I best be going. G'night.


All In A Day's Work

So I gathered up some courage to walk over to the dentist for my 1 p.m. appointment (it's only two blocks away) and stupid me had the wrong week! I was relieved to say the least and it gave me time to run over to Super Target to pick up some graham cracker crumbs for the squares that I was planning on making.Mmmmm, delicious and only five ingredients. What's not to like? You can find the recipe here. I use dark chocolate chips and pecans to give a more sophisticated edge.

I finished sewing the buttons on this yesterday. I wanted something that would keep my neck warm yet would allow me to take it on and off without wrapping around my neck so many times. I find that the winding and unwinding of scarves gives me major static hair and can look bulky under a coat. I just knit up a rectangle with four button holes on one end and we have a very simple neck warmer. The yarn is Baby Alpaca that I picked up last summer at Lettuce Knits in Toronto.So now I am just waiting for T to get home and we'll make dinner (hamburgers and sweet potato fries) and maybe watch a movie. I'm beginning to like this whole stay at home thing.


Yes, Katherine, immigrating to the US from Canada is a huge pain. Thanks for your support!

The Real Housewife of Hennepin County

Dear N,

First of all, congratulations of the completion of your first pair of socks. Please post pictures even though they may still be on your feet after three days. Secondly, the Buttony looks fantastic on you! I love it and if I were El I would keep it and not let my mother take it away. You have been a busy little knitter/baker! Oh, and thirdly, I apologize for being MIA these last few weeks. As you know, I have to stop working for the next three months due to immigration issues and this extended "vacation" began on Friday. My coworkers took me out for happy hour and wished me all the best. They have been so supportive through this whole immigration thing. I'll keep you posted on what happens but for now, I will enjoy the time that I have to rest, clean, craft, and prepare for the holidays.

And speaking of the holidays, I did manage to do some knitting during my sixty hour work weeks to whip up another tiny sweater. This one is for my husband, a true Toronto boy who is very dedicated to the Raptors and the Leafs. He thinks it's cool.Here is a little monkey modeling the sweater. He looks happy in it, don't you think?This is the first tiny sweater that I made that I will give to one of T's parents. It's in the University of Minnesota colours. Go you Gophers!The pattern is from here. They're really fun to knit and a great way to use up your yarn bits. I think they may also fit Barbie but I can't be sure as we have no Barbies in the house.

Hope you had a nice weekend. Enjoy your extra hour! I'll email you during the day like I used to when I was working. I think those emails kept me sane a lot of the time. Bye for now!


The Tart Trick

Note to self: Clean the bathroom mirror before taking pictures of self. I am also wearing my pyjama pants I made. And you can't see my feet, but I am still wearing the socks. They are starting to smell.

I couldn't be happier with this sweater - it fits me! Of course this would happen because I told El all along it was hers, and I made it to fit her, not me. I know this kid inside and out. I just need to wait it out. She'll wear it twice tops, and then I can move in and snatch it back.

Next in queue:
Oh and this morning from 7 to 8:30, I watched The Queen, and I am head over heels in love with Tony and Lizzie. I may just watch it again tomorrow before everyone wakes up. And I am listening to Jose Gonzalez on the white sofa. I could listen to Heartbeats over and over, but now that I have his CD, I have some new favourites! I haven't gone on any shopping sprees, I simply picked up my holds from the library again. What would I do without the LPL?

Night, night.


Sweet Diversions

I have been knitting like a madwoman to finish the buttony, and I have only 5 inches on the second sleeve, and it will be complete. Hooray!

I like to break up my knitting with a bit of blog reading. While catching up with my long list of favourites, I happened upon these tarts, and I bumped the girls out of the kitchen and whipped up a batch. Oh so yummy. I wish someone would come over for a pot of tea and butter tarts!

Back to the buttony! Giddy-up! I think I am experiencing a sugar high!


Pledge Handmade

I pledge to buy handmade this holiday season with the exception of books and technology as I live with geeks. I have some ideas for some of my family and friends, and what I can't create myself, I will turn to etsy and holiday bazaars. And this isn't the naturally-born thrift in me speaking, because I know that the true cost of making gifts by hand always costs more than buying mass-produced items in a superstore. I am very aware of this fact today because I am wearing my NEW completely finished pair of knitted socks today!! You read that right. I finished up my socks last night, and I wore them to work this morning. I took off my shoes countless times to twirl up and down the corridors while encouraging my co-workers to pet and compliment my beautiful socks. They did a very convincing act of caring. God bless them. :)

Next up - some plain socks using my Black Lamb sock yarn I bought at the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter's Fair! I love these colours!

I hope everyone enjoys their weekend. The girls and I plan to be very lazy and loaf around until inspiration and stirrings of creativity strike.