Monday, December 31, 2012

Hope and Faith in the New Year

"Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams.  Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential.  Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but what it is still possible for you to achieve."
                                                                 - Pope John XXIII

Happy New Year friends.   Let us all embrace the hope and faith in good things to come this year.  I wish you all the very best :)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cold Comfort

I don't know about you, but these cold, dark winter days make me feel like burrowing in, cooking up something good to eat, and sitting by the fire with a good read.  I still had the Christmas tablecloth on the dining room table, so I decided to make dinner a little special this evening.

I cooked up a pork roast, and to quote Miss Bates from the movie "Emma", it must have been a happy little porker, for it was so very good!  How could anything not be good with bacon on top????

And here in the South, we like our piggies to be served with sweet potatoes.  Mine are roasted in their skins, then peeled and whizzed in the Cuisinart with cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and butter. Oh, and just a whisper of cream to make them silky smooth.

Two happy little boys tucking in.  They love it when Mommy sets the table all fancy.  See that heaping plate of food up there on top?  Um.  That one's mine.

Yes, I know.  I eat like a lumberjack.  How else am I suppose to keep my girlish figure????  So, there's the pork roast and sweet potatoes, peas and rice, cole slaw, and leftover cranberry salad from Christmas.  I'm a happy girl.

Now, after all that hard work it's time to sit by the fire, rest a bit, and warm my toes.  I love winter.  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pretty Presents

Hello, everyone!!  I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and I hope you will have a very happy New Year.  I thought I would show you a couple of my favorite things I got for Christmas this year.  Here I am wearing my beautiful mohair scarf knitted for me my by beautiful friend Meg from New Zealand.  It is to die for, and in all my favorite colors.  I love it so much, I'm thinking I might have to break down and learn to knit!  The parcel she sent was filled with a bounty of wonderful things from beautiful New Zealand.  Thank you, dear Meg!

And then there is my little luncheon plate and teacup that I bought for myself! (Do you do that too?)  I picked it up at a local antiques mall, and I just love it.  I'm not sure how old it is, but I would guess that it's probably from the 1960's.  There is a stamp on the bottom that says Made In Germany, and it is numbered, but there are no other markings that would identify the company that made it.  Those little white snowball-like cookies are also from Meg - they are scrumptious iced pepper gingerbread.  Yum.

I love the pale blue glazing on the inside of the cup and around the rim of the plate.  I also love the delicate touches of black on the rim of the cup and the handle.  I love a little touch of black on just about anything. (Must be my dramatic side)  But, my favorite thing is how the outside of the cup is faceted, and upon each individual facet a different little motif is painted - a mixture of fruit and flowers.

It's such a treat to sit in front of the fire and have a nice little snack in the afternoon on my little luncheon plate.  I love such little rituals that make the everyday and ordinary something a little more special.  It's a tiny indulgence that makes life a little more enjoyable.  Plus, I get to pretend that I'm an elegant lady having tea at Downton Abbey or something.  Some people never grow up!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Long and Short of It

This week I am attempting to learn the long and short stitch.  I have shied away from it in the past because, quite frankly, I was intimidated.  I find the satin stitch to be the most difficult stitch by far, and as it is a close cousin, I was afraid it would also be hard to learn.

I decided to make my first attempt with an old familiar friend, the mushroom.  I'm pretty familiar with their shape, and thought it would be an easy enough subject to tackle on my first try.

So, I sketched out a little shroomie and set off.  I decided to start out with the long and short buttonhole stitch to go around the border, because I think it makes a nice, neat edge.  So far, so good!

Here I have completed the border and have begun filling in with the long and short stitch, and I'm feeling pretty good about how it's going so far.  But then........

I started to run into trouble when I got to the "corners".  See down at the bottom on either side how the stitches are meeting at strange angles and running over top of each other?  Help!  What did I do wrong?  How could I have worked the stitches so that there wouldn't be this messy miss-mosh in the corners?  I've thought about it and thought about it and tried to think of how I could have done this differently, and I'm stumped.  Did I mess myself up out of the gate with the long and short buttonhole border?

Anywho, I soldiered on and finished it.  I had come so far!  I didn't want to give up on it and toss it in the trash, so I did the best I could.  Then, I tried to disguise the most awkward spots with a few little white french knots for dots.

I am still very much a beginner!  I really want to learn how to do this, and would greatly appreciate any advice you may have on how to work the stitching lines.  I have searched the internet for information on how to draw the directional stitching lines, but haven't come across anything very helpful.  In the mean time, I will finish up my little shroomie and use him somehow, someday.  Or maybe I'll just keep him tucked away as a reminder of my first try at this new and challenging stitch!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Big Creek

The dogs and I ventured down onto the shores of the big creek that forms the border on the back of our property.  We have three creeks, and since this one is by far the largest, we call it the big creek.  You can see it's quite wide and shallow.  Perfect for wading and exploring.

There are also many large sand banks which form beaches up and down the length of it.  This one is about 40 yards long and about 15 yards wide.  It's a great spot to relax any time of year, but we use it mostly in the summer.  I like to sunbathe, and the boys like to play in the sand and float in the creek.  Even during the hottest part of the summer, this water is icy cold.

There are many wonderful treasures to be found here, like these freshwater clams.  The beach is littered with hundreds of them.  Raccoons and otters feast on them.  The boys draw funny faces in the soft sand and use these for eyes.

There are also freshwater snails and snail shells by the thousands.  I imagine these freshwater mollusks must have played a central role in the diet of the native Americans who lived here before.  We know they made beads and charms with them.

I like to collect bits of driftwood.  I plan to make some outdoor ornaments with them.  I've seen some interesting things made from small bits of driftwood, and I'm collecting a bit to see what I can do with it.

I especially liked this piece that has been hollowed out by the slow erosion of water and sand.

Across from our favorite stretch of creek beach stands this wonderful copper beech.  Can you see why they call it a copper beech?  It's leaves really do look like they're made of copper - especially when illuminated by the soft winter sun.

This is a narrower section upstream a ways and just below our house.  You can see Smokey down there furiously wagging his tail - fishing.  There is a big flat rock out in the middle, and the water forms a rushing rivulet there on the left.  I imagine this would have been a great place for Native American women to wash clothes or clean food.

Here you can see the roofline of our house on top of the ridge. This photo is deceiving.  Everything is sort of flattened out, but in "real life", the banks of this section of the creek are very deep - about 15 or 20 feet.  This is a wonderful spot in the summer time - dark and cool and shady. It's like a whole different world. In fact, my secret place is down in here.  The spot I go to when I really want to be alone.  I remember having favorite hiding places as a child.  It's still nice to have one!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Paring Down

I love the spare, stark beauty of winter.  It is quiet and peaceful to the eyes and the ears, and the soul.  And, I must admit, there is also a haunting, lonely quality to the landscape that resonates deep within me.  I am an introverted, contemplative soul, and winter suits me.

I love the sparkle of frost.  The clean, crystalline quality to the air.  Thoughts become simpler, sharper, uncluttered.  Somehow, I am one of those people whose inner world is greatly influenced by the outer world.  Winter brings peace.  Quiet. Clarity.

This year, I am determined to enjoy the Christmas season even if it means that my house will not be decorated like a spread in Country Living.  Even if my family has to eat Pillsbury cookies instead of homemade ones.  For so many years, I have deceived myself into thinking that I must provide my children with a Martha Stewart Christmas - everything homemade and perfectly executed.  Well, that has never happened, and I have always felt as if I have let them and myself down somehow.  I wanted their childhood memories of Christmas to be perfect.

This year, my thoughts have changed.  Perhaps the simple beauty of the spare winter landscape has impressed upon me that it is ok not to have all that stuff.  Sometimes, simple is best.  So, I have cleared my schedule of superfluous gatherings.  I have decided not to put out all of my usual decorations that literally takes days to put up, and even worse, days to take down and put away.  And, I think I might even take a break from making things.  I need some time to rest and recharge my creative spirit.  Instead of staying up late working to finish handmade gifts and craft projects, I want to sit by the fire and read.  Walk in the woods.  Take naps.  Maybe do a jigsaw puzzle with my kids.  And if I feel like it, I might just putter around in the kitchen a little.  But, you will not find me struggling in vain to create a Martha Stewart Christmas at my house this year.  Instead of trying to create some idealized version of Christmas, I am going to take a deep breath and relax and allow Christmas to gently unfold around us this year.

Thank you all so much for visiting my blog this year, and for all your kind, and encouraging comments you have left for me.  What a gift you all have been.

God bless you, and Merry Christmas everyone.  I wish you joy and peace and hearts overflowing with love and laughter and thanksgiving.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Reindeer Ornament

Here is the completed reindeer ornament from my last post.  I added some evergreen sprigs and a little sparkle with some silvered glass beads.  I tried to capture the idea of his bounding through the forest.

On the back, I played around with combining faux bois and sashiko.  Whadya think?  Does this work? I can't decide.

And I also finished up my experimental 3D toadstool ornament with a jute twine bow and hanger.  I really like that frayed edge and plan to use that again in the future.  Just goes to show that sometimes when things go wrong, it can lead you in a new and unexpected direction.  I love when that happens.

So, these ornies are completed and now I'm sitting here drumming my fingers.  Wondering where to go from here.  I had thought about creating a bunch of ornaments and trying to sell them on Etsy, but I'm not sure.  I just don't know if I could make enough of them to make it worth my while - or if they would even sell!  I have no experience with selling my work online or elsewhere for that matter, and I'm a little reluctant to try to go there.  It's a thought that keeps lurking.  We'll see.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wonderland Workshop

Four more little peg dollies have had their make-up done.  They are awaiting hair and costumes.  Notice there are two good little girls who are very reverent, and then there is the one who wears a little too much make-up and has her eyes open during prayers and vespers, and then there is the one who is obviously amused by something the naughty one said.  I love how they each have their own little personalities.  I think I could get addicted to doll-making.

And remember this piece of painted cloth?  Well, I finally found a use for it.  I'm always searching for ways to add more dimension to my work, and this is a little experiment in fabric relief.

I was pretty happy with the result!  Even though this was just an experiment, I hated not to use it somehow.

So,  I'm turning it into an ornament.  As I stitched around the outside edge, the fabric began to fray.  At first, I thought it was ruined, but then as I looked at it some more, I kinda liked that frayed edge look.  So, I frayed it some more!  I think it's kinda cute in a rustic, distressed way.  Sort of that wabi sabi thing.  Yeah.  That's turning lemons into lemonade :)

And then a little reindeer (of the southern whitetail variety) came bounding through the forest and has inspired another ornament.

Even though it is not officially the Christmas season until tomorrow, Wonderland workshop is in full swing ornament production!  Crosby and Sinatra are crooning.  Tiny white lights are twinkling.  I'm in my happy place. :))))))

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christy, the Christmas Elf

Meet Christy - the little Christmas elf.  My first doll ever!!  I only have the one picture, because this was a total experiment, and I really wasn't sure if it was going to turn out well or not.  I recently purchased Salley Mavor's book,  Felt Wee Folk,  and was dying to make something from it.  Most of the patterns in the book are for little fairies, but I adapted them to make an elf.  I think she turned out pretty well!  Well enough to make me want to make more of these little dolls.  They are quick and easy.  I made her in an afternoon.  These would be great as ornaments or place card holders at the children's table.  I might have to make a whole tree full of these little guys!  If you've ever  thought about making a doll, I highly recommend this book.  Great photos, great step-by-step instructions, and lots of inspiration.  Check it out and make some dolls of your very own! :)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hunting and Gathering

Dried seed pods from the Florida anise.  I wonder if I could use them in cooking?  Must Google that.

Turkey tail fungus.  Can you see why they are called that?

They have the texture of suede.  Leathery on the back and soft on the front.

Gorgeous dried seed heads.  I love that they look like a little sunburst.

 Muscadine vines gathered in September.

Stripped of their leaves and soaking in water to make them pliable again.  I'm planning to make my own wreaths with these this year.  Perhaps some small ones for hanging on drawer knobs or ornaments for the tree.

Treasures from my walk.  Bits of bark and lichen covered twigs.

Seed heads from the wildflowers in the meadow.  Acorn caps, Magnolia cones from the tree in my front yard.

Plain wooden birdhouse ornaments (from Hobby Lobby) painted and covered in bark, lichen, and dried flowers with a pine cone petal roof.

These were soooo much fun to make!!

Each November I have the privilege of preparing the Thanksgiving feast for my family.  I love doing it, but I cannot deny that it leaves me a little tired afterward.  So, it has become sort of a tradition of mine that on the day after Thanksgiving, when everyone else in the world seems to be going to the shopping mall, I spend the day at home crafting, sewing, napping, basically doing whatever I like.  It's my one day off - the whole year!  No cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, nothing that can be called "work".

So, yesterday I spent the morning walking through the woods with a little basket and a pair of old scissors.  Hunting and gathering little treasures.  Pieces of bark that have fallen off of old dead trees, acorn caps of all sizes, dried seedheads from wildflowers, lichen covered twigs, leathery tree fungus, etc.  And then, I spent the afternoon crafting little woodland ornaments.  Aaaaaahhhhhh.......bliss!