Happy Samhain

Last night was Hallowe’en and I have to say, it was the most fun I’ve had on Halloween in a while. K is now officially “too old” to dress up (says him! “Never!” says I!).  B went as a ninja (and was out the door to meet her friends so fast, I never got a photo). She debated adding an onion and a kitchen knife to her costume (in tribute to those onion-chopping ninjas who sneak up on you during certain episodes of Gray’s Anatomy just to make you cry), but after discovering we were out of onions and pondering the wisdom of bringing an 8″ long blade to a party, decided a plain ninja would have to do.  I was a witch, as I often am–when I’m not wearing a hazmat suit and handing out terribly “toxic” candy with BBQ tongs that is. This year, I added battery-powered copper stringed fairy lights wrapped around my pointy witch hat for good measure and I quite liked the effect.

But the house…

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The house was done up in fine style with a graveyard on the lawn, a Harry Potter-esque dementor hovering just below the tree branches, and a quirky magic shop set up beside the porch. (I apologize for the terribly blurry picture).

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I had, as I often do, left the garden to grow wild and unkempt and suitably spooky for the season.

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And of course, as I do every year, I had the fog machine going with its sound effects, strobe light, and smoke.

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So what did my magic shop sell? I had candy galore, of course, and stickers promoting Girl Guides of Canada, and books.

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A whole table full of children’s books, plus an extra bin under the table with more. All for free.

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The reactions of the kids when they realized I was giving out books was fantastic. It truly was amazing.

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One little boy said “Oh! It’s a shop! A book shop! How much are the books?” When I told him they were free, he could pick one to keep, he turned around and ran over to his parents, yelling “Mom! Dad! Books! She has books!”

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Many of the kids expressed how much they like to read. Some shyly, some loudly, but all with sparkling eyes and absolute sincerity.

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Those who chose to take a book often lingered over the table while making their choice. Some lingered so long it prompted their parents to come closer to see what, exactly, was going on at that spooky house with the witch behind the table and a lovely set of Griffindor robes hanging off a dressmaker’s dummy.

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Another group of tall teenaged boys in various gruesome costumes all took some candy and laughed at the kids’ books on offer until one of the boys reached for the pinkest, prettiest, girliest book on the pile. His friends started teasing him, but he ignored them and asked me “Is it okay if I take this one? I have a little sister who would love it.”

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Suddenly their teasing turned to “Oh yeah! Great idea! Way to go, man, she’ll love that. That’s really awesome of you!” and I thought to myself, yup, they’ll turn out just fine, those boys.

All in all, 65 books and 175 snack-sized pieces of chocolate later, it was a very fun night for me and probably the best Samhain celebration I’ve had in a long time.

After all, books really are the very best sort of magic.

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Pride and Joy

There are few things in life that inspire pride and joy more than the people you bring into the world. Sometimes you are proud of their academic achievements. Sometimes it’s their musical talents that trigger that rush of warmth and joy. Sometimes, it’s the kindness and generosity with which they treat others both larger and smaller than themselves.

Mostly you’re proud of the sheer focus, determination, and hours of hard work they throw at whatever they’re trying to accomplish at the moment.

Lately, it’s been so many things. It’s been a teenaged girl working with tremendous dedication and attention to detail on a project for a well-loved science teacher. It’s been a teenaged boy happily entertaining his very much younger cousin with endless patience and much 3-year-old giggling.

It’s been this small group of girls taking over the sunroom with copious amounts of cardboard and duct tape and paint, all in the name of charity.

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It’s been our young man joining a group of kids on the ski hills week after week, stretching his comfort zone and building new friendships. And coping admirably well when a moment’s poor judgement by one of his peers coupled with spectacularly icy roads led to a ski patrol rescue, an ambulance in the ditch, a second (and quite spectacular) rescue involving ropes and crampons and I’m sure more than a few hearts in throats, and 2 bus loads of teenagers (including mine) stuck at the bottom of the hill an hour from home until the wee hours of the morning.

It’s been our boy and a bunch of his friends and classmates walking for hour upon hour and raising many, many thousands of dollars for Relay for Life.

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It’s been a whole group of girls, none of them not mine, who are so willing to strike off on an adventure without the slightest clue what we’re going to be asking them to do, merely because we ask them to trust us week after week and they do.

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We have a serious amount of fun together, these girls and my fellow Guiders and I, trying our hands at circus school, glass mosaics, obstacle courses, computer programming, shoreline cleanups, all the hijinks and fun at camp, and more than a few community service projects. It’s a beautiful thing.

But mostly what’s filling my heart with pride these days is the sight of these:

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Both kids are playing in the ball hockey leagues again this year and come home red faced and drenched with sweat, happy they won or dissappointed they lost, but always playing hard, having fun, and congratulating teammates and opponents alike on great plays or fantastic saves.

Of course, it could just be that these shirts are making me happy simply because with 2 kids in 2 different leagues, we’re spending so very much time at the arena. I’m either cheering those shirts on, washing them, hanging them to dry, or asking if you’re SURE they’re in the bag and ready to go because we really do have to leave 3 minutes ago if we want to be on time for the pre-game warmup…hockey is sort of our life right now and these shirts seem to be everywhere I look, making me proud.

Maybe it’s because I’ve reached a certain age, or maybe because I’ve been investing so much of myself in 30 girls not my own week after week, or maybe just because I’ve been thinking about it a lot and therefore noticing it more, but everywhere I look these days, I see kids and teens doing great things, having fun, giving back to their communities, and making me proud of the world we live in. How about you?

Here comes the sun…

We have definitely turned the corner from Winter and begun Spring in earnest. Oh, there’s still a pile of snow on the front lawn that’s now as high as my chest, but the days have been warm, the ground wet more than cold, and the air ripe with the promise of green growing things to come.

This morning, I woke early and made my way downstairs to make muffins, and this is the sight that greeted me out the patio door:

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Clear blue skies and a gorgeous ball of light making everything bright. The kitchen and the attached eating area we call the sun room were filled with sunshine (the sun room is aptly named, after all) and my heart hummed with happiness while I made up the batter and popped trays of muffins into the oven.

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Soon, the muffin jar was filled to overflowing and the house was filled with the most delicious aroma. It was so tempting, that smell. And that sunshine, too.

Who could resist all that goodness in one place? Not me!

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A cup of tea, some organic cane sugar flavoured with little bits of lemon, and mini muffins in three varieties. It was a most delicious way to start the day.

 

I have a crush

It’s true. I have a crush on someone. He knows it, too, and it makes him grin every time he looks at me.

One might wonder what, exactly, it takes for me to start crushing on someone. (Hint: it involves yarn.)

You see, for Christmas, a certain man we call Dad gifted me some yarn. A whole bunch of yarn. Skeins and skeins of it. A dozen, at least, in all different colours, weights, and fibres. One in particular was so wonderfully bright and cheerful and soft and lofty with just the most perfect amount of haze that it started making me smile before I even got it out of the package.

And then I cast on with it last week, on a gray and dull day, and my entire day was vastly improved within seconds.

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Seriously. Look at those colours. How can anyone not end up totally crushing on a man who brings you yarn in those colours?

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It’s Isaac Mizrahi Craft Sutton, and the colorway is Amsterdam. I love it. It’s amazing. Especially when modeled by The World’s Giggliest Knitwear Model while wearing a shirt that couldn’t clash more if it tried:

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Isn’t she beautiful? I love that dimple. And that yarn. Ohhhh, that yarn!

I’ve been wearing the scarf all week. It’s just a simple little garter stitch scarf where you cast on until it looks wide enough and then knit row after row until you run out of yarn (I only had 2 skeins of it, after all), and then you wrap it around your neck and remember how very, very much you are in love with the man who gave you the yarn that is brightening your days as March rolls in.

Pointy things and then more pointy things.

When last I posted, I was pondering whether or not to add the border to the Mariposa throw. In the end, I did–but true to form, I did not follow the recipe.

Oh, I mostly did, at least for the first row, building the border bit by bit as it wove its way up one point and down another, skipping over the valley to make a little point of its own. But when it came time for the second round, I decided to do things a little differently and worked a back post stitch instead, giving the border the same lush thickness found on the rest of the throw’s squares.

I still have doubts about how sturdy the little toe-catching loops are going to be, but it’s done now, for better or worse.

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And with the Mariposa finished, something else covered in points found itself flying off my hook:

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Isn’t he the sweetest little toothy guy?

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He’s done in a combination of super bulky and worsted weight yarns, and the pattern is a mish-mash of things I’ve seen elsewhere combined with quite a few modifications of my own.

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Everyone keeps commenting on his eyes and I must say, I am terribly pleased with how they turned out.

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I’ve documented what I did on Ravelry (more or less – it’s not a formal pattern per se, just enough notes so I could duplicate what I did should I choose to in the future). It’s meant to be a preschooler/child size, but it could easily be made smaller or larger by adjusting the number of increase rounds in the crown of the hat before beginning to work straight.

A finished Mariposa

Sometime last night, this happened:

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It’s my Mariposa throw, sewn together and tails woven in (except for one random green one, I see, that managed to sneak past me). Forgive the terrible photo – it was taken late at night using my phone instead of getting a proper photo shoot.

Within minutes of finishing, this blanket found itself wrapped around our girl B. She still proclaims loudly to anyone who will listen that she simply does not understand why this blanket is a family blanket and not a blanket just for her.

And then she announces–also loudly–that I have to make her one of her own.

I have pointed out that she knows how to crochet and could make herself one, but judging from the scandalized look I got in return, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

In the meantime, I’m going to sew in that last green tail and contemplate some more whether or not I want to put the green border on that the pattern calls for.

The border is bothering me, you see. It’s perfect, matching the stems as it does. It’s a lovely pop of colour, too.  But the Mariposa throw has an irregular border that zigs and zags all the way around, and the border includes a funny little zig and zag of its own, leaving little triangular loops in the inside edges of the zigs and zags.

I have visions of people catching fingers and toes in the little loops and damaging the blanket. (Not their toes. Why would I worry about their toes? Let’s be serious here.)

You can see the loops I’m talking about on the pattern page at the Felted Button; just scroll down to the last picture in the post for a really clear look.

So I think I’m going to let it sit for a day or two while I ponder the border. Maybe I’ll leave off the loops, or maybe fill them in with double and treble stitches to make them solid bits instead of loops. Or maybe I’ll do them just as prescribed and see what happens.

What do you think?

A stocking is the thing

It dawns on me that in all the pre-Christmas crafting craziness, I never did show off all the stockings I managed to finish this year.

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The cookie stocking is the one you saw in bits and pieces in November. Bit by bit, it came together until…

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…a finished stocking was ready to head off to it’s new home.

Just in time, too, as there were a few more stockings yet to do before the big day.

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One with a sweet little reindeer…

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…one with Santa about to hop down the chimney. These two were destined for two little girls, sisters, who apparently loved them very much.

And then there was this one, simple and plain, but so much fun. The embroidery at the top was done using a couching technique, which gave it much more elegant curves than I usually manage with stem stitch and I am thrilled with how it turned out.

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But the one that captured my heart this year was a custom design that took many hours of back-and-forth discussion before we settled on a final plan, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

It started with a wolf.

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A few trees and some snowy hills filled out the body of the design.

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And a generous helping of embroidery and beading made the snow sparkle.

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The trees were embroidered, too. They were stuffed lightly first so that when the embroidery stitches went in, the green felt took on a life of its own with branches and twigs, full and leafy, coming to life in more than just my imagination. A sweet little owl made its home in the branches, too.

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And finally, the top cuff was put on in layers, embroidered, and beaded.

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It was based on a traditional First Nations design and together with the feather dangle, adds a huge amount of character to the stocking.

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All in all, I am so very pleased with the final result.