Saturday, November 30, 2013

We did it: Friendsgiving (+ much much more)

What a week! Our anniversary, Husband's birthday, Thanksgivikkuh, I missing anything? Wow, I feel about partied out. This post will consist of picture collages and explanations thereof. 
Last Saturday was our wedding anniversary and we spent a lovey dovey, rrrromantic three days in St. Louis by ourselves. Aww yeah. Despite me pretty much completely losing my voice on Saturday, everything was perfect. When we got there we found out that a band we love, High On Fire, was playing ON our anniversary! It was amazing and prompted Husband to create the tag #metalversary. Other highlights included lots of alone time, great Mexican food, the art museum, and the list goes on and on. So much love. <3

On the way home we visited Cahokia, a large archeological site from the Mississippian culture that created a huge city complete with enormous earthen mounds. Pretty freaking incredible. We even climbed to the top of the biggest mound, where the chief lived, and went to a recreation of their woodhenge. What a perfect way to end a perfect trip!
A few days after we came back it was Husband's birthday and some friends came to our house to celebrate. He made a plethora of Asian dishes. I made him some seasoned salt. 
Next came Thanksgiving, which was very event-full and we ended up sort of vegging out that night. 

Friday was Friendsgiving and we did it up proper. The first part of the day was spent grocery shopping for ingredients, cooking, setting the table, etc. Then came the friends, food, and fun. 
We played so much dreidel. I think everyone was pretty dreideled out by the end of the night, but in a good way. Husband made a brisket and latkes, and friends brought an array of amazing side dishes and desserts. 
Today there were no parties! Our family checked out a nature area we had never been to and had a great time outside in the nice weather. 
Believe it or not, the fun isn't over! We still have one more day left of this super fun five days we've had off of work and school with each other!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Thanksgiving Reflection

Thanksgiving is tomorrow! At the moment I'm very thankful I'm feeling well enough to cook tomorrow as I've had a rough go of it this week. But I'm on the upswing and the pumpkin pie is baked and tomorrow promises a morning filled with a busy kitchen and some great food! 

As I was rolling out pie crust tonight I got to thinking about thankfulness. Some people choose to pick something to be thankful for each day of November, others will perhaps take turns going around the table tomorrow and sharing their thankfulness while enjoying turkey. 

All great choices, but sometimes I wonder how deeply we reflect on the powerful moments that shape what we are thankful for. 

One of the most common responses is being thankful for ones family (which of course is a wonderful response). Let's face it, we'd kinda be assholes if we didn't say we were thankful for our family, our children, our significant other. But it want to take it deeper than that. 

This summer I had the most powerful experience of my life. The experience that showed me just how deep the bonds of siblings run. The experience that defines thankfulness for this family of mine.

We welcomed our 3rd beautiful baby boy last January. 

In May we found out that he was born with a condition called craniosynostosis and would need major skull surgery in July. We were beside ourselves with anxiety over it. I can't even remember much about the weeks leading up to surgery, I didn't sleep much and was pretty much a mess. 

Surgery was hard. Because of a hereditary bleeding disorder (sorry boys, you got that from mama) he had to stay sedated for 24 hours post op. That was the hardest. Not being able to hold your baby for 24 hours,while you watch them moan through the pain despite morphine and being sedated....well it makes your heart break a little. 

When he finally was able to come out of sedation the swelling really kicked in. I could now pick him up but his head was so swollen it felt like 3 times the size. His big beautiful eyes swelled shut, all but a little sliver shone through on his left eye. He moaned but was otherwise unresponsive to us, and then the most amazingly powerful thing I've ever witnessed happened. His big brothers arrived. As soon as he heard their voices and felt their hands holding his, my sweet little baby started to babble to them. He even smiled a little. Those wonderful big brothers, even though they were a bit dismayed by the incision across their baby brothers head, and his face which now resembled a sumo wrestler (even his poor little ears swelled) they just kept rubbing his hands and talking to him. And that's when I knew just how amazing the bond my children have with each other is.

It's that moment I thought about while mixing up the pumpkin pie. I'll never forget it, not in all my days. The love of siblings, the love of a family. 

So this Thanksgiving, as you're passing around the cranberry sauce and the gravy, take a moment to really think about the powerful experiences that have shaped your thankfulness. 

And do share them here :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Work In Progress: The Startover Scarf

Backstory:  I started making this scarf for someone I've never met.  It's a friend of a friend that has been going through a lot of challenges lately and basically has to start from scratch.  He somehow ended up here, in Chicago, right before winter hits without even a winter coat.  As my friend was finishing his story about this person, I picked up my knitting needles and started this scarf.  

I named this piece "The Startover Scarf" because it's a part of someone's new beginning.  Little did I know that it would take on a life of it's own and live up to its name before all is said and done...

...this is the 3rd time I've pulled apart and restarted this scarf.
(startover, indeed)

I'm using super bulky wool and size 17 needles (yeah baby).  How long will it be?  Until the yarn runs out.  :)
I have a picture in my head of a double or triple wrap scarf that connects with 2 big wood buttons.
Manly and adorable all at the same time, plus it's wool so it will be nice and warm for the winter.

I'm at the halfway point right now... time to finish up, add the buttons and send it off to its new owner!
What are YOU working on right now?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Even craftgirls get the blues...

I learned something about myself today...

I have this "thing" where I set certain standards for myself and if they are not met, I tend to punish myself.  I was supposed to vend at an open house and it was going to be an intimate event at one of my friends' homes.  My friend makes GORGEOUS candles.  GORGEOUS, I tell ya.  She's also a Reiki Master Practitioner so she has a line of reiki-infused chakra candles that I just HAD TO GET MY HANDS ON.  Another vendor is pretty established in the area for her bath & body products.  You name it, she makes it.  There were also jewelry makers and what not attending as well.

You know what I make?

candles, bath & body stuff,  knit & crochet accessories, hair accessories.  and I paint. and I woodburn.  pretty much any and all crafts I can get my hands on.

You know how much I sold?

nothing.  I never even took my inventory out of the case for people to see

and I'll tell you why....

First off, I wasn't prepared with enough inventory and that pissed me right off.  I had MAYBE 10 things total ready for sale, almost all of them knit earwarmers.  I haven't been making things as fast as I usually do.  I haven't had the time or made the time.  I'll spare you my long and distinguished list of excuses.

I've been in a bit of a creative slump lately.  You can always tell when I'm tired and creatively blocked because stuff starts to pile up in my house.  Boxes of things are arranged neatly in the open spaces of my living room & kitchen floor so that they are almost ready to be tripped over.  Jars and containers I need to consolidate are arranged neatly on the kitchen floor as they anxiously await the scrubs, lotions & potions I will eventually fill them with for holiday gift sets.  The 2 reusable shopping bags I used to clean out all the "essential" items out of my old car that I have yet to put into my new car (because honestly, if I have a new, reliable car... do I really need my grandfather's jumper cables that are older than me?)

Creative ideas are trapped inside my head with no way out 

and eventually... 

I, too, will be trapped inside my apartment 
with no clear pathway out.

Second, I was late to arrive at the open house.  This was mostly out of my control, I took my car in to get a remote start.  Yes, I made the appointment for today when I knew I had plans but I took the car in at 830 this morning fercripessake.  I didn't think I would have an issue getting to an event at 6pm.

So this is what I do.  When I am not mentally or physically prepared for something, I clam right the heck up and put myself in time out.  No vending your few crafts at THIS event, young lady.  Get it together and maybe next time.  I did manage to reward myself with shopping while I was in my self-imposed time out though.  A set of chakra candles and an extra throat chakra candle made its way into my possession before the night was over as did a small bottle of olive oil lotion.

The good news is, I started feeling little flashes of energy and inspiration while I was there.  I get around artists and crafters and I always feel like I'm home... Comfortable to talk to everyone I meet or observe quietly from behind a camera.

and just like that, I have a new project I'm working on.  Something completely unrelated to anything I saw at the open house or anything I've done before and I must say I'm excited to get it just right before I am ready to offer it up to the world... and not a second sooner.  No more timeouts.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November's Feast: Friendsgiving: Main Course

I'm not sure how aware you are that Hannakuh begins on Thanksgiving this year, but when Husband realized it, he was pretty excited.

"That means we can do Jewish food as the main course for Friendsgiving!" he exclaimed in delight. 

Woah, ok. That sounds amazing.

We toyed with the idea of making a vegetarian main dish, but his thoughts kept going to the brisket his grandma made when he left New was settled.

So brisket it is, and I'm excited to see the array of other delectable dishes that show up at our house next week! (Yes, NEXT WEEK!) In addition to the beer and/or wine (and water, too, of course), I'm thinking of making this: Crock Pot Chai to go either with the meal or dessert.

As for the table, I would like to hit up some thrift stores and try to find a brown table cloth. If I can't find one, I might try to find a similarly fall-ish colored table runner. There still is the issue of chairs... I suppose we could make it BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair). Just kidding, we will figure that out. ;) I'm still deciding on which plates to use, but I might just go with the flow on that one.

I'm still pinning away over at All Tomorrow's (Dinner) Parties. Have you seen the Sweet Estelle stuff? Holy moly, I'm dying from the cute.

Now for a bit of a diversion from the topic...Saturday, the day after tomorrow, is mine and Husband's anniversary! All I gotta say is that I feel like the luckiest lady in the universe. So a mega shout out to Husband for being amazing. <3 I'll leave you with some pictures from that marvelous day in Audubon Park, New Orleans. Have a great weekend! ^_^

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Avraham, Carrot, Felix, and Josephine

I have been busy. Busy with foxes!
That's a good kind of busy. Check out these little guys and girls. What do you think?
The one on the left with the scarf is Carrot, who is going to be Miss G's Christmas present this year (shhhh!) and she knitted her scarf! Next to Carrot is Josephine, who is fancy and French. Felix is next in line and is silly and sweet. Last, but not least, is Avraham, who was inspired by Husband.

Carrot practicing piano with Miss G
Carrot daydreaming on a rainy day
All of the foxes were named by Miss G, who really is their inspiration in the first place. She has loved (*coughobsessedcough*) foxes since she was little bitty. It's been difficult to not ruin her holiday surprise by telling her she's getting a fox because she wants one so badly. She even said she would give me all of her allowance and get rid of her other stuffed animals if she could have one! Ack!
Carrot trying to blend in with the other toys

Along with the foxes, I created some clothing and little masks for them. I'm going to have some clothing and accessories for these cuties in the shop so people can get additional things for their foxes! 

Fox fashion show time!
The dashing Avraham
Felix being mysterious
Felix and his finery

Miss G has knitted a little burgundy shawl for Josephine. She recently learned to knit and loves it! 

What fun! Here's to fun with foxes!
The original crew

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On minimalism and holiday giving.

I'm still working on my closet folks. 

Purging. Is. Hard. 

It's not really getting rid of stuff that's hard, it's the fear of getting rid of too much. However will I survive if I get rid of too many shirts? (Duh, I'll wash the ones I have). 

We are surrounded by this fear of not having enough things to get by. Or not having enough space. Or going without things that are considered a societal norm. 

When our third son was born we kept hearing that it was minivan time. Sure a minivan might make car trips a little easier or more comfortable but 10 months later we are still making the Civic work. 

We haven't hooked up our dryer since we moved, because I don't consider it necessary. Sure, most of the population considers it a need but I'm happy with some good ol' sunshine. (Yep, even in November).

My point here is not that minivans or dryers are bad, because they aren't! My point is that it's okay to think outside the box when it it comes to weighing "needs". I've decided that I don't need 10 long sleeve t-shirts, a dryer, or a minivan ( I'm pretty psyched to rock out a station wagon when we do decide to upgrade).

When it comes time for holiday gifting my husband and I of course put a lot of thought and effort into making it special for our boys, and in years past we've worried that maybe they wouldn't have enough presents to open under the tree. But where is that line between not enough and enough, who draws that line? 

Maybe you've heard of the " want, need, wear, read" movement when it comes to gifting? If you haven't it's quite simple. You give one gift from each category per person. We've adopted this in our family and it suits us. Each boy this year will get a pair of cozy winter pajamas for the "wear" category. For "read" a special book, I haven't picked them for sure yet but I'm leaning towards some lovely winter stories. "Want" is a work in progress, and "need", well need can be a tough one. As parents we tend to provide anything our children need right away. I've found the best way to think about "need" is to consider what they may need for the winter season. This year I'm knitting them each a hat and mitten set, something they will definitely need for the Wisconsin winter but it will be special since it's mama-made. 

The other nice side effect of this little gifting motto is that we are not stretching our budget to buy a lot of quantity. Quantity inevitably ends up crumpled in a corner or shoved under a bed and that's just no fun for anybody. Since we aren't stressed about getting lots of gifts for our kids we can focus on getting quality gifts for them. 

That's a comment I hear often, the desire to buy quality items but not necessarily be able to afford them. We can't spend gobs of money either but by limiting the amount we purchase we can buy better quality items. Side note: this desire can also be used as motivation to learn a new craft or skill. 

So as we enter the season of gifting take some time to reflect on the true needs in your life. Consider where you feel comfortable drawing the line on enough. Really contemplate what gifts will be meaningful to give to your loved ones. Make a plan to buy quality over quantity, and perhaps make some gifts yourself (if you don't have the time to learn a new craft then choose to support a local crafter). 

And remember, it's about time with loved ones not stuff anyways :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

La Luna

There's a full moon tonight, if you're into that sort of thing...

I know I am.

Now, I feel like I should set a few things straight before I start waxing poetic about the full moon tonight.  Full moons are not a religious experience for me but if they are for you, awesome.  If you think all of my hippie ramblings are silly but you're willing to keep reading, also awesome.  Take what you need and leave the rest be, I always say.

So tonight's full moon is in Taurus.  Taurus' full moon is all about shining the light on what you love and value and most importantly, about finding what makes you shine. Taurus is also for grounding yourself, regrouping and zeroing in your focus to what you really want out of life.  This can take the form of material possessions or not, but the point is to really figure out what you want your life to look and feel like.  For me, it means less junk and more quality experiences with my family.

Here's a fun little activity for this evening, if you're up for it...  Get out your journal, call up a friend or sit down on the couch with your honey and take turns answering these questions:

What is true for you?  What are your core values?

What gives you passion?  What gives your life meaning?

What could you do every day for the rest of your life and enjoy doing it, 
even if you never were paid for it?

What would you do with 10 million dollars? 
 (be specific and don't censor yourself)

Journal it, talk about it with a loved one, sit in quiet reflection... whatever works for you.  And if you know a Taurus, give em a hug.  Tonight is their night too.  :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November's Feast: Friendsgiving: Preparing for Friendsgiving

The time of feasting has begun! We're starting it all off with this month's feast: Friendsgiving. How excited am I about this series of feasts? Well I'm so excited, in fact, that Husband and I went and searched out an awesome table that can seat at least 8 people. Aww yeah! (Now to find chairs...)

The calendar has been marked and friends have been notified. Exciting! November 29th it is, the day after Actual Thanksgiving and two days after The Celebration of the Birth of Husband (<--this is a very important holiday, by the way). What a busy and fun time!

I've been pinning everything wonderful and relevant I find over at All Tomorrow's (Dinner) Parties and discussing recipes with Husband. Right now we are deciding between traditional or non-traditional for the main dish. We have asked each person or couple to bring either a side dish or a dessert...or both, if they wish! Since we're doing a sort of potluck style feast, the dishes don't necessarily have to go together. It will be fun to see (and eat!) what everyone brings to the table.

I have also been scouring the local thrift shops and flea markets for interesting tableware and decorations. I'll be sure to post what I find so maybe I can help you with ideas for your own Friendsgiving! I'm brainstorming how I would like to set the table (which depends on how many people RSVP of course). Here are our current dishes to choose from for this feast. The white and gold plates have smaller, matching plates, too. What do you think?
Bigger plates on top, smaller plates on bottom
I've also thought about making at least one dessert, just because it's so freaking cute and I might not be able to resist. It's on the Pinterest board, but have you seen this?

How adorable are those? I think they would be perfect for the last feast of fall. My snickerdoodle cookies usually get requested, so I might have to make those, too. Surely no one will complain with multitudes of desserts to choose between!

So what are your favorite color schemes for fall feasts and Thanksgiving-type meals? I would be interested to hear some ideas for color!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Purge It Tuesday #1 Being Honest

Too much stuff! 

This is the current contents of my closet. Not too bad right? Wrong!!! 

By rough estimate I'd say I wear about 1/4 of these clothes on a regular basis. What's worse is we just moved last month and this is only what I've unpacked so far! There are still boxes in the basement of clothes.

So I'm starting my purge by getting honest with myself. I'm accepting the fact that I have too much ( I don't want to become one of those chicks on House Hunters who complains about closet space even when the closet is the size of my childhood bedroom). 

That was pretty easy to accept. The next part is a little more difficult. Being honest with myself about what is reasonable to keep. 

So I'm starting simply by trying it all on and being really picky about what clothes suit my body type, what clothes are comfortable and practical for my lifestyle, and what clothes make me feel good when I wear them. If it doesn't fit all 3 categories, it's gone!

Now, I must interject here. I'm a crafter, a creative soul. I want to modify everything! That's where purging gets tricky for me. So I'm giving myself some leeway here; if something doesn't suit me as is I'm allowed to put it in the modify pile.......but I have to actually do said modifications within a 2 week period or it's out!

Join me won't you? Empty that closet and find what fits, what works, and what you really like on yourself!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Way to Warm Up the Season

Those who know me know that I'm not too keen on cold weather. I like outdoor living. I like not being cold. I even like being in New Orleans in the summer. I wish I loved cold weather as much as Eryn! I'm trying. <--I say this every year around this time.
Here is me, unimpressed with the cold weather in Prague
(Seriously, though, Prague is awesome.)
One thing I do love about the mid to late fall and winter, however, is the abundance of festivities. Not only do we have Thanksgiving and the holidays in December, but for our family it also means Husband's birthday and our wedding anniversary! Once January is here, we have several family birthdays and then of course Valentine's Day in February (rrrrromantic). 

I will admit that I get pretty excited about the holidays in November and December and their various decorations, feasts, and lights, etc., but when New Year's is over I tend to start feeling kind of bleak and have to fight off depression until I see buds on the trees and green foliage again. This is something I've always struggled with, so it's nothing new. That doesn't mean it doesn't really, really suck. 

I had a spur of the moment idea today, which I shared with Husband and he agreed to with glee. My proposal: a series of feasts for our family and friends throughout the late fall and winter. He is the major chef in our house, but I've been doing a little more cooking lately and we have had a lot of fun preparing food together. It isn't unusual for us to have friends over to eat with our family. Sometimes it's a weekly thing (what is the saying - "friends are family you get to choose"?).

This will be different. More festive. Something that makes me happy in December, for example, are the holiday lights, shiny and glittery decorations, happy music. Basically I am a total sap for the holidays. Likewise, I want our feasts to be a little more fancy than usual. Pretty table settings? Sure. Napkin rings? Why not. Place cards? Maybe. Hell, I may even do actual invitations (don't hold me to that). Just something fun and cheery to spread a little happiness to the ones we care about and at the same time keep my own mood up during the coldest time of the year.

Sound fun? I have quite a few ideas and I will keep you all posted. I might even show you a few little crafts or things we are preparing for our parties! I've made a special Pinterest board just for that reason: All Tomorrow's (Dinner) Parties. I'll be adding stuff all throughout the following months, so follow along and even try it yourself if you'd like! I would love to hear your ideas for your dinner parties as well. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you are up to!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

If chicken soup is for the soul, what is curry soup for?

The heart. 

Curried soup is for the heart friends, it's soothing yet spicy, a combination that makes you feel happy, full, and gives a swift kick here and there! Which is how our hearts can feel; happy, full, and sometimes kicked around. 

So here's my recipe for curried squash soup ( please keep in mind I do not measure when I cook). 

Curried Squash Soup for the Heart

- coconut oil
- 1 butternut squash (peeled, seeded, cubed)
- 1 medium onion
- 5 cloves garlic
- approx 4 cups chicken ( or veggie) stock
- fresh ginger root (about 1 inch peeled and grated)
- green curry paste, heaping spoonful
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 scallions, cilantro, red pepper ( all optional

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a soup pot, if you don't have coconut oil use olive oil or butter. I love cooking with coconut oil though ( plus it has so many other uses nighttime moisturizer ever!). 

Sauté your onion till translucent, add in minced garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add in squash and ginger and cook on medium heat stirring frequently. After about 5 minutes add in your stock. I use the crockpot method to make stock from our Sunday roast chicken, store bought is fine just make sure it's a good quality one without added yucky ingredients. 

At this point add in a heaping spoonful of curry paste (red curry paste would be fine too).

Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer about 45 minutes or until squash is fork soft. Reduce heat to lowest setting and get out your immersion blender. Alternatively you can use a regular blender and blend in small batches, but do yourself a favor and invest in an immersion blender, $20 will save you lots of dishes!

Now it's time to add in the coconut milk, make sure you get all the creamy fat in there ( yes, please lick the spatula. It's good for ya and I won't tell). Stir until it's well blended. 
Add in your scallions, red pepper flakes, and garnish with cilantro. Serve, enjoy, and don't do any heart kickin' unless it's with this soup!

P.S. Don't worry I didn't forget about that old closet purge! Truth is our hearts are a bit worried around here as a loved one is having some setbacks after surgery. I'll return next Tuesday for some epic purgyness!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

howl with me

Just this past Friday, I met a person who told me that I'm a wolf in sheep's clothing.  She was quick to clarify that it didn't mean what I thought it meant... not the big,bad wolf or the wolf that waited patiently in grandma-drag to eat lil' Red Riding Hood, no nothing like that.  She meant that I make people think.  I see people for who they are and, while I walk among the sheep, I'm stirring up those other wolves to kick off their sheep clothes and embrace their own wolfiness.

Whoa.  Pretty heavy role I have there.
As I let the wolf persona sink in since then, I've noticed a lot of talk about thanks on the social media watering holes.  Thanksgiving, here in the States, at the end of the month is a great way to get people talking about gratitude so I'm happy to see that my fellow wolves are starting early with posts about gratitude.  A good place to start is something easy... 

Thank you for clouds in the sky but no rain today.
Thank you that I woke up in relatively good health and spirits.
Thank you for my family, my spouse or partner, my child, children or my good sense to recognize that I choose not to have children.  
whatever fits in your life, you can be grateful for.  You don't have to pray in any specific faith, you can pray in all faiths or just thank yourself for creating the life that you want.  

It's the attitude of gratitude that matters.

I'm going to take it one step further... and throw out a few thank yous for things I normally complain about.
WHOA.  game changer, right?  

Thank you for this incredibly painful and itchy mosquito bite on the arch of my left foot.  It's been making it's presence known and felt since Thursday and even the mighty calamine can't touch this bad boy.  Thank you for the vacation where I was exposed to whatever crazy juiced up mosquitos they have in Florida because in addition to spending a week with my mom & son, I spent a few moments with Mr. Mosquito too.

Thank you for cold, grey, rainy Chicago weather in November... I have the PERFECT cozy sweater and furry pajama pants for evening couch cuddling to compliment.

Thank you for mind-numbingly slow city traffic (seriously, there is no rush "hour" here, it's always), I can crank up the radio and sing along to that new song I can't get enough of.

Thank you for what I perceive to be others behaving badly to me or hurting me... it reminds me that others' actions have more to do with themselves and very little to do with me or anything I could have done to deserve or prevent it.  Only hurt people hurt people, so let me take this time to send them a little extra love so that they can handle whatever is bothering them.

See?  That wasn't so bad, was it?

So here's your mission, my fellow wolves... I see you.  I know you're under all that sheep clothing... 

TAKE IT OFF!  (but save the wool and give it to us... we are knitters, after all, and that sh*t is like GOLD)