As I drove home the other day, my attention was drawn skyward. I had noticed a large bird soaring above our neighborhood. I pulled over to get a better (and safer) look and saw the flash of white that confirmed my initial impression: a bald eagle. Seeing a bald eagle in the Cities is not that unusual, but am I more accustomed to spying the elegant form near the river. To have one grace the sky above our block was a treat. A treat I excitedly shared with my kids.

How often do we pass such beauty and grace without notice or acknowledgement? It is so easy to shuffle along with our eyes unseeing and our ears full of noise. To pay attention takes work. To help our children pay attention takes intention.

The reward to attention and presence is a chance to witness the work of creation. To teach our children to pay attention is to help further the work of creation.

Just don’t forget to pull over when bird watching from the car.

On Christmas morning, the Little Girl opened these new blocks from her grandparents. Her first question was, “Do we have a basket for them?” Bless her. She wanted to know where they belonged even before she played with them. If only that were an indication that she would actually put all of her toys away where they belong. Acknowledging the system is a start, right?

 

I don’t know about you, but it is so easy for me to buckle under the perceived weight of my everyday life. Kids, work, food, sleep. Repeat. I’ve allowed myself to create a world view so limited, that I can’t see beyond the tip of my own nose. It’s definitely time to refocus.

As I lift my gaze out into the world, I remember why I let myself become so short-sighted. Trying to live compassionately in a world of such heartbreak can be nearly incapacitating. What do I do when I don’t know what else to do? Pick up my needles and knit. This time I’m knitting for others.

Vests for afghans for Afghans. I’m trying to finish 3 by the March 1 deadline. A super fast and easy knit with bulky yarn from the stash.

I admit that it feels good to make something for someone in need, but my own warm fuzzy feeling isn’t really the point. An act of compassion or charity doesn’t change the situation for the long term. I wanted to look beyond the end of my nose, right? So, why is there so much need? What are we doing to bring about real change?

Sigh. It’s big and complicated. I’m trying to learn more and figuring out ways I can lend my voice to the voiceless. Meanwhile, I will remember to acknowledge my multitude of blessings and try to be a blessing to others. And when in doubt, I’ll keep knitting for good.

I’ve been reading:

  • Persuasion Jane Austen
  • Plain Truth Jodi Picoult
  • Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer
  • Wench Dolen Perkins-Valdez (a friend from high school!)
  • Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
  • I just started reading Jane Eyre.

I’ve been knitting:

  • socks for the Mister (insert rant about the size of his feet here)

  • thrummed mittens for me – This is actually attempt number 2. I ripped out the first mitten because I was too chicken to do the afterthought thumb. These instructions are less intimidating, but I still prefer the look of a gusset.

I’ve been quilting:

  • two crib size quilts for my nephews – Finished them last week and mailed them today. Yay!! I ended up machine binding. I had quilted too close to the edge, so didn’t have the room to attach the binding for a hand-stitched binding. Honestly, I could spend a lot of time pointing out the flaws or beating myself up about the fact that I didn’t hand quilt them, but I’m going to refrain. They were made with boat loads of love and I think they are pretty cute. Do you hear that Inner Perfectionist?!?

Next up:

  • the second thrummed mitten (as soon as I get more roving)
  • maybe a sweater
  • quilting the lap quilt that I started two years ago
  • possibly more Jane Austen, but I’m open to suggestions

Last week, I had the chance to meet my newborn twin nephews.  So wee (4 lb 7 oz and 6 lb at birth) and so adorable.

I started working on quilts for each of them in the fall. The tops were finished in October, but I set them aside when I knew they wouldn’t be ready for the baby shower. Instead, I embellished some onesies and sent a box of baby basics in time for the party (literally, it was delivered during the shower).

When I’ve made quilts in the past, I have quilted them by hand. With two on the docket, even though they are crib size, I was a bit overwhelmed. I decided to invest in a walking foot for my sewing machine. I finally sat down to figure it out this week and I feel totally justified in the purchase. With a couple afternoons at the sewing machine, I have one of the two quilted.

I’m hoping to get the second one quilted over the weekend. Binding will take longer, but I now feel confident that I can get these completed and delivered before the boys outgrow them. :)

Advent and Christmas are typically high on my list of favorite seasons. This year I wasn’t so sure.

I started a new job at a large church in August. Within two months, my supervisor left and I was made Director of Children’s Ministries. It didn’t feel like a huge shift since I was only given five more hours per week and the responsibilities weren’t more than I’d had at my previous job. That was, until it came to Christmas. High expectations and deeply ingrained tradition. No pressure.

While I struggled to keep my head above water at work, I did manage to eek out some handmade gifts for Christmas. I whipped up hats for my sister-in-law and her husband.

I also knit a similar hat for my father-in-law, but didn’t take a photo.

Made pajamas for the kids. The girls’ were made from an old flannel sheet.

I ran out of sheet, so The Boy’s were made from flannel from the stash.

I cast on socks for the Mister, but haven’t even gotten as far as turning the heel. Good thing winter lasts so long around these parts. Hopefully I can make more progress now and he’ll still get some use out of them before spring.

I turned to the collective wisdom of the blogosphere for last minute giving and made a couple batches of Molly’s caramel corn.  Easy and delicious. This may have to become a holiday tradition.

In the end, the Christmas pageant was lovely. Gifts were finished and delivered on time. We enjoyed the holiday with family and friends. Despite the Christmas day on-set of a cold that kicked my backside, I managed to thoroughly enjoy Christmas after all. Perhaps it should stay at the top of my list.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been eying peoplesnotepad projects with increasing interest. A useful and simple gift with endless possibilities for personalization. Originally, when I decided I would make some notepads for teacher gifts, I was thinking I would gocco the cover and upcycle some random office paper for the interior. I was going to use a variety, including plain, lined and quad rule.

Then I stumbled upon a goldmine of scratch pad paper. Literally. I kept tripping over a box of the kids’ old schoolwork. When I finally sat down to sort and purge, I realized how much of it was single-sided copies. As I grumbled about the waste of paper, I had a little light bulb moment.

I used the kids’ old papers for the interior and cut up an old calendar with Hiroshige prints for the cover. Some quality time with the papercutter, a little padding compound and voila!

Here you go, teachers, jot away!

I think I salvaged at least 3 reams of paper (and recycled even more). I have a nagging feeling that there is more lurking somewhere. (Un)fortunately, there’s little risk of me running out of scratch pad materials any time soon.

Two weeks ago, we went on our annual apple picking outing with friends. Unfortunately, we had an early blast of winter the night before and woke to a coating of snow. Not exactly your typical apple picking weather. Undeterred and with the promise of a discount on u-pick, we bundled up and picked a peck of frozen apples. Ok, it was more than a peck and the apples weren’t actually frozen. We did, however, have to brush snow off of some.

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Over the course of the next couple days, Brad went to town with the apple peeler/slicer/corer and cooked up a batch of apple butter. He canned 6 pints with a smidge leftover that went into the fridge our bellies.

Let me just insert that the apple peeler contraption is one of the single best thrift store finds I’ve gotten. Knocked a large amount of time off of the apple prep process. I’m not always a fan of the uni-tasker in the kitchen, but I’m willing to make an exception for this one. Technically it isn’t a UNI-tasker. It does three different things, right?

The next Friday, the kids were off for the statewide teacher conference and we met up with a couple other families for the day. What did we do, you ask? We went apple picking!

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We tried to encourage the kids to practice some restraint so we didn’t go home with another bushel or more. We did, of course, end up with PLENTY. I was a little bummed that my schedule had not allowed me to be much help in the apple butter making of the week before, so this was an opportunity to redeem myself.

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A couple of days ago, I spent the day in the kitchen and canned another 5 pints.

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More generous people than we would plan to give these as gifts. I’m making no promises -  we love us some apple butter. It is possible that we’ll loosen our grip and share. Stranger things have happened. On the other hand, despite our efforts, the apple basket is far from empty. I may see a third batch (and half pint jars) in my near future.

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We finished the loaf of bread this morning. I kept thinking that I should leave work a little early so I could stop by to get bread and some whole wheat flour (the last of which is in that loaf up there). I didn’t end up with enough time before having to meet the big kids’ bus. I left work, met the bus, picked up Baby Girl from daycare and returned home. At this point, I was not interested in dragging myself out again. I decided I’d just make some bread. It’s white bread, but we’ll survive. I’m just too lazy to go to the store.

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Big Girl had a sleepover last night.  Baby Girl, The Boy and I spent the morning in our pajamas.  We played Orchard and Memory.  The Boy offered to read to Baby Girl.  Not a bad way to spend a rainy morning.

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