December 31, 2014

My Favorite Things

I remember watching the Sound of Music during the holidays when I was a child. I'm not sure how I keep missing it as an adult, but it's been years since I last saw it. The song, 'My Favorite Things' still rings in my ears though, especially this time of year. 

Some of my favorite things: knitting needles and photography

It's been a wild, crazy and amazing year. Here are a few of my favorite posts from this blog: 

Favorite Fingerless Gloves
These things will keep your hands toasty in cold weather while you knit even more fun things.

Favorite Recipe Organizer
In a cooking rut? Try sorting out your recipes.

Favorite Vintage Dinner Party
Clearly, I love Pyrex. 

Favorite Pregnancy Announcement
I was never much of a baby person, but then the Peanut came along. 

Favorite Crochet Jungle
I seriously can't wait until the Peanut is big enough to play with this thing. It's currently sitting in our living room as part of the decor, near the plants. 

Favorite Mother's Day Post
I may be biased, but my mama is pretty awesome. 

Favorite Baby Showers Part I
I have lost count of the number of places I've lived over the years, so it's super special that my friends from childhood got together on my behalf to throw me a Skype shower. 

Favorite Baby Showers Part II 
The Peanut is so excited when I read to him these days — thanks to this baby shower, we've got plenty of books to keep us busy! 

Favorite Birth Announcement
Self-explanatory! 

Favorite Mini Cardigan
The Peanut is growing fast, so I suspect he'll fit into this in no time. I still want to make an adult-sized version. 

Favorite Reminder to Finish a Journal
I'm happy to report that I finally finished the small blue journal and I'm eagerly awaiting the start of a fresh new blank book for 2015. 

Wishing you all a safe and happy New Year's Eve!

December 21, 2014

Hope, Joy, Peace

Years ago, when I had time to stage photos and create my own Christmas cards from scratch (unlike now: see last post), I made these postcards:


On the back I penned something quite meaningful about the three words and how they were all given freely 2,000 years ago, and how they're still part of the greatest gift ever given. 

I still believe that to be true. But this year, hope, joy and peace look a little different around my household. 

I have HOPE that the Peanut will sleep better this next week. 

I think JOY is possible even in the 2 am feedings. 

And I believe that PEACE can certainly be found in between those why-is-this-baby-crying-again moments. 


Wishing you and yours hope, joy, and peace in whatever form you need it in this year.
 
For a little more Christmas cheer, check out last year's thoughts here

Speaking of last year, this holly garland is about the only decoration up besides our mini tree, the star, and a few lights.
 

 
(Is it just me, or did the holidays roll in quicker than usual this year?)
 

December 14, 2014

Season's Greetings

I am sadly a slight procrastinator when it comes to mailing out my holiday cards. And, apparently, with this blog. (However, I've been busy with my holiday cards.)

Years ago, when I worked onboard a ship off the coast of West Africa, I had my cards sorted WAAAAY before the holidays. Fellow crew members who disembarked before Christmas, would often take letters and packages back to their respective countries and mail the stash for those of us who didn't trust Africa's postal system. All we had to do was give them our stack of cards plus the cash to buy stamps. 

It was a gamble though. Sometimes crew didn't have space, or they weren't going to the country you wanted to send your cards to. That's when my holiday cards turned into Happy New Year ones. 

Nowadays, the only excuse I have is the Peanut. (Let's face it though, he's a pretty good excuse and I'm milking the postpartum craziness for all its worth. International holiday card recipients... I apologize. Your cards may only arrive after the New Year depending on when I can get to the post office.)

This year, rather than the usual newsletter and family pic, I chose the 'easy and quick' option to upload a photo and order custom greetings from Snapfish, emphasis on easy and quick two words I use to describe my ideal dinner prep these days. 

Only it wasn't easy. Getting the family photo alone proved a challenge. For starters, I had to wait until the Sailor arrived back home, and then we had to try to squeeze it in during a time when we all three looked presentable to the world. I'm still not convinced that the Sailor and I look all that great in the only photo where the Peanut is not squirming, but the little guy looked super cute, so we called it a day and picked the best of a bad bunch. 

And it certainly wasn't quick, because it took me forever to choose a card. Once I had a template picked out, I'd realize that our photo looked strange in it mainly because I cropped it due to aforementioned goofiness in the photo of the Sailor and me.

Christmas cookies may not happen this year at this rate!

I could have taken the really easy and quick way out and just uploaded an awesome photo of the Peanut. However, I have always promised myself that if we ever had young 'uns, I wanted us ALL to be in the Christmas photo. I never wanted to be one of those couples who opted to send out Pinterest perfect photos of only their spawn.

Henceforth, our goofy photo of the three of us for this year's card. 

Once I ordered the holiday cards though, I also realized that I never actually sent out an official birth announcement about the Peanut.  Oh sure, I texted and emailed and Facebooked our friends and family... but I still wanted to send out a traditional sort of announcement. I wanted to handcraft something, but let's be realistic, time was not on my side. By this point, I just wanted to chuck something into the Christmas card itself. Of course it had to be 'easy and quick', like the Christmas card. But I just didn't like any of the templates I saw online. 

Enter Moo. I love Moo and have been a fan since their early days. I uploaded four different pics of the Peanut, and typed out the announcement on the back of the mini-cards and voila, just like that, 100 announcements arrived in the mail for a fraction of the price of traditional ones. All I had to do was stick one on each of my Christmas cards with washi tape. An added bonus? Now I have four fun photos to add to the rotation in my Moo mini-card frame

How about you? Are you scrambling to send holiday cards, or are you skipping this year? Regardless, if you need an idea of how to display the ones you're receiving, check this post out. In the meantime, I'm going to brave the post office tomorrow. Let's hope that next year I get my act together by Thanksgiving.

December 5, 2014

Journal Block?

Last week on Thanksgiving (was that really over a week ago?!) I mentioned my 50 plus journals and how every year I write out what I'm thankful for.

Suffice it to say, with guests visiting, the Sailor arriving home, and the four-month-old Peanut's neediness, I haven't gotten around to writing that list yet, although I've been mulling it around in my head. 

Actually, I've really been mulling around the reasons why it's taking me so long to finish this particular journal.

I bought this current journal in Abu Dhabi in April of 2012. It's a pocket-sized book in a bright turquoise blue — a reminder of the fabulous pedicure I had in the country. My hands look like I spend my days washing dishes without gloves, but if it's sandal weather, I tend to make sure my toenails are actually polished. Turquoise was the color I chose for the remainder of that trip.

Pick any journal off of my shelf and I'll be able to tell you what country I was in and what was going on in my life simply by looking at the book itself. I may not be able to remember the Sailor's mobile phone number, but I can remember where I was while writing the story of my life. Friends who know me well have gifted me gorgeous leather-bound and handmade paper journals from far-flung places around the globe. At the moment I have several from Egypt begging to be filled. 

I picked the small turquoise journal in Abu Dhabi because I envisioned taking it further afield to other international trips to Scotland and Ukraine that summer. Smaller size equals easier transport. Instead, I started the journal on July 4th and due to extenuating family circumstances, didn't get on a plane to anywhere until much later in the year.

Over two years later, this journal still has a few blank pages in it. It's been to South Africa and the Caribbean, plus several States on a 3000-mile road trip, and yet I still can't seem to finish it. I used to complete a pocket-sized journal on a two week trip to Eastern Europe. And yet, despite the crazy few years I've had and the life-changing events along the way, I haven't been able to finish this journal. 

I blame technology to some extent. My iPhone now goes everywhere with me instead of my journal. I type out notes with my finger instead of my pen, and I make lists and calendar entries by clicking open apps. 

I blame this blog a bit, because let's face it, I've written pretty regularly on here for two years now, and it's much faster for me to type than to write anything. Plus it's getting increasingly difficult to reread my handwriting. Not because my eyesight is going, but because my writing is getting sloppier. 

I blame the book that has been stagnating on my computer for years while I try to figure out when I'm ever going to return to Ukraine to write its conclusion. I spent the summer of 2012 partly rereading many of those old journals, while typing out my story of summers past. Clearly I neglected the current journal in the process.
 
On the other hand (and new baby aside...) it's time to stop blaming other stuff. I think I've just been a little lazy. I often tell other people to write out their thoughts when they are going through life transitions, and yet here I am, trying to muster up the energy to finish writing out the birth story of the Peanut before I forget every little detail, and I only have three pages left to fill. THREE! 

This is the journal that saw the death of my older brother, a special reunion with life-long friends, a major move across the country, pregnancy and a new baby, plus the death of my lifetime mentor — all HUGE events that warrant handwritten thoughts and memories, and yet many of them barely got so much as a scribble of acknowledgement.

It's one thing to type out part of my story, it's quite another to write it out. While I'm thankful my mother made me take typing in school (back in the days when it wasn't even required!) I'm far more grateful that she bought me my first ever journal, giving me a place to store my secrets. (I shared more of that story in an article in the Winter 2014 edition of Artful Blogging.)

Part of me knows that once I start a new journal, the words will come easier. Sometimes a blank slate is all you need. More than once, I've filled up journals from the back as well as the front. The back holds the lists of books I've read since I started that journal (48 in the current journal that I remembered to write down... there could be more.) There are also cinema ticket stubs (at least 18 — some may have fallen out along the way), as well as packing lists, to do lists, and words of wisdom printed on tea bags such as 'grace brings contentment'. 

This particular journal seems to have more stuff scribbled and pasted into the back than usual — like I have been desperately trying to finish this book without having to write anything of substance in it.

I haven't traveled anywhere of late, but the journal does seem to move from room to room with me, willing me to finally finish it. 

It's sitting here next to me on the desk. I definitely don't want to stretch this writing rut into 2015. So, if you'll excuse me, I think while the Peanut is miraculously still sleeping (on his own!), I may just have to finish my story, and this particular journal. 

After all, a new story and a new journal awaits.

November 27, 2014

Thankful

Fifty plus journals line the bottom of my bookshelf. Every year, on Thanksgiving, I try take the time to make a list of what I'm thankful for. Some years, the list is lengthy and eloquent. Other years I hastily scribble bullet points, hoping I'll be able to decipher my own handwriting at a later date.


This year, in between making a pumpkin pie and keeping track of the Peanut, I probably won't get to my journal until the weekend. 

Number one on my list this year? (Besides the safe arrival of the Peanut, of course!) The Sailor is on his way home for the holidays. Sailor homecomings are infinitely better than departures. 

Safe travels to you and yours... Happy Thanksgiving from our little (but loud) family.

November 18, 2014

Thanksgiving Stuff and Stuffing

Yesterday the Peanut and I braved the cold (Winter, we are so not ready for you...) and while he slept cozily in his sling, I browsed a few of my favorite stores, searching for Thanksgiving stuff. You know, some turkey-themed napkins, a floral arrangement, maybe a new table runner... decor that oozes Thanksgiving. 



Nothing. 

Nada. 

Zip. 

Zilch. 

Oh, there was Christmas stuff galore in every store. I didn't mind... it is November after all, and Christmas is a mere five plus weeks away. But Thanksgiving is over a week away -- how could there be NOTHING on display? Even the clearance racks came up short. 

One of the sales ladies asked me if I found everything I was looking for, so I asked if I was missing the Thanksgiving stuff. You know, cause Thanksgiving hasn't happened yet. She looked surprised that I would dare shop before Thanksgiving for turkey-related items.

I left thinking she was the turkey. 

I'm still slightly baffled by this. So I went home to search for my stuffing recipe. I may not have any Thanksgiving decor for the table, but by golly, my stuffing will happen again this year.
 
My family has never been much for Thanksgiving traditions, besides of course, the actual turkey and enough for leftover sandwiches the day after. In high school, I spent the holiday with a friend's family out-of-state. Post-college, I've shared Thanksgiving meals with strangers and friends, in obscure places like Ukraine where cranberries and turkey weren't to be found, overseas on a ship in West Africa, where I stuffed myself so full that I had to unbutton my jeans, and a progressive meal at three different homes in one night in England, chauffeured by our office's treasurer.

With such a hodge podge of Thanksgivings, I wanted to start a few traditions of my own -- like my stuffing. In all of the years that my mom has made a wonderful feast, I don't remember her ever making stuffing. I figured I could easily incorporate it into a family meal as an addition.

Okay, so it's not my stuffing. It's the Food Network Magazine's. I made it two years ago for the first time, and then again last year. I decided it needs to stay. 


But when I looked in my nifty recipe book, all I found was the cover sheet with the photo of the stuffing. The paper inside listed mix and match potato dishes, not the stuffing. Apparently in my madness to sort my recipes, I tossed the actual recipe, thinking that it was on the potato sheet instead. 

NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! 

I mentally composed an email to the Food Network to BEG for their recipe, since I had accidentally thrown it out. I figured I'd give them the whole Thanksgiving-might-be-ruined-story. 

Thankfully, a quick search online yielded the mix-and-match stuffing recipe, and I didn't have to beg for it. Now you have it too. You're welcome. 

Happy early Thanksgiving...  and if you want to knit a quick gift for a friend's child, try a Thanksgiving Bird Blanket. Gobble, gobble.



November 10, 2014

Life Happens


I meant to sit down today and write a lengthy blog post... and maybe even a few extras on the side to store up for later. 

And then life happened. 

The Peanut needed feeding. 

Then changing. 

Then a nap. 

And right now the Peanut seems to enjoy napping on me, and I know these days won't last forever, so I don't mind. 

Then feeding again. 

Somewhere in between there, I needed to fix myself something to eat. Several times a day, in fact. Occasionally I get to sit down to eat it. 

And of course there was laundry to do. 

Then a walk outside for fresh air for both of us. Another nap for the Peanut.

Then more feeding, more changing, more laundry. 

I promised myself I'd lower my expectations of what could be done in a day once the Peanut arrived. Apparently 'do the laundry' and 'blog' should be on separate days. 

Right now, I'm typing this while the Peanut is squirming on my lap. 

Sometimes while I'm feeding, changing and napping him, I'm thinking of blog posts to type out. Or I look at my stash of yarn and dream of projects to come. 

Then I look at my smiley little guy and I just think all of those things can wait until someday later.


November 2, 2014

Holey Slippers

I love my slippers. Ever since my first trip to Ukraine, I have been a huge fan of slippers, house shoes, whatever you want to call them. My traveling friends and I used to find the ugliest pair for sale in outdoor markets and we'd send them to each other via snail mail. 

Over the years, I learned to make my own and some lucky pals are actually the recipients of handmade ones nowadays. Some of my favorites are these granny square slippers and these heavy duty felted ones

Then I felted the blue pair on the left and I gave them to my mom (knowing that she also loved this pair I made for her.) To give you an idea of how giant these are before felting, the pair on the right fit me perfectly and I'm a US shoe size 9.5.




Now, my pair on the right has a few holes in them. 

It was enough that this pair eventually wore holes in them after one winter. ONE. 
(You can actually see the light streaming through the hole on the right heel.)

 

I guess I kind of expected my orange pair to last forever. I did not, however, expect to feel the cold floor under my left toe when I stumbled into the kitchen earlier than usual this morning because the Peanut didn't get the Daylight Savings memo. 

There's only two things left to do. 

1. Turn the heat on. The weather got below freezing last night and I don't want the Peanut to turn into a popsicle, after all. 

2. Knit a new pair of slippers. These holes might be beyond repair. 

I should probably add a third thing: 

3. Buy more yarn for new slippers. 

October 21, 2014

No Words

Years ago, I made a phone call at 3 am from Texas to England that would change my life forever. 

The details of that phone call are a story for another time, but in the end, I found myself working on a magazine in the UK with 'JH' as my editor. 

My own life would have looked wildly different if this man hadn't taken that phone call and offered me an internship and later job. Somehow, he saw something in me that others over the years never did, or would never admit to. My high school English teacher told me I was the worst writer he’d ever seen. 

JH seemed to think otherwise.

For years, I wrote editorials, columns and sidebars, researched, edited and proofread stories, all while listening to him tell me how good everything would look on my resume someday. 


But this — this kind of story was never meant to be included on that list. 

My former editor, mentor and pseudo-uncle, JH, passed away this evening.

It seems only fitting that I write something in his honor. After all, this is the man who launched me on a writing career. Yet here I sit, staring at a screen that looks a little fuzzy through my tears, somewhat at a loss for words.

However, JH taught me a few tricks over the years. Write even when you don't want to. And, a lot of writing is simply rewriting. In this case, the following is adapted from a letter I sent to him a few weeks prior to his death.
 
Years before I ever met JH, I scribbled a few goals and dreams into a journal. One was to work on a magazine overseas. It seemed unlikely based on my high school and even college track record. And yet, I will never forget sitting at my desk in England, watching him jet off for some conference somewhere on the other side of the world. His words to me as he took off for the airport were, “I want to make sure you could run this magazine in case I drop dead.”

Thankfully, he came back very much alive, but he reminded me that he actually believed in me and my generation. And let’s face it, running the magazine didn’t scare me nearly as much as the thought of him not being around to champion the likes of me.

From stuffy offices in England, to sheep fields in Scotland, planning meetings in Germany, non-Christmas dinners in Wales, aboard a ship in West Africa and even in Ukraine (where our paths never actually crossed at the same time, but he understood nonetheless the reasons I loved it there…), somewhere along our travels and work together, he became more than a mentor to me. He became family.

And I have to give him credit for his perhaps unintentional matchmaking skills. Because of my job, I attended a media junket with Mercy Ships in Norway. Because of that trip, I later joined the organization, where I met the Sailor. We got married and we now have the adorable little Peanut.


Over the years, JH edited a lot of my writing. He'd brag about a good article I wrote and then joke that it only became great once he edited it.

During my time onboard the ‘Love Boat’, I remember sending him articles I wrote for Mercy Ships. Usually he’d have a bit of advice — or say things like, “Your writing is coming on.” It was the same as before -- he held back ever so slightly on giving me any bragging rights.


One time though, he actually paid me a genuine compliment — and it meant more to me than a thousand trite ones. He simply wrote: “It is redundant for me to say your writing is ‘coming on’. It has arrived.” I printed out that email and glued it into my journal for both posterity and proof.
 

Even though JH heard countless tales of how he influenced people over the years in the weeks leading up to his death, I think that was just a glimpse of the impact he made. There's still more to the story. And I suspect that along the way to hear more of the tale, he’ll be receiving a similar compliment to the one he gave me all of those years ago: “Well done, JH. Well done. You have arrived…



 

October 18, 2014

Little Golden Books

Thanks to the Literary Library Baby Shower, I haven't had to purchase any books for the Peanut.

Until today.

The antique stores beckoned -- and even though I have plenty of Pyrex, I thought it would be fun to head out and at least browse. 

Browsing at antique stores is a bit like going to a museum without having to pay an entrance fee. As an added bonus, you don't have to wait for the gift shop at the end of your tour to make a purchase -- everything is for sale.

Today's trip yielded these Little Golden Books. 

 

They will go right on the shelf next to The Sailor Dog

I loved it when my mom read to me and I hope the Peanut grows up with a fondness for books like his Mama and Grandma. 

I think we're off to a good start!

October 11, 2014

Crocheted Nurse Doll

Over the summer, while I was expecting the Peanut, I crocheted this little doll for my friend's soon-to-be-three-year-old. 

I stashed it into a package and as soon as I popped it into the post, I realized I never took any photos of the doll. The recipient's mama was happy to oblige when the gift arrived. 


The nurse doll comes with a crocheted baby, chart and stethoscope. Perhaps my favorite part? The booties that look like either blue clogs or those slippers operating room staff wear! My friend is a nurse, and just had her second baby about a year ago, so I thought this would be the perfect gift for the big sister. And apparently she loved it. Crocheted dolls are great --  you can't break 'em!

The pattern can be found for purchase here via download. I purchased a hard copy of the booklet at a Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store earlier in the summer. 

As a side note, I feel like I'm emerging from the 'newborn fog'. The Peanut is starting to give me a bit more time with both hands, and I hope to return to more regular blogging soon. In the meantime, thanks for sticking with me through fewer posts these days!

October 4, 2014

Sweater Weather

I love the fact that my mother-in-law taught me to knit. And I know she loves the fact that I even asked her to teach me in the first place.

Last time the Sailor flew through South Africa, she sent this little gem back with him: 


Last time I was in South Africa, I made her a pair of socks. (I know, I know, she could have just made herself a pair of socks and I could have knit the Peanut a sweater. But isn't this much more fun?!)

Today finally felt like Fall... so it's time to break out the hand-knit sweaters.


I don't have the pattern for the one my mother-in-law made. Knowing her, she just made it up as she went along. You can find links to the garter stitch grey sweater here, and the green cardi here

Of course, if you're looking to make yourself something for the winter, I highly recommend the Central Park Hoodie. You can find mine here

I admit that I love warmer weather. But if it has to get cold, there's nothing better than hand knit sweaters to get you through the weather.

September 28, 2014

Closet Cleaning

It's been a week since Fall officially started on the calendar, and I've seen boots and sweaters galore out and about in town. I usually chuckle to myself, because where I live, temperatures are still in the 70s and 80s during the day. 

Just because the calendar says Fall, it doesn't necessarily mean it's boot weather yet, although I did find myself in a pair of jeans this week. No boots though. It's still sandal weather in my book. 



Nevertheless, I found myself itching to at least organize and winterize my wardrobe. The Peanut is sprouting fast and I realized I should make some more room in the apartment for his growing wardrobe, while sorting out my disheveled piles of clothing in the meantime.

I packed away a lot of my clothes during my pregnancy, in part to make room for the few maternity clothes I had. I didn't want to keep reaching for a pair of shorts that didn't fit. I also figured that it would be like a giant shopping spree once I lost the pregnancy weight and opened the suitcase of clothes that I had previously packed away. 

Although I'm still in between sizes, I unpacked the suitcase this week and got to work sorting out my clothes. One thing I learned in nine months of gaining weight... I do NOT need a ton of clothes. While I'm absolutely tired of wearing the same few tank tops and shorts, I realized over the summer that a person doesn't need a lot of clothes to get by in life.

It's made me rethink how I approach dressing myself. I'm definitely trying to buy (and keep!) items that are quality, that I love and that actually look good on me.

I didn't check my Bloglovin' feed this week until today. Frankly, I was too busy cleaning my closet and feeding the Peanut. Ironically, by the time I caught up this morning, I noticed a bevy of blogs had posted about closet cleanings. They've all got great tips, so read them for inspiration if you're also hankering to clean your closet!


Here are my favorites: 



Plus, I've previously posted about Spring Cleaning, and frankly, Fall Cleaning shouldn't be much different.  

What are you waiting for? Go forth and find those boots in the back of your closet. Even if the temps are still in the 80s, at least you won't be scrambling for them when the weather finally starts to cool off. Your feet will eventually thank you. 

September 20, 2014

A Little Recap of the Week

I seem to have more time to read these days, especially during long feedings with the Peanut. Remember I have a magazine obsession? (Don't forget this list of what to do with your magazines when you're finished with them.)  

My mom sent me a Bird magazine of all things over the summer... and while I'm not a bird fan, I have a new thing for hummingbirds. I saw my first one, finally, the day after we brought the Peanut home from the hospital. Over the past few weeks, we've seen nearly one hummingbird a day! Apparently we're right along their flight path as they migrate south -- and September is a prime viewing month.

Birds aren't the only things I'm reading about though. The other day the Sailor and I were in town and I had a rare moment to run into a craft store to grab a magazine. The pickings were slim, until I saw that Interweave has just come out with a special edition Crochet Scene magazine! I was hooked and of course I had to have it. Knit Scene is one of my favorite magazines out there, although admittedly, I've skipped the past few issues since I knew I'd be making baby things instead of sweaters for myself in the months to come. 

Although, let's face it, thanks to the generosity of my friends, I have lots of cool clothes for the Peanut and probably don't need to knit many more just yet. And because of that, I've been writing a ton of Thank You notes. My top tip lately for writing multiple thank you notes? Make sure you keep a list of who gave you what. I have a running list, and then I just tick the name as soon as I write and address the note. 
 
(However, I did splurge on the crochet magazine!

I mean, how cute is this bag?! Hopefully I can get more than just a dishcloth done in the near future with the Peanut. 

Speaking of the Peanut, he is swiftly growing out of these jeans! Aren't they the cutest things EVER, though?




The Peanut of course is growing, because he's eating a ton. (As am I....) Having the Sailor home for so long meant that he cooked a lot during the early newborn weeks. Grilling season may be over in some parts of the States, but where I live, it's still gorgeous out and frankly, a little cool in the air is the perfect time to get your BBQ on. Here are the Sailor's top grilling tips

And, what goes in must come out! The cloth diapering experiment is still going strong, and frankly, I'm actually enjoying it. My current vote is that I love basic flats with a simple diaper cover over them. I hope to do a longer cloth diapering post later... in the meantime, it's probably time to change the Peanut. 

Hope you are having a wonderful Fall-inspired weekend! 

September 13, 2014

Receiving Receiving Blankets

Many moons ago, I happened to be visiting a friend in Canada when she went into labor. She had a home birth planned, but my plan was to be on a plane before the baby made an appearance. 

As it happened, she delivered her third baby boy a little early. While I didn't witness the actual momentous occasion (I sat at her kitchen table trying to concentrate on a crossword puzzle), I do remember the midwives calling out for me to put a bunch of towels in the dryer, which I dutifully did.

That was my contribution to the birth. A few towels in the dryer. 

I never knew what they did with those warm towels -- I just figured they were important based on the urgency of the request. 
 
More recently, while shopping for the Peanut, I noticed 'receiving blankets' everywhere I went. For some reason they reminded me of those towels I tossed into that dryer all of those years ago. 


Receiving blankets often make their appearance at baby showers as gifts. I even bought a pack of them myself when I first started swooning over small items for the Peanut. 

And then after I washed and folded them, I thought: 'What in the world do you use these things for?!' Apparently the original use was to 'receive' a baby at the hospital after delivery (probably the same thing those warm towels were used for in Canada.) 


But beyond that... what do you do with these things? Most receiving blankets I've seen are too tiny to actually swaddle a baby.

However, in the whole six weeks I've been a mama, I've discovered a myriad of uses for what I assumed were useless blankets. 

So, if you're on the receiving end of too many receiving blankets, fear not. You'll find a use for them! Here are some ideas: 

1. If they are big enough, you can actually swaddle the baby! I received one flannel blanket from my mother-in-law in South Africa that is huge. It's perfect for snuggling the baby after a bath. 



2. Use them as a portable changing mat. So far, I've only changed the Peanut in one public restroom (yeesh). You can bet your bottom (and your baby's) that I didn't put him straight down on that changing table. I put a receiving blanket under him and then that thing went straight into the wash as soon as we got home. 

3. Use at home with your changing mat. I don't know about you, but my little Peanut made a mess with the first few changes at home. (Operator error had a lot to do with it.) And the little changing table attached to the Pack 'n Play was frigid. It was just easier at first to throw a receiving blanket on the pad and then wash that if it got wet or dirty. Plus it was a little cozier for the Peanut. 

4. Keep a few in the car. They're useful to wipe up messes, or to use as a changing mat in the car when the public restrooms are too scary (see #2).

5. Use as burp cloths or to pass the baby off to other people who visit (who knows what germs are on people -- hand them a receiving cloth to use a barrier!) 

6. Fold the smaller ones into cloth diapers. I haven't tried this yet, but I figure in a pinch, they are about the same size as my flat diapers and I could use them as back-ups, or even as an extra layer overnight.


7. Use as small towels or washcloths. After mine start to deteriorate, I'll probably go ahead and cut them up and then zig-zag the edges to prevent fraying, and use them as smaller washcloths. 

So you see, receiving receiving blankets isn't so useless after all.


September 6, 2014

Knit One, Purl None

In the past five weeks, I've managed to knit one washcloth. 

ONE.


Remember this is my go-to 'in between' project. It's not like I just learned to knit... But I am learning that sometimes you need more than two hands to knit with a newborn in tow. 

Baby steps, right?!

September 1, 2014

Growing Into the Knits

Dear readers, I don't know what happened to August, but all I know is I have a rapidly growing one-month-old babe who will fit into this little cotton cardi before I know it. 


I think I'm officially in denial. 

One month already?! 



Despite August whizzing by in a blur, I managed to quickly pop into the local yarn store last week and I found these great buttons. I held off on putting the buttons on this cardigan I made in July, until I knew whether the Peanut was a boy or girl. I don't often see black on baby clothes, but I think these wooden buttons are the perfect accent for a little boy's cardigan. (And, remember to save that extra yarn in every project -- even if it's not much. In this case, I used a bit of leftover yarn to sew on the buttons!)

Changing the calendar to September always makes me think of Fall, of going back to school and of cooler weather sweaters. Although students here have been in school for weeks already, and the temperatures outside are still hotter than blazes, I know Autumn is right around the corner. 

Even though I'm sad to see summer go in a few short weeks, I'm glad my little guy has some fun handmade knits to get him through the changing seasons. And let's face it, they're far faster and more fun to make than the adult-sized versions!


Happy September, everyone! 

August 27, 2014

When Life Gives You Overripe Bananas...

The only thing to do is to use them up!

Years ago when I worked onboard the Love Boat, crew members would routinely request bananas from the galley whenever they had a craving for baking. Bananas were plentiful in Africa... but they still went brown after a few days of being stored onboard. In such cases (and depending on the chef...) they were often up for grabs rather than getting tossed out with the garbage.

The ship was equipped with small crew kitchens called ripostos. (I have no idea if that is the correct spelling... I've never figured out where the term came from.) 


Spelling aside, I was never a fan of cooking in these ripostos -- mainly because they never seemed to be up to my standard of cleanliness. Plus, we had a whole crew of kitchen staff who served us three meals a day. Nevertheless, I occasionally wanted to bake something. Anything.

I acquired a small oven (on par with the looks of a child's easy bake...) and somehow I was allowed to use it in my tiny cabin. Along with my own coffee maker, it allowed me to have a homey feel when I started to get claustrophobic about eating in the same dining room as hundreds of other people.

I love having no-fail recipes. My no-fail recipe onboard was an apple cake made with an insane amount of oil and a fridge milk-tart (admittedly, I failed numerous times on the latter one until I figured out the difference between corn starch and corn meal. DUH.) I don't think I had a no-fail banana bread recipe at the time, but eventually, I found one on land. This Banana Banana Bread one is in my favorites and is insanely quick and easy.



So quick and easy in fact that yesterday, after lunch, I commented to the sailor how rotten the bananas looked on the counter, and within minutes of him suggesting I make banana bread, the ingredients were mixed and in the oven.

An hour later.... Banana Banana Bread. Baked in and served on vintage Pyrex, of course.

 

August 22, 2014

Gift Blankets

My mom used to say that a baby can never have too many blankets. I'm starting to think that is true. Even though it's summer, it seems that I have a blanket in the laundry daily. 

The only thing more fun than making a blanket as a gift for someone with a baby, is receiving one (or two!) in the mail as gifts for your own little one. 

I'm fortunate enough to have friends around the world... and even though not many of my pals actually knit and crochet, some of their mothers do. These two blankets made their way into our post box courtesy of some talented moms. 



I told my friends that I didn't have 'colors' picked out (see this post about the non-nursery) but that I wanted calm colors that reminded me of a safari (inspired by these critters.) 




Even though they are both totally different, I love the 'safari inspiration' in each of them!

August 15, 2014

A New Day

A few weeks ago, I lamented the lack of hummingbirds on the porch. 

The day after I arrived home from the hospital with the Peanut... I sat outside unabashedly in my bathrobe while the apartment complex tested their fire alarms. The maintenance men were good enough to give us a warning, so we waited outside to avoid the noise. 

The Sailor made me coffee... the first I'd had since about December. I had gone off of coffee early on in pregnancy and then just never really craved it after that. After a few sleepless nights with the Peanut, I caved in and got back on the juice.


While sitting outside with that perfect cup of coffee, the sun streaming on the porch, I held my wee babe in my arms and pondered the enormity of how my life had just changed. When I looked up, a hummingbird fluttered past and onto the red flowers. 


At certain times in all of our lives we all need a little sign... for years I felt a sense of calm and relief whenever I saw a rainbow, especially if life had been difficult or I'd been through some tumultuous event. A rainbow symbolized to me that all would be well within my soul. 

I haven't seen a rainbow for a very long time. And after a night wrestling with my own hormonal tears, trying to decipher the Peanut's cries and to figure out whether I was fit to be a mother, I saw that lone hummingbird. 

And just like that... I knew that all would be well.  

Later that same day, the hummingbird returned so that both the Sailor and I could both see him. And he's been back several times since. 

Sometimes we all need a little daily reminder -- even if it's just a fleeting one.

August 7, 2014

Announcing...

The Peanut has arrived!


And he's a perfect little BIG boy!

{As I mentioned in the last post, I will be taking some time off from blogging while I figure out this whole new mama role. Please note that I won't be posting much in the near future, but rest assured, I'll be back once I get into a routine...

Photo by Bella Baby Photography; used with permission.

July 31, 2014

Ready for the Peanut...

{* The Peanut's arrival is imminent! Understandably, I will be taking some time off while I figure out this whole new mama role once the Peanut actually arrives!  Please note that I won't be posting much in the near future, but rest assured, I'll be back on the blog, once I get into a routine. In the meantime, wish me luck on this new adventure and enjoy one last pregnancy post!}

****

Soon after I announced my pregnancy to friends far and near, I started getting questions about whether or not I've started on the nursery. 

Nursery?! 

What nursery?! 

While the Sailor and I joked that I'd probably get pregnant right after converting our second bedroom into the Princess Pad (AKA my office/craft room), I knew even if we did have a baby, I didn't want kid stuff taking over an entire room, let alone the whole apartment.

From the start, we agreed on baby minimalism. My theory was that everything had to serve at least a dual purpose. No crib or changing table for this Mama... I bought a Pack 'n Play instead that serves as both. Bottles for when the Sailor wants to feed the baby? I purchased glass lifefactory ones that can be converted to sippy cups later.


I had the sense to at least pick some sort of theme, since I knew people would want to buy us gifts... and after seeing this crochet pattern, I knew that the safari theme would work perfectly for the Peanut whether or not we had a boy or girl. Who doesn't like safari animals?

But the nursery.... surely the nursery is something that is for the parents more than the baby, right? I mean, the baby can't even see that far in front of his or her face for a few weeks.

I have discovered that here in America, baby stuff truly is a racket. 

Throughout my pregnancy I've been remembering a young gal I met in Ukraine nearly a decade ago. I stayed with her family one night since my train was due to leave super early in the morning and conveniently they lived right around the corner from the station. 

She was due with her first baby literally any minute... and she asked if I wanted to see 'the room'. 

Of course I said yes, so she led me up the staircase to her and her husband's bedroom. She then proceeded to show me a small bassinet next to the bed, along with the smallest shelf possible with only a few diapers (I'm assuming cloth, because I don't ever remember seeing disposables sold anywhere in the country) and one small bottle of baby powder. 

I vaguely remember seeing a small pile of clothes -- the key word being small
Photos by my fabulous friend, Angie, taken about four weeks ago.
(I am a LOT bigger now!)



That was IT.

And this Ukrainian gal was so proud of it all, she actually exclaimed: 'We're all ready for the baby's arrival!'

I will never forget that evening, or the look on her face. She was totally serious. They didn't need anything else. They had a place for the baby to sleep... a few diapers and clothing items that they would probably need to wash by hand, and a little luxury in the form of baby powder. Most of all, they already loved this baby growing inside of her and were prepared to offer him or her their version of the world.

I haven't been back to Ukraine since that trip... I have no idea whether she had a boy or girl and by now the baby would be about 9 years old. I would love to return though to find out how she fared with such a tiny amount of 'stuff'. I suspect she did just fine. It's amazing that women around the world give birth in far less ideal circumstances, with far less 'stuff' and less fanfare than here in the States. 

I know that I don't live in Ukraine. But I also know that I'm not planning on being a 'typical' textbook American mother. I have already gotten the hairy eyeball from more than one person by stating that the Sailor won't be anywhere near me in the delivery room, or that we'll be using cloth diapers from the start. I feel like people are continually watching us to see how much we're going to change as parents. 

I'm sure we'll eat some words. Toys and 'stuff' will creep into our lives and I guarantee you that disposable diapers will find a way into our life on things like road trips. But overall, I want to continue to remember that Ukrainian gal... and when I look at the clothes, diapers and the few things we have for the Peanut, I have also exclaimed to people, 'We're all ready for the baby's arrival!' 

July 29, 2014

Missing Loch Lomond

Summer camp has started on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond... and even though it has been four years since I've made it to that part of the world (and let's face it -- I have one of the most legitimate reasons on the planet for missing it this year) I'm still a little nostalgic for that field and the view. 


Last year, I wrote about what brings me back there year after year, here.  

Many of my foreign friends have converged on the field by now and are giving a slew of young people the summer of their lives by introducing them to new skills, new friends and a new environment. Someday, I hope to take the Peanut there to show him or her the place where I first fell in love with travel and foreign experiences.

To my friends there now, may the rain be sparse, the midgies* be few, and may you take the time to enjoy every single stunning sunset Loch Lomond has to offer you in the next few weeks. 

{*The most awful little bugs on the planet... 10,000x worse than mosquitoes in my book. They are so tiny you can't see them coming until one bites you on the face. They will not be missed...} 

July 26, 2014

Cloth Diapers

I always knew if I had a baby, I'd use cloth diapers. Perhaps it's because I wore them as a babe and my mom swore by them (and I still have one of the old-fashioned pins in my sewing kit) or maybe it has to do with the fact that I was a bit of an environmental freak back in high school. 

Then I discovered that cloth diapered babies generally get less rashes, are exposed to less chemicals and on average seem to potty train quicker than those in disposables. Even more reasons to go with them! 

I'm betting though the real reason I set my mind on it though was once I saw the monetary savings. A few hundred bucks versus thousands over the years? You bet I'm going to cloth diaper the Peanut. And, having lived overseas and witnessed the lack of disposables in many of those places... I perhaps have an easier time than others imagining that cloth diapering is totally plausible, especially in this world of convenient washing machines. 

Over the months, I've gathered enough supplies from online vendors and even Walmart and when people ask if we're ready for the baby to arrive I tell them we have a place for the wee one to sleep and we have diapers. I'm pretty sure those are two things that are high on the list of necessities. 

The convenience of washing machines aside, for the first few weeks, the Sailor and I decided to cash in on my winning streak and use my coupon for a free diaper service. We'll still be cloth diapering, but we'll simply be letting someone else wash the dirties for us for a few weeks. 

(Even if you're convinced that disposables are the way to go instead for convenience, who can resist the cute owl pattern on the cloth diaper cover above?)