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Category Archives: Crafting

The Holy Grail of Knitting Patterns

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I learned to knit when I put my children through Waldorf school. My poor son hated knitting and would offer to trade me chores for my knitting his flute bag. I loved it. He did not understand.

I decided the first year that I’d learned to knit fairly well that I’d make them stuffed animals. I bought an adorable pattern on Ravelry, ordered beautiful yarn for each of them and sat down to whip them right out.

elijah

Holy hannah… they were made with tiny needles and there were stitches I’d never seen and didn’t make sense to read. I got the first half done and ended up with a blue trunk/head object that looked like blue fuzzy scrotum. Ugh.

I’d already fantasized about  a darling matching set of hand-knit Elijah elephants dangling out of stockings on Christmas eve/morning. I knew I didn’t have time to spend the time getting them done by the holiday, so I started to search for someone that could make them. I Googled “knit animals, knit toys and knit for children… and found the most amazing and inspirational woman.

Julie Williams, of Little Cotton Rabbits.

Her blog popped up and I fell in love with her little English garden. I grew to admire her as I read about her knitting peacefully with her Autistic son. I loved how she spoke about her daughter. Most of all?

lcrgang

I wanted one of her little animals so badly I was considering bribing someone who won to let me buy theirs. Julie was a mother and woman first and the demand for her beautiful creations far exceeded how many she could produce. People stole her ideas left and right and still, and whilst defending herself; she did the best she could to knit as many as possible. People began to complain the sales were rigged and whined that they were being intentionally denied an opportunity to have a coveted Little Cotton Rabbit. She would list them randomly and it was the basically the luck of who got there… but there did seem to be people who sat and did nothing but hit the refresh button in anticipation of her listing one for sale. I remember reading a comment from a woman that had three of them. I was instantly bitter and could not believe she would continue snatching the treasures up while some of us didn’t even have ONE yet! I realized I was obsessed.

bunny

I was never lucky enough to win the opportunity to buy one.

She finally had to resort to using a random number generator to choose who got to the chance to buy one. I gave up.  She’s been the first link in my computer for years.

My ex got married a few years ago and my daughter was nervous about her first trip on an airplane without me. She was clingy weepy about it and I wanted to send something small and made with love to comfort her in my absence. I sat down with my needles and copied the bunny I coveted, to the best of my ability. It was absolute hell, but Bailey the Bunny was exactly what my baby girl needed to feel safe. I sprayed her tummy with my perfume and wrapped her in her suitcase. She loved her and I swore I’d never make another one…. until my favorite Aunt had a baby girl. I used the beloved Alpaca yarn I’d had stashed for a special project, and Vera the bunny was sent off with great love.

bailey

I’ve tweaked my pattern over the years, but I always felt a little… wrong about the whole thing.

I’d absolutely copied her pattern as best I could- and it wasn’t to cheat her or avoid paying for something. I couldn’t buy one…. and she didn’t sell the pattern.

Bailey and Vera were gifts of great love and SO hard to knit… but more than that- I’d loved those cotton bunnies for so many years and wanted my little girls to have one.

Along those lines, I’m making all of my Christmas gifts this year and I’m determined to knit something for everyone. I would love to knit everyone something special, though I can’t imagine being able to pull it off this year.  I tucked a sleepy baby in my bathrobe and sat down with my tea this morning to look at patterns on Ravelry. I clicked on the Little Cotton Rabbits page and nearly fell off of my chair.

You can buy the bunny pattern.

bunnyforsale

You can buy the dress pattern.

dresses4sale

There is a Santa Claus.

I bought them immediately and opened directly to the foot, which is knitting purgatory. Baby Quinn’s bunny still only has one leg. I read the instructions and nearly cried. It’s so perfectly neat and beautifully simple. Just like everything I’ve seen about Julie.

I’m both honored and excited to share this link. Go buy this pattern and fill the lives of the little ones you love…

With REAL Little Cotton Rabbits.

I’m still so excited I feel like Santa came early… and seeing the little foxes lets me know that someday… if I’m patient and wait my turn…

She’s going to sell the elephant pattern too.

I’m beside myself with geeky knitter joy that I can actually make my babylove a REAL rabbit, just like the beautiful creations Julie’s made that have evaded capture.

Now I can give my darling knitter friend S the link to the REAL pattern… because I still can’t find one of the 5 post-it notes I wrote my borrowed pattern on.

I’m so incredibly happy to be able to support such a wonderful woman. I have 2 bunnies already started and I’m happiest most of all that two of them will be dangling out of stockings this year!!!

omgcute

Foundation

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I have an old cedar deck on the front of my house, and in one spot, the boards are being pulled a different direction by the house. I know a problem when I see one. Thankfully after 37 years I also know when it’s a problem I am not equipped to repair by myself. It’s a foundation issue.

Such was my life. Being pulled in a million directions results in you neglecting the priorities you really want to prioritize. I was scattered. Flailing. Desperate.

Not at all how anyone would like to be described.

And just like these boards of mine, I started from the top and have worked my way down. Ish.

I had faith in love again and was disappointed when it went sour. It happens. I’m definitely jaded at this point and have happily burned my V card. I intend to live out my life with a houseful of happiness. (and a dozen cats).

I’ve learned to recognize when I’m not good at something and let it go. I realized how much I needed my mom in my life, and we’ve never been closer after realizing that it’s time spent, that counts. She’s given me a million things over the years, but the week she spent with me after my baby was born wove the frayed ends of our bond back together again.

Ripping down the foundation means you have to put it back together brick by brick… and you only use the bricks you know to be the best. You pick your favorites and leave the broken empty bullshit in the pile.

When you only foster and encourage the best parts of you, every day counts. I’m living proof of the power of having faith in yourself and the ability to change your life.

I had a beautiful baby in July and she lights my life in more ways than I can describe …while she grins and poops at the same time. I still pinch myself every time she wakes me from the four hour power naps I survive on. She wakes up with a big smile and we get our routine on with a little Biggie Smalls. She’s my little Muffin.

muffin

My day begins with a diaper to change, diapers to wash. Jammies to hang up. Smiley baby to nurse. Lunch to pack.

Her big sister is a full fledged teenager, fighting me when she spots my weaknesses. I love her to bits and remember what it was like with her big brother and realize it’s just how they are. I’ve had a baby in each stage of my life. My teens (19), my twenties (24) and now my thirties (37). It’s all so different and similar at the same time. I have so much more patience now- and I feel bad for my older kids because they had the drill sergeant asshole mom.  The midlife crisis mom. Muffin gets the best of me. The weathered, hardened and tempered steel strong lady I’ve grown into. The mom who know knows dessert for dinner is healthy sometimes. The everything-can-wait-let’s read-another-book mom. The mom who makes the damn kids help in the garden. I’ve learned through success and failure to focus on what’s important and leave the rest behind.

I miss my coworkers. I miss having something to talk about beyond baby smiles, infant milestones and canning…. but I’m loving my life these days. I’m living in the moment and treasuring each one.

yarden2013

I grew that damn enormous acre of vegetables and it’s downright terrifying how many heirloom tomatoes I have. A thousand pounds, perhaps? More? It’s beyond epic. It’s a biomass.

toms

Gardening while growing a human is not for the faint of heart. I pulled off the impossible. It was spectacular- and froze last week (Thank GAWD) It wasn’t bad while I was pregnant, and actually helped my back feel better. It was soothing while I was nesting and needed more to clean. It’s amazing how many weeds I pulled with a 45 inch waistline. Muffin was born right when it started to produce and things got a little crazy. You can’t take a newborn into the blazing sun and the weeds grew right along with the plants, which I never found time to fertilize.

somanyheirlooms

Thank God, all the angels & saints too… because I would have had to call the gleaners to help take some of it away.

 

pantry

I’m canning with a newborn, which is intense- to say the least. I dice tomatoes… then sing patty-cake. Nap time for baby means running a few dozen jars of sauce, salsa, tomatoes, etc through the canner. My pantry is beautiful, and I treasure these months I’ve been devoting myself at home, full time. I love having all the laundry done. I smile when I see a fresh tablecloth on the kitchen table. I like cleaning light fixtures. I’m contemplating painting. It feels good to make home feel cozy and beautiful again. Getting rid of the excess and only keeping your favorite things results in a nice tidy home full of everything you love most. All bets are off where my crafty stuff is concerned.

One cannot own too much yarn, fabric or buttons. These are facts.

I’m baking again which is sinfully good and terrible for my ass at the same time. I roasted a baby sugar pumpkin from the garden yesterday and I’m making a few pumpkin rolls today. The house smells like a mom lives here again. I can’t even get a thigh in my old jeans. Damn. Pregnancy at 37 doesn’t go away as fast as it does when you’re younger… but I’ll get there. Right after this pumpkin roll… 🙂 I really don’t care, to be completely honest. I’m focusing on being a great mother, being a better friend and appreciating the people and season. There’s plenty of time for working out when this baby isn’t so tiny and new. If this sweet chubby babylove of mine is any indication, my breast milk is more like heavy cream.

hat

I spent nap time sewing for my baby sister yesterday. Her baby is due any day and they did not find out their baby’s gender. It’s fabulously exciting, but a pain in the ass when you’re buying or making gifts. I hope like crazy it’s a girl because her and Muffin would be so close in age. Either way, it was so nice to fire up the Pfaff again. I padded her presents with baby potatoes and actually managed to get it in the mail in time to make it there for her shower… I hope.

I started running again this week after trading a years worth of garden produce for an awesome jogging stroller. Muffin loves it and I’m happy to resume a healthy habit that makes me feel so much better.

Rebuilding a foundation takes time and patience but having strong footing makes all the difference. Ridding yourself of the junk that holds you back and drowns you out, frees up a lot of time to focus on the things you love.

So I’ve cleaned the house, put away enough food for a damn army and knit 4 hats, a sweater and one bootie.

homegrown

I grew a baby, grew a garden and kept stacking away on my new foundation. I’ve only used the bricks that make me a maternal bad ass with a black belt in organic gardening. I threw out the bullshit, burned the trash and life has never been more peaceful.

One of these days I’m going to get around to fixing that deck.

My Everyday Fairytale

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For as much as I bitch and whine… I have a beautiful life.

Anything can be better, but when faced with the reality of my day to day existence… I smile.

I miss my son like I’d miss air if I were drowning. I’ve learned to compartmentalize it because there’s simply nothing else I can do. I miss him, I love him, and I respect his teenagehood. I hated my mother when I was his age. I love her now. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

It’s my day off today, and I woke up late from a divinely delicious dream. I woke up smiling, which I do 90% of the time. Either at my darling girl or at the day facing me. I love my job, I love my coworkers and my tomatoes started to sprout yesterday.

I woke up to a call from my darling Miss Harley which turned into a stomach-aching giggle-fest. Laughing over boys and how silly they are. Laughing at ourselves while we’re at it.

I decided to make myself a latte and sit in the greenhouse with the stack of pages I’ve written so far, and realizing for the first time that it’s not hard to read about my trip to Puerto Rico anymore. I was batshit crazy in love with him, and it was delightful. I don’t regret it or begrudge myself the guilty pleasure.

It was bubblegum ice cream delicious. I’m at my best when I’m in love. You can’t help but have a good day around me when I’m infatuated- it’s a contact high, to put it mildly. I bake cupcakes, I sew cool shit, I knit a blue streak… I garden. I am happiest when I’m in super girlfriend mode. It’s ridiculously codependent, but it’s true.

I’ve kicked my bad habit, sigh… I’ve waved goodbye to Flintstone and I haven’t really checked my internet dating email since one of my best friend’s ex-husbands emailed me to proposition me. I feel a little dirty making fun of someone for my own entertainment. Even if it is incredibly easy. … …. and fun. Chances are good I’m going to do it again. Purely to avoid fully embracing my role as the cat lady in the neighborhood.

I rolled over to a love note from my little red… with a Reese’s peanut butter cup. My favorite…. and how can any day be anything less than perfect when you start it with peanut butter and chocolate. Seriously.

It’s sunny and bright and I have broccoli to plant and a whole day to get a tan. I throw my bathrobe over the speaker and get to planting… in black panties and garden gloves. Welcome to the beauty of single womanhood. I can plant to my favorite music, in my panties with a mimosa and my shiny purple nitrile gloves the Easter Bunny brought me. Life is beautiful.

Randomly deciding to take thai food to school and have lunch with my daughter- a treat for myself and her… and we both are addicted to the red curry. Giggling with her and her friends over the boys being so weird <and resisting the urge to tell them nothing changes in 20 years… this day is perfect with a side of laughter. One of her friends asks me if I’m her sister, lol… we laughed all the way down the hall and I kissed her cute face on a day I ordinarily wouldn’t see her. AMEN.

Oh and just when things are going swimmingly…

A bad habit sighting… and regardless of the horrible way he treats me… I swallow hard when I’m not expecting to see him. They should make a patch to shake a bad man habit… Trans-dermal crack? I don’t know… I hate being betrayed by my body, and that’s what he inspires. I hate it. I’m craving him, I hate that I have to admit it, but it’s true. Is it hot in here or is it just me?

I bolted, drove home and changed into garden gear. Facing the music in the overgrown garden that is the penance I so deserve after abandoning it last summer…well… SUCKS. I’m covering it with landscape cloth to burn off the weeds before I plant. My asparagus is coming up 🙂

The worms are 15″ long at least and things are looking like a beautiful year for a beautiful garden. I’m really truly centered and happy in my giant ridiculously overwhelmingly massive garden. It’s round. It’s beautiful. It’s me. Spending my off time with my feet in the dirt makes me a million times happier than spending them in a bar or on a date.

I poured myself a cocktail, took the price tag off my new wheelbarrow that my mama gave me as an Easter basket… and went out to face the music. Oy…

But… even the worst challenge in the garden beats the worst date. It beats Thomas. It makes me feel better, carves my body into summer hot and makes me smile to my toes.

I have fingerling potatoes planted… Rose Finn Apple and Russian Banana… with more on the way. I planted my French shallots.

I broke in my new garden gloves and broke out of my winter funk. I’m happy. Really, really happy.

I’ve been through hell, and I’ve proven that I should not be the one to choose who I’ll date- so it’s up to my friends from now on. I’m not picking again. I have horrible judgment and horrible taste. I’d rather take a year long sabbatical from men entirely, if given the option.

My seeds are sprouting. My garden is on it’s way. I found 2 newts in the cardboard pile today. I’m so delighted with the simple details that surround me that I don’t feel lonely. I watched a dozen stupid movies this week and slept like a baby. I made the perfect mustache cake. I was a mom hero for the birthday party. My darling MSOK made us all look like a million dollars in big hair, which I’ve found I love.

Life is good… and even without a Prince? It’s a pretty sweet fairytale in and of itself.

Date with destiny…

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It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, that I’m  that I’m only beginning to let myself enjoy this crazy in love feeling.

I’m an expert optimist. The glass is always half full, and though I’ve seen it empty a few times in the last year… all of a sudden… it runneth over. 😉

The baking began yesterday… and continued on pretty late into the night.

Oh how Jenni bakes when she’s from the tip of her nose to the tip of her toes, beaming happy.

Marshmallows…sugar cookies: purely because I wanted to cut out hearts… lol… go ahead- gag… carrot cake cookies and granola and on and on and on…

All tied up in pretty red waxed ribbon, complete with my favorite vanilla bean caramels.

Joy makes me bake, sew… etc. My Mormon roots come screaming out and I turn into my favorite version of myself. The happy domestic goddess.

Complete with a dress, heels & apron.

One of my oldest friends stopped by and surveyed the fruits of my inspiration.

M- Holy shit… you’re not fucking around, are you? You’re really serious about this guy. Caramels even… dammmnnnn Betty…I haven’t had those in years.

J- Hungry?

M- Lemon tarts? Lemon BARS? Ooooh coconut….

My kitchen is a veritable smorgasbord for the munchies crew… because I don’t eat any of it.

Weird, huh? I don’t touch it except making frosting and checking the sugar level.

I have a bowl of basil, romaine, grape tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with balsamic vinegar and sea salt, sitting in front of me.

I have a bakery-full of delicious baked things in my kitchen.

He brings out the girl in me that I love best. Jenni Crocker-Stewart.

I have a dozen things I’m knitting, and enough treats coming out of the kitchen that I’ll naturally appear to be succeeding at my diet because the rest of my friends and family will all put on weight due to my falling in love. It seems pretty win-win, if you ask me.

Nothing lets me smile and create at the same time, like being in the kitchen. ♥

He inspires me so delightfully, that I naturally occupy myself with the other things that make me happy, in his absence. I’m painting the kitchen…. and perhaps a bedroom. I’m sure all my friends will be wearing new hats by the time I leave, and I guarantee they will have ALL put on weight.

So here… because I can’t spoil all of you with cookies and caramels… I’ll share my recipe. Make them- they’re delicious…and use Meyer lemons if you can find them. ♥

Lemon Bars

Ingredients:

For Base

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter

For top

  • 4 large beaten eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon or lime juice
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime rind

Directions:

  1. For the base mix the butter into the flour and sugar.
  2. Mix with hands until it clings together.
  3. Press into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan.
  4. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.
  5. For the filling, beat together eggs, sugar and lemon juice.
  6. Sift together flour and baking powder.
  7. Stir into egg mixture.
  8. Pour over baked, cooled crust.
  9. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.
  10. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  11. Cut into bars.

They’re amazing. Enjoy… and smile while you make them- it makes all the difference in the world.

Heels don’t hurt, either.

😉

Can It

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Sparkly pink nailed goodness is great for canning, oddly enough!

These acrylic wonders work miracles when it comes to blanching and peeling peaches.

Domesticity makes me inches off the ground happy, so the peach juice running down my arms and dripping off my elbows only makes me smile bigger.

The smell of jam boiling slowly on the stove, my favorite cherry print apron and hot canning jars in the dishwasher?

I’m in heaven. Sweet domestic bliss.

Canning is right up there with knitting. You start with the raw tools and it’s up to you what you put into it. The world is your oyster and you can have, be & do anything you wish.

Getting back to basics makes you value your skill base. It reminds you how capable you are.

Even if you fuck it up.

I had an entire batch of huckleberry jam fail last year…. so I changed the labels to say “Dessert Sauce”. Easy… and everybody loved it.

Because the reason I can and the reason I garden? Is to love the people who treasure me with the gifts I can make them from my heart. Simple homemade gifts of love.

Slicing vanilla beans in half and smiling at the tiny seeds bubbling in and around the soft sweet peaches I diced in cubes.

Foodie porn, in my kitchen, in heels even.

Baking, canning and smiling it all better.

One jar at a time.

Duct Tape Roses- How to make your OWN!!!

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I had to put a better tutorial together so you could really make one right away. My first flower looked like one of those cones on Madonna’s bra. Not good.

The pattern I found had you cut a bunch of pieces of tape. Horrible nightmare if you’re somewhat ADHD like me. I’m all about speed & multi-tasking 🙂 Roll the tape out at least a foot (if you’re impatient like I am, go for at least 2)

Fold one corner over. Your choice- just leave a little strip of sticky tape to stick when you fold it the other way.

See? A rose petal! Made of glorious Duct tape! Excited? Good… cause you need to make another 24…

Break off one end of your Q-tip stem, and roll it on from one side of the “petal” to the other.  There… like that.

Keep on going! Add petals in odd numbers, and stagger the points.

It starts to take shape after a few rows and you’ll be LOVING it 🙂

See? Wait’ll you see my dress for the white trash prom I’m going to tonight… delightfully trash-fabulous.

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