Thursday, December 31, 2009

What we've been up to...

Brian and I have been busy this vacation!  We decided to spruce up our downstairs apartment a bit, in hopes of getting some more action during these cold winter months when no one seems to be looking for apartments.

Even though I really like the "retro-ness" of the black and white kitchen floor, it is pretty grungy and we decided to redo it with some high quality laminate.  The guys are coming on Wednesday to put it down.  I'm very excited about it.  I think it will really brighten up the kitchen/bathroom area.  We also decided to paint the gray bedroom a nice cream color.  I went back and forth on this, but we finally decided that it was worth it.  It looks great.  Today we are painting the galley kitchen a nice warm green color and possibly the bathroom too.  Yesterday we went to IKEA and bought some great space savers, a kitchen organization/counter unit and a wardrobe (since there is no closet in the bedroom).  I haven't taken pictures yet, but when everything is done I'll post before and after photos. I want to live down there, now!

In between coats of paint, I've been crocheting like a mad woman.  I'm on my 12th hat, I think.  Not an exaggeration.

Here some shots from PhotoBooth.  :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Sea Kettle Settler

The word on the street is that my husband Brian has started a blog called "The Sea Kettle Settler".  He is by far much more talented with his words than I am, so I would highly recommend checking it out if you get bored with my crafty ramblings.

Both Brian and I are notorious for starting things and not always following through so begin reading at your own risk.  You may be heartbroken to find out that in a week or two, we both decide that blogging is a huge waste of our time. :)  Hopefully not.  It's been pretty fun so far.

The Settler and I on Christmas.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Crocheting at Grandma's

Sorry for the over abundance of posts recently.  I had been writing and collecting them during the Christmas season (and didn't want to ruin any surprises!), so now I have quite a few to post.

Growing up, whenever we went to Grandma's house it was always craft time.  Ever since I could hold a crayon and color, my Mom, my aunt or my Grandma would plan some wonderful craft for us to complete during each visit.  My siblings, cousins and I would make candles from sand molds, sculpt animals from clay or create bird houses from gourds that Grandpa grew in the garden.  One weekend was spent quilting or learning to knit, the next we would paint pots for new plants.

As we've all grown up, we've had fewer and fewer family craft times.  Until yesterday.

My family went up to New Hampshire to see my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins to celebrate the day after Christmas.  My mom had bought a book with lots of patterns for crocheting hats.  We all got inspired and decided to make one.  Before you knew it we had about 6 hats made in a matter of 3-4 hours.  We had a blast; talking, crocheting, laughing.  I made a white hat for myself, a green hat for my sister Kimmie and a black hat (sans flowers!) for my brother.  Katie worked on a hat for her friend's birthday and my aunt made a cute blue hat for my cousin, Jenny.  They were quick, fun and very easy.  You really just need to know the single crochet stitch.  It would take me forever to type out the pattern, but  I bet if you googled it, you could find lots of great patterns.   In the book there is a cute pattern for straw sun hats.  My aunt Wendy is making all of us girls a sun hat by crocheting it out of raffia.  We are all going to wear them during our annual camping trip this summer.  Won't that be the cutest??!

My white "flapper girl" hat.  Love the flower!

Kimmie modeling my first hat

Kimmie decided that she also needed a cute hat this winter, so I popped this guy out next.

 My sisters, cousin and I with our new hats!

Even my brother, Jonny, got in on the craze...

Now go buy some yarn and crochet someone a hat!  We have a long cold winter before us...


Joining together with the gratitude community.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow...

holy experience

144. winter break
145. Christmas time with friends and family
146. laughing till we cried
147. lots of old friends together in Sea Kettle
148. crocheting with sisters
149. a family that truly loves each other
150. a family that loves to be together
151. Grandma's dinners
152. a week with no plans
153. Dad advice - Dadvice :)
154. A thoughtful and inquisitive brother who asks good questions and longs to know the truth
155. a kind and compassionate husband
156. sleeping in
157. wreaths on the windows
158. a good friend whose suffering has ended - her sorrow and sighing fled away
159. warm house to entertain
160. a day to work on updating and advertising our first floor apartment
161. cuddling with my sisters on couches
162. hot cocoa
163. crocheting time with Katie, Kim and Aunt Wendy.
164. Christ's love and patience with me
165. crisp (but not too crisp) winter mornings

Soli Deo Gloria, my friends.

Christmas Projects Continued - Vintage Sheet Quilts

This is one project this year that I was especially excited about.  I have seen this done a couple times and have always wanted to try it.  This was a such an economical sewing project and perfect for amateurs like myself.

I decided to make quilts for my siblings with vintage sheets.  I found some old sheets at my parents house, and went to a consignment shop to find a couple of other sheets with fun patterns.  Each sheet was $4. Between that, the batting and the thread, each quilt was under $15 to make!

I decided to stitch some appropriate verses for each quilt, then sew these patches onto the front, bottom end of the quilt top.  After sewing the two sides together with the batting, I quilted the top with embroidery thread and voila! ..a (relatively) quick and easy quilt!

I look forward to finding more old abandoned sheets just waiting for new life!

Mom came over to help me remember my rusty sewing skills!  It's been a while since my yearly Easter outfit sewing projects...

Verses in process of being stitched for the quilts

One sister's finished quilt.

The other sister's quilt.  I thought this bright flowery sheet was such a great find!

Stripes for my brother. :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Project - Terrariums

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.  And now that Christmas is over, I can post some of my Christmas present projects.  :) Although I have no idea who reads this blog, I wanted to be sure I didn't give any presents away.  It's a good thing I waited, as I just found out yesterday that my sister in law does! (Hi Rachel!) :)

Please forgive the terrible layout of this post.  Something is messed up and if I knew more about html I could fix it.  But alas, I don't and I have to run!

This year one of my biggest projects was to create terrariums for some of my friends and family members.  I have done a lot of painting, printmaking and other fine art projects in the past and decided to go for something a little different this year.  They were a bit of a challenge, but in the end I really like how they came out.  Now hopefully they'll live for a while!

Although it took me quite a while to find the right materials, in general, terrariums are not hard to make.  Here are some simple directions.

1. Find a good sized jar at a craft store or a second hand shop.  Apothecary jars work well, if you can find them for a reasonable price. 
2. First, I put some river stones on the bottom of my jar for drainage purposes.  
3. Next, put a layer of activated charcoal (get this at a pet store)
4. Put at least 2 inches of potting soil for the next layer.
5. Next, find some small plants (I sent away for some small plants specifically for terrariums) and decide where to place them.  Make sure they have ample room.  You can also use moss to cover the bare spots (we found some on our neighbors was pretty funny watching Brian "harvest" the moss over our fence, trying not to be spotted by anyone!)
6. After you have planted your terrarium plants, lightly water.  
7. You could be done at this point but I also decided to put some stones around the terrarium for decoration, as well as some birds that I made out of sculpey and wire and some tiny nests I found at the craft store. 
8. Water lightly every month or so (or whenever it looks like it's getting dry).
9. Enjoy it!

It was very fun getting 25 mini plants in the mail one day.  Brian was almost giggling with delight as he unpacked each little package.  He wants to just order these little guys every once in while, just for fun. :)

Lovely jars and plants all ready to be assembled.

Tiny plants inside the terrarium..

I love how this jar shows off the wonderful terrarium layers!

 Now it's your turn... for those of you ladies with kids, wouldn't this be a fun activity during these long winter months?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve

Beautiful Christmas Eve service. Carols and children and candles and visits from old friends.

A long time friend with too many of her own struggles cries and tells me "My sister is dying.  She won't be here for Christmas.  It's true.  She hugs me and won't let go.  A few tears later and hope from a father who knows her daughter is in God's hands.  I am speechless.  How can a father whose daughter is dying know how to comfort me so?  I should be comforting him.  But he's been comforting me for years.  His smile is big (how?) and he tells me that his daughter is in better hands than his.  Peace, Joy, Love.  But my friend is still crying as I walk out the church doors  "My sister won't be here for sister is dying..." Heavy Christmas.

Dinner with my nearest and dearest.  Lots of time-for-a-baby comments. One present opened.  An attempt at a Christmas movie. Everyone is falling asleep.  We are tucked in on the sleeper sofa in Nana's bookroom.  Blogging while husband finishes last minute details on what promises to be a thoughtful gift of love.

I leave you with my favorite Christmas promises.   Read and have hope.  Our Savior has come!  And you know what? He's coming again.  Father of dying daughter believes these words.  Oh how he believes them!  "sorrow and sighing will flee away" Yes, yes Lord, we believe.

Isaiah 35
Joy of the Redeemed
 1 The desert and the parched land will be glad;
       the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
       Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
       it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
       The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
       the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
       they will see the glory of the LORD,
       the splendor of our God. 3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
       steady the knees that give way;
 4 say to those with fearful hearts,
       "Be strong, do not fear;
       your God will come,
       he will come with vengeance;
       with divine retribution
       he will come to save you."
 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
       and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
       and the mute tongue shout for joy.
       Water will gush forth in the wilderness
       and streams in the desert.
 7 The burning sand will become a pool,
       the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
       In the haunts where jackals once lay,
       grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
 8 And a highway will be there;
       it will be called the Way of Holiness.
       The unclean will not journey on it;
       it will be for those who walk in that Way;
       wicked fools will not go about on it. [a]
 9 No lion will be there,
       nor will any ferocious beast get up on it;
       they will not be found there.
       But only the redeemed will walk there,
 10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return.
       They will enter Zion with singing;
       everlasting joy will crown their heads.
       Gladness and joy will overtake them,
       and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gingerbread Houses and Preparation

I teach at a school for kids on the autism spectrum.  Most of my kids have Aspergers Syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  We have a class of eight and they are all boys.  We have so much fun together.  Today we listened to Christmas music and made a wonderful mess of icing, candy and graham crackers.

With no kids of my own yet, I especially treasure my time with the boys.  They are such sweet and precious young men.  Yet, many of them are destined to a life of misunderstanding.  People with this disability have difficulties with social skills and perspective taking.  Imagine a life where you cannot take someone else's perspective!  What frustration.  I pray that as they grow, those who cross their paths will learn to be patient and understanding with their rigidity and inflexibility and get to know them enough to realize their many strengths.

For now, we play, we talk, we craft, we learn... we slowly and steadily prepare for the years to come.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Homemade Christmas Cards

I wasn't going to do home made Christmas cards this year (I committed myself to too many other projects), but we had a wonderful snow day on Sunday and I decided to go ahead and carve one at the last minute.  Even if you don't consider yourself especially artistic, this is a great way to create a custom card.  You could just carve snowflakes or some other simple design.  I used a linoleum block (remember high school art class?) and carved a picture of Sea Kettle on it. I printed about 5 prints, then made color copies.  I cut the prints out, punched two holes and tied raffia to keep them together.

Monday, December 21, 2009

1000 Gifts - December 21, 2009

Continuing the thanks this advent season...
126. A wonderful snow day to stay in and relax with my love
127. An unexpected day full of Christmas crafting
128. Dinner and a movie
129. Staff Christmas party
130. Extended family
131. my space heater, that follows me around my house
132. gracious husband
133. art supplies, craft materials, lots of time
134. Dad hug
135. winter wonderland in a quaint New England neighborhood
136. Early morning smiles from a snowy neighbor
137. A husband who shovels and scrapes and goes out into the tundra and never complains.
138. 2 1/2 day week!
139. Christmas shopping with my sister
140. A game of Mafia and Empire with the family.
141. tender conversations with students
142. promise of joy, fun and family in the week to come
143. The best Christmas gift of all...

 holy experience

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

TV and An Artistic Twist to an Old Favorite

So we just broke down and got basic cable.  For our first two years of marriage, we didn't own a TV.  Then my brother gave us a beautiful flat screen high definition television for my birthday.  How could we say no? It was a gift. I must say that it was a blessing to have those first precious years of marriage without "the great time waster" *.

When we got the TV, my Dad gave us some antennas and we usually got 3 channels, depending on the weather.   When we moved into Sea Kettle, the antennae didn't pick up any channels.  We thought it would be nice to be able to get the news (if only to watch the snow cancellations!) and to be able to watch "The Office" on Thursdays, so we broke down and got the $10 a month cable package.

 All of this to say...I had NO idea that HGTV (Home and Garden Television) was included in this bare-bones package.  Alas, I must admit that I've watched a little more television since this revelation.  So last weekend, as I was finishing a couple of Christmas present projects,  I saw some celebrity holiday home special.  Jewel, the singer,  was featured, decorating her 2nd house and creating this fun cherry pie. It's basically just a regular cherry pie recipe, except she cut out pictures for the top crust.  I thought it was a great idea and made one of my own for our annual extended family yankee swap today.  I love fun twists to old favorites.

 The moral of this story: Television is usually a waste of precious time, but every once in a while.... well, you know.

*John Piper, "Don't Waste Your Life"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Anyone wanna live in a Sea Kettle?

One of the many reasons that we bought Sea Kettle, was the fact that right now it is a two family home (it could easily be turned back...and I'm counting on a future art studio!).  Our first floor is hopefully going to be rented out to help with the mortgage.  Winter is a tough season to get renters, so the going has been slow.  Meanwhile, my beloved and I have been updating this and that around the apartment.  It's amazing what a coat of paint, good scrub and new blinds will do. 

Last night I ventured downstairs to find Brian changing out an old sink fixture.  I knew my man was talented, but had not idea how handy he was! I'm glad to have such a strong and capable husband to help maintain this-(very)-old-house.  Now if we can only find a nice tenant or two to settle in the kettle! :) 

Christmas Update: still crafting away... it's almost Christmas crunch time!  I'm still enjoying it, are you? Don't forget the reason for our joy, friends.

Plumber husband

Monday, December 14, 2009

One Thousand Gifts - Dec. 14, 2009

holy experience

Continuing the thanks and praise...

101.  Dad's 50th birthday
102. a successful surprise party for Dad, with lots of dear friends
103. sisters singing together
104. Brian's song writing skills
105. turkey sandwiches
106. Christmas projects that take much more time than you planned
107. my students
108. a new haircut
109. A visit from Grandparents, Aunt, Uncle and Cousins
110. my parents
111. church cantata
112. field trip to Target with my students, to buy Christmas presents for a family in need
113. my students learning compassion and empathy
114. a co-worker
115. peanut butter balls
116. advent
117. crossing things off of lists
118. Sea Kettle
119. decorating with the family at my parents house
120. another birthday party tonight - more time with the fam
121. our small group
122. sitting with friends and singing praise with friends at church
123. having everything I need and more
124. grace, grace, grace
125. new mornings

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Nester - Christmas Tour of Homes - Sea Kettle Edition!

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

This is our first Christmas in Sea Kettle.  We were so excited to decorate our first home for Christmas.  This year wasn't the most elaborate and decadent (first mortgage payment is due on Jan 1!)  , but we did the best we could with what we had.  Enjoy!