Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happiest of New Years

In the Japanese New Year custom, I'm spending today cleaning and scouring the house, with the intention of relaxing and doing nothing but fun things tomorrow. In Japan, this would also mean cleaning and ironing all of the curtains in the house, washing all bed sheets, and airing out all duvets/futons before the first of the year. Being 8 months pregnant, I'm not feeling that ambitious, so I'll settle for a tidy house, laundry that is clean, folded and put away, and a kitchen with clean counters and stove tops and NO dishes in the sink. I believe, as the Japanese do, that the first of the year should be reserved for rest, reflection, and recreation. I'm not a fan of loud, drunken beginnings to new years. I think that's why the Japanese tradition speaks to me. While living in Japan we would celebrate the new year with our dear friends Megumi and Miwako. We ate a richly symbolic "osechi" meal (which I do not have the skill to prepare) and quietly watched the news coverage of people visiting shrines, writing their prayers on little pieces of paper, attaching them to balloons, and reverently releasing those prayers into the night. There were no shouts announcing the new year, no miserable hangovers the morning after, and best of all, no reports of car crashes from drunk drivers in the night. It was refreshing and rejuvenating, and exactly what we needed.
Dinner at the Iguchi household

Traditional Osechi meal


Teaching us how to eat Shabu Shabu

I've also been reflecting on what the past year has meant for us. New jobs, new house, a new baby on the way . . . and yet most of those things happened within the second half of the year. The first half was full of questions - Where did the last year go? Where do we go from here? How do we move on? When will all be right in the world? When will we feel whole? It is easy, when times are hard, to see only what is lacking in our lives and the world around us. It takes far more courage and far more work to see what what we have, and find peace and contentment in that. To those who are suffering right now, whether it be from some hurt done to you, depression that you cannot explain or wish away, or a situation you feel is beyond management or repair, I want you to know that I have been where you are. I have felt your pain, anger and frustration. I have felt beyond repair myself. There came a moment in my life in this past year, however, where I made the choice to see beyond my wounds and imperfect situation, and heal. There came a point when, like the Japanese prayer balloons, I let my expectations and prayers float out of me and into the universe, leaving me only the will to do and be, not wish and want. And once I made the choice to heal, I did. As I have been cleaning house today, I've thought of the "house cleaning" we've managed in our souls this past year, and I am in awe of the steps we have taken, and the healing we have accomplished.

I can't imagine being in a better, happier place than we are right now. I love my family, I love my home, I love my life. Never have I felt more spiritually in harmony with the universe and all of its diverse paths. Never have I been more acutely aware of my connection to the lives around me, and the significance that connection holds in my life. I am full to bursting with wonderment and love of the human experience, however ugly it may seem at times. I am grateful for the gift of a new year, and all the exciting turns and events it holds for us. It is hard to imagine a year topping the one we've just had, but I'm just crazy and optimistic enough to think that it will.

I wish all of you the very Happiest of New Years. May you find the peace you seek, and the courage to grab hold of it and never let it go. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Yarn Along, Other Crafts, and Christmas Snaps

Now that Christmas has passed, I can post some photos of the handmades I gifted to family. You'll probably remember the piggies I was working on a few weeks ago. I'm so happy with how they turned out. These lucky pigs now have a home in Hawaii!
 I also tried my hand at candle making this season. With these little Japanese tea cups I scored at a thrift store I followed this tutorial, adding lavender essential oil to make them fragrant. I think next time I'll add more. :)
 For another sweet nephew I made this aardvark, another Mamma4earth pattern.
 The construction of this paper lantern was therapeutic for me. I worked late into the night before Christmas Eve, and then just sat there and watched it glow while everyone slept. Tutorial found here.
 And another Dory Shawlette for my sister. Seriously, this pattern is so quick and easy to wip up, I want to make one in every color!
 Upon request, I made my husband an extremely warm hat using a combination of Malabrigo worsted and some qiviut (musk ox) lace yarn I won from this blog. Having little desire to try my hand at knitting lace, I knew I wanted to double the qiviut with something equally as decadent and warm, and what could be better than merino wool? The pattern is a simple knit 5, purl 5 which I found on Ravelry. I had made Hans the same hat last year, and wanted to make it longer this time so it could be folded further over his ears for added warmth. It seems my efforts may have been a little too exuberant, as now Hans says the hat is too warm for this unseasonally warm weather. Picky, picky!
 So that's what kept me busy the last week before Christmas, and consequently my progress on Hannah's Milo vest/dress took a hiatus. Maybe I'll have it completed for her birthday in March. I'm not stressing. :)
 And here is what our Christmas looked like. Fondu dinner, a wonderful time with both sides of the family, and my very favorite part, a beautifully crafted handmade Waldorf doll for Hannah. Daria of Nobby Organics made this very special doll for us, and I couldn't be happier with how she turned out. Thank you, Daria!!
My little poser, in her Christmas dress.

Fondu Dinner!
Ready to open presents

Opa tells the Nativity story.
Amazing puppet theater made by Aunt Kerri. Can't wait to use this for preschool!
Every new homeowner's dream come true.
Hannah's new friend, whose current name is "Felicity." We will see if it sticks. The tiny baby doll was another giveaway from Little Chips Handcrafts. Perfect for a little girl expecting a baby brother in 2 months!

 I hope your Christmas was merry and bright!

Joining Ginny's Yarn Along at Small Things, Creative Friday with Linda at Natural Suburbia, and Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Craft Room Bliss

I always smile when I think that it wasn't me who insisted on a house with a hobby room for all of my crafting supplies, but Hans. I didn't buy an eight-foot foldable craft table, but Hans did. And I didn't organize this cluttered room so that my craft supplies were easily accessible. Yup, all Hans. He says it's because he couldn't stand the chaos of it all - that knowing this mess was lurking in the basement made him anxious. I like to think there's more to it than that . . . that he is nurturing my need to constantly create, and therefore made my creation room his top priority on his days off this week. Either way, I love him for it.

And maybe, just maybe, this means we can have our dining room table back. I wouldn't count on it, though. :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yarn Along

Santa's workshop is working overtime! Here are some last minute creations for Christmas.

This squirrel was so much fun to make. The tail especially had me giggling as I cut the loops of yarn and saw how incredibly puffy it was turning out. I know my little nephew will be just as tickled. The pattern can be found in Linda's Mama4Earth Etsy shop, and the acorn pattern was a freebie on her blog Natural Suburbia.

I found this shawlette on Lisa's blog OhMyGoodknits. Her pattern can be purchased on Etsy or Ravelry. I have to say, it was nice to put down the knitting needles and crochet for a day. My knitting muscles were getting sore! It was a quick project with beautiful results, and I hope to make at least one more before Christmas.
There's one other little WIP sitting here, but I'll let that be a surprise. :) The book I'm not necessarily reading but hoping to crack open this week is The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Something fun to read over Christmas when all the gift making is complete. :)

Joining Ginny's Yarn Along

Monday, December 19, 2011

Family Evening at Home

I didn't know my heart could hold this much joy, love and light.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Making Wooden Figures

 In October we bought a scroll saw for $50 on Craigslist. After much adoring and drooling over wooden toys and figures that we just couldn't afford, I told Hans it was time we learned to make our own. I was impressed with how emphatically he agreed! So we picked up the scroll saw and made our plans. I bought a sheet of pine, traced our figures, and he started cutting.
 At first I was worried about ruining the surprise for Hannah, but I think she has enjoyed being a part of the process even more than the end products!
 While some of the patterns were my own creation, I derived a lot of inspiration from Pinterest. :) Our Nativity set probably won't be completed this Christmas, but that hasn't stopped Hannah from playing with and recognizing the characters in their rough cut form. Childrens' imaginations are very resourceful that way. :)
Now comes the even longer and more tedious task of sanding, sanding sanding. I'm trying to be very zen about my sanding. I want them to feel smooth and warm to the touch. By the time they are all sanded, painted and polished, we'll either be sick of the project or have a life long hobby. Either way, we're  happy in the moment, and that's all that matters, really.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yarn Along: Pigs and Birthing

Today I'm joining Ginny's Yarn Along at Small Things. She says, "Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr."

So, without further ado, on this rainy day I am finishing up a sweet little family of pigs for a niece's Christmas present. The pattern is from the book Knitted Animals by Anne-Dorothe Grigaffe. I love the simplicity of her patterns. Many of them only require you to knit a square, and then do some stitching and sculpting into an animal. These piggies have been a super quick project, which is much appreciated this time of year!

The book I'm reading right now is Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie Mongan.  I cannot believe we only have about 9 weeks before we meet our little boy. In preparation for our home birth (yes, I know some of my friends think I'm crazy, and I simply don't care :)) I'm taking a Hypnobirthing class with my sister in law, Kerri. So far we have had one session, and what I've learned is that I really DO know how to do this already. Hannah's birth in Japan was completely natural, spiritual, and for the most part pain-free. It was really only the atmosphere of the general public hospital that felt "off." Well, that and not being able to communicate with my nurses and midwives in the same language. :) This time around, I feel as though I am learning the philosophy and purpose behind the hypnotic state during labor that I reached without knowing during Hannah's birth. I'll also be surrounded by people who trust that I know what to do, and when my body is ready to birth this baby. Nothing is more disheartening than a nurse walking in the room after you've labored quietly through the night and saying "you still have a long way to go." Little did she know that 30 minutes later I would be holding Hannah in my arms.

We sure showed them.
 For the past few months I have really concentrated on keeping a positive and happy countenance, and what a difference it has made. By removing negative thoughts and influences in my life, I have opened myself to the simple joy of being pregnant. It is easy to fall prey to the ever-present mentality that pregnancy is a miserable process, and birthing an excruciating event. It takes much more effort and willpower to be happy with the changes my body is going through, and look forward to birthing with excitement and joy. I am so glad I've chosen to put in the effort to fill my heart with love and positive energy. My baby will thank me.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Unravelry :)

Some months back, I watched a youtube video on how to unravel old sweaters for the yarn, and I became obsessed with finding just the right sweater for unraveling. My first victim was this men's extra large multi-colored sweater, which I thrifted for $2. 
 I learned a lot from this sweater. First, if you're going to unravel a sweater, have a plan for how you're going to roll it into balls before you start pulling on that first loose piece of yarn . . . because once you get started, you won't want to stop. Seriously. It's like picking at a peeling sunburn. It's so much fun! But if you don't have a plan, you'll end up with a little thing I like to call "yarn ramen," or "yarn carnage," or better yet, "Yarnage."
Second, if you're looking for your sweater to yield nice long pieces of yarn, pick a sweater that is both one color AND doesn't have surged seams. You want seams that have been hand-stitched together, because a surger just cuts the ends off the sweater pieces, leaving lots of little yarnlets that you can't do much with except throw at the cat. Here is the yarn my sweater yielded. As you can see, there are quite a few smaller balls, and they are all multicolored, because I didn't have patience to separate the colors. This yarn is still sitting in my stash, and I don't really know what to do with it. Any suggestions?
So now that I've grown a little wiser, I waited for the right unraveling sweater to jump out at me, and it just so happens this purple number was the one. No surged seams, no felting of the fibers (it's 100% acrylic. I have yet to try and unravel a wool sweater), and oh, what a lovely color!
Now some of you might think, "what a waste of a good sweater!" But it just isn't my style. Or my mother's. Or grandmother's. So here we go! First, take your sweater apart at the seams. You can do this carefully with a seam ripper or small pair of scissors. This sweater was so chunky, I could do it with my fingers. Once you have the sweater in pieces (this one had three - one back and two fronts), find the "sweet spot" where the knitting ends and the magic begins. Get yourself a toilet paper roll, cut a slit on the top, and wedge the yarn end into the slit. This will make it possible to pull the yarn from the CENTER of your ball when you're all done (fantastic!). Then, have a blast unraveling!
Here is the finished product. Four lovely balls of lavender yarn, all for $2 and about an hour of work.
You will most likely still have some yarnlets from the collar. You can use these for doll hair, stuffing for a toy, or just throw them at the cat. He'll thank you.
Look what else I salvaged from our sweater? Four wooden buttons! Score! These probably would have cost 50 cents each at the craft store.
Unlike the first sweater, I knew exactly what I wanted to make from the unraveled yarn this time. Purple is Hannah's favorite color, so matching Milo vests for Hannah and her dolly were my choice. Within 30 minutes of unraveling this sweater, I had already cast on for something new and exciting. :)
And here is my progress as it stands now. This is the biggest garment I've knit thus far. In fact, it's ending up WAY bigger than I'd hoped due to the doubled-up chunkiness of the yarn. So I'm thinking it will end up more like a dress than a vest, which will thrill Hannah to no end. It's hard to believe that my sister taught me how to knit only a year ago. The human brain is truly an amazing thing. It makes me think, "what else can I learn in a year?" Notice the little heart detail. First cable knitting, too!
I hope to get this finished by Christmas, and a matching one for the beautiful doll she's getting for Christmas (more on that later). I better get to work!