Monday, December 4, 2017

I'm Old (and I'd Still Better Watch Out, Apparently)


A-train is at that perfect kid age where he's super excited for Christmas and Santa. And he will help you out to make sure you're on your best behavior, too. But he's not standing for any shenanigans.

Case in point.

Yesterday, I was bemoaning to my father some stupid-in-retrospect choices I had made regarding my Fantasy Football team. I said (quite loudly) "So of course I dropped him because he's been $*&#ing the bed for weeks now, and he's having a monster day today!" When whooosh. A certain bundle of adorable ran into the room, and yelled "OH, NO!!! She said a bad word! Did you hear that?" So everybody else got fake appalled, and looked at me (for his benefit) like I had kicked a puppy. He held up his hands and yelled (looking up and around the room) "I am not involved in this, Santa!!! That was her!! I had nothing to do with what she said!" He literally backed away from me, and said "I need to get out of this room so he doesn't think I'm part of this." I stopped him and said "Wait! What should I do? How do I fix this?" and he says, dead serious, "I don't know. This is not my problem!"

Guys? He made me a little afraid. I miss being a kid.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

Hi, gang! Long time, no write! Ever since I returned from Vermont, I've been a little blah. Normally I am in pretty tip-top shape, but it was one thing after another for a while (I actually met my deductible this year, soooo.....yeah). Anyway, I felt fairly ornery and unmotivated, and the one thing I did finally finish (a sweater) took me so long and was so underwhelming I literally sneered at it when I picked it up to work on it. Hopefully that will be changing as we are in my favorite month of the entire year. We're finally allowed to talk about Christmas!

But not right now. Right now I wanted to share something that, to me, feels like a little bit of a big deal. When I started blogging in 2009, I had delusions of grandeur, if you will. Other bloggers made blogging look so effortless, and made me think gaining followers and visitors would be quite simple (and we know how wrong that is, in the grand scheme of things). I have definitely neglected my little space here (I almost had to literally wipe some cobwebs off as I logged in tonight), but in the background people have still been coming to visit--following my sew-alongs and tutorials, asking questions, reading old posts, saying "Hi!" and all that jazz.

One of the comments I recently received was "Hey! Congrats on being number fourteen on the top twenty bag-making blogs on the web!" What the...what?? How did I not know this? You know how I didn't know? That fun old spam folder, wherein resided TWO emails alerting me to this...I'm going to go with honor, because that's how it feels.

Making the list was based on Google search metrics, social media popularity, quality and consistency of posts, and then a review by the editorial team. I am in some mighty fine company on this list, so I feel quite proud that my little corner of the digital world received enough visits to even warrant further review. You can see the list here.


It even comes with a fancy gold medal, which is great since the Olympics season is around the corner and I can be all "Downhill skiing? Pfft. Try pattern writing."

If you're reading this, it's unlikely this is your first visit, so for everyone who keeps reading, and clicking, and following my tutorials, and generally just being a wonderful part of this great crafting community that exists on the internet, thank you. I love you. And if this is your first time here? Welcome. Have a seat. I'll make you some tea, and we'll chat. I love you, too.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Review: Christmas Paper Crafting

Last year I spent a highly enjoyable day making Christmas cards and gift tags and envelope liners and all sorts of things. With the way this year is steam-rolling along I don't think I'll have the time to do it again. So when I was contacted to review a book that would give me cuteness and save me time I figured I'd take a look.


I don't send many Christmas cards anymore, but I spend plenty of time perusing the boxes (and gasping at just how pricey they've become). This book is chock-full of all sorts of tear-out cards (my only complaint is you can see the perforations) that are stinking adorable.


There are lots of cozy designs that have a touch of folk art about them, and a lot of cuteness.


As coloring is such a craze right now, there is a decent amount of cards to color in as well if that's your jam.


In addition to the cards, there is a section of printed papers in the back for use with the provided envelope templates.


And let's not forget all of the gift tags (this is just a sampling):


With the popularity of e-readers, most people don't find much need for bookmarks. But I love them. I have squillions of them, as I still read book-books (in addition to digital books). And since one of my favorite gifts to give is books, bookmarks would be a cute little addition, especially with the crafty tips the book gives on how to cuten them up.

 

And if you're looking for a fast and easy way to add to your holiday decor, there are even a couple tear-out frameable pages--


This book is currently available from Amazon (I'm not an affiliate--just sharing the link). The only thing--and it's so minor--is I don't know how postal-friendly the envelopes made from this book will be, so I might have to buy those blanks from the craft store to send them off in. The papers are all of a nice sturdy quality, and the prints are varied and adorable. I can't wait to (literally) tear this book apart and use it.

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the kit at no charge in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Road Trip: Fan-Girling

See part one, part two, and part three.

And now, one final thing (no, it's not an award for reading my blather). My main motivation for going on this trip was to see Arne and Carlos (who are hugely inspirational to me), but don't get me wrong--the sweater design class with Lars Rains was extremely valuable, and I'd like to be equally excited for that retroactively, if I may. I am confident I could sit down and design a well-fitting sweater right now due to the knowledge he imparted. Plus, he's a delight. Our senses of humor meshed very well, as I do love cheeky fellows. However, one must fan-girl over her idols, yes?

So as the designers were very accessible to all of us throughout the event (except for Lars, who had to leave around lunch on Tuesday), that meant at meal-time we got to hang out with them. The first night A&C sat at my table, and I almost fell over in excitement. By the end of the trip, everyone (but them) knew how madly in love I am with them. On the last night at dinner, Carlos said "Would you like to join us?" and I did that awe-struck dumb face nod you see in movies while thinking "Great, genius, keep it up." The others at the table finagled things so I was seated between the two of them. I left my senses behind and said "It's probably quite unbecoming for me to tell you this, but I love you. I tell my mother that you are my Norwegian knitting boyfriends." To which Carlos responded "Oh, then we have to take a photograph," and Arne commented "Yes, to send to our new mother-in-law." And when the gentleman taking the photo said "Everybody ready?" Arne said "Hi, mom!" These two are lovely people, and if you ever have the opportunity to attend one of their workshops I highly encourage you to do so.


The final morning, A&C gave a talk on where they take their inspiration from, and showed so many beautiful photos of their home in Norway. After the talk, there was a chance to buy their books (I picked up a couple I didn't have) and they signed them.


Never in my life would I have thought I'd have the incredible time that I did, or that I wouldn't be a super-introverted nerd who ran back to her hotel room after lunch and just sat and knitted, missing opportunities to meet people and see new things (because let me clear--a previous version of me would have done just that). That quote I keep seeing floating around on Instagram is right--nothing grows in a comfort zone.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Road Trip: Quintessentially New England

See part one here and part two here.

Don't worry, I won't be bothering you with pictures of a seemingly random town for much longer. Seeing as I love a good small town, the weather was beautiful, and I had a few afternoons free, I decided to be outside and enjoy the fall weather (that has been very absent here at home). What follows are just things that happened to catch my eye as I walked around town and to the farm. I'll skip the text and let you scroll in peace. The sun was so bright it was actually not easy to see what I was shooting, so I'm fairly pleased with what I've got (though I doubt Currier and Ives would have put anything on a lithograph).


You may be thinking "Where is the glorious fall foliage New England is famous for?" Where, indeed. I didn't know if I was too early or too late for it, so I asked some of the locals. They said that I was a little late for it, but that they didn't get the vibrant colors this year anyway. Everything was more of a muted tone before they let go of the trees.

On the way home, my GPS took me on one route that was absolutely breath-taking. For the first time in my life I understood what people mean when they say 'rolling hills.' I wanted nothing more than to pull over and take hundreds of photos in every direction, but I was on a two-lane road with a very narrow shoulder and safety sense prevailed. So I figured I'd just enjoy the drive. It was a view I would very much like to have shared, but at least I've got the memory of it. That doesn't leave you anywhere, though, so I guess you'll just have to see for yourself one day.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Road Trip: Billings Farm and Museum

See my first post here.

On my knitting retreat, mornings were made for big breakfasts and knitting classes, followed by delicious lunches. We then had the afternoons free until dinner to shop, explore, relax, go to the spa, whatever. I decided to head to the Billings Farm--it was a very walkable distance, and sometimes City Girl here likes that sort of thing.


While the farm is on Route 12, I took this photo because I am so madly in love with the dappled effects of sun shining through leaves.


These delightful creatures were just off the main road. One of them scared the bejesus out of me when it mooed, loudly and deeply, just as I was inhaling lungfuls of fresh air. I had a split-second thought of "Oh my goodness, what's happening?" thinking I had developed a respiratory disorder in literally one second, when really the moooooo started slow and deep, and then grew. I felt so ridiculous that I started laughing hysterically, and then felt even more ridiculous as other people were walking down the farm lane.


The farm was dotted with Robert Frost poetry. Random poetry should be in a lot more places at random intervals. Wouldn't that be delightful?


Horse (Clydesdales, I believe) and wagon rides were available, but my ability to intermingle with strangers only goes so far, and random wagon rides are not within that scope.


Besides, there was a sheep...I guess...demonstration. And as I was on a wool-based retreat, I figured I'd listen in.


The ewes lambed in April, and were a big wooly hunk of dirty cuteness. Seriously. When I think of sheep I imagine fluffy white snuggle-buggles that are just adorable. Real sheep are quite dirty, and the wool feels like a kid's hair after he runs ice cream hands through it. There are a ton of steps to get wool from sheep to skein, and more than half of them involve washing.


Two hundred years ago, merino sheep were brought to the area that had many farms and spinning mills. That changed by the mid 19th century, ending 'Merino Madness.'


Cute, right??? I was hoping for just such a picture. Years ago I told my dad he should get a sheep herd to 'mow' his lawn, and then I'll take the fleece, but now that I know there are dozens of steps to make the fleece knittable I'm shelving that idea.


This is Hazel. Hazel was rejected by her mom and was 'raised' by the workers on the farm. She's therefore very good with people, so they trot her out on a leash for these little talks. There was a woman there who kept going up to her and baa-ing. I'm sure it was delightful. I know I enjoyed it... (please tell me the sarcasm came through).

The Billings farm is a working dairy farm, so there were lots of cows. But as they're kept in stalls, and stalls are generally...mucky...I didn't take photos to share. You're welcome.



With the exception of this pretty lady. I kept trying to pet her, but she must be so tired of people and cameras and being bothered as she kept trying to duck my touch. Which is just as well, because with my luck I would have ended up with a handful of wet cow nose.

The upstairs of the welcome center was a museum devoted to farm life. There were tons of implements and machinery on display, as well as (what felt like endless) depictions of rural life.


I like the idea of picnics, but I don't like the idea of bugs invading my food. I'm very territorial when it comes to my food. Ask anyone I've ever dated.

 

Many of the items (like the butter mold and the cheese making implements) were straight out of the Little House books.

 
 

As were the sugaring and ice-blocking displays. Sincerely, it's as though I was looking at scenes from Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy. I suppose not much would be vastly different from one section of the country to the next  back in those days.


Including the general store. I've realized in looking through my photos that I have a thing for shelves. Something about all that potential for organization and arranging things prettily.

There were numerous displays of all aspects of rural life--the country school, the church, every kind of farm activity, what every room in the farmhouse might look like, and so on. It's the type of thing I love, and imagine that the curators of these pieces must have had great fun arranging them just so.

In addition to the farm and museum, you could tour the old farmhouse where the farm manager lived with his family.


This pantry must be the stuff of dreams. I love those little bins of flour and sugar. I doubt I would make the mess I do when measuring out flour if I had a handy little thing like that.


Every room had beautiful old coal stoves in them. I'm sure they were dirty and sooty and gross back then, but they're beautiful now.


I so wish I had stepped back a few more feet when taking this picture. Walking into this room made me gasp (literally). The light coming in through those curtains and pinging off of every wall in the room, creating dappled shadows on the floor and walls and making things seem as though they were sparkling, was literally breath-taking. I looked out all of the windows in this house, and there wasn't a bad view from any of them.


What IS it about shelves? I much prefer them to drawers and cabinets.


About twenty years ago, an Oscar-nominated documentary was made about Woodstock, the Billings Farm, and the conservation efforts that sprang from therein. There is now a park across from the farm called the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park. All three of the owners were wildly involved in land preservation across the country, going back to well before we were paving parking lots and building landfills everywhere; it actually started with the robust timber industry in Vermont almost two hundred years ago.

I have oodles more pictures but I won't bore you any further with all of that. I don't know that you all have the same love for shelves that I do.

Next time I'll show you some absolutely New England pictures.

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