Wednesday, December 24, 2014

book report

I just finished reading a fun new mystery book, rather, I just finished listening to it.  I think I simply found it while at the library browsing the recorded books shelves.  It is titled The Preacher and is written by a Swedish author, Camilla Lackberg.  (I don't know how to find it on blogger, so I had to skip the correct "a" in Lackberg.  It is supposed to have the 2 little dots over it, which means it sounds like a long A in our terms.)  It's not a lighthearted story, it is kind of morose and creepy at times, like most murder mysteries.  The fun thing about it is that the story is set in a village on the west coast of Sweden, an area that I love and visited many times 40-some years ago.  So I could really picture the scenes with certain locations in mind that I remember, making it seem much more real.  I have now requested another book by this author, since she has published several titles.

And, on a cheerier note, we are ready for our Christmas celebrations!  We aren't having anyone here this year, we are going to visit parents and family.  So we left the big tree and all the ornaments packed away, and brought out our little tree instead.

 And I was able to put together a nice display on the mantel without stockings this year!  This was a decorative box that I found at a furniture store, The Wood Shed, in Augusta, WI.  They have loads of beautiful furniture, much of it made by the local Amish community.  They also carry a lot of decorative accents, like this box.  And those candy canes and lights came from there, too.  The berries came out of my Christmas boxes, and the greens and hydrangeas came out of the yard.  All together, it looks fun and not totally dorky-homemade!

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

finally some sewing (etc.) to share

I haven't put up much here lately about the creative side of my life, so here goes:

A young friend of mine, Molly, gave birth to her first little baby about a week ago (or so).  I had some fun making her pretty little crib sheets for the nursery and some pennants for her name (Ada) to decorate the wall.  When I first heard that her choice of colors for the nursery was gray and green and purple, I wasn't sure how that was going to work out.  I found out that the walls were painted a fairly bright limeish green, and the purple that she was going for was definitely not lavender!  She came into Bear Patch one evening and we picked out some bolts that fit into her color scheme.  After that, it was easy to visualize how it would look.  In addition to the crib sheets, I have put together this small quilt for Ada, although it isn't finished for the young princess yet!

One more touch that I added for the nursery was altering the curtains Molly had purchased to fit the windows.  And more importantly, add light blocker lining!  We know how precious a sleeping baby is, and sometimes the darkness is so important to calming and relaxing.  In the picture above, you can see the difference between the naked curtain on the left and the lined curtain on the right.  I highly recommend this little addition for any babies in your life!  I purchased RocLon Budget Blackout lining for this, cut a rectangle to fit and topstitched it across the top and down both side edges of the curtain.  I left the bottom loose and didn't turn a hem or anything because this stuff doesn't ravel.  Do use a walking foot if you are sewing this, and plenty of pins, because it tends to not feed through the machine quite like ordinary fabric does.

Just a couple days ago, I decided I wanted to make one more thing for a Christmas present.  I went for something made with bulky yarn and big needles so I have a hope and a prayer of getting it done in time, given the fact that my knitting time has been pretty limited lately.  I made this once before, it is the Gaptastic Cowl.  I gave it to Brita and she thought it was great, so I'm game to do another!  The pattern is a freebie, so maybe you would like to give it a try yourself!

And speaking of knits, Miss Penny of Whitefish, seems to have taken possession of the scarf I made for Lauren!  I guess Penny knows a good thing!

Another knit gift that is completed and in the mail is a neat pair of fingerless gloves.  In the picture below, I have one glove that is done and blocked, and the other (on the right) is done but unblocked.  I didn't know the value of blocking when I started out knitting, thinking it was just something that the really good experienced knitters did and that I didn't have time for such fuss.  Well, turns out I was wrong.  The process of blocking is simple--just soak the item in lukewarm soapy water (mild detergent), then rinse and roll up in a towel to squeeze the excess water out.  Then lay out flat on a smooth surface, and stretch and straighten to get it looking perfectly aligned.  When it dries, it looks neat and finished, plus any little bits of dirt or oil (or cookie crumbs?!) picked up during knitting are gone.  The knit stitches lay much flatter, even though you can't really see that in the picture.  But the edges and ribbing lay smooth and even, making a much more professional finish.  As far at the soap goes, there are several types of mild detergent soaps out there (dreft, soak, soaps intended for babies, eucalan, etc.) but the one I often use is called Show Paste Shampoo from the Fleet Farm store.  It is an animal shampoo, but really good to use on textiles, too.  Who knew?!

I whipped up a little sewing project a couple days ago to try out a new design from QuiltSmart.  It is called the Gadget Cushion, and is the perfect propper-upper for our favorite little hand-held computer devices.  Works great for my phone and I need to try it for my Kindle, too.

During the fall, I got addicted to making these little bags.  I think I made about 2 dozen.  It was just so fun choosing the fabrics and zippers!  I have a few more combos already in a box for the next retreat.  And a lot of these little guys are making some fun little Christmas gifts, sometimes even with a gift card inside!  The pattern is Bridget's Bagettes by Atkinson Designs.  Go ahead, see if you can make just one!

And that's about all for today!  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

a little trip

In the not too distant past, Bob and I made a trip to North Carolina.  Charlotte, actually.  The Ballantyne area, southern outskirts of the city, is where Ben, Brita, Ian and Jack are working on creating a new home.  It's a long ways to go for our babysitting gig, but so wonderful to visit them there.  It has been a big move, and it's not over yet because they are in an apartment temporarily.  That means there are a lot of boxes still packed and stored in the garage.  And one of them holds the Christmas tree stand!  We ended up sending Bob and Brita out to get a tree and new stand so the decorating could begin.  
We all got to go on an overnight trip to Asheville.  A great area, getting into the mountain region of the state.  Some beautiful scenery, good food and drink, and much more sightseeing than we had time for on this trip.  Here are Brita and Ian on one of the patio areas of the Grove Point Inn, a fabulous historic hotel.

And here's a good shot of little Jack, he had just learned how to get up to sitting from laying down, and started to get up on hands and knees, too.  A couple days ago Brita sent me a little video showing Jack actually making synchronized crawling movements!

We were eating out at a Mexican restaurant (excellent!) and Ian was trading hats around and gave his grandpa a smooch.  That puts a big grin on Bob's face!  Ben was a bit under the weather, so he had to kind of take it easy.  Mexican food, and most other kinds of food, held no appeal for him!  But about 48 hours later things were back to good again.

The Asheville area seems to be a gathering place for artistic and creative minds, so the town reflects that free-thinking spirit.  It was a young mindset that I enjoyed.  The "arts" extend to the craft of brewing, and we enjoyed a delicious local brew at the Wicked Weed taproom.  That name relates to the hops plant, sometimes known as a weed, that can transform into beer.  So clever!   
Jack thinks so, too!