The Geeg turns 5

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Opie & The Geeg, friends since age 0

Opie & The Geeg, friends since age 0

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This past weekend was a big one for our little family. The Geeg (formerly known as Peaceful Baby) turned 5, and we had activities large and small to commemorate this occasion.

Five felt like a significant birthday, almost as much as her first.  Leslie and I joked that it was also our 5-year parenting anniversary, which really is the truth.  This is the moment we can celebrate all the changes not only in our daughter, but in our lives and in our selves, since becoming parents.  There are many, and it’s nice to have an annual opportunity to recognize and honor them.

We held a small party at a local nature center, where a guide taught the children all about a few amphibians and reptiles.  There were frogs, newts, salamanders, two types of snakes, and a box turtle.  The children had varying levels of interest in these creatures, which was fun to watch!  G was in kid heaven, surrounded by her friends and by animals.  It was a good day.

Two birthday celebrations, two batches of mama-made chocolate cake and cupcakes, thoughtful gifts from friends and family, a few surprises from the “birthday fairies”, the new privilege of chewing gum, and many little conversations about her life at 5 versus 4.  This was our weekend.

This is going to be a big year!

Sick & Happy

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The past week has been a relatively slow, quiet one for our family.  We celebrated Christmas week with friends and family, and by the time the big day rolled around it was just us.  This was pure bliss as I have been craving lots of time just the three of us.  We played, stayed in our pajamas all day, cooked, ate, watched movies, knit and crafted, baked, took walks, and read books.

And then we all got sick.

It figures that as soon as we slow down and catch up, our bodies respond by giving in to whatever they’ve been fighting off.  I’m trying to appreciate the timing; it could be worse and we could all be sick right after baby is born.  But it also kind of sucks that we’re home together and feeling whiny, grouchy, congested, and low-energy.

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I have to hand it to my family, though.  We’re pretty good at working through these low moments and finding a way to shake it off.

We wish you and yours a peaceful, fun ending to the year and all that you dream of in 2015.  See you next year!

Holiday Sewing : Simple Cocktail Napkin Recipe

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In years past I have been bitten by the holiday knitting bug.  I felt inspired and excited to knit gifts for family, teachers, child care providers, and friends.  This year, that feeling isn’t there.  I’m pretty focused on knitting for baby and will soon be starting on G’s birthday sweater.

What I have been inspired to do is sew.  Oh, those cheerful holiday fabrics grabbed me this year!  After spending some time on Pinterest looking for simple sewing ideas, I had a list of projects and hit the fabric store.  I had this retro ornament fabric from a similar spree last year, and needed to find a coordinating fabric.  I couldn’t help it if I left with 2 more holiday prints and fabric to make a skirt!

I’m discovering that my favorite part about sewing is choosing a project and picking out fabrics.  I’m not great at cutting out pieces of fabric.  Sometimes my seams are a little wonky.  And I don’t care!  Those technical skills are slowly building with each project, and I am being very gentle with myself as I learn.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be fun.

Here’s my take on a simple cocktail napkin that you can keep or give as gifts.  Play with fun fabric combinations.  Get crazy with that top-stitching design.  Have fun!

Holiday Cocktail Napkin Recipe

Materials:

1/2 yard festive holiday print cotton fabric ( 41 inches wide x 18 inches tall)

1/2 yard coordinating solid or smaller print cotton fabric

Matching thread

The usual sewing basics: sharp fabric scissors, ruler, measuring tape

Nice if you have them: rotary cutter, cutting mat, a template for your napkin (see below)

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Start with washing and pressing your fabric.  Ironing makes such a big difference in the quality of the finished piece.  I find it kind of relaxing and enjoy transforming the fabric or seam into a crisp-looking piece. (I rarely iron my clothes, though!)

Cut out 8 rectangles from each of your two fabrics that are 10 inches wide and 9 inches tall.  It would be handy to make a template for yourself out of cardboard to speed this up. (I like to use cereal boxes)

With right sides facing, sew your main print and coordinating fabric together with a 1/4-inch seam allowance.  Leave a 2 inch opening along the center of one side.

Snip the corners and turn the piece inside out.  Use a pencil, knitting needle, chopstick, or other not-too-pointy gadget to make the corners pop out.

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Knitting needles: a multipurpose tool!

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Press the seams to flatten. Tuck the edges of your opening under to line up with the seams and press.

With a coordinating thread, topstitch as close to the edge of the napkin as possible. This will close up the gap you left before.

Move one inch in from the first top-stitched seam and sew another decorative border.

Snip threads and repeat on your other napkins!

I folded my napkins in half lengthwise and pressed them to make a pretty stack. Wrap with a ribbon or some yarn, and these are ready to go as a gift!

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This is a super simple project, one that even a newbie like me could do easily and well.  I plan on keeping this set for our family and making more to give as hostess gifts at holiday parties this season.

Are you making any holiday gifts this season?

Creating our holiday traditions

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I don’t know about you, but every holiday season seems to whiz by in a tornado of full calendar days, overplayed Christmas music, too much sugar, and good intentions.  As my daughter gets older, we are trying to be more intentional about our holiday traditions.  It takes thought and planning to create your family’s unique traditions.  Each partner brings their own experiences and expectations to the table. One key to having a satisfying and meaningful holiday is to share what’s important to you both and decide what to carry on in your own family.

Last year it all went by so fast, and I felt like something was missing. So this year we’re trying to be more intentional and plan a few key things into the month.  A couple of weeks ago, the wife and I sat down and brainstormed up a list of holiday must-dos.  Things that help us feel the gratitude, splendor, and sugar rushes of this time of year.

There’s more on this list than we’ll ever get to in a month.  But it feels so good knowing all these ideas are in one place!  I know I’m probably not going to be facilitating making homemade play-doh after a busy day at work.  It’s okay!  Being realistic and keeping expectations flexible is key.

I thought I’d share some of our family activities in case you’re looking for inspiration:

Go pick out a tree together.  Decorate tree.  Write our letters to Santa.  Make cookies.  Go to zoo lights (or other local festivity).  Go to dinosaur show (or local choir, theatre, or other performance).  Go Xmas shopping with Mommy.  Go Xmas shopping with Mama.  Watch a holiday movie.  Wrap presents.  Make candies for neighbors.  Practice Christmas songs (Silent night, jingle bells).  Make hot cocoa with marshmallows.  Drive around to see Christmas lights.  Make festive play doh (glitter, scented).  Read seasonal books daily.  Shop for and prepare food bank donation together.  Call grandparents and sing a Christmas song. Make gingerbread house.  Put up Christmas decor/lights.  Eat dinner under the Christmas tree.  Go for a walk around the neighborhood to see lights.  Family game night!  Make/decorate ornaments.  Make or decorate our Christmas cards.  Play Christmas bingo.  Do holiday mad libs.  Put out treats for Santa and the reindeer.

Here’s a link to my holiday inspiration board on Pinterest for more ideas!

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So far the calendar has helped us structure our weekends to make sure we’re making time for the things we really want (and need) to do.  The weekdays have been filled in with simple pleasures that can mostly be accomplished any time that day.  Or the next day.  I even left some days blank so we can plan to be spontaneous!  Flexibility is key here, otherwise you may end up feeling like you’re failing and that’s not good!

That’s great, you say.  But how’s it really working out?

We invested in a beautiful handmade advent calendar from this shop.  There’s a pocket for each day with room for a small treat: chocolate, a sticker or toy, and a slip of paper with an activity.  I also made a master calendar of the month’s events, just to keep me feeling on top of things.

To give you an idea of how it’s working so far: it’s working beautifully, even when we forget about it completely.  G never forgets about the treat, and when there’s an activity she’s excited about, she won’t let us forget about it.  It’s good to see what activities float to the top as being important or exciting for each of us.  My idea of a great holiday isn’t the same as my wife’s or daughter’s.  I’m accepting that and letting go of what I thought might be fun but is not really important to me.

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{photos by miss G}

Last year I bought a gingerbread house kit and we never got around to using it.  I tossed it, along with a heavy dose of self-induced guilt, sometime in the summer.  Still regretting that, I had “scheduled” in Decorate a Gingerbread House for Sunday of this past weekend.  Had I not put it down on the calendar, we probably would have skipped it.  We were tired, and lazing around in pajamas sounded like a better use of time.  But once we got started and I saw the excitement and joy in my daughter’s eyes, I remembered why I wanted to do this in the first place.  Encouraging her to decorate the house however she liked (and eat all the candy she wanted) delighted all of us.

I want the whole holiday season to be a time we connect in extra ways.  A time of magic and joy, playfulness and togetherness.  We’re all busy; this season of life and this month will go by so quickly.  Taking some time to feel organized and thoughtful seems to be helping us find more meaningful moments together.

What activities are special to your family this time of year?

Gratitude.

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The past 4 days have been full of delicious food, time with family and friends, time spent with my knitting and sewing, time selling yarn to excited knitters, and time getting into that holiday spirit.  Before these days came around, I was worried that it would all be too much, but somehow it all felt just right.

I’m extremely grateful for everything in our lives right now.  For the family and friends we celebrated with, for a healthy vivacious almost-5-year-old, for a supportive and generous partner, for our baby on the way, and for the amazing team of women I work with.  I could go on, but I’ll just keep the rest to myself.  ; )

I hope you had a lovely weekend and holiday (if you celebrate)!

And now that it’s December, I’m curious: How do you get ready for the holidays at your house?

Yarn Along :: Cake + Knitting

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From Ginny: ~ 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?

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I cannot stop reading this book.

I don’t usually go in for short fiction.  In the past, I’ve found short stories to be a little bit heartbreaking, pulling you into these rich worlds, only to spit you back out a few short pages later.  But Sarah Selecky’s collection, This Cake is for the Party, offers more comfort and intimacy than that.  I’ve felt transported to a new life in each story, and while I’m a little sad when they’re over, I’m never disappointed.

Cake is contemporary, honest, and wryly funny, with plenty of heart, sensuality, and ache mixed in.  The stories are just long/short enough to indulge in over coffee before work, or in the tub after a long day.  And not only is Selecky’s fiction work worth checking out, so is her writing project and website.  So much inspiration for writers and readers alike!

As for the knitting, well that’s still a holiday secret.  But I will tell you this: it’s almost finished, and I’m absolutely itching to cast on something that’s just for me.

So what’s in your project bag and on your nightstand this week?

A Gratitude Challenge

Maui Anniversary trip, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!  Today, as we collectively think about all we are grateful for, I urge you to join me on a mission.

A mission to take this Thanksgiving-inspired ritual of thinking about and sharing what we are grateful for one step further.  Let’s make it a regular habit, a daily habit.

I know, it seems a little bit much, and may even remind you (like it did me), of Oprah and her gratitude journals from years ago.  But here’s the thing: the more we are in touch with what we are grateful for in our lives, the more satisfied, happy and present we feel.  I’m up for some of that, are you?

I was inspired to write this post after watching Marie Forleo’s latest video: The Downside of Gratitude.  I dare you to watch it (it’s under 5 minutes) and join in by listing the 10 things you are grateful for today.  And then, if you’re inspired to join me, keep making your list every day for the rest of the year.  Stop and notice how you feel afterward.  I’ll bet it’s pretty good!

Here are my 10:

  1. My sweet, funny, smart nearly 3-year old daughter
  2. Sweetie & I recently celebrating 10 years together with an anniversary trip to Hawaii
  3. Knitting, for it’s ability to connect me with my deepest creativity and for calming me down on my Crazy Days.
  4. Handmade ceramic mugs, so perfect for tea and hot cocoa this time of year
  5. Our new home!  I’m super excited to get out the holiday decorations next week.
  6. The mild Oregon climate; just cool enough for handknits, not cold enough for regular snow.
  7. Friends who bring freshly baked banana bread to me at the shop.
  8. Clean sheets.
  9. People who share the gift of being 100% themselves.
  10. Orbitz for making it possible for us to fly last minute to be with my family on Thanksgiving.

Please join me in making your own list in the commets.  

And have a very happy Thanksgiving!

These Special Moments

This holiday season we have had the enjoyable opportunity to spend a lot of time with my mom (aka The Granny Nanny).  She is in town for an extended stay, and it has been wonderful seeing she and PB getting to know each other in a whole new way.  Living apart from family often means short visits spread throughout the year; with small children it takes a few days to get familiar with all the relatives again, and just when people are getting into their groove it’s time to leave.  Since we live in a small space and Granny planned on being in town for a few weeks, we collaborated to find her a place to house sit in our neighborhood.  A place with chickens, rabbits, and a fireplace.  I almost wanted to go stay there myself!

Some special moments with Granny and the menagerie:

Happy weekending! I hope you have a safe and fun New Year weekend.

 

Cambrian Cowl

My first (and only planned) Christmas gift is finished! I decided to keep it simple this year, and wasn’t planning on making anyone anything unless inspiration struck. There would be no forced sweat-factory-style knitting in my home this year! Not that I feel particularly obligated to give knitted gifts, I just have the good fortune of having family who really appreciate it when I do.


This year’s lucky recipient is PB’s babysitter, a sweet, smart, and energetic college student from Portland. She more than deserves a hand knit for all the TLC she gives PB.  I hope she enjoys wearing it as much as I enjoyed knitting it.

This cowl is from Coastal Knits, and was a quick knit on chunky yarn. My gauge was off from the pattern (Ravelry notes here), so I had to fudge things a bit, but it all worked out in the end. The tweedy sage green Imperial Native Twist yarn was soft to begin with, but got even more so after a lovely bath. The buttons are a new favorite from  One of a Kind Buttons, and the main reason I chose this pattern; chunky yarn and buttons together? Yes, please. Oh, and the yarn buttons are both from Oregon!

Are you making gifts this year? How’s it going so far?

Sweet Treats

 

Halloween morning found me wielding a glue gun on the floor of my office, quickly putting together PB’s Halloween costume.  I knew for a while that I wanted to utilize one of her granny-gifted tutu’s and make a butterfly costume, but had yet to implement my design ideas.  Funny how we wait for inspiration to strike, and then all of a sudden it’s a race to the finish!  I embellished this thrifted set of glittery pink butterfly wings with felt and rick-a-rack, then made some yarn- wrapped pipe cleaners for antennae.  I think it came together okay, and PB certainly looked sweet.

Turns out she really liked trick-or-treating around town, and had to pause to eat each piece of candy as it was collected.  Seeing as how she never really eats candy, we let her have her moments (and the resulting highs and lows).  A fun and sweet Halloween.