Sunday, November 28, 2010

Visions of Our Day of Thanks...

From brunch...

to turkey time...

our day was simply about enjoying our first major holiday in our new home. (I'm not sure why, but I've felt very strongly about being here in this old house for our first winter holiday season. I think it's my heart's way of trying to make some peace with our relocation.) We were able to Skype with the Bertram clan in Nebraska as well as Uncle Jason and April in Germany. Grandma Peg stopped by for a short mid-afternoon visit on her way to the meeting of the sisters to plan their attack on Black Friday. Football was watched and a gym visit for a run was made. Wine was opened to help with the task of peeling potatoes and the carving of the moistest turkey I have every cooked. And much to their enjoyment 2 little girlies spent the whole day in their PJs.

I am thankful for the simple joy of spending a very low key holiday weekend with my most favorite people in the world. (And for the power that yoga has to help ease the bloat of a big holiday meal.) I love you my family!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Here We Go Again...

Chili is in the crock-pot for tonight's dinner. (And for leftovers all weekend when we just can't eat another bite of turkey.)

Sticks of butter are softening for pie crust making.

Our very frozen turkey is chillin' (no pun intended) in a water bath in the cooler on the back porch in hopes that it will be thawed and ready for the smoker by tomorrow morning.

The holiday season is upon us. And today, much like the skies, I find my mood gray. (In fact it appears as if the possible freezing rain is indeed going to make an appearance today.) Generally I try to keep things optimistic here. I mean who wants to read a whiny, complainy, depressing blog? (Isn't that why we have newspapers and editorial news magazines? And those of you who know me best know I do my very best at avoiding those publications.) But today I feel compelled just to share from my heart in hopes that sharing will help lighten my mood a bit.

I'm not even sure where to start. Maybe it's with the general sadness in my heart I'm feeling about heading into yet another holiday season without my extended family near. As dysfunctional as we can all be at times (I mean really who doesn't have a some what dysfunctional clan of relatives) they are still my family. They are the people who fill my memories when I think of holidays past. And in a family where even dysfunction can be set aside for a bit in order to enjoy a fabulous meal together, I find solo Thanksgiving feast preparations more than a little lonely today. Right now I imagine my Mom is busy in her kitchen creating all sorts of yummy smells as she prepares to fill her house with family and friends tomorrow. I know our family's favorite sage dressing is on the menu. And my pumpkin cheese cake. (Which I'm not even making...I mean who needs to bake a whole cheese cake for only 4? Talk about potential for calorie overload!) And, of course, wine. (Plus all the other givens.)

I am thankful that even if I can't be with my family tomorrow, my Mom took time to share with me over the years her joy for cooking. Traditions I hope I can pass down to my girls as they help me make the pumpkin pies and tear the bread for our own batch of dressing and smash the potatoes. And come meal time tomorrow we will toast good food, good fortune, and the love of family...near and far.

I actually love Thanksgiving. While I miss the opportunity to gather with my family as I did as a kid,
I love that we take time each year to pause and be thankful for the abundances we have all been blessed with in life. Unfortunately each year it seems that in general (at least in the eyes of retailers and the media) Thanksgiving becomes less about family and thankfulness, and more about opening the gateway to Black Friday...and on a personal note what has, over the past few years, become the most emotionally complex and stress filled month of the year.

The stress of stretching an already tight budget a little further to accommodate extra holiday and wintertime expenses. The balancing of expectations with reality without squashing the spirit of the holidays in the hearts of 2 fabulous little girls. The tugging at my heart to be near my family. The processing of feelings tied to holidays past. The desire to teach my girls the true, compassionate meaning of giving during the holiday season regardless of one's religious beliefs to balance the consumerism driven images they are spoon fed through advertising and media. It all weighs heavy on my heart.

Every year I think, just let it all go. Just enjoy the simple joys of the season. I try to focus on the new traditions we are creating in our family. I try not to mourn the celebrations that we can not be a part of because of distance and/or finances. After all aren't the holidays suppose to be about cheers...not tears?

For whatever reason I'm having a harder time than normal facing it all this year. And while I'm not normally one to wish away time, and as much as the weather generally sucks in January here in central Iowa, it would be perfectly OK with me if we could simply fast forward to the start of the new year. Because while January is long and cold, the days begin to slowly grow longer...and there is the promise of the coming of spring.

And now, because no amount of bitching and whining is going to speed up time or ease the sadness...I have pumpkin pies to bake.

May your holiday season be filled with the warmth and love of family, good food, good friends, and the type of abundance that no amount of money can buy. And may we all find peace in our hearts this holiday season and always...through the tears and the cheers.


Friday, November 19, 2010

The Comforts of Yarn...

Cooler weather means my knitting bag has taken up regular residence in the living room. Here's what's been happening with yarn in my world lately...

The big news of the day is I finished my Italian February Lady Sweater! It's actually been finished for over 2 weeks and sadly enough this is the best picture I've taken of it to this point...

The new sweater knitter side of me is totally amazed at how it turned out. It still blows my mind that I knit a WHOLE sweater. The perfectionist side of me would like to be able to go back and make a few changes. But in the end I feel lovely when I'm wearing it and the soft Italian yarn feels like wearing a hug...just as I imagined it would.

When my Mom and Rod came to visit our new house this summer, my Mom brought me some woolly goodness from back home in the form of 2 hanks of this very colorful hand-painted Brown Sheep Co. yarn.

I will be the first to admit that I don't get near as excited about bright multi-colored yarn as my Mom, but I really want to figure out something lovely to make with her thoughtful gift. I'm always amazed at how much the look of the yarn changes when you wind it from a hank to a ball.

I think my problem is I'm much drawn to knitwear that has detail and texture through its stitches, and those things tend to hide in bright yarn like this. I've started, and frogged, two different scarfs with this yarn so far. I've decided for now it's gonna just hang in the stash basket until I find some inspiration that fits it bright personality. Any suggestions?

Oddly enough, while I'm having a horrible time finding my groove with the above yarn, I decided to dig some other multi-colored merino out that I bought while visiting my mom 2 years ago at The Red Barn Fiber Processing Company. The hank is 525 yards (9 oz) of machine spun, hand-dyed merino. I'm not sure what the intended weight of the finished spin was, but I'm treating it like a DK weight as it's not quite up to worsted. I really wish I would have taken a picture of the hank before I wound it into this lovely ball, because the difference in color focus is amazing. The hank came across as very warm with focus on the red tones. Once I wound the ball the yarn took on a whole new personality and it's definitely the cooler blues and purples that are taking center stage.

I've decided this yarn is to become my first attempt at a shawl. I've chosen the Emily Shawl from the winter/spring '10 issue of Knitscene for my pattern. It's a simple leaf lace repeat and it only required me to cast on 3 (THREE!) stitches to begin. As much as I struggle with the challenge of bright multi-colored yarn, I'm quite loving the subtle variations of color this yarn is creating. The shawl knitting up quite a bit faster than I had expected, though I am worried that I should have used a larger needle size as the stretched fabric isn't quite as airy as I had envisioned. With as quickly as the knitting is going I may frog it and start over with needles a couple sizes larger than the 8s I'm using now. (Oh how I love the flexibility of the creative process in knitting!)

What's in your knitting bag this fall?


Monday, November 8, 2010

It's Not You, It's Me...

Dear Blog,

I know, lately the time I have made to come here to write has been a bit sporadic. I mean sure, I've stopped by now and then with cute pictures and little pieces of commentary on life, but we both know those visits have been short and a bit less organized than normal. I'm sorry.

The truth of the matter is I'm kinda in a dark place right now. And while I know you have always been open to letting me vent my feelings and talk through my swirling emotions, I'm not sure I'm ready to sprawl out on the leather couch to start sharing. I'm not sure I want to share the shadows here as I need a place where I can come to celebrate the light.

I just wanted to let you know the reason for my absence least you think our relationship needs to seek out counseling. I promise, it's not you, it's me. And for a while I may just need a little space and a little time to process my inner life. I will be back more regularly at some point...but until then I promise to stop by now and then to check in.


Monday, November 1, 2010

And Now, the Rest of the Story...

It was a beautiful October Saturday. The cool weather that had dominated the forecast for most of the week had cleared and the sun had warmed the temps up to comfortable coat free weather. After a morning of teaching yoga, working at the gym, and a quick run to grab the final costume making supplies needed to pull everything together, I returned home to a family eager to head out for our chosen day of fun. I sewed up a Hogwarts worthy scarf and hand-warmers while Scott made some lunch. Shortly after sandwiches and a little Iowa football, we were off to The Blank Park Zoo for Night Eyes. We have often talked about how fun it would be to check out this annual zoo event, and now that we only live 10 minutes away how could we NOT go.

We loaded up with the girls' costumes and my camera and headed out, arriving to a packed parking lot and lots of happy families out enjoying the beautiful fall day. After being directed to a parking spot in the "extra" lot, we headed towards the front gates. I began snapping pictures. Snap, snap, snap. Wait girls, turn around those trees make a nice back drop. Snap, snap, snap. We reach the front gate, pay, and head in to find a world of wonder. More pictures...Lexi with a staffer also dressed in Gryffindor garb; a really cool (sexy) Spiderman; Brea with the Disney princesses Snow White and Belle. And that was all in the first 5 minutes after stepping through the gates!

I would love to show you all those fabulous images HOWEVER shortly after snapping the princess shot I realized I had forgotten to put the memory card back in my camera after downloading images earlier in the week...meaning we have no images but the ones that are part of the memories in our minds...and I haven't figured out how to download those yet.


After considering whether it would be worth sending Scott home to grab the card or not, we decided not and continued through the zoo checking out the fun decorations and the animals who were out and about also thankful for a sunny day. Before we left, while sitting down enjoying an ice cream treat courtesy of Blue Bunny, I snapped this pictures with my camera phone. Nothing special, but evidence of a day of fun had.

Brea was quite sad that we didn't have her picture with REAL Princesses. In an effort to make up for my blond moment, we decided to take our trick-or-treating to the neighborhood in town where one of her best friends from pre-school lives in hopes we would run into her and her family. Thankfully just before we hit the last house on the loop we had decided to walk we spotted the 3 of them being Brea's friend!

I have been fully forgiven as Brea has decided a picture with her friend is worth a lot more than a picture with Princesses.