Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Contents of My Pockets

Yesterday morning was very chilly.  I was heading back the car, after I dropping Baby Girl off at preschool, when I reached my hands into my pockets to ward off the chill.  Inside the pockets I found one tiny winged monster, two marbles and a colored rock.   I don't remember the exact details of how Bouncing Boy's winged monster ended up in my pocket.  I remember it was entrusted in my keeping, and I remember smiling and agreeing to keep the monster safe.  The first marble was an early morning present from Baby Girl.  Several days ago she found the marble on her way out of her bedroom and presented it to me as a gift in her very over the top way.  I've had it in my pocket ever since.  The second marble I picked up yesterday morning during the rush to get everyone out the door on time.  I picked it up because I didn't want to step on it, and grumbled about the mess.  The rock was a gift from Bouncing Boy.  He collects, as he calls them, "precious rocks."  This particular precious rock was carefully colored, I think with a crayon, one side purple with a hint of blue and the other side yellow.

When I am having one of those priceless, wonderful moments with the children I tell them, "I want to put this moment in a bottle and save it for later."  Yesterday in the chill of the morning I realized my pocket had become my proverbial "bottle."  The moments captured weren't the grand moments I usually think about bottling, but somehow those everyday events became infinitely precious to me.  They help me remember to be present in the moment, and enjoy.  I know the day will come when Bouncing Boy won't ask me to hold his toys or gift me with precious rocks, Baby Girl won't see marbles and gifts for her mommy, and the toys will no longer be around for me to grumble about picking up.

Yesterday, when I arrived home I posted the contents of my pocket as my Facebook status.  A friend suggested I make a photo, which I thought was a lovely idea.  The contents of my pocket has served as a vehicle for an awareness of the things I am Thankful for, my family both when they are being wonderful and when I am grumbling, and my friends who listen to my stories of the good times and listen to my grumbling when things are making a little cuckoo.

A Very Happy Thanksgiving to You All!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A New Jacket for Little Miss

I've been working on a BIG project.  I decided I am going to expand my pattern selection on Etsy to include children's clothing.  This jacket is the first design I am working on.  I made it through the design phase, all the reworks, and I finished "size 4" this weekend.

Little Miss loves the jacket!  I am happy with the way it turned out, as well.  

Today I moved on to grading the pattern.  I've been dragging my feet a bit on this step.  But finally decided to just do it!  I finished grading the front, back, sleeved, and hood to sizes 2, 3, 5, and 6.  Now to finish all of the other pieces, write the directions and put together a size 2 and a size 6, just to make sure everything goes together correctly.

I wanted the jacket to be classy with a hint of whimsy.  The sleeves are raglan sleeves with a twist, a fine detail inspired by a 1940's coat.  

The hood adds a certain pixie like quality.  I am especially pleased with the way the back turned out.    

The rolled up cuffs add both a splash of color and the practicality of growth room.  I think the red around the pocket opening adds a bit of visual interest.  For the outer jacket I used a medium weight wool, the lining is a cotton velveteen.  

Overall very excited with the progress so far, and perhaps even more excited to finish this project!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Papa's Got a Brand New Hat

It is challenging to find an interesting men's crocheted hat pattern.  Whereas I adore stripes, crocheting a hat where the only difference form row to row is a change in yarn color does not appeal to me.  I was so excited when I came across the Aaron Mathew Headwear shop on Etsy.  Aaron Mathew has a lovely selection of interesting hat patterns with great detail. I purchased the Open Weave Crochet Hat Pattern to make John a nice winter hat.  

Once I received the pattern via email I realized I was going to have to learn a few new stitches.  This was a great opportunity to expand my crochet skills and thanks to some very helpful You-Tube videos I learned how to Front Post Double Crochet and Back Post Double Crochet...really pretty simple once you know how.  The directions to the Hat Pattern were clear and to the point.  For me it is easier to read directions that are not over written. 

John picked his own yarn, which is a natural color wool yarn made here in Italy.  I think the yarn worked well for this pattern and was also easy to work with.  The hat was fun to crochet, especially one the weave of the pattern became obvious.  I am now working on hat number two.  Bouncing Boy wants a hat like Papa's.  After that I think I am going to try a Cable Beanie, or the Zig Beanie, or maybe both, after all the Aaron Mathew Headwear shop offers a discount on multiple pattern purchases! 

And where was John today for the debut of his new winter hat?   At Villa da Schio of course!  Watching a fun performance about a queen, of long ago, who once was in hiding right here in our very own Colli Berici. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Love Pie Oven Mitt

I decided to participate in the Thanksgiving Dinner Challenge offered on the Sew Sweetness blog.  The challenge:  Complete a hot pad or oven mitt, between October 20, 2011 and November 17, 2011.  So, so, sew.... when I think of Thanksgiving and oven mitts my mind goes directly to pie.  I decided to run with the pie inspiration and create an "Apple Pie" oven mitt. 

First I rummaged through my fabric scraps and found some that made me happy.  Then, I used my favorite oven mitt as a starting place for the shape, making this mitt a bit longer than the original, as I seem to burn my forearm...often.  

Once everything was worked out on paper I started the pie "filling."  In the fabric stash I found the little pinkish squares already cut out and ready to go.  I "filled" in around the squares with rectangles of random lengths.  

I cut out 2 inch strips of fabric for the basket weave "pie crust," and pressed the raw edges under 1/4 inch.  Next, I used my original paper pattern to work out the basket weave.

Once the basket weave was pinned in place, I removed the paper pattern and "layered" the mitt, placing a backing piece on the bottom, followed by a piece of batting, then the "pie filling," and finally the "pie crust."

Next, I machine stitched the basket weave down.  Once the stitching was complete I cut out the final shape and finished off the edges.  

Originally, I planned to hand stitch the apple on, but time was not on my side so I went with a satin stitch around the edges instead.  I am happy with the results.  

The back of the mitt is a solid piece of fabric with a little machine quilting to hold all the layers together.  I decided to finish the opening of the mitt with a fancy pie crust edge...better known as a little ruffle and some bias tape.  

This turned out to be a fun project.  I think personalized, handmade oven mitts would make a great gift for friends who love to cook!

Thanks for the challenge "Sew Sweetness."
Now, I need some pie....  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Olive Oil

     The family who owns the house I live in has olive trees that grow on the hillside below our home.  Each year the olives are harvested in early November and taken to a community olive oil press where they are made into oil.  This year was the first time in four years that I was not able to help with the olive harvest.  This was not a good olive year.  There were only half as many olives this year as there were last, so the olive harvest went very quickly.  
     I suppose before moving to Italy I did not give olive oil much thought beyond, "YUMMY, I like it!"
However, since the moment I picked my very first olive, I have been very curious to know how those firm black fruits are transformed into the green, glorious oil.    This year the stars aligned, and I was given my very own, personal tour of the olive press where my Italian "family" brings their olives.   So in return, I bring you your very own virtual tour of Frantoio di Valnogaredo. 

Olives arrive in all different quantities, some by trucks, some in the backs of cars.  

Olives are taken from the smaller crates that are used during harvesting and consolidated into the large green containers you see below.

Every families olives are kept separate, so the oil that is made really is from the trees that each family has grown. Families provides large stainless steel containers for the oil to be collected in.  

First the olives are brought to this machine where all of the leaves and twigs are removed. 

 Once the leaves and twigs are removed the olives are brought inside and dumped into this contraption.  Here large granite wheels spin quickly around crushing the olives.

The crushed olives pour into here, where they are further mashed and pulverized.  

The olive mash is spread evenly over circular woven mats.  

A mechanical arm loads the mats onto a spindle.  Now the olives are ready to be taken to the press.  

At the press both oil and water are squeezed from the olives.  This "juice" is collected in a vat before it is sent to the centrifuge.  

In the centrifuge the oil spins to the top and is collected in large stainless steel vats. The remaining water is discarded.  

And PRESTO! You have olive oil!  The true liquid gold.  

 Unfortunately, there are somethings that cannot be shared virtually, like the amazing aroma of freshly pressed olives and both the smell and taste of the fresh oil.  There really is noting quite like it.

Here are a few final photographs from the neighborhood...

Cat bath intrupted by crazy camera wielding American.

Next door to the olive press.

The church in Valnogaredo, complete with olive tree. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Leaf Fairy

I've been thinking about this project since the beginning of Fall.  But it wasn't until yesterday that inspiration and time were both plentiful on the same day.  The Leaf Fairy was a culmination of three different ideas.  First, my mother started making leaf angels out of clay many years ago.  Then, some of the women at the Arts Center recently made adorable winter holiday angels out of corks, ribbons, and tissue paper.   Add those two inspirations to me wanting to share with my children the joys of making leaf rubbings and you get the fun, fall, kid friendly project of making a Leaf Fairy!   
Want to make your own Leaf Fairy?  They are really quite fun....
To begin, gather lots of beautiful leaves.  
Next, peel some crayons.  Then, place a leaf under a piece of construction paper and color over the leaf using the side of the crayon.  
Then, carefully cut around the outline of the leaf.  
Cut out a body from a heavier weight paper, we used paper intended for scrap books.  You can create your own body, or use the pattern provided HERE.  Tape the paper body around the cork.  We used corks from Procesco bottles because they are biggest at the bottom, come up to a neck, and the top looks like a head.  You could use a normal wine cork with a little glue.  
Next, glue the cutout leaves onto the body.  
After all of the leaves are glued on, make yarn hair.  First wind the yarn around your fingers, like so....  
Then  tie a knot.  The knot I used was off center to create long hair in the back and bangs in the front.  Then,  cut the loops that were formed by the knot.  
Finally, hot glue the hair on to the cork, along with a head band, and seed beads for the eyes and the nose.  

Baby Girl and I had such a fun time with this project.  I think it would be fun to try something similar with felt!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

To seam allow or not to seam allow, that is the question.

I am working on a super cute new coat pattern.  I have come to the point where I must decide to either add seam allowance to the pattern or to not add seam allowance to the pattern.  What are your preferences?  When purchasing a pattern do you like the seam allowance to already be there, or do you like to add your own seam allowance after making necessary alterations?

And while you ponder your answer....a picture of a day, not so long ago, when I wasn't even considering coats...or seam allowance for that matter.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Little Mama's Wrap

John and I carried both our babies in an EllaRoo Wrap for the first year of their lives.  Bouncing Boy explored the Pacific Northwest from his secure little perch, and Baby Girl we wrapped up and toted around Europe.  We all loved the wrap, babies and parents alike.  Babies were kept happy,warm, and close to the heart.  Part of my mission in life is to share the joys of the wrap with other Mamas and Papas.  I have taught several parents how to bundle up and wear their babies.  Initially learning to tie the wrap can be a little intimidating, but after a few days it becomes second nature. 

Sunday morning as we were getting ready to head out on a walk with our newest  "Wrap Club" converts,  Baby Girl asked if she could bring along her baby doll, Lisa.  Certainly!  Baby dolls are always welcome.  Baby Girl informed me Lisa would be needing a wrap, just like Baby Maria.  I was happy to oblige.  I used some reclaimed sheets my friend Paul recently rescued from a dumpster.    As it turns out the width of a queen sized fitted sheet is the perfect length for a Wrap for a 4 year old and her baby doll.

 Baby Girl earned the nickname, "Little Mama" for the day.  She carried Lisa all day long in the Wrap.  She was so excited, as she put it, to have "my very first wrap!"  

Little Mama with the Papas and Baby Maria
Now she is wearing her babies every time we go out!
Little Piglet Mama

And one final picture from Wrap Archive...