Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Onward and upward

I find that my so-called "idle" moments are when most of the groundwork for my next steps are laid. I was taking an introvert break from a party at church, and found a couple of books in the church library that are proving very timely.

One was the biography of Amy Carmichael by Frank Houghton, where I found a very remarkable item from this woman who became a mother to many. In her words:
You may hear of a bad night, and of a very difficult thing that has to be done today--something that will call for spiritual energy, for the human will be useless.  I want you to know that if this has to be so, all is well.  For many years I have almost every morning "remembered His death"--a morsel of bread, a few drops of water (He still turns water into wine)--and something happens.  I can't say more, only I am conscious of life received....I have marked this letter "private", as to talk of it, even to write of it, is rather like pulling the petals off a flower.
The other was a book by Catherine Marshall, Meeting God at Every Turn, that I first read several years ago. This reading gave me a straight answer to a spiritual question that I've been chewing on for a while. A helpful quote on another topic:
Reckon without God?  We'd better not, not in any area of life, if we are serous about knowing reality and about achieving our full potential.  For our God never considers our work as merely a way to earn a living--so much an hour, so much a year.  He has given each of us the gift of life with a specific purpose in view.  To Him work is a sacrament, even what we consider unimportant, mundane work.  When done "as unto the Lord," it can have eternal significance.
It is therefore important to Him that we discover what our particular aptitudes and talents are; then that we use those talents to His glory and their maximum potential during our all-too-brief time on earth.  
Catherine Marshall also had a lot to teach about hearing and following the Holy Spirit; our church small group is working through a book on the Spirit.

In more practically-oriented news, I was going to use a piece of scrap pine to make a row of coat hooks by the front door. But then I was inspired to think of a wrought iron rack, which would fit in better with the decor...and I realized that I didn't have to make one, we actually had a small one already, in the garage. (Well, fake wrought iron; cast iron from the Seventies.) It took only a few minutes to put it up with wall anchors and screws.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Simple joys and keeping things going

As you can see, I finished my Christmas sign painting on a drawer bottom. I learned that it is best to choose a single, short word, to use a wide brush to make a minimal number of careful strokes per letter, and then to leave it at that. (At least if you are lefthanded and terrible at hand lettering, as I am.) I'm not a big fan of the "words on walls and everything else too" trends of recent years, but I am happy with how this turned out.

Other projects include:

Cleaning and oiling my leather boots with neat's foot oil. Maintenance is very important and it is so often overlooked....I'm pretty sure the primary reason the previous owners of this house moved was that they didn't want to deal with the accumulating deterioration; they did some quick repairs and cosmetic upgrades to get the house sold, and left. Our landlord did some more updating, and has started working through the maintenance backlog, but there are still several expensive (non-urgent) projects that need to be done.

Knitting new dishcloths for myself and for gifts; my husband finally found the box of yarn that was "lost" in the move. These dishcloths will last several years, easily; it is washing our serrated knives that wears them out in the end.

Deciding how to assemble and finish the chair I'm building. I found some paint remnants at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which I had a coupon for, and my husband brought home some free rope scraps that may be usable.

Re-reading my sewing machine's user manual and sewing guide. I found an older speed sewing book at the thrift store; the book was good, but half of it boiled down to "read your sewing machine's manuals!". So I did, and learned a lot more about what my machine can do, including some things that I had thoroughly forgotten. Still, I use straight stitch and zigzag stitch for almost everything, and I intend to keep on doing so.

Finishing my Christmas shopping. I am now moving on to the last sewing, cleaning, and baking projects before Christmas. I'm being more careful this year to set aside a little time and money for myself. For example, I bought a plain white thrift store vase and a blue permanent marker, because I want to try this...sometime.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas around the house

Joining in on The Nester's Christmas tour of imperfect homes...it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful (thank God, and I thank God also that the church Christmas play is O-V-E-R).

Crocheted star, recently made; I'm thinking of painting it gold:

Found objects Advent calendar, we have a little bag of real frankincense this year:

Mary and Jesus in the stable, as arranged by children: 

A slightly burnt-out strand of lights draped over a mirror:

Tree stand and skirt...I like plain burlap for the tree skirt. This kind of tree stand holds a LOT of water and is more stable than most; I highly recommend it. The tree is carrying a load of presents that the children have wrapped up for each other, so it looks too frazzled for a full picture.

Finally, a loopy crocheted Christmas ornament:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Granny's secret

Ever wonder how those little old ladies got to be so strong? One reason is that they stirred doughs like this cookie dough by hand. (The recipe makes ten dozen cookies.) Even a half batch takes muscle to stir.

Friday, December 11, 2015


I am slowly decorating for Christmas. As usual, our big splurge is for a real live Christmas tree; for several years, we lived in an apartment where even live wreaths were banned. (We joked about setting up a small tree in our car.)

One of the many things that we trashpicked back then was a large pine dresser, with shelves like a hutch, dark finish. It became a child's dresser, and we painted it in the apartment kitchen with free paint leftovers from the hazardous waste site. The child insisted on painting the undersides of the drawers as well.

Several years and a couple of moves later, we still have the dresser. The drawer guides kept falling out, and I gave up on trying to fix them. One drawer was broken beyond repair and thrown away. Child now prefers to use the lower part of the dresser as one large bin. Which leaves me with two drawers of medium quality, that are not the right shape to keep around as storage boxes, but...they do have painted undersides in exactly the color I want for my Christmas decorating.

Step one:  remove hardware. I kept the mounts for the drawer pulls, but not the handles, and pried off the metal drawer guides with a flat bar (handy deconstruction tool, looks like a short, flat, wide crowbar).

Step two will be to disassemble the drawers themselves. I want a side piece or two for making a rack of coat hooks, and then the bottoms for some sort of Christmas sign.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Skeleton hand and crocheted star

Two recent projects:

The hand, done by a child with assistance from me, is based on this tutorial on YouTube; papier mache over wire, wood skewers, and rolled paper, with hot glue inside forming the knuckles and holding the structure together. It is unpainted in the picture.

The star was crocheted of dollar store string, five triangles crocheted onto a circle, then dipped into white paint, squeezed out, and dried flat. Much of the star was done while babywearing.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A few things

I did a little Christmas shopping at the thrift store--in our family, we give mostly new things for Christmas and birthdays, but also a few good used things. It is hard to get to many stores as a one-car family, and I rarely shop online, so I'm not looking forward to the rest of the Christmas shopping.

We had homemade bean and ham soup for lunch today...very easy to make, except for remembering to start the beans soaking the night before. Later on, a child made homemade bread.

I've been cranking out some quick sewing projects here and there:  diaper covers, underwear, leggings.

I also have a furniture project going, but slowly as it requires a lot of sawing, so it's more of an exercise project.

My husband has a 1970's soft sculpture-style wreath in primary colors that his mom made. At one point, I tried hanging it in various places indoors, but it didn't fit in anywhere. One child suggested hanging it on the front door, so that is where it is now.

I did the FlyLady sink shining (first babystep in her system). My sink definitely needed the bleach soak.

This baby has reached the point of needing Ridiculous Diapering at night:  an extra-large toddler-size cloth diaper, with a doubler (extra center pad), inside a waterproof cover, then over those a medium cloth diaper, with another waterproof cover over it, to catch what leaks out of the inner diaper (which is completely soaked by morning).