A Lovely Homemade Life

A Lovely Homemade Life: December 2014

Wednesday, December 31

Yarn Along--Christmas Gift Round Up

In addition to the Weasley Vests I made for the kiddos this year, the Antiquity fingerless mitts for my sister in law and the Sachets and assorted jams and jellies for gifts, these three knits round out my Christmas gifting.

The first (modeled by my beautiful sister!) is an Alexandra Shawlette knit in Lambspun of Colorado Prism in a colorway called Colorado Lark.  This pattern was so much fun to knit--I picked up four different skeins of Dream in Color Everlasting Sock and I'm pretty sure all four of them are going to become four new Alexandras.

The second is another Follow Your Arrow by Ysolda Teague in Knit Picks Palette Tea Rose and Wallaby that I knit for my mother in law.  I really got my money's worth from that pattern...this was the third one I did and I'd knit more in the future.  It's a really fun one too, and so many combinations to try!

The last one is a Stormborn Shawl, knit as a MKAL for my mom, due to her love of all things Daenerys in Fleece Artist Trail Socks Twilight.  I improvised the sideways knit border at the end (the original called for picots, which aren't my favorite).  You can find info on my modification if you're interested in my project notes on Ravelry.

Still not much reading going on here...other than our ever-growing stash of bedtime books to read with the kiddos.  I think I've shared most of my seasonal favorites in previous Yarn Along posts, but I'll add The Tale of the Three Trees for this week.  It's one that's very dear to me, as it is a favorite of my grandmother's and one that we read each year with her for Christmas.  It's a beautiful story and one that I can barely get through without tearing up.  Love you Gigi!

Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along today.  Happy New Year!  I'll see you on the flip side :)

Monday, December 29

Holiday Wrap Up

This may be the only not weird picture I have from this Holiday Season...so with that being said...Here's a photo diary of our holidays!  I hope you had as much fun as we did!

Christmas with Gita and Pacha

 I love everything about this picture!  (Can you tell that Luca is going through an "I-don't-wanna-do-what-you're-asking-me-so-I'm-making-weird-faces phase?)

 Solstice Eve, with traditional cheese and chocolate fondu by candle light...and sparkling grape juice...and pirate faces...

 Solstice Morning!  With homemade cinnamon rolls before opening presents (but after opening "sockings" as Luca has named them)

 Now he's got her doing it!  But really, I think she was just excited to eat cinnamon rolls :)

Our drive to Illinois.  A couple hours of peace and quiet.  This was Isla's first big trip.  She's not an easy passenger like Luca was at her age, but she still did great.  12 hours is a long time to be in the car...

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Grandma and Grandpa's

I love this one of her!

 And last, but not least, I'll close with this gem:

So many great memories were made this year, and so many new traditions are beginning to take shape.  We are very blessed to have immersed ourselves in time with our families this holiday season.

We have set aside this final week of the year to spend together, just the four of us, relaxing at home and working on some projects while we reflect on what our aspirations for 2015 are.  I'll be spending some time wrapping up the financials and getting organized for the coming year, getting some menu plans made up so we can get a jump on healthy eating for January (green smoothies anyone?) and working on decluttering around the house.  We may also make time for a master bathroom makeover :)

Wishing you the best for our last few days of 2014!

Friday, December 26

Creative Corner--Birthday Special

Today's post is devoted to wishing Isla a very happy 1st birthday!

Isla was born at 11:34am, one year ago today.  I had been scheduled for an induction at 38 weeks and upon arriving at the hospital at 5am, learned that I was already in a pretty good labor pattern and having good contractions every 5 minutes (oh, those are contractions? I said to the nurse)

My plan had been to try for an unmedicated labor (other than the Pitocin) but I was feeling completely uninformed about this choice as labor progressed--which was entirely my own fault.  Our delivery nurse, Jeannine, was fantastic and offered lots of advice and suggestions.  I tried walking around (a luxury I had not had during my medicated labor with Luca) and bouncing on a birthing ball, but after being checked at about 4 1/2 hours in and only measuring 6cm dilated, I decided I didn't have to be a hero...no one would fault me for getting an epidural.  (I labored with Luca for just under 24 hours...all I could think was that I was not ready to continue on at my level of pain for 18+ more hours...)

So I asked Jeannine to call "the man" and get me the drugs.  25 minutes went by and he still hadn't shown up.  I was getting to the point where I was rather upset about that, but I felt like if I got up to use the restroom one more time, he'd probably come in right then and get the epidural started (the catheter part had been almost as bad as any of the rest of it for me the last time).  Well, Jeannine started getting a bit nervous with the next contraction and ordered me straight back to bed.  Why, I asked?  We're having a baby! she announced.

She called my doctor, who was doing paperwork in the next building over, and laid the hospital bed flat (in an effort to slow down my labor).  Stop pushing, she said.  I'm not pushing! I exclaimed.  The sensation was wholly different than last time when pushing was work and I struggled to get make just a small bit of progress with each contraction.  The human body is amazing, isn't it?  It just knew what to do, even though I was pretty sure I didn't.

After just a few minutes it was clear that the baby would arrive before the doctor, so Jeannine called for backup nurses as she kept imploring me to stop pushing (which I continued to assure her I wasn't doing).  Within 20 minutes of initially getting out of bed Isla was born, delivered by those sweet nurses.  Coincidentally, I had asked what happens if someone's doctor doesn't make it in time during the check in process at 5am, and those nurses had reassuringly replied that the OB nurses are skilled in straightforward deliveries.  Jeannine was even studying to be a midwife, so she was the perfect match for us!

Recovery with an unmedicated birth was wonderful by comparison.  I was able get up within 30 minutes of her birth and had showered within the first few hours.  Our hospital is considered "baby-centric", so Isla was placed on my chest immediately as they allowed the cord to stop pulsing before it was cut.  She wasn't whisked away for weight and measuring and APGAR scores...they assessed her right there on my chest and finding that she was perfectly healthy, allowed us to bond.  She never left my sight for our entire 23 hours hospital stay thereafter and it was an overall fantastic experience.  All of the check ups and newborn screenings were done in my recovery room and the staff was lovely.

Now, one year later, my baby is walking and dancing and babbling and smiling and clapping and blowing kisses!  She's climbing everything and keeping up with her brother.  She loves Super Why and playing in the Play Kitchen and her special blankie.  She's an adventurous eater but we're still working on sleeping all night.  She's gotten through a procedure to correct a tongue-tie, RSV, a cow's milk allergy, separation anxiety, and croup.  And she's our special Honey Girl.  Happy Birthday Isla!  We love you!

Wednesday, December 24

Yarn Along--Weasley Vest

 Happy Christmas Eve!  We celebrated Solstice on Sunday, and much fun was had by all.  I'll share more on that Monday.  But for today--a new design.  Born out of a dearth of time and yarn, I present for your consideration--the Weasley Vest.

The last three years I have presented Luca with a Weasley Sweater to wear (although last year's still fit him this year...shhh).  I wanted to have one ready for Isla too, but it just wasn't going to happen.  I raided my bff's yarn stash for a skein of Universal Yarns Deluxe Worsted Concord Tweed (unfortunately discontinued) in a beautiful vibrant red.  I knew I wasn't going to be able to get a whole 18 month sweater out of this 220 yard skein, so I figured the next best thing would be a vest.  All of the important elements, but in a quick, condensed version of the original that could be whipped up in a couple of days.

Voila! I also knit a blue tweed vest in the 4 year size for Luca (mostly to test the pattern).  Unfortunately, his new thing is "I'll only wear it if it's green" so I had to bribe him to next Tuesday to wear it for a few pictures...but it also turned out great!

And as luck would have it, a very dear friend of mine's husband asked on Facebook two days after I finished writing the pattern if anyone could find Weasley sweaters for his 1 year old twin boys by Christmas...  Umm...yeah!  I knit up two vests in the smallest size in just 2 days--a navy one with an F and a light blue one with a G and they were in the mail in time!  I can't wait to see pics of the boys wearing them!  By the way, Bibi's blog (The Conscious Doer) is amazing and you should definitely check it out.  You can read all about her surprise twins and all of the other wonderful stories she shares.  :)

As a special holiday gift, I'm offering the Weasley Vest FREE for a limited time in sizes 12-24 months up to Adult 3x, so it's great for the whole family!

(This design will be FREE until I finish the charts for the initials and the tutorial for duplicate stitch.  There are many videos on YouTube to help you learn this technique if you're unfamiliar and any style of letter would be the perfect finish for this vest!  I've included a template you can use to design your own letter on the last page of the pattern.  You can pick the vest pattern up now while it's free and once the additional information has been added you will receive a pattern update with access to the completed version.)

Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along today.  Enjoy and Happy Christmas! 

Monday, December 22

DIY--New Kitchen Table and Chairs, Part 2


So 2 weeks ago I revealed my new, refurbished antique kitchen chairs, with the promise of a post devoted to the kitchen table.  Well...today's the day!

If you'll remember, my lovely neighbor Haleigh offered me an old work table that she was getting rid of (thanks Haleigh!).  It had solid wood turned legs, but a veneered particle board table top.  I had a hunch that the legs could be something special if the paint splatters were stripped off and the finish was renewed where it had been scuffed, so I used the same materials on it as the chairs.

We started off with a healthy coat of Citri-Strip.  I chose this particular product because of the low odor, even though some reviews said it did not remove as thoroughly as expected.  I didn't need to take off much, just a layer of gunk and splatters, and it did the job well.  I applied it with a paint brush and left it on for about an hour and then began wiping it off.  I'll admit...I went through a lot of paper towels, but I felt they were doing a better job than a rag.  Once I got all the gunk off, there was still some residue, so a good wipe-down with Mineral Spirits did the trick to get a nice even finish to work with.

I then rubbed the same Howard's Restor-A-Finish onto the legs and it really brought out the beautiful color while filling in the scuffs.  Seriously amazing stuff.  I finished it off with the Howard's Feed-n-Wax to shine it up and protect the wood.

So the lower part of the table was done, and had gone according to plan.  It was time to start the top.  I wanted to try chalk paint, and had intended to go buy some Annie Sloan...but I chickened out at the last minute.  What if I didn't like it?  What if I messed up the wax?  I just couldn't swallow the price.  So I took the last half of the can of Valspar The Color of Money that I had used on the Photography Backdrop Cabinet, and mixed it up into some DIY chalk paint with 5 T plaster of Paris and 2 T water.  (Tip:  sift your plaster of Paris through a fine screen to get out any clumpy bits and mix it with the water before adding it to the paint.  Also...*flat paint*...not satin...notes for next time)

I started off by aggressively sanding the veneered top.  I sanded and sanded with a medium grit sand paper and the power sander until the surface was no longer shiny.  I wiped it down to remove the dust, then I put two coats of the "chalk paint" on it.  This is where I got annoyed with the pieces of grit that were ruining the nice finish.  I'd be going along just fine, then a whole bunch of tiny flecks would mar up the surface.  Frustration.  Annie Sloan next time...maybe...

I allowed the paint to dry for several days, then moved on to the waxing step.  This step is crucial for chalk painted items to turn out looking nice (so I read on Pinterest).  Again I went with not-Annie Sloan wax...instead opting for Minwax Paste Finishing Wax and a 1-1/2" Wooster stencil brush.  Wax--amazing!  Brush--frustrating!  It laid the wax on very nicely, but it left behind all sorts of hairs that I had to pick off of the finish.  Sigh.  So I had a system down.  Wax one quarter of the table, pull the hairs off, wipe the excess, repeat.  Wait 24 hours, buff with a soft cloth.  Repeat from the beginning.

I ended up doing 3 coats of wax, and I'm happy with the finish.  It's a little grittier than I would like, but at some point in the future, I may go back and give it a light sanding and do one additional coat of chalk paint (flat paint, with a finer mix of additives) and re-wax.  I also bought a goat hair buffing brush for my next chalk painting project:  Isla's big girl bedroom furniture!

I'm already collecting the pieces I want to refinish and add to her room...she's not quite ready for them yet, but that buys me some time...Here's a sneak peek!