It’s taken me a while to be able to write this.

Last month, my grandmother passed away unexpectedly.

She was an incredible woman who lived life on exactly her terms.  She always referred to your posterior as your fanny, was active in her church, put me on her prayer list for being Pagan but loved me anyway, made us kids eat things we didn’t like but were good for us and then gave us homemade applesauce (with red hots) afterwards, kept a Grandparent’s Day card my siblings and I gave her twenty years ago, made play-dough from scratch, once washed my mouth out with Ivory soap (tastes terrible), and taught me to crochet when I was just four or five.

It’s been more than a month, and I still don’t think I’ve really dealt with this.

In the short term, my coping mechanism has been to keep busy.  After all, it’s pretty hard to weep while you’re counting stitches.  Grandma’s favourite flower (and coincidentally March’s flower) was the daffodil.  When we weren’t able to get daffodils for her memorial service, I decided to make some using the skills she shared with me almost thirty years ago.  I wore these to the memorial in thanks to my grandmother, Leslie Jane, for all that she taught me.  I’ll miss you, Grandma.

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Meet Algernon

You may recall my first Steampunk dragon, Oliver.  At that time, I mentioned Oliver’s friend was tuckered after his long flight.  As you can see, he basically crash-landed on my craft table.  Algernon somehow bears a striking resemblance to the fridge-eating mutt I had a few years ago.  Hopefully, he doesn’t have a similar fondness for dining on my appliances.

Algernon’s actually a bit too big for a pendant, but he’s fun regardless.  One wing is part of an old automobile clock, and the other wing is the impression of that clock part in clay to create a mirrored pair of wings.  He has proper Steampunk goggles and well-loved flying gloves (I have an opportunity to improve my hand-sculpting abilities, but these aren’t too dreadful).  The goggle construction came from the Steampunkery book I’ve referenced before.

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Candy Corn

This pair’s for you, Kourtney!  Sorry they’re late.

Anyone else I owe something to, I’ll keep working on the backlog.  🙂

The yarn is the splendidly self-striping Vesper Sock, by Knitterly Things.  I shouldn’t tell you that, because her shop updates already sell out almost instantly, and you might beat me to it next time.  Forget I said anything.  These are not the socks you’re looking for.

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I kept a tight rein on my crafty impulses over the holidays this year, restricting the number of gifts I would make.  I normally end up in a puddle of crazy on December 24th, scrambling to finish a hat, or fingerless mitts, or a scarf.  Many a project has been given in kit form, though I do my darnedest to finish those by the end of January!  This year, a non-yarny project lodged in the back of my mind, and wouldn’t budge.  I sternly told this impulse to buzz off, since work has been taking up the vast majority of my recent time, but this idea just wouldn’t give up.  I finally bowed to the designy urges, and bought the necessary supplies to craft some placemats for my grandparents.  They’re primarily wool-blend felt, trimmed with homespun and a few charming buttons.  Like the snowflake appliques that adorn these, no two are alike!  I’m pleased to report that they matched the kitchen perfectly, and that Grandma loves them.  Now to work on the matching napkin rings!

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Peppermint Bark, Anyone?

With the holidays in mind, please enjoy the following guide on how to make peppermint bark (in five easy steps).

1: Purchase your ingredients. You need white chocolate and hard peppermints. I’m partial to the Wilton Candy Melts myself, as they melt beautifully. Get two bags for the two batches we’re planning to make – one for work and one for the family. Remember that we also want to make cake pops later in the week, and buy two bags for that. Nab some Starlight Mints, as well. Big bags are on sale? Score! Grab two, for those two batches. Head home for some melty fun.

2: Prepare the mints. Put on Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original animated one with Boris Karloff, not the Jim Carrey remake). Settle in to watch and unwrap those mints. Split them into four Ziplocks to keep them managable for crushing. Seal ’em up, wrap ’em in a towel, and beat the tar out of ’em with a hammer. Take out your stress. That guy who cut you off on the interstate? That mint is his car window. Pow! Aim for pieces no bigger than a quarter inch (you also get some nice minty dust). All done? Feel better? Good, go get those melts ready.

3: Melt the white chocolate. Pour one bag of melts into a microwave-safe bowl. Half-power in the microwave for a minute, stir, give it another thirty seconds, stir, repeat. Never, ever, ever try to melt this all in one go – you need those breaks to keep the heat even and avoid scorching. When it’s almost smooth, quit zapping, and just stir to melt the remaining bits. Trust me, it’ll work.

4: Mix it up. Grab one of your bags of crushed mints, and dump it on in the bowl of melty chocolate. Stir, stir, stir, then reach for the next bag of mint. After all, we’re making two batches, right? And we have four bags of crushed mints? Hm, that mixed up goo in the bowl looks suspiciously right… crud, we bought big bags of mints. Allow ten seconds for brief, heartfelt cursing (bonus points if you use a language other than your native tongue). Acknowledge that you’re going to need all four bags of melts, and that you’ll have to get more for the cake pops later. Get that stuff out of the bowl before it sets.

5: Finish it. Pour the melty goo out onto a sheet of foil, and smooth as best you can into a layer about a quarter inch thick. Resist the urge to lick the spoon, because we have three more rounds of this. Lick the spoon anyway, wash it now that it’s contaminated, and toss the next batch of melts in the microwave. Consider buying pretty treat bags and gifting peppermint bark to all of your friends.

Happy Holidays!

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Whoosh, the Second

It’s been almost a month since my last blog post.  Think that baby blanket’s done?

Guess again.

In other news, I bought a spiffy new camera.  This is one of the first pics!

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“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”  Douglas Adams

If you read my last post, you know I had started a baby blanket, which was vexed by catastrophic gauge issues.  I scrapped that mess, since I didn’t want to stitch such angry vibes into a baby gift, and I started the same basic design over in nice, controllable granny squares.  Can’t mess up gauge that much in such a small block, to my way of thinking.  Since then, a very nice thing and a very not-nice thing have happened.  Nice thing:  the baby was born!  Beautiful little Kelsie, whose mother put in the order for her baby blanket as soon as she announced Kelsie’s impending arrival.  Not-nice thing:  I developed a lousy case of bronchitis, had to cancel a trip that would have provided a few good solid hours of road stitching time, and haven’t still finished the blanket.  In all fairness to me, Kelsie’s a mite early (a week or two, I think), and I’m utterly certain that I could have caught up in time.  However, the fact remains that my cousin has produced a baby, and I have not as of yet produced a blanket.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be denied baby visitation until said blanket is produced.  I also suspect that the bronchitis might extend that window a bit, since I can’t get near the munchkin while this sick.  63 squares down, won’t think about how many more to go (the last blanket was around 160-ish…)

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Gauge Issues

I should be showing you a snap of a lovely blanket in progress.  However, said blanket has developed catastrophic gauge issues, and has been retired.

I’ve started a new blanket with granny squares.  Let’s hear it for the speedy crochet classic.

In place of blankets, enjoy a snap of my second felted soap attempt.  Yes, the soap inside is lavender, and yes, that’s supposed to be a lavender bloom needle-felted on.  In this instance, you can indeed judge the book by its cover.

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The Tree

I was so sad to hear about this – the oldest tree in the region, likely the oldest in the state, has died and has to be removed.  I’ve been driving past this enormous burr oak for years and have always loved it.  In my mind, this was what Yggdrasil, the World Tree, must look like.  Link to the Times article, which gets credit for this lovely image:

John J. Watkins, File | The Times

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Socks and Suds

Finished my Mabon/Autumn Equinox socks last week, but just got the card out of my camera to upload the snaps.  I’m quite happy with these – the pattern is Embossed Socks, and the yarn is BMFA STR Lightweight in ST-1.  Oh, the yarny autumnal goodness. 

At YarnCon this past weekend, my sister and I discovered that we had a mutual wish to try making felt-covered soap.  We bought ourselves some lurvely merino roving, stopped at Whole Foods for some soap, and decided to give it a shot.  (Let’s not mention how I ran out of time, left my soap at her place, and had to scrounge something else once I got home.)  Let me tell you, if you try this out, get some seriously solid soap.  Something as hard as your classic gold Dial.  I used a softer hand-crafted soap from a farmer’s market that smells great (sandlewood), but it got pretty squooshy while felting.  I of course cheated, and needle felted a little bit of decoration onto my bar.  So pretty!

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