More moustache than you knew you needed

Yes, it’s May, and that means a few things around here: Mother’s Day, Lydia’s birthday and, of course, Moustache May. Mitch is participating this year, so stop by and watch the progress of his ‘stache as it develops through the month!


The bad man in the tulips

Tulips are kind of a big deal around here. Every spring, we celebrate them with a tulip festival, so you can meander through fields of tulips, take pictures of your kids meandering through fields of tulips and get in the way while other people take pictures of tulips, all while munching on kettle corn. It’s pretty great.

But if you think this sounds silly, think about it for a minute longer: tulips are beautiful, no? In fact, they’re outrageously, vibrantly beautiful. And fields upon fields of them is such a stunning sight that a few neighboring companies offer “Tulip Tours” via helicopter or airplane. But in case you get the idea that you can just wander up and down the rows of flowers, let me warn you: it’s strictly verboten.

I always thought it was because, you know, flowers are fragile and kids playing hide-and-seek among those delicate stems would really bring down the “stunning” factor (and thus, the cost of admission), but, when my dad, step-mom, myself and the girls went to the fields, my dad overheard a mother telling her children an entirely different story:

“Don’t go in the fields, kids,” she said, “because there’s a bad man who lives in there, and he’ll jump out and grab you when you touch the tulips.”

And so those children embarked upon their struggle with a crippling phobia of tulips – beautiful, blood red tulips.

And yes, I realize that those are daffodils.

(On a side note, who gets to name the tulips? And can I please do it, please? My personal favorite was the “Kung Fu” tulip, though it was closely followed by “Ninja.” I didn’t come across a “Chuck Norris” tulip, though that doesn’t mean that it’s not out there. I haven’t given up hope.)

Cherry Branch Hat (Free Knitting Pattern)

Note: My blog moved, and this pattern traveled with it! All updates to this pattern will be available at my new blog, Two Blue Buttons. Please take a minute to update your links and enjoy the new site. Thank you!

Remember the knitting pattern I’ve been writing? The one for the beautiful blanket that I’ve been diligently working on for months? Well, the blanket is done, the pattern needs proof-reading and photographs are forthcoming, so in the meantime, I decided to try my hand at a simpler pattern. (Because heaven forbid I should start with a simple pattern in the first place.)

This pattern is so simple, in fact, that even if you’ve never knit a hat before, you could try your hand at this one – not least because you know exactly where to bring your questions. (If you do try it, please let me know how it goes! I would love to see photos.)

Cherry Branch Hat

This is one of the most basic hats you will ever knit, but because it’s so simple, the pattern is incredibly versatile. I love to embellish these hats with all manner of embroidery, buttons, and felt details (I’ve already knit half a dozen), but I’m sure you’ll find your own way to fancy these up.

Another big advantage to this hat is the rolled brim: you’ll notice that the sizes are pretty broad, and that’s because the rolled brim allows the hat to grow with your child. The toddler size is a little loose on my 7 month old and a little snug on my (almost) 3 year old, so rest assured that you’ll get a lot of mileage out of a single hat.

One final note: this hat is not machine washable. The yarn specified is wool, and if you use wool felt for the details, you will definitely not want to put it in the washing machine. If that’s a problem for you, there are several superwash wool and wool/cotton blends available that would work just as well for this pattern (try Cascade or Mission Falls for some great superwash options).

Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe (55% Bamboo/45% Wool), 1 skein Sprout
US 8 circular needles (16” length), or size needed to obtain gauge
US 8 double-pointed needles (set of 4), or size needed to obtain gauge
Scrap yarn, embroidery thread and a small amount of wool felt, in desired colors
Tapestry needle
Embroidery needle
Stitch marker

16 sts and 21 rows = 4”

Instructions are written for Baby (Toddler).
Circumference: 16 (17½)”
Height: 7 ½ (8 ½)”

CO = cast on
k2tog = knit two stitches together

CO 60 (70) stitches. Taking care not to twist the stitches, join into a round and place marker at the beginning of the round.

Knit in the round until hat measures 4.5″ (5.5″ for large).

Begin decreasing as follows, switching to double-pointed needles when the stitches are too tight to knit comfortably.

First decrease round: *k8, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 2: Knit.
Round 3: *k7, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 4: Knit.
Round 5: *k6, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 6: Knit.
Round 7: *k5, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 8: Knit.
Round 9: *k4, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 10: Knit.
Round 11: *k3, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 12: *k2, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 13: *k1, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Final round: *ktog* Repeat to end. You now have 6 (7) stitches remaining on your needle. Cut yarn, leaving 6″ tail; pull it through remaining stitches and weave in ends.

Using a small amount of scrap yarn, embroider the branch in the outline stitch. Because you’re paying homage to nature here, I find it looks much more realistic to free hand the branch design (as opposed to drawing it on the hat beforehand).

Cut flowers out of felt (with these, I find it helpful to either draw a pattern onto scrap paper, then pin it into place on the felt and cut around it, or use a quilter’s pencil to draw a template directly onto the felt).With your embroidery thread, use the daisy stitch to attach flowers to the hat. Knot thread and weave ends into the underside of the embroidery.

The best words one could hear

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. (Luke 24:5)

Remember: Mary, Mary Magdalene and Joanna saw Jesus crucified. They saw his body laid in the tomb. When they returned, at early dawn, they expected – as any mourner would – to find the one they loved still in the tomb, dead and beyond rising.

But that’s not what they found at all.

He has risen, and when he rose, he took the power of death and crushed it. Though we wandered far from God, so far that we hardly knew we were lost, Jesus made the way back for us through death – he is, himself, the way.

But what those women learned at the empty tomb is that he is also what every grieving person wishes their departed one would be: the exception. The one who died, but didn’t stay dead.

Jesus found the way through death.

He came back for us.

The Lord has risen indeed!

Holy Saturday

I found this on Aslan’s Library and found it very worth sharing:

Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis, Denise Levertov

Maybe he looked indeed
much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
in those small heads that seem in fact
portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
a soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth
in a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
that He taste also the humiliation of dread,
cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
like any mortal hero out of his depth,
like anyone who has taken a step too far
and wants herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how,
in the midnight Garden,
or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
to simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
not the hideous betrayals humans commit
nor the faithless weakness of friends, and surely
not the anticipation of death (not then, in agony’s grip)
was Incarnation’s heaviest weight,
but this sickened desire to renege,
to step back from what He, Who was God,
had promised Himself, and had entered
time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
up from those depths where purpose
drifted for mortal moments.

Excerpted from Selected Poems, New Directions, 2002

The Box Library

When we received a library kit, a large box and a collection of dilapidated picture books last week, inspiration struck. Remember our cardboard kitchen? I present to you our cardboard library:

The library kit included an old-school library stamp (which I seriously considered keeping for myself), along with some adhesive book cards. I taped those bad boys into the covers of our books, handed the stamp to my little head librarian, and opened the doors for business.

A few hours later, she’d learned words like “renew,” issued library cards to the baby and stained her fingers red with what turned out to be un-washable ink. From there, she turned her desk into a house, invited Sarah inside for lunch and shut me out.

Oh well. I had plenty of library books to peruse, so I was in no danger of feeling left out.

The assistant librarian covers for Lydia while she takes a nap break.

Here’s the How-To:

For Lydia’s desk, we took a big box, tucked in the top flaps and turned it on its side. She pulled up a chair from her little table, I topped it with a name plate (cut from a spare bit of cardboard) and voila! The little girl turned into a head librarian.

For her desktop organizer, I used an old dayplanner with pockets. Into those pockets we tucked her stamp pad, purple sparkly pen and library cards – one for each family member plus a few blank ones, should grandparents or friends happen to stop by.

The cards are just “Ex Libris” stickers (from the library kit, of course), backed with cardboard. If you don’t have an awesome library kit, you can decorate the cardboard itself, or use blank mailing labels in place of the name tags.

For the bookshelf/returns bin, I used an old milk crate (leftover from the early days of our marriage, when I worked at a gas station) topped with an office-style inbox. Simple enough, and the beauty of it is that everything but the big box will fit into the milk crate when we’re finished playing, so we can build the whole library again some day, should an opportunity (and box) present itself.

Lastly, the books themselves: the ones we were given are too well-loved to have much of a lifespan on our bookshelves (some of them went straight into my art stash, where they will eventually be “re-purposed”), but they’re perfect for stamping repeatedly with a library stamp.

You could hit up the free shelves at your (real) library, or stop by the free/discount boxes outside your favorite used bookstore. Don’t overlook your own shelves, though: I’d be lying if I said that a few of our books hadn’t been demoted to “box library” status – namely, the ones that I’ve never liked, and wouldn’t mind packing up into a milk crate for the majority of the year.

Restocking the shelves in an outfit that is decided NOT "Librarian Chic."

Another perk: all of the sudden, Lydia was presented with a dozen books that she had never seen before. That made for one content little librarian.

[This post is a part Works for Me Wednesday]

Little imperfections

In exchange for a pair of handmade earrings, my friend Sarah knit me a pair of lime green wristwarmers. I know now that the cuff is knit in a 1×1 rib stitch, and that the thumb gusset increases every other row, but at the time, I only knew that they were warm.

What I didn’t know was that those wrist warmers took hours to make, and that the second one probably took longer than the first. When I lost one, I thought nothing of asking for a replacement, because, at the time, I was not a knitter. I had no idea what I was asking.

But I don’t know what I would do now if I lost one of my lime green wrist warmers. They have become irreplaceable.

You see, Sarah died two summers ago, in a meadow in Alaska, and those wrist warmers have become my favorite memento of her. (No, wait: my daughter’s name is my very favorite memento, with the wrist warmers taking a distant second.)

On certain days, I have studied those stitches and considered the hands that knit them. After all, those were the hands that first taught me a knit stitch, though only in a passing, informal lesson that didn’t stick, and those are the hands that held mine as we walked through the auditorium at our high school graduation.

When I consider those wrist warmers, it occurs to me that a handmade gift possesses a life and history that a machine-made one simply cannot have. A mass-produced sweater is neat and orderly–no untucked ends, no crooked seams, no sleeves that just wouldn’t “taper elegantly,” no matter what the pattern promised.

What makes a handmade gift live is the hands that made it, and all the little imperfections that they could not avoid.