Tag Archive | gifts

Keep warm and well-fed

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” James 2:15-16

Our neighbor has hit a bit of a rough patch. Actually, his rough “patch” has lasted a couple of years and so far there’s no real end in sight. Man, we know how that goes. Do we ever. With the memory of our own rough patch in the not-so-distant past, we’ve been doing what we can to help out Mr. S. He has some specific dietary needs and not a lot of extra cash, so I try to make him a good, warm dinner at least once a week, knowing that most of the time he just kind of snacks on stuff or eats whatever he can find on sale. As the weather started turning this month, I became concerned that he might not be all that warm. Let’s just say that his accommodations leave something to be desired. And you know what? It stinks to wake up in the morning and be so frozen that you can’t bear to leave your bed and start the day.

These thoughts happened to coincide with the nearby grocery/department store having a small bin of yarn marked at 50% off clearance prices. Oh boy, you know I can’t resist that! I got three balls of Lion Brand “Amazing.” It’s a 53% wool/47% acrylic blend and for a “cheap” yarn, it really does feel amazing. I got it in the manly colorway of “Rainforest” — a mix of greens and browns.

First, I crocheted Mr. S a hat. There are a billion and one hat patterns out there, which should make it easy to find a suitable one, but sometimes it’s just overwhelming. I searched for a little while and then landed on this one: Carmel by Drops Design. It is single crocheted in the back loops all the way around to give it some texture.

IMG_5836

Close-up of the texture. The color isn't coming through right in the photo, though.

Close-up of the texture. The color isn’t coming through right in the photo, though.

For the gloves, I knew I wanted to make them fingerless so that Mr. S could enjoy the warmth, but still use his computer or phone, write, whatever. All those things that it’s nice to have fingertips for. There aren’t as many patterns for these as there are for hats, but there are still plenty to choose from. A lot of them, however, are awfully girly looking. Which is great if the future wearer is a girl. But my intended recipient is a man. Who works in construction. I wanted to be careful that there was no apparent sissiness. This pattern — Fingerless or Not — worked out great. The instructions were easy to follow and working the individual fingers was not as tricky as it seemed it would be. Mr. Gren was kind enough to model for us.

Backs

Backs

Palms

Palms

Creepy crawly hands

Creepy crawly hands

I put the hat and gloves in a paper sack, tied it with a ribbon and wrote “Happy Autumn” on it and left it where I knew Mr. S would find it when he got home. The next day, Mr. Gren received an email from him giving us an update on how he was doing — he was feeling pretty beaten up after some painful interactions with a loved one in his life, on top of the current financial stresses. Finding my little gift was a welcome pick-me-up. He said, “No one has ever knitted anything for me before. I will cherish them.” We’ll forgive him for confusing knitting and crochet and get to the heart of the sentiment: more than just warming his head and hands, my hat and gloves reminded him that not all is despair, he is worthy of care and love and someone recognized that.

So why am I telling you all this? Not to toot my own horn. Open your eyes to needs around you, especially as the weather is getting colder heading into winter. Make a warm meal for someone; volunteer at a homeless shelter; use your talents and abilities to bring a bright spot to someone’s otherwise dismal day. Go on, I challenge you.

Christmas gifts: They were cones!

The last of the Christmas gift round-up! This was another Rana project and definitely not something I would have done with the younger kids. Finding homemade gifts for men can be tricky — it’s easy to find all kinds of cutesy, frilly, girly projects, but something that a man might want or find useful can be a real challenge. Rana had pulled one of her uncle’s names for this last one. Knowing that this uncle uses a wood stove to heat his house, when I found this project for pine cone fire starters, I thought that this was something we could do.

First things first: you need pine cones. Pine cones are plentiful on the other side of the state, but over here on the Western side of the mountains, mostly all we get are fir cones. Fir cones, while bountiful, are worthless, acidic clumps of mush. Some people have to rake leaves from their lawns; we get to rake fir cones, or else they burn up your grass and you have no lawn. Actual pine trees are in sparse supply around here, so in order to get the aforementioned pine cones, we used several of those cinnamon-scented pine cones they sell around the holidays. One advantage to this versus foraging for cones in the wild is that the cones are already dried and opened up.

Other supplies you’ll need are wax (we used an old candle) and wicks (cotton yarn). The basic idea is, you put a wick on the pine cone and coat it in wax, then you chuck the whole thing into the fireplace to get your fire going. We melted down a white candle in our pseudo-double boiler (tuna can in a pot of water). Little known fact: tuna cans float. That made the whole cone-dipping process more exciting. Bobbing for pine cones.

Rana did make a cute video for this, too, but Konik is yelling at me in the background while my mom tries to shush him. Oh well.

IMG_3385

IMG_3386

I had visions of the cones looking as though they had been frosted with snow. Unfortunately, white wax doesn’t look white unless it’s in a solid chunk, so our pine cones just looked kind of greasy. Hm. Another one of those “live and learn” moments, I guess. Even if they didn’t turn out as pretty as we had counted on, we hope that they are at least functional!

Presents!

It’s pretty dang cold in the cabin today, so any wit I may have planned for this post is frozen stiff, kinda like my fingers. Mostly I just wanted to show you some of the cool stuff I got for Christmas!

First, my ever-observant sister-in-law got me the crayon drawing book I had mentioned here a few weeks ago. I am so excited about this, I can’t even tell you. I went to the store yesterday to buy some crayons, thinking I would get the 64 count box. Apparently, I haven’t been paying attention to crayon developments. They had the 64 count, and then a 92 and then a 120 count!! Wowzers! I figured, the more colors the better, so I splurged. When I got home and opened it up, I found the large box contained two 48 count boxes and one 24 count. Wait a minute, what kinda rip-off is this…? I opened both 48 counts and much to my relief and delight, saw that the crayons are all different. There really are 120 colors! Yay! There won’t be any color drawing around here, though, until my hands have thawed out.

IMG_1680

The other book is crochet animals from Rana. There are some cute patterns in there. The descriptions of the animals are kind of goofy, almost like they were trying too hard to make it interesting. You don’t have to convince me why I need to make a pirate panda bear. It’s cute and that’s good enough reason for me. Rana is looking forward to me making some of these animals; I think she may have plans… haha

IMG_1683

In my stocking, I found these two little goodies from Mr. Gren. One is a disappearing fabric marker. I usually use a bit of chalk, but it doesn’t work on all fabrics. I’m looking forward to trying out the marker on my next sewing project. The other, strange-looking object is an ergonomic crochet handle. Sometimes I have trouble with my hands cramping up, especially when using the smaller hooks, so this should be a good help! I’ve already been using it.

IMG_1684

So three cheers for Christmas! These gifts should lead to some interesting projects and posts this year. Oh, yeah… “year.” Happy New Year to all of you!

Merry Christmas to all!

It’s late on Christmas Eve. Mr. Gren and I are half-watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” after finishing up the wrapping and stuffing the stockings. And you know what else is done?

IMG_1556

After weeks of work and no small amount of frustrations along the way, the Axl dolls are finally finished! What a relief! I took it down to the wire, but there they are, ready for Christmas morning. I’ll post more and better pictures later. Can’t turn on too many lights in the cabin once the kids are asleep. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and enjoying the day with my family. It really is a wonderful life.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Tinth Anniversary!

This past Thursday, Mr. Gren and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. In my perfect world, we would have taken a trip to Paris (and for anyone looking to go, January-March is a great time if you can handle the rain). Obviously, that was not in the cards this year. Out of curiosity, I looked up the traditional gift theme for the 10th anniversary. If you’re quick on your feet or just well-versed in etiquette, you already know that it’s tin. Tin for ten. Get it? har har. Once I got over the pun, I also noted the irony for our particular situation. I was expecting to find something like crystal or some kind of actual precious metal. Nope, it’s tin. For the poor people. I was joking with some friends that I should make Mr. Gren something out of a tin can as an anniversary gift. They thought that was hilarious and that was all the motivation I needed.

When it comes to tin can crafts, the obvious one is a pencil holder. But come on, we don’t even have a desk, so where are we going to put said pencil holder? I briefly considered doing a variation of my tin-punch Christmas decorations, but that didn’t seem quite right either. I don’t have tin snips, so I couldn’t do anything real fancy or that required altering the shape of the can. I browsed around online for a little bit and found someone had made a wine rack out of cans. That’s the one! There were no real instructions or anything, just a photo. Good enough, I can figure it out from there.

First, I needed at least three larger-than-normal cans. I knew I had one pumpkin can left from Christmas which we had used as an emergency candle holder when the power went out. I knocked the old wax out of it, and there was can #1. I dug through my recycle bin and couldn’t find any empty ones large enough, so the next stop was my pantry shelves. I found a large can of peaches and a can of beef stew. I emptied the peaches and stew into containers and stuck them in the fridge and then got the cans all cleaned up and the bottoms removed.

My original thought for joining them all together was to solder them. I knew that Mr. Gren had a small soldering iron around somewhere. I dug through his tools until I found it and a small coil of solder. The last time I soldered anything was in 8th grade Industrial Tech, but I didn’t remember it being real difficult. Well, Mr. Gren’s soldering iron didn’t feel like cooperating. It took forever to heat up and then was super finicky about melting the solder. I was running out of time before Mr. Gren would get home from picking up Rana at school, so I had to abandon that tack. Enter the hot glue gun. I used an entire stick of glue on these cans because I wanted to make sure they were good and stuck together. Then I glued little beer cap feet onto the bottom of the contraption. I’m going to have to pry a couple off and reset them because it wobbles a little bit, but it’s functional for now.

A poor man's wine rack only holds three bottles

For some inexplicable reason, I save all beer and pop caps. It's probably a sickness.

Don't you agree that the ribbon makes it more festive?

Happy anniversary, Mr. Gren! Maybe next year I’ll get really fancy and make you something out of empty thread spools.

And, in case anyone wondered, we ate the peaches and beef stew for dinner on Saturday.

Christmas sneak preview

This year, Christmas kind of sneaked up on me. Yeah, yeah, I have a calendar like everyone else, but with my husband’s unemployment, I guess I just kept waiting and waiting, hoping he’d get a job and I could go out and buy supplies for making Christmas presents. Last year, I did much better at having a “handmade Christmas.” This year, there won’t be nearly as many handmade gifts, unfortunately. It makes me sad, in a way, because I really do enjoy making things for people and buying gifts from the store almost feels like defeat.

I did manage to make a handful of gifts, and I was able to use some supplies from my stash (which is dwindling) on most of them. But, since several of my recipients also read this blog, I can’t really talk about them. I can put up mysterious photos, though.

It’s fairly apparent that all of these items were made using yarn. But they are all very different from each other! Whatever could they be? You’ll all just have to wait a few days to find out!

Just a little something special

Today, Rana completed kindergarten. The kindergarten classes had a “teddy bear picnic” where their parents and favorite stuffed animals were invited. I attended and had a fun time with Rana and seventy other hyper almost-1st graders. We had already planned on having a celebratory meal this evening (hot dogs and cantaloupe. We’re fancy), but it occurred to me this morning after Rana left for her last day of kindergarten, that perhaps a small gift was in order.

If you have never read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I recommend it. It will open your eyes to how and why people operate the way they do. Rana’s Love Language is Gifts. She loves giving gifts for any and all occasions. She was so proud this morning to take small gifts to her teachers — just some nail polish, but she chose the colors herself and drew thoughtful pictures for both of them. When I arrived at the picnic, the first thing she told me was how happy her teachers were with her gifts. The converse side is that her little heart is also touched when she receives a gift. This is why I felt like there should be a gift to accompany our fun meal.

I had two hours to put something together this morning before the picnic began. Rummaging around in my craft room for inspiration, I found four little yellow crochet flowers I had made some time ago with no real purpose. Today, they found their purpose! At first, I thought of making one into a barrette. But then I remembered seeing this the other day, which reminded me that I had a new package of elastic headbands. I decided to use just three flowers and crocheted a little green leaf for each of them, sewed them together and then stitched it all to the headband.

After dinner, we gave Rana her gift. She was so excited! Momentary disappointment clouded her face when she thought it was just a lot of tissue paper, but once she pulled out the headband, her face lit up again. She immediately put it on and, as of this writing, is asleep in her bed, still wearing the headband.

Mission accomplished. 🙂