Saturday, February 21, 2009

Recent Projects

Things have been busy here at the Cottage. A while back I promised pictures as soon as I figured out how to get them out of my camera. (Sometimes I have to remind myself that technology is a friend) and here they are:

These two are baby blankets I made for family friends who have had babies in the last couple of months. The star was especially difficult for me because I kept losing count of my stitches, but it turned out great!

From left to right, above: Ruby Grapefruit Marmalade (my first attempt at a jelly of any sort), Lemon Curd, and Pickled Beets. All homemade, and all delicious!

Two hats that I have made recently. The top one is now on the head of a friend from choir, and the bottom one matches a coat that belongs to my godmother. I have had a lot of fun with hats and have made quite a few. I just don't happen to have pictures yet!

I love the way hats and baskets (another crocheting love of mine) grow so organically from the yarn choices I make. Lately I've been playing with some lovely yarns - wool, alpaca, blends with wool and silk... enough to make me dive into a basket of yarn and stay there!
The animal yarns (alpaca, wool, etc..) are especially fun because I can felt the finished product and change it's character even more. Many of my bowls, baskets, and bags are felted because it also makes the end product stronger and more durable.
Eventually I want to open an Etsy store, but am always looking for people who are interested in having unique custom pieces made for them. Until my store is ready, if you are interested please contact me and I would be happy to work with you on colors and give you a quote on the price.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Good Afternoon

Don't you just love it when you are handed the gift of time for re-creation and your favorite way to enjoy it? I had a lovely day with no obligations, quite a blessing after a week of running hither, thither, and yon and staying out late, with another week of the same staring me in the face. The sun was shining beautifully on the cottage this morning, and after doing some much needed catching up on keeping things tidy I settled down in a sunbeam streaming across the couch with beautiful music playing, a lovely scented candle, and a book.

I have to admit, it probably wasn't the book I would have originally chosen. It had been passed to me by my parents, who have both read it. My dad can't stop talking about it. Pastors in the area have scheduled entire three-month sermon series around it. My boss raved about it. A local seminary even hosted a community discussion night around it. Everywhere I go, I run into it. And after reading the back and having so many people tell me how absolutely wonderful and potentially life-changing it is I decided that I didn't want to have anything to do with it and would wait for the hype to die down before I read it.

Perhaps this was a bit perverse of me. I'm not the kind to bow to pressure about what to read - usually. For heaven's sake, my other current book option is an obscure English book about the changes in a town as it moves from being a collection of homes to being a real town! Do I really want to read a supremely popular book in the height of it's popularity that includes a healthy dose of absolute, gut-wrenching tragedy and the potential to change my life? I'm reading to relax, here. I'd given a half-hearted reading to the first two chapters so that I wouldn't be lying when people asked if I was reading it yet. But today I took the plunge. I picked up that copy of The Shack that was sitting reproachfully on the table and I read it.

I will admit that it struck a nerve, and will probably change some of the way I see my life and my relationship with God as I move forward and continue to digest the things I read. I see the potential for this to touch so many more lives than most people imagine. It is the opposite of so many things I was expecting from the hype, and that is a very good thing. Will I push people to read it? Perhaps. I know that it has reached deep into my own places of hurt, places where my relationship with God as I thought I knew it had been destroyed a long time ago. It holds an affirmation for me of my own healing, and I am sure it will hold the same for others.

Either way, it was a wonderful afternoon, and I pray that you have one that feeds you the same way soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tea for One

This is one of those mornings. The clouds hang low in the sky, menacing the hills with dark shrouds of mist and rain. The light wind is chilling, cutting to the bone, and even the birds who are willing to venture out are staying low to the ground or huddling in low branches with their feathers fluffed to the utmost.

Inside, as I sit near the window looking out, I am snuggled in the depths of a warm afghan with my hands wrapped around a cup of brisk tea mixed with a generous dollop of milk and a plate of homemade bread, toasted and slathered generously with real butter and homemade ruby grapefruit marmalade. I have had a busy and long weekend, and I have an hour to myself before I go rushing off into the rain again. It is a day for practicing hospitality for myself.

My toast rests on one of my favorite pretty plates and my tea is in a lovely cup and saucer that makes me feel good to use. Because it is just myself and my writing tools I could just as easily have dumped my lovely toast onto a paper towel or paper plate and my tea into whatever mug happened to be in the front of the cupboard. But I am just as worthy of the pretty stuff as any visitor I may have. Many of us have forgotten to practice hospitality with ourselves and our families. The very dailiness of our contact with our families, the seeming burden of feeding our own selves every day. They wear on us and make us forget that we, too, are special guests and friends in need of seeing the pretty things in life.

So today I invite you to take the time to use the "good" plates for a meal, put a flower that you find beautiful in a vase where you can enjoy it during your day

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

I found this lovely rose while wandering through a website called Rampant Scotland.... I love old-fashioned roses like this one, and it made my day. I wanted to share it with you and hopefully make your day, too! Have a lovely Valentine's Day and soak up all that love!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Of Rainbows and First Steps

I just know that there is a rainbow lurking somewhere. Standing on the porch with the sun pouring in dazzlingly bright ribbons through a couple of holes in the dark clouds after a passing rain shower I know that if I were in the right spot I would be able to see a brilliant rainbow. Perhaps to someone else, I am just underneath it, wrapped in the arching embrace of God's promises to humankind.

I like to think so. I can only imagine that being held in the beauty of a rainbow when things are tough is as wonderful as being held in a loving mother's arms when you fell and hurt yourself as a child and she picked you up and made your world right again. So why do we resist so much when God wants to make our worlds right again for us? Is it because we are afraid of the change that might be involved?

Sitting under the branches of the wild oaks and listening to the wind whisper to me about God's plans for me is sort of a hobby with me. Unfortunately, I have a hard time trusting in the truth of what I hear and I struggle against it much of the time. But then I give in, take a step in the direction I am shown, and it feels so good, so right. I know I am not the only one who does this. All around me are people who are in the midst of the same struggle. Some have gone so far as to silence the whispers with addictions, others just stay busy so that they can put off the time when they take their first baby steps.

So I stop looking for the rainbow somewhere else and let it embrace me now. Things are good.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Little of This and That

Today has been quite productive, with a new apron and skirt made from my own designs. Both are quite simple, but for this novice with a sewing machine I am quite satisfied! I found a remnant of a sweet fabric with Celtic knots on it that became a simple "hostess" style apron - one of those ones that only covers from the waist down - and I am thrilled with how it turned out.

I am looking forward tonight to making lemon bars and possibly a lemon loaf cake, I was given a couple of football-sized lemons and I need to use them up, along with the extra lemons from last weeks tea. I've already made some lemon curd to have on hand, and there is some lemon chicken simmering away, but I don't want to waste these lovely morsels of tart sunshine!

Monday, February 2, 2009

An Early Valentine

This lovely poem came across my desk today, and with Valentine's Day coming up I thought it would be appropriate to share.

The Art of Marriage
by Wilfred Arlan Peterson
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created.
In the Art of Marriage, the little things are the big things:
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “I Love You” at least once every day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted;
the courtship should not end with this day,
it should continue through all the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other,
not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice,
but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation,
and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding,
and a sense of humour.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal,
dependence is mutual,
and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner,
it is being the right partner.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Birthday Tea

Here are the Sandwiches - on the left, Coronation Chicken on Honey Cracked Wheat and Cucumber, on the right, Seafood Salad and Olive Spread, and in the middle, Roast Beef with Horseradish Cream on Blue Cheese Crackers and Brie fingers. The Olive spread is a favorite, shared by a friend at church who learned it from her mother. Simply mix well drained chopped olives with enough Miracle Whip to hold together as a paste and spread on bread. Mayonaise won't work for this, it just tastes a little funny.

Here are the Ginger Ale Scones - they tasted good but were not as fluffy as my usual scones. The recipe is: 3 cups all purpose flour, 1 cup light cream, 1 cup lemonade (in the UK this means something like Sprite or 7-Up here, not the slightly sweetened lemon juice that we in the US think it means!) I used Ginger Ale, and they came out okay. Put the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the cream and lemonade and mix to form a sticky dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently to complete the blend. Roll or press to approximately 1 inch thick and cut out or shape into rounds. If shaping into rounds, cut into wedges. Place on a floured baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden and they sound slightly hollow when tapped.

The Fairy Cakes were hiding from the camera, but here is the chocolate mousse, chocolate dipped strawberries and marshmallows and Gram's Shortbread - a recipe I learned from my grandmother.
A wonderful time was had by all, and we are ready to try more teas in the future. I had a ball putting this together and am looking forward to doing it again soon.