Thursday, February 21, 2013

Knitted Envelope: Scripture Keeper

My new friend, Shirley, from the warm and lovely, Under an English Sky, blog asked me if I would mind posting a picture of the little "wallet" I'd made for my Scripture cards in my previous post. I am delighted to share, Shirley, but I will tell you that it is a humble and completely practical object! More a knitted envelope than wallet (as I could not, for some reason conjure up the word "envelope" when I wrote my last post), it is the simplest "pattern" - one that I just stitched up using leftover bits of yarn.

Since my cards are 3x5 inches, I just added 1/4 inch on each side of a long strip of stockinette knitting and included a button hole at the end. For the button hole, yarn-over twice on a knit row. When you come to your first yarn-over on your returning purl row, purl the first stitch and purl the second stitch through the back loop. And that's that!

The length of the knitted strip was just trial and error. I just tested it with my cards until I could fold it over, then added the buttonhole where I thought it should go. Picked a button from my button jar and stitched that on. Finally, I whip-stitched the sides on the wrong side and then turned it right-side out. And that was it. I did this easily in one sitting. I've often thought of making these for Bible-study members as little Christmas or parting gifts, but just have never actually done it.

Below, I've included a shot just so you can have some idea of scale. It is quite small; fits in the palm of my hand. It's nice and stretchy because it's knit and while I have plenty of cards, I have room for more. 

I think these little envelopes would be fun for all kinds of wee items. My girls used to have little decks of playing cards that would fit perfectly in here. Also, having a stack of blank, pre-cut, index cards in this little envelope would be a nice, little packet to hand to a child sitting in church or a waiting room, etc. I'm sure one could come up with lots of ideas for small bags like this; I'm just happy that it's proved useful to me after all these years. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Image courtesy of Aps-The Muddled Utopian

Hello all. :) Can you believe that we are only a week and a half away from March?! This year's February really is seeming like the shortest month of the year to me. Often, February feels long just because the cold remains. Despite an incredibly snowy and downright cold February this year however, I have not experienced the drudgery of the days that might have visited me in years past and the month is moving along at a nice, even clip.

I find that it is not only the weather that is the issue this time of year, but that this time of year is the MIDDLE (despite the calendar telling me that it is the beginning). I would even get "itchy" for something new right around mid to late January even while living in Florida. Being the middle of the school year, I have always found it necessary to kind of shake things up a bit.  So, I thought I would share some of the things that are keeping my spirits up as we close out winter and head toward spring.

The first thing I need to share is that I continue to have a regular time with God every morning. This is one practice I have kept for years that does not change, but continues to enhance every aspect of my life; I would be remiss if I listed all kinds of things that the world has to offer without mentioning  where the source of my joy truly lies.

My children are no longer so little. I know that mothers of young children, in particular, are challenged to find time to spend with the Lord.  But it's not impossible. When my girls were just tiny things themselves, my dear, dear friend, Gail Berger of Blessing House Ministries once said to us young mothers that were taking a class with her, "When you give your time to the Lord, He will honor that. If you desire to spend time with Him, He can make that happen for you. Just say to Him, 'Stretch my time, Lord!' and He will prove faithful." A desire to spend time with the Lord is a prayer that you can be SURE will be answered in the affirmative! Over the years, I have prayed that prayer many times. I find that when I am reading His Word or praying or looking over a devotional, or writing in my journal to and about Him, I often get caught up in a reverie of sorts and don't want to stop to begin the duties of my day. Then I look up and time will be tight! "Stretch my time, Lord!" I pray and all works out well; my time spent with Him is never in vain or has ever proven to cause me trouble.

Over the past 5 years or so, I have made a greater effort to memorize Scripture. I knit a little "wallet" of sorts for myself and keep favorite Scriptures in it. I simply cut 3x5 index cards in half and keep my favorite Scriptures in it. When I don't know what I want to read in my Bible or am in transition between studies or when I travel or when I simply want to let key portions of God's Word that have meaning for me just wash over me, I will pick up my little pack and just read. I joke that it is like a little "God's Greatest Hits" for my spirit. :) I mention this because it is a simple and portable little burst of pleasure. That said, my actual memorizing of these Scriptures has been an on-off practice. Lately, I have been having fun using ScriptureTyper. I actually really enjoy typing and typing fast. Practicing verses while testing my typing speed is actually kind of like a game for me; I like to beat my times and I have found it to be really, really helpful in the actual memorization. Check it out if you like this sort of thing; it's free to sign up and they have all sorts of helpful info over there.

Before I get on to sharing other links of things I like for pure enjoyment, I also wanted to share this quote that Dawn over at the blog, By Sun and Candlelight, shared the other day:


The first and best way I find to pick myself up is to, quite honestly, stop the navel-gazing and do something for someone else! Not only will you be a blessing to others, but you will likely gain some fresh perspective on your own situation.

Another thing along this line of thinking is also to give thanks. Don't save your thanksgiving up for one day in November. Open up your eyes and make a conscious effort by keeping a list of things you are thankful for all year. Take Ann's Joy Dare. Try to make it to 1,000 before the year is up.

Okay; now on to some things that I find myself turning to when I get time to myself... and some things that I do while I'm doing what I've got to do, but these things keep me cheerful while I'm doing them.

One thing I enjoy is a good podcast. I won't even pretend to know what interests you, but I have some of my favorites listed in my sidebar. New ones are being produced all the time, so if you need some new food for thought, consider letting a podcast (or audiobook) keep you company while you clean, knit, exercise, or whatnot. NPR has some fabulous podcasts to choose from in particular. I have an iPod, so I peruse the iTunes store for my free podcasts whenever I want to try something new. I'm thinking of looking for a spanish-language podcast right now myself!

If you want a dose of super-charged CHEER, take a visit to Susan Branch's blog. I love Susan's illustrations, the fact that she's an anglophile like me, and, well, we have a lot in common. But what I love most about Ms. Branch is her attitude. She is a happy, fun person and she takes her fun personality seriously, which means to say that she knows that she possesses something special in her outlook and she likes to share it with others. I always like to pay her a visit when I need a boost. Wouldn't you love people to say the same thing about you??

Enjoying the season - warm or cold, cool or hot - is always enhanced by participating in the fullness of the season. Now, I'll admit that I aim to do this even more than I already do. One place to find inspiration to liven things up for the special days of the month is to check out Family Fun Magazine. Imagine my surprise just now as I went to get you the link and discovered that it seems that Family Fun is now owned by Parents Magazine. It used to be owned by Disney and their website had all of their old material and ideas archived. I don't see that there now, but their Pintrest page, FamilyFunmag looks like it has nearly EVERYTHING there! So many wonderful ideas!! Though I don't subscribe to this magazine anymore, as my girls are really beyond the magazine's demographic, I did just check out back issues at the library from years past. You don't have to be under 12 to enjoy seasonal fun with decorating or a special recipe for dinner or dessert here or there. There are plenty of ideas to keep you and those around you smiling.

Art and creativity in general is a natural outlet for me. I like to spend a little time each and every day doing something creative. I realize that we are naturally doing creative things in our every-day lives, but I'm talking about doing something out-of-the-ordinary, just for me. I know that I can make dinner special by doing something different and creative, but that's not what I'm talking about here. Sketching, painting, knitting, embroidery, journal-keeping, blogging here from time to time, and other forms of creative writing are some of the things I like to do to mix things up in a day. Engaging in visual art forces me to look at things differently. Likewise, writing about my world - or creating a fictional one - allows me to see things in a different way too.

Planning events around those creative activities that I love brings more sunshine into my life and to lives of the others who may share it with me. Once-a-month, I meet with a fun group of knitters. We'll meet at a coffee shop or one of our homes for about 2 hours. The time always flies and we always laugh a lot. It didn't take much for my sister and I to notify our friends via Facebook that we wanted to get together to knit and now it doesn't seem like we've only been meeting less than 6 months; it seems like we've known each other for a long time. It's such an easy thing to do.

I'm planning a sketch crawl for next month too. For those of you not familiar with a sketch crawl, it is simply picking a date to get together with other friends who like to sketch and taking your materials out and about with you. I've done this before with friends. Picking two or three venues to sketch is plenty for one day. We usually head somewhere in the morning and pack a lunch. It is amazingly fun to DRAW WITH FRIENDS. There are online sketch crawls too. People from all over the world will participate and then post the sketches they made on the crawl date from their part of the world. So cool. I like to do sketch crawls on or near the solstices and equinoxes, because of the chance to see the seasons shift in your sketches. Of course, you may just do a still-life inside for every one, but it's still fun to see what inspires people to draw at particular locations and at a particular time. Our sketch crawl this year is going to be on Saturday, March 23. If you are interested in participating, please let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page. I'd love to see what you might draw!

Along with thousands of others, I have been captivated by Downton Abbey. I actually enjoy it so much because that is pretty much the only show I watch; it's fun to get swept up in a dramatic series. I did get interested in "Call the Midwife" last autumn too and "Mr. Selfridge" looks like it's going to be a lot of fun. Masterpiece has been turning out such amazing programming the past few years; I wonder if they are having a revival of sorts?

Regular exercise, of course, keeps one vibrant and helps one avoid feeling like a slug. I find that I don't do as much this time of year as I do when it is warmer and even as much as I've done in the past since I have a different schedule. But I still get to my gym at least twice a week and I have some small routines I do at home if I get snowed in! It feels so good to keep that blood moving!

Finally, I remain devoted to my beloved libraries. I love Goodreads for getting perpetual reading ideas. Then I try my local libraries and also make good use of interlibrary loans. There is almost no book that I cannot read for free out there. My to-read queue grows longer all the time. Sadly, I don't use it as I should, by looking at it before I head to the library. I mean, I do sometimes, but there are books that have been on that list of mine for years now and the only excuse I have for not reading off of it is that I'm always finding new and other interesting things to read!

Well, I don't know if any of this that I've shared with you is new to you, but other than the love and company of my family and friends, these are the things I do that keep things sunny for me even on many a wintery, cloudy day. What's making you smile this season?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentines and Snowy Days

 Did you enjoy a Happy Valentine's Day yesterday? I adore Valentine's Day. It's not an enormous day, but there is so much room for creativity! I was thinking yesterday about why I like this little holiday so much and I think it is because it is a little holiday. While I love tradition, there are not necessarily buckets of tradition attached to the day. We don't all take the day off and travel far and wide to great gatherings, the mail does not stop, and if you're really lucky, the mail carrier actually brings you a special treat in the mail! How rare - and fun - is that, nowadays?

I also like that Valentines themselves generally are, or certainly can be, little. I haven't purchased a Valentine in years (though I don't have anything against that), but I fondly remember all the little cards and envelopes we shared with classmates. Delivering all the Valentines to the various decorated "mailboxes" we'd crafted days before the big event was the highlight of the day, of course.

Now, when I make Valentines, they are most often small, similar in size to an ATC ("artist trading card) or baseball card. This year I made bookmarks. I think over the course of this next year, I am going to be on the lookout for tiny things - trinkets; miniatures - to attach to next year's Valentines.

But before I get too far into the events of yesterday, I will roll back the calendar a bit to the beginning of the month to catch you up on some of the things we've been doing.

We've had more snow in the first couple of weeks of February than we had the whole month of dark January. I am always happy when the calendar flips to February, because you really get to see the re-emergence of the light! That said, just as "sunshiny showers last for less than half an hour," you rarely get lots of snow without a white sky to match.

We had a series of Alberta Clippers (don't ask me... I'm just repeating what they say on the news...) come through that, over the course of 3 or 4 days, left us with an inch or two of snow every night overnight. We'd wake up to new frosting and new shoveling every morning. This past Saturday we had some wet, wet snow which, of course, is the perfect recipe for building snowmen!

Taking advantage of my outdoor family members, I sent Eve out with birdseed while I took photos in my slippers!

(Our big snowman has squash tops for sunglasses!)

Snowy days outside means its cozy inside. Up in our attic schoolroom art and crafting is flourishing! How can one resist a table full of art supplies, just beckoning? I have been working on my own paintings and sketchbooks and there have been many days of late that the girls have just sat down to begin something for themselves. 

This is my view from my corner chair where I read to the girls. They obviously have their own tasks and reading to attend to as well, but our "together work" happens first. While I read/teach, the girls work on various projects of their choosing. Here, Eve is finishing up knitting her second leg-warmer. Knitting, she will tell you, was not her choosing, but after she puts in her 30 minutes on her long-term knitting project for the year (Maia's was a hat... so she's done!), she pulls out her sketchbook or paints or whatever else she chooses. Maia has been enjoying watercolors and has begun filling up her new, mixed-media sketchbook with new drawings now in COLOR! :)

Back outside, the sun has climbed higher in the sky and things are seeming brighter longer. I took lots of pictures of this northern junco who comes for regular mealtimes at our feeder on the deck. I just loved the lacy look that the ice had made: a little, icy gazebo! These photos will be fun to play with when I get my photo-editing software up and running again. It's on the to-do list, but evidently not close enough to the top...

The brighter light and a few days of warmer temperatures (in the 30's F!!) gave me a little buzz of spring fever. Trader Joe's had tulips and daffodils and hyacinth stems this past Wednesday. I resisted the hyacinths (they were a bit pricier and I'm not that ready to wrap my mind around spring, with their potent, delicious fragrance) but next time I think I'll be ready to indulge. In the meantime, these soft tulips and some bright, cheery daffodils have graced our tables and added color to our rooms.

Yesterday morning - Valentine's morning - brought with it more new snow that stayed on the trees, wet and heavy til after midday. The sun was bright and high in the sky and it really was quite a picture.

And finally, a sample of a few Valentines of the day. Maia promises a cake and Eve drew Paul and I this darling picture. We had been looking at old scrapbooks on Wednesday which was the inspiration for this darling, unique Valentine.

...and a sample here to of the Valentines I gave out this year. Nothing spectacular, but a little token made with love, as always. 

Happy Friday, all! Have a blessed weekend! :)
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