Friday, January 29, 2010

homemade playdough

Tomorrow, an acquaintance of mine is coming over with her four year old son for a long awaited playdate with me and Esme. We will hopefully be doing crafts--namely yarn dying for the grown ups. But we need something to keep the kiddos happy while we experiement with colors. What better way than with homemade play-dough?

I have tried a few recipes for play dough, and the one that I keep coming back to is one my mother-in-law, who taught pre-school for over thirty years, shared with me.

1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Salt
2 tsp Cream of Tartar
1 cup Water
2 tbsp Oil
Food coloring of choice

Combine flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a sauce pan. Gradually stir in mixture of water and oil; add food coloring. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and forms a ball. Remove dough from heat and transfer to counter; knead until smooth.

This dough recipe is not terribly sticky or crumbly, nor does the color leak out. And it lasts for about three to four weeks if stored properly in an airtight container when children are not immersed in play.

This evening, I made two batches of play-dough in two different colors--red and green. Esme's favorite color is red, and I know my friend's son has a passion for green. The green will be part of the little boy's birthday gift, since we unfortunately missed his party a couple of weeks ago.

If you are wondering, I rolled each batch of dough and wrapped them individually in plastic wrap to keep them pretty until morning.

There is one thing I can almost always count on: there is nothing like play-dough for keeping my children busy for thirty minutes at a time!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

my 52 project challenge

With the turn of the New Year, I decided I needed some official inspiration for finishing craft and knitting projects. Browsing through posts in the arts and crafts forum on Mothering, I discovered this thread, 52 Project Challenge and I immediately fell in love! Essentially, the idea is to complete a total of 52 art and craft projects in the year 2010. In 2009, I got a huge number of projects done, including a ton of hand-made gifts. I hope this year will be even more fruitful!

To keep track of my goals, the projects I begin, and my to-do list, I will post pretty often here. I will also rely heavily on my Ravelry queue as well as my projects list. I must say that Ravelry is the most wonderful thing EVER! I also found a fantastic site: Swap-bot, an online site that organizes group swaps and a community of creative individuals. I hope to participate in at least one swap a month, some just for fun, and some for unique gifts, especially as the holidays approach.

My immediate to-do list includes:
  • Hand-dying wool yarn
  • Valentines for Evelyn to give away at school and for close friends
  • Knit headbands for the girls for Valentine's Day
  • Esme's birthday gift--a knit kitty or Totoro
  • Stenciled t-shirts
  • Knit DS case for a friend
So here is how I stand as of this moment: 47/52, which means I have completed a total of five projects already this year. So far, all of my finished projects are knitted.

Project 52/52

My first project of the new year is a knit shrug. I used a few different patterns as a basis for this project, but I changed various aspects here and there for my own purposes and to accommodate the yarn I used, which was a miscellaneous wool blend that my Oma sent me for Christmas a few years back. I gave it to my friend as a belated Christmas-early birthday gift, and she loved it!

Project 51/52

I knit made a lovely little neck warmer for David, complete with button. This pattern took only an hour or two to finish. I used the pattern Mini-Scarf with Button by Melissa Rotert posted on Craftster.

Project 50/52

Another project I made was a little striped lace scarf which I knit long-ways with a fluffy acrylic yarn for my cousin's daughter's 8th birthday. Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture (Esme puked all over me before they opened gifts at the party, so we cut out early), but it was a fast-knit, fun project. David made two beaded bookmarks for her and we also included a Bare Book and markers. She apparently loved everything.

Project 49/52

I made a knit strawberry from Pezdiv's pattern for the girls. This project took only a little less than two hours to finish! I plan to eventually do more of these before Valentine's Day as fun little gifts. They will make perfect editions to our little wooden play-food set!

Project 48/52

The project I finished most recently is a headband/ear-warmer for myself. I decided I needed to make something for me, and since I am tired of stuffing my hair in hats, an ear-warmer would be perfect. I altered Kathryn Schoendorf's pattern Calorimetry from Knitty to work the yarn in the appropriate gague. I am in love with this Noro-like yarn! It's soft and pretty and I have quite a bit left over. Maybe I can knit a complimentary scarf.

Upcoming projects

Right now, I am in the middle of three knitting projects, including that Log-Cabin blanket for Evelyn (which I have been in the middle of for four months now), a felted mini-backpack for myself, and a baby hat for our friends, who are expecting their first child in about three weeks.

I am really enjoying this personal challenge! Sometimes I need some ground rules and guidelines to keep me going. I also vow to keep track of my projects in 2010 and hand-make most gifts! Let me know what projects you complete this year--I am always up for swapping, if you are interested!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

secret pal questionnaire

What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with?

I absolutely love to knit with soft wools and natural fibers, marino, bamboo, alpaca, angora, silk... In my younger days, I liked blends a lot, and I still enjoy the occasional blend--they do have their place, after all. I do not particularly care for strictly synthetic fibers, though.

What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
I store my straight needles in a cloth paintbrush roll. Here is a picture:

I store my circular needles in a bag especially designed for circular needles:

How long have you been knitting and how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?

I started knitting in late summer/early fall 2004. Inspired by Molly Weasley's knit creations in the Harry Potter books, I enrolled in a beginner knitting class at a local craft store. In that class, I learned cast on, the knit stitch, bind off, and how to read a yarn label; the project was a simple garter knit scarf. I have come a long way since then--and besides that beginner class, I consider myself basically self-taught, using various books and online tutorials. I know enough about patterns and techniques that I would consider myself at an intermediate skill level. I still enjoy simple projects, though, because my youngest daughter has pulled my knitting of the needles on multiple occasions. Once my children are grown, I figure I will have plenty of time to spend on advanced techniques and more complex projects.

Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
I have an Etsy favorites list.
And an extremely outdated Amazon wish list.

What’s your favorite scent?
Vanilla, lavender, peppermint

Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
I have a very tempted sweet tooth. I love dark chocolate. 

What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I have a running list of crafts that I have done and that I want to do. On a regular basis, I do beading, scrapbooking, decoupage, collage, ceramics, painting, re-purposing-crafts, soap-making, and altered art. I like yarn dying and yarn painting, as well as tie-dye. I would love to learn needle-felting and spinning, above all else. And even though I love sewing, my sewing machine and I have severe tension problems, so I have abandoned all hopes of ever mastering that art form. I really like knitting best of all because of it's portability and the meditative nature of the craft.

What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
While I am not up on all the trends of music these days, I like a variety of music in general. I am always open to listening to new things. My favorite musicians and groups are: The Bird and the Bee, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Craig of Farrington, Rush, Miles Davis, Randy Newman, The Minstrels of Mayhem, Elton John, Harry Connick Jr, Sidecar Steph & the 7-10 Split, Aerosmith, Bob Marley, Ella Fitzgerald, Jake Shimabukuro, Erik Satie, Supertramp, Queen, Huey Lewis and the News, The Beach Boys, Django Reinhardt. 

What’s your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can’t stand?
My favorite colors really depend on my mood, and they change frequently. Much of the time, I enjoy particular color combination more than single colors themselves. I love natural, earthy colors, greens, oranges, reds. I also love cornflower blue. There is no color I cannot stand as every color has its place and can look good in the right context.

What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I am married and we have two daughters, three dogs, a snake, and a hermit crab.

Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
I live for scarves! I would wear hats a lot more often if I ever made one for myself. I have a couple pairs of mittens that I made for myself, and as an avid babywearer, I love ponchos!

What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
I never tire of knitting scarves. There are so many techniques and colors and styles and patterns that can make scarves absolutely unique and beautiful. Scarves also make wonderful, personal, welcomed gifts. I also love knitting mittens and bags.

What are you knitting right now?
Right now, I am knitting a log cabin blanket for Evelyn, a mini-backpack that will eventually be felted for myself, and finishing a tiny handbag to list on Etsy. Next up is a baby hat for an expecting friend and a headband and scarf set.

Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
I LOVE handmade gifts! Giving them, receiving them! Handmade items are always #1 on any of my wish lists! 

Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
Depending on the project, I usually go with straight needles, but circulars are definitely growing on me! My first choice is bamboo, but aluminum is ok, too. 

Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
No, though I would love it if I did. 

How old is your oldest UFO?
Five years. It is embarrassing. I can never do the finishing on a project--I leave most of that to my hubby.

What is your favorite holiday? What winter holiday do you observe?
We celebrate the seasons, though we celebrate winter on Christmas Day instead of the Solstice.  My favorite holiday….I really like Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, and my birthday.  

Is there anything that you collect?
Besides yarn, you mean? I collect pressed pennies and beads. I figure they are small and easy to store. 

Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
I am dying to get my hands on Robin Hansen's book Favorite Mittens. I love how you can browse finished projects from books, magazines, and individual designers; the site supplies all the information you need to find or buy the pattern. There are a ton of projects I have found on Ravelry that I want to make that I need to eventually round up. I also cannot wait to get my hands on some Malabrigo and Mama Blue yarn. I do not subscribe to any knitting magazines, but I do pick them up from work when they come in. 

Are there any new techniques you’d like to learn?
I would like to get more experience in cable knitting, but that's really it. The mini backpack I am knitting uses the domino technique, which I have never done before.

Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
Ugh, not at the moment. I love knitting and I love socks, but I cannot say I love knitting socks. Maybe once my children are older and do not need as much hands on attention, I will be able to tackle more sock projects!

When is your birthday?
April 21 

Are you on Ravelry? If so, what’s your ID?
I am addicted to Ravelry. I am evermore82 there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

snow day ritual

Tonight is the eve of our first major snowfall of the season! As such, Evelyn is of course hoping for an accompanying Snow Day!

We did a few things to improve our chances for a Snow Day--a few important rituals to bring on the school-missing!

We put our PJs on inside out and backwards.

We stuffed a few cotton balls under our pillows.

We yelled, "SNOW DAY!" into the freezer, then slammed the door.

We did a wonderful before-bed snow dance!

What are you doing in hopes of a snow day??

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

the politics of breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding is normal, biologically and physiologically speaking, while bottle feeding, on the other hand, is not. However, in our society, breastfeeding is not necessarily considered the cultural norm. As such, breastfeeding in public is a very political topic, with surprisingly heated arguments coming from both sides. I am always surprised about this, surprised at how sexualized breasts have become, and how uncomfortable some people can be when they see a baby breastfeeding in public. Having nursed two children for a total of nearly six and a half years and counting in nearly any and every location imaginable, it makes my head spin to think about how backwards we are here in the United States. The fact that people are uncomfortable seeing a child at the breast stems from cultural perceptions and previous practices.

Before I continue, I want to point out that, despite some people feeling uncomfortable seeing an infant at the breast, most states have jurisdiction protecting breastfeeding in public. In the state of Ohio, it is illegal to ask a nursing mother to stop nursing, move to a different location, or to even cover up (1). To do so may result in a civil lawsuit and charges of harassment.

For several generations now in the US, breastfeeding was not seen much outside of the home. As a result of this absence, breasts are perceived only as sexual tools, and breastfeeding is seen as a private act. Perhaps one way to look at this situation is to consider that, at one time, it was acceptable to exclude women and racial minorities from certain places and jobs. Now, though, as a society, we have decided this exclusion is wrong, unfair, and unconstitutional. But it often remains that, despite the societal shift, seeing others in these positions is still not what they consider to be 'normal' and can make these people very uncomfortable. The more often women chose to breastfeed outside the home, the more quickly it will again be considered an accepted and 'normal' practice by society.

Many women walk around in clothing that reveals far more skin and cleavage than a what is revealed by a breastfeeding mother. Breasts are everywhere. Provocative images of cleavage and breasts are plastered billboards, television shows, movie previews, fashion ads, beaches, bookstores, cereal boxes, animated children's shows, and the six o'clock news. These images are all considered acceptable. Most people do not feel uncomfortable when they see breasts. Some people are, however, uncomfortable when they see a baby nursing. Perhaps this discomfort is because the breasts are being used in a non-sexual way. Our society LOVES breasts, it seems--everywhere, at least, except in a baby's mouth--which is ironic, as the purpose and function of breasts is to nourish our young.

To say a woman should be 'discreet' and cover herself when she breastfeeds, well, I say if you have ever nursed a babe, then you know how illogical that mentality is. When nursing a young baby, positioning is often a challenge, and raising, lowering, and removing layers of clothing helps a mother observe her nursing infant and provide the most attentive care possible. And when nursing a baby older than eight to ten weeks, any covering will doubtless be pulled down, up or away by the impatient hands of the curious baby. Most importantly, it is not only unsafe to cover a baby's head with a blanket or towel, it can endanger the life of the baby. Many, many medical associations around the world have official statements advising against using any cover over a baby's head as it greatly increases the chances of heat stroke, suffocation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

One thing that angers me more than just about anything else is when someone compares breastfeeding with deification. That is a disgusting statement. The only thing breastfeeding can be compared to is other methods of feeding a baby. Breastfeeding is not public sex or masturbation or passing gas or voiding in public. It is not a peep show or a political statement or a way to flip the proverbial bird to anyone who happens to see it. All it is is a way to feed a baby. If a baby bottle-feeding in that particular circumstance is not an issue--and there are very few places where it would be--then breastfeeding should not be an issue either. Because at the end of the day, that is really all it is about--feeding a baby.

When observing a mother and child breastfeeding in public, we must consider whose rights are most important in this situation. Is it the person who walks by and insists upon looking, gives in to being offended, and then voices that offense? No. Is it the nursing mother who has chosen to nourish her child in the healthiest, most natural way possible? Again, I would be inclined to say no. Even though a woman has the legal right to breastfeed whenever, wherever, we must not think about it as a woman's right to breastfeed. We must rather think of it as a baby's right to eat.

If someone is uncomfortable seeing a woman breastfeed, then by all means, they should not look. Perhaps they should even throw a blanket over their own heads. But an individual's personal kinks and sexual proclivities should not dictate how women feed their children. It is chauvinistic and patriarchal.

There are several public service announcements from around the world that highlight the importance and acceptance of breastfeeding.

From Canada, Sudbury District Health Unit--Breastfeeding Commercial:

From UNICEF, Importance of Breastfeeding Public Service Announcement:

From Puerto Rico, Dar la Teta es Dar la Vida (To Give the Breast is to Give Life), one of the most beautiful and heartfelt videos I have ever seen:

From Australia, Australian Breastfeeding Association advertisement:

Another from Australia, Australian Breastfeeding Association advertisement:

From Spain:

From Bulgaria:

From the United States:

Another from the United States:


(1) A Current Summary of Breastfeeding Legislation in the US: Ohio,

Comic: Parenting by Jim Borgman