Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Wool Journal

Sewing with felted wool in November and December was all about Christmas gifts and keeping warm. 

I find the process of cutting, washing, drying, stacking, and organizing wool very satisfying. I wash each sweater in a separate pillowcase, to keep fibers from mixing, and so enjoy the anticipation of opening each pillowcase to see just how a particular sweater felted.

Stacks of wool, ready and waiting to be sewn into a wool blanket: Oldest Daughter's Christmas gift.

 I enjoyed choosing the colors for this blanket. My inspiration was the vintage green rocker that Oldest Daughter purchased for her new apartment. This blanket is now on that chair.

This tutorial over at Purl Bee provided the inspiration and instructions for this blanket. I continue to embrace the imprecision of working with felted wool.

Double-layer, machine-quilted coasters using the wool samples from the blanket made great stocking stuffers. I saw these on a Better Homes and Gardens DIY site, but now I can't find it. Other stocking stuffers, which I neglected to photograph: a small silk-lined camera sleeve for Artist Son's new small point-and-shoot, and single layer felted merino wool running mittens for Active Son.

I re-soled Active Son's slippers while he was home, made a pair for Artist Son, and then modified my pattern to make these Mary-Jane style slippers for Tayta.

Active Son and Artist Son returned to Boise and Boston prepared for the cold weather they would face. The hats are made from a lambswool sweater and are lined with a thin cashmere.

And, I managed to make a couple small things for myself: coasters for the family room...

and a microwaveable flax seed-filled heat pack.I used this tutorial, following the directions for the larger heat pack. For added luxury, I made a cashmere cover. This heat pack was so comforting for a cricked neck I suffered from for a few days. After the neck pain was gone and the house temperatures fell, I warmed the heat pack before bed and used it like a hot-water bottle. Once I got into bed, I moved it to the foot of the bed to warm my ever-cold-in-bed feet. It is perfect. Now I am dreaming of making some bed slippers with a layer of flax seed in the soles. I think they need to be made of cashmere.

I forgot to photograph all the potholders that I gave to friends as gifts, but I still have a stack to sew-up so may those will make it into the next wool journal. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tolle Lege 2013

This will be the year I will begin keeping a list of books read. Soon after I made this decision, literature professor, author,  and now, blogger at The American Conservative, Alan Jacobs, posted his apologetic for not keeping a book list this year. Just when I thought I was joining the club! Still, I will make a list. (Tolle lege, "Take up and read" on my right tool bar.)

I anticipate receiving a lot of satisfaction from this list. I've never kept one before, and honestly, my reading has been sporadic over the past few years. Nothing to list about. But this year, I am feeling optimistic and motivated. And, I have my Kindle.

I don't have any numerical goals, but I do have a couple of genre goals: fiction, poetry, and short stories. I was pleased to see that Alan Jacobs also aspires to read more poetry and short stories. He even mentioned one of the poets I hope to read: Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz (no, I don't know how to pronounce his name yet, and I still have to check how to spell it.). I downloaded the Chekhov short stories, per Jacob's to-be-read mention, onto my Kindle for a mere $1.99. I will shamelessly include poems and short stories alongside full-length books on my reading list!

More reading aspirations for 2013:

Fiction. I must read more fiction. I say things like, "I strongly believe in the power of story to convey truth, goodness, and beauty." I've even experienced that power in my own life. But then why do I gorge myself on non-fiction? I wonder if it is because I like to read quickly, and fiction--at least good fiction--does not allow such undisciplined speed. When I read Marilynne Robinson's Home last year, I knew I had to read every word, perhaps not slowly, but certainly not quickly. Fiction slows me down, but then, my life is slowing down a bit, so it should be a good fit. Besides reading Marilynne Robinson's other two novels, I'd like to read a G.K Chesterton novel,  Leif Enger's Peace Like a River (true confession that I haven't yet read this yet, though all my children have!), and several other titles that I've culled from friends' reading lists. Presently, I'm reading The Silence, by acclaimed Japanese author Shusaku Endo.

Poetry. Tayta is my poetic muse, inspiring me to practice what I preach and read more poetry. At least she's been practicing what I preach. I've already mentioned Czeslaw Milosz. Another poet whose work I hope to grasp, yea even enjoy, is T.S. Eliot. References to his Four Quartets seemed to come at me from a number directions this past year, culminating in a beautiful art exhibition catalog of works which parallel this poem, QU4RETS, given to me for Christmas by Artist Son. I'm savoring it, a little at a time.

Short Stories. I had only more Flannery O'Connor on my list, but thanks to Alan Jacobs, I now have Chekov as well. There is a particular Leo Tolstoy story I'd like to read, but I don't recall the name just now...

These are three genres I'd like to lower myself into, taking the time to soak in all the metaphor, illusion, symbolism, truth, beauty, and goodness to be found in them.

Finding new non-fiction reads won't be a problem--I seem to discover new titles to be read almost daily. I've a couple that I won't let myself even begin until I finish the The Silence 

This past year I've been on a serious Arab/Israeli conflict and Middle East/Foreign Policy bender, which is showing some signs of slowing down--it's all just too depressing at times, particularly now with suffering Syrian refugee's flooding into Jordan in unprecedented numbers, Israelis looking to elect the most radical right, hawkish government ever, and Jordanians predicting that the parliamentary elections to be held tomorrow will amount to no substantial change in the country's well-being. Books on education, theology, history, writing, biographies, etc., etc. will fill out my reading list. I also plan to finish my two-year bible reading plan. I'm almost on schedule.

I'd also like to challenge myself to write a little bit about the books I read. Now, that will be the real challenge, and my blog posts may not amount to much more than an annotated bibliography trying to pass for a review, but I need to start somewhere.

Finally, I'm excited to be reading books together with my family in our newly founded Kindlings family book club. I recently finished our January read, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity, by Izzeldin Abuelaish, for the second time. More on that book and the Kindlings in another post.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Holiday Cheer

We were blessed to have all of our children home over the Christmas holiday season, with airport runs  to receive them beginning December 10 (Oldest Daughter) and continuing right up until Christmas Eve (Active Son, who has Resident Advisor duties). I'm trying not to borrow trouble from the future by thinking that our Christmas holidays all together are numbered, but such are a mother's thoughts. I now understand more fully my mother and mother-in-law's desire for all their children to come together for family gatherings.

I'll use some of Tayta's photos to remember highlights of our time together. She received a new camera lens for her 16th birthday (December 24th, celebrated this year, for the first time on December 26 to accommodate Active Son's late arrival.) but even without it, she's become the family photographer.

We enjoyed mostly sunny skies throughout December, so were able to get out and enjoy the countryside together. We took the kids to the Dibeen Nature Reserve to share with them the beautiful sights which Dear Husband and I had enjoyed just a month earlier. Dibeen marks the spot for this year's family picture.

My favorite people
(disclosure: Artist Son is standing on a low rock. He is now the tallest in our family. Who'd have thought?)

After the hike, we drove to a lookout point in search of just the right spot for our picnic lunch.This was no ordinary picnic: A few days earlier Tayta confessed that she dreamed of making a two layer chocolate cake for a picnic, and pulling that cake out of a picnic basket. In addition, the knife to cut the cake would be taped to the bottom of the cake plate with paper tape. This dream was inspired by multiple readings in childhood of a Little Golden childrens' book given to our family before Tayta was born.

The boys, playing the part of Mickey, carrying the picnic basket to the picnicking spot.

Minnie, I mean Tayta, living the dream. She did forget to tape the knife to the bottom of the cake plate, but thankfully, she didn't forget to bring it. The cake was delicious, especially the frosting which was whipped coconut milk with just a little powdered sugar and cocoa. I'm glad this poetic daughter convinced this pragmatic mom to let her bring a frosted chocolate layer cake on our picnic.

It wouldn't be a complete holiday in Jordan if we didn't get out to visit some ruins. Since Um Al Jimaal    (Mother of Camels), once a Byzantine and early Islamic town, is just 15 miles from our home, we decided to go there.

Some things never change.

If I remember correctly, I'm someplace outside the frame of this picture yelling to the boys, "Don't even think of trying that." 

A family photo...

and the backstory: Here are the boys convincing me that it is safe and easy to walk along these arches, and it's the perfect place for us to stand for a family photo. My trepidation revealed my aging sensibilities.

The favorite holiday food in our house was not the homemade oreo cookies with mint frosting, or even the traditional chocolate covered peanut butter balls. It was Dear Husband's olives.

Indeed, we polished off a gallon jar by the first week of January.

We learned a new game together: Wise and Otherwise. I gather it is played something like the game Balderdash, which I've not played, but in this game you are given the beginning of wise sayings from around the world. Bananagrams, Settlers of Catan, and Boggle were also enjoyed.

We saw the Hobbit together--not 3D, for which I was thankful. The womenfolk found it too action-packed, making us feel at times that we were experiencing a giant video game. The special effects were a little too special for us. More than once, while watching the film, I thought how nice it would be to be curled on the couch, reading the book.

One afternoon we went to the balad (downtown) in Amman to do some shopping. Each of the kids picked out a Bedouin rug from our favorite rug vendor's shop to take back to the US with them.

Next we went on a search for a thobe (long, traditional dress) for Tayta.

A post-successful-transaction shot in the shop where Tatya found a lovely Syrian-made thobe.

Our fine weather came to an end this past week, and we endured a cold air mass, winds, rain, rain, rain, and finally, an unusual amount of snowfall. This, in its own way is considered fine winter weather as Jordan received 65% of it's annual rainfall in just one long storm, however to the unprepared and inadequately sheltered (think Syrian refugees in tents) such weather is very distressing. Heat management is an ongoing task for nearly everyone in Jordan and our family is no exception. Props to Dear Husband for keeping us warm (mostly) and with hot water on demand (mostly).

Oldest Daughter returned to Chicago last week (missing her!) and we have just three more days with Active Son and Artist Son. Just enough time for a couple more special meals, stimulating discussions, and a few more hugs.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Flowering Jordan Calendar~January 2013

I suspect the crocuses are in bloom now: I took this picture at the end of December last year at the Ajloun Nature Reserve and I spotted a few last week in Dibeen.