How to Make an Heirloom

When I was a little girl, I used to go over to my grandmother’s when I was sick on a school day. She made the most amazing blanket forts, using her handmade afghans. I remember actually disliking these blankets, with their uneven crochet fabric, the air coming through the holes in the knit and chilling me despite having a blanket on. But now, looking back, I’m embarrassed that I never asked my grandmother to teach me how to make afghans of my own.

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I learned how to crochet by watching videos on the internet one summer when I was bored and moderately depressed, living alone in the wake of a divorce and the death of my father. I had a couple of balls of yarn and a plastic crochet hook that I found in my sister’s room at my mother’s house one weekend, so over a few days at home alone in my apartment, I decided to teach myself to crochet. I managed to create a lumpy, purple scarf, and then snapped the plastic crochet hook because I’ve always held things too tightly in my hands. Just ask all the crayons I used as a child.

From there, I bought myself a new crochet hook and some more yarn. Before I knew it, I was hooked. I gave myself nerve damage in one hand come December when I decided to crochet all my holiday gifts. I joined Ravelry. And I managed to become good friends with a woman whose collection of yarn outstrips my collection of lipsticks (and her lipstick collection rivals mine; we are friends for a reason).

So when I started planning my wedding outfit, I realized that I should probably find some way to work my own handiwork into the mix. I decided on a crochet shawl to throw over my shoulders to guard against the potential chill of a spring morning. I decided on a color (a spearmint green to coordinate with the mint green of my dress), ordered my yarn (fingering weight wool), and got to work.

Like all my crochet projects, this one grows in fits and spurts. Weekends where we spend long hours sitting at home, I find it grows more. It grows when I sit off to one side at rehearsals, although that has stopped somewhat since I need to memorize my lines. It grows when I watch television, and very occasionally when I feel particularly motivated at work. I can carry my project in a zip-top bag, which I can throw into my purse with my packed lunch, script, and pencils, trusting that the plastic will protect it.

For, you see, this isn’t just a shawl. It’s not just an accessory for my wedding. I hope it will be an heirloom, like those handmade blankets my grandmother gave to all her children. Perhaps, one day, I will have a daughter of my own to whom to pass this shawl. Or a son; I wouldn’t judge. Or perhaps the shawl will serve no other purpose but to sit on my shoulders when I am old, but it will bring back memories of all the love that went into it.

But until then, I will watch my little heirloom grow, day by day, until it has its chance to shine in a couple months.

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The Time for Warm Things

Winter is now almost upon us and the weather has started to take note. Unlike some parts of the country, we have not yet seen snow, but the weather has cooled and sharpened. This morning, the wind blew at my scarf and coat while I walked from the train station to work. And I found myself reaching for gloves and a hat to protect my extremities from the cold.

It is the time for warm things. For hot cocoa and shawls, the best friend of those curled up on a sofa for a lazy weekend day. The time for soups and stews and all manner of warm, cooked foods. No more salads, but instead bounteous medleys of roasted, steamed and simmered vegetables.

This weekend, a lovely friend of mine brought a thoughtful and unique gift to the opening performance of a play in which I’m performing. Instead of bringing a bouquet of flowers, she brought bouquet of homemade baguettes! So our dinner was a simple meal of roasted chicken, steamed kale, and fresh, warm baguette with butter.

Sadly, it is also the time of year when I am likely to spend my spare time curled up under a blanket rather than taking excursions through the park near our house. It leads to a somewhat more sedentary lifestyle, particularly with the days as short as they are. But I press on, bundle up, and take bracing walks in the cold. I do enjoy the feeling of cold air on my face, as much as I also enjoy being curled up in the warmth and comfort of home. It is time to haul out my tweeds and woolens, trade gauzy scarves for knit ones. No matter how cold it may be, if my neck, ears, and hands are covered, I’m relatively comfortable.

Boyfriend, it seems, has lost all of his warm hats, so when I am back at home from an excursion, I’ve been spending my time making him a new one, along with some warm gifts for friends. In the summer heat, my crochet is never quite as attractive as when I can cuddle up with a stash of wool in the cold.

Wishing all of my readers a joyous holiday season and lovely winter to come.

And On Into Fall

Yesterday was the first day of autumn. It passed without much note for me. I got up, went to work, and went to my aerials class, the same as any Wednesday. I think we shall celebrate in earnest tomorrow with friends and games and a nice autumnal dinner. This morning, I’ve brought out my plaid flannel shirt for a slightly chilly morning, and had an autumnal breakfast of porridge with dried fruit.

I am happiest when it is chilly in the mornings. Even if it’s going to be a hot day eventually, a cool, maybe even slightly grey morning feels right to me. I’ve noticed that the sun stays down longer and I often spend the first hour of wakefulness in twilight illumination. I’ve been rising early to make a pot of herbal infusion and let it steep under a tea cozy while I shower and dress. Then, I can curl up with a shawl or blanket and enjoy the stillness of a cool morning before beginning my day.

It just so happens that this week is the final week of the four-week cure I’ve given my first batch of soap, so I tested a homemade soap bar this morning in my shower. It bubbled up beautifully and had no lard smell to it. It was fun to use something that was made by me, though I wonder if it might be a bit drying to my skin. It’s no mind, though, because it just means that I’ll have to play around with more recipes.

I actually finished off my first pound of lye this weekend when I made a batch of sheep’s tallow soap. So I ordered a new jar of it, along with some fun goodies. Because I love the smell of roses, I’ve decided to try a fragrance oil called “Fresh Cut Roses” and some pink clay to color the bar a light rose color. I’ve started getting fancy, and may even try some soaps with goat’s milk or oatmeal for more skin-softening loveliness.

The best part of autumn is that it now feels like crochet weather. Through the winter and early spring, I worked on my merino wool shawl using Smooshy sock yarn in a colorway called “Cloud Jungle,” which is a complex blend of greys and neutrals that looks like the clouds over a forest in early winter. I’ve half-finished the main body of the shawl, and then I plan to edge it with a green tweedy yarn and make an earth-toned shawl for sitting with a cup of tea in the afternoons in winter. With the weather cooling down, perhaps my work on that will pick up!

A Whirlwind of Busy

It’s been a busy few weeks, as one can probably tell from the lack of posting at this space. I have lots of ideas for posts, but I just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and put them together. Also, many of the posts I have in mind involve pictures that I either haven’t taken, or haven’t processed on my computer to load in. It’s a rough life, right?

But in the meantime, I keep busy. Very busy. Auditions for fall shows are starting up, so that uses a lot of my free mental energy. And now I have this house that needs to be cleaned and rearranged and decorated. And cleaned. It turns out that we have an infestation of click beetles, if half a dozen can be called an infestation. I consider it so because I stepped on one this morning while making my morning smoothie and it clicked under my toes and upset me. The worst part is that the specific intermittent clicking mimics either standard house noises or sounds a little like someone walking downstairs and occasionally making the floors creak. So for the last few nights I’ve sworn I’ve heard someone downstairs even though no one is there. I suppose it’s nice to know there’s an actual sound I’ve been hearing, but on the other hand, it’s a bug. So not so nice.

So this weekend will likely be a big cleaning weekend, at least on Saturday. If I haven’t collapsed from the combination of meeting work deadlines, auditioning, and traveling for work. But it needs to be done. And then Sunday, we’re going to visit Boyfriend’s parents’ new property and getting lunch with them. It sounds like they have a lot of land around the house they’re building so it should be fun. And, of course, I will need to grab some quiet moments for a cup of tea.

And that’s really what it’s been. I’ve had some time to myself to sit and be quiet, but I haven’t felt like doing anything concrete with the time. I’ve watched some Netflix, and even started crocheting again since I now have a living room that actually gets air conditioning. I’m working on a project I started ages ago with wool I bought two years ago, but it’s going to be beautiful when it’s done. And winding the yarn and crocheting is soothing, as long as my hands aren’t too sore from aerials!

I’ve been less invested in exercising this week. I’ve had to be in to work early, so I haven’t had the time or energy for an early-morning run. And my shoulder has started hurting, either from aerials or from toting a heavy laptop around, so I’m skipping one of my aerial arts classes this week. But the weather has been nice and I’ve been trying to get out and enjoy the sunshine and walk around. I’ve seen some plays that friends of mine are involved in, and going to theater always involves walking from the subway station to the quirky little neighborhoods where these things happen.

I’ve also updated my skin care and beauty routines a bit. I’ve found my first “Holy Grail” product, I think, and come up with some new recipes to increase my arsenal of homemade products. But I’ll post about that in detail later rather than talk too much about it now. I promise, I’m going to take some time to take pictures and put together a few posts while I have the quiet evenings. Since I’m not acting, I really do have more free time. And yet, I still feel so busy all the time…

Competing Forces

My life is a balance of the ebb and flow of my work life, personal life, and hobby life. It used to be that hobby life was a couple dance classes per week, and a quiet place to read or crochet. Or maybe watch some television (while I crochet). Then, theater entered my life and the balance became more delicate. Dance started to fall by the wayside. And the work/hobby balance got tougher. Personal life, which is my time with Boyfriend and my time spent doing personal necessities, became precious.

Work is a constant source of stress in my life these days. I never know what I’ll be doing in a month, six months, a year, so I worry a lot. And I find myself gravitating towards spending mental energy on my hobbies, rather than spending it on work. Work is tough, but not because the work is hard.

Hobby life is frustrating right now, but hopeful. I had a shock a couple weeks ago when I wasn’t cast in something I thought was a gimme. After that blew over, I found myself restless, wanting to get back on a stage or in front of a camera. So I applied for some film projects. I’ve gotten a response from one, and filming is fast approaching. After that, I have an audition for another period piece in about a month. After that, who knows?

I’m finding myself gazing wistfully at my crochet projects, but never quite finding the energy to pick one up. And I’m still trying to move more and eat healthier. Basically, I’m trying to better myself, professionally, physically, and emotionally, and it takes a lot of time and energy. Sadly, writing, which I suppose is a hobby that I most often neglect, has fallen out in the balance equation. So this space gets updated in fits and spurts. I have a few ideas for future posts that I haven’t yet gotten together. I need to post the lovely items I got from the Chronically Vintage Etsy store, but I never manage to take photos while the light is cooperating. But one of these days, I’ll go back to being a regular blogger and share my silly life with all of you.

Vintage Pastimes on a Snowy Day

Yesterday was not the magical kind of snowstorm. You know, where you go to bed and it’s clear, but you wake up and either the houses have been dusted, or it’s still lightly snowing, and the whole world looks ethereal, like Christmas morning? The world changes overnight and seems almost like magic?

This was not that kind of morning.

We woke up to rain. Both of us found that work had been closed. We listened to the rain as it became louder and realized that the temperature had dropped to the point that it was sleeting. Soon, fat snowflakes started dropping from the sky. And it just kept going. Neither of us wanted to go anywhere. So we holed up on the couch and watched a fair amount of Netflix.

But we also found older fashioned ways to amuse ourselves. I pulled out a shawl I’ve been crocheting for a while now. It’s made steadier progress since I started taking it to rehearsals. The shades-of-grey, hand-painted yarn fit with the day, and the softness and warmth of wool on my fingers was soothing on a bit of a dismal day.

And then, Boyfriend taught me how to play cribbage. A cribbage board was his gift to me for my birthday, and we hadn’t had time to try it out. After playing one open hand to help me get the hang of the rules, we continued playing normally until I roundly beat him. It was fun. We later played another game, where he just barely won. I think we might start playing in the evenings rather than watching TV some nights.

Still the snow came down. We decided to nap in the middle of the day.

Eventually it slowed to the point that Boyfriend could wander out for some provisions at the store that is walking distance from our house. He got some food and brought it back so we could eat well for dinner.

And now, this morning, after digging out my car and driving to work, I can look around and see that the world still does look a bit magical with its fresh dusting of snow.

A Day of Crafting and a New Year

Yesterday, I had plans for New Year’s Eve to go to dinner at the house of one of my oldest friends. So I had to finish her Christmas gift! I was making her a crocheted lap blanket, although I was not quite finished. I had the day off from work and my only plans were lunch with another friend, so I spent the rest of the day crocheting.

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I love this project, a chunky piece crocheted from two strands of boucle yarn. I think the combination of the yarns looks like the colors in a peacock’s feather. And it’s very soft. Some yarns rub my hands, but this one is wonderful to the touch. On a cold day, there’s not much that’s nicer than sitting and working on a big crocheted piece, with the finished work spread out over your lap.

And I was able to finish it to my satisfaction before the evening. I even had time to clean up, paint my nails, and put on a bit more glamorous makeup than my usual daytime look. I grabbed a bottle of Moet and then Boyfriend and I drove over.

When we arrived, she was finishing some last things in the kitchen while her fiance was checking the drinks. We were soon joined by her parents and my mother. Dinner was lovely and we all caught up.

After dinner, her father took out his guitar, and we all had a sing-along. It was a wonderful way to spend an evening, singing holiday songs as well as old folk and rock songs. We turned on the television just long enough to watch the countdown to the new year, and then we decided to turn in for the evening.

I’ve woken up this morning, a little bleary from staying up late, but happy with the memory of a lovely evening, pleased that I was able to finish her gift, and excited to see what I can make with the leftover yarn!