On the brink of 2012

β€Ž”New Year = New thoughts, New energy, New hope, New joy!”
Words from the ~β™₯~ of Noetic Alchemy

I’m sitting here quietly thinking about the past year and the new year to come. 2011 couldn’t end fast enough for us as it has been a kicker in many ways and swaying from one hospital visit to the next was really something that both of us have had enough of. Last Friday, when we were sitting in the Eye Casualty suite in Ashford Hospital after George (Paul’s cornea transplant he had almost 6 years ago) started really hurting, I turned round to Paul and said that we should try not to go to hospital again this year. George seems to be ok, it may have been conjunctivitus so that is a relief as he was told to return if the pain got any worse or the eye got red.

In times of adversity, I think I certainly found a new strength. Even though times have been hard, I’ve been able to do things that I could have only hoped to have done in the past such as passing my driving test, running my own businesses and being part of an art exhibition – all three of which I’m going to keep doing in some way or the other in 2012. I am ready now to find a more full-time job again but through the adversity, I realised that my work priorities have changed. I used to want to get a promotion and be influential and work my way up into a career but now all I want is to have enough. I have been inspired by this story of this man who has been giving away Β£50 notes to unsuspecting people in Devon. His note simply said :
“Happy Christmas. I have recently been fortunate enough to have come into quite a lot of money – more than I need for myself and my family. So I thought that I would share some of it with other people – the Β£50 enclosed is for you. I hope this enables you to have a little extra cheer this Christmas. You do not have to do anything other than spend the money – and it is real, there is no trick, no hidden cameras or catch. Just have a happy Christmas.”

After the health scares that we both had this year, I looked around and thought to myself that I didn’t need half of the clutter we’ve been accumulating over the years and have been slowly giving things away. I read an inspiring book called Money and the Prosperous Soul by Stephen Da Silva. It has really helped me examine myself and my attitudes and it is quite freeing to give away some of the things that we don’t need any more but can bless someone else.

This past year has made me realise the treasure that friends really are. In mid 2010, I lost a close friend to cancer and then subsequently had realised that a long-term friendship had drifted so early this year, I broke it off with that person. It has felt a bit like a divorce in many ways as that person is still there and people seemingly have taken sides. As a Christian, it was hard balancing this split with the Gospel message of peace and reconciliation but I have reflected and prayed long and hard over it and when I came back from the US, I did extend the hand of peace and do feel that all that can be done about that friendship has been done for the moment. I expect healing to come in 2012.

In the meantime, it has meant that I have had to face up to how lonely I really am as that friendship had been a crutch and I thank God for the new friendships that have come in its place. At the Detling Conference (large local Bible conference) back in August, I heard Jeff Lucas preaching about relationships and I did feel so lonely and prayed for a prayer partner. Well, that prayer was answered! I have a wonderful prayer partner for the first time in many years and I have to laugh sometimes as she isn’t the person I would have picked as we are so different from each other and probably wouldn’t have approached each other at a social event but as I have gotten to know her I realise that spiritually we are very similar.

Christmas Day was a time we had been dreading rather than anticipating with joy this year. It was only when we realised why we had felt so empty about Christmas for the past two years that we were able to start to move on. Our friend who died in 2010 always used to have a party on Christmas Eve for his birthday and that absence really made Christmas all the harder. It was in realising this, that we managed to move on a bit from those empty feelings and stepped out and actually bought a tree and decorated it rather than not bothering. I even managed to put on a Christmas gathering which I enjoyed but Christmas Day was still hard. Even though, we were thankful to share the day with each other, an echo of that loneliness had coloured that day and at church in the morning, we would see families together happy and ready to share a meal together. An old friend was here visiting was at church that morning and she asked me what we were doing and upon hearing that we were going for a walk and then having a meal together at home later, had the sensitivity to ask me if I was happy with doing that. She made our Christmas by ringing later to ask us to spend time with her family in Kent. We had been to their home many times in the past and it was such a blessing to be able to do so again as she and her husband had moved away and we hadn’t seen them for several years. I am planning to see her more often in 2012.

I have been thinking about what happened this year is going to change me in 2012. We were blessed with new and deeper friendships through challenging times. We were so blessed to be able to spend a wonderful few days with Jeanne and Michael which hadn’t been planned and we are really looking forward to spending some more time with them in 2012 as they are so much fun. I also got to knit with Chris again which is always great fun particularly with Louie in the mix πŸ™‚ I am so blessed to know Louise and Bob and I’m really looking forward to them coming back to Kent next year and having a fun time with them. If my US trip had gone to plan then we might not have met Louise, let alone been blessed by her help.

It was also great to spend time with Eileen this year despite me being in a hospital but it did mean that pao was able to see her too which hadn’t been in the plan but it was wonderful all the same. At least I got to see the Badlands at dusk and dawn with her which really took my breath away. I can’t describe what an honour it was to have shared that experience with her. Having a phone in my hospital room was great as I loved chatting to Carrie K and am planning to get to San Francisco when I can as she sounds even more wonderful than she does on the blog.

I don’t think I could write about 2011 without mentioning Snoopy. Our motto for the year was ‘You have to be a friend to make a friend’ so we made more of an effort to be friends with people. Even if we felt glum and not like going out, we tried harder and on the whole, it made a difference. Through this change in attitude, we have been blessed by an unusual extended family who are partly from our church, partly from other churches who have extended their homes and love to us. They have stepped in and cared when we have needed it and we are so blessed to spend time with them. We have shared the joys of two new babies in the family and many evenings crafting and chatting this year. I’m really looking forward to more of those evenings next year.

My faith certainly has taken a battering this year but I’m coming through 2011 with more certainty about it than I did before. When I was in that hotel room in South Dakota with Eileen, there was a moment when I couldn’t bear what was happening to my body that I cried out to God as I thought I was dying. I think the only moment that I was scared in that time from then on was when they put some pads on my chest in case the shot they gave me to stop my heart and restart it didn’t actually restart it and they would have had to use the paddles. I wasn’t scared about dying, just scared of the electric shock. The pain that I felt when my heart stopped was the worst pain I’d ever felt but all along, I felt God was by my side and what a relief it had been when my heart rate went back to normal again. I was alone in a hospital room for several nights and the one thing that reassured me as I was awake at night were the three crosses lit up in the distance on the Cathedral opposite. I had been going out to the US so I could get a rest and a rest I certainly did get. It was after that I decided that I would start wearing a cross and bought one from the Black Hills Gold store just next door to our hotel in Rapid City.

Looking forward to 2012, I am hoping for a new year full of hope and promise. I’m also declaring health, provision and wisdom over this coming year. I am looking forward to welcoming friends to our home and enjoying spending time with them and working in new places. I enjoyed Knit night at Jeanne’s so much, I’m thinking about starting something in my house this year.

“Unless we think of others and do something for them, we miss one of the greatest sources of happiness.”
– Ray Lyman Wilbur

was a quote on the wall in Rapid City Regional Hospital and this has really touched my heart so I’ll be looking for new opportunities to think of others and do something for them in 2012. I loved the care that I got in hospital and how kind all the staff were knowing how far away from home I was. There was a lovely nurse called Katina who just spent a few minutes holding my hand when I was crying in the night because the pain was bad and I hope that I can do something as kind for someone in the coming year.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, β€œplans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

These words have been given to us and up to now I’ve read the first bit and ignored the second but I really am believing in the hope and the future – particularly after the trials of 2011.

Roll on 2012! Praying blessings for you and your families this coming year!

Jonathan Swift: “May you live every day of your life.”

2011 Knit Count and Knitting Resolutions

Not as many knits as last year… but it has been one of those years. I have been doing other things i.e. running my two businesses and making lots of jewellery in the meantime so I won’t complain too much about the total. I have had a go at some new things including some fair isle mittens which are still a work in progress and knit my second pair of knee-highs.

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Baby kimono jacket.

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Highland Fling Shawlette.

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Twin Peaks Knee Highs

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8.5 pairs of socks.

Next year, I’m hoping to make more knee highs and put some serious work into finishing some of my long-languishing WIPs. I am trying to make a bit of dent in my stash, too. I have some truly lovely yarn which hasn’t seen the light of day in a while so I’ll be working away in knitting those skeins up. I’ve also embraced crochet as well so after the great success of my Japanese Flower Stole, I’ll be looking to do more crochet next year, too.

Oh, mittens!

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I’ve been working on these mittens for a while and no matter what method I try I still can’t get it right!

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Tension on the ones knit in the round was a bit different so going up a couple of needle sizes to see if that helps as the in the round ones looked best but were too tight.

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Tamyra wanted to play with the yarn all day so she finally got her wish. Back to the drawing board!

Christmas day in pictures

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Whitstable beach was where we headed after church on Christmas day so a bit of fresh air whilst the turkey was cooking. The beach was fairly deserted.

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We were thankful for hot soup and flasks.

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Someone enjoyed putting his head in the diver’s helmet until he almost broke his nose trying to get out of it.

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At that moment, I was feeling like having a prawn kebab. Maybe next summer?

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Christmas table for two!
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A post-lunch nap.

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Chocolate mincemeat tart!

Happy Christmas from us!

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Hope you had a wonderful day. We went to Whitstable for a walk whilst out turkey was cooking.
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To stave off hunger and the wind, we had flasks of hot soup before a brisk walk.

Christmas has been hard for me this year and I’ve not really been looking forward to it as this year has been one of the hardest I’ve experienced. I’ve been stretched in more ways than I thought possible through the worst set of circumstances I’ve ever experienced but friendships have meant all the more because of it and I am very blessed by my friends. They have stepped in and cared when least expected or asked for. It was such a huge blessing to get invited to share part of the day with lovely old friends who we hadn’t seen for a very long time today. It meant that what was a day I’d been dreading had turned into something special and memorable. I want to specially thank my friends for being there for both of us through such a hard year. Thank you.

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The kittens were blessed with turkey.

Introducing Nourishing Knits

Nourishing Knits: 24 Projects to Gift and Entertain

I am ever so privileged to be part of the blog tour for this wonderful new book by Kristi Schueler. Kristi is the long-time author of the blog Fiber Fool and I’ve enjoyed reading and commenting on her blog for quite a while now. Not only does she post delicious recipes, interesting links and information about her designs, she is also an amazing photographer. Her photos alone are such an inspiration. It has been such fun preparing to interview her and I just love the recipes she has paired with the different knitting patterns.

I’ve been following Kristi as she’s been preparing Nourishing Knits (Ravelry link) and I was totally enthralled by the gorgeous and clever items she has included.

Buttercream
Each knitting pattern is paired with a knitting pattern and I do feel like knitting up some Buttercream gauntlets to just recreate this photo of blissful Rhubarb Filling and Almond Buttercream scene. All of Kristi’s knitting and recipe pairings complement each other perfectly – it is a feast of knits and tasty goodies. As you will see throughout this post is more of her wonderful photography which she has graciously allowed me to link to. If you are stuck for a last-minute gift for a knitter this Christmas, I would recommend this gorgeous publication.

So over to Kristi as she answers some of my questions about holiday gift knitting…

What is your favourite item in the book to knit as a gift for someone?

Bordeaux Scarf
Bordeaux is one of the most giftable patterns in the book to me. There is no worry about fit and it can be worn in so many different ways that it is sure to be appreciated by anyone. Finding a complimentary color is really the only concern. Also, without any shaping it goes pretty quickly once you’ve worked through one pattern repeat.

‘Guided by Love’ are such beautiful socks, in the pattern you mention that they are inspired by your mother and have helped raise money for The Seeing Eye, what’s the story behind them?

Left Instep of Guided By Love Socks
My mom was legally blind when I was born and lost all vision by the time I was in my early teens. She left my sister, my dad and I for a month to travel to New Jersey and get her first dog guide for the visually impaired from The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey when I was about 14. Now, she has her second dog guide who will soon be retiring so she is starting to think about her third trip out there. Once my mom got her first dog her world opened wide and she went to college and still speaks frequently to classes, scouting troops and churches. She has even traveled to Colorado to visit me by herself, something that would not have been possible without a service animal.

I really wanted to thank The Seeing Eye somehow for all they did for my family, but I lacked funds to make a difference. So I decided to use my skills to raise funds for them. I designed the Guided by Love sock pattern and all proceeds from its first 6 months of sales were donated to The Seeing Eye. I managed to send them a check for $1400! I’ve heard rumors they may be turning the paw print stitch pattern I developed into a scarf they will sell in their catalog.

Gift-knitting can be a high-pressure deadline-driven affair if you leave it to the last minute like I often do, what do you recommend as a quick and easy knit for an unexpected last-minute gift idea?

For last minute knitting I tend to favor either large gauge knits or straight forward, mostly stockinette stitch projects so there is less chance of needing to frog or tink due to mistakes. Though to keep pressure at a minimum I like to keep a few things on hand like a few Tapas Totes or some washcloths or kitchen towels which pair well with other homemade giftables I keep on hand like preserves, soaps, boday and bath oils and lotion bars.

For those already comfortable with colorwork, the Masala slippers are a surprisingly fast knit as well.

Those Tapas Totes are pretty cute, would you recommend a particular yarn according to the item you were knitting it for? For instance, would you use a sportweight if you were knitting it for a wine bottle or choose a laceweight for a smaller jar?
Rosemary Scented Grapefruit Curd
For larger jars or wine bottles a sportweight yarn is definitely a safe bet. Though the lace-weight versions call for the yarn to be held doubled for the bottom which increases it’s strength. I would recommend sticking to laceweight yarns that contain longer staple length fibers (how long each single fiber is) like silk, linen, rayon, bamboo, or seacell for example.

What is your favourite yarn to knit gifts with? And what pattern would you choose?

I am a huge fan of washable yarns for gift knitting. That is one of the reasons that you find many washable yarns used for the projects in the book. I do make exceptions if the recipient is a fibery person and knows how to care for wool as I tend to enjoy the process more if I’m working with natural wool.

Growing up in Minnesota it was drilled into me that mittens were much warmer than gloves. I love mittens and have mastered doing most anything with then on, from zipping up my coat to changing the radio station. I’m also a stripe fiend and picking out the perfect color scheme for a person is a fun challenge for me. Knitting Mille-Feuilles as gifts is a joy for me and the mostly stockinette stitch pattern means it is pretty quick to knit. The sample in the book I actually knit while I read a couple books on my phone, believe it or not!

The Mille-Feuilles is very cute, have you any plans for doing a baby version of the hat? I know a few babies that would look rather good in it πŸ™‚
Mille-Feuilles Hat and Mitten Set
I hadn’t thought about a baby version! I think I stopped at the bottom end where I did because a smaller stitch count would throw off the balance of the mitering and the straight spines. But, a baby version is certainly doable with some tweaking. Alternately, using fingering weight yarn instead of the sportweight should produce a baby-sized hat. I’ll definitely add such a pattern to my list of possibilities. Thank you for the suggestion!

If I wanted to knit some socks or even those fantastic Masala slippers for a friend, what advice do you give to find out their shoe size in secret?
Masala Slippers
The most fun way to find out a friend’s shoe size is to go shoe shopping with them. Alternately it often isn’t too hard to find shoes or slippers lying about people’s homes without resorting to invasive snooping, so if the opportunity arises to sneak a peek at the size, I do so and make note for the future. The book has a table you can use to get rough foot dimensions based on shoe size you can use once you’re armed with their shoe size.

Ciabatta is a lovely sweater, have you ever made one for your husband?

Ciabatta Raglan Sweater
I shamefully have not knit a sweater for my husband :-/ He’s a tall man who runs pretty warm most of the time so the prospect of doing so in a yarn weight that would suit him is a bit daunting. He also has been on a weight loss program so I am glad I had not done so yet as he’d need a markedly smaller circumference sweater now. It is on the list of things to do sometime, though I think he would possibly be more excited about a few more pairs of handknit socks!

I bet you’ve knit your family lots of beautiful things as gifts, which is your top favourite gift? Who was it for?

Early on in my return to knitting I knit quite a few gifts for family. Though truthfully I rarely do so any more. I am so often deadline knitting for work and most of my knitting is for a model that I do not need the added pressure of meeting a gift-giving deadline for what should be pleasure knitting.

I knit a seaman’s scarf from Stahman’s Shawls & Scarves for my grandmother many years ago (Ravelry link). She requested another to go with her black coats so I take that as a good sign. I’ve also gotten reports that she wears it frequently and points out with pride that her granddaughter made it for her.

Have you ever received any hand-knit gifts? If you have, which is your favourite? Why did you like it?

I have not received any handknit gifts. I think most people are intimidated to give a handknit to a knitting designer. However, my husband’s side of the family now exchanges only handmade gifts and I am loving that tradition and am so glad they switched to that. We’ve gotten paintings, stained glass, wonderful preserves, homemade wine and beer and all other manners of things made with love and care. Those types of gifts really mean much more than something chosen from a store!

You have a gorgeous dog, Brandon, do you plan to create any patterns for doggie gifts in the future?
Brandon Begs
I actually have two dogs, Emma didn’t make the book because she is not quite as cooperative or such a ham. Both Emma and Brandon are rescue dogs that we adore, their funny quirks and all. At this time I can’t say I have any plans to create dog patterns. Neither Emma or Brandon take to wearing things so they’d much rather just keep getting Bow-Wow Biscotti I think.
Bow Wow Biscotti

Thank you very much for answering all my questions, Kristi, and good luck with the rest of the book blog tour. Now I need to decide which of those delectable patterns and recipes I’m going to knit and cook first.

Butternut squash and carrot with chorizo sprinkles

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1 medium red onion, chopped finely
Olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes
4 or 5 carrots, chopped into cubes
1 liter chicken or vegetable stock. I used some stock made from leftover chicken carcasses and keep in the freezer for these things.
2 tsp dried mixed herbs. If you have fresh, coriander or parsley would be nice.
2 tsps Old Bay Seasoning
1 small fresh chili, chopped finally

To garnish:
2 in piece of chorizo sausage, fried until juices released and a bit crispy
A dollop of natural yoghurt
A sprinkle of mixed seeds. I use a product called Munchy Seeds which is a nice seeded mix.

Heat olive oil in pan and fry onion until soft. Add carrots and butternut squash to soften.

Stir in stock. If you have some in the freezer, you can just place the frozen stock over the top of veg and it will soon melt. Bring to boil and simmer until vegetables are soft (around 20 minutes). Stir in Old Bay Seasoning, mixed herbs and chili. Blend using a stick blender until smooth.

To serve, fry up chorizo until crispy. If veggie, you can omit this. Add a dollop of natural yoghurt and then sprinkle chorizo and mixed seeds on top.

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Tamyra and Sirius are inspecting out Christmas pudding. They sell out very quickly and someone has one for sale on eBay for Β£750 (yes, you are reading that correctly). We are looking forward to eating ours.

I have a really exciting guest on the blog tomorrow, Kristi from Designedly, Kristi will be talking about her wonderful new book Nourishing Knits.