Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Locally Grown

It's a special thing to be able to support local farmers, to bring home a product grown by the hardworking hand of someone in your area. I think we are returning to this practice little by little, and it's wonderful. Over the weekend I had just such an experience.  Remember the Crochet Baby Booties that I shared last week?  I mentioned that I'd made them using yarn gifted to me by my Aunt.  Well it turned out that this yarn had come from a local farm!  I had the honor of visiting the farm this past weekend and, if you can  believe it, I even got to meet the  alpacas whose fleece had been used in the skeins I was given!  Above you'll see the lovely "Charisma", a young mother alpaca.  It's no surprise, when looking at the booties beside Charisma, that her fleece is what went into that yarn.  The color matches perfectly.
Charisma, with her own mother in the background there, was gorgeous.  There she stood, proudly posing for the camera as her young son (behind me) nuzzled curiously at my coat pockets.  Aside from their deep soft fleeces, I think what really draws you in are their velvety noses and big, sweet eyes.  They were gentle and curious, careful not to get too close, but never far from me...this strange new visitor.  They seem to always have a quiet little smile on their faces too.  
It was amazing to see three generations standing together, Charisma's Mother, Charisma, and her young son, their fawn colored fleeces catching the late-day light.  The Farm's owner, Leda, parted Charisma's fleece to show me the way that, below the surface, alpaca fleece is naturally crimped!  She also explained that you never wash alpaca fleece, that they in fact take dust baths.  I was amazed.  Did you know that alpacas are, what we would call "litter trained" ? They have a neat box in the corners of their stalls where they relieve themselves.  Such clean and tidy animals, it's no wonder they produce such fine, fine fleece.
Leda also has a beautiful little gift shop on the farm where she not only sells the yarn and other products, but also handmade items from local makers.  It was a lot of fun to look around, admiring other women's handiwork.  I chose several more bundles of yarn to bring home with me.  This time I chose yarn from the fleece of "Gypsy Rose", a pale grey with hints of rosy browns.  I believe it is called "Rose Grey".  I think what amazes me most is that the yarn is all-natural and totally pure, no dyes used whatsoever.  Even the black fleece is natural, and so deep and rich in color. So, so special.  As you can see Leda and her husband also show their alpacas and have won many, many ribbons from the judges. It's no wonder either, when you look at the beauty of their animals.
My current stash, awaiting some exciting projects.  Every time I read the names of the animals printed on the labels, I'm reminded of my special day and the faces of the sweet alpacas who have shared their fleece with me.

*Faraway Farm is privately owned and not open to the public.  Visits are by appointment only.
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Make A Hand-Painted Plate in 2 Steps!

I love white plates, most of our plates and serve ware are white in fact.  Every once in a while, though, it's fun to have something a bit more festive. My Sister in-law made some adorable hand-drawn mugs as gifts for Christmas with her daughter and she kindly lent me the Sharpie brand, oil based, markers she used.  They're awesome!  I've done the regular sharpie on ceramic, baking it afterwards, and it worked fine.   These markers, on the other hand, go on very smoothly and are much more opaque.  Here's how I made this pretty blue plate...
You will need:
-White ceramic plate (or mug, whatever you choose)
-Oil-based Sharpie Markers, like these .
-Oven at 350 Degs
(Preheat your oven to 350Degs) Start creating your pattern on the plate.  Let each part dry before touching it, these do take few minutes longer than regular sharpies to dry.

When you've completed your plate, place it in the oven at 350 for about 25-30 minutes. When done, allow to cool completely before handling.
I'm not sure I'd eat dinner off of a plate painted with sharpies, but when the pattern is kept to the rim  (or the outside of a mug or bowl) I think it's just fine.  I love the way the pattern has that hand-drawn feel but is, at the same time, permanent and glossy.

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Handmade Baby Gift: Crochet Newborn Booties

New born babies are one of the most special things.  When someone shares their exciting news you want to give them something really special too! Something quality, that will be useful and sweet.  I stumbled upon the most perfect thing last year and have been dying to share it with you guys, especially those of you that enjoy crochet as well.  I was searching for a beginner/semi intermediate pattern for crochet baby booties and found this CrochetHooksYou Newborn Baby Bootie video tutorial. You'll notice it's broken down into several separate videos, so it's nice and manageable. I've linked you to Round 1.  This is by far the simplest,  most adorable pattern I've found and, while I sometimes add little poms poms or extra cuffs to my finished booties, the pattern never fails me.  I think you'll love it too!
I received this gorgeous local alpaca yarn from my Aunt for Christmas and it made the perfect yarn for my latest pair of booties.  This was my first time working with alpaca yarn, it's so soft and delicate but also super warm.  You'll see in the video that she recommends the hook size and yarn type to use for your fist pair, but after you get used to the pattern it easy to switch around a little to accommodate whatever new material you'd like to use.

I love adding little pompoms, or in this case a little bow shaped pompom (shown above) to the fronts or backs of some of them (be sure to tie them on super tight so that there is no chance they'll be tugged off by little fingers ). 
I thought it only fair that I encourage you to visit the YouTube site, and not simply share their pattern here, out of respect.  So I hope you'll pop over and give it a try!  I just love making these for people, picking out special yarn and putting love into something that will last.  When you're finished, the shape is so darling that you can perfectly imagine tiny little baby feet in there keeping warm. (Tip: I usually stuff them with a bit of tissue paper to mold them into their shape and to then keep them shaped until they get slipped onto little feet.)

It's a good feeling to gift someone something you've made, especially when it's so darn cute!! Can you stand them?  They get me every time with their cuteness.

Here's the video tutorial again in case you missed it in the beginning: CrochetHooksYou : Newborn Booties


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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cold Glass and Fading Light

It's winter.  In the harshest sense of the word.  With temperatures in the single digits and the sunlight gone before I can get my foot in the door at the end of day...

The house feels different in the winter. Glass gets frosty, windows locked tight against the cold.  The light during my free moments of the day runs away faster than I can catch it, dark corners everywhere. The golden hour seems mere seconds long. Nose it a book, you might miss it entirely.  It's hard to get any work done during this time, lack of posts due to the fact that even when I race home, I still haven't beat the setting sun.  
The New Year has filled me with excitement, though, of what's to come...plans for things to share here, things to make, ideas to bring to fruition. Books to be read and adventures waiting, free for the taking.  January feels like a month caught in mid air, suspended, caught between the end of a magical holiday season and the first signs of spring.  February is no sweeter...but still there is the feeling that something great is about to happen. I think we all feel it in some sense.
What does your home feel like during these tight winter months....

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Friday, January 2, 2015

A New Year

It's that time again, when we all sit and reflect on the past year...form hopes for the new year and set our goals.  It's a fresh start and new chapter.  I hope you've had a wonderful holiday, we spent some time at Mohonk on New Year's Day. 
 A treat, as always.  The temperature has dropped significantly in the past few days, so hiking wasn't on the top of our list.  We did, though, have a delicious lunch and slowly meandered around finding comfort in the warmth and humidity of the greenhouse.

One of my favorite "Day-cation" destinations...always leaves us feeling happy and full. I can't wait to see what 2015 will bring.  On just the second day of the new year, the thought of coming opportunities and adventures can leave you giddy with anticipation.  "Cheers!", to fresh starts, and Happy New Year to you!

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Make an Easy New Year's Eve Banner

Can you believe it's almost New Year's Eve!? I cannot.  The holidays flew by. I feel like the start of advent was just yesterday, yet, Christmas Day was already last week! Thankfully I have a few days off to reboot and get into gear for the New Year. With the Christmas decorations not quite put away, the thought of doing lots of New Year's decorations is a bit overwhelming so I decided to keep it simple and sweet with this quick, but sparkly, New Year's banner.  You can make it too! 
You will need:
-Several different types of festive scrap-booking paper, note the sparkly additions above!
-Scissors or X-acto knife
-Hole punch
-Large sticky letters or stencils
-3 yards of festive ribbon or cording
If using stickers, place letter sticker lightly onto the front of your paper (don't press to hard as you'll want to peel it back off again) and cut out the letter shape.  Peel off sticker and discard.  If using stencils, trace the letter and cut.  Repeat for all letters, spelling "HAPPY NEW YEAR".
When you've finished your letters, add at least four stars. Two for each end of the banner.
Punch holes into the tops of each letter and string onto the cording. (I stuck a tiny square of clear tape on the backs of my "A's".  Since there is only room for one hole, the tape will help the "A" to hang straight.)  Once you've gotten every letter on, you can space them evenly along the strand.  Don't forget to add the stars to each end!
This makes a great little banner to add to a window, to hang above the beverage/bar area, or to string over a treats and desserts table for a party.  
The best part is, when the holiday is over, it can simply be folded up and stored flat until next year.

I hope you all have a wonderful time ringing in the New Year, we'll be celebrating Nick's birthday.  He's a New Year's Eve baby!


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