Tribes and Families

Growing up in Missouri, Oklahoma was just a neighboring state away. I had family that lived, scattered all throughout Oklahoma, whom I saw each year at our summer family reunion. Little did I envision that I would someday move to the Sooner state and join the ranks of relatives who have lived here for decades.

A defining characteristic, historical, and continued aspect of living in Oklahoma are various Native American tribes. Many of my colleagues and local friends have tribal ancestry to the Cherokee, Comanche, and Chickasaw nations, just to name a few. The Optometrist and I have distant Cherokee roots ourselves, but since our ancestors didn’t obtain a roll number, the lasting and signifying documentation for tribal proof, our connection is one of observation, education, and appreciation. And even though I’ve lived here for over seven years, I would consider myself still a newcomer and novice when it comes to tribal history.

A few years ago I attended a Native American symposium and heard some of our Native graduate students discuss their perspective of what it means to be an American Indian student in today’s culture. One student’s comments made me take pause and reflect when he identified how Native students can often be categorized in one of two ways: 1.) culturally immersed or 2.) historically connected.

For the first, some have strong and deliberate familial connections to tribal ceremonies, traditions, and ways. For others, they appreciate their cultural background, but may not choose to participate in the more traditional activities.

This started me thinking…even though I don’t have any direct connections to any Native American tribe, I do have a sense of belonging and purpose with my great-grandmother’s family. For the past 90 or so years, our family has gathered each June to celebrate and strengthen our ties as a family. Older members have gone on to Glory, new ones join the ranks, and even though some last names have matriculated away from the reunion’s namesake, we carry the same blood in our veins.

Once more, last weekend our family gathered in the Ozarks to gorgeous weather to reminisce, tell stories, love on each other, take pictures, eat, and eat some more. This annual gathering always serves as a reminder about the importance of family, family traditions, and keeping these traditions alive.

Now in my mid-30s, I know the mantle will someday fall to me to help younger generations remember who their great-great-great grandfather was and why we gather the way we do. Thus, like the traditions of my Native friends, I want to be found faithful immersing myself in not only our stories and traditions, but maintaining existing connections and making new among members of our family – our tribe.

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Summer Road Trip: Santa Fe

Our summer has been filled with several wonderful road trips: two shorter ones to Missouri, one for a stay in Branson and one to visit my parents during a family reunion. But our big road trip is one we have been looking forward to for many months – a long road trip, across three states, to New Mexico. All in honor of attending a beloved friend’s wedding in Santa Fe. We both have visited Santa Fe in years past, prior to our marriage, but to revisit as adults allowed us to appreciate this unique city in a whole new way.

When compared with the cost of airfare, driving was the cheaper alternative and it gave us a chance to travel along Route 66 (I-40) and leave behind the beautiful, green Ozarks in Eastern Oklahoma and adjust to the scenery of wide, flat plains in Western Oklahoma, giant wind farms in the Texas panhandle, and mile-long views across mesas as our altitude increased entering New Mexico.

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To break up the trip we determined the first leg would end in Amarillo, TX – a halfway point in our journey west. We embraced being tourists as we ate at The Big Texan Steak Ranch for dinner and enjoyed a surprisingly well-cooked steak, plus we got to be spectators as two Australians attempted the 72 oz. steak challenge (we left before they were through, but the completion of their meal wasn’t looking promising…).

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As the sun set in the west, we drove just outside of town to Cadillac Ranch along Route 66. I previously saw this from a bus window, as I traveled to Mesa, AZ, with friends in college, but this was my first visit up close.

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The ten upraised cadillacs are in the absolute middle of someone’s farm with growing crops all around. It’s kitchy Americana at its best and there was something unifying about being there with other strangers, enjoying a moment of constantly evolving modern art as the sun set – even if it was only to observe and take pictures. (We were offered spray paint, but passed.)

Accompanying us across state lines was the Hamilton cast recording. It felt completely American to learn more about this Founding Father from a modern visionary, while traveling the Mother Road. Little by little we climbed in elevation, finally reaching 7,000+ feet, and arrived in Santa Fe.

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The wedding party and many guests, including us, stayed at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, situated within easy walking distance to the historic downtown square. We were greeted with warm sun on our faces and low humidity (hallelujah, Praise the Lamb) as we ate lunch up the street at Rooftop Pizza. Then were so pleased to get to tour the famous Loretto Chapel, next door to our hotel.

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“Inside the Gothic structure is the staircase referred to as miraculous, inexplicable, marvelous and is sometimes called St. Joseph’s Staircase. The stairway confounds architects, engineers and master craftsmen. It makes over two complete 360-degree turns, stands 20′ tall and has no center support. It rests solely on its base and against the choir loft. The risers of the 33 steps are all of the same height. Made of an apparently extinct wood species, it was constructed with only square wooden pegs without glue or nails.”

Read more here about this miraculous staircase.

As we unloaded our car, we were thrilled to see our friend, the bride-to-be, with whom we shared hugs and misty eyes. We were not a part of the wedding party, but served as loving and supportive friends and were excited about the opportunity to join the festivities in her destination wedding. Prior to the rehearsal dinner that evening, generously thrown by the groom’s parents, we did a little shopping at a local knife shop where The Optometrist found a lovely damascus steel pocket knife, his Santa Fe momento.

Saturday morning I enjoyed a complimentary yoga class on the hotel grounds beside the pool, which was an exciting experience to practice outdoors for the first time. Our teacher was well-trained, a great communicator, and reminded us that practicing yoga at 7,000 feet was probably not normal, thus we needed to listen to our bodies, not view our practice as a competition, and offer kindness to ourselves.

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Although eventful, the rest of the day unfolded smoothly, allowing me to purchase a lovely piece of “dry creek” turquoise (the different colors/shades are determined by the amount of copper in the soil) and have a lunch date with fellow wedding friends at The Shed, where we enjoyed some amazingly spicy huevos rancheros!

A short walk across the street and we arrived at The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the location of our friend’s wedding.

The bride, a fellow optometrist, played matchmaker for us, forever cementing her as our friend. She’s a fellow knitter, was with me when I found my wedding dress, and has remained an especially dear friend in the years since she and my husband have graduated and begun their careers.

The wedding venue was gorgeous and inviting. The cantor, Carmen Florez Mansi, was incredible (the best soprano soloist I’ve ever heard sing/perform/lead worship), and when the organist opened up all the stops as the bride entered, I wept tears of joy over how much I love our friend and how happy I was to witness her marriage to her long-awaited cowboy.

The ceremony and mass were sacred and holy, with seamless transitions between the portions of the mass and the wedding ceremony. The reception afforded us opportunities to get caught up with other optometry friends and share love with the sweet bride and her loving groom.

If you haven’t ever visited Santa Fe before, check it out – it’s worth the trip!

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The Unexpected Blessing of Teaching a Friend how to Knit

The Unexpected Blessing of Teaching a Friend how to Knit

It’s been years since I’ve attempted to share my passionate hobby of knitting, but last week I brought a friend into the fold. Earlier this winter she saw me knitting in public and expressed interest in learning how to knit, to which I promptly replied, “Why, I’ll be happy to teach you how!”

First, let me tell you a little bit more about my friend. A few years ago The Optometrist and I sat through a Dave Ramsey course with her at church, and then last fall she attended one of the ladies Bible study classes I taught, allowing our spiritual connection to deepen. Since this friend knows us both and had never been to our home before, I thought inviting her over would be a more comfortable and inviting option to learn how to knit around our kitchen table. (She’s also an animal lover, so she was quite taken with our affectionate kitty Sylvester.) Like I mentioned, it’s been a while since I’ve taught someone to knit, and she’s old enough to be my mom, so I wanted to be patient, concise, and encouraging. But I was still a little bit nervous.

You see, my friend’s husband has a very important, high profile job. He’s the president of our University, ultimately my boss.

He’s a busy man, and therefore, she’s a busy lady. They have notoriety in our community, simply because of his academic position, and we both hold them in high regard as individuals and leaders.

And yet, my friend doesn’t “put on airs,” as we say in the Ozarks. She’s genuine, gracious, and open with those she meets, when she has every right to be snobby, elitist, and disconnected from people. While I’ve never asked her, I get the impression that she and her husband are totally fine with her being who she is – someone who doesn’t pretend to appear perfect and whose bubbly personality draws people to her naturally.

So because of her lack of pretense, I felt I could comfortably teach her how to knit, not as the president’s wife, but as my friend.

She has crocheted in the past, which is always helpful when picking up knitting, but I hoped I could convey the basics in a way that she would understand. I instructed her to purchase size US 8 needles and some 100% cotton yarn so we could make a dishcloth; a great beginner project. We worked together for about 2 hours and during this time I was so proud of her ability to understand and execute the long tail cast on, the knit stitch, and was getting the hang of the purl stitch by the end of our evening together. As we wrapped up our session she thanked me, gave me a hug, and we walked her outside. For the past few days I kept thinking I needed to check in with her about her progress, then today, this arrived at work.

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It’s a dainty flower arrangement, with pale pink roses, in a tea cup with a saucer! It couldn’t be more me.

I thought The Optometrist had sent me belated Valentine’s Day flowers, but then I read the card and was almost moved to tears.

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While she’s the thankful one, I am the one who has received the blessing. When you share something you love, that’s a gift in and of itself. And the fact that she’s enjoying knitting and wants to learn more? Pure joy!

But more importantly, I am reminded from my friend’s thoughtful demonstration of how it’s always good to be open to learning new things from others; how being generous, authentic, and kind never goes out of style. As I look to her example, I not only want to be more like that when I grow up, but want to be more like that right now.

 

2015 Event Recap

2016 rolled in relatively quietly last night after The Optometrist and I enjoyed a night in, watching episodes of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime, then enjoying a pre-midnight bubbly blueberry juice toast.

And as I reflect on 2015 this afternoon, I figure the best way of recapping the year is to do so season by season, maybe filling in a few gaps that were missing since the fall was oh, so busy.

Winter:
It was lovely having a few snow days where the university was closed. This gave us time to enjoy relaxing at home, fixing yummy meals together. The “knitting factory” was also in full production as I churned out dish cloths, baby booties, blankets, hats, and a few knitted & crocheted items for a local fund raiser.  Professionally, I began the process of co-authoring my first journal article with four professors, which lasted most of the semester (but has finally been published!).

Spring:
We received so much rain this past spring. It finally resulted in water tables of local aquifers being restored after drought conditions, but our backyard turned into a pond many times throughout the spring and early summer.

After a short Spring Break trip to Branson in March, we returned home and adopted our kitty Sylvester from the Humane Society. Among many things, he enjoys exploring in my closet, and here, he looks extremely cat-like. He has become our little “fur baby,” love sponge.

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My parents paid us a visit over Easter, we viewed one of the Blood Moons through The Optometrist’s telescope, and the end of the semester brought about my birthday, which was spent with my in-laws, and visiting Crystal Bridges. The traveling exhibit Van Gogh to Rothko was on display and I loved  getting to see works by Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Mark Rothko, but my absolute favorite was Peasants in the Field, Ergany, 1890 by Camille Pissarro. (We have since ordered a reproduction to hang over our mantle to enjoy year round.)

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Summer:
June was a heavy travel month – we enjoyed getting to see my parents during our (shared) anniversary trip to Branson and a family reunion, plus we loved our first big trip to Seattle for an optometry conference and vacation.

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Fall:
Professionally, I laced up my administrator shoes and learned a great deal about communication, teamwork, and partnership as my colleague Susan and I co-coordinated the University Strategies course for 800+ freshmen. Here we look a little ragged but triumphant as we just finished overseeing 7 hours worth of class the first two days of the semester.
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The fall also included helping coordinate an inaugural library conference, plus attend several other conferences and meetings in the area and throughout the state. I step into a new leadership role in 2016, where I will be traveling monthly to college and university libraries, meeting hard-working librarians, and learning new tips and tricks along the way.

This past semester, Monday was my long day, when I oversaw four hours of classes. During my lunch break, almost every Monday I met up for lunch with Lauren, with my sweet sister in Jesus. Our discussions of relationships, graduate school, faith, and culture were the perfect opportunity for my body and soul to be nourished.

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October was another blur of a month – it began as we spent a week in New Orleans for another optometry conference.
Our first evening, we happened onto Mulate’s, near the convention center and our hotel, where we ate delicious food, accompanied by live cajun music.

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The Optometrist always loves visiting local aquariums when we travel, so we enjoyed the wide variety of fish, birds, and aquatic life at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (and casting our vote for their new albino alligator to be named Chompitoulas).

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We also relished the chance to spend the day with my BFF Addie,

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with whom we took a tour of Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District,

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and visited the French Quarter to eat beignets at Cafe du Monde.
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I did a bit of solo exploring around the city while The Optometrist was in meetings and conferences. It was fun taking Uber for the first time to the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden.

Later in the week we enjoyed a lovely meal at Muriel’s in Jackson Square with a friend & former classmate of The Optometrist. And lastly, before we flew home, we quickly worked our way through the National WWII Museum. It was incredibly well done, still expanding, and we wish we would have had more time to explore this treasure trove of history. If we return to New Orleans, this will definitely be a place we would like to visit again, and for a longer amount of time!

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The next weekend we enjoyed celebrating the marriage of my husband’s younger sister to her sweetheart.

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As November gave way to December, so did my body to that rotten end-of-the-semester-sickness/exhaustion. I had to sit out all of my Christmas singing plans at church and in the community. Instead, I languished on the couch with Sylvester as my nurse, watched some heartwarming Christmas movies, and had a blast wrapping up my Christmas knitting.

Half Pint Mittens by Susan B. Anderson
The Force Awakens Hat by Hannah L

Time with family and beloved friends during Thanksgiving and Christmas rounded out the year nicely.

When 2015 began I had no idea how much I would learn, grow, and experience. Yes, it’s been downright stressful at times, but totally worth the ride. Here’s hoping 2016 will bring about even more similar opportunities!

“What a great way to start the first day of the rest of my life.” ~ Nickel Creek – Rest of my Life from A Dotted Line (video here)

Caring and Sharing

It’s the last day of the semester – hallelujah. After five years as an academic librarian, I find my body feeling the effects of this being the most full and stressful one yet. But how I’ve grown, learned, expanded my horizons, gotten to know others better, and gained confidence in my abilities!  At a recent faculty member’s retirement celebration, he shared these words of wisdom, “May your footsteps be many, deep, and found leaving an impact.” As he leaves at the top of his career in education, his example of continuing to be engaged with students, academic life, and the community has made an impression on me, giving me a goal to emulate as I, too, strive to help others and leave my mark on this place.

Last Saturday the Optometrist and I had an opportunity to spend time with friends with whom we have shared food, laughter, music, and life in both past and recent years. Saturday morning we helped co-host a friend’s baby shower at the home of our mutually dear friend who lives just outside of town. The view of the rolling hills in the distance and grazing cattle in the pasture was one of many special memories made on this day.

 

Our friends are both originally from China, so we, as their American friends, decided to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we showered them with food, gifts, prayers, and love.

 

Later in the afternoon we met up with friends who were passing through the area on their family vacation. Since it had been years since we last saw one another, our time chatting over ice cream was all too brief. I’ve known about their visit for a few months, which gave me time to endeavor on my second sewing project: a trio of string backpacks for their three girls. I used this video from the Crafty Gemini that helped guide me through my sewing project.

The girls’ mom had shared with me their interests, and with a little help from Hancock Fabrics, I was able to customize each one with their first initial and included a little fun pad/crayon set inside. The older girls like My Little Pony and the littlest one enjoys Curious George, and, thankfully, not only were they the appropriate size, but they seemed to enjoy my little homemade gifts of love. Since they were en route to their vacation destination, I hope they were able to use their little backpacks to hold not only what they brought with them, but also include treasures found along the way.

Other highlights from our spring have included:

  • Continued adjustment and fun with Sylvester. He’s gradually learning the house rules and we just have to be consistent in enforcing them. Here’s a photo of him being sweet and cuddly, which is his personality about 98% of the time.

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  •  Enjoying the beautiful dogwood tree outside our bedroom window. As a Show-Me girl, dogwoods are always reminiscent of my home state each spring.

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  • A recent afternoon of professional development at OSU included lunch at Eskimo Joe’s beforehand. My knitting kept my hands busy we waited for our food and served as a conversation enhancer (as it most usually does) with the librarians sitting near me.

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For now, all that’s left are attending our respective college commencement exercises tomorrow morning and afternoon and the semester is officially complete! Never mind the fact that we both return to work on Monday as intercession begins. Yet for now, once more, we’ve added our footprints to this academic year, thanks to the Lord opening up doors and sustaining us every step of the way.

 

Oh those wonderful snow days

One of the benefits of working in higher education are the days when you, like your students, have a snow day. Yet, since we’re nestled among the Ozark hills in Oklahoma, snow days are a bit of a wild card. Some winters we’ve been pummeled with snow and ice, others have found us staring at that which is barren and stark. So far, this winter has been the latter of the two, and I had been longing for a bit of snow to transform the landscape and give me time to stay home to knit, fix good food, and cozy up by the fire. With the most recent winter weather systems, my wish came true – two snow days over the past two weeks!

The view of our back porch and yard

We often marvel at how many of our neighbors leave their garage doors open, practically year-round. Last week’s snow didn’t seem to deter two of them.

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Snow knitting/crafting

I finished knitting my second pair of socks! These are for the Optometrist and fit him wonderfully!
Pattern: Simple Skyp Socks with the Fish Lips Kiss Heel
Yarn: Premier Wool Free Sock Yarn in Pueblo

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And a quick little knit for me.
Pattern: Bandana Cowl by Purl Soho
Yarn: Tosh Vintage (Madelinetosh) in Tart

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After my grandma passed away I inherited her sewing machine and have had great hopes of developing my seamstress capabilities. I sadly discovered many of the needed functions of this older machine no longer worked, so I made an unexpected purchase of a new Singer Classic Heavy Duty machine just after the new year. My immediate inspiration was the Sock Sack, a little bag with a divider to separate two balls of sock yarn, which had been mentioned by several knitters on Ravelry. I, too, was inspired to buy the pattern and thought it would be a breeze. Well…as a novice beginner I now realize this project was probably too industrious, but I had the gumption to persevere and so I did!

Bird’s eye view looking into the sock sack with the zippered divider separating two cakes of yarn as I work on Spectra. I think my favorite parts are the little snaps that guide each ball of yarn, preventing them from getting tangled up.

Along the way I ripped out many stitches, rewound many bobbins, re-threaded many needles (accidentally broke a needle, too), pondered over the directions with The Optometrist a great deal, and rejoiced when my (non-abstract) brain would finally visualize the desired result. In addition to this process teaching me patience with myself as I learned a new skill, it also provided me with a crash-course on learning my new machine, and the end reward of successfully finishing a project I will actually use.

The pattern comes in three sizes (this is the medium size) so the next time I find myself near a fabric store, I’ll pick up another yard of material to make the smaller size, and see if the second one will be easier and more polished than the first!

Snow cooking

Our snow days also provided me with some leisurely time to fix a hot, hearty meal, with enough leftovers to enjoy later. All of these were new recipes we tried and enjoyed!

One-Pot Lemon Chicken

Chili Pasta Bake (originally found via Pinterest) and Roasted brussel sprouts from Midwest Living. I had to do a bit of finagling to cook both at the same time, since the recipes called for differing oven temperatures. I covered the chili bake with aluminum foil when it was almost through baking and put the brussel sprouts in a little earlier than called for. After the pasta came out, the sprouts still weren’t cooked, so I put them under the broiler to cook under direct heat for a few more minutes. That did the trick!



Homemade version of chicken tostadas

Directions/Ingredients:
Boil thawed chicken tenders in hot water (around 4 cups) approximately 10 minutes. I added a teaspoon or so of chicken bullion granules to flavor the water a bit more. After cooked, remove chicken from liquid. In a bowl shred with two forks and season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. Stir to mix well.
Warm corn tostadas according to package directions.
Layer: (heated) refried beans, shredded cheddar cheese, shredded chicken, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and drizzle with Cholula. The half avocado can be eaten by itself as a side, or pieces can be added on top (I did a little bit of both).

Looking ahead this week, there’s snow in the forecast for Wednesday…maybe I’ll get another snow day?

Gifts of Christmas

With Christmas having come and gone, I pause on this New Year’s Eve to reflect on some special gifts of Christmas – both received and given.

  • friendship with an octogenarian
  • four part harmony sung with family
  • beauty appreciated by our 2 year old niece
  • worshiping at my father-in-law’s Christmas music concert
  • reminiscent laughter
  • reuniting with an out-of-state cousin
  • fun of surprising the Optometrist with unexpected gifts
  • the Optometrist’s excitement in seeing me open some sparkly gifts

As a homeowner I have come to realize how we don’t need more store-bought stuff, and neither does anyone in our families. Therefore, as a knitter, many of our gifts to others were some of my hand-knit creations:

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Egg to Alligator & Flower Fairy in a Tulip

These little reversible toys were Christmas gifts for our nephew and niece and are from the book Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys: Magical Two-in-One Reversible Projects by Susan B. Anderson. I remember playing with a sewn topsy-turvy doll at my grandma’s house when I was young. One side was Little Red Riding Hood and when you flipped up her skirts the Big Bad Wolf dressed in the grandmother’s clothes lurked underneath. I hope our littles will enjoy playing with these like I did in my childhood days.

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This Christmas gift was for my Mom, a Hitchhiker shawl/wrap, pattern by Martina Behm. I knitted one for myself this summer and enjoyed the pattern so much I wanted to make her one, too! I used Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in the Mansfield Garden Party colorway and chose it because the color variegations match many of the colors she often wears.

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This set of six coasters were adapted from a Knook pattern (isn’t it just easier to learn to knit or crochet, rather than try to master this gadget?) and were given to my Uncle & Aunt. I used one of my favorite yarns, Hobby Lobby I Love This Cotton in Ivory.

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For the past four years I’ve knitted Christmas ornaments, which has become a fun annual tradition. The pattern I originally selected in the fall was beautiful and required some simple color work, but was proving to be overly time intensive and the finished size was larger than I wanted hanging on the tree. So I moved on to Plan B, the free Santa Baby Ornament pattern by Susan B. Anderson. (I think the name of the pattern implies a small Santa ornament vs. the song by Eartha Kitt). It was a coincidence finding another pattern by Miss Anderson, and I enjoyed knitting these very much. Even though I knitted nine of these little hats, they were quick (appx. 30 minutes a piece), fun and, most importantly, low stress.

Also, a brief fall recap of items knitted during the fall amid dropping temperatures and changing leaves:

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Entries into the County Fair: Ember’s Embrace (3rd place ribbon), Big Red Dog (3rd place ribbon), baby booties & hat combo (2nd place ribbon). Total prize earnings = $14.00. Woo hoo! (It should be noted that this money has already been spent to purchase…you guessed it, more yarn.)

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This Tanzie headband was knitted for my student teaching partner, TJ. After working with her all semester I wanted to give her a little thank you gift and figured a hand crafted one would mean more. Since she frequently wore beanies and other fun hats, I thought she would enjoy this ear warmer. I (eagerly) asked her to open it after our last class period and she was so pleased I chose to use blue for the crocheted flower, which turned out to be her favorite color (the easy tutorial I used can be found here). I saw her at an end of the semester luncheon and she was wearing it, which made me happy.

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Two other fun love gifts were sent to my best friend Addie, who lives in Florida. She’s the proud owner of two Siberian huskies, so as a part of her birthday care package, I knit a husky dishcloth, which she loved. And since Florida falls/winters are much warmer, this thin scarf can either be used as a light layer or a fun, bright accessory.

Finally, this fall I also completed my first mystery knit along (KAL). I remember seeing information last fall about the Stephen West KAL and thought it would be a fun challenge. This fall the timing worked out for me to dedicate a month to this year’s “Exploration Station” project, almost exclusively. I enjoyed working with the Ella Rae Lace Merino yarn (still have some left over for small projects – i.e. baby booties), was pleased with my fun color choices, grew as a knitter learning some new stitch techniques, didn’t let minor mistakes get me down for too long, and am proud that I kept up the pace with the weekly clues! The shawl is a sportier look for me, which is fun on days when I want to have a more casual look.

Now in my knitting queue for the New Year:

  • finishing a baby blanket ASAP
  • finishing a pair of socks for the Optometrist
  • hopefully a hat for me?
  • maybe also a cowl for me?