Family Matters

True Confessions: A Different Kind of Making

I've been creating some sort of "family calendar" every year since 1992. It started when Erin was in preschool. Her teacher had the kids each make a monthly calendar featuring special kid-art (I remember lots of handprints. . . ). I ended up adding a photo of the kids to each month - and I gave the calendar to my parents for Christmas.

Big hit!

So the next year, I made them another calendar. This was back in the days before digital cameras, so I created monthly scrapbook layouts using printed photos and kid-art and pretty paper. It was pretty quick and easy, and again . . . 

Big hit!

And so it continued. Every year I made a calendar for my parents. "Technology" improved each year. Paper companies started creating pre-made calendars you could purchase, with pop-in spots for you to just add your own photos. (Still nothing digital, of course.) Voilà! Instant and easy gift that my parents loved! I just saved a few photos each year for the calendar and made quick work of the whole thing.

And then . . . came the digital camera.
And Shutterfly.

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Suddenly, there was a big upgrade in the photo calendar department! With a commenserate upgrade in the time it took to put one together each year. Not just "popping in a photo" anymore. Oh, no! All of a sudden it was a multi-step, time intensive project: culling through the 100s (maybe 1000s) of digital photos I so casually snapped all year long, uploading those photos to Shutterfly, making sure each family member was (kinda) represented equally - and that the photos (kinda) fit the month.

But, boy! Did those printed Shutterfly calendars look great! My parents LOVED them. And because it was all digital, you could get price breaks when you ordered more - so I started ordering one for myself, too.

And Shutterfly calendar technology just kept marching on! Soon you could personalize the dang things with birthdays and holidays -- and add MORE pictures to the little date squares. There were themes and formatting upgrades. It just kept getting more and more "professional" looking -- and . . . more and more time-intensive to actually DO.

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But . . . these calendars were my parents' most cherished gift every year. My mom used to say, wistfully, "I wish your sister would make me one, too." Now my sister has many, many talents and gifts. Photography is not her thing, and she's had no desire to create digital calendars. This is not a shortcoming in any way. She just . . . didn't want to go down the create-photo-calendar-for-our-parents path. So I expanded my calendar project to encompass ALL OF US. And our pets, too!

For years, it became my most dreaded holiday task. It became . . .  The Daunting Family Calendar. It took hours and hours every year. (And it made me really grumpy and not much fun to be around while I was doing it.) Gathering photos. Sorting photos. Uploading photos. Creating the calendar pages. So much work! But so worth it every year. My parents loved the calendars, my sister loved the calendar. I loved having it FINISHED. 

Then the kids went to college. They wanted their own copies of the Family Calendar. (Because how else would they know when everybody's birthdays were???) So I was now creating this monster calendar incorporating photos of/from 9 people and a growing number of dogs and cats! 

Big task. Many hours of work. But . . . the calendars turned out beautifully and, really, everybody loved them! So. I continued on. (It was only once a year anyway.)

Then, in 2016, my Mom died. The kids were all grown and scattered to the winds. My dad was downsizing and moving to a small apartment. I was overwhelmed with many things. I decided to . . . let the calendar go. We'd had a great run with it, but I just didn't have the heart for it. (How could I make a Family Calendar without my MOM in it???) Everyone understood. So 2017 became the Year Without a Family Calendar.

And you know what? We all missed it.

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So I started making them again for 2018. But I tried to make it more manageable for myself. Fewer photos. Fewer "special dates" on the calendar pages. I stopped including my sister's family (she was okay with it; she had grown weary of my constant nagging for photos she didn't like taking in the first place anyway). It's still a giant task. But. . . still a favorite gift. 

And a huge silver lining:  I have the most wonderful stack of Family Calendars going back to 2004 now (the first year I created a digital calendar).

I am right now, this week, putting the finishing touches on this year's Family Calendar. (I'm late this year. I lost track of the time.) Like always, I'll be so glad and relieved when it's done! But you know what else? I've enjoyed the process this year! Having less on my calendar and to-do list helps. But it's also been such a treat to scroll through my photos and see that . . . we've really made the best of a really crappy year! All of us. Yeah. The photos are different this year . . . we've got masks in some of them, "pandemic hair" in most of them, we're working from home and not-going-anywhere, and - most notably - we're not together. But we're . . . there. And we're smiling. And we look even . . . happy.

It's good perspective for me right now.
A nice reality check.
I'm really GLAD I'm creating the Family Calendar this year!
(But I'll still be really glad to get it off my list today. . . )

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(The photos in this post are of the 2020 version of the Family Calendar, now hanging in my mudroom.)


Can't Stop Won't Stop

Around here, in my little corner of the world, it's All-Hat-Knitting-All-The-Time these days. (Because . . . apparently, for me, nothing says "I love you" quite like a hand knit hat for the holidays.) I am really cranking out the hats right now. But since they are gifts for people who for the most part do not even glance at my blog, but every once in a while surprise me by acknowledging that they do occasionally take a peek, I am hesitant to ruin my surprise by revealing too much. (As if they'd be surprised by receiving Yet Another Hat for Christmas.)

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Anyway.

I thought it might be fun to throw some hints out there with a little guessing game. Let's play . . .  Match-the-Hat-With-the-Recipient!

The Contenders:
(and these are Ravelry links, by the way; I'm sorry, but to play you'll have to look them up yourselves; I felt like it would be too much of a hint to include a photo of the various hats . . . just in case, y'know . . . someone happened to be peeking in today).

First up, we've got Shear . . . a very interesting graphic design by Emily Greene. This is a great unisex hat that knits up quite quickly in DK yarn.

Next, we've got Gault . . . a cool textured design by Jared Flood. This is another unisex hat that uses DK yarn. Fun to knit, for sure.

And we've got Windschief . . . a hat with interesting lines by Stephen West. Yep, another unisex hat.  This one knits up really fast in worsted weight yarn.

Last, we've got Shiftalong . . . Andrea Mowry's fun hat based on her other "Shifty" designs (Night Shift, Shifty, etc.). This one isn't quite so unisex, but there's no reason it couldn't be.

The Recipients:
(all wearing previous hand knit hats, naturally. . . )

My daughter Erin and her husband Keith.

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My son Brian and his wife Lauren.

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(These photos are from our family curling outing last Christmas.) (Such carefree fun. Sigh.)

So.

Which hat for which recipient?

Take a guess!

(And if anyone actually guesses all four correctly, I'll think of some sort of prize!)

 

 


Allow Me To Introduce

. . . my son, the Green Hat Guy!

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My son, Brian, has launched a business - Green Hat Woodworking - and I thought you all might be interested. Especially with the holidays coming up and all. . . 

Brian crafts handmade household items that are functional and beautiful . . . things like coaster sets, meat mallets, and fly fishing boxes. Also . . . 

Gorgeous trays (so great for keeping your jewelry - or little knitting tools - organized and close at hand).

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Mancala boards (game night never looked so good).

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Cutting boards and cheese boards (they look too pretty to use, but trust me . . . they work hard in the kitchen).

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Plant stands (I still haven't managed to get my hands on one of these - they sell out quickly).

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He does custom furniture and makes custom inlaid signs for businesses, too. He's been on the art fair/market circuit a bit this fall, and has recently set up an Etsy shop in addition to his website. It's always tough to get started in something like this -- but Brian is talented and his products are popular. He's off to a good start -- but always looking for new customers.

Check out his website
Follow @green.hat.guy on Instagram.
Visit his new Etsy shop.
See what catches your eye!
And get a head start on your holiday shopping.

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AND . . . (drum roll) . . . BONUS!
Brian has given me a beautiful walnut cheese board to give away to one lucky Stepping Away From the Edge commenter!

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(Size = 4 1/2" x 12")

Wouldn't this look great for your Friday night snacks???

All you need to do . . . is check out Brian's website or Etsy shop, and let me know in the comments what your favorite Green Hat product is. I'll choose a random winner next Monday!

 

 

 

 


Warming a (Knitting) Mom's Heart

I ended up knitting a few quick gifts for Christmas for my kids and my dad -- hats and slippers.  (You can find the details on Ravelry here, here, here, and here . . . should you be so inclined.)  My kids always claim to like the things I knit them, but they all live (or lived, because Brian is now close by but didn't used to be) far away, so . . . y'know . . . I'd never know if they ACTUALLY used them, or if they were just humoring me.

So.

Imagine my delight when we were all together this year for the holidays . . . and I saw my hand knit offerings (both from this Christmas and years past) IN USE IN THE WILD!

We had a family curling outing on Christmas Day, for example . . . and out came the hats!

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Here's Erin and Keith in hats-by-Mom.  (Keith is sporting his brand-new Christmas Basic Chic Ribbed Beanie, and Erin is wearing her favorite Barley . . . knit back in 2014!)

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And look!  Here's Brian and Lauren in MORE hats-by-Mom!  (Brian has on his Christmas St. James beanie, and Lauren is wearing the Water hat I made for her last year.)

And they wore these hats ALL the time, totally unprompted -- and not just while curling!  (And I'm pretty sure it wasn't JUST because they were humoring me.)

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It just warms my heart!

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That's my new grand-puppy in that last photo with Lauren.  Her name is Ferda. (Brian and Lauren are Letterkenny fans. If you watch the show, you'll get the name.)  And let me tell you . . . she is FULL of spunk and energy!  (But not a carpet-eater.)  (So far.)

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And . . . just for fun:

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Making Room

Over the weekend, I started cleaning up/clearing out my "sewing room" . . . which is technically not a room, but a designated corner in our basement (albeit a room-sized corner.)  Technically, it's not a "sewing room" either, because it houses much more than just my sewing stuff (like . . . all my yarn and stitching stuff is in there, too.)  

Anyway.  I'm lucky to have chosen this particular corner for my "sewing room" . . . because it has a built-in storage space along one wall with a small closet, several drawers, and a cupboard.  I should be able to keep my stuff neat-and-tidy with all that built-in storage space, non?  Ha!  Of course not.  Because that storage space is storing stuff that is (mostly) not sewing or knitting or stitching related.

And therein lies the problem.  In order to properly clean up/clear out my "sewing room," I first need to tackle that built-in storage space with a little Kon-Mari action.  

And therein lies the other problem.  Most of the stuff in the closet . . . is sentimental stuff.  The flotsam and jetsam of my kids' childhoods.  Old school papers and mementoes and art projects.  Stuff I've been dreading sorting through for years and years now (and especially since I took an initial pass through much of that stuff in preparation for their high school graduations; I'd seen the enemy . . . ).

Last Saturday afternoon, though, in the midst of a snowstorm, I plunged in!  It turned out to be quite a nice trip down memory lane, actually.  I culled the best and most representative samples of my kids' school papers and artwork and programs and awards to curate a little pile of memories for each of them -- and I recycled the rest.  Along the way, I photographed several things to share with them immediately, and together we decided on some items that were on-the-bubble.  It ended up being . . . not so bad.  And - BONUS - I have freed up a huge amount of storage space in that closet area.

Want to see a few things I found in the closet?  (3 things maybe . . . since it's Thursday?)

1 - I found lots of wonderful school papers and drawings, mostly from the elementary years.  Eventually I came to understand the folly of my ways in keeping all the stuff, and by middle school and high school, I was much more particular about what I saved.  But those early papers brought back so many wonderful memories -- and the kids loved seeing how they wrote and drew as young children.  One that brought laughs to all 3 of us is this gem from Brian.  He made an alphabet Mother's Day book for me in second grade.  Here is his entry for the letter R:

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Yep.  I am the proud mother of a kid that doesn't reek.  (And that alphabet book made it into Brian's pile of papers to save.)

2 - I had several boxes filled with art projects from the elementary years.  Some were from school; some (especially from Erin) were projects they made at home.  (I will just say, in retrospect, it is amazing how many things kids can make from construction paper, cotton balls, glue, and glitter.)  Here is a wooden nutcracker that Erin made with my Dad in his workshop one winter:

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Sadly, this one didn't make the cut!  Erin and I decided it was time for this guy to go.  (Along with a pottery "tray" she made that weighed about 30 pounds, and a matching "mug" with a handle heavy enough to deliver an upper body workout with every lift.)

3 - I also had stashed and saved boxes of memorabilia from various special events over my kids' school years.  Concert programs, academic awards, newspaper clippings, announcements, party invitations -- the kind of stuff that you think you're going to want to save forever, but really . . . not so much.  I kept the best and most meaningful of the bunch and recycled the rest.  I also found about 20 copies of the newspaper with this article:

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Twenty years ago, Erin (along with her special "Fluffy French Toast" recipe) was featured in the monthly Grand Rapids Press Cooking with Kids segment.  It was a Big Deal . . . and I had (almost) forgotten about it.  I saved a copy for Erin, and the rest went in recycling.  (20 years . . . and Tom is still motified by the highlight of his quote.  "Did I really say that?" he asked when he saw it.  Yep.  He did.)

I'm glad I finally just got in there are tackled those boxes of kid-stuff.  It was quicker, easier, and way more fun than I expected -- and now I have all that room in my closet.

How about you?  Have you sorted through the sentimental memorabilia in your closets?  Or are you better at culling through that stuff from the get-go?

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Be sure to hop on over to Carole's today for more Three on Thursday fun.

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And . . . if you are interested in Erin's recipe for French toast, let me know.  I saved that, too.



  


Catching Up . . . In Three Photos

We had a perfect California get-away last week.  It was ideal, really -- a quick trip with only one objective:  spend time with Erin and Keith.  No side trips.  No schedule.  No expectations.  We loved it!

Erin gave us a personal, guided tour of the LinkedIn campus when we arrived.  I have visited LinkedIn before (back when Erin was an intern), but Tom hadn't been there yet.  It's very cool to see where your kid works . . . and it's super interesting to see one of these tech companies from the inside!

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We had a lot of fun just hanging out . . . sampling California beer (so many great ones to choose from!) and eating what turned out to be a lot of amazing gourmet hamburgers.  Erin and Keith introduced us to Mochi ice cream.  (I'll just say . . . some flavors are better than others, but the texture takes some getting used to.)  And we also visited Psycho Donuts -- Silicon Valley's "gourmet donut asylum."  Great fun.

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We played a lot of games.  Erin and Keith love games and puzzles of all kinds -- everything from sophisticated video games to Uno around the dinner table -- and we were happy to play along with them.  They introduced us to a couple of new board games, we went mini golfing.  We even did an escape room, which was WAY fun.  (Basically, it was like a real-life video game where walls move and things happen when you solve the puzzles.  Very exciting!  Highly recommended for family fun.)

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We had a fabulous time.  It was so nice to just relax for a few days with Erin and Keith.  I'm so happy that Erin has a job she loves, and has settled so well into her new life with Keith in California.  
(It's just . . . so far away.  Y'know?)  
(But a great place to visit.  So there is that.)

And here's a bonus photo (because this one just kind of sums up the whole trip) . . .

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Head over to Carole's to read more Three on Thursday posts today!

 

 


Tulip Tales

7/30

Last spring, I created a Mom-garden in memory of my mom, and I planted it full of her favorite summer flowers on Mother's Day.  (You can read about it here.)  The little garden grew and flourished , bringing me smiles and happy memories all summer long.

I've cleared the garden out for the season now, though.  It's resting again until spring.

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Earlier this fall, I ordered spring bulbs from White Flower Farm, and I've been . . . waiting . . . to plant them.  The weather hasn't really been cooperating when it comes to bulb-planting this fall.  Although we've had cool, wet weather, we haven't had a real frost yet -- let alone a freeze.  So it's still a bit early to plant bulbs (but, surely, getting close).

Included in that bulb order?  Mixed tulip bulbs -- for my Mom-garden.  I don't usually plant tulips in my own garden.  I love tulips -- but they tend to be a bit more hit-and-miss than most spring bulbs.  The squirrels really love them, they don't naturalize well, and they perform best if you dig them up and replace them each season.  Which is really too much work for me. . . So I tend to enjoy tulips in other people's gardens!  

But.

My mom LOVED tulips!  

Late yesterday afternoon, I happened to glance out my kitchen window at the now-empty Mom-garden.  It was bathed in sunlight.  (In fact, it was the only spot in my garden still getting any of the quickly setting sunlight.)

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The garden beckoned!

I grabbed my gardening stuff and headed out to plant my 30 tulip bulbs.

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And while I was digging and planting and filling, I thought about my mom and her tulips.  I remembered . . . 

How she used to cut stems of spring tulips for me when I was a little girl, and then carefully wrap them in a wet napkin and a baggie so I could carry them to school to give my teacher.

How she planted tulips in her own gardens each fall -- with a variety of bloom times so there would be maximum tulip bloom throughout the spring.

How a couple of years ago, the two of us worked together on a very miserable-cold afternoon to plant bulbs for one of her neighbors who was struggling with a health issue and unable to plant her own bulbs.  My mom wanted everyone to enjoy the magic of colorful tulips after a bleak winter.

How much she loved volunteering in the Tulip Time Festival Information booth each May in Holland -- tiptoeing through the tulips in her own wooden shoes!*

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My memories made for a wonderful bulb-planting afternoon.  It was almost like . . . gardening with my mom again.

(On a roll, I decided she would probably like some grape hyacinths, too.)

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When I was finished planting, I packed up my stuff and turned to head back to my garage -- and was awestruck by the sun shining over my back gate -- looking down on me with warmth and light.

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I'm thinking those tulips are going to be especially gorgeous next spring.  Y'know?

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* We donated my mom's Tulip Time costume to the folks who run the Information Booth, so it will continue to greet visitors to Holland's Tulip Time Festival each spring.