Little gifts

DSC_0020

I’m not a big fan of prickly pears, but I do love the large, bright flowers. A tiny short-lived miracle that one just has to enjoy while it lasts.

DSC_0026

Another piece of beauty from one of our afternoon walks: this little ladybug on a flower. My children always enjoy letting these little guys crawl over their hands and fingers until they inevitably fly away.

DSC_0027

A pile of fresh, juicy lemons from the very generous tree of our lovely neighbor, Jocelyn. Just think of all the jugs of refreshing lemonade we can make from these.

We’ve had a terrible heat wave yesterday and today and I’m extremely thankful for the blessing of air conditioning, because otherwise I literally don’t know how we would be able to breathe. The outdoors were such a furnace that I felt my eyes start to water from the heat as soon as I walked out to water my poor plants. I hope you’re enjoying pleasanter weather, wherever you are.

A year without you

Image result for lord of the rings grey havens

About a year ago, through many tears, I wrote this post of farewell to my dear friend, Julie Ryan, who had unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind a husband, children, grandchildren, and countless people whose lives she touched with love and tenderness.

I can hardly believe a whole year has already passed by. Perhaps it seemed to just whizz by because it was such an eventful one, with us welcoming a new baby into the family at the end of March, moving at the end of last summer, and two books of mine coming out sometime in between. One of them, The Hourglass, I dedicated to Julie, as she was the one who first made me stop and realize the precious elusiveness of time – and how much we should always try to make the most of it.

I still think about Julie every day. I hadn’t been lucky enough to ever meet her in person, but I know that someday, on the other side of the rainbow, we are going to get together and have that long, long cozy chat I wish we could have had in this life – on the front porch, swing creaking, ice clinking in glasses of lemonade.

Julie was one of those people who, though they are no more in this world, have spread so much of their life and light that their legacy endures forever, multiplying through generations and circles of people like ripples on water.

Rest in peace, dear friend. I will see you in every cozy kitchen, sunny garden, and overflowing bookcase. I will think of you when I make the choice to slow down, spending an hour making playdough with my children rather than answering emails. I wish the world had had the chance to have you longer, but you had lived well and made the most of every day, month and year.

Enjoying the spring

We’ve had delightful weather here recently, which means lots and lots of time spent out of doors, lounging under trees, visiting all our favorite playgrounds, and just enjoying the pleasant spell before the heat that will inevitably come.

DSC_0007

The kittens, now three weeks old, are growing rapidly and becoming playful. Let me just tell you, nobody needs screen time when they can have kitty time! My kids can play with these snuggly fur balls all day long.

DSC_0008

In between, I’m working on a rather ambitious crochet project for Hadassah, who has become a walker and now merits a lot more cute little dresses.

Lately, I have found no more perfect way to unwind than watching videos by this amazing lady living in rural paradise in China. It seems she knows how to make anything with her own two hands and some primitive hand-operated tools. It is both inspiring and humbling. I know that if you watch, you will become enchanted as much as I am.

Happenings here

Now that the holidays are over, we are gradually getting settled back into a more peaceful routine, which feels great. Today I made my first after-Pesach pizza, and we enjoyed it so much!

DSC_1260

The kittens are two weeks old, and have opened their eyes a couple of days ago. Luckily our cat is very laid back and doesn’t mind us playing with them. Guess what my kids would be doing all day long if only I let them?

DSC_1259

We have recently discovered a beautiful local park and had a blast there one afternoon. Doesn’t this little munchkin look like she’s enjoying herself?

DSC_1255

There was this round thatched hut that really gave the feeling of us all being on a trip to Africa. It fascinated my kids, but to their great lament, it was locked.

DSC_1258

The duck pond.

DSC_1257

Some goats with their babies and one friendly alpaca. No, they don’t always keep them in that little pen – they just closed it off while someone was cleaning the yard.

Odds And Ends Crochet Basket

DSC_1253

The existence of such things as crochet baskets is something relatively new to me. I have always admired handmade baskets and was talking to a friend about the possibility of her teaching me. “Oh, there are so many possibilities,” she gushed. “Not just wickerwork, but you can also weave straw baskets… Or even crochet them!”

Crochet? You betcha. This is me, the gal who will crochet anything.

So I started looking into this. And I had this skein of super stiff, coarse yarn sitting in my stash that was just perfect for making a little basket to hold all my yarn odds and ends from different projects.

I ended up with a very satisfying one-hour session, at the end of which I had my basket – a perfect project even for beginners.

Making a crochet basket is not much different from making a hat, crocheting round and round. You’ll use single crochet all around for the tightest weave you can get.

The secret is almost all in the material. You’ll want to choose the chunkiest, sturdiest, thickest yarn you have – think something that’s too coarse to wear.

Then choose the smallest crochet hook you can use to work with the yarn successfully. That’s right, the smallest – it will create a tighter weave. And as you work, pull your stitches tighter than you normally would. This is no loose fluffy hat you’re making, but something that’s supposed to stand on its own, not flop like a jellyfish. I normally hold my hook like I would a pencil, but with this basket, I actually grabbed the hook in my fist and pulled as tight as I could.

The steps to making a round basket are very simple:

First, crochet a flat circle, as you would make a coaster. That’s your basket bottom. Add enough stitches so the circle doesn’t curl like a bowl, but not too many, or it will ruffle like a potato crisp.

Next, slip stitch all around your circle.

Start making the basket wall by stitching into the top of the round before the slip stitch. It will make your basket sturdier and more stable. Sounds confusing? Read more detailed instructions here.

Make the basket as tall as you like. Optional: decorate the top with a row of contrasting color and /or texture. Weave in loose ends. Enjoy your new storage basket!

Enjoying some rest

DSC_1226

The house has been scrubbed, my hands were sore and raw, and the kitchen was sparkling clean on the night before erev Pesach when we overhauled everything to make matzo from scratch (a feat I could personally have dispensed with, but which my husband insisted on trying at least once). Three exhausting hours later, I went to bed to wake up to a busy day of cooking for the seder.

DSC_1233However, as Pesach just can’t come without some surprise to brighten up my life, I discovered that the cat has snuck into the house and had her kittens. In my kids’ bunk bed. On top of the clean sheets. I was desperately exhausted and extra laundry was about the last thing I needed, but who can be angry with such cuteness?

DSC_1220

Now that I have gotten back into the swing of crocheting, the days of chol hamoed (the Pesach week) feel a little empty with the prohibition of crafts and drawing. I compensate myself by braiding my daughters’ hair.

The weather is lovely, and I intend to be very, very lazy for the next few days.

Little Princess Angel Wings Pinafore

DSC_1222

Between cleaning and scrubbing, sorting and laundry, I had managed to sneak in some quiet hours with my children at the playground and the library, and made this cute little pinafore dress.

I knew I just had to make it when a similar dress popped up in my Pinterest feed – it was so straightforward I practically saw the pattern just by looking at it. With some variations, the Angel Wings pinafores are all very much alike. With a bit of crochet know-how, you can create endless different models of this lovely dress for the little girls in your life.

Step 1: Create circle. Crochet round and round, enlarging it until, folded in half, the circle is wide enough for the bodice and arm openings.

DSC_1156

Fold in half:

dsc_1158.jpg

Bind off the arm openings on both sides. The space between the armholes is the width of the bodice – now would be a good time to get your little one to try on the dress to make sure it is wide enough. If it isn’t, don’t worry – just unbind the armholes and add a few more rows to the circle, making it as large as necessary.

Once you have your desired width and you’ve bound off the armholes, crochet round and round the bodice, working down to the desired length of the dress. You can add more stitches to make the skirt puffy and ruffled. I used the adorable shell stitch.

I worked with crochet hook number 2.5 and a delightful soft and smooth bamboo cotton yarn. It’s wonderfully cool and breathy and will be just the thing for hot weather.

I’m so glad I was able to finish this before Pesach, and just in time for Hadassah’s first birthday – can you believe that it has already been a year?