Can you feel the spring?

The end of February is probably the time when everything around here is the freshest and greenest. After a week of rain, I went out to see my little garden completely covered with unruly weeds – but all my plants looking healthy and invigorated all the same.

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The tomatoes are actually starting to grow tiny fruit! I’ve tied the vines to the fence to keep them from sprawling over the ground.

DSC_1098My little papaya is really beginning to shoot up

The mint and hyssop are looking nice and fresh. So do our potted celery and beet greens.

I hope that even those of you who are still snowed in will get to feel the breath of spring soon. As for the folks at the southern hemisphere, who are gearing up for autumn, I’m wishing you a cozy, snug winter with many cups of tea, good books, and crafts.

Crochet Tutorial: The Basics

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Following my crochet posts, I got a request to make a tutorial showing the basics. This is the beauty of crochet, actually – once you have mastered the 3-4 basic stitches, you can make almost anything by combining them.

So, without further ado, here is my demonstration of the most fundamental crochet stitches: basics for beginners. 

The chain stitch is the simplest of all – it’s basically just pulling loop through loop using a hook – but it’s important because every crochet project starts with a chain.

Single stitch: after a chain, this is the first stitch you should learn. It creates a tight fabric and is very commonly used in various projects.

Double stitch is perhaps the stitch I use most often. It creates a looser, stretchier weave and makes for faster work than the single stitch.

Triple stitch: I don’t use the triple stitch that often, but it’s a cool stitch that creates tall, nifty-looking columns. It’s great for height contrasts, ripple effects, and lace.

When you begin practicing the crochet stitches, choose a comfortable-sized hook and yarn that is plain-textured and doesn’t fall apart (in the demonstration above, you can see that the yarn I used has a bit of a tendency to separate into filaments). Something like this yarn would be a good choice.

Activities for kids: structure vs. freeform

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In today’s post, I would like to elaborate a bit on Lisa’s question:

I was wondering how you structure indoor activities. I don’t know if I should expect my children to do quiet or individual activities for longer periods of time, they are 10, 8 and 5 (one girl and two boys). I find they want to be with me or doing things with me all day which I love but I would like them to find settled indoor activities they can do alone. I appreciate any thoughts you may have! 

Like you, I love to sit and do all sorts of interesting and creative stuff with my kids. I can easily lose myself in watercolors, a game of monopoly, a puzzle, or a good book. But how much is enough, and how do I strike the balance between a helicopter mama and the lazy parent who can’t be bothered by anything?

I homeschool and work from home, so the boundaries of work, school and play tend to become kind of blurred. It’s easy to assume that if you’re at home, you must be at leisure, but if I let people (including my own kids) get away with it, I would never be able to get anything done. Therefore, I try to foster independence and individual activities from an early age.

My older girls love to read, draw and paint, which they can do for hours on end. Sticker collections, slime, and modeling clay are popular with the 4-year-old too. Often the older girls will read to or entertain their little brother. Israel also loves construction toys such as Lego or blocks. The kids also do spontaneous dress-up plays together, which is adorable.

I don’t really structure indoor activities beyond making all the equipment – books, art supplies, board games, etc – readily available and keeping them in good order. I just sit back and let things happen. I have taught my children that, although I might be home all day, I’m not always available to play (well, the baby does still have some learning to do on this!). I do not, however, disappear on them – whatever I’m doing, whether it’s in the kitchen or on my laptop, my kids can see me and talk to me if necessary. Hope this helps!

Between the drops

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We’ve had so much rain here lately that I’m seriously considering to go into hibernation mode until it’s all over. I know, I know. It’s unfair to complain about a bit of rain and mud when the country needs water so badly, and when my friends in the northern states and Canada are snowed in, but I do love sunshine with a passion and absolutely need lots of it to feel happy.

In the meantime, we are going on with our indoor diversions of baking, reading and crafts. In the photo above, you can see the cute little throw-on vest I had just completed (the loose ends still need to be tucked in!). It’s made from alpaca wool blend and was a joy to work on. I imagine it would also work great with pure alpaca yarn, such as this lovely yarn from LoveCrochet.

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On a rare sunshiny afternoon, we went for a walk to take some photos of these beauties – almond trees in bloom, the typical local herald of spring.

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And this last one is my favorite – this old stump looked quite dead until new green shoot began to pop up all over it. Now it’s teeming with life. So hopeful!

I hope you are all staying safe and warm and successfully battling cabin fever. Soon enough, it will be time for working in the garden, gathering wild edibles and, perhaps my most dreaded feature of the season, spring cleaning.

Using Up Yarn Scraps

I went to sleep after a lovely sunny day of working in the garden and pleasant outdoor time with my kids, in full expectation of doing some of the same tomorrow – but woke up to sounds of rolling thunder. This means a day of staying cozy inside, reading, many cups of tea and cocoa and, of course, crafts.

Speaking of which, pop over to read my latest Mother Earth News post, full of ideas on using up those little odds and ends of yarn that you surely have in your stash:

“If you are an avid knitter or crocheter like I am, you will inevitably at some point end up with a stash of scrap yarn, left over from various projects, which you cannot bear to throw away. Fear not, however – those little odds and ends can be used in a variety of creative ways which will leave your craft cabinet looking a lot more orderly.”

And, since freeing up space in your yarn stash is the perfect excuse to get new yarn, you might want to check the clearance page on LoveCrochet. All these lovelies just get me drooling.

I’m hooked!

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When the weather is cold, cozy cuddly yarn projects are a wonderful way to keep busy while options for outdoor exercise are limited. I’m now working on a vest made from alpaca wool blend such as this beautiful yarn – I love the warm natural feel of it. I will be sure to share the final product with you when I’m done, and then I have some lovely thin mohair in my yarn stash I can’t wait to work with.

Since I’m really pleased with how I keep my hands busy at times when I would otherwise be fiddling with my phone (and I really mean fiddling – with no good purpose), and since I don’t want to go on a long crocheting break when the weather gets warmer, I’ve also ordered some lighter cotton yarn suitable for warm weather, and have some very cool ideas I’d love to try.

You know what I’d really love to do, though? Learn to spin wool. I do hope I get a chance to do that someday.

Busy as bees

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Lately, I challenged myself: instead of fiddling with my phone whenever I have a spare moment, what if I whip out the crochet hook and work on some little project? The result: surprisingly quickly, I completed this adorable (if I do say so myself) tiny dress for Hadassah. It’s made of yak wool blend similar to this one and is very soft to the touch, cozy and warm.

I didn’t follow an exact pattern, but I can say that I started working from the waist up on the front half, then went back to work from the waist down on the skirt, and in the end stitched front and back halves together on the sides.

Also take a look at this latest little video on my YouTube channel: honeybees busy at work on the mustard flowers in our garden. With a nice sunny spell, we’ve finally been able to do some weeding (not enough) and planting (somewhat haphazardly).