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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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?

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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.

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The duck pond.

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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.

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Fold in half:

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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?

Sunny days

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It hardly seems fair that the weather should be so enticing when all we seem to do lately is dig into kitchen drawers, refrigerators and closet shelves, and clean, clean, clean.

My husband suggested that we all take a break and make a little day trip to the Kinneret. We now live relatively close to this largest lake of Israel.

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With the latest rains, the Kinneret has reached far beyond its usual borders, almost covering these reeds that grew along what used to be the bank.

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Though the water was too chilly to our liking to dip in, Israel enjoyed a refreshing splash. I think he looks a little like Tarzan in this photo!

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Hadassah, in the meantime, was occupied by some interesting-looking pebbles.

It was such a lovely afternoon that I wish I could have taken about a thousand more pictures to preserve its beauty, but I know it would still not have been enough.

In the meantime, we’re working extra hard in preparation for the Pesach holiday, which takes place next week, and also, in between, trying to subdue the enormous jungle of weeds that sprang up in our garden.

This is the first crop of my husband’s container potatoes – digging for them was a real treasure hunt for the kids:

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Perfect quick playdough

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I will readily admit that, though slime seems to be all the rage now, I find plain old playdough much more appealing. Its texture is more gratifying, in my opinion, and you can do much more with it than just stretch and squish.

This playdough recipe popped up on my Pinterest feed and I knew I just had to try it as it was so simple and quick.

I was not disappointed – the playdough came out delightfully squishy, soft and pliable. Even the older kids (and their mom!) had a blast rolling, shaping and punching it.

The recipe is really the simplest you’ll ever find:

1 part hair conditioner (you had better use the cheapest kind)

2 parts corn or potato starch

Optional: a few drops of food coloring.

In a bowl, mix the starch and hair conditioner until you get a nice soft lump of playdough. Israel loved the squishing and mixing with his hands.

Add a little more cornstarch or conditioner as needed. Knead in the food coloring. That’s it! 

There’s always a mess factor when doing a playdough activity, but in this case it’s really minor. Any stray bits of playdough will dry out and can be easily swept or vacuumed. It doesn’t stick and it smells great!

I hope you enjoy this simple and creative activity with the children in your life.