Dreams of Lace Crochet Dress

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I decided to pull out all stops and make a really fancy little dress for Hadassah, but not something so excessively frilly it would get in her way. The result was this lovely, airy summer dress meant to be worn over a short onesie. I really like the color combination of white, black and different hues of purple, though it was originally the result of not having enough white yarn.

Material: thin cotton thread yarn, suitable for making lacy patterns. Crochet hook number 1-1.5.

Top pattern: top to bottom square neckline buttoned raglan.

Skirt design by Valentina Litvinova, with slight modifications.

Yes, it did take a pretty long time to make, but honestly, not as long as I thought it would! I was genuinely concerned Hadassah would need a larger size by the time I completed it, but it worked quicker than I had expected, and I’m really happy and looking forward to seeing her wear it.

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View from the back: a row of vintage buttons.

My favorite time-saving strategies

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With four children and an extremely busy life day to day, time is my most precious commodity. There are only 24 hours in a day, which is never enough. So we have to make choices. There are no right or wrong ones, just those that work for us at this season of our lives.

Here are some tactics I use to prioritize the important things and save time:

1. I rarely take or make phone calls. Whenever it comes to customer service or doctor’s appointments, I try to handle things through apps or websites. I am so introverted that talking to strangers throws me off for a long time after I actually finish the call – I forget what I was doing earlier and have to spend a few minutes collecting my thoughts. I don’t even always take calls from friends or family if I’m having a busy day.

2. I clean what is dirty and leave what is not. Housework is never-ending and I simply have to prioritize. Clothes are usually worn more than once. Towels and bedding are used for as long as they are tolerably clean before being changed. I do three loads, sometimes four, per week with a family of six. I do my best to sweep, mop and dust, but my priority is the “gross factor” things: toilets, showers, bathtubs, sinks, kitchen counters and stovetop.

3. Meals are simple and as healthy as I can make them. Dinner is most often soup, pasta with tomato sauce and grated cheese, a crustless quiche, or a salad and eggs in some form. If at all possible, I prefer to have only one pot, meal or mixing bowl to clean. I don’t usually freeze meals in advance, but I do like to make a big batch and eat the leftovers for next day’s lunch.

4. I make it a priority to get rid of as much clutter as I can or, better yet, never let it cross the threshold of my home. It’s a little easier said than done, because I live with a hoarder who can’t pass a dump without salvaging something that might be useful someday, someway. But yes, decluttering saves a bunch of time because you have less stuff to clean, sort, and organize.

5. I minimize outside commitments that would involve me herding the childremn there and back several times a week. We have one afternoon a week when we go to the library and, along the way, hang out with friends. I try my best to arrange any errands for the same day. My eldest daughter attends piano lessons, which she is able to do independently of me. Otherwise, I refuse to commit to regular extracurricular activities. The way I see it, there’s nothing that can’t wait until my children are old enough to go there and back themselves.

Day to day

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First crop of tomatoes from the garden. Plenty more to come.

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Fresh mulberries from a nearby tree – these are seriously good, and there are so many of them I made jam this week.

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The older girls with newly braided hair.

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Israel, planning to make many wonderful things with these discarded boards you see in the picture.

I hope your summer started off with just the right vibes! Enjoy the season.

Freelancing – pros and cons

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Do you have what it takes to work as a freelancer? And, most importantly, should you do that?

Work-life balance is something many people struggle with immensely. Even before I was married, I knew I didn’t want to be part of an unceasing rat race that would not leave me time to raise my children in a calm, unhurried way.

A simple, quiet life was a priority, and for years I had thrown myself wholly into the sustainability lifestyle – making, growing, bartering, salvaging, fixing rather than buying, raising livestock, and living out in the boonies. It was a rigorous life, but I loved our adventures, which included a boxful of chicks scattered over the living room floor, and goats chewing on the laundry I hung out on the veranda. I learned so many valuable lessons that I still profit from every day.

The thing is, though it is doubtlessly possible to do more on less and stretch every little bit of money, and you definitely should learn all those great skills that will enable you to become more self-sufficient, you still need some money to get along in the modern world. A time comes when you just can’t retrench further. You tighten and tighten the belt until it snaps.

I had come into my marriage (as my husband did) with traditional gender role expectations. We had trusted that my husband’s job would provide for all our needs. A string of unemployment, underemployment, and some very, very unwise financial decisions did away with that illusion. For a long time, my only thought from morning till night, the only prayer on my lips, was “What can I do to bring in some money? God, help me earn money for my family”.

My number one challenge was having shot myself in the foot to begin with. I lived in a remote place with no transportation, no steady phone signal, and no stable Internet access. Basically, it was like I had burned all the bridges and made sure in advance that I would be extremely hard-pressed to earn money if I ever needed it.

I am not bitter. It was a lesson I thoroughly deserved, and I learned it well: always leave room for plan B.

I had started to rally bit by bit, making some money from articles I wrote, publishing my books, and taking on clients for proofreading and editing services. What really enabled me to fuel the whole freelancing thing up, however, was moving here, where I have steady Internet connection and the ability to work with Google Docs.

I was lucky enough to soon find a good client with a steady work stream on Upwork (that was before Upwork started with their greedy policy of charging for connects), and for the past several months, I have been working with them almost exclusively in the position of a copyeditor. I also continue working on my own books.

Although I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work from home at this season of my life, setting my own schedule and choosing my own hours, I still have to deal with some challenges, the biggest of which is a blurred line between work and home.

I don’t have my own office space, and if I did, I wouldn’t be able to just barricade myself there with a houseful of kids. I work in the living room, in the epicenter of all the action and mess that go on here daily. Because I home educate and don’t have help with childcare, I can be interrupted any moment to deal with a sibling fight or a spilled drink.

On the flip side, I sometimes check out the work chat app at odd hours and places, because most of the people I’m in daily contact with are in very different time zones.

I think that every person who thinks of setting themselves up as a freelancer should remember the following:

– Work from home is still work. It’s not a free pass, and you need major self-discipline to get anything done.

– Freelancing, at least initially, won’t make you rich. The main benefit here is flexibility. Don’t despise humble beginnings and be prepared to work your way up.

– Learn to set limits. Be realistic as to how much you can do in a certain period of time, and know how to deal with clients who want the job done by yesterday.

– Take care of yourself. Freelancing with small children in the house may often mean working early in the morning and late into the night when everyone is asleep, skipping meals and showers, and dodging calls from friends. Burnout is a real thing, and there’s only so much one can handle.

Despite any challenge I might face, I am tremendously grateful for the technology that brings our world closer together and enables people to work remotely with more ease and convenience than ever before.

Crochet flower baby mobile

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Latest crochet creation: a flower mobile, to be given to a friend who has just had a baby.

It was very quick and fun to make and the perfect project to utilize all those scraps of yarn we all have lying around. Also a great hot weather baby gift, when crocheted hats, booties and afghans might be out of season.

I worked with acrylic yarn of varying weight, and crochet hook number 3 or 3.5, depending on size of yarn. I also added a string of rather heavy beads in the cross-section, which adds more variety and stabilizes the mobile by shifting the gravity center to the middle.

I hope I will inspire at least one fellow crocheter to make this cute, fun project.

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Little gifts

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.