Winter time

For me, winter is about reflection on the past year, letter writing, curling up with a good book and some hot chocolate, and projects. Let’s start with the last first and move backward from there. (Trying to make up for my lack of posts here with a long one with lots of photos, folks!)

I taught myself to crochet in October and have been pretty much a crochet fiend since then. I made almost all of the Christmas presents I gave this year, and while that did add to my stress load a bit as the holiday approached (pretty much spent all free time crocheting), I’m glad I did it. Homemade gifts are far more appreciated than store-bought ones. Of course I forgot to take pictures of all the different lovelies I created because I was more concerned with getting them done than snapping photos. Wish I’d been more diligent about my picture taking but well, next time. I made crochet snowflakes (both with crochet thread, which is quite time-consuming, and with worsted weight yarn) for my grandmothers, ear warmers for my female cousins and sister (they all matched, but were different colors: blue, orange, 2 purple, pink), and cowls/scarves for my mom (wave stitch in a delightful autumn red), a friend (double crochet fans), another friend and my step-mom (broomstick lace in china blue). Here are photos of a couple of them:

Crochet thread snowflake

I have a whole new appreciation for these crochet thread snowflakes. They take forever! I think each of the two I made took nearly three hours.

Crochet yarn star

These yarn snowflakes on the other hand I can whip up in about 15 minutes.

Scarf for Elise

Broomstick lace cowl

Matching headbands for cousinsThese are my two of my cousins and my sister (in the middle) with their matching ear warmers. Here’s where I found the pattern.

Currently I am working on a hat for a friend who is expecting a daughter in February, two sweaters for my son (one knitted, one crocheted), and finishing a star garland that is holiday festive. I plan to have the latter finished by tonight or tomorrow afternoon before the New Year’s Eve party my husband and I are throwing. We’re excited for the party and for the fact that we’re going to celebrate the new year at about 7 p.m. so that all of our friends (the majority of whom have babies/kiddos) can go home and go to bed. When you’ve got a little boy who wakes up between 5 and 6 a.m. every day, watching the ball drop at midnight (oh and we don’t even have a TV to do that, whoops) is pretty unimportant compared to 8 hours of sleep.

I love these little projects. I’m a stay-at-home and craft all day sort of person, but I only allow myself to do that sort of thing in the winter months because it’s just too nice where I live in the summer to stay inside and craft. Summer is for gardening and hiking.

I’ll post more about my star garland soon. I’m going to post something of a tutorial for it. I found the tutorial elsewhere, but it’s in Australian crochet terms, which are a bit different than American, and I’ve streamlined/made less confusing some of the steps. I post a link to the original, of course, but I’ll update the tutorial. It’s a quick and easy garland that can really add some festive this time of year.

Stars garland beginnings

So on to reading and hot chocolate. Where we live, it snows a lot during the winter (and is currently), so we spend most of our time inside (though we love to ski, snowmobile, and snowshoe too!). And since it’s dark so much here in the northern U.S. (sun sets by about 5 p.m. and doesn’t come back up ’til 8 a.m. or so) in the winter, there isn’t much to do in the evening hours but craft and read. Here’s a photo from our living room (oh right, it’s been so long since I posted I forgot to tell you all we moved to town!)

Snowy view

My reading has changed a lot since my son was born. Used to be that I could dash through two or so novels a week. Now if I finish a novel in a month, I’ve clearly had a lot of time to read! I’m re-reading Little Women right now, which is one of my favorite books (and movie! – the one with Winona Ryder) for sentimental reasons. I love that my copy of the book has an inscription from my aunt, who gave me the book a decade ago.

Little Women inscription

The inscription reads: “Christmas 2002, To our dear Kelley, It has been such a pleasure and delight to watch you grow up into such a fine young woman. We hope you will enjoy these books just as I did as a young girl and pass them onto your own one day. We wish you all the best, Kelley, and love you very much. Auntlee, Uncle Chris, Kylee & Hali.

I have ever so many other books on my reading list, and am supremely grateful for the Amazon gift card I received for Christmas for buying books! I try to use the local library as much as possible, but with my reading time so brief every day I often have to return the books I’ve checked out before I’ve finished them (or sometimes even cracked the cover). And I also try to patronize our local book stores (we don’t have a box chain bookstore here anymore… which is so completely awesome) too, but you can’t argue with gift cards! I need to be better about updating my “What I’m Reading” tab on this blog… but I don’t get much reading in these days so that’s why it doesn’t change much! I also have subscriptions to the New Yorker magazine and High Country News magazine, so I try to get those read too.

Rounding the corner to writing letters: I love to write letters (the snail mail variety) and trade frequent letters with a friend who lives in the mountains in Colorado. We’ve been writing each other letters since college. I have a shoebox stuffed full of letters from her and need to catalogue them in a binder one of these days. I also try to write semi-frequent letters to my grandmother, and to several other friends who I know appreciate that sort of thing. I just picked up a new pen for my letter writing and can’t wait to bust it out (yes I have to have a specific pen for letter writing or it’s just not as enjoyable). I also have scads of thank-you notes to write for Christmas presents. I was raised that one MUST write thank-you notes for Christmas and birthday presents and while I loathed writing thank-you notes for years, now I’m appreciative of the fact my mother made me write them. It’s a little gesture that means a lot. Just like a letter.

Finally, winter is a time of reflection. It’s for thinking about the year gone by (and holy moly was this an epic year), and thinking of the year to come. It’s for sitting in living rooms watching the snow fall. It’s for visiting friends and talking about what they’re reflecting upon to. Few things are closer to heaven for me than sitting with good friends engaged in good conversation in front of a fireplace or wood stove while the snow falls without. Seriously blissful.

I have two New Year’s resolutions this year. And I’m not a resolutions sort of person, but this year it just feels right.

1. Do yoga 2-3 times a week. There’s a yoga studio/wellness center in my town that has yoga classes three times a week for $7 a class. I can’t wait to start on Wednesday. For me, yoga is good, low-impact exercise. And I need flexibility and centeredness back in my life.

2. Write. Every. Day. EVERY DAY. I have three novels in the works (one fiction, one historical fiction, one gothic children’s fiction) and they’re never going to get done if I don’t work on them diligently. So my goal is 500 words (one page in Word) every day. I’ve already started this resolution and today is day three of success.

So there, I did it. Snuck a post in this December. Whew. It was getting down to the wire there, folks.

Happy New Year! I have a feeling 2013 is going to be pretty rad.

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Dream big

Sometimes you just have to change course.

Though in the case of my life, “sometimes” apparently means often.

Semantics.

Shortly after my son was born my husband and I (who were both in school AGAIN trying to get degrees in subjects that can actually get us jobs — random tangent: I was reading in my New Yorker magazine an article about Stanford and in the article a number of humanities professors were lamenting the fact that most students flock to the fields of engineering and business because they’re more concerned about making money than learning for learning’s sake. I have an English degree. My husband has a history degree. We both greatly enjoyed these subjects and we are both people who enjoy learning for learning’s sake. But we also enjoy being able to feed ourselves. If our society wants students to learn for learning’s sake, then it’s time to make it possible for history and English majors to get jobs that don’t involve the words, “Would you like fries with that?”) came to the conclusion that we needed to be done with school, degrees achieved or no, and have a steady income to provide for our child. We also decided that those jobs would need to be something we truly enjoy so we aren’t jumping from job to job, location to location as we had been for years. And if we couldn’t find jobs, what was stopping us from making them? So we sat down with a notebook and a pen and started dreaming. What did we dream about? A brewery and a farm.

Then we decided to make those dreams a reality.

So for months now, Shawn and I have been deep in planning to establish a brewery. We’ve got an entire shelf on the bookshelf full of brewing books and books about running a small business. Let me tell you, friends, who knew yeast could be so fascinating! We drafted a business plan, drew up a cash flow statement, got scads of quotes for everything from fermenters to hardwood floors, and even scaled back the dream in order to make it a reality. And we’re really lucky, too, that my father is acting as our patron to help us get started.

But those months of hard work (there is a reason few people start their own businesses… the paperwork alone is enough to scare anyone off) have paid off and we’re inching closer to achieving this thing we dared to imagine. We moved a few weeks ago to be closer to where we’re planning to open the brewery and to return to an area we love.

But why did we decide to start a brewery? Well, we both love beer, and isn’t that why breweries are started? Of course, there’s a whole lot more involved in running a brewery than drinking beer, but at the heart of it is helping people have a good time in each other’s company, and we love that we can facilitate that happiness. We also decided on a brewery because it’s something we’re good at, making beer. We just bottled a sweet stout that we working on perfecting and dang, it’s good. We also decided to start a brewery because Montana has a strong brewery culture and the area where we are now living has a lot of people who identify with that culture.

But what about the farm? Well, that part is a few years down the road. But the goal is to someday (hopefully sooner rather than later) grow our own hops, potentially barley (THAT is an involved process and I may leave it to the experts), and establish our own yeast colony or two. But come hell or high water, I will have that farm someday. In the meantime I’ll have a great garden, but the farm will come.

But truly the point of this post is this: Dream big. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. If you dream big, you can achieve those dreams with a little planning and a lot of work. And we know we have a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in our future, but in the meantime, we have these dreams and they are sweet.

Big news

I’m sure those of you who follow this blog semi-regularly have found that I’ve been posting pretty rarely this summer (this post is long enough to make up for that, trust me). And it’s not because I’m so busy there’s not enough time for blogging. Quite the contrary, actually. But there’s a different reason I haven’t been doing much blogging: I’ve been adjusting to my life’s new normal, to some very big changes.

Big changes like I’m pregnant.

I found out I was pregnant while in London in May. I’ve always been the girl whose periods you could set your watch to (sorry if that was TMI), so while overseas I had a growing dread, knowing I was late. So I popped down to a Boots pharmacy around the block from the apartment where we were staying one day mid-trip. I didn’t have much cash on me, so I opted for the cheapest pregnancy test. I was probably just freaking myself out, right? I’d missed a period before from stress, so it could happen again, right? Anyway, I waited an agonizing 24 hours to take the test (you’re supposed to take the test in the morning right when you get up). The instructions said to wait for three minutes for results. Well, my results were immediate. No theatrical sitting on the toilet in the bathroom waiting for the test to confirm or deny my fears like the movies. There it was, the pink line. Oh. My. God. I hurried back over to Boots and bought another pregnancy test, praying for false positive. The test I bought was twice as expensive and boasted of a “conception counter.” I didn’t wait until the next morning but took the test right away: “Positive. 3+ weeks.”

From the beginning, my thoughts have been conflicted about this new development. This is not an opportune time for me to get pregnant. I’m going back to school at the end of this month for a bachelor’s degree (my third… it’s ridiculous, I know) in sustainable crop production. I’m shifting my life away from a career that wasn’t working and I’ve been so excited about it. I spend my free time reading books about organic gardening and homesteading. I fantasize about the CSA I hope to operate one day, planning out the little things and dreaming big. And Shawn and I have been married less than a year. Our big plans included having children in about five years. On top of this, to say money is tight is an understatement. Shawn and I are relying on loans for this round of schooling and the bill at the end is not going to be pretty. I’ve been unemployed for three and half months. The Phil Vassar song “In a Real Love” has been playing on endless loop in my head since May: Continue reading

ROAR BRIDEZILLA!

It’s been a very stressful week at work and on top of it, I’ve still got an awful lot to do to prepare for the wedding in (gasp!) 16 days! I am trying my best not to become bridezilla. ROAR!

However, one of my lovely bridesmaids gave me a good piece of advice: it’s OK to be upset, but it’s not OK to be rude. Another friend, the fabulous Kristin K, suggested I delegate the responsibility of bridezilla to someone else. Now that’s good planning!

Things truly are coming together for the wedding. On my to-do list still:
– Take dress for altering to super-awesome, super-fast seamstress
– Draw up a wedding day schedule for the people who need to know where to be when.
– Put in a “not to be a badger — ROAR BRIDEZILLA! — but how are things coming?” phone call to the florist, cake maker, caterer, DJ, photographer, reception hall.
– Get my programs printed.
– Make sure the people who need to be at the rehearsal realize they need to be there.
– Draw up a list of toasters and coerce said toasters into actually toasting.
– Resist temptation to call the people who got invitations who haven’t RSVP’d and ask them what the h*ll is their problem why can’t they read that the invitation clearly says to RSVP by Oct. 5 don’t they realize how rude they’re being ROAR BRIDEZILLA! I mean, calmly continue to accept the slow trickle of RSVPs and grin and bear buying 25 extra meals that may not get eaten.
– Resist temptation to take Shawn and make a run for Idaho to the “Hitching Post” and elope next weekend. I think what’s preventing me from doing that is the overall cheese factor of a place called the Hitching Post. It might even be a drive-thru. Seriously tacky. My great-grandmother eloped, but that’s because she was a Dane marrying a Swede. Big no-no there. And somehow everything is more romantic in “the good ol’ days.”
– Get super excited for a week vacation and spending the majority of that time with my soon-to-be husband, who rocks my world. Most people hate 17-hour car rides (yep, Montana is a big friggin’ state), but I don’t when I have Shawn to talk to!

BUT! Saturday night is my Montana bachelorette party with some seriously awesome ladies and I am pretty stoked (and pretty afraid — please me nice to me, gals!).

It’s starting to sink in…

… that I’m getting married in exactly 36 days.

Dropped off my wedding invitations yesterday at InstyPrints in Kalispell. After looking at countless wedding invitation websites and continually being dumbfounded by the prices (I realize that in purchasing the invitations, one is purchasing someone’s design, which they put a lot of effort into, but my little budget just can’t handle that!), I decided to design my own. Part of my job is designing newspapers, after all. Surely I can handle designing invitations.

Here’s the result (which I love!). It’s going to be printed on recycled paper, too:

(The brown border is part of my WordPress skin… it’s not there on the printed version.)

Hmm… maybe I should start designing wedding invitations. Thoughts?

Finding forever in a song

I had the good fortune to spend the past weekend in Lincoln, Neb. for a friend’s wedding. When not playing the role of dutiful bridesmaid, I was able to get some last minute wedding plans secured with my fiance, Shawn.

Bright and early Friday morning we sampled wedding cake. The chocolate — I was sure I’d be getting the chocolate — was disappointing and tasted a bit like moist cardboard. The pink champagne flavor induced tooth aches. But the almond flavor was just right.

Flowers have been finalized. Sunflowers, orange solidago, red hypernicum berries and chrysanthemum will provide the splashes of color at our otherwise black-and-white affair.

Image from http://flowersvegfruit.co.uk/

Got the marriage license. Alarm bells didn’t start ringing on the state of Nebraska computer alerting everyone in the building that my fiance and I are cousins — we’re not, but after hearing a horror story to that effect, I admit I was just a teensy bit worried.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the weekend (other than the beautiful wedding Shawn and I attended) lasted just a few minutes in the santuary of the church where we will be married.

Shawn and I walked into St. Paul United Methodist Church in downtown Lincoln and it felt like coming home. It’s a grand old church with beautiful, two-story stained glass windows. It’s the church we attended while living in Lincoln.

The wooden pews sat silently empty, uniformly facing the altar, as if in eternal, crouched worship. The sunlight streamed through the windows to illuminate the sanctuary with gentle light. We spoke quietly, our voices ringing off the stone walls.

We met with John, the man who plays organ at St. Paul. He treated us to a short concert to prepare the music for our wedding. I’d never seen an organ played so close before and I was transfixed.

John’s fingers nimbly leapt from keyboard to keyboard to keyboard. He pulled on knobs and pushed buttons to alter the sound, I think. His feet moved in a neat, practiced jig on the pedals that control the deep-voiced pipes. The former silence was broken by the surge of sound. It swirled about the pews and rose to the ceiling.

Then John played “Claire de Lune” by Claude Debussy on the piano, the song to which the bridal party and yours truly will promenade down the aisle. Many people recognize it as the song that plays while the fountains dance in “Ocean’s Eleven.”

As John played, I let my eyes wander about the church, filled with a moment’s fantasy. I watched the bridesmaids and groomsmen walk down the aisle. Then I watched myself walk with my father down the aisle.

My ears filled with song. My heart swelled with this glimpse into forever.

Here comes the stress

Editor’s note: I plan to include the column that runs each week in the newspaper I edit. It’s a little insight for readers on my job.

After attending not one but two weddings in Nebraska this past weekend, I think the whole getting-married-in less-than-three-months thing has finally dawned on me. This is the reason for wedding receptions: to unload the stress, which builds and builds over months whether it’s necessary or not, of planning a wedding.

As I sat in St. Teresa’s Catholic Church ogling at the unfamiliar altars and candles prior to friend Kristin promenading beautifully down the aisle, I realized that very soon I’ll be enjoying a similar walk down an aisle while everyone near and dear and about-to-be relatives looks on.

I sure hope I don’t trip. Or pass out. I’ve been to two weddings this year now where the grooms looked about ready to drop to the ground.

There’s just so many things we brides convince ourselves can and will go wrong. The dress won’t be perfect. The cake won’t be perfect. We’ll have bits of asparagus between our teeth in all the photos. We’ll look fat. The bridesmaids will suddenly morph into whiny banshees. The groomsmen will get sloppy drunk and ruin the evening. In short, even the most mild-mannered woman (this is not me) becomes a snarling control freak during wedding planning.

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