Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Frosted Rooftops

I love waking up to an early December morning with frosted rooftops and bare branches dusted so lightly that just the slightest sparkle of sunshine sets them to dancing. The air all around is sometimes a beautiful, thick white presence with a life all its own. We've had days of big, fluffy snowflakes and other days that were cold, clear and bright. No matter the weather, I love it all.
 I know that once December comes back to us every year,
 She begins to work her magic...
Hearts come together for special events throughout the month of merriment.
My daughter Chelsea went with Julius to the Lyric Opera in Chicago
 for a night of fun filled culture.
As you know, special events call for the most beautiful dresses.
During the holidays, we love to slip into something special,
 add a touch of lipstick and maybe a bit of sparkle here and there...
If you're looking for a gorgeous dress to wear to your
 Christmas Party or Holiday Event of the year 
has absolutely gorgeous dresses
 at affordable prices and they keep their 
New Arrivals section continuously updated 
to meet the ever changing world of fashion.
that will take you to your Christmas Party, the Opera and even to the Ballet... 
Once again December found us at The Peoria Ballet's Nutcracker.
This year's performance was the most exquisite one I have seen yet,
 under the direction of Artistic Director, Jorge Laico.
His choreography, along with my favorite Tchaikovsky music being played so beautifully by the Heartland Festival Orchestra, created a magical fairyland that swept me away to a land of snowflakes, frost fairies
 and all the possibilities of dreams that really do come true...
 if only we believe...
Gabby had two roles this year.
One as a Maid, which was an acting part.
The other as a Polichinelle, her dancing part.
 The Polichinelle's are the colorful dancers
 who emerge from Mother Ginger's dress 
and dance all about her throughout the scene. 
A special highlight for Gabby was having her "dead" pointe shoes signed by 
the professional ballet dancers who performed as guest artists this year from 
Chicago's renowned Joffrey Ballet.
Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili were completely breathtaking as the 
Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier.
There wasn't a single soul able to remain seated at the end of the ballet.
It was a truly magical night.
I look forward to it all year long...
Dressing up, settling into my seat in the theatre and then...
the thrill of the first strains of music floating through the air...

The whole of December always brings
 the wonderment of a child back to my spirit again.
With every tree I display, every twinkling light throughout my house and the ornaments that get placed just so, each day makes me feel just a little bit younger {at heart, at least} and makes me tingle all over with more and more excitement. It's almost as though I'm holding my breath along with millions of children across the world who are waiting for Santa's big night.
I hope it does the same for you, whether you're dashing off to 
a gala event in that gorgeous new evening dress
or staying tucked in the house with your family and mugs of hot cocoa.
May you have all the joy and wonder of a child inside your heart
at the beginning of each new day.
 And remember when you peer out your 
window on a cold December morning,
 that frosted rooftops bring to life
the most magical moments.
Enjoy them all!

"The afternoon knows 
what the morning never suspected."
Robert Frost

Friday, November 2, 2018

Fresh Friday... You Are What You Eat


Here we are in November already.
I think it was just June yesterday...
I have to admit, albeit somewhat grudgingly,
 because I usually cling to summertime white knuckled,
that I am  loving every single beautiful thing
 about this multi-hued Autumn we are experiencing this year.
 The misty grey days provide an ethereal seeming background
 for the sheer profusion of color all of the trees and bushes are bursting with.
 Although I know this must happen all around me every single Fall,
 for some reason my senses are extremely heightened to it this time around.
 I feel as though I am soaking it in through all of my pores
 and every fiber straight into my soul.
These cooler days make me want to stay inside where it's warm
 with my tea kettle going, my doggies around me,
my knitting on the go and something warm and healthy on the stove.
I told you in the last post I would introduce you to my daughter Chelsea.
She's my youngest of two daughters.
My eldest daughter, Hilary, is a Librarian in our local library.
 Chelsea has a Cosmetology license,
 which she uses to specialize as an Aesthetician. 
She works for a dermatologist in a medical day spa.
 Both of my daughters are excellent cooks and healthy, clean eaters. 
Due to ongoing health issues of my own, 
when they were still in grade school and I was in my early thirties,
 I became a vegetarian and thus began my journey 
into grasping hold of the real truth of :
"You Are What You Eat"
Everybody has heard it and even said it at times
 but after years of suffering
 {and I mean truly suffering}
 from serious digestive issues, 
among various other ailments, 
I began the journey of taking hold of that one simple truth
 and what a difference it made and continues to make for me.
 Plus, I believe it made it easier for my girls to make healthier choices as adults.
Eating as healthy as I possibly can helps in my battle against
 two rheumatoid diseases, which cause digestive issues,
 inflammation throughout my entire system and a whole host of issues.
 I will admit right from the start that I am not a person who has a huge appetite and a lot of the recipes I share with you will be on the simple or light side.
 I don't tolerate "heavy" foods. 
Always bear in mind I do not eat the basic American diet and
 have not done so for more than 22 years.
 In the area of food, I have to travel lightly through this world.
Today's recipe is from Chelsea.
  The measurements provided are just enough for two servings.
It's perfect for lunch with a friend or spouse.
Chelsea and I enjoyed it together for lunch one day last week.

Thai Coconut Stir Fry

1 Cup Thai Coconut Broth
1/2 Cup Brown Rice
1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
{Organic Virgin, Cold Pressed, Unrefined - if possible}
1 1/2 Tablespoons Liquid Aminos
1/2 Cup Snap Peas, broken in half
1/4 Cup Match Stick Carrots
1/4 Cup Red Peppers, sliced
1/2 Cup Tempeh, cubed

Cook Brown Rice in Thai Coconut Broth instead of water
 by simply substituting, using exact measurement. 
Saute' Tempeh in Coconut Oil on medium - low for approximately 3 minutes.
Add prepared vegetables and continue cooking until barely tender but still crisp.

This makes two nice sized bowls.
 The first delightful flavor that hits the tongue is coconut. 
It's very filling for lunch or supper for two.
 If you want to stretch it to accommodate more people 
just adjust the proportions and play around with seasonings and add ins.
It's healthy, warm and comforting on a cold day and looks like
 a bowl full of beautiful Fall colors to me!
 I just love it!
You can make it ahead and store it in individual containers
 for your busy work week ahead.
It reheats wonderfully and tastes just as good, if not better.
For those of you who have never used Liquid Aminos,
 this is what you are looking for:
If you like soy sauce you'll love it. This is a healthier alternative. It is gluten free, contains no preservatives, alcohol or fermentation and has 16 healthy amino acids. Also, it is lower in sodium than soy sauce. So run straight to your local grocery market and buy some {and chuck the soy sauce in the trash can}.
Here's what the Thai Coconut Broth looks like as well:

You know I can't leave you without showing at least one thing
 that's been on my needles recently.
In my next post,
which will focus on my current knitting projects at hand,
 I'll show you much more.
However here's a tiny sampling of some baby knits
 I worked on last week during my time at the coffee shop.
Just as I love for my food to be as wholesome,
 chemical free, organic and pure as possible,
I also prefer for the fibers I work with to be as natural as possible.
These cable knit baby ear flap hats and booties are knit on size 3 needles
 using divinely soft, soft, soft pure Baby Alpaca.
There is nothing like the feel of it gliding gently
 across my fingers like a mere whisper.
As I work with it, I daydream of and pray for
  the sweet baby that will be cozied up inside these snuggly little accessories
 in order to keep Winter chills far, far away from delicate fresh from heaven skin.
As most of you know, I am a die hard, constant tea drinker.
However, I occasionally enjoy coffee or a coffee latte like this one pictured.
It's the delicious Fall Signature drink at
 Thirty-Thirty Coffee Shop
in Peoria's Junction City.
 A lovely hot drink is just the perfect thing for an evening of knitting!
I typically choose tea because I actually love it so much more than coffee,
which is hard for the coffee drinkers of the world to even fathom.
Also, it is much easier on my sensitive digestive system.
Keeping myself less acidic is always the goal.
For a final note on today's recipe and any future recipe's I share...
Feel free to toss in some chicken in place of the Tempeh if you have to.
But I would like to encourage you to do two things...
If you are a meat eater, try to eat a meatless meal on occasion.
Also, always purchase the leanest, cleanest form of meat you can.
All of the food I share with you will be vegetarian.
This is what I have to do for my body.
You do what is best for yours.
In the meantime,
I hope you are all enjoying the beautiful Autumn
 if you live in an area where this is your season like it is mine.
"The heart of the home beats in the kitchen
and a healthy one beats three times a day."
Bangambiki Habyarimana
The Great Pearl of Wisdom

"Dear Friend,
 I pray that you may enjoy good health
and that all may go well with you,
even as your soul is getting along well."
3 John 1:2

Friday, October 19, 2018

Fresh Friday ... Breathe Deeply

Welcome to the launching of Fresh Friday!
Here's the plan...
On Friday's I will be posting about all kinds of "fresh" finds for all of you.
The list may include:

~ new knitting products I am currently in love with
~ new patterns I am working on and loving
~ healthy recipes, including gluten free, vegetarian and vegan
~ chemical free cleaning products for your home
~ my favorite essential oils and what they are used for

My goal is to eventually do a Fresh Friday post every week,
however it may be more like every other week until after the first of the new year.
I am currently in my super busy season at Front Porch Knits,
especially as I prepare for our upcoming Christmas Open House,
which will be held in my home on Saturday, December 1st.
Not to mention the constant work of new puppy training.

Today's first fresh find is this awesome Namaste Knitter's Train Case 
from Jimmy Beans Wool in Blush.
It's available in several color options but I had to have mine in PINK!!!
It comes with all of these lovely little items included inside.
I was so excited when it arrived on my doorstep yesterday just in time for
my weekly knitting in public trip to Thirty-Thirty Coffee Shop
in Peoria's Junction City
{ favorite spot!}! 
Side Note... If you live locally and haven't been to Thirty-Thirty, you have to go!
The drinks are TOO DIE FOR and the staff is AWESOME.
And see the best part of all ...
The Train Case has that wonderful little whole for the yarn to feed through
so everything stays tucked away nice and neat inside while I knit, knit, knit.
I'll let you in on a secret... I'm a spiller at times.
Therefore all of my patterns are kept in plastic sleeves always
because when I'm knitting,
I'm drinking tea, always.
This lovely Train Case is exactly what I needed
to take back and forth on my weekly jaunts.
It holds everything I need perfectly and keeps expensive fibers
from being tea soaked,while also ensuring I don't leave my tiny sterling silver
stitch markers and other notions behind.
It's so much easier to see down inside of than rummaging in a bag.
Yep. I love it!
My current fresh make is this ribbed and cabled mitten.
I love the fact that there's just a touch of cabling
going across the top and that the ribbing
goes all the way around the palm.
This gorgeous charcoal grey yarn is Cascade 220 Superwash Merino Wool,
once again from Jimmy Beans Wool. It is soft, warm and breathable. 
I simply adore merino wool. It's my very favorite fiber to work with.
Nothing makes better mittens.

Speaking of fiber...
I'll leave you with one very simple healthy food idea.
Two pieces of Gluten Free Bread {purchased from Costco, not homemade} toasted.
Topped with:
Organic Almond Butter
Raw Pepitas {Pumpkin Seeds}
Hemp Hearts {Shelled Hemp Seeds}
Health Benefits of:
ALMOND BUTTER ~ Good source of healthy monounsaturated fats, which help lower the risk of heart disease. We gain antioxidant action from Vitamin E and it helps lower cholesterol.
RAW PEPITAS~ Rich source of fiber. Helps prevent constipation and benefits digestive health.
Boosts your intake of protein and minerals. Contains macronutrients that provide energy and provides essential minerals required for proper tissue function.

Sometimes this toast is my breakfast and other times it's my lunch.
Either way it is yummy and extremely satisfying and satiating.
I hope you've enjoyed this first installment of "Fresh Friday".
Next time up I plan to introduce you to my daughter Chelsea,
who you'll recognize as a model I use oftentimes on my websites.
Chelsea works in the Beauty industry {more on that later}
and is a whole foods/clean eater and fantastic cook. 
I will be sharing a combination of her recipes along with mine,
including foods that make your hair and skin softer;
something we all need with these upcoming Winter months.
 Until then...
Stay warm and toasty with some nice hot tea,
cozy knitting, and healthy comfort food.
That's what I'll be doing!

"To ensure good health:
eat lightly,
breathe deeply,
live moderately,
cultivate cheerfulness,
and maintain an interest in life."
~ William Londen

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Dog Days of Autumn

Nearly two weeks ago I took a little road trip
to pick up the newest member of our family.
This is our new baby, Percy.
He's a Toy Poodle and we simply adore him.
He looks all black in this picture but his coloring is actually called "phantom".
You can see his beautiful coloring better in
this photo of my two sleeping beauties ;-)
He loves to play with his toys...
Sometimes I go through the house and pick them all up and put them in a pile because I'm stepping on them at every turn.It doesn't last long though. I sit back down to my knitting and within no time this is where we are again...
This is the hallway just outside the bathroom door and leading into my bedroom.
For some reason Percy loves the bathroom.
When he goes missing I oftentimes find him curled up asleep
on a towel in the bathroom floor or on the bathroom scale.
He loves the kids and they love him.
Parker is so excited to have a new puppy in the house.
On the day we brought him home he said,
"Grammy, Thank You for getting me a new puppy."
He tells everybody that Percy is HIS dog.
He decided it was time to start reading his favorite books to his new best friend.
 I think for Percy there might have been a bit of chewing involved
but Parker didn't seem to mind.
On the days I pick Gabby up from school Percy rides along.
He watches intently out the window for her from my lap.
By the time she reaches us there's a whole lot of wiggling going on!
As for our other two dogs, Phoebe, who turns 10 next month,
is delighted with her instant status of motherhood.
Heaven help us all if Percy so much as makes a squeak.
She has to sniff and lick him and ensure he is okay.
They play together and lay together.

Mack, my older boy, is taking his time deciding about Percy still, as is my sweet old kitty cat Mercedes, who is spending time hiding out in the basement and sneaking up for an occasional peak at the black fluffy thing that seems to have suddenly taken over the household.
I have faith in them though.
This isn't the first time I've worked to integrate animals with one another.
We'll get there. In the meantime I am making sure
that everyone gets plenty of attention.
{It's a full time job}.
All things considered, he's a very good boy and we are settling in quite nicely.
He is very smart, as poodles typically are.
By day 2 he was coming to me when I called him by name.
This is my second poodle in my lifetime.
We had a chocolate colored miniature poodle, named Cocoa,
when I was a young teenager that we all loved dearly.
Having one again makes me extremely happy.
Poodles are easy to train because
they thrive on routine and are therefore obedient.
I can already see this in Percy even though he is just coming up on 15 weeks old.
He was born on June 26. Just 4 days before my birthday. It was meant to be.
For the most part I am home and don't have to crate him.
However, I do take my granddaughter Gabby
to ballet each week while my daughter is working.
I am gone for about 3 hours and I need to know Percy is safe
and not chewing on things in the house
that could hurt him while he's still so young.
He had his first time in his crate this week and got right in with zero fuss.
He simply laid down, curled up and went to sleep.
{Phoebe was the frantic one upon our arrival home,
due to separation anxiety from her baby}.
I got to relax and enjoy my knitting and this fabulous
Signature Fall Latte at my favorite place.
While Gabby is in ballet I always sit and knit at
Thirty-Thirty Coffee Shop in Peoria's Junction City.
I love the drinks and the employees there.
I look forward to this respite from the daily madness every week.
It's how I do ballet.
There are times like today that I enjoy a nice misty Autumn day.
The leaves are turning scarlet on my dogwood, the squirrels scamper industriously around the house as they collect walnuts from the tree in my backyard,
I keep the tea kettle whistling, the dogs romp and nap at intervals
and my knitting grows and grows a stitch at a time. 
Yes, on days like today, I say let it rain.

Whatever your day and weekend brings to you, 
I hope and pray it's peaceful, happy and full 
of all the things and people you love best...
and maybe even a dog or two...
or three.

"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures;
they give unconditional love.
For me, they are the role model for being alive."
Gilda Radner

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Joy-FULL Living

As hot Summer days gradually slip into soft and gentle early Autumn,
I am soothed to my very core.
And yet I find myself to be oddly exhilarated at the same time; inspired even.
This is a good thing.
A very good thing.
My business is growing more all the time
and I am working on tweaking things
like ordering new business cards
for a fresh new look and updating my websites,
including my business facebook page.
For those of you who are on Facebook and are interested
in following me there you can click on the link
and keep up with what I'm doing on a regular basis.
You might even see me make a fool of myself on live video from time to time...
As you can gather, our September Sale was enormously successful,
not to mention so doggone much FUN!
I knitted ever so many Pumpkins in a bazillion different colors...
And yet I am still knitting more and more of the little beauties for custom orders
because they were all snapped up during our sale.
This is, after all, THE Pumpkin Capital of the World. And we LOVE our Pumpkins!!!
From time to time over the years I have been asked if I ship internationally.
The answer is YES! Absolutely!
This lovely little trio left our Morton Post Office yesterday to head across
the big ocean to their new home in London, England
where I hope they will be very happy indeed. 
{More importantly, I hope they will make the sweet young woman
who ordered them extremely happy!}.

I cannot even express the honest to goodness pure JOY that is brought into my daily life by the entire process of every aspect of this business. It just keeps rolling on from year to year. I love choosing the fibers, which I am extremely particular about. I love pouring over patterns then modifying them as needed to make them fit the needs of individual customers or my strict standards. For example, it has taken me several years to perfect these Pumpkins. I use the exact same wool, a certain type of poly fill and my own secret technique. Plus each one weighs the same in order to ensure premium product quality.
I want my customers to have only the very best.
If my name is on it, then it better be top quality. 
My policy has always been that unless the customer is 110% HAPPY,
I remake or refund.
This brings me to the real JOY-FULL part of what I do.
I am first and foremost a people person.
Those of you who know me personally, know this.
However, I deal with so many people around the globe
who I will never meet face to face.
I want all of you to realize that
if you place an order or make a purchase with me,
I work hard at going back and forth online with you until we get it exactly right.
I track packages once they ship and I follow up with customers to make sure they are happy with their goods when they receive them.
They may be small things like pumpkins or fingerless mitts,
or larger garments such as 
shawls or baby clothing that I've made to specific measurements.
I need to be sure they fit properly.
It is all very important to me because YOU as an individual
are very important to me.
Whether you live locally and I know you personally,
 we have just recently connected through one of my events 
or I work with you through one of my websites 
You bring great joy into my life.
You cause me to continue to grow and stretch as an individual.
My days are filled with creative purpose as I work full time from home 
to continue to supply as many lovely knitted garments and items
my hands and needles can possibly create in a year's time. 
For all of this, I thank each and every one of you.
I am excited about the many new avenues we will travel together
as my business continues to grow and expand.
I look forward to placing small treasures in your hands that make you smile 
or ...
Wrapping you in cozy things that make you feel warm, happy, beautiful and loved.
For me this is Joy-FULL living.
It's my adventure.

"Wonderful adventures await for those who dare to find them."
Hazel Gaynor, The Girl from the Savoy

Monday, September 3, 2018

Butterfly Days

I love this time of year when every day gradually slips into a new season.
One of the things I love best is that each day
holds its own beauty and element of surprise,
as the weather is all over the place.
 Late Summer and Early Autumn are dancing with one another ...
Hot, humid days followed by thick muggy nights...
Then suddenly a cool fresh morning of blue skies and fluffy white clouds I could float away on...
Some days Summer wants to leave her cares behind and
let Autumn reign and other days she stands her ground...
Then a storm wraps itself around us.
I love it all.
Only God could create such glorious wonders.
I have come to think of these days as butterfly days.
Never in the whole of my life have I ever seen so many butterflies.
From early Summer my yard has been so filled with these lovely creatures
that they've flown into me, landed on me,
lighted next to me as I've sat knitting on the porch swing
and fed from my hummingbird feeders.
While I know it has to do with their migratory habits towards Mexico,
it seems so ethereal and even magical to me.
Like tiny particles of Heaven coming down and flitting all around me.
They bring me peace and make me pause and cause me to remember
to breathe and give thanks during these hectic days of my life.
Days filled to the brim with the blessing of family and overflowing
with the ever constant work of my hands... knitting and crocheting...
This photo depicts both family and my work.
My daughter Chelsea is modeling my Happy Vibes Crocheted Shawl.
We just happened to catch that exact perfect moment
when the sun was beginning to descend westward,
slipping towards its restful time of gloaming. 
All of the elements lined up perfectly...
The softly setting sun, 
the dogwood tree that's donning her Fall foliage,
the spider web shawl with colors that entwine the seasons together
and Chelsea....
My Autumn hued beauty.
Each day finds me switching over from needles to hooks repeatedly as
I knit awhile then finish up bits of crochet.
It takes nonstop work to prepare for an upcoming event.
First I'm making shawls, then I'm covered in stuffing and surrounded by various colors of pumpkins.
Turquoise is a new addition to my line of pumpkin colors this year. 
I've been told that it symbolizes allergy safe candy and
items for children with allergen issues.
It's also the color for Ovarian Cancer and September
is the month for this dreadful disease.
I stand in support of both.
Being a lover of all soft colors, 
I always make a variety of choices to accompany
the traditional orange pumpkins.
The Soft White and Green have always been my personal favorite.
I also really love the almost black one pictured here.
The unique thing about this one is that it's made from
undyed and unprocessed virgin wool.
That's the exact color of the sheep it came from.
There are tiny specks of white throughout.
I love the raw, natural look and feel of it.
Then, of course, because Fingerless Mitts are always my cup of happy,
some of these will make an appearance at our September Sale as well.
Some have knitted cables and bobbles with tiny embroidered rosebuds.
While others have pretty meandering lacework eyelets.
Every year as Summer begins to recognize her eminent defeat,
allowing Autumn's crisp and cooling breath to blow over us,
I feel my heart being tugged to provide warmth to cold hands.
I delight in introducing a new pattern or two of mitts every year.
For some reason, they give me great joy and deep satisfaction with each stitch.
Something about knitting mitts is uniquely different for me
than any other thing I ever make.
Maybe it's because our hands are such a vital part of who we are.
They carry our whole essence.
We love with them,
We feed with them,
We talk with them,
We heal with them,
We give with them,
We receive with them,
We show the world who we are with our hands.
We can't speak of love without the mention of babies.
These Pumpkin Hats are another make of mine
that hold a special place in my heart.
They combine both of my fiber art passions with a knitted "pumpkin" 
and crocheted pumpkin leaf and vine.
The one pictured here is Newborn {0-3 month} Size. 
However I'll have a full range of sizes available as shown below.
For those who are unable to purchase something you want
from the Sale due to my being
SOLD OUT before you arrive, or your inability to be there, NO WORRIES.
I will be taking custom orders after the Sale.
Also, as much as I knit, knit, KNIT...
I am still just one person with just two hands and a whole lot of happy,
active life going on in abundance around me.
Although I am a fast knitter, and a constant one, it's not an instant job.
All that being said, 
I will have as much as possible with me at our September Sale
and then you can contact me afterwards if you want something specific.
I can always make it happen.
I got up one day last week and realized I had probably worked too late
into the night before when I took a good look at this photo...
At exactly midnight the previous night,
I attached the stem to this pumpkin
then set down my work and called it a night. 
The next day I posted this photo to my Instagram and Facebook pages.
Later in the day, when responding to a comment, 
I noticed I had attached the stem to the bottom of the pumpkin!
Of course I had to remove it and reattach it to the top.
Though my days are filled with butterflies,
my nights are full of pumpkins...
And apparently at the stroke of midnight
they do their own thing.
Or maybe Cinderella just needs a bit of sleep...
Especially if she wants to dance with the butterflies.

"Take time to be a butterfly."
Gillian Duce
Magic and Mayhem - The Winning Game

"When nature moves, butterflies take flight."
Anthony T. Hincks