Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Essence of February

February is a month full of promise.
It gives us love and it gives us hope. 
 We inhale the glorious aroma of flowers everywhere we go.
 Chocolates and hearts are arrayed in abundance. 
Valentine's Day awakens new depths in us.
Much of Winter's cold dormancy is moving behind us and 
we are once again able to look forward to the freshness of Spring.
Yet even in our dreamy days of hope,
 we are still experiencing weeks of snow,
freezing rain and frigid temperatures.
We need to bundle up in warm layers for just a bit longer.
So I decided before I set my needles to more Springtime makes
 like little bunnies and darling hats with bunny ears,
I would make this pair of fingerless mitts
 I've been wanting to knit for quite some time.
I have to admit, about five minutes into knitting them,
I knew I wasn't going to be able to part with this exquisite creation.
The decision to keep something is a temptation I seldom succumb to.
However, this time I surrendered myself to the essence of February...
that mystical, age old, enticing allure of the month of romance.
The heady combination of heathered pink along with
 the sublime softness of baby alpaca totally beguiled me.
It whispered sweet nothings as the fiber caressed my fingers
and I fell instantly and wholeheartedly in love.
Not only does my heart always skip a beat over lacework,
 especially if it includes vining leaves,
but the extra unique details in this pattern are pure poetry to my soul.
The 1x1 ribbing along the edging adds a more delicate finish 
than a 2x2 ribbing would,
mainly because it's worked up on tiny needles.
 What a beautiful stitch definition this gives.
Well Done designer.
 Speaking of which,
 you can find the pattern for
 Countess Mitts
Another detail that I find so lovely is the gentle curve that naturally occurs 
across the top of the hand and then again below the wrist on the top of each mitt.
The palm side of the mitts is done in stockinette stitch
 and ends up straight rather than curved in these two areas.
 The pattern calls for 2 balls of Blue Sky Alpacas
Royal Petites but I used 2 skeins of
 Knit Picks Andean Treasure in Dogwood Heather.
Although the suggested needle size is a 2 (2.75mm)
 I knit my pair on US Size 1.5 (2.5mm)
double pointed needles in order to obtain the proper gauge.
Adding to their overwhelming appeal is the elegant length of them.
They come down a good 4 inches beyond my wrist, 
making them a total of 8 sumptuous inches long.
How do I love them?
Let me count the ways...
They are super soft, extremely warm and lavishly feminine.
Let me just say I am so happy I let them seduce me
 into having them to keep all for my very own.
As the months continue to dance their way in and out of our lives,
I suggest we grab hold of that quintessential perfect love
 February brings to us before she waltz's away for another year.
We should hold it close and nurture it so the fragrance lingers.
Not only would we be more expansive in the ways we love those we love,
but we might begin to understand and learn to savor the essential beauty 
of saying yes to things that fill us with wonder and delight.
For the essence of deep, abiding love
 is a thing that must start within oneself
before it can fully bloom into a thing of beauty for others.
"When a woman becomes her own best friend life is easier."
Diane Von Furstenberg

"Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners."
William Shakespeare

Friday, February 15, 2019

There Is More To Life

Do you have people in your life who refresh you?
You know the kind of people I mean. 
Every experience you have with them
takes you to a deeper level of yourself,
while at the same time stretching you beyond self.
Contact with these touchstone people is always
enriching to us far beyond the beauty of the moment.
 The time spent with these individuals can be
anything from brief and lighthearted fun
 to talk of the serious things
life is currently throwing our way.
We share our greatest joys with these special friends
and we call them when our world suddenly shifts.
They say things like:
I'm leaving the house now...
I'll be there soon...
If they're long distance they send us texts:
I'm praying...
 How can I pray for you today?...
In the ebb and flow of our life
they are there... giving;
always, always giving from the part
of themselves that is real.
Each time they leave that essence of realness with us
 we store it up and treasure it, allowing it to strengthen us.
Over the years we can look back and see that we have been fortified
 along the way by these little sparkles of selfless love and energy that
God has breathed out through these incredible human vessels
 just when we have needed it the most.
It has revived us when we were weary.
We live in an age of so much that needs to be done
all of the time and as we find ourselves longing for rest,
we also find the to do list growing longer and longer.
But we need to carve out times of true rest for ourselves.
Precious moments spent in the presence
 of the One who created us.
Days and hours to relax, laugh, even cry
with these remarkable people
 God has so graciously blessed our lives with.
Relationships take time and energy and love.
As Gandhi said,
"There is more to life than merely increasing its speed."
We should be savoring life.
We cannot do that without being refreshed,
which starts with a very simple yet increasingly
hard thing to do...
Our rest begins at the feet of Jesus who says,
 "Come to me all who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28
In his book,
Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight
in our Busy Lives,
Wayne Muller says,
"The human spirit is naturally generous:
the instant we are filled, our first impulse is to be useful,
to be kind, to give something away...
Once people feel nourished and refreshed,
they cannot help but be kind; just so,
the world aches for the generosity of a well-rested people."
He goes further to say...
"When we cease our daily labor, other things -
love, friendship, prayer, touch, singing, rest -
can be born in the space created by our rest."

This weekend I hope you are able to start thinking of ways
to implement rest and moments of refreshment into your life.
We can't give out what we don't have to give.
I am so blessed to be on the receiving end of so many people
who are daily here for me with their love and encouragement.
I know that I must also have periods of vital rest
so in their time of need I am the one able to offer them
 the cup of refreshment
 they have so often let me drink freely from.
"Fervently love one another from the heart..."
1 Peter 1:22

"Just to be is a blessing.
Just to live is holy."
Rabbi Abraham Heschel

Friday, February 8, 2019

Fresh Friday... The Measure of Achievement

With Valentine's Day just around the corner
I thought I'd share a little something sweet today
in case you would like something new to make for your
Sweetheart this year or even as a gift for a special friend.
But I warn you...
Once you take a tiny nibble just to sample these delightful
confections, you may have a hard time parting with them!
They are quick and easy to whip up and really do melt in your mouth.
So here goes...

Vegan Melt Away Shortbread Cookies

1 1/3 Cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3 Tbsp. Cornstarch
3/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
3/4 Cup Earth Balance Vegan Butter {I used the Sticks}
1 Tbsp. Vegan Cream OR Soy OR Almond Milk
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pure Vanilla

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
With mixer cream butter and sugar together till smooth and whipped.
Add in cream or milk and vanilla.
Sprinkle flour, cornstarch & salt over butter mixture.
Mix till just combined.
Do not overmix or texture will be compromised.
Drop dough by 1-2 tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet.
Roll dough into individual balls.
Press with a fork.
Decorate cookies with sprinkles.
{Mine are sprinkled very lightly with pink sugar}
Bake 12-15 minutes.
They don't need to "brown" to be done cooking.
Check them at 12 minutes and go from there.

Today's post is Short & Sweet...Literally.

I'll be back next week to show you the pretty bit of
pink lacework that is currently on my knitting needles.
Until then I'll leave you with some wise words from the
Master Chef herself because I think it applies to everything.

"The measure of achievement
is not in winning awards,
It's doing something that you appreciate,
something you believe is worthwhile."
- Julia Child

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Alpaca Love

My current knitting love affair is with Alpaca.
For those of you who have either
 knitted with this sumptuous fiber
yourself or have been the recipient
 of a gift made in alpaca or baby alpaca,
you totally understand the allure.
Alpaca is softness personified.
As it floats through my fingers...
 I lose myself in a daydream.
I feel the tension rising up and leaving my
 body as my mind relaxes into the rhythm
of needles while this delicate fiber dances along,
 whispering in soothing motions to my soul.
Quite happily, my last couple of custom orders
called for either Alpaca or Baby Alpaca.
The hat on the left is made using Knit Picks
in Alma, which is a soft creamy almond color.
Though it comes in hank form and I have two yarn swifts,
sometimes I find the slow process of 
hand winding yarn into a ball very soothing,
which is why you see it that way as opposed  to a yarn cake.
What I really love about this fiber is that it is unbelievably soft.
Also it is undyed and unbleached meaning that all the colors are 
naturally occurring and there are no chemicals involved,
making it a wonderful choice for sensitive skin. 
This was the first time I had used this particular alpaca yarn
 and I ordered only the one hank to see how I would like it. 
I've already decided I will be using it from now on.
The smaller hat on the right is knit from
 Andean Treasure, one of my favorite
Baby Alpaca's that I've used many times from Knit Picks.
This yarn is a Sport Weight. 
The hat is made in the color Fog Heather and I used
Dogwood Heather to crochet the little rose
for the larger hat to girlie it up.
While we're on the subject of "girlie-ness"
you'll see I've sewn a glass pearl into the center of the rose
for that extra touch of sweet femininity.
There's a pair of booties to go along with the grey hat.
This smaller set is for a baby boy. 
I love the versatility of the cable knit ear flap baby hats and booties
because I can knit them for either a baby girl or boy.
Over the years I've used wool, wool blends, 
organic cotton and cotton blends
to make these hats and booties.
Sometimes I sell them in sets and other times individually.
They are oftentimes my go to baby gift for family and friends.
My grandkids came home from the hospital in them.
I have to say I love them best in the alpaca or baby alpaca.
What a perfect way to combine two of my favorite things;
knitting for babies and knitting with alpaca.
As heavenly as these luxury fibers are to work with,
the real moment of pure ecstasy happens when the
item is all finished and I run my hands over it
and even gently squish it around.
There are times I even make my family
 give a little squeeze to the hats
 because I just love that divine feeling so much!
I'm telling you,
 if you don't work with Alpaca, 
you are missing out!
It's a whole mind, body, spirit experience
 as far as I'm concerned.
Also, it is absolutely perfect for delicate
baby skin that has just arrived fresh from God
and needs to be kept warm and snuggly.
Alpaca isn't prickly like wool and contains no lanolin,
causing garments made from it to be comfortable and hypoallergenic.
It's also warmer than wool and naturally water - repellant.
So if you have a little one in your life
or feel the need to wrap yourself in the 
most incredible softness you've ever known,
 I recommend you try some of this fabulous fiber.
I promise,  your heart will be blessed either way.

"Babies are such a nice way to start people."
Don Herold

Friday, February 1, 2019

Fresh Friday... Radiant Skin

As we all know Winter weather can wreak total havoc on our skin.
So I thought this week I would share a few tips
 on how to safeguard yourself during these months
and keep that healthy glow amidst icy cold temperatures,
 harsh winds and drifting snowstorms.
I'll start with my favorite new cleanser. 
packed full of wonderful things for your skin.
It contains the enzymes Papain and Bromelain and fruit extracts such as,
 Sweet Orange and Grapefruit, Kumquat, Kiwi and Neem.
All of these ingredients come together to gently exfoliate every time you
 cleanse, infusing your skin with that all important vitamin C.
It's suitable for all skin types and takes just one pump
mixed with a little water on your face to lather up perfectly.
 When the natural fragrance of those citrus fruits hit your senses,
 it's almost easy to forget that Winter is still upon us!
Every little squirt releases the sweet scent of fresh Summertime .
As you can see on the bottle this is a Skin Dimensions product.
I purchased mine at the Morton location.
They also have Illinois Day Spa's in Peoria, Galesburg, Bloomington and Peru
as well as Iowa Spa's in Clinton and Davenport.
Their staff is well trained and licensed to help you with all of your 
skin care needs and provide you with the most exquisite day spa experience!
If you don't live near one of their locations and would like
 to try this cleanser you can make your purchase online.
Since we know that cleansing is just the first step in skincare
you can view all of their other beautiful products right here.
While we're still on the subject of skincare products,
I'd like to share another one of my favorite items that I use every day, 
multiple times a day, year round and more heavily during these colder months.
Over the years, probably like everyone else, 
I have used so many different lip balms.
 Some that I liked more than others and some that went straight
 into the trash because they didn't even glide on properly.
Then a couple of years ago I hit my "Hallelujah!" moment 
with this fantastic product made by doTerra.
The very first ingredient in every one of them is Coconut Oil,
which most likely accounts for the silky smooth application of it.
They all have essential oils in them like:
 Peppermint, Spearmint, Wild Orange, Clementine, 
Marjoram and Ylang Ylang depending on the flavor.
Each one can be purchased separately
 or they can be bought together as a pack of three.
I keep them poked all over the house.
There's always one in my purse and each knitting bag, 
one in a drawer next to the chair I knit in during the evening 
and one in my dresser drawer to use just before I get into bed.
I consider this the final step of my skincare routine each night.
Winter is hard on our lips just like it is the rest of our skin.
No other lip product has ever helped me like this one.
If you live in my area and don't have a personal source to order
 doTerra from but would like to try this or any of their products,
you can contact me and I would be happy to add anything
you want to my order that goes out at the beginning of each month.
I will share my consultants discount with you as this is something
I do solely for the purpose of the health and well being
of myself and my household and not for the sake of earning money.
We can't discuss a topic as important as skincare
 without bringing up the actual real first step... healthy eating.
Every single thing you put into your body
 eventually shows up in your skin
 and even leaves trace deposits in your hair.
{For those of you who don't know,
 years ago I was a licensed Cosmetologist}
So, I'll say it once again...
You are what you eat.
Here's a list of
 Foods that are Good for your Skin:

1. Eggs  help with tissue repair,
High in:
 Selenium - wards off skin infections and acne
Vitamin A - prevents abnormal clumps,
 which can turn into moles and skin tags
Copper - promotes skin elasticity

2. Avocados  prevent blemishes and enhance skin quality
High in age defying,
 free radical fighting Vitamins A, D & E

3.  Blueberries tighten and renew skin
High in Vitamins A & C
Clears blotchy spots and acne

4.  Berries  Raspberries, Blackberries & Strawberries
High in Vitamin C
Keeps collagen in skin healthy
High in Anthocyanins and Quercetin, which:
helps reduce inflammation in skin
keeps skin tone even and causes skin to look radiant

5.  Oranges  (and Grapefruits) prevent wrinkles
tones the skin
High in Vitamin C
Helps improve the texture and color of skin
Restores collagen

6.  Watermelon  helps to clear your skin
improves elasticity
smooths skin 

7.  Salmon  rich in omega-3 fatty acids
helps moisturize skin 
 keeps it looking healthy and radiant
helps clear clogged pores  
erases fine lines and wrinkles

8.  Dark Chocolate  ( at least 60% cocoa)
helps skin stay hydrated
protects skin from sun damage 
*Sun damage is one of the biggest culprits
 of unhealthy looking skin *

9.  Kiwi  firms skin
has antioxidants that:
 fight cancer, prevent wrinkles,
 & keep bones and teeth healthy 

10.  Spinach  (leafy green veggies)
rich in nutrients and antioxidants
High in:
 Vitamins B, C & E
Potassium, Iron, 
Calcium & Magnesium 

Also be sure you are drinking plenty of water.
It hydrates your skin by delivering essential nutrients to the skin cells.
The vital moisture from the water helps to keep your skin soft and supple,
 enhancing your complexion by making it glisten and look more radiant. 
"Nature gives you the face you have at 20.
It's up to you to merit the face you have at 50."
Coco Chanel

"Aging is a fact of life.
Looking your age is not."
Dr. Howard Murad