Still looking for that something-special gift?

Hi, folks! I completely forgot to announce this here on the blog, but I have wonderfully warm woolen mittens and fun one-of-a-kind Christmas stockings in my Etsy shop! There are just a handful (heehee!) of mittens left, so check them out now if you’re interested.

Link here: www.etsy.com/shop/TheGreenSheepStudio

Our faithful US Postal Service’s 3-Day Priority Mail will get them to you before Christmas if you order by this Friday, December 16 (if you are in the US).  It’s getting risky after that, but I’ll do my best to ship items quickly!


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Thanks for looking! Etsy shop link: www.etsy.com/shop/TheGreenSheepStudio

Name That Blanket…Results!

Thanks, everyone, for stirring up your creative juices to help name this blanket! You guys are great. This is the blanket that got packed up in an Operation Christmas Child box a couple of weeks ago. But as I was writing the blog post about it, I suddenly realized it had been sent out without a name. But names matter! Many of you came to the rescue, adding ideas on Facebook, Instagram, and this blog. A couple of you emailed me.

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These are the wonderful ideas that came in. Making the final choice was difficult!

Blanket of Love
A Bright Beginning
Christmas Child
Promise
Pastel Peace
Colors of Love
Quiet Rainbow
Heaven’s Hues
God’s Perfect Promise
The Christmas Rainbow
A Rainbow of Love
Vibrant Love
A Box of Sherbet
Ribbon Candy
A Rainbow Promise Pocket

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After much deliberation, the WINNER IS…

    ♥ THE CHRISTMAS RAINBOW ♥

I realized I wanted it to be a name that worked from a child’s perspective, so I tried to think like a little one. “The Christmas Rainbow” rose to the top because 1) I could imagine a child thinking it; 2) both “Christmas” and “rainbow” hold all the significance of the promise within each one of those; & 3) the blanket is not REALLY rainbow colors or rainbow sequence, but it is unusual, like a rainbow at Christmastime would be. Credit for “The Christmas Rainbow” name goes to Melissa Dugan.

And now this blanket can find its proper place in the world, since it has been named :)

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[Click here for the full story of “The Christmas Rainbow.”]

A blanket for a stranger

(“Strangers are friends you have yet to meet.”)

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This is the final collection weekend for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. OCC is a faith-based global effort that sends off gifts packed in shoe boxes to children whose lives have been touched by disasters, war or poverty.  I’ve known about this activity for years; I even know two wonderful young adults who were significantly affected by the shoe boxes they received as children in a Russian orphanage many years ago.

But I sheepishly admit I never packed a box myself until two weeks ago.

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A few weeks ago, my church made available empty shoe boxes from OCC, and my small group (a baker’s-dozen of great women) decided to have a packing party of our own. We each volunteered to shop for 13 somethings–toothbrushes, toothpaste, pencils, pads of paper, candy, toys, wash cloths, bars of soap, socks, cards and more–and bring them together to pack boxes. (I picked up some of Ikea’s colorful children’s tableware.) We were each to also add one “Wow!” gift to our own box. My “Wow” gift was a soft, sweet-eyed, stuffed-animal puppy.

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A few days before our packing night, both of our grown daughters (and 10-month-old granddaughter–gah!) happened to be visiting for the weekend. Saturday evening we popped in the DVD of a film recommended to me by a co-worker: The Drop Box. The seed for the film was planted when a young Los Angeles filmmaker (with Sundance aspirations) was eating breakfast one morning over the LA Times. On the front page, he read a story about a pastor in Korea who rescued unwanted babies by building a small warming box in the wall of his church, a “drop box” for newborns. The film is interesting, surprising, and to me, very moving. I came away with a renewed sense of the deep value of every single life.

As often happens in my brain, the experience of the film mingled with some other information up there in my head. In this case, I was thinking about a woman named Gift I’ve gotten to know a little this past year. Gift is from Zambia, and every year she raises money to send to her village for blankets for the women and children, who often do not have one of their own.

Sunday morning I woke up with one thought on my mind: I wanted to pack a wool blanket in my little shoe box, to let its young recipient know that she is one-of-a-kind in this wide, wide world, and someone somewhere was thinking about her.

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So that Sunday morning I pulled out my stacks of already-cut strips of wool sweaters, to see what child-friendly combination I could assemble. But it wasn’t working. I needed to start from scratch. With those bright Ikea dishes nearby, I chose a rainbow of saturated colors and got to work. I had just been working on a custom-ordered child’s blanket with diagonal stripes and decided to repeat the pattern. I love its youthfulness and sense of movement.

As I was limited to the interior of a shoe box, I knew this blanket couldn’t be thick, so I chose cashmere, merino wool, and lambswool. The result? It’s exceedingly lightweight and yet cozy and warm.

I hope it can feel like a cuddle to a little girl.

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I made our deadline and packed up my box. (In the photo, it looks like the blanket is taking up the whole box, but all the practical items are rolled up in the blanket.) Unfortunately, there was not enough room for that precious puppy. (Not for lack of trying, though! I even bought a bigger plastic box, but realized this would not feel fair to a group of kids on the receiving end.)

Of course, I likely will never meet the “5- to 9-year-old girl” this box is destined for. But I did learn from the woman at the collection counter that among the countries this batch of boxes is headed toward is Zambia :). Godspeed, little boxes!

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What?? I never named this blanket!
The suggestion box is open!

(Size: 40″ x 50″)

I’ve Had Some Catching Up to Do

Okay, it only took me a month after Art in the Barn to post new things for sale in my Etsy shop…! But I’m finally finished :).

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(There was some shop upkeep required as well. I find myself wishing those software/app developers would go on vacation and allow a little moss to grow under their techie creations back at home. It’s hard for us ordinary folk to keep up!)

Over at my Etsy shop you will find these two blankets now for sale:

Sing a New Song

“Summer Nostalgia” (57″ x 70″)
The “Summer Nostalgia” story is posted here.

"The Redbud"

“The Redbud” (62″ x 76″)
“The Redbud” story is posted here.

In the Etsy shop there are also several pairs of fleece-lined wool mittens…

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…and lots of keepsake Christmas stockings for the special people in your life.

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Please come take a look. The doors are open for Christmas shopping, window shopping and anytime shopping. Invite your friends!

 

 

The Mighty Five

Art in the Barn is at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, IL, next Saturday & Sunday,
Sept 24 & 25, 10 am-5 pm each day.

I’ll be in Tent 21 near the north entrance (see map here). If you’re nearby, call up a friend, come on over, stop by Tent 21 and say “hi”! It’s a beautiful setting and a fun way to spend an afternoon. Any shopping you do supports a really great hospital. Hope to see you there!

That was my public service announcement :). Keep reading for a brief round-up of summer fun–

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My husband and I just returned from a two-week road trip out west to see friends and to tour southern Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks. It was an incredible amount of loveliness to take in all in one pass. Though I have many photos yet to sort through, for now I thought I’d give a quick overview … in addition to the reminder above about Art in the Barn!

Stop #1: Canyonlands National Park

Highlight: We hiked a 6-mile trail through The Needles section (from Elephant Hill to Chesler Park) and had nearly all of this surreal landscape to ourselves. There are no trail markers but the stacked cairns, often over rock and slate, to point the way through the “needles” and the “mushrooms.”

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Stop #2: Arches National Park

Highlight: In the same way the mind finds whimsical shapes in clouds, my imagination was triggered by the interesting shapes of this park’s formations. Do you see the elephant head below? (In the second and fourth photos below, of Double Arch and the South Window, look for the tiny people in order to gain a sense of scale.)

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Stop #3: Capitol Reef National Park and the town of Fruita

Highlight: Through Airbnb we stayed in a home hand-built by a man who loves this land and loves puttering. In the evening we relaxed in his garden of thoughtful details and in the morning we awoke to sunrise on the bluff just behind the house. (Our hiking at Capitol Reef itself included the deep canyon of Grand Wash Trail.)517a430a596a 626a

Stop #4: Bryce Canyon National Park

Highlight: It was late afternoon when we finished our hiking in Bryce (Navajo Trail/Queen’s Garden loop). It seemed like the entire amphitheater was aglow in color!

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Stop #5: Zion National Park

Highlight: We climbed straight up the canyon walls, essentially, to gain an altitude of 1488 feet on a hike from the river at the canyon bottom to the top of Angels [sic!] Landing and back. In the first photo below, check out the steep switchbacks on the right. These were nothing compared to the next set of switchbacks, nicknamed Wally’s Wiggles. The second photo is of a broken-off branch of manzanita tree, I believe, that has been clung to by each and every passing hiker on the final steep ascent. Photo 3: my feet at the top of Angels Landing vs. the triangle of the park’s shuttle stop at canyon bottom. Photos 4 and 5: Zion Canyon and sunset.

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There you have it: my whirlwind summary. It’s a trip I highly recommend. We live in a country that has such interesting topographical diversity. With every curve we rounded in any road we were on, each mile looked new. (Well, maybe not in Nebraska. Sorry, Nebraska!)

Art in the Barn Juried Art Festival — Sept 24 and 25

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I’m excited to announce in one month I’ll be joining 175 other artists at this September’s 42nd Annual Art in the Barn Juried Art Festival! It’s a weekend-long affair on a charming rural piece of land belonging to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Illinois. It makes a fun show in a beautiful setting.

Today I browsed the listing of this year’s artists, planning who I’d like to visit when I can slip away from my own booth for a minute. (For instance! I’m a sucker for a ceramic coffee mug that settles its weight just right when I slip my fingers around the handle.)

pic of 3[Source for all Art in the Barn photos: www.artinthebarn-barrington.com

If you are local, please come out! You’ll find works in oil, watercolor, pastel, drawing, acrylics, fiber, glass, photography, digital media, jewelry, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, scratchboard, wood, and mixed media. There will be food, music, entertainment and, to make it fun for the entire family, a children’s art corner, art gallery, and petting zoo (it’s not called Art in the Barn for nothing!).

And you’ll find me at Tent #21 (click here for map) with several new big blankets, baby blankets, and some Christmas stockings and mittens for the coming season.

Finally, here is a sneak peek at the laaast blanket I’m getting ready for the festival. I’ll put this one up on the blog very soon!

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Would love to see you in Barrington in a month ;)

Cheer for February

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Gray jacket

I’ve mentioned before how I harbor a quiet affection for February, the month I was born. This is not a popular stance, but someone needs to take it. Two years ago, as a birthday gift to myself, I made this green birthday sweater-coat out of felted wool sweaters, just like I use for all my blankets:

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It was such a pleasure that I decided to do it again. I purchased Burda 7700, especially because I loved View E. View E is linen! Linen lassoes me in every time! I’m a sucker for it.

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You may expect, out in Internet-land, that since I sew a lot, I’d be pretty good at sewing clothing. That’s partly true; I don’t have a hard time with the sewing. The FITTING, however, is another story entirely. No matter how carefully I take those measurements, choose the corresponding pattern size, and adjust as needed here and there, I rarely arrive at the glorious product that I imagined at the outset. I’m used to it, though.

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In this case, the jacket turned out huge, partly because of the stretchiness of the sweaters and partly because of the aforementioned fitting issues. I spent two dark days feeling my failure while my subconscious brain worked on a solution. Then I dived back in and made a fix.

We will call this an adaptation of Burda 7700 :). It’s got the asymmetry of the original — and pockets!–, but a bit lower shoulders, a straight hem across the front instead of the points, a wider hood that appears even more cowl-like in the front, and more buttons. Because I used several sweaters, each piece of the pattern is made from a different but coordinating wool.

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*[Blurry photo included so you can see this jacket’s swing — one of my favorite aspects!]

And there you go. I encourage anyone up for a little sewing adventure to try doing a store-bought pattern out of coordinating felted sweaters. The sweaters should be of similar weight and drape. You’ll need to patch each sweater together into a large enough piece of fabric to lay out a pattern piece on it. I used the same sweater for my two sleeves; every other piece is of a different sweater: the hood, the left front, right front, left back, right back — six sweaters altogether.

If you need a place to begin, here are some more patterns that looked intriguing to use or adapt:

Burda 6986, Burda 7020
Butterick 5993, Butterick 6107
Simplicity 1251, Simplicity 1719
McCalls 6517

Of course, there are also the fantastical coats of Katwise, with patterns offered in her Etsy shop.

Welcome, sweet one, to this amazing world.

Miri

Pardon me, I’ve been away doting.

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Our granddaughter decided to make her way into the world on the iciest day of this winter season — thereby managing to keep her parents at home for the entire event. She is precious. She is beautiful. She is well-loved.

There are many things I will want to say to her, read to her, sing to her, and hope for her as she grows. But for the time being I simply want to welcome her to this amazing gift of a world which is now hers to experience.

Welcome, little sweet pea. We are so happy to be on this adventure with you.

 

The pregnant pause before Christmas

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Early this morning, sitting in my pjs in my favorite wingback chair by our Christmas tree, I read:

“The LORD is in his holy temple;
Let all the earth be silent before him.”

— Habakkuk 2:20

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It is 10 days until Christmas. Shopping is finished and gifts are wrapped. My hubby and I are driving to Michigan this weekend for a Christmas celebration with our kids.  I’ve just managed to get things done early and it dawned on me that I am feeling a quiet lull before Christmas. Honestly, it seems extravagant at this time of year!

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The sense of expectancy reminds me of the Christmas song “O Holy Night.” It tells the story of an incredible new joy dawning upon a waiting world:

O holy night! the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees…

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We as a family wait in anticipation of two things this year. We recall the waiting of Mary and Joseph and of the Hebrew people over two thousand years ago: a weighty expectation for the promised Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, all fulfilled in the birth of the child Jesus (Isaiah 9:6). And we also wait on the coming of a child — a little girl! — within our own family, just days after Christmas. She’s right here, so close to arrival, but still a mystery.

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I know the momentousness of these two births is very different, but the wondrous-ness is not. I praise God for them both, and feel that “thrill of hope” as we wait.

Merry Christmas to you all!

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[You may also enjoy reading earlier Christmas posts from The Green Sheep: “A very good gift,” “A Christmas message that involves sheep,” and “The sheep at the stable.”]

 

Thanks for the beautiful day!

Well, the day was a little windy and cold and we had to regularly hold down the tents and our stuff, but what a fun day it was at the Whispering Hills Garden Center Holiday Market yesterday! Thank you, thank you, to all who came out and made the day a beautiful one.

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The sun was strong all day, the traffic was constant, people were fun, friendly, and interactive, local musicians graced us with their music, and I had great neighboring vendors. Crescent City Cajun‘s yummy food, Pop’s Premier Kettlecorn, and Kiera Confections kept everyone full of tasty treats.

Silly me left my camera card at home and thus had to make do with some simple phone pics, but here’s a shot of the baby-blanket corner of the booth and part of the wall-of-photos.  As I mentioned in my last post, this was my first outdoor show and the whole tent thing was a bit intimidating. But the genuine offers of help from highly skilled friends and family set me free to just have fun. Thank you, everyone! Also fun: I wore the green sweater-coat I made for my own birthday a couple years back. It just makes me happy.

[Note the stuffed cat lying down on top of the basket. He kept falling over in the wind. One customer, after several unsuccessful attempts to get him upright, finally said, “I think it’s nap time” and just let him be :). ]

Holiday Market!

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I’m spending today prepping blankets and props for a pop-up style holiday market tomorrow at our local Whispering Hills Garden and Landscape Center (8401 South IL Rte. 31, Cary — just south of Barn Nursery on the corner of Rakow and 31). I’m excited! It will be my first time setting up outdoors, with a pop-up canopy and all its accoutrements. My daughter Hope recently designed a great new banner for me (and two Vistaprint representatives happily modelled it).

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The Green Sheep will be at Whispering Hills with 39 other vendors, including other Etsy sellers who live locally. Gah! That’s a lot of access to some wonderful and unique holiday shopping, all in one convenient place.

Please come out! There will be food trucks, music, door prizes and give-aways, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, November 14. Of course, the garden center has beautiful things of its own for decorating your home for the holidays. Here’s a quick little map: I’ve circled where I’ll be. Hope to see you there! And many thanks to Whispering Hills for the hard work of organizing this.

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An Illinois Summer

Emily Dickinson wrote in the mid 1800s:

“The last of summer is delight —
Deterred by retrospect.”

Right on, Emily. You said it so well.

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I love the days of summer. When it’s time for them to go, I get a little misty.

This summer held two really wonderful things: lots of people and lots of driving around our part of the Midwest. (And all this while I undertook the aforementioned painting project — silly me.) We loved our visitors, and if you weren’t among them, we would love to have you come sometime! And — embarrassing state politics aside — we also love this region we live in: the farmland, the space, the resourcefulness, the quiet, the creativity, and the blessed beauty of unending blue and green.

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As I have been remiss in my blogging life these past two months, I’ll do some summer road trip retrospect right here, via a little narration and a handful of photos. Our wheels warmed up roads through Wisconsin and a slice of Minnesota, crossed Indiana, lingered in Michigan, and laid some new tracks in Illinois. Here we go:

WISCONSIN: On our way to and from our neighbors’ son’s Minneapolis-area wedding, we drove hundreds of miles through farmland early in the growing season. Rows of short corn stalks and bean plants seemed combed into order, with one field curving gracefully and the next lined up straight alongside the outbuildings. Lovely patterns. We also toured New Glarus Brewing Company, where owner Dan Carey says, “Some people paint, some sing, others write … I brew.”

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Next up, MICHIGAN , where we spent time in Grand Rapids (home of oldest daughter and husband), Holland (home of youngest daughter), and Traverse City, where the daughters and I had a girls’ weekend headlined by the lyrical musicianship of The Weepies in the cozy setting of The City Opera House.

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Just last week my hub and I celebrated our anniversary right here in NORTHERN ILLINOIS…in the historical Mississippi River town of Galena, where native Americans and new Americans skirmished over land, and where Ulysses S. Grant lived and worked in his family’s tannery prior to leveraging his military background to recruit volunteers for the American Civil War.

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Galena sits in a small triangle of land (touching Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois) called the Driftless Area because it was mysteriously untouched by the glaciers which wore down the hills and deposited their silt, clay, gravel and stones to form the corn belt. Cutting west through Galena across the ridges of hills reminded me of up-and-down driving in San Fransisco — what a surprise! And another: The bluffs above the Mississippi have created a dandy slope for some Midwestern snow boarding and skiing. Snowless now, we played on Chestnut Mountain Resort’s alpine slide and zip line, hitching a ride on the ski lift to get back to home base.

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I started this post with one poet, and I’m going to end with another. Philip Deaver’s line about the “slant of light and the swell of humid…summer” describe how I felt as a child when we drove from California to visit our Illinois relatives. His words settle in me even more deeply after 17 years of Illinois summers and neighbors, sidewalks, maples and peonies of my own.

Illinois by Philip F. Deaver

I recall a catbird on the wire
between my house and the corner pole
and the dense green maple leaves
and the grass growing fast below
and the peonies, tulips, the sidewalks
stretching down each block to my friends,
and from out of the houses, the voices
of neighbors camped nearby for life,
those close to us in spirit,
those held at arms length, and they us,
and I know when I recall this bird
dancing on our phone line and
singing upwards toward a mate
invisible in the waving treetops,
that it isn’t exactly the bird I’m remembering
but the slant of light and the swell
of humid Illinois summer
pressing in around her.

(Hankering to see other trips? Don’t miss: The Blog Tour, featuring pics from Italy; Tour de Fall,  What I’ve Done on My Summer VacationShearing in the Shade, and The Pacific Northwest and God’s Grandeur.)

 

 

 

 

Something old, something new, something borrowed, and I’m not blue, Part IV!

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Three years ago, in spring of 2012, I started a simple kitchen makeover on a shoestring, blogging about it in three successive posts (here, here, and here) — all relevant to The Green Sheep because of the recycling theme, right? “Use what you have!”

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Over this stretch of time, we have continued chipping away at the following changes:

• painting the island a “greige” color
• hanging a pendant light above the kitchen sink
• switching out the linoleum for laminate flooring
• adding a back-splash made of ceramic floor tiles

…and IT FEELS SO GREAT. Done for now. (The lamp and tiles were from our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Only the flooring was brand new.)

The back-splash was the latest project, completed this month, so I’ve got pics:

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Here’s the finished product — very subtle, just as planned:

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And here’s the full kitchen, as we use and love it everyday. You can see the pendant light, painted island and new flooring now. The cabinets are a bit worse for wear; I haven’t been incredibly impressed with how the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation product has held up. And yet! There’s no doubt in my mind these changes have made me a better cook ;). Also, there was no island prior to the start of this remodel. Of course, it’s now a favorite workspace and gathering spot.

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At some point, I will repaint and put up new art on the walls — as one of my daughters gifted me a couple of her paintings. Woo hoo!

As long as I had made a mess in one part of the house, I decided to keep on going. This past week I’ve been working on the back hall. It was one of the earliest-painted parts of the house when we moved in, late 1990s. In my desire for color, I went for green stripes. Although it made me happy, it’s now dated. The only pic I have is this recent one, once I started repairs:

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I now chose a very light gray for the walls (“Is it going to look white??” asked both a daughter and my husband separately) and painted the trim plain white. I’m going for peacefulness this time around. Here’s the same corner after patching, sanding, priming, and painting:

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So there you go, an update. How about you all? Any other do-it-yourselfers who’ve got a project to report? I’d love to hear!

A very good gift

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

–John 10.10

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 Photo: Christian Lambert Photography on Flickr via Creative Commons

Neither my husband nor I speaks the language of gifts fluently. For each of us, there are other things that rank higher in importance, and that’s where we spend our energies. But my husband has a quality that simply amazes me: if you need something, he will drop just about anything in order to figure out a way to get that something done. I regularly see him do this for others, but this year he did something for me that was so impractical and so loving and so undeserved, I still get teary thinking about it.

The story actually begins, and not in a good way, on my birthday in February of 2013. We had gone out for a lovely birthday dinner and were on our way home when my car was rear-ended at a stoplight. It was a pretty big BUMP but we weren’t hurt and neither was the other driver, so the officer sent us all on our way, grateful, to home.

But then we learned that my beloved car, an 11-year-old previously-owned Mazda Tribute with a manual transmission, had been badly knocked awry and was declared totalled. Time to go car shopping.

That prospect might cause YOU joy and elation, but I wasn’t feelin’ it: we weren’t going to get much insurance money, so in addition to losing a car I was very fond of, we would be making a new financial investment, whether we bought new or used.

Now, in our 30-plus years of marriage, we have always bought used. (You are likely not surprised by that fact! This very blog is based on a fundamental recycling theme!) But this time we compared the options and, with a popular used car market driving up prices, my husband said (after countless hours of test drives with a disheartened wife), “Honey, I would just love to do this for you,” and we brought home a beautiful new white and shiny small SUV. I felt pretty stunned to be the recipient of this lovely gift.

The end.

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Photo: Angelina Vukel on Flickr via Creative Commons

Oh, wait; that is not the end. Honestly, that car was a LOVELY gift, but it did not turn out to be the gift in this story.

I drove that car for over a year but somehow never felt attached to it. It was beautiful and comfortable…but not really my style. And I felt that most acutely when I, the check-writer for the two of us, paid its monthly car payment. It took me a long time to tell my kind husband this truth.

We talked about trading my car in, but I didn’t want to go through the hassle, I hated that we’d lose money on it, etc., etc., etc. But he wouldn’t give up that easily. We’d done so much car-shopping and test-driving that he knew what I liked and soon he had some great used cars picked out — relatively late models with low mileage and lower price tags than my shiny new vehicle had. His research brought to my attention a car I hadn’t taken notice of before — as Hyundai had stopped making them after 2012: the Elantra Touring. I fell in love with all the practical qualities of that car: its low profile, good fuel economy, and great cargo space.

And then that charming guy of mine showed me one with a manual transmission. My heart leapt within me. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the delight of driving a stick shift.

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Photo: Monika & Manfred on Flickr via Creative Commons

You know how I said these cars were no longer made? And how I liked it a lot? Apparently many other car owners feel the same because this vehicle is not too common in the used market. Local ones were either weirdly bright colors (my apologies to the owners of those colors — I’m happy that variety can be the spice of your life!) or in wrecky shape. Did my husband try to talk me out of this car? No, his brain went into another dimension and — I’m telling the truth — this is what happened:

One Thursday afternoon, my husband calls me at work and casually says, “I have a verbal agreement with a dealer in Massachusetts for a beautiful black Touring with a manual transmission and just 18,000 miles on it. CarMax has offered a good price for your current car. So can I ask for your help when you get home from work? We’ll go to CarMax and trade in your car, and then you can drop me off at Chicago O’Hare to catch an evening flight to Boston Logan, and then I’ll take a 3-hour bus ride to Dartmouth…”

[To understand this picture fully, you need to know how much I would never do this, this thing so quixotic, so complicated, so uncalled-for and — honestly — so crazy. Me? I’m the one who efficiently lines up all my errands like a UPS driver, ticking my way through them with right-hand turns, wasting neither time nor money, and getting home to cook a sensible dinner. I attribute this to my German and Scottish ancestors. Why should anyone put everything on hold and go to all this outlandish trouble for a CAR??]

Well, he pulled it off with barely a hitch: from trade-in to flight to bus-ride to dealing with the car salesman to working out a legal way to drive home without proper plates in this out-of-state purchase to driving over 1000 miles back to northern Illinois. And I never caught a single note of stress in his voice when we talked by phone.

On Saturday evening, my tired husband pulled into our driveway with a smile on his face and one of the most thoughtful, fun gifts I have ever received.

nativityJesus

I tell you this story because to me it is a tender glimpse of the way God gives gifts — beyond my imagination, always undeserved, with details only he could orchestrate, and with a care-free generosity I cannot wrap my care-full mind around. This in fact is the story of Christmas and the gospel, beginning with the unusual birth of the baby Jesus — who came that we might have life and have it abundantly.

The unanticipated joy God the Father throws in is a bonus.

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The Tatler Ad

Yesterday after work I pulled into the driveway, unloaded the groceries I’d just picked up, and, with the day’s lunch bag still slung over my shoulder, walked to the end of the drive to get our mail. And there was this.

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(Not with the giant tear in it; I did that.) I’ve been on the lookout for this package, eager for its arrival from across The Pond. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that The Green Sheep had an ad coming out in a parents’ gift-giving guide. I didn’t mention where…

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Tatler Magazine, a Conde Nast publication in the U.K., contacted me at the beginning of August, asking if I would care to be part of their holiday promotion leading up to Christmas. I was stunned! Honored! And in disbelief that this blog had captured someone’s attention over there. Those British know their wool. I am like a dwarf among giants.

And then I said “yes,” sent off the ad copy and image, and got to work. You guys have seen the result: I finally took the Etsy leap.

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Here’s the final product! (Get out your monocle and check out Item #8. I was so pleased that I had just finished “Baby Goes Hiking” and had its photos all ready.) I feel privileged all over again to have been invited to be part of this 2-page spread. Thank you, Tatler; and thank you, Harriet-of-the-sales-team. I enjoyed working with you.

As frosting on the cake, Tatler’s sister magazine, British Glamour, just asked me this week if I’d care to run the ad in their similar holiday guide next month. What??? I said “yes” :)

Etsy Shop now open!

After years of sharing The Green Sheep’s blankets (and more) via this blog, I’ve now also opened an Etsy shop!

If you haven’t heard of Etsy before, you are in for a treat. It is a well-developed online marketplace where millions of people from around the world sell and shop for unique goods, mostly handmade. Many talented, creative people have set up shop there.

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On Etsy, my shop’s name is The Green Sheep Studio. (You’ll find other shops with “green sheep” in their name as that phrase is not exclusively mine.) To get there, click the “Etsy Shop” link in the green header bar on this page.

Over the next few days, keep your eyes open for the child-sized blankets (like the one above) that I’ll be adding to the shop, as I have an advertisement coming out soon in a parents’ gift-giving guide for the holidays.

Please click on over and do some window shopping. And while you’re there, browse through more of Etsy’s wonderful wares. It’s a great place to find really unique gifts. Have fun!

“A Plaid Affair”

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plaid

I’ve been busy in my sunny sewing place, making up several things to be ready for fall. But I decided to take a quick break to make a post of an early, early blanket I made.

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plaid

This blanket nearly qualifies for the designation of “crazy quilt.” It’s such a mix of things:

lovely wool, “bad wool” (high synthetic content), heavy sweaters and thin ones, textures going every which direction, and colors that don’t really blend. I just threw it all in there. This experimentation taught me so much. [Nota bene: I don’t buy bad wool anymore.]

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plaid

But in fact this blanket is saved from any “crazy” nomenclature by two things:

the uniformity of the squares and the powerful restraint of the plaid. I find it pretty amazing.

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plaid

Incidentally, we have used this blanket a ton for over five years and it is still holding up great. Those lacy patches in particular have surprised me with their durability.

All right, time for me to get back to the sewing machine :)

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“A Plaid Affair” (72″ x 74″)

This blanket already has a home.

Keeping up appearances, Part 2: The blog tour

I’m a map-lover. I like to know where I am and where I am going. That’s why I’m conducting this little tour around my blog today. It’s all about navigation — what’s here and how to get to it. If you’re curious, come along!

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(Earlier this year, my husband and I took a trip to Italy to mark 30 years of marriage. I decided to use some photos from that trip in today’s post. After all, we DID take a lot of tours!)

All right. Is everybody here? First stop: the header menu.

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 The Header Menu

Across the top of the page is a green bar that has links with lots of useful information. I’ll describe each one:

HOME will always take you back to the most recent post, which will be followed by the next most recent post, etc., in one long scroll. HOME is the place you can return to if you get lost.

ABOUT provides background about me and my business, The Green Sheep. That’s self-explanatory, right? But check it out — you may learn something new!

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CUSTOM ORDER lets you know what to do to order a special blanket of your own or for a gift. A custom-made keepsake blanket makes a great one-of-a-kind gift for a special occasion…or for no occasion at all!

PRICES tells how to find the price of an item that’s available for sale. (As I build my current inventory of blankets available to buy, I also plan to open a shop on etsy.com to make sales transactions simpler.)

LEGACY BLANKETS — This new grouping showcases custom-ordered blankets that specially remember a loved one. This button in the menu bar takes you to a page describing what these blankets are. (For a list of these blankets, see “Legacy Blanket Collection” under “Blankets” via THE GOODS button.)

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CONTACT — This page has a new form for contacting me directly. Yea! It’s easier than ever before.

TESTIMONIALS I appreciate feedback on my business, and customers like to comment. I thought you might be interested too. In fact, if you are an owner or buyer of anything from The Green Sheep and have a testimonial sort of comment of your own, please contact me (see “Contact” section immediately above).

THE GOODS is an index to all Green Sheep items that have ever been posted on this blog. Categories will drop down as you hover over them with your cursor. For instance, you can find children’s blankets I’ve made by going under “Blankets” and then “Blankets for Children.”

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We’re halfway there! I know for a fact some of you don’t spend a lot of time online. So: is this making sense of things?

 

Next up: The Sidebar

Over in the right sidebar are a few more helpful tools I’d like to show you…

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SEARCH MY BLOG: Type in anything you want to look for on the blog. You know, like the birthday coat I wore everywhere last winter :).

FIND THINGS HERE: Just like “The Goods” above, this index contains lists of categories on the blog. This one, however, lists every single post while “The Goods” lists only the items I’ve designed, blankets and all. They overlap some and are both helpful indexes. You would, for example, find this current post listed in the sidebar under “Miscellaneous.”

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FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL: Sign up here to receive an email notification from WordPress every time I post something new. This is in case you don’t want to miss out on anything.

GALLERY: Photos of Green Sheep art! If you click on an image, it will expand to a larger size against a beautiful black background. You can scroll through all the images from there. It’s pretty fun; I hope you give it a whirl.

ARCHIVES: This gives you access to the blog’s posts by date — all the way back to its inception in 2010.

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Almost finished! Now on to the conclusion of our tour:

Comments (and other bottom-of-the-page things)

O.K. This is going to get “techy” for a moment. I’d like to point out something about how most blogs work. When a viewer clicks on the title of the blog (like “The Green Sheep” in black type at the very top of this page), the programming behind the blog brings up a l-o-n-g scroll of consecutive posts, one right after the other, in reverse chronological order.

But! When a viewer clicks on the title of a post (like “Keeping up appearances, Part 2” at the top of this page in red), the programming instead brings up that one single post. That’s it. No scroll directly onto other posts. With this option, the comments and the so-called sharing buttons appear for use at the end of the post.

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All this to say: Let loose and join in! Leave a comment! Share the post with other people who might enjoy it! Click a button or add your two cents. The fun is in being together.

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Well, that’s it. That’s the little tour. I hope you’ve done some exploring and have found it helpful. I’ve enjoyed introducing you to new features I’ve been working on. Also — I truly do appreciate feedback. Let me know if there’s something else that would make navigation more convenient. I’ll do my best to figure out how to get there!


Interested in Part 1? Check it out here: “Keeping up appearances, Part 1.”

 

 

Keeping up appearances, Part 1

typewriterOriginal art: virginia kraljevic on etsy

As I am of a certain age, I have seen some changes in technology over my years. I mostly try to take it in stride, but actually I find it astonishing.

I first learned how to use a desktop computer at work in the early 1980s.

9734582895_e972f70579_kPhoto: sussexmike

Except it wasn’t actually a desktop; it was a Compaq portable computer, the size of my sewing machine, and it weighed 34 pounds. I could cover the screen with my hand. But so progressive! So exciting!

When we bought our own computer in the later ’80s, it looked something like this:

992997e1174d2c131f5b85751771d672Photo: Ruj Kumar on Pinterest

In those days I would stick my head into our basement where my grad-student husband was working at his desk and find him bathed in an eerie green glow. Graphics? Of course it had graphics! Like this!

ascii-snoopyPhoto: eetimes

Fast forward more than a decade. I clearly recall when my hubby and I walked into Best Buy and saw — for the first time — high-def, animated graphics on a regular home computer. We stopped like country bumpkins in front of those screens and stared. We were astonished.

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Photo: Disney Screencaps

I’ve been reflecting on technology recently because of a particular need to Keep Up. Five years ago I started this blog in response to requests to put photos of my blankets online. WordPress provided a great platform so I figured out the basics and let it go at that. But then! my WordPress theme, Chaotic Soul, was retired. Do you recall when my blog looked like this?

chaotic soul

But I didn’t like trying to read the old white-on-black anyway so I chose a new theme, Motif, and then had some catch-up to do. (WordPress has added many new features since I began blogging but I’ve been bad about keeping up with them.) With help from Wiley’s “Dummies” imprints, I learned some code, asked for help from the incredible WordPress volunteers, and did a tiny bit of my own web design. (Okay, I may be leaving out a few frustrated hours of struggling to conceptualize what I even needed to ask the volunteers!)

Honestly, I can hardly believe how amazing the internet is, and computing, and code, and the blogging world, and electronics…it’s mostly beyond me. But I am so grateful to be living now and taking part in all of this. How about you?


Please come back next week to see “Keeping up appearances, Part 2,” in which I give you a little tour around my blog!

 

 

 

The one whom my soul loves

Elsewhere I have mentioned what I like to call my day job (you can find little bits here and here and here) — as an occupational therapist in a busy outpatient neuro rehab clinic. But “busy” doesn’t quite capture the character of the place. 017a

We deal daily with people who have just gone through something generally sudden and traumatic — a stroke, an accident, cancer that has appeared in the brain — and life is often completely different than it was just an ordinary handful of weeks ago. This can make for a huge emotional component during the time we spend with a patient. I believe we try to reserve the best part of ourselves for this.

But on top of that, we muster the resources to cover a lot of other territory: writing documentation that is meaningful to doctors, insurance companies, other therapists; cleaning up equipment after treatment or organizing our ever-changing clinic space; consulting with our fantastically adept case managers on a particular insurance plan or an out-of-sorts family member; juggling last-minute schedule changes…

…and not least of all, trying to care for each other in the crumbs of time we might have left.

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One of us recently got married. The relationship was a happy surprise to both She and He, coming as it did after each had raised their children and spent many years alone. And in the midst of a harried, frenetic clinic day, one of my creative colleagues brought up a great idea with which to honor our marrying friend. Since it involved felted wool, she brought me in on it.

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The idea (which may have been influenced by something on Pinterest) was this: stitch up a table-runner/wall-hanging  with a pair of birds to play the parts of the bride and her groom, add a tender verse from Song of Solomon, and have the varied lot of us on staff fill out the rest with fanciful flowers of our creation.

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And we ARE varied…and colorful and complementary and sometimes cacophonous. All of these came out when we gathered one rare relaxed evening to complete the project — sharing scissors, fabric scraps, wine, and pizza.

We think the outcome illustrates the assortment of us pretty well ;).

Happy Ever After to Donna and Darrel! We love you both.

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