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The boy’s class had an Arctic Celebration this evening complete with readers’ theater, songs, artwork, games and snacks, and surprise—snow—so appropriate to the theme and late March in Maine.

handmade cookie cutter polar bear

I had volunteered to bring something baked and at the last minute (not a surprise) I decided that I just had to make polar bear shaped shortbread. Had to. A piece of aluminum roof flashing, a pair of pliers and a few minutes of careful bending yielded a serviceable cookie cutter in a graphically simple shape of a polar bear reminiscent of Inuit sculpture. The boy helped me make the simple shortbread dough and we had just enough time to bake the bears before heading off through the snow to see his classmates and their families at the school.

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Winter in Maine means months of sweaters and snowpants, hot chocolate and mittens. For Christmas, the girl received a beautiful puzzle inspired by Disney’s Snow White with artwork painted by Tim Rogerson in a style subtly reminiscent of Picasso. I know that sounds like a strange combination but click through to see the original artwork, the artist really makes it work. Apparently the artist’s style made quite an impression on the girl because a few days after we worked on the puzzle she created this mitten picture beginning with a tracing of her own hands.

child's drawing of mittens

Later, the boy saw her picture and got an idea. He very carefully explained how we could sew mittens by putting our hands down on fabric instead of paper, tracing and cutting. He went on to describe how he would sew the mittens all around the hand and thumb. He even had some ideas about how to add details such as the hearts in the girl’s picture. I wish I could say we carried out his plan but he lost interest at that point. Sigh.

I did however incorporate his plan into mittens for myself with a little help from the kids. We traced my hand and cut out the pattern. I decided to use the fair isle decorated sleeves of a felted sweater to make my mittens. This lovely wool sweater was sent to me by my sweet friend Amy who thought that I could do something with it. Here’s what we did Amy!

cutting felted fair isle sweater into mittens
partially sewn mitten upcycle recycle refashion wool sweater sleeve

Although I kept the part of the seam that was already sewn, I decided not to sew a standard seam around the thumb and hand. Instead I overlapped the fabric, basted across the overlap and then used my needle felting tool to felt the overlap. My intention was to eliminate a hard seam on the inside, especially at the fingertips. This worked with some success. The sides of the mittens and thumb felted together well leaving almost no visible seam. The fingertip area, unfortunately, did not hold together so well. In fact I’ve been wearing them with the basting stitch holding the ends together which sort of negates the point of wool mittens. But despite the little draftiness at the ends they are still the warmest, softest mittens I have. I do intend to take a minute to work some more on the fingertips and thumbtips to close them up. If I can stop wearing them long enough.

mitten sewn from felted recycled upcycled refashioned wool sweater

P.S. Just in case you want to make your own sewn mittens, I highly recommend sewing in a diamond shaped gusset between the thumb and first finger. If you pin your mitten together and try it on, leaving that spot open, you’ll see why you need just a bit of extra fabric in there.

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down feather on the snow

The sun is shining, we haven’t had any new snow to speak of in more than a week, the birds are singing, dropping little fluffy nesting feathers, and the squirrels are playing chase instead of making a beeline from stash to hidey hole. The snowblower-made sliding hill is still better than six feet tall and the snow in the yard can still swallow me thigh high in places but I’d like at least one more good dumping of fresh snow this season. It’s only February!

small stream in the snow

Above is the “stream” that runs through the empty lot behind our house. Laughingly referred to as waterfront property by the neighbor who owns the lot. I tend to think of it as little more than a drainage ditch but it does run all summer long and it looks rather picturesque here, doesn’t it?

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The kids went back to school today but I’m still recovering. There are now two hats lost in the sea of snow. I guess I know what’s next in the knitting queue.

Dad has created quite the little sledding hill at the end of the drive with the help of the snowblower. And the kids have packed two sides of the slide platform with snow to create a cozy little hideaway. If you aim your sled just right you can shoot all the way into the dooryard of the fort sheltered by the turn in the slide. The “tube” is more likely to take you bouncing down into the deepest snow—maybe two feet including what came down in yesterday’s storm.




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snow cream vanilla cinnamon

Once or twice a winter when we get a nice big snow I collect a bowl of clean snow and we pour in some milk or cream, a little sugar and some vanilla. Stir it up and you have snow cream. The first time we made it I was surprised how good it tasted. Or maybe anything sweet tastes good after you’ve been running around outside. The pink snow cream was flavored with just a drop of cinnamon oil and was highly favored by the boy and me. Surprisingly the girl preferred the plain vanilla despite her general preference for all things pink.


homemade ice lanterns

I’m not sure when I started making ice lanterns. I don’t remember doing this as a child, but I don’t think I waited until we moved to Maine either, and I’m sure I couldn’t have accomplished this in Oklahoma. In any case, it’s fun and easy if you live somewhere cold enough that the temperatures stay around or below freezing for days at a time so you can admire your handiwork. These are fun to make for lighting your walk or deck for winter parties as well.

Ruth from Knitting on Impulse asked about winter traditions involving the celebration of light a while back on her blog. I was reminded that I hadn’t made these in a few years. I think the girl and I did build a tiny igloo with a candle in it two winters ago but I think it snowed again before I could get a good picture. When a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound if no-one is there to take a picture of it? (See? random.)

Anyway, I happened to have some smaller ice lanterns in the freezer waiting for the outside temperatures to cooperate at the time. These round ones were made outside in a 5 gallon bucket. Ice will form first on the surface of the water and the sides of the bucket. Once these edges get thick enough you will be able to carefully turn the bucket over, let the ice slide out and the unfrozen inside can simply be poured out. The top will be the thickest part and becomes the base of the lantern. I’m not a good scientist so I can’t give you any data on times or temperatures, etc. The temperature of the water to begin with, the size of the vessel and the temperature outside or in your freezer will all contribute to how clear or not clear the ice is. I don’t think it matters. One of these froze enough overnight I think, the other one was out all day and night. The smaller milk carton size will freeze in several hours. In fact, I have an unfortunate habit of forgetting to check on them and ending up with a solid block of ice instead. You can use those as candle bases in the bigger lanterns. A tea light will burn for several hours protected from the wind. The ice magnifies and fractures the tiny light in an earnestly wistful way. A nice warmth to come home to when the dark descends so quickly on winter days.

hand made ice lanterns 5 gallon bucket tea light

Too bad these are now buried under in a foot of new snow! I wonder if I should dig them out or just make new ones?

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I remember watching the Olympics as a kid and I was always most interested in the winter events. Downhill skiing, all manner of ice-skating, and luge/bobsled are probably my favorites. Through college I didn’t have as much time to pay attention but I do remember sitting with Rich rolling our eyes at Bob Costas’ commentary.

I think the kids are old enough now to enjoy watching. I haven’t had a chance to look up the schedule, but it’s fortunate that this is February break here and we may be able to watch some events live this coming week. We’ll mix that up with some winter sports of our own. Skating on the town pond, and maybe some sledding if we get some fresh snow, the stuff we have is rock hard and dwindling. The L.L. Bean MotherStore is running a week long series of mostly free events for kids; I think we’ll be checking out the Taxidermy Safari, maybe some puppets and juggling, crafts and hot cider, and definitely the Chewonki Foundation‘s Live Owls of Maine exhibit. The boy has already previewed the last one at school but I’m sure he’ll be excited to go again. Owls are pretty high on his favorite animal list.

ravelympics 2010 banner

And what is Ravelympics? Ravelympics is a for-fun spinning/knitting/crocheting/weaving/whatever kind of fiber crafting event held on Ravelry, a sprawling online community of knitting/crocheting, weaving/spinning type people. Annie sucked me into Ravelry and now I’m being sucked into Ravelympics. The basic idea is that Ravelers will be participating in challenging yarn events during the Olympics. There are all kinds of categories to choose from and all you have to do is tag your project, post photos and start and finish between the official opening and closing ceremonies. This is good for me, I need deadlines!

handspun hand-dyed three ply light fingering yarn BFL bluefaced leicester spiced pumpkin

So here’s my project/event: I’ve been working on figuring out what socks to make for myself from the spiced pumpkin yarn I spun and dyed. I’ve finally picked the pattern (Irish Ale by Nic W a.k.a RedScot) and figured out my gauge, I hope! Of course, I can’t just follow the directions, because, well, that’s just me. So I’ll be knitting these socks toe-up instead of cuff-down as written, which means some scary upside down freeform thinking that I have to be able to duplicate on the second sock! I may or may not add the “froth” at the top. If I do I’ll have to spin some bunny fur. And at the end of the Olympics will be another fibery event, NETA’s annual SPA, Knit and Spin in Freeport.

And I doubt I can go two weeks without spinning so I’ll probably start on the last six ounces of oatmeal BFL. I’m planning on spinning into sock weight three ply and dyeing it blue and green for Topographie inspired socks.

ravelympicsbob Vancouver Olympics 2010

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Would you guess this is the drainage ditch that runs through the wooded lot behind our house? Looks pretty in the snow doesn’t it?

Nice, soft snow and just a bit sticky. We got about 10 inches Sunday night into Monday so it’s not like we really needed more today but it was pretty and fun. Yesterday I took the kids to the big hill in the woods but today we stayed closer to home. First things, the girl and I attempted a snowman. Grapes for eyes, a carrot nose and a green pepper smile. I wonder if some squirrel or bird will be enjoying a little frozen fruit and veggies soon.

snowman with grape eyes, carrot nose and green pepper mouth

Back inside we were sad to discover that ballet class was cancelled so we consoled ourselves by putting on American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake and making origami animals, including a swan of course.

origami swan

Silliness broke out as I spun brown wool. The girl was giving me handfuls of wool as needed and then decided that I wasn’t moving fast enough for her. She started patting the handfuls of wool on top of her head! Now how do you like that ‘do?


When the boy got home we all decided to take a walk, waving to neighbors and kicking through several inches of new snow. Back at the house the boy went in to get the snow tube and I got the camera. The end of our driveway had a fairly good plow pile left from the last storm and Rich snowblowed even more on top last night making for a pretty good high spot to slide down from into the backyard.


And just a bit more silliness as we used up the last of the daylight.


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six pointed paper snowflake

I’ve been making these paper snowflakes for as long as I can remember and I never get tired of cutting these pretties. I know that some people are a bit intimidated by the folding required to create the six-pointed shape so this year I decided to make a snowflake folding template that will hopefully make that easier. Then you can get creative about the cutting! All the directions are printed on the pdf with numbered, dotted lines for where you fold. Here are some photos of the process. So if it isn’t snowing where you live, make your own snow!

paper snowflake folding 1 paper snowflake folding 2 paper snowflake folding 3 paper snowflake folding 4 paper snowflake folding 5 paper snowflake cutting example 1 finished paper snowflake 1

You can do this with ordinary copier/printer paper but it is easier to cut if you use something thinner. If you fold precisely then you will find that at step three you have a tiny bit extra sticking out of both sides. This is intentional. It accounts for the thickness of the paper when you make the final fold. Start out by cutting out simple triangles from alternating sides. I like to cut so that the bridges of paper left in between are the same width. After you unfold your creation you can press it in a book or carefully run a warm iron over it to minimize the fold lines.

If you make a paper snowflake you really like, preserve it by laminating it. I use Therm-o-Web Iron-on Vinyl which looks a lot like good old contact paper but is thinner and you seal it in seconds with a warm iron. Just trim around the outside edge with scissors. We like to tape these to a window.

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snow on a jack-o-lantern

It was snowing this morning. Rather soggy snow, but snow all the same. It won’t stick around but it is making us thinking seriously about shaking down the rest of those leaves so we can get them raked up off the lawn. Bushes need to be wrapped, outdoor lights need to be checked, basement windows sealed . . . pumpkins disposed of.

I finished this hat for the boy a week or two ago and he’s been wearing it every day but he hasn’t let me take a picture of it on his head. Finally he relented this morning. It must have been the promise of snow.

knitted colorwork name hat

Knit without a pattern, I used the Merino/Corrie handspun/handdyed fingering weight yarn in a color I call stormy autumn blue. The name was knit into the hat using a little Corriedale that I spun, Navajo plied and dyed pumpkin color with Kool-Aid. It’s a handsome color combination and just right for the boy. I used a provisional cast-on so that I would be able to pick up the live stitches after I was done knitting the band making it self-lined under the colorwork. I got the idea from someone else’s blog of a very different looking reenactment hat which I can’t find to link to now, sorry about that. I found the letters here but stretched them taller to fit my gauge.

knitted colorwork letters

I scattered the decreases rather than have obvious lines and that worked pretty well. You can see them if you look for them but they hide in the variegated color of the yarn pretty well. I blocked the hat on my own head for about two hours and then left it to dry overnight over a bowl. This worked out really well but I wish I had one of those styrofoam wig holders to block hats on. Gets kind of hot wearing wet wool indoors!

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Smaoush (rhymes with mouse) as used frequently by the girl

to smash, mash, smush or generally destroy

As in, “Mommy! I’m going to smaoush the castle!”

smashing the pink snow castle


writing in the snow

Today while the girl and I were out enjoying the sunshine we noticed strange lines, almost like writing, in the snow. I knew that we hadn’t made these marks so I wondered what they were. Looking straight down I was able to see that they were left by sticks that had been laying on top of the snow and had somehow sunk straight down into the snow! I don’t know what conditions made that happen but I thought the shadowy marks had a striking graphic quality about them.

random lines in the snow twig in the snow


The girl insisted on a walk in the woods today so we took the short trail to the sledding hill. I brought my camera along as it was gloriously sunny today. I ended up taking pictures of footprints in the snow. Maybe someone who knows about these things can help identify some of them.

These are obviously dog prints, quite a few of those among the human boot prints and sled tracks.
running dog tracks in the snow closeup of dog footprint

But how about these? Could they possibly be deer prints?
unknown footprints in the snowcloseup of unknown footprints in the snow

Now, I bet you don’t know what these are. The girl matter of factly informed me that they were left by dancing marbles!

This is the girl being an ant, with antlers. She thought that was quite a funny joke. I was impressed that I understood her joke!

And when we got home, surprise! In the empty lot behind our house . . . Could these possible be rabbit footprints??
animal footprints in the snowunknown animal footprint in the snow

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A lovely photo of crocuses by Frogginette inspired me to post pictures of the green shoots sprouting at our house. They have been doused with fresh snow twice since I first noticed them but they keep growing. These as-yet unidentified bulb sprouts are actually right up next to the house which is why they are apparently unaware that the rest of the yard is still blanketed in two feet of snow.

bulbs sprouting through the snow

In this photo I am attempting to show how deep the snow is just inches away.

sprouting bulbs surrounded by snow

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