From Makers for Makers: 2015 Gift Idea List

We don't (yet) have ice or snow, but doesn't it make you feel more festive to see a picture like this?
We don’t (yet) have ice or snow, but doesn’t it make you feel more festive to see a picture like this?

I’ve gathered together a few of my favorite makers to share our 2015 Holiday Gift Idea lists with you. All week long we’ll post cool indie-made items, can’t-do-without tools, and favorite diy projects.

  1. Whether you make one to give or offer a crafty loved one a kit, Alicia Paulson’s softie kits are darling. Her instructions are clear as can be, and while I can’t spill any beans about what’s happening re: softies at my house, take my advice and order a kit for yourself, too.
  2. For watercolorists, Greenleaf and Blueberry hand makes my favorite paints. She’ll help you customize a kit, or you can order the paints and make your own in an old tin.
  3. If your favorite artist prefers drawing, TSandN’s crow quill pens are beautiful. Christine responded quickly to loads of questions when I ordered mine, and I enjoy drawing with it.
  4. Book lovers, journal keepers, or magpies who need to keep stacks of paper in order will love the monogrammed burlap bookends from Next Door to Heaven. Mine are currently holding most-referenced books of the semester upright.
  5. There are a lot of terrific project bags on the market, but my favorites are Stitched by Jessalu’s box and bucket bags. The quality is excellent, and Jessalu, an avid knitter and spinner, understands a stitcher’s needs. You’re bound to find a bag in a fabric that will suit every friend!
  6. Need a charming bijoux? Sara from Et Voila! Design crafts her jewelry from vintage pieces she finds in French brocantes and American flea markets. I always get compliments whenever I wear one of her pieces!
  7. No time to knit, but you want to give a cushy handmade scarf? My former student and dog lover extraordinaire Chelsea sells scarves and hats to raise funds for no-kill shelters at Scarves for Paws.
  8. Anything from Alabama Chanin makes a welcome gift, but I think this Starter Sewing Kit is a great project for a new #chaninista.
  9. Another make-it-yourself-or-give-it-as-a-kit,-but-make-sure-you-order-one-for-yourself gift idea (phew! What a mouthful), totally stolen from Jani: a limited edition Starcroft Tide Pool, which longs to be a pair of Through the Loops’s Kanagwa Mittens¬†and a Trig hat by Mary Lou Egan.
  10. And if you have Starcroft yarn in hand, you’ll love Gale’s Nash Island postcards, too!
  11. These HodgePodge Farm crochet mug cozies, especially with the Cuppow lid, make an adorable, environmentally-friendly gift for your loved ones who are always on the go with their morning (afternoon, all-day) coffee.
  12. When you want a little something to add to a gift set, Amy sells notebooks–perfectly sized for a handbag, project bag, any bag–that feature her awesome original art.

Be sure to check out these lists all week long:

Wednesday: Mary Lou Egan

Thursday: Cal Patch

Friday: Gale Zucker

And don’t forget to leave a comment with your favorite gifts-for-makers ideas!




We’ve had Oskar for a little over two months, and I am smitten. When Maddie died so suddenly, I thought “I will never give my heart to a dog again.” How foolish I was! It did not take long after meeting him to know Oskar is a special little (truly, he’s little!) husky. He’s almost always a gentleman. He’s a little aloof, which is common for this breed, but in the last few weeks, he’s been expressing a lot more connection to me and Neal.

The rescue group from which we adopted him brought him to CT from GA, where he had been found chained outside to a cinder block, terribly undernourished. At six months old, he weighed only 19 pounds. When his darling foster mom brought him to our home to see if he would fit in with Tilly and Coco, the poor guy didn’t even know how to climb the stairs onto the porch. When he saw the bowl of fresh water we keep out for the dogs, he drank like he might never have another chance.

We brought him to our vet’s the first week, and he showed me the striation on Oskar’s nails, evidence of poor nutrition followed by good nutrition. He also has a bump on his gum that indicates some intense chewing (the chain, maybe?). There were some worm issues (I’ll spare you wormy poop photos…but we have them!), easily amended.

Oskar gained weight, reaching skijoring weight (35 lbs) two weeks ago. I would love to train him for skijor, but I’m not sure I’m a good enough skier. Maybe Neal will take it on. He’s confident with the other two dogs, and he’s starting to be protective over Coco. Neal built an amazing fence around our back yard, and Oskar can really stretch his legs now. Siberian huskies are notorious for running and heading off on their own to hunt. The fence will give him loads of freedom and give us some peace of mind.

I’ve taken him hiking almost every day. Most days we go for about an hour. When I have to get to work early, we hike only about 30-45 minutes, and when the conditions are excellent, we hike for two hours. He and I have both built strength. Hikes that used tire me are now a breeze. It is a joy to watch Oskar develop from a malnourished, weak pup into a strong young dog.

Most exciting to me is how “teachable” (Sara’s word [and her picture above]) Oskar is. He came to us knowing how to sit on command, and I taught him to shake hands and give a high five easily. Since I have a big dream for him, I started dog training in December. I want to bring Oskar into nursing homes to give joy to elders who need some unconditional love from a handsome, soft pup. We have had a ball at school. In fact, the highlight of my week is Saturday morning when we have class. We are a studious pair; we do our homework every day. While he can have some puppy ya-yas, Oskar is also eager to please and likes to focus on working with me.

I guess I could make this post very short by simply writing. Oskar: a gentleman and a scholar who has won my heart.

Ten on Tuesday: Holiday Tradition Edition


You’re right. Visiting the Christmas tree at Notre Dame in Paris is not really a tradition, but this picture makes me happy every year! This week, Carole wanted to hear about traditions, and while I don’t have ethnic ones, there are a few traditions I love:

1. Bake cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. Almost every year since 2004, my pal Cheryl treks from upstate to NY to the woods of CT for epic cookie baking. I anticipate it so much!

2. See a show. We alternate between A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker.

3. Open one gift on Christmas Eve. This goes back to my childhood. It helps ease the anticipation.

4. Wait until Christmas night to exchange gifts. Neal and I wait until we’re alone in the house before exchanging our gifts to each other. It’s a quiet, sweet way to close out a festive day.

5. Listen to Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite as the first holiday music of the season.

6. Hand write Christmas cards. I get so much pleasure from writing out cards.

7. Give my four godchildren an ornament. Some years I make them, some years I buy them. When they finally decorate their own Christmas trees, I know they will be filled with childhood memories.

8. Put out the Christmas boot. We didn’t have stockings at my house when I was a kid; we had Christmas boots made by my Gram. I love setting mine on the mantle!

9. Give the dogs a gift. I’m telling you, Maddie (RIP) knew what Christmas was, and she loved getting her little gift each year. I’m convinced she anticipated it with joy! I’ll let you know what Oskar thinks of the holiday.

10. Kiss under the mistletoe as much as possible!

What are your Christmas traditions? Do they include hand made gifts? If so, you might want to read about my newest project offering, The Organized Elf!


Thank you so much for playing along with my month-long comment contest.  I really enjoyed reading your responses to my questions.  Your responses often made me consider new ideas or familiar ideas in new ways, and that rocks my world!


The winner with the most comments is….


What does she win, beyond my gratitude for sticking with me all month (wait, you all have that!)?  I will weave her a scarf in colors that we agree upon.  Won't that be fun?!  

Christina is moderating the March Madness group on Ravelry, so if you're into knitting and finishing small projects this month, be sure to hop on over there and join us!

Did you purchase one of Scout's Olympic Medals?  We're having a March Medals KAL on the Scout's Swag board on Ravelry…everyone will knit whatever s/he likes, and we'll all be knitting with the same yarn.

What do you think.  Should I make socks (no purl Monkeys) or a shawl (Traveling Woman) with my skein?

Random. Totally Random. 25/28

A look inside my feeble little brain.

Melanie is totally to blame for my addiction to chocolate bite-sized rice cakes dipped in peanut butter.

Karen replied to my Twitter request for topics with many subjects.  One I considered was Pet Peeves, but I'm not feeling snarky tonight.  I'll save that for later.  The other was the epic battle: Rain vs. Snow.  Which sucks more?

In my world, the rain sucks more.  I kind of liked rain until I lived in New Mexico.  Rain scared the living creepy crawlies out of me there, and I'm not easily scared (well, except by scary movie trailers.  They scare me).  The landscape is not really amenable to rain, and I drove through roads that were way more flooded than I'm used to on many occasions.  I have since hated rain.  My yard is a lake, but not deep enough to warrant getting out my kayak.

I don't get days off for rain (my sister in TN says her kids do, though!). I get days off with snow. I love, love, love days off.  

I also love the "How Quickly you Gonna Get Up" song in the Nike ad.

Pam (no blog) from my SnB group tweeted that I should write about what would go on the ark that is clearly in order in this rain.  I guess I'd just try to fit my house in the ark.

I don't have much else.  I'm going to watch the women skate.  I liked watching the Canadian women's hockey team get their gold medals.  That was touching.  


Answers 17/28

You had a question or two, and I've got an answer or two (or sometimes none).

Faun asked "What's your favorite way to prepare tofu?"

I don't actually eat much tofu.  I've been an ovo-lacto vegetarian since 1998, but I usually only have tofu when I'm at a restaurant.  One of the local Thai places makes a mango tofu dish that is so, so delicious.  Here's a recipe that sounds similar.  From my experiences eating tofu out, I'd say go with firm and marinate the heck out of it.  Hmmm…maybe I should give that a try!

Christina, who is firm in her fortitude about not buying any yarn, had several questions: 

Favorite colors? Black is my favorite color to wear, which stems from my years living in NY.  The first time my ex-husband's band played in CBGB's, I realized why city women so often do wear black.  I always thought it was because it's such a flattering go-to color, but I think the real reason is that it hides the filth of a city!  I got very attached to pink after my maternal grandmother passed away; it was her favorite color.  I knit a lot with green…I think it's another universally flattering color, and it reminds me of spring and summer, which makes me happy.  I also have recently (in the last year) become a fan of orange.  Not burnt brownish orange, but true, bright orange.  Especially when combined with a nice cream. 

Favorite hand made project in the past year? This is a toughie, but I'm going to go with the Bella's Mittens I made for my sweet niece for Christmas.  They were a truly interesting and fun project to make.

 What do you do for fun when you aren't knitting/sewing/just being crafty cool? Aren't you sweet to call me crafty cool?!  During the academic year, a large part of my "free" time is spent grading and planning.  In good weather, I love to bike or hike with my dogs.  I don't do it much, but I enjoy ice skating (only outdoors, though.  Indoor rinks are not happy making for me).  I'm an avid reader.  I don't know if I'd always call it fun, but I am revising my novel for the fifth time.  I'm also a sucker for period dramas, especially Tudor or Elizabethan England.

Karen's questions are unanswerable.  She asked "How do you manage to be clearer about statements such as, "late assignments will not be accepted" and "make sure that emails are received BY ME prior to the end of class"? Is there clearer language to use? Is it possible to translate this into multiple languages?"

Karen is a fellow college professor.  She knows perfectly well that you can say these things seven ways to Sunday, and they will be meaningless to a certain percentage of students.  I do accept late assignments, but I deduct points for every business day they're late.  I used to deduct for weekends, too, but I decided that was just too mean.

What mean things have your past teachers done?  

Stay tuned.  Tomorrow is my reflection on Lenten discipline.  

Well, hey there, you!

I hadn't planned to take a break from blogging, but August zoomed by with nary a post. To tell the truth, I thought about closing the blog down about mid-month.  I wasn't missing it, and I figured neither was anyone else.  I mentioned to Spring that I thought FB and Twitter (which I've also neglected) were giving me enough space for my musings, that the blog had, perhaps, reached its natural end.  She kindly told me to keep blogging, and while I won't go into it any further, the argument she offered was so generous and supportive that I decided to listen to her.  I'm in the process of re-imagining the blog, though, and I hope to move it to its own domain (with a new name!  Stay tuned!) this fall.

So where did August go?  Well, here are some highlights:

  • Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Writing Conference.  I lived in a dorm for a week, worked with an excellent group, learned so much from Clint McCown.  Once more, I'm ditching everything I had written all summer to start the novel over.  I better get it right.  I'm running out of stamina for this story.
  • Stumbled across a copperhead snake in the woods where the dogs and I walk.  Not literally a stumble, but Neal had to pull Maddie back from messing with it.  Then we admired it for a good, long time.  Copperheads are amazingly, well, coppery!
  • Took a class with Jared Flood.  He is, as I read in a Brit Kntting mag, the darling of the knitting world, and a darling indeed.
  • Finished up the inaugural Open Road Writing workshop.  I'm excited to get the next one scheduled and start working with my fabu students again.  Be sure to hop over to the site every Tuesday for a new writing prompt.
  • Got myself a permanent reminder about what I'm meant to do with my days.*  It was the best tattooing experience I've had, and if you're ever in ne003ed of ink while in VT, I recommend Esme at Venus Tattoos.

I confess to marking the 1,000 + Bloglines entries as read.  I, so rarely overwhelmed, couldn't face that number.  I kept up via Ravelry, but will you tell me about your August?  What did you do?  What did you create?  Think? 

I start teaching on Thursday, and I'm eager to get back in the classroom.  September sets everything right for me.  Hope all is right with you!

* Latin for "Never a day without a line," one of my favorite quotes from Horace.  Some might argue about my translation choice, but I prefer "linea" to "versus" in part because "Iinea" keeps it all symmetrical.  Symmetry makes me happy.


Every now and again, someone comes into my life and surprises me by making a huge impact.  Here's a little story about one such someone who could use your help.

The scene:  roadtrip to move from New York to New Mexico.  August 2004.

I taught my last class for Mercy College the night we started our trip. Collected final projects, teared up at the lovely bon voyage speech my students made before they gave me a card and gift to send me on my next adventure.  Nine o'clock and the destination was Nashville, TN to spend some time with my sister and her kids.  We drove fifteen hours straight with a few fuel stops, an odd, barely remembered diner break for coffee, and a bad breakfast somewhere in the south.

Neal napped while I went with MB to run errands.  "You have to check this out.  We have a new yarn shop."  She brought me to Threaded Bliss Yarns where I met Sheila and her beautiful Border Collie, Rudy.  Those of you who know Sheila know what a dynamo she is.  She had just opened her store on her fortieth birthday, and what a yarn shop!  Her enthusiasm for color, yarn, and knitting imbued the place with a sort of magic.  We chatted about the Taos Fiber Festival, and I confessed I hoped to learn to spin.  I bought yarn, she wished me luck on my journey, and I continued on my own adventure.

A few months later, MB came out to help me move into my condo and to celebrate my birthday.  "Sheila sent this," she said as she handed me a copy of Spin-off.  "Sheila?" I was puzzled.  "From the yarn store."  I was so moved.  I started to read Sheila's blog and thought she was just the coolest.  Hers was the first blog I'd read, and I wondered if someday, maybe someday, I could start one, too.

Over the next few years, I did learn to spin, and I did start a blog.  I have Sheila to thank for both.  Whenever I visited MB, I'd make sure we had an hour or so to spend at the shop.

In 2007, Sheila sold the shop.  On my next visit to TN, she and her fabulous husband Tim had dinner with MB and me.  That's when I realized Sheila ought to have been one of my sisters, too.  Or I should have been hers.  Not long after, she called me to tell me news that was difficult to share: she has MS.  I assure you, though, MS does not have her.  Sheila is one tough woman, and she is handling this with grace and anger, a beautiful, inspiring combination.  Visit her blog to read more about health care reform issues.  You'll come away enlightened.

Now Sheila and Tim are facing some challenges with their beloved pets.  Rudy, the yoga-practicing Border Collie, is going through his own illness, and those of us who love him are waiting anxiously to find out what it is.  In the meantime, Sheila and Tim have entered him in the Eight o'Clock coffee contest (search for keyword Rudy).  Please, readers, take a few minutes to vote "five cups" for Rudy.  Once you've logged in the first time, you can easily vote every day.  The prize money will truly make a difference for Rudy and his loving owners.  Please let everyone you know in on this.  Let's show Sheila the true power of the bloggers, okay?  We all know what we can do!