Saturday, February 23, 2019

Handmade with Love - Jenny Hats

Jenny Hats by DawnRaeCrochet on Etsy
I have spent months thinking about how to write this. There is absolutely no way to adequately share my thoughts about this matter. Because it is such a tough topic, I'll probably tend toward the factual and a bit away from the emotional. 

The first fact about what is on my mind is that cancer sucks. Absolutely and completely sucks. Period.

Some people battle cancer and win. Others don't. Throughout my lifetime I've known people in both situations. And every single person who I've known, who has/had cancer, is someone who is amazing to me. Each has positively impacted my life in some big way.

I wanted to list each of these people and describe their strength, love, and life lessons that have stuck with me over the decades. But there are too many. As a matter of space limitations I have here, I will not write all that I want to share. But I think that is okay. I will briefly tell you about only two of these people.

What feels like a million years ago, I knew a sweet, genuine spirit whose name during her stay on earth was Dorla. Everyone loved Dorla because of her kindness. She ended up with cancer. And I remember how she described (without bitterness, but with great sadness) that the most terrible thing about cancer was losing her hair. 

Over the years, that has stuck with me. And as my crochet skills have recently improved, I have given serious consideration to making and donating chemo hats to help those whose loss of hair is devastating to them.

My first hat attempt didn't turn out well. 

Oops! Hide your loss of hair AND totally block your vision. Back to the drawing board - I continued to research appropriate yarns and patterns for my abilities.

Fast forward to now. 

About Jenny 

I have a co-worker who is battling an aggressive and rare form of cancer. She doesn't like to wear hats but was concerned about her surgery scar and what her hair was going to end up looking like. I made a hat for her. And she liked it.  So I made another one for her. Because she liked the hats, I decided to make these hats - my "Jenny Hats"  - and try to find a way to offer them inexpensively in my Etsy store and/or donate them to local organizations treating people with cancer. Or both.

At one point, with great reservation, I told Jenny about my Jenny hat plan. I was afraid that she'd not like the idea. What a weird thing to discuss. Then again, a lot of things about cancer are weird things to discuss, aren't they? But she said she loved the idea. In fact, I'll include a message from Jenny with the hats. 

The message is: 

About Crocheted Jenny Hats

After making a couple of hats using Melanie Ham's wonderful Easy Crochet Granny Cluster Beanie Hat pattern I realized that with just a few small changes, I'd be able to make a hat that would suit Jenny's needs. Thank you Melanie for that lovely pattern that gave me the start for my Jenny hats.

Jenny Hats are hand crocheted with soft cotton yarn. It is a thin yarn - thicker than the cotton string used for doilies and thinner than worsted weight yarn. I chose this yarn (Lion Brand Comfy Cotton Blend) to begin my Jenny Hat collection because organizations that accept chemo hat donations recommend yarn that is soft and non-irritating.

I use hdc instead of dc to make the Granny clusters. It makes the gaps in the hat smaller.  And I decrease differently on the last two rows of the top of the hat. 

If you are interested in buying a Jenny Hat they are listed in my Etsy shop here

* * * * * * * * 

Jenny, you are an important part of my world. You know that you are an important part of many people's lives (young and old). Even though you should know it, I feel the need to state the obvious - we all love you. You are now (and will always be) with me with every hat I crochet. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

January at The Shack: Owl Hunting

Okay, I wasn't actually Owl "hunting".  That isn't legal. But I spent a good deal of time trying to spot an Owl during my last visit at The Shack. I went up to spend the last few days of 2018 and the first day of 2019 at my favorite spot. 

Following a record-breaking rainy year, my vacation at The Shack was during unseasonably warm weather. Several days were wet and gloomy. But one day dawned clear and the temperature was pleasant.

I grabbed my camera and my binoculars and headed down the hill and into the woods to look at hollow trees. I wandered and sat, wandered and sat. I listened and looked.

Why Am I Looking for Owls in My Woods?

I am trying to learn how to better identify birds in general. And have seen several birds at The Shack that I've never seen before: Indigo Bunting, Golden Eagle, and Wood Thrush to name a few. 

I've only ever seen Owls in captivity. And I think I have occasionally seen an owl swoop through the woods at dusk during camping trips. But I was never certain.

I am sure (as sure as I can be) that there are owls in my area. During one winter time camping trip at The Shack I woke to a loud noise. I listened, in the pitch dark, as something seemed to fly up and down along the edge of the woods making a really loud calling sound. I was sure it was an owl. Completely unsure what type of owl.

After returning home, I looked up bird sightings in that region of West Virginia (on eBird) and confirmed that there are owls sighted in that general area. 

A Couple of Things I've Learned About Owls

In reading about owls in that area, I have learned that some adult owls are very small - nearly the size of robins. I had always imagined that Owls would be at least knee-high if you stood next to one. I was wrong. This information has me looking at smaller openings much more closely.

I have also learned that you can sometimes attract owls to your area by putting up a nest box. I definitely plan on putting up an owl-sized nest box in my woods!

I am aware that owls are nocturnal. But I learned that sometimes you can spot them during the day. And that if you are near a nest, they will sometimes be visible in the hollow opening.

It is for that reason that I looked and looked at my trees; MANY of which are hollow.

I know I have Pileated Woodpeckers in my woods. I hear them constantly. I see them occasionally. 

I think I have more hollow trees than average in my woods. My plan is to plant native and appropriate young trees to replace these older trees that appear to be dying.  But in the meantime, I am attempting to search these hollow trees for any signs of owls. 

The following photos are very exciting to me. But I do not imagine they'll be very exciting to my readers. In fact, you may begin to wonder what in the world is wrong with me. But in hopes of getting better at spotting owl nests, I am sharing these photos.

This is a lousy photo. 
In part because of the lighting and in part because it is such a tall tree. 
But I hope you can see what appears to be a nest made of sticks in that crack.

The shape of this hole
and the thickness of the wood is interesting to me.

Holes made by wildlife? 
Or just a decaying, hollow tree?
I'm not at all sure.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Santa Claus Snowglobe Synchronicity

Ms. Pauline's snowglobe. 
After stopping at an estate sale this summer, I was reminded of the magic of snowglobes and of what a magical holiday decoration they can be. 

In my review of snowglobes on Review This! I highlight some of the many different seasonal pieces to choose from. And why they make great gifts and holiday decorations. But in this post, I want to talk about the synchonricity that has fanned the embers of my snowglobe passion.

Snowglobes of Christmases Past

Many years ago I had a small collection of high-quality, Christmas snowglobes. Over the years, and for a variety of reasons, that snowglobe collection dwindled. I was very young when I received my first snowglobe. And my children were so young when I owned my collection that they probably don't even remember the globes featuring Santa and his magic (flying reindeer, bags full of toys, and trips down chimneys).

Over time, I'm left with only one or two snowglobes. And they've been put away in storage for safe keeping. Add to that the fact that I'm not much into holiday decor. I just don't bring out decorations. I never decorated very much when my kids were young. Now that they are grown and flown from the nest I've gotten very lazy when it comes to decorating. I just don't.

Recently, during a drive home from The Shack, I impulsively stopped at an estate sale at a home on a winding country road. The road was so curvy that I missed the sign and drove past. Having never stopped at an estate sale before, I surprised myself that I felt the need to find a place to turn around and go back.

It was clearly the estate of an older woman who had loved Christmas. Among the household items for sale, the entire livingroom was filled with Christmas items. This collection included a beautiful collection of snowglobes. 

Her snowglobes were all beautiful. The one that caught my eye is quite large and solid. It features Santa Clause reviewing his list of children's names - surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the Elves working with the toys. I shook it and watched the snow fall and wondered how many Christmas family gatherings this globe had been a part of.

If only it could talk.

As I purchased the globe, I felt the need to ask the previous owner's name. My intention was to be able to remember at least her first name at Christmas and not let her become forgotten.

I guess I should not have been surprised that her name was Pauline. And that it just happened that I noted the estate sale alongside a winding West Virginia road that particular day I was driving home from a camping trip. I nearly didn't pull over - feeling dirty and stinky after an extended camping trip in that rustic, off-grid cabin of mine. But I did stop. And I bought Ms. Pauline's snowglobe.

My grandmother was also named Pauline. And Christmas was important to her too. She gathered her very large family around her at the holidays, all of us who would and could come. Family and holiday gatherings always a priority to my grandmother.

Both Paulines lived in rural homes on pieces of land surrounded by barns and fields. Both clearly with large families. It was not just coincidence that brought me to Ms. Pauline's snowglobe. 

I think I'll decorate for Christmas this year.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

November at The Shack

Mother Nature: artist extraordinaire 
I took advantage of the long holiday weekend and drove up to The Shack. I had spent some time on Thanksgiving Day with some very special people. And even that was cut short by my migraine. On Friday the dogs and I headed up to my spot on a West Virginia ridge and spent the night. Today, Sunday, I'm back at the apartment. I am behind on chores; laundry, dishes, etc. And I am WAY behind on my paperwork. I have a long list of "to do" things today. 

Recently, work has been beyond busy. Headaches have been constant. I've been trying to stay productive and focused on my goals. Unfortunately, the thing I let slide most is this blog. I have many things I want to share about - just not the creative time and energy to share. And I am concerned that I won't be able to write a coherent sentence. Until I get back into the swing of things, I thought I'd say a quick hello and brief update.

Friday was beautiful weather at The Shack. I buried some acorns that I had gathered previously. I worry about my woods. Many of the mature trees are being pulled down by the invasive vines. I've been slowly but surely hacking away at the vines. But in reality, it is too little - too late for those trees. My plan is to plant new trees to replace the ones that have died. 

I had gathered these acorns from one of my favorite places - acorns that appeared to be sprouting. I brought them up to The Shack with me, dug little holes, and planted them. I have no idea if they'll come up or not. But it won't hurt to try.

While wandering around my woods - gathering dry kindling for the woodstove, I found this delicate little nest. The photo doesn't show how delicate it is. Made entirely of grasses. It is only 2 -3 feet off the ground. I'm going to do some research to see if I figure out what tiny momma raised her babies there.

The bluebirds, who raised their family in my rafters, are still there. One of them perched on a piece of rafter and watched me as I warmed up dinner.

Lunch was a cheese quesadilla on the grill. Dinner was chunks of ham, a can of great northern beans, and a can of split pea soup - left to simmer on the top of the stove. The perfect, easy comfort food for the weather.

Friday night rained and sleeted. We stayed tucked in next to the woodstove. Everything outside froze over during the night. The trees looked like crystals. 

The rain was falling in sheets as I packed up Saturday to head back to the apartment. I had been watching the fog roll up from the valley and over the ridge. If you look very closely, you can see The Shack through the fog. 

I hope you found beauty wherever you spent this weekend. I hope you have many things to be thankful for - not just during this holiday weekend, but through out the entire year. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Treasures: I LOVE Tunisian Crochet !

I have very recently learned about a crochet technique called Tunisian Crochet. It is also called Afghan Crochet.  It makes a beautiful stitch that is very different than I normally imagine when I think about crochet. As someone who loves crochet, who has always wanted to knit but can't master knitting, I am thrilled to have discovered Tunisian Crochet.

Tunisian Crochet

I am no expert. Not in regular crochet and most decidedly not in Tunisian crochet. But I want to share the bit I know, in case there are other yarn crafters who have never heard of it.

Tunisian crochet is made with one long crochet hook - much like a single knitting needle. The project is started with a chain crochet stitch. Just as I would start a traditional crochet project. But then, the next row is made by using stitches that retain the loops on the hook - like knitting. Followed by the next row of yarn over and pull through loop - like crochet.

The resulting swatch has a very unique look. 

Because this Tunisian crochet material feels thicker than many of my crochet projects, I chose to use a yarn thinner than worsted weight.

I have been trying to find a project that I could use this amazing DK Colors yarn on. It is a size 3 yarn and so, so soft!  I LOVE the colors. And have been wanting to use a "self-striping" skein of yarn.

The project shown above was meant to be a practice swatch. However, it is so pretty that I may turn it into a scarf.

I'm thrilled to have discovered Tunisian crochet and hope to be able to make some beautiful items using this style of crochet. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Japanese Maples at Eastwoods Nursery

My Japanese Maple: Osakazuki.
Yesterday I drove 2 hours, one way, to visit a nursery that specializes in Japanese Maples. Was the long drive worth it? YES! The drive was worth it for a variety of reasons; I found the maple I've been searching for, the drive took me through beautiful countryside, and the folks at Eastwoods Nursery in Washington, Virginia were extremely helpful. I am now the extremely happy owner of not one but three Japanese Maples that will soon be planted at The Shack.

Eastwoods Nursery

I found information about Eastwoods Nursery via online searches. I was looking for a large Japanese Maple selection and a specific type of tree.  I also needed small plants (for easy transport to The Shack) and small price tags. 

Eastwoods Nursery is located west of Washington, DC and near the foothills of the blue ridge mountains. The road signs indicated that I wasn't far from Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park. My drive included both the Baltimore and D.C beltways. But once I got beyond those, the views were amazing.

You can contact Eastwoods Nursery via their facebook page and their Japanese Maples website

The website lists the types of trees, a bit of information about each tree, and prices based on pot size. Their website states:
"Welcome to Eastwoods Nurseries on-line catalogue and information center. We are a small, family run nursery. We grow Japanese Maples and a selection of conifers and ginkoes on our farm in the mountains of Virginia. We supply the collector and connoisseur, the designer, the landscape architect and the everyday gardener with these beautiful trees and the information needed to care for them throughout their lives"

The nursery is not open daily to the public. I found dates and times of the nursery open houses on their facebook page. You will also be able to find dates that Eastwoods Nursery may be at a location closer to you, offering their trees for sale. Finally, they list their phone number, are open by appointment, and are responsive to messages.

A large and beautiful bonsai

Just a few of the small and affordable plants available

The day wasn't the best weather for photos but I still took many photos of both the scenery and the plants in the nursery. You can see more photos here.

The Mysterious Maple Backstory

For years I had been trying to identify a Japanese Maple in a friend's yard. I love that tree and have wanted one just like it. I've tried to start my own after collecting the "helicopter" seeds from their yard. I was unsuccessful. I've emailed various nurseries and and posted photos on social media attempting to identify the tree. Also unsuccessful. 

Until now.

Finally, someone had helped me identify the tree. A helpful nursery owner told me that my mysterious, un-named tree is an Osakazuki (Acer Palmatum). Unfortunately, that helpful gentleman - owner of Honey Tree Nursery - is located in Canada and is not able to ship a tree to me. That is what led me to find Eastwoods Nursery. If you are in Canada, and looking for Japanese Maples, I recommend Honey Tree Nursery. If you are in the mid-Atlantic area, Eastwoods Nursery is the place to go.

I can't wait to plant my beautiful new Japanese Maples at The Shack.

A field of trees - at Eastwoods Nursery

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Travel: My Trip to Eastwoods Nursey in Photos

A leaf from the tree that started it all. 
I visited Eastwoods Nursery with purpose: to buy a small and affordable Osakazuki Acer Palmatum. A Japanese Maple tree. A specific type of Japanese Maple that I had spent several years looking for. 

I wrote about how I came to know the name of that mysterious maple the nursery here

The trip up to the nursery included a winding and scenic drive through a beautiful area of Virginia. Not far from Skyline Drive. The two hour drive to get to the nursery was worth it for the scenery alone.

It wasn't the best day for photos. It had been rainy and overcast. The sun didn't peek out until I was making my purchase and leaving the nursery. I decided to share the photos despite the poor lighting and weather. 

The countryside and the trees are the nursery itself are beautiful. And I want you to see a bit of what I saw.




*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.