Saturday, December 24, 2011

Last Minute Christmas Crafts (and) Taking Part in a Miracle

Well, it's Christmas Eve as of ten minutes ago. This year really just doesn't feel the same. Perhaps it's the fact I worked all week. Perhaps it is the lack of convincing winter weather. Either way, it seems that Christmas snuck up on me.

I've made a commitment this year that for each dollar I spend on gifts and Christmas preparations I will give a matching donation to the Christmas Miracle Offering at my church. The grand goal is to reach 1 million dollars this year half of which will go towards creating water yards and building schools and churches in Sudan and half will go towards sustaining food pantries and facilitating job placement programs in Dayton.

Consequently, I've been taking it easy on the presents this year- imposing a $5 cap on each person. It's made me very aware of the amount of investment I've put into "Christmas" the commercial entity in the past. That could be the difference this year. Less about things more about love.

I wish I had more time to make gifts this year, but with the new job it just wasn't in the cards. It surely would have made cheap presents a whole lot easier to achieve. I did make a couple little doo dads. One, I tossed together yesterday for my niece. I can post it today because I know she won't be checking my blog. She's 2.

It's a simple purse. I just basically crocheted a rectangle then folded like an envelope and single stiched up the sides and around for the handle. The scallops on the flap serve nicely as easy buttonholes. A couple little girl treasures are going inside it. I am excited to see what she thinks. She loves to play dress up- just like her mommy and Aunt Sarah did.

Merry Christmas everyone! All my love. (Holey Moley- it's almost a new year!)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Notions and Apartment Bits

Though over the years, I had become accustomed to "unpacking" Christmas, I still longed for a live presence above the presents. When I was little, our family had real Christmas trees. I remember the picking and cutting process kind of vaguely, like a dream. I recall sleeping in the car and my tiny toes freezing while we walked up and down rows of pines. I recall it taking entirely too long for a 6-year old attention span. But the smell of the branches in our chilly front living room and the prick of the pine needles on my fingers as I hung ornaments- these are very vivid, and positive, memories. 

This year -for the first time ever- I have my own LIVE Christmas tree. Check it out! I cut it down with my own two hands and erected it in my living room with the assistance of a couple "old pros".

It was a quick process of elimination to find a Christmas tree once I discovered the discounted tree section. (Seriously, who WOULDN'T go for a 15 dollar red-trunk tree with a couple thinner branches?!) I am so grateful to live near my parents. I didn't realize the things that I was missing being 12 hours away from family.

The 'rents came back to my place with me and helped to set the tree up on my cute vintage stand (I found it on the side of the road several falls ago.) Then they sat their butts down and let me hang each and every ornament all on my own. My tree is already full with just ornaments I've collected up to age 28. What will happen if I ever have to share my tree? Geeze. 

My townhouse is sparkling for the holidays and it really feels like home. The only thing missing is some company! Here's a couple shots of some bits of my apartment. 

The craft room is still under construction, but it's about to get some serious usage in the next week. It seems I've left a few too many gifts to the last moment. Typical Huff.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pinterest Project #1 - Crochet Wreath

Like many ladies out there I am currently wrapped up in a brand new obsession: Pinterest. I love the feeling of being a part of a vast community of stylish and crafty people. And I am collecting a list of projects to tackle in the near future. Feel free to follow me if you wanna, and if you are in need of an invite, I still have 3 left so give me a heads up.

I saw this post on Pinterest about a crocheted wreath. The gist was to single crochet around the girth of a foam ring. The lady had also added some flowery bits around the edges. It was super pretty and inspiring. I pinned it. And then what? I MADE IT!

I didn't have a big ring, so I took the styrofoam packaging that held a large glass candle in it and cut it into 1/2" rings with a bread knife. I think you could have the same kind of effect (a little more rounded) by using dessert-sized paper plates with the middles cut out. 

I had an old pair of magenta tights that had seen their last wearing (RIP- you will be missed) and I cut them into 4" tubes and stretched them around the styrofoam rings.

Half of the rings I left bare (the ones that turned out the best). The other half, I crocheted around with a pretty matching boucle yarn I had in my stash. Because I wasn't planning on adding any scallops I hid the bumpy seam in the back of the ring.

I wound more yarn through the rings to connected them in a large circle and tied a little teal bow on. (Sorry the pictures are so icky, I should have waited to take them in daylight but I was so excited!)

I like the jewel tones on a Christmas wreath. It's festive but unpredictable. Like me! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adventures in Office Design

When I moved into my new position, I inherited the coolest office at the church. It came with a fresh coat of paint. Gray paint. Not my personal favorite or my first choice for walls in a room where I need to be productive and positive, but it was a fun challenge to take a gray space and make it more... Sarah. Thusly, much more colorful.

These are not final stage photos. In fact, the pom poms have been danging from fishing line like a little chandelier for several weeks. But here's a glimpse into the adventures of a bright crayon in a pencil box.

More to come, I'm sure.  For now, I am off to NYC with a high school mission trip as a chaperone. Please pray. Apartment pictures are forthcoming. Next week maybe?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cowboy Photo Shoot

 Just saying. It's good to see that they can take a break from angry birds long enough to play like real little boys. With fake guns and silly hats. James was really good at standing still, but Matt's shoot was when I got the real gems. In the middle frame, I was trying to get a mean face out of him. I asked him, "What would you do if someone mean went after Mommy?" Perhaps a bit too scary? "Mommy" was just behind me, laughing at his response.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks and Giving

As people keep reminding me, there are seasons to life. I think I'm in a perpetual September right now. Meaning, life hasn't lost the busy nature of the first weeks of school. Work is fun and I am growing to excel (I think) in my tasks and really contribute. BUT, I've learned a little about overcommitment. I'll be putting my learning into action come the new year. But enough about me.

Today is Thanksgiving and though there are many things for which I am grateful, I want to focus this post on one lovely person who has improved my life.

My dear friend from college, Harmony recently suffered a house fire. Our mutual friend explains the event in this text from an email:
I'm writing on behalf of Harmony, who, as you may or may not know, has been living with her brother and his family in Somerville, Mass for the past four months. Last week Harmony woke to discover a fire flaming in their kitchen, warned everyone to get out, and waited with them for the fire department to arrive. Much of the house and its contents were destroyed, if not by flames, then by soot, smoke, or an irresponsible and unnecessary ransacking of otherwise unaffected rooms by a crew of emergency window boarders. Fortunately friends are letting them stay in their house just down the street.

Harmony's friends, co-workers, and students (she is teaching English at a school in Harvard Square) have reacted with kindness and generosity, donating clothing and jewelry. She's just a little overwhelmed right now, concerned especially I think for her brother, his wife, and their two young children, who lost most of their belongings in the rental they've spent so much time and money making a home. Meanwhile, I forgot to ask Harmony if she had much of her art in the house. I dearly hope not. 
Allow me to put a face on this request for help. Harmony is one of the most positive and genuine people I know. She has an infectious smile and laugh and treats every moment as an adventure. She is a fantastic artist with a heart for justice and equality. Above all she is my friend.

Please consider giving to help others tomorrow rather than taking part in Black Friday.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Bogged Down By My Current Project

Which is...MOVING! I'm 90% moved into a townhouse in Tipp City, only 3 or so minutes from my job. (What a great commute!) But I haven't quite figured out where the furniture is all going- much less my plan for internet access. Bear with me as I settle. I'll be playing show and tell soon enough.

This is the 12th time I've moved. I'm sort of a pro at it, but it still stresses me out and exhausts me. But, this is the first time I will ever have lived entirely on my own. Hey, it's another mile marker!

Stop by anytime. I love visitors. I'll make you tea in my tea pot!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Passage of Time (or) November Already?!

For a couple months I have been taking periodic pictures of the tree across the street from our house here in Farmersville. I like to believe that it's the best autumn colors in town, it certainly lasted longer than most other trees. Fall has come and blown the leaves down already. One day it was summer and now I have to scrape my windows off before driving to work in the morning. How did this happen?

It's a generally accepted fact that time speeds up as you grow older. It doesn't make much sense. The minute still lasts 60 seconds. Why should my 18th year of living have felt so much longer than my 28th? (I'm about to cross that marker, eek.) Time has been slipping through my fingers lately. Perhaps it is a good moment to recognize some overlooked moments from the past season.
  • My nephew lost his first tooth.
  • I celebrated 1 year of living with my parents.
  • Timber (my beloved 1996 Saturn SL) reached, and surpassed, 200,000 miles.
  • I have worked at my "new" job for 1 month.
  • My niece finally has enough hair for pigtails.
  • I am now an official Ohio resident with a Ohio Driver's License.
Other milestones have passed. Each day is full of learning new things about patience, family and love. I must remember to stop and recognize them more often. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween 2011 (or) Tootsie Rolls On Parade

Tonight was my church's version of Halloween, "Trunk or Treat". It was an awesome evening of adorable kids and terrible foods.  My buddy, Renae, and I went as the accessories for her 4 month old daughter's costume.

Ella's daddy got a little jealous that he didn't have a tootsie roll shirt and so Renae crafted a Tootsie Roll "Pop" for him. (Get it?)

I made Ella's costume out of scraps in my craft room. Her twist-tie "hat" is actually half a tank top- split vertically down the chest and back and then resewn. The ear flaps are naturally created by the spaghetti straps. 

What a fun discovery! I may make some more tank top newborn hats. Maybe with less dingy fabric next time. 

Ella was such a good sport about her costume, hardly fussing with the hat at all. She was a little frightened when "aunt Sarah" first showed her the pom pom pigtails. What a doll, right? It has been so much fun being around during her infancy to see every new stage. Humans are such amazing creatures!

 I've got another pom pom project coming up. Next time with tissue paper. I haven't spent this much time with pom poms since my cheer leading days - when I was 11. Oh boy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Antiquing Antics

Mondays are the new Saturdays in my life. So far, since I have yet to settle into my new schedule, my days off have been reserved for recuperating. (and blogging!) This week, I went on a little outing by myself and did a little prepping for the apartment I have yet to find.

When I stopped by the little (nameless) antique shop in Farmersville, the guy turned on the lights and furnace for me. I was his first customer of the day at around 1pm. The space isn't easily heated. His plan is to sell the shop once the snow flies. I wanted to contribute to the local economy while I could. 

Turns out there were several shiny objects there to catch my eye. The tea strainer is large enough to do a whole pot of loose leaf. I'm excited for the new doors this will open in my tea-drinking life. The silver basket may end up on a wall, it's so pretty!

Other gems from the shopping day's "work"(not necessarily antiques- why limit the buying power?):

A) Two of my favorite movies on VHS.
B) Nautical Gap Shoes.
C) Superhero glassware that I simply couldn't pass up.
This post is the blog equivalent to the show-and-tell that concludes every successful day of shopping in my household. Sometimes I like to spread the goods all over the floor and just stare at them all. So sue me, sometimes I'm really into materialism. Especially cute, vintage materials.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Last Call for Rhubarb

Somehow, being amply employed, seems to breed further productivity on the home front. Instead of only napping and vegging out (which -oh yes- I'm still finding time to do), I've become a creature of the kitchen. Fall also has something to do with that. I love fall foods, especially roasts and soups. I love how you can throw anything into a pot, then a few sprinkles of spices and some broth and -poof- you have soup!

But today's topic isn't la sopa, it's rhubarb. 

I scored an armful of fresh rhubarb on Saturday morning and decided to dedicate some of the afternoon to a crisp and some quick and easy jello jam. But first, have you ever noticed how beautiful a bisected rhubarb stalk is? I think it would be gorgeous to fill a window with a "pane" of rhubarb. Patterns in nature are so cool.

The cobbler was a roll of the dice. And not really "cobblery" at all. I used this recipe because it seemed the most simple. The crust dough, however, was way more moist than I expected. I actually ended up rolling the dough to create the topping which by the directions I was supposed to be able to "crumble". If I had it to do over, I would remember to puncture the crust with some cute lil' shapes.

The extra rhubarb became raspberry rhubarb Jell-O jam. So easy, one of my favorite fall treats. Each of the recipes I made yesterday needed a "glue" to hold things together or help them take form. Gelatin, corn starch, broth. 
Life is much like food. The best meals -and moments- are usually a combination of surprising elements mixed together in harmony. In food, it's the science that holds it together. In life? (Oh, it's cheesy but true.) Love.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Spring Pillows on a Fall Day (or) Pushing all the Right Buttons

Do you have any idea how easy making your own covered buttons is? And they look so great! I have a great big urge now to buy a gross of covered button supplies and start using up all that awesome vintage fabric I have on hand. Is the market to full on Etsy for one more vintagey button maker?

These buttons made their debut on a recent afternoon pillow project I tackled. The replica handkerchiefs were a gift from my Aunt Sue. I had fun experimenting with freehand quilting on my mother's machine (without a quilting foot, I might add). The future intent for these cuties is to lounge on my teal, vintage couch when I finally find that perfect cozy apartment. For now, they are modeling in the great outdoors.

After taking these pictures, I noticed a similarity to portraits for high school seniors. What do you think? Is one of these pillows the homecoming queen? Class clown?

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Next Steps (or) How Life Got Simpler

It happened. I got a job. And, it turns out, the wait was well worth it. I found a job where I can use my skills fully and invest my heart into the cultivation of proactive, loving young people. And to top it off- I still get to reserve my time away from work as my own. No papers to grade, just the occasional evening concert or event. The details? I'm working at a large church as an administrative assistant for the student ministries. It's both administrative and ministerial work. I'm excited for the adventure in front of me and grateful that God gave me the patience to wait for the right opportunity. Dang, it was hard but I'm feeling good now.

During my commute home from the first full day on the job I experienced an unfamiliar sensation. It was a lightness I had only had a couple times before: perhaps the best example is the moment after college graduation when I realized I had no more homework to do (and before I realized that now I had to get a job, and fast). As I drove across I-70 toward my exit, I realized that when I got home I didn't have anything I HAD to do. I didn't need to feel guilty for doing crafts instead of looking for a job. I HAD a job. The rest of life outside of the job was mine to play with, like molding clay or fabric scraps. I get to choose how to piece things together and what shape life will take. I'm not waiting for the next step anymore- I'm in it!

I was reminded of a Raymond Carver poem that once reshaped my ideas of poetry:
No other word will do. For that's what it was.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. "Don't weep for me,"
he said to his friends. "I'm a lucky man.
I've had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don't forget it.
My life- from day one- has always been gravy. Every day, a gift. Long and sweet. I shouldn't need a near death experience to remind me of that. I shouldn't even need a 6 month ditch of unemployment and depression. But wading through those darker parts of life sure helps the bright seem that much brighter. It's gravy. And I'm so grateful.

Optimism is back, baby. Despite the harvest dust.

Coming soon: the result of more time on my hands MORE CRAFTS.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pigs, Pumpkins & Photography (or) Preble Pork

This weekend was perfect for a Pork Festival. Gorgeous weather. Cool enough for a long sleeve t-shirt and warm enough to never fear a shiver. I love going to festivals and fairs whether they be small town or big city gatherings. Whether you know the area well is irrelevant; Everyone belongs at the fair.

I grew up on old MGM musicals. One of many random Huff family traditions is that my Grammalo (My father's mother- named Lois) LOVES to watch and re-watch the movie, State Fair. Her four children, on the other hand, detest the movie because of how many times they were forced to watch it in her household. I side with my Grammalo on the issue, and request the movie in spite of the hissing crowds. Fairs are simple and fun and pure American.

I walked with my camera in hand for 3 hours down dusty roads and stalls. It was fun to pretend to be a photographer. I'm starting to really yearn for a real camera.

My fair dates. Mar and Par Huff. Our lunch: Sugar Cream Pie and Porkchops.
How to find your lunch- find the red balloon.
Steam engine powered apple butter.
Pork Festival Montage.
Pointing piglets.
After the Pork Festival, we stopped a a couple local garden stores on the way home. I found this gorgeous orange scale. I wish I had a huge open home where I could have large pieces like this.

Weighing in.
Gourds and the mother of our Lord.
Fall orange, spring blue.
It's always sad when summer is ending. I love the way people are drawn out into community  with one another by warm weather. This fall and winter I will make a point of trying to coerce others into growing community with me in the cold. Perhaps a competitive snow tubing team? (Oooh, too soon to talk about snow. Eek.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

and now for: Something Completely Different

I've been getting caught up in a new "hobby" of sorts. There's not much to say about it, really. Just that it amuses me and sometimes others.

It all started with a crazy computer wallpaper made out of a funny picture of my pal Andrew.
From there it turned into thank you's for being references for job applications.

Which got more elaborate as time went by.
And then I couldn't stop.  
For encouragement.
For Halloween costume ideas.
For ridiculousness.
And sometimes even by request.

You might be interested to know that I did all of these on Word.  It is important that you note that I am not really good at this- that is half the charm of the final product, in my opinion. And, that I am unashamed about the dorkiness that this past time implies. You might ALSO be interested in the fact that I am willing to take orders, if you're so inclined. I get free reign on your mash-up, though.

How's this for some variety in blog posts?

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Huff Recommendation: Lark Rise to Candleford

The gist of this entry: Please watch Lark Rise to Candleford. It is so good. If you loved Anne of Green Gables, if you are a fan of Little Women or even Pride and Prejudice, you will adore this BBC series as much as I did. 

Often, a period piece that desires to be universal in time and applicability comes across forced and trite.  Drawing a line of similarity between past and present is harder than it seems. Consider the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. Sure, we love the romance, the costumes and, yes, what gal doesn’t long for her own Mr. Darcy? But, the lady viewer is left wanting more- not only because all she gets is one lousy kiss out of 5 hours- but there are so few similarities to be drawn between the marriage-eager plotline of the Austen classic with her own life. The average woman of today would not pin her hopes and success entirely outside her own volition.

Sometimes I am startled by how much we (meaning independent women like me) love Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth Bennet is hardly an independent woman. She is only slated thus because she is discriminating in her choice of men. And *GASP* she is unwed at 20! It seems that ladies would find a finer weepy girls’ night companion in Jo March or Anne Shirley. Those are independent women who find their mates and are forced- not by society- but by passion and true love to make room in their lives and hearts for them.
Love in Lark Rise is much like it is on PEI- except with more kissing

Lark Rise to Candleford fits into the timeless category of storytelling. It is the story of a English village (Lark Rise) and a nearby town (Candleford) and the struggle between tradition and progress, nature and industry. But it is not a diatribe of the producer nor a political venue. It is told through little moments in the villager and townspeople’s lives. These tales are populated by imperfect human characters discovering through failure, faith and patience that life is for loving others regardless of differences.
Some of the Lark Rise to Candleford Cast
The stories begin when a young writer, Laura Timmons, leaves her home in Lark Rise (at the insistence of her mother) to find independence in the town of Candleford. We follow her adventures in balancing allegiance to her family and her new employment and friendships at the Candleford Post Office. The post master, Dorcas Lane, (played coincidentally by Julia Sawalha - Lydia from P&P!) is  the "oracle" of the show. Many come to her from advice and she gives it lovingly, though not always well.

The writing for this show has a antiquity to it which could have rendered a barrier for audiences- perhaps like a poorly delivered Shakespearian play. But it doesn’t put off the viewer at all. It is accessible and charming.  The writing is soulful and alive, full of un-flowery truths that extend far beyond their “period piece” vehicle. Consider this excerpt from the introduction to the finale to the 4th and final season.
“It was said of Queenie Turrell that, as she grew older, she could see beyond the horizon. Change was coming to our world, whether it was welcome or not. Some of us might fight such upheaval and some -no matter how hard they might try- it would seem as though they could never change.”
Queenie and Twister
Laura’s narration usually acts as a scene-shifting device but also holds a prominent place as the "Aesop" of the Lark Rise tales. Many episodes end with a nugget of advice from and older Laura’s written reflections. This perspective is a lovely nod to Flora Thompson’s original text from which the stories have been adapted. Here are a couple of Laura’s final reflections from the 4th season.
“It is only by making mistakes and hurting one another that we learn the greatest of human joys: forgiving and being forgiven.”

“Reverend Martin made a point of always telling us that no man is too good for this world and neither is any man too damned for this world.”
My grandmother and parents love this show because it is full of beautiful, funny, entertaining, heartbreaking, true stories of family and faith. It is family friendly television that doesn’t have to spare artistry or quality of writing in order to maintain appropriateness.

I love it because it swallowed me whole. This morning, when I watched the last episode, I wept as though I had lost a friend. It’s that same sinking feeling I got when I finished reading that amazing book or when I waved goodbye to the friend I met at camp. I am relieved to know I can revisit Lark Rise to Candleford. I look forward to it. As of an hour ago- I’ve got the book on reserve at my public library.
(FYI- the whole series is on you tube in 10 minute increments. You have no excuse not to watch it.)
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