Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Receiving Handmade

I love giving handmade gifts. The thought and love that goes into the process... the way I'm able to put a prayer... a hope... a wish... into each piece of the whole. There is nothing that can match a handmade gift in my opinion.

Can you imagine my delight when we got a package in the mail from one of our church friends on the mainland?! It's a sweet baby blanket made from nine squares of differing fabrics. I actually have a set of the frog, stripe, and paisley receiving blankets that our friend used in this blanket. What an inspiration for recycling Liam's receiving blankets when he gets older!

All throughout the blanket there are handmade stitches, embroidery, ties of ribbon. So much detail and thought!

Looking at this gift really made me meditate on my own handmade gifts. Looking at the lines in this blanket - they don't necessarily all line up... but I found myself falling in love with this project because of all of those imperfections. Projects are such amazing representations of the people that they come from... pieces of a whole... imperfections... but oh so filled with love. So much love and thought and hope. It really made me meditate on how many times I've ripped out stitches because things didn't line up - or the way I've left projects undone because of frustration at it not being "perfect".

I am really going to try and embrace the essence of handmade... which essentially is love is it not?

Here's to imperfect lines and wonkiness.... but a whole lot of love... so so much love!

Monday, October 27, 2014

In the kitchen: family

I don't know what it is - perhaps it's the weather cooling down and the coming of the rain - perhaps it's the loneliness that comes from the lack of adult interaction for long stretches of the day.... perhaps it's the extra text messages that have been flooding my phone of my parents sending me pictures of their vacation on the east coast... whatever it is - it has me missing my parents and sister almost to the point of pain. 

As Liam grows day by day, my heart hurts so much knowing that he is changing so much in between visits. His mile stones - like finally being able to swat at items in front of him, or being able to grip - his favorite being our shirts as we hold him, or the way he smiles and coos and makes your heart swell with a love so dense it's almost palatable. All of these things - they are missing it... and I am missing them. 

I have this habit of using cooking as a way of helping me to bridge the distance gap. I didn't grow up in a home with professional cooks, but I did grow up in a home where there was always cooking. It seemed like we tended to bond over food. The process of choosing the menu, the prepping, and the cooking, and the eating... ahhh... yes the eating. Cooking and baking. Family dinners and Saturday morning family breakfasts. Whenever we get together we are always cooking together. 

Whenever my parents come to visit us they always bring their own ingredients. Things that they know they can't find here - or just wanting to stock up the house so that we don't have to make the hour drive into Kona to buy proteins or other such ingredients.  This last visit they brought coolers full of proteins, homemade sauces, and lovely baked goods. Ross and I had been working for weeks to make sure that the freezer and fridge was empty for this vast bounty! 

Getting to the picture of the pasta above ~  My dad is a wonderful gardener. He has these hands that are able to make things thrive. Plants. Food. Children. Grandchildren. They all grow under his loving and gentle spirit. Well - this last trip he brought me two jars of his homemade pesto. He harvested sweet basil from his garden and made jars of this wonderful goodness to give to me and some of the other family that we have here. Gifts of homemade pesto and banana bread. I've learned the way of giving handmade and homemade gifts to family and friends from him. It is such a rich and wonderful way to express love. I hope to pass this onto Liam when he is older. 

I have a point - I promise. This morning I woke up missing my dad - so I cooked with his homemade pesto. A simple pasta dish, but it made me smile because I was nourishing my body with the ingredients that he made for me.  It was like I was home in San Diego again - eating at the kitchen table with all of their voices around me. Laughing and telling stories in both English and Tagalog.  Sigh. Oh how I miss them. 

I wanted to leave you with the recipe of the pasta that I started my day - me week with. A simple one, but one filled with memory and love. 


Asparagus pesto pasta 

3/4 cup asparagus chopped to bite size 
4 chopped garlic cloves 
2 Tbsps olive oil 
2 cups cooked pasta
~ 3 Tbsps pesto (adjustable amount depending on preference) 
3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese 
salt and pepper to taste 

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile heat olive oil in a sauté pan and add garlic to infuse oil with garlic flavoring. 

Add asparagus and sauté for a minute. Then add a bit of water and cover to cook. After a couple of minutes of steaming, add pasta and pesto. Stir till combined. Add a little salt (remember the cheese is salty) and pepper. Top with grated parmesan. 

Simple but delicious! I like serving this with a side of baked salmon. Yum! A good variation of this pasta is to use zucchini instead of asparagus.    

Friday, October 24, 2014

For Liam

Happy Aloha Friday! Liam's baby play quilt is finally finished! Yay! It was such a nice project. I really wanted to take my time on it. Since there was no pressing deadline for it - no one waiting for it - I could really take my time and enjoy the process. Machine quilting. Hand quilting. Hand stitching the binding. Embroidering the label. All of it. It was such a wonderful project to work on during Liam's nap times or in the evenings. In the future I want to be able to take time to enjoy more of the process! I blogged about the progress of this quilt here

As I've stated in the past - since I was a child I have always been drawn to the idea of quilting. Playing with fabric and thread. There is something so therapeutic about it. Learning how to sew these past couple of years has really brought a richness to my life. Along with crochet blankets for babies, I am now able to make quilts and other patchwork projects for loved ones. But there is something about sewing for your own child. Something about creating something for them that will be used as they grow. That will surround them in the love that you have for them. Sigh. I'm so grateful that I am able to give to my child in this way. I hope that when he looks back at his handmade goods he feels how much he was loved. 

Did having children change the way that you craft? 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In the kitchen

I grew up in California - so I don't have an understanding of how the seasons change. That lack of understanding is even wider in Hawaii. There is a slight change that can be detected though. The rain that comes isn't always humid. The trade winds blow a bit cooler than normal. Surf boards are more apparent in vehicles - a sign that the winter surf season is starting. 

Back home in California my sister is starting her autumn kitchen traditions - chili and soups, and baked goods. So because I was a little homesick, I made favorite recipes of hers. She taught me how to make these cinnamon rolls and I made them and thought of her. 

In my kitchen 

:: Dinners of oven roasted fish and vegetables have been on the table lately. 

:: pumpkin bread has made an appearance. 

:: A new corner for the placemats and coasters have been located - making setting the table oh so much nicer. 

:: Morning cups of creamy tea and quiet devotional time has been found at the table after Liam's 5:30 am feeding. Some days there is even time for a few hand stitches to his quilt. 

:: Late dinners at 8:00pm have been rewarmed and eaten because Ross and I are determined to eat together - even if that means eating after baby Liam has been put down to sleep. 

:: The house has smelled like cookies again. 

:: Blessings have been written down in a journal at the table. Oh how I can't express them all! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The shape of a quilt

 Before Liam was born, I knew I wanted to make him a quilt. How could I not make him a quilt? I'm a quilter. (Although I'm a beginner quilter - I can apply that term to myself I hope!)  Although I looked at endless fabric and patterns - I couldn't find the inspiration to start a quilting project. I have a feeling it was because at the time I was pregnant,  I was waiting to meet this unknown wonder growing in my body. And then when he was born, I waited for the quilting inspiration to come. Again I poured over fabric and patterns. How could I not have a quilt to welcome this brand new wonder in our lives? And then - like a quilt itself, Liam started growing - his personality taking shape. Memories were made and his quilt started to take shape in my mind's eye.  Oh how sweet the memories ~ My mother exclaiming one day during her first precious visit to meet Liam, "he likes bright colors! Look at how he's drawn to them." Ross having his bonding time with his son as he bathes him in his whale shaped tub.  A time that this little boy utmost loves and expresses it with gummy smiles and happy kicks of his feet.

My sister had sent me fabric to use in Liam's first quilt. She picked out a sea themed fat quarter bundle and a half a yard of the shark fabric from JoAnnes and sent it to me while I was still pregnant. That fabric was special because in a way it was like she was helping me make a quilt that would keep Liam warm and loved. So, I slowly started collecting more fabric that was ocean themed. I knew I wanted to make an ocean themed quilt - seeing as how I hoped that the baby would love the ocean as must as Ross and I did. I saw this I spy quilt and it was what started the base of my inspiration. So I started cutting 5x squares - not really having a concrete concept in my mind.  For some reason, the direction that I was going didn't feel right. It didn't feel like Liam. So I waited a bit longer for the image of Liam's quilt to come. And then I went to my local quilting shop and found fabrics that started screaming use me! I'm perfect. (Am I the only one who hears fabric talk in a quilt shop?) So after walking out of the shop purchasing half yards of yellows, blues, and oranges I was closer to having a project for my sweet boy.

 A few of the 5x5" blocks I liked were framed with 2.5" cuts creating a 9x9" block. At first I made 30 blocks to create a rectangular crib size quilt. I was going to have six rows of five. But when I put it together, it didn't seem like a cozy quilt to sleep to. It wanted to be used for play. It demanded to be used for play. A quilt to drag around in the grass - to throw on the carpet and  be the area to build with blocks and be lost in imaginative wanderings. So I submitted. I ended up taking out a row and making it a square quilt composed of 5 rows of 5 with two borders.

 I even got smarter about labeling my rows so that when I put it together, I didn't always have to keep referring to pictures I took of the possible lay out. A way that is actually very time consuming and a bit of a time waster if you ask me. I think having limited time depending on Liam's naps made me look harder to make the most of my crafting time.

 Here is the top - being ironed so that I could make the quilt sandwich. It sat for a couple of days before I could find the time during another nap session to put it together. It's a happy brightly colored quilt isn't it?
 And then - ah - the time came. Is there anything better than a quilt sandwich waiting to be quilted?

 I quilted it about a quarter of an inch away from the seam lines on both ends of the blocks. Simple quilting. I am still getting use to quilting on the machine and although my lines aren't perfect - I am seeing improvement. I know the more that I do it - the better I will be. With that knowledge I press on.

 This is my favorite part. I've begun to see a pattern in my quilting. I like to machine quilt to stabilize it - and then add hand quilting in pearl cottons to add that handmade touch to it. The hand quilting is actually the part that I look forward to the most. I love the way it adds such texture and personality to a project.
Ahh - another nap time. With food network videos on the internet streaming to keep me and little man company, I get to work on the binding. Can there possibly be anything better to add to this moment? Hmmm... perhaps a brownie and a cup of tea. I've been wanting to try this brownie recipe - I might have to do so to make the next time even better. =)

This quilt I am very excited to gift to my sweet one. I am actually trying to not rush the project. With each stitch I get lost in my day dreaming of days under the sun in the grass, reading books on this quilt, picnics in the park, teaching him how to play with blocks - how to build and tear down. Oh the hopes I have for this child. I think that's what babies are ~ a parent's hope. The best parts of us. Dreams, faith, hope, joy, love. Thank you baby Liam for the gift that you are.