Bina-Effect-Letters-alphabet-red-19-800px

Holding On to Christmas

The twelves days of Christmas have passed, and retailers have quickly moved on to Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, and Easter (April 1). Only a tiny offering of discounted broken and picked over Christmas merchandise remains. As I was removing our lighted nativity set from the front yard yesterday, a neighbor called out, “Leave it till next year.” By the end of the day, though, our block was devoid of lawn decorations with just a few wreaths and window candles remaining. Another dead Christmas tree had been dragged to the curb. Any day now, our city’s festively illuminated downtown  will return to blocks lit by functional street lights alone.

Owners of artificial Christmas trees have been making hard decisions about when to store away their seasonal living room centerpieces. Ours was disassembled and boxed over almost two weeks ago. I’ve been gradually carrying decorations up to the guest room closet, while strategically leaving some in place: the “winter” village that we both love, the whimsical reindeer plates that look so nice with my wallpaper, and the little evergreen tree, now trimmed with Valentines.

In late November, I was reluctant to rush into the season, while in mid January, I’m happily holding on to the holidays. A friend who is still enjoying her Christmas tree was glad to find some decorations in my home today. With the exception of folks who leave trimmings up all year, most of us will soon be ready to move unencumbered toward spring.

Seasonal norms aside, we can still focus on the Christmas experience as more than decorations and delicacies. I smile as I turn on remaining lights, remembering rushing around the house to get them all plugged in before son Kyle arrived on December 21. Seeing those reindeer plates reminds me of the sweet Saturday morning before Christmas when our sons and daughter-in-law each chose a plate for our brunch of S’mores Pancakes* and bacon. And, while we’ve removed Joseph, Mary, and the Baby from our yard, a small nativity set still graces our dining room, bringing to mind the blessing of being back in my childhood church on Christmas Eve, holding my lit candle and singing Silent Night alongside all of my siblings.

December 24 was a snowy night at Emmanuel U.C.C.

The carols have ceased, gifts are being used, and homes are returning to their everyday look. Still, I wonder if the spirit of the season can remain.  I’ve noticed folks at our mall continuing to be friendlier, at least for now. Sadly, we seem to slip back into our more self-absorbed state as the new year grows older, not taking the time to visit friends or to reach out into our communities as often. January newspapers contain pleas from local help agencies that see a surge of goodwill dwindle after Christmas.

People who do believe in God’s gift of peace and goodwill through the coming of Jesus have a responsibility to show love for Him every day by loving our neighbors. I’m one of those people. I pray that even as the last candles are put away, His light will continue to shine through me throughout the year.

My brunch plate – Vixen

*To make S’mores Pancakes, after pouring your pancake batter onto the skillet or griddle, sprinkle some graham cracker crumbs over each pancake. Turn and finish cooking. Remove when cooked and spread some marshmallow cream on the graham cracker side of a pancake. Then place about 8 milk chocolate chips on top and cover with another hot pancake with graham cracker side down for melted goodness.

Please follow and like us:
Bina-Effect-Letters-alphabet-red-19-800px

How to Crochet a Temperature Afghan in 8 Minutes a Day

One year ago, I noticed a Facebook post about a crocheted Temperature Afghan. With a bit of research, I learned that the afghan consists of 365 rows, one stitched each day of the year according to the day’s high temperature. Cool! I wanted to make one, but knew that such an undertaking would require motivation and diligence as the year wore on. Then the idea came to let each day and it’s crocheted stitches represent the three months leading up to son Eric’s wedding to sweet Amanda on April 1 plus the beginning year of their marriage. The Temperature Afghan would be a gift for their 1st Christmas.

Son Kyle liked the idea and thought the gift would be well-received. He assisted as I set out to choose colors and get started on January 1. The unique gift was appreciated as you can tell in these photos.

If you love to crochet, maybe you would like to begin a Temperature Afghan as 2018 begins. You only need to know how to chain stitch and do a single crochet stitch to make the one I completed.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Set up your Color Chart. In Ohio, our high temperatures  can range from zero to one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. I chose a color for each ten degree range with one for below 30 degrees, one for 30-39, one for 40-49, one for 50-59, one for 60-69, one for 70-79, one for 80-89, and one for 90 and above.

Select your yarn. I used  LION BRAND Vanna’s Choice medium (4) weight acrylic yarn.  My colors from below 30 to above 90 were Eggplant, Colonial Blue, Silver Blue, Fern, Mustard, Rust, Cranberry, and Burgundy. I used about thirty 3 1/2 oz balls (5,100 yards). I started out by purchasing 2 or 3 balls of each color and bought more as needed.

Choose your stitch.  After doing some calculations and test swatches, I realized that 365 rows of crochet could get VERY long, so the stitches needed to be small and compact. I used a a combination of chain and single crochet called the Seed Stitch (instructions below). This created a tightly worked, warm fabric.

Choose your width. My completed afghan is 80 inches long and 57 inches wide, great for cuddling or putting on a twin sized bed. You can make it narrower by using a shorter beginning chain, but remember that the length is determined by the number of days.

Get started.

Abbreviations: ch = chain, sc = single crochet, sp = space

Notes: After crocheting each row, leave the yarn attached until you know the high temperature of the next day. If it’s the same, chain 1, turn, and work in the same color. If it changes, cut the yarn leaving a 6 inch tail. Pull the new color through to complete the last single crochet of the row, chain 1, turn, and single crochet in the first single crochet.

Begin: Using a size G crochet hook and the yarn color that corresponds with the day’s high temperature (mine was Silver Blue for a 44 degree day), chain 300.

Row 1 (Right side): Single Crochet in second chain from hook, * chain 1, skip next chain, single crochet in next chain; repeat from * across: 299 stitches.

Row 2: Ch 1, turn; sc in first sc and in first ch-1 space. (ch 1, sc in next ch-1 sp) across to last sc. sc in last sc.

Row 3: Ch1, turn; sc in first sc, ch 1, (sc in next ch-1 sp, ch 1) across to last 2 sc, sc in last sc.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until you have crocheted a row for each day of the year.

Weave in all ends by threading the yarn onto a large eye needle, drawing it through several stitches (hiding as best as you can). Then turn and weave back through a few more stitches. Carefully trim the end close to your work. It’s a good idea to work your ends in as you go, although I only did this about once a month. I wanted to know where each month began, so I didn’t weave in the ends for the last row of the months. Then, as I was working the finishing round, I crocheted a picot stitch at the beginning of each month.

Edging Round: Choose a color to outline the entire afghan and make a neat edging. I used Mustard because most of the months included at least one row of that color and I liked the way it looked. Working in the ends of the rows on the sides of the afghan and the single crochet and chain stitches on the ends of the afghan, single crochet evenly all around. (On the sides, I worked 4 sc in the row ends and then decreased over the next two ends so the edge would lay flat. To decrease, pull up a loop in the next row end and one in the next to have 3 loops on your hook. Then yarn over and pull through all 3 loops, making one stitch over two row ends.) If you want to indicate where months begin, work a picot stitch: ch 3, sc in 3rd stitch from hook. Single crochet in the next stitch or row end and continue. Work corners as follows: sc, picot stitch, sc in the corner. Sc in next stitch and continue.

Finishing by Christmas: Six days before the afghan needed to be ready to wrap, I checked the weather forecast for  likely high temperatures and worked 3 rows a day. I also began the edging round a few days early, stitching down one side, across the beginning chain and up the other side to where I left off. Then I only had a short distance to work up when time was running out! Here I am beginning the last row (it was a bit emotional).

Keeping Track of the Temperatures and Keeping up with the rows: I filled in a Blank Calendar chart each day with the high temperature and worked that day’s row. When I was away from home, I just filled in the chart and then stitched the rows when I got back. I also kept a list of interesting details including record highs and lows. I didn’t get to use the Burgundy yarn because we did not have a 90 degree day this year!

I marked the day of Eric and Amanda’s wedding by running a size 10 white cotton crochet thread with a silver metallic twist along with the Silver Blue yarn for the day.

It only took me 8 minutes each day and then about 30 minutes a day during the last week to get the Temperature Afghan done.

Download my printable Crocheted Temperature Afghan pattern here.

If you have any questions about this project before or after you begin, you can contact me in the Comments of this post or by using the Contact Form in the Thoughts Collected by Lisa header. I would LOVE to see a photo of your work! It will be a one-of-a-kind project and gift that will not only WOW the recipient, but possibly become a family treasure.

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
Bina-Effect-Letters-alphabet-red-19-800px

The Most Emotional Time of the Year

Is this a First Christmas for you? Are you hanging a special ornament on your tree this year? One that celebrates becoming man and wife in 2017 or welcoming a baby to your family? If so, give thanks! For my younger son, this is the First Christmas when he has an apartment all to himself.  He began making his personal decorating plans in May and has a beautiful little tree of his own this year.

I remember my own First Christmas in an apartment where I put up my Christmas tree and made my bed on the couch so I could fall asleep enjoying it’s lights. In recent years, as an empty nester yet to have grandchildren, I’ve experienced a bit of ambivalence about putting up our tree. Our family’s holiday celebrations are usually held in my hometown, so we lack the excitement of having loved ones gathered around our Christmas tree. That’s why I tell everyone who asks about our plans that this year that we will have both our sons and our new daughter-in-law with us for a couple of days before Christmas. My heart feels happy and full of anticipation.

Still, I admit that even though this Christmas is shaping up to be merry and bright, I’ve found myself experiencing moments of melancholy. It’s tricky to determine what brings the sadness on. I tear up and hear myself saying to my husband, “I don’t know what’s wrong. It’s just that things are quite right.” At least not for many people. Not every First Christmas is celebrated with joy. Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I were preparing for the First Christmas in our home in North Dakota when he got the phone call about his dad’s sudden death. Travel plans were rearranged, children were taken out of school, and that Christmas was filled with grief. My First Christmas without my own dad was in 1979. Even after months, years, and decades have passed, the Christmas season can stir up memories of those who are gone or longings for the “good old days” when kids or parents were younger or times were simpler. I pray for friends who have lost someone this year.

That’s me with Dad’s hand on my head in 1968.

Many life situations can bring anxiety about Christmas. Situations that we don’t write about in Christmas cards or commemorate with an ornament. I empathize with people who are without employment, have separated from their spouse, or are dealing with illness. Some folks were hoping this would be a First Christmas and still have an unfulfilled dream. During this Advent Season, I’ve thought about the people who were waiting for God’s promised arrival of a King foretold through prophets of old. Life was dark and years, even centuries, were ticking by. When would he come?

Then, suddenly, unsuspecting shepherds were awakened to a sky full of angels! Christ the Savior was born!

The gospel of Matthew proclaims, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:16,17)

These thoughts about the emotions of Christmas were triggered by today’s Advent devotional reading entitled Life and Death at Christmas. In it, John Piper says in part, “Each Advent I mark the anniversary of my mother’s death. She was cut off in her 56th year in a bus accident in Israel. It was December16, 1974. Those events are incredibly real to me even today. If I allow myself, I can easily come to tears—for example, thinking that my sons never knew her. We buried her the day after Christmas… Many of you will feel your loss this Christmas more pointedly than before. Don’t block it out. Let it come. Feel it. What is love for, if not to intensify our affections both in life and death? But, O, do not be bitter. It is tragically self-destructive to be bitter.” Piper goes on to talk of homecoming, “Do you feel restless for home? I have family coming home for the holidays. It feels good. I think the bottom line reason for why it feels good is that they and I are destined in the depths of our being for an ultimate Homecoming. All other homecomings are foretastes. And foretastes are good. Unless they become substitutes. O, don’t let all the sweet things of this season become substitutes of the final great, all-satisfying Sweetness. Let every loss and every delight send your hearts a-homing after heaven.”

Perhaps my moments of melancholy come because I am restless for home. For now, our tree is trimmed, the gifts are wrapped, and I’m happy to be just one week away from having my “kids” under our roof for the night.

Yes, that’s a crown on the top in honor of Jesus, the King of kings.

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
Bina-Effect-Letters-alphabet-red-19-800px

2017 Holiday Season in Full Swing

Perhaps it was the new Pumpkin Praline Pie that I took along with the pumpkin and mincemeat pies, or maybe it was because I gave too much information in my post about Mincemeat. There was a lot of Mincemeat Pie left over after our Thanksgiving meal. I chose to see the pie pan half full and enjoyed large slices for breakfast on Friday and Saturday.

Yes, beef is listed as an ingredient.

This one is a keeper!

My two sisters handled hosting the most anticipated dinner of the year with style and impressive calmness. When I checked on them three hours before fourteen guests were to arrive, they were playing cards. The family gathering was full of joyful (noisy) conversation, delicious food, and expressed gratefulness.

On Friday morning, my sisters were ready for our annual Black Friday outing. The three of us have made it a priority to drive to a nearby city for shopping and lunch each year. We head out later than most folks and make it home  by dinner time. It’s our day to catch up and enjoy being sisters. More gratefulness.

My husband’s large family gathered at a nephew’s home on Saturday for a celebration of football, food, and family. It was wonderful to see our two sons and our daughter-in-law at both family parties. The three days of Thanksgiving ended, and Dave and I journeyed home to be in church on Sunday morning. Ah, Sunday.

Designated days resumed on Monday, now known as Cyber Monday, a day to make on-line purchases. I took advantage of a 40% off deal on some Love and Respect books and also ordered some items my husband needs. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving became Giving Tuesday in 2012. The worldwide movement encourages support of non-profit organizations with some donations being matched by corporations. On November 28, on-line contributions to good causes totaled at least $177 million. Our donation went to the LIFE TODAY Mission Feeding Program.

Today is Wednesday – just Wednesday as far as I know, except that we are now “officially” in the Christmas season. I’ve been asked if I’ve put up my Christmas tree yet. No, however, I have put away fall decorations and set up our lighted village buildings*.

*Full Disclosure: This is from a previous year. We don’t have the cords strung and little figures in yet.

December will arrive on Friday, and Sunday will mark the beginning of Advent for the Christian Church. It’s time for me to make some choices about more than which gift to purchase. Each day of this season, I hope to do these two things:

  1. Choose to bless, not impress. This has become one of my life goals. Keeping it simple avoids stress   and helps me to use my own gifts and time to bless people without comparing my efforts to what others do. I’ve decided to spend less time on Facebook. I don’t need any more recipes or decorating ideas. Less, I believe, will result in more. More time for my second choice…
  2. Choose to seek and to serve Jesus Christ. As a believer who is saved by grace through faith in Jesus, I worship Him, not as a baby born on Christmas, but as the Lord and Savior who will return for me. He is the Prince of Peace, and I need his peace. I was reminded at a prayer meeting tonight that we can be very busy and fail to accomplish anything worthwhile. My choice is to be still enough during this season to hear God’s voice in prayer and to seek to know Him better through reading the Bible.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

 

 

Please follow and like us: