Craft Updates and Chrysanthemums

Posted by mrssmythe on December 3, 2019 in Baking, Crafting, Garden, Out & About, Seasons |

Well, I’ve finished up quite a few craft projects since my last post. November seems to have been a month for tying up loose ends. First, and most important, I finally finished my fair isle vest.

I’m very pleased with the result. And, since I’ve been working on this project since May, I’m very grateful to be finished with it. I bogged down a bit in the finishing work, but once the weather cooled I dug the vest back out and got to work, deciding I wanted to wear it for Thanksgiving dinner.

I also finished a pair of socks I’d been working on since September. They were an anniversary gift for CPT A. I used my tried and true Patons pattern for socks. If you’re interested, you can find information for it HERE.

Normally, it doesn’t take me so long to knit a pair of socks, but I kept getting distracted with other projects.

…projects like these fingerless gloves.

Aren’t these pretty? I fell in love with the yarn, which is Noro. It’s a lot of fun to knit with – lots of surprising bumpy bits and flashes of color. If you’re interested, you can find the pattern for the fingerless gloves HERE.

For chillier days, I plan to wear these newly-finished thrummed mittens.

I’d never made a pair of these, but they intrigued me, and having put holes in last year’s mittens, I figured I was due for another pair. Here you can see what they look like on the inside.

The strands of wool are supposed to fluff up and felt together as you wear the mittens, making them doubly warm. I’m interested to see how effective and durable they are. I used them today for shoveling snow, and they took a beating, but they also look like they felted some (which is good) and my hands stayed warm, despite the mittens being wet, so I’m optimistic. You can find the pattern I used HERE.

Ginger has been busy with projects, too. Here you see a wolf she crocheted recently. I love the shorts and suspenders. You can find the pattern HERE.

She also made another dragon.

I really like the eyes on this one. If you’re interested in giving this a go, you can find the pattern Ginger used HERE. It’s very customizable, and Ginger has used the same pattern to make a number of very different looking dragons.

When not crafting, we’ve been doing quite a bit of baking. Fall is such a great time for that. We’ve had a couple of birthdays in the family, so carrot cake was on the menu.

And, I found a recipe for Breakfast Cookies. These are delicious, and I love thinking that they are “healthy”. They’re pretty filling, too, and great to grab as a snack when you’re on the run. You can find the recipe HERE.

Oh, and I made mine with chocolate chips rather than raisins.

Finally, a little plant life to round out the post. The girls and I went to the Smith College Botanic Gardens for their annual chrysanthemum show. We’ve been to see the bulbs in spring before, but never to see these lovely flowers. What fun!

The variety of chrysanthemums was amazing. There were huge chrysanthemums and tiny ones. Fat-petaled ones and spidery-looking ones.

There were flowers the size of softballs and tiny little bonsai plants.

It was really beautiful to see – and a greenhouse is always a nice place spend a brisk fall afternoon.

Back home in our own garden, we had a few plants still holding out before the snow hit. I snapped a few photos while raking leaves last week. Here you see the last of the wild yarrow…

…and a very persistent strawflower.

Now, though, everything is under a blanket of snow.

I put up some Christmas decorations on Sunday, and my focus has shifted from leaves to the upcoming holidays. I imagine yours has, too. Do you have Christmas carols playing yet? We do. Christmas music is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.

I certainly hope your holidays are merry and bright. I’ll check back in in a few weeks to let you know how ours have been. From the dining room table, having just finished round two of snow shoveling,

Mrs. Smythe

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October Summary

Posted by mrssmythe on November 1, 2019 in Crafting, Family, Garden, Out & About, Pollinators, Seasons |

October greetings to everyone! Isn’t this a fun picture of the girls? We stopped in at Yankee Candle in Deerfield last week and couldn’t resist a shot in front of these pumpkins. Yankee Candle always does a great job with their fall decorating.

I haven’t written in a while – I hope to remedy that and get back into a more regular groove. In the meantime, here’s a post to bring you up-to-date with what we’ve been up to these past few weeks.

In late September, we finally made it to the beach! This is one of Ginger’s favorite things to do – and one of CPT A’s least favorite things to to do. He’s not a fan of the sun, so we usually time our visits for early fall so the heat and glare aren’t so intense.

This year, we chose to go to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Connecticut. Our day was nearly perfect – still warm enough to swim, but cool enough to be comfortable.

Ginger got in the water right away and stayed in for almost the entire visit. She’s such a little fish!

We definitely recommend this beach. It’s lovely, clean, and there were some nice walking trails that I’d love to explore further on a future visit.

On the crafting front, Ginger’s been busy making more crocheted creatures. Here you see her putting the finishing touches on a Hippocampus. This is another pattern she purchased from Crafty Intentions – one of her favorite places to go for patterns.

I love how the tail turned out.

A more recent creation was this koi which was donated to a silent auction that benefited Justice For Our Neighbors, a charity that pairs immigrants with legal and social services. The koi went for $100 – Ginger was very pleased.

Ginger has also been learning to sew and finished her first quilt about two weeks ago.

And what have I been doing? Not nearly as much as Ginger! I have been crocheting Christmas ornaments, though. Here’s one of the army of snowmen I’ve made this fall.

These go together in about an hour and are a lot of fun to make. If you’re interested, you can find the pattern HERE.

In garden news, things are definitely winding down, though we have yet to have a good, hard freeze. Last week, the front flower bed looked like this:

The bees seem to have all vanished (I imagine the bumblebee queens are sleeping in the leaf litter). Before it got too cold, though, we had a good run of late-season bumblebees. They particularly enjoyed the straw flowers.

Apparently, straw flowers have lot of pollen.

And, before that, we had a “flock” of monarchs who hung around for a couple of weeks. I counted eight in the garden on several occasions.

They were so beautiful. I would be outside and think I was seeing a falling leaf, then I would look up and realize it was a monarch. Just lovely.

The local oak trees produced a bumper crop of acorns this year. I love acorns.

When I walked the dogs, I would collect a handful from the road. Then, I’d toss them out into the garden. They were always gone the next day, though I never saw who took them. I suspect it was the chipmunks.

And, we got eight pumpkins, total, from the garden this year. I have them set up on the mini-wall out front.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a picture I took at Hampton Ponds State Park last week. I had a free hour while waiting for one of the kids’ activities to finish and so stopped at the beach (which was deserted) for a bit of knitting in the sun. The water was littered with leaves and pine needles and lapping the shore with a lovely, gentle rhythm. Such a nice way to spend an hour.

So, now October is over and we’re into November – CPT A’s favorite month, and one of mine, too. Our days have gotten shorter, our trees much barer, and our first snow is likely just around the corner. In the meantime, it’s a blustery Halloween night – seventy degrees, with rain and high winds. So weird.

From the dining room table, enjoying the warmer temperatures while they last…,

Mrs. Smythe


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Fall is Here!

Posted by mrssmythe on September 26, 2019 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Pollinators, Seasons |

Summer is gone, and now we are within the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” (as Keats would say). I think he sums it up rather nicely, don’t you? That is exactly how things have been around here of late – misty mornings and mellow fruitfulness. Enough fruit, in fact, to make a couple of apple pies from our first round of homegrown apples.

We might have had more, but CPT A was concerned about the limbs of our little apple tree being able to handle them all, and so culled a portion of the apples early on.

The apples – and the resulting pies – were delicious. Such a treat! It still seems magical to be able to grow things on our own trees and actually eat them.

Elsewhere in the yard, the pollinator garden is thriving. Here is how it looked at the beginning of the month:

And, it’s still going strong, though at this point, it’s looking decidedly less fresh. We’ve had a wonderful “crop” of butterflies and bees this year. Definitely more than last year. Here you see some visitors to the verbena.

And we’ve had more monarchs than ever before. I counted eight, total, one day. I think the population has risen in accordance with the increased milkweed in our yard.

In the backyard, a vigorous crop of jewelweed is meeting the needs of bees that don’t bother to come all the way up to the front.


On the vegetable front, we enjoyed a good crop of cucumbers this year, and now the pumpkins are almost ready to be taken off the vine.

The chickens have been poking around in the pumpkin patch, though, and have gone after some of the pumpkins, so the crop is somewhat scarred and battered.

In early summer, I grew lettuce and enjoyed being able to just gather my dinner salad each evening. I’m trying to recapture some of that fun, so I started another round of lettuce, this time in a container.

I really hope this works.

The weather is still nice enough to spend time crafting outside in the afternoons when I have a bit of time before starting dinner. The chickens and turkey (and guinea hen!) usually keep me company.

I’m working on a variety of projects right now, one of which is another blanket scarf (or “blarf”). This time, I’m using yarn remnants that fit into the “autumn” palette of the Color Me Beautiful book.

It’s a great project to work on while watching TV or a movie…or a great podcast, like the one put out by Fruity Knitting. If you’re a knitter, I highly recommend it.

I did start looking into Christmas gift crafting and thought maybe I’d put together some little mitten ornaments using a pattern I’d seen in a crafting magazine. I sat down one Sunday afternoon and got to work. Here is the result:

Isn’t it wee? It’s like a mitten for a squirrel.

As cute as it is, I’m not going to make another. It was very “fiddly” work and not at all relaxing or enjoyable. So, if you know of a squirrel who needs a single, navy blue mitten, let me know. I have one he can have.

From the dining room table, wondering if human-sized mittens might not make good Christmas gifts instead,

Mrs. Smythe

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Summer Crafting

Posted by mrssmythe on August 27, 2019 in Crafting, Critters, Ginger's Snaps, Toys |

The craft project photos have been piling up, and I thought it would be fun to devote an entire post to the things Ginger and I have been making these past few months. I’ll save Ginger’s items for last, as they’re the most spectacular. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

First, a set of crochet fruits and vegetables that I used as props/toys in the preschool Vacation Bible Camp class I taught in early August.

Aren’t they cute? These were a lot of fun to make and also helped use up lots of odds and ends of yarn I had lying around.

I made progress on my knitted sweater vest. You may remember this project from earlier posts.

I cut the steeks, made an alteration to the length, and sewed up the shoulder seams. Now I just have the ribbing around the arm and neck openings to do. I’m dragging my feet a bit, as that will take a good amount of time, but the weather is cooling down, and I’m sure my enthusiasm will return at some point. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to use up other oddments of yarn from my stash. Scarves seemed like worthy projects for the task. Here’s one I made with a skein of Lion Brand “Scarfie”. I used the Back To School #Scarfie pattern.

Here’s another scarf – this one knit from a skein of Lion Brand’s Shawl in a Cake. This one was knit using the Windham Scarf pattern.

Both of these were simple and pleasant to work up – a welcome change from that vest!

Alison has been even busier than I have, cranking out toys and even doing some sewing. Here are some House Elves she crocheted at the start of the summer.

If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, you may recognize these and the colors she’s chosen to dress them in. Ginger sent a copy of this photo to J.K. Rowling.

Another early summer project – these slippers:

Ginger is looking forward to wearing these once the weather cools.

Ginger took a short break from crochet to squeeze in some sewing. Here she is at work on a quilt. Mr. Wa thought he was helping.

He was not.

But the real star projects this summer have been Ginger’s fantasy creatures, all made from patterns created by Megan Lapp of Crafty Intentions.

First, this “Pony Alicorn”:

Then a pair of dragons.

These are definitely the most challenging things Ginger has crocheted to date. The patterns, though, were very detailed and had lots of photos and help for each step. Ginger found them very clear and easy to follow, so if you’re interested in making something similar, Ginger definitely recommends these patterns.

From the dining room table, enjoying much cooler weather with the windows wide open and the cicadas singing,

Mrs. Smythe

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Journeyman Camp at Old Sturbridge Village

Posted by mrssmythe on August 11, 2019 in Family, Garden, Museums, Out & About with Comments closed |

Before I forget, I want to share about Pepper’s experience at the Old Sturbridge Village day camp this summer.


Pepper had a wonderful time at this camp. In fact, I was surprised by how much she enjoyed it. She spent the week immersed in 1830’s life, wearing the clothing and performing the work that someone her age would have engaged in at that time in New England. She learned to sew, cook on a hearth, garden, work with wood, weave a basket, braid straw for a hat, and so much more. The week ended with a dance on the village green:

Pepper is at left in the green dress and white bonnet.

As you can see, all of the kids were in costume. Pepper was among the oldest, part of a small group of kids aged 14-17. She thought one of the nicest things about the camp was the kinds of kids it attracted. Overall, she found them to be very interesting and friendly.

Pepper says she would definitely like to participate in a similar program at OSV in the future. At seventeen, this is her last year to register for OSV’s youth programs, but there are volunteer opportunities for college students and adults, so she could possibly do one of those.

During the week, Ginger and I had fun visiting OSV twice while Pepper was “on duty” as a volunteer. It was so fun to see her in costume, cooking fritters or dancing on the green. (We tried not to embarrass her too much). OSV is always a nice place to spend the day, and I especially enjoy visiting the herb garden.

This time, a volunteer was on hand, tending the flowers. She demonstrated the miracle of Soapwort…are you familiar with this plant?

The volunteer tore off a handful of leaves, wet them with a hose and rubbed them together in her hands. Here is the result:

Isn’t that amazing? Actual soap from a plant! She told us that centuries back, people used Soapwort to wash their clothing! She also told us that she has an older home with quite a bit of soapwort growing in the yard. She hypothesized that an early owner used the Soapwort for this very purpose. Isn’t that interesting?

It would be fun to grow some in my own garden, though I did read that it can become invasive and isn’t considered very useful to wildlife.

Oh, and if you’re interested in the Old Sturbridge Village day camps, you can find more information about them HERE.

From the dining room table enjoying a deliciously cool evening,

Mrs. Smythe


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