All-Hallows-Eve in a Ghost Town

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

It is probably the most baffling thing to my high school best friend  that we don’t celebrate Halloween.  It is absolutely his favorite holiday.  And he has been happily peppering Facebook with freaky clown pictures for the last couple of weeks.

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

We don’t have very strong religious feelings about it other than knowing that it is an incorporated pagan festival but we decided that  we were celebrating it and not to God.  So along with the other pagan festivals that Christianity adopted (Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day etc) we got rid of it.  We don’t really miss it.  We don’t really avoid it. We just don’t do it.

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

That is not to say that we don’t enjoy a good scare (Six Flags has a really fun Fright Fest this time of year) we just don’t celebrate Halloween with it’s costumes and pumpkins and tricks or treats.  So it is a good thing we are going away this weekend to visit my niece because we live in a genuine ghost town:  on All-Hallows-Eve there will be no door bell ringers, no tricks or treats here… just the empty shells and ghostly remnants of lives past.  Besides our house the town is long gone and only the memory of where it was among a few tumbling remnants exists.

A huge rock that used to sit next to the Post Office:

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

  The old school house which some history buff has been trying to keep standing is rotting in its corrugated skin :

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

Driving further up the valley toward the salt and sea, leaving our ghost town behind,  you wonder how many more  towns have died on this twisting stretch of highway.   The fallen barns and ramshackle remains  appear tucked back into the folds of the hills partially obscured by trees.

 The tumbled remains of a home:

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

Lives passed and forgotten:

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

 xx Joanna

Finally M’s Beau is Done Yarn Along

I’m linking up with Ginny over at Small Things for a Wednesday Yarn Along.

M's Beau Vest. Yarn Along @ Sweet Little Wood

Beau is done but he looks very different to what I expected!  I got M. to try it on before I sewed on the sleeves just to check I got the body length adjustment right and M decided right then he didn’t want sleeves- he wanted it left just as it was.  Probably with raw knit edges and all!  He runs hot basically all the time… if I get cold I know exactly where to go to warm up so leaving the sleeves off seemed to him the perfect solution to his” jumper-on-jumper-off-jumper-on” problem!

M's Beau Vest. Yarn Along @ Sweet Little Wood

Naturally my knitting pride wouldn’t allow the raw edge so I picked up and ribbed an even number of stitches around the arms for about four rows.  The buttons are vintage.  About four years ago I had the most amazing find of a HUGE box of vintage buttons which have been providing me with all my button needs since.  I even got rid of half of them when we moved across the pond because I couldn’t ship them all.

He loves it. LOVES IT!  He has been wearing with his pajamas he loves it so much… so for all that work and bother… it was worth it just to see him love the end project.

I live for that.

M's Beau Vest. Yarn Along @ Sweet Little Wood

M's Beau Vest. Yarn Along @ Sweet Little Wood

That man… I adore him!

I’ve been reading a digital library copy of  The Daring Ladies of Lowell  by Kate Alcott.  I am enjoying it so much!  Its the tale of the mill girls in Lowell Massachusetts and one girl who crosses the lines between mill owner and labourer.  It rather reminds me of a spiced up inversion of Gaskell’s North and South. Love it much!

Happy Wednesday to you my friends and may the stitch count be always in your favor.

xx

Joanna

Sweet Little Wood Meets Snapdragon

I am so excited to let one of my little kitten’s out of the bag (I’m afraid I still have a couple secrets I have to keep for now) and introduce you to the newly refurbished Snapdragon Snippets:

It is a growing  resource for SVGs for all crafting mediums and I am thrilled to be a contributor!  Mike and Kenzie have a talented set of designers and crafters helping to make it a fantastic resource.  I am one of the designers on it to do strictly 2D designs- there are  some totally awesome 3D projects on the site!

Silhouette

And for you lovely people out there who would like to have a go…  they are giving away a Silhouette Portrait with no purchase necessary! Seriously go over there, get yourself registered and bag that thing!!

 Grand Opening DAY!

xx

Jo

Disney Syndrome: or Why Isn’t This Perfect?

Disney Syndrome:  

the development of an out look on life which promotes the belief that  “true love” and a “happily ever after” are natural and effortless states of being.  Relationships and life must conform to Disney’s pattern or it is not “true love” or “happiness.”

That is my own definition.  Someone else could define it better I’m sure, and I am not a life expert.

However M. and I have observed this: there are an awful lot of people in the world who want and believe in the Disney effect. It seems to be particularly high among women but we also know a lovely loving husband who is a great father that was pretty close to not marrying the woman he loves because of Disney Syndrome.  

There is a common formula for happiness:

Happiness formula

My generation and the generations younger than me (seriously click that link I just gave you and read it its awesome!) suffer from Disney Syndrome. It is there in the way we think and we may not even be aware of it.  Of course its not only Disney: it is Hollywood, advertising and glossy magazines too. The reality is that in the western world our every day is frequently punctuated with seeing perfectly staged,  lighted, scripted and executed events taking place in fantasy settings or perfected realities.  There becomes a normality in feeling like there should be a script to our lives too:  Why doesn’t he do that thing that is supposed to make this moment perfect? Why can’t I have that living room too?  Why don’t I look and feel like that mom in the childbirth magazine that I read 40 times before this little red crying thing entered my life? Then we get on our social media sites and portray a life edited from reality  (seriously read that link!).  Instagram is heavily edited. Facebook has a few people with NO FREAKING FILTER (a pet peeve of mine) but most of us post only what we want people to see.  And is it possible to Tweet in  140 characters or less a real life? Can anyone name a social media site where we let everything hang out?  

Our expectations are formed subconsciously and influenced by what we know, what we see and what we do.  No generation before has had such a freely available source of aspirational material as Hollywood, TV and magazines produce day in day out for our entertainment.  So if  what we see, do and know comes at us all day through billboards, books and TV showing a wildly luxurious world full of perfectly staged,  lighted, scripted and executed events which all turn out great:  in the end (naturally) our subconscious expectations will be effected.  Then we all pretend to be reaching our goals so what our peers see is success and it completes a picture of expectation.  Aspiration and expectation in themselves are not always bad things so long as they does not cross over to covetousness…  however thinking this way is so detrimental to our relationships (making them and keeping them going) that it eats away slowly at the way we feel about each other and ourselves.  It makes us feel dissatisfied no matter how much privilege we receive on a daily basis.

 As newlyweds my poor clueless husband was always trying to perform feats of romance totally unsuited to his personality and temperament because of my expectations and to a certain degree his own.  So we limped and halted through years of stilted anniversary dinners at restaurants that provided utensils we din’t know how to use and every time we hated it, had an argument and wished we had just gone down to Pizza Hut.  Our reality was divided down by too high an expectation leaving us with too small a pot of happiness.  Eventually we figured it out and I don’t think either of us miss those days of attempted failed romance.

Raising girls has made this so important to us.  It is not healthy to expect perfection in your spouse, friends or your home.  Its not healthy to expect airbrushed perfection in your own body.  I am a natural perfectionist.  It is not good.  I do have to remind myself daily to back off: The stupid towels thrown over their poles in the bathroom in a messy way don’t matter.  Ignore the shoes left at the bottom of the stairs again.  Yeah… no one cares what bowls the food is presented in- they just want it on their plate and in their stomachs when they get hungry.

 So go on. Shuck off those expectations: look at and accept the reality around you and find beauty in it.

Paul the apostle said: I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  

That is my every day reminder not to let all the extraneous worries, ambitions of perfection and superfluity of stuff get in the way of what matters in life.  To reach for something better than this life and to be happy with God’s good gifts.  So my goats have to go… life isn’t perfect the way I expect it- its a simple matter of adjusting my expectations to reality.

xx

Jo

Time and Quiescence

Hello there!

I have had an upsetting week since my last post.  Our landlord had decided he isn’t happy about the goats and has demanded they go.  I am so sad and I need to try to focus on making sure they have a good home so I’m going to have to take a short break- about a week- from the blog.  I haven’t the heart to be cheery about it all yet and we have a lot of small things to do which may help us find them a herd to join or a good home to go to.

I will be back in just in a little bit.  Maybe a little heart-sore but smiling again.

xx

Jo

Amanda is Slow Growing: Yarn Along

Hello dear ones. I am linking up for a yarn along with Ginny over at Small Things.

Everything has been busy here.  It all has to do with my secret and a lovely collaboration that is growing up slowly and often needs my attention.  Because of all this Amanda has been creeping very slowly along my needles.  It is lovely  to pick up something at the end of a hectic day to relax with; unfortunately my evenings have been rather too busy and me rather too unrelaxed!  I am a quiet girl and  an introvert so this craziness does not suit me.

Yarn Along @Sweet Little Wood

Similarly finding time to read has been challenging but I am slowly picking my way through a digital copy of  12 Years A Slave.  It is a fantastically written book.  Northrop’s narrative is exquisitely worded but also extremely painful to read.  I generally do not enjoy biography- sadly I get bored- but this has captured me.  I simply have not had time to focus and sit with it.

Would someone go ahead and invent a time machine already?!?! I would like more time in the day.

xx Joanna

The Monday Project: Making Autumn Fall

Well darlings the autumn is softly creeping into The Sweet Little Wood.

Leaves and rain @ Sweet Little Wood

I love autumn.  Like so many of us: it is my favorite season.  There is so much magic in the darkness of the morning- not on school days when it would certainly be more convenient to be woken with light- but at the weekends when you wake and the light is still low, it’s cold enough to keep wrapped up in the duvet and a hot cup of tea in bed feels like utter luxury. What I adore the most about autumn is the cinnamon scent of fallen leaves and the rustle of stepping through them.  I can’t help but want to hurry the leaves along: it feels like fall but here we sit waiting for fall to… er … fall.

We always get leaves in the spring a few weeks later than the dryer, hotter valley over the hill.  We also start to go to ocher and rust a few weeks after them too so here our trees are still resolutely green.  The days are still reaching the 90’s but they feel cooler with the lower angle of the sun and brisk sea breezes.  Positively cold temperatures are settling in to the evenings and waking us in the morning with a nip.  My daily routine has changed with the seasons:  now I don’t have to worry so much about over-heating the house my mornings are filled with bread making and dinners are being planned for roasting in the oven.

Fall Leaf Collection Bunting @ Sweet Little Wood

Yay for bunting!

In order to satisfy my crafting lust and my yen for fall I have been decorating with my favorite thing: BUNTING!  Americans don’t seem to use bunting as much as the British do.  I find it completely charming; I would hang it on every strait line if it didn’t collect so much dust!  So this week I have been pinning up strings of paper leaves (I just staple the leaves to the string so they slide into the right place… very little actual work involved!)  and adorable acorn bells all tied up with raffia.  Its is totally comforting. The adorable little bells are from Michael’s.  They are so sweet I want to add them to every thing in my house!  I wonder if I would look too eccentric with them on the toes of my shoes..

Fall Leaf Collection Bunting @ Sweet Little Wood

The leaves are from my Autumn Leaf Collection SVG I cut on a Silhouette Cameo.  The SVG is available on my ETSY shop and soon in a NEW LOCATION!! There have been secrets being kept in the dark recesses of the forest where quiet conversations stay private…  but more on that very soon.

Fall Leaf Collection Bunting @ Sweet Little Wood Now all my doorways are festooned I can get on with the real business of  making cookies and hot chocolate to have while I watch my favorite fall film: Practical Magic !

xx Jo

Brought to You by the Letters I, O, and U

Today the Sweet Little Wood was a little sweeter and it all started last week when my car started making a  very quiet noise like riding on an rumble strip as we approached  the yellow farmhouse we call home.  I thought- “Better get that checked.”  The next day I had work to do at home and no need to drive except for dropping off and picking up the girlies from the bus stop. Not a problem! At the morning drop off the car went “rumbly rumbly quietly there and back.  Afternoon pick up the car went “rumbly rumbly quietly, PFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFT.”

Chocolate Chip Cookies @ The Sweet Little Wood

Fortunately the PFFFF… bit happened just as I arrived at the turn out where the bus stops because being broken down on this road is probably the most dangerous thing I can think of: think Lombard Street in San Francisco with blind corners and cars going 45 miles per hour and you will understand.  Terrifying.

The bus stops about 2 miles from our house and JUST where cell phone reception begins.  So I thought “AAA!”  Well… yes this story goes on… my AAA card was in my wallet at home and I am one of those females that has never changed a tire.  Don’t despise me!  I have never ever had a flat tire when M. was not with me!  So I’ve never even had the chance!  Our bus driver didn’t have the number either but he did have and empty bus and a generous disposition and he CHANGED MY TIRE in 93 degree heat!   AND he was patient enough to teach me how to do it!

Super Cookie @ Sweet Little Wood

Totally saved the day!

So today’s cookies are brought to you by the letters I, O, U and a particularly kind bus driver.

Chocolate Chip Cookies @ The Sweet Little Wood

I use the recipe from that Betty Crocker Cookbook pictured (a wedding present 17 years ago)  which is almost the same as the recipe  over here but without the vanilla.  I add 1/4 cup  extra flour (I like my cookies a little chunky looking not flat) and leave out the nuts.  I cook them at 350 F  rather than 375 for 10 minutes and take them out immediately- no waiting to see them look more done!  They will look a little too moist and not quite done when you take them out but they set to a perfect soft cookie texture after a few minutes cooling and stay soft forever:  I don’t like crunchy cookies.

I hope he likes chocolate because there are another three trays in the oven!!

xx

Jo

Cabled Joy Yarn Along

Oh my. Autumn really is coming!

There have been a few small rains here and tiny little sprouts of green are emerging from our parched earth.  My three does are in goat paradise finding and demolishing the tiny slivers of green goodness; except when it rains when they stand at the fence (rather than under the shelter M. built them where their dry alfalfa is) and bleat pathetically till I take them back to the barn where they happily demolish the same alfalfa they wouldn’t touch in the field.  **Sigh**   Stupid goats.

This last week I haven’t managed to finish M’s second Beau.  All the repairs went well with only a few “Oh heck that was supposed to be the opposite way!” moments but I just haven’t gotten to the last edge… soon!    He would have worn it before I did the rescue work… the man really does not have any sense of style.

So I moved back onto Amanda which has the back finished and this is the left front just started. This picture pretty much sums up my week… busy.  Too busy and I’m going a little bit nuts with all I need to finish in too short a time but it is all bits-and-pieces work so I can get in half a row between my busy working.

Amanda Yarn Along @ Sweet Little Wood

But about Amanda: I love to knit cables. L-O-V-E to knit cables!! They are so  so much fun but I often find the result is too bulky.  Not Amanda.  She is practically perfect in every way with a honeycomb pattern at the sides which I have to stop occasionally to sink my fingers into.  The only thing is: I rarely wear cables so I dunno if I’m likely to like Amanda finished but she is just so darn fun to knit!

Reading I have done… None. Unless you include my new copy of Mollie Makes… that’s reading right?

I’m all linked up with Ginny today- have a lovely and happy hump day!

xx Jo

The Monday Project: A Fairytale Doll Gift

Once upon a time there was a princess.  She had shining golden hair.  This princess was- due to circumstances beyond her control- trapped in the life of a simple servant to a king far away from her old life of luxury.

The goose girl doll @ Sweet Little Wood

The princess was good and sweet and kind to her charges: a whole gaggle of geese! But she would often sleep under a tree while her charges wandered free on the king’s land and dream of what would be when she was princess again.

 

The goose girl doll @ Sweet Little Wood

Sometimes she tells stories to her geese.

The goose girl doll @ Sweet Little Wood

Fairytales mostly.  Of course her little geese hear one story more often than any other… for she had a favorite fairytale!  But then: don’t we all?

The goose girl doll @ Sweet Little Wood

——————————————

This weekend we had the fun of going to see one of my nieces (we will call her B.) in Nevada.  She has the most adorable little girl who was celebrating her 2nd birthday and we were invited (oh happy joy!).  Of all my nieces B. is the most like me in temperament.  She is a little quieter, and little more introspective which suits me just perfectly.  I truly love having conversations with her now as an adult but as a child she was so adorable to talk to!  She had numerous imaginary friends and would ask the most astonishingly strange questions!

The goose girl doll @ Sweet Little Wood

But what to give a two year old that she wont grow out of within a year? So I turned to an old favorite: Tilda.  I am totally unashamed to admit I am a little addicted to Tilda.  Tone Finnanger is hands down my favorite designer (sorry Cath Kidston– you come a close second).  So when I want something sweet and lovely for a little girl I look no further than my adored collection of Tilda books… however they were not on my book shelf!  They were not in my craft room!  They were not by my bed!   They had not been buried under and avalanche of yarn or fabric!  Finally in despair I asked my girls when they got home from school if they had seen my collection.  Guess who:  J. had taken them all (and my sewing machine) upstairs and was hording them.  They were on her book shelf!   They are all back safely in my cabinet but I still feel a little like growling territoriality when she comes near it!

This beautiful girl is from Sew Pretty Homestyle  but her dress is from Tilda’s Fairytale Wonderland.  She became The Goose Girl only because it is one of K.’s favorite fairytales despite the beheaded horse that talks to her after it is dead… that is a little creepy.  The little goose I made up myself on the fly.

The only thing I have really changed is the hair… I just don’t like the way Tilda does doll hair.  Instead I use embroidery floss- the thick kind by DMC that doesn’t split.  It probably has a name…  I used 8 skeins in total in three different shades, knitted it up on the finest needles I had (2.25 mm) in garter stitch and wet ironed the knit fabric.  When it is dry and unraveled all these pretty curls appear!  Its pretty time consuming but I think you will agree- worth it.

The goose girl doll @ Sweet Little Wood

Happy Monday and may your fairy-tale come true.

xx

Jo