Sunday, November 30, 2014

Our Thanksgiving in Australia

We invited our ward's missionaries over for Thanksgiving, partly because two of them were American and would no doubt be missing the holiday, and partly because we just really like all four of them.  It's been such a fun experience having missionaries in our ward that we actually get to spend time with, unlike in Utah where you rarely see them because they have to cover such a large number of wards in one area at a time.  (We've lived in our Utah home for nine years and I've only been able to grab the privilege of feeding the missionaries ONCE.)  But here in the Bundaberg Ward, we have four full-time missionaries at a time, and they are great about getting to know the members.  They're one of my favorite parts of our time here in Australia.

This last week I've shopped, converted measurements and temperatures, and figured out how to make a lot of things from scratch that are normally just in cans on the shelves back home.  I made pumpkin puree from an actual pumpkin because here they don't sell it in cans.  I don't have a food processor here either, so the "puree" part was me forcing cooked pumpkin through a fine mesh sieve.  I was determined to have pumpkin pie!  (It took four hours to "puree" my pumpkin...)  I made green bean casserole with fresh green beans because apparently they don't do canned green beans here either.  (And the Cream of Mushroom condensed soup...very different consistency than back home, practically milk.)

The American elders were very excited about Thanksgiving dinner, and the Australian elders kept leaning over to the Americans and whispering, "What's that?" in regards to many of the dishes I served.  (Green Bean Casserole was a new thing for them.)  Having spent the last five months myself grappling with the different flavors of Australian cuisine, it was downright endearing to watch the Australian elders have some of the same reactions to foods that I consider ridiculously normal.

Penguin sat through dinner with the biggest smile on her little face, just an ear-to-ear, face-splitting grin.  I leaned over to her and asked why she was smiling so hard, and she whispered, "I don't think I've ever been as happy as I am right now."  Oh, that moment.  I love Thanksgiving for so many reasons, and I'll treasure that little moment of hers forever.  It was such an enjoyable evening.

Don't worry, it's sparkling apple juice and sparkling grape juice!
We had fun explaining Thanksgiving to the Australian elders, and sharing stories about Thanksgivings past, and explaining the concept of Black Friday and stampeding crowds at Wal-Mart.  Saying it all out loud made me pause to consider how crazy it really is, and how odd it must seem to non-Americans.  But oh, for a few hours we just got to be American again, instead of Americans trying to live in Australia.  This was my favorite day here.

There's only one pie plate in our rental, so I made pumpkin tarts in a muffin pan.  The apple pie was popular, the (slaved over) pumpkin tarts not so much.  Oh well, it was all done with love.

Everyone had seconds, some had thirds, and when dinner was finished, the elders had to rest a wee bit.

That picture makes me laugh out loud.  I don't think I'll ever have four missionaries sprawled out in my living room ever again in my life.  Michael and Bluebird were sprawled out just outside this shot, and Penguin resolutely kept on eating at the table far after we all finished our food.  The missionaries were humbled by her sheer eating power, wailing that they were being outdone by an eight-year-old girl.

Monkeyboy became fast friends with this missionary, and they enjoyed toasting with the sparkling apple juice.

It was a great day, and we all had so much fun together.  I always love the Thanksgivings we share with others the most.  Thanksgiving dinner is meant for lots and lots of people being happy together.

2014 has been a big year for our family; a year of immense blessings and opportunities.  There is so much to be grateful for right now--this awesome experience of living abroad, the opportunities that have fallen to Michael in his career, the friends we have made and the friends who have shown their love from halfway around the world, our health, the girls' new school, and the ability to adapt and learn.  Our cups overfloweth.  Thank you, Heavenly Father, for this year, and for all the prayers you have so lovingly answered in our lives.

And let me tell ya, it's pretty awesome to eat Thanksgiving leftovers outside in the warm sunshine, gazing at the palm trees...

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and thank you for all your love and support, especially in these past few months.  We are exceedingly blessed.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Because I "Have Time" Now for Mending

My school-aged kids attend school now, in case you missed the update.  That being said, I have a lot more time for things that I've been somewhat content to ignore for many years.

Case in point:  Mending.

Of course, the moment I spent a bucket of cash on school uniforms, all the girls started literally ripping through their other clothes.  I am determined to not buy clothes while we're here in Australia, mostly because I'm trying to save money to buy massive amounts of winter clothing when we land back in the States in the middle of winter, and also because most of the clothes that are wearing out are old, and on their last recipient (Junebug).

However, I have a thing about throwing away fabric.  I can't do it.  If we were home, I'd launch all these into the fabric stash pile, to be used in some fashion in a future sewing project.  But we're not home, and I'm not going to transport ripped clothing halfway around the world, so I decided, since I "have time" now, to see if I could fix the offending articles.

Armed with a few Pinterest images, and some handy how-to from The Beating Hearth, I mended this pair of Junebug's pants, backing the hole with her "favorite" fabric that I'm using in her Star Spangled Diamonds quilt.  I extended the darning out quite a bit, as the fabric of her pants is very thin throughout the entire lower leg.

Pleased with my progress, I tackled a pair of Bluebird's pants, which still have to last through two more girls:

That one didn't turn out as well; I should have cut away the loose threads.  Ah, well.  I'm amused by the "Utah-shaped" darning.

Inside shot:

I'm still learning, but I've managed to save two pairs of pants with my mediocre skill!  That's a skill in which to invest!  I'm unsure about the weaving part when you're done with the lines of seems unnecessary.

Of course, mending takes time, which meant I wasn't able to work on my other creative projects as much as usual, so progress on those was small this last week.  But I saved two pairs of pants, which is totally worth a little delay on extra-curriculars.  (At least, it's worth it to me.)  Also, it's surprisingly satisfying to mend clothing.  Maybe I'll try to unearth some articles out of the stash pile when we return home?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Two of a Kind

Oh, my knitter heart is very happy.  Not only do I now possess a new pair of handknit socks, but they're made from yarn sent by my wonderful best friend, AND the self-striping matched up perfectly!  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

I busted out an old pattern for these--the first sock pattern that I ever knit, actually:  Diane Soucy's "Easy Lightweight Beginner's Socks" pattern.  I made my first socks with it, three years ago.  Sadly, that pair of socks wore out earlier this year, after many, many times of wear.  These replace those.

The yarn is ONline's "Supersocke 4-fach" in the "Neptun" colorway.  The thing I've enjoyed with people sending me sock yarn is that they choose the colors, and the colors are different than what I would choose.  It was fun to knit these up in a colorway that I probably wouldn't have chosen myself simply because I tend to choose other things.  I really liked this colorway, especially how the turquoise-y part ended up on the heels.  Mmm, turquoise heels.  It made me smile both times it happened while I was knitting them.

Of course, I won't be wearing these in any regular fashion until we return home, because it's wicked hot here in Queensland.  (Summer has a way of being hot, doesn't it?)  However, I couldn't resist the urge to take a quick photo of my newly-finished socks against the palm tree backdrop of our backyard, even though it's kind of ridiculous to wear wool socks for any amount of time when it's 93 degrees (F) outside.  This finish is far more suited for my permanent residence, which saw its first snowfall this past week.

Whatever.  It's 90-something degrees in November, I have palm trees in my back yard, and a fresh new pair of handknit socks.  Life is good.

(He keeps stealing them because they make "great dancing socks.")

Monday, November 3, 2014

Half of a Field of Stars

Last month, I set the goal to finish piecing up the rest of the stars that made up the second quarter of this quilt, AND attach them to the first completed quarter.  I knew it was a lofty goal, but the idea of being "halfway done" with such a time-consuming project meant a lot to me.  I needed to be able to say it was halfway done...I've been working on this since May, which means I've been staring at it for five months, which is a very long time to work on something and not be at least halfway done.

Michael's been gone for two of the weeks in October, with one little week back home in between.  Free time has not been easy to find this month, especially with the extra tasks that accompanied getting the girls' uniforms, shoes, and other necessary items they needed to begin attending school.  And then you'd think I'd have buckets of free time once they were off learning elsewhere; but, no, I turned my attentions to cleaning the house...because it really needed some love and attention!

Nevertheless, I made time each evening to work on the quilt after the kids went to bed, and behold:


But not really, because I've realized it needs another column of stars to be symmetrically pleasing.  Ugh.  Oh well, it's not difficult to fix.  Just more time.

I hesitate to make any goals for November simply because I'm a little burnt out on this.  I'm also a little burnt out on the Peacock Stole, which hit its own halfway mark a few days ago as well.  Long-term projects...oi.  I really want to make something Christmas-ey, but I have no sewing machine or any real idea of what I'd make anyway.  (Oddly enough, I DO have Christmas fabric.)

I think I'll focus my efforts on my Soothing Socks for the next while, and once I get to feel the high of having a finished project again, I'll sit down and set a goal for this in the time remaining in November.  Off the top of my head, I'd like to finish at least half of the next quadrant, so...six stars.  That's what I'll shoot for, six stars in November.  Then I can attach it and actually see how long the quilt is going to be!  Yes, that will do nicely.  Enough work to keep the interest alive, but also take a bit of a much-desired breather.

Junebug is very happy that it's HALFWAY DONE, and could not wait to model her favorite stuffed animal on the quilt.  Cute girl.  Cute quilt.