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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Days!

We are on day three of being home because of snow and ice.  We've ventured out the last two days and the roads seem fine but I hear that there are a few roads that are still pretty slick, probably back roads.  After the first day, Alexander, Irene (my mother-in-law) and I went out to play.  The temperatures weren't too cold and there wasn't any wind blowing.  Here are a few photos that we took after I slaved away we played. I don't remember playing in the snow being this taxing when I was a kid!
Our house, covered in snow.

Alexander thinks it's funny that I took a picture of our mailbox but I  just liked how it looked.  

The boy and our Nashville snowman

Look, I'm making an appearance in a photo!

Our fort to defend the house from enemies!
You won't see any pictures of Charlotte in the snow because she is not at all interested in going outside to play or even touch it.  She's much happier in her footie pajamas, snuggling with a good book or watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
I used to dread snowdays but we've had a pretty good time the last few days.  I am ready to get back to our normal schedule though.  I wonder if Metro will cancel again?
I hope to get a little sewing or crafting done this evening although my laundry pile has grown to an unmanageable pile again.  I'll have to check if we have any underwear left to wear!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy New Year!

The end of 2010 and beginning of 2011 had some very exciting happenings for me!

Let me start at the beginning.  My beginning, I mean. I was five weeks old in November of 1977 when my parents adopted me from an agency in Evanston, Illinois called The Cradle.  Mom and Dad talk fondly of getting 'The Call" and rushing to pick me up.  Glad that they didn't think that I was a Halloween prank, seeing as they got the call on Halloween! People always ask me if I remember a moment when my parents told me about being adopted but I don't have a specific memory.  I have always known that I was born to another family but adopted and raised in the Runkle household.  What a truly amazing feeling to know that my parents desperately wanted a child and I was chosen both by them and by God to be in their family. I had a wonderful childhood and was spoiled rotten, getting nearly everything that I wanted, save for a Barbie pool, but that's another story altogether.  I had every advantage and was so grateful that my birth mother had been so unselfish in allowing another family to raise me.
Fast forward to October 29, 2011.  I was sitting in a fantastic little Italian restaurant called Mama Mia's with my Dad enjoying lasagna for lunch when my phone rang.  I was expecting a call from my endocrinologist because I had just had my full-body scan (cancer recheck) the day before and was waiting for the results (in case I forgot to post, I'm still cancer-free!).  So, even though I was in the middle of the restaurant, I answered the call.  It turned out to be Nina from The Cradle.  I don't remember every portion of the conversation but I do remember her asking me if I was somewhere where I could talk.  I probably should have called her back but I didn't.  Her call intrigued me and I wondered what was up.
She began by saying, "We've had a match on the mutual consent registry." (So you don't feel left out, here's a brief description of the registry: Both the state of Illinois and The Cradle have a database where you can submit your name and contact information.  If both the adopted child and the birth parent(s) register, the agency will put the parties in touch).  So, my first thought was that my birth mother was searching for me.  Then, Nina says, "Well, it's actually a very unique and interesting situation."  She was speaking slowly so my first reaction was to think the worst, that someone had died or that someone was in jail.  However, as Nina continued, she revealed to me that my birth mother, who was barely 16 when I was born, and my birth father had gotten married.  And, to make the news all the more interesting, she told me that Debbie and Ed, their names(!), had three sons.  These boys are my biological brothers.  Nina kept asking me if I was ok, if I had anything that I wanted to tell the family, and if it was ok for her to send me a letter that Debbie had written.  I was in a bit of shock so I agreed to let her send me the letter and thanked her for the call.  WOW!  Now that was some information to absorb.
After receiving the letter, I found out more about the family.  The boys had names!  Robert, Jeff, and Thom.  Nice classic names!  Fast forward a little bit and we began corresponding by e-mail.  I got e-mails from Ed and Debbie and I also got e-mails from the boys.  I learned so much about them in the first few weeks, it was overwhelming and exciting.
So, instead of being patient, I decided that we better make a trip to Chicago, where (most) of the Lorenty (that's their last name!) clan call home.  Peter and I made flight arrangements and begged his parents to watch the kids for a few days.  THANK YOU Neil and Irene, we appreciate it so much!!
Can I just stop for a minute and let you know how blessed I feel to have a wonderful father who has been so supportive of me conversing with and meeting my birth family?  I know that his life partner, my mom, isn't here to bounce his feelings off of, something that must be unbearably difficult, and yet, he is positive and encouraging of my new friendship with the Lorenty family.  There truly is a God who listens and helps us through when we can't do it ourselves.
Fast forward, again, to December 29th, 2010.  We're off to Chicago!  I'm nervous and excited!  I hope they like me.  Friends on facebook assure me that the family will love me but I still feel apprehensive.  It turns out, that I had nothing to fear.  The family Lorenty is so welcoming and loving, I felt like a long lost friend.  The boys and I get along very well and continue to talk on the phone and share photos of our children and dinner plates; the whole family appreciates a good meal and they all like to cook!  It's so very interesting to find out what we have in common and what things I may have learned from growing up with Mom and Dad.
I realize that I've typed more in this post than in several posts combined so let me leave you with a few photos from our trip.  You can let me know who looks the most like me; I'd love to hear your opinions!  This won't be the last that you hear about Ed, Debbie, Robert, Jeff, and Thom.  It's the beginning a great friendship!
Ed and Debbie, still together after 30 years of marriage!

Jeff, me, Robert (in the back), and Thom (Hey, Thom, notice that your shirt says, "Moto"!)
At the nature museum; can't wait to take the kids here!

We're all dressed up like bugs.
I want to know why it looks like the boys are all out to get the poor little ladybug!?!
Robert and me on New Year's Eve.
Yes, I know that the picture was taken on a cell phone but I look skinny so I had to include it.

Jeff, Debbie, Thom, me, Robert, Ed at the Lorenty's home in Chicago

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Felted Sweater Purse

A friend of mine asked me for some tips on making the felted sweater purse so I thought I'd share my thoughts with y'all.  I'm going to do bullet points because I don't feel like typing in paragraphs.

  • You need to get a 100% wool sweater.  If you have one that has even 10 percent acrylic, it's not going to work the way that you want, trust me.  I thought that I found a perfect sweater but it turns out that it had a little acrylic so I couldn't shrink the fibers enough to make it felt.  (I read on one blog that the sweater didn't have to be 100% wool but I think they hadn't actually tried felting it because I washed/dried that 10% acrylic sweater about 5 times and it's just not right.  You can let me know if you have one that does shrink enough to be felted).
  • Stick the sweater in a zippered pillowcase with a couple tennis balls (or golf balls if your hubby plays more golf than tennis).  This will catch all of the fluffy stuff that comes off of the sweater so that it doesn't clog up your washing machine. This tip is from my awesome friend, Melody.  Thanks, Mel!
  • Choose the hottest setting on your washing machine.  I also chose the longest wash setting.  Not sure if that's necessary but that's how I did it.
  • Add a little bit of detergent to your wash cycle and fill the washing machine with just enough water to cover your filled pillowcase.  Top loading washing machines are better for this project because they agitate more.  Doing laundry agitates me.
  • When the cycle ends, open the pillowcase, take out the fluffy stuff, and then put the filled pillowcase in the dryer on the hottest setting.  I took my golf balls out because Charlotte was terrified of the thumping sound.  I do have to admit that it did sound like a huge monster jumping in the laundry room.
  • I had to run the sweater through two dry cycles before it was dry and then I decided that it needed a couple more washes and dry cycles.  
  • My next tip is...get a pattern for a purse.  
  • Yes, I know I made mine up.  
  • It was frustrating.  And it didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped.  
  • The good news is, it's easy to sew through the felt.  I was worried that it would be really tough for my machine to get through but it sewed it with ease.  
  • To make mine, I cut a pattern out of cardboard.  I cut the front and back exactly the same and then figured out how big I wanted the flap to be.  I only lined the inside of the bag, not the flap, but in hindsight, I should have done both. 
  • I added the handle next.  I lined it with the same fabric as the inside of the purse by sewing them wrong sides together and then turning them.  I finger pressed (squeezed with my fingers) the seams so that it would lay flat when I sewed it onto the inside of each corner of the purse.  I went over the handle seam twice so that it would be extra strong.  
  • To sew in the lining, I folded about half an inch of the lining fabric down and ironed it.  Then, I put the lining in the purse, wrong sides together, and sewed around the edge of the purse.  The stitching doesn't show on the outside of the purse because the felt is so tightly woven that the stitches seem to disappear.  
  • Then, I pushed and pulled the purse until it had a shape that I was fairly happy with.  I wrapped it up and smiled when my mother-in-law opened it.  
  • Wished my mom was here so I could make one of these for her.  She loved purses!
Does that answer all the questions?  Do you have more?  Feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer or find the answers!

Salt Dough Ornaments

This is the most simple of projects but it's a lot of fun for the kids (and adults) who participate.  First, gather the ingredients that you'll need for the project::
3 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
That's it!

Next, you should find a helper to do the work for you as you dictate the directions. Mix flour and salt together.  Add water gradually and knead dough.  If dough is too dry, add water.  If it is too sticky, add flour.

 Roll out dough onto waxed paper about 1/4" to 3/4" thick.  The thicker the dough the longer the drying (cooking time).

 Use cookie cutters (or you can free-hand a design if you're artistic like that) to cut the ornament shapes and poke a hole using a wooden skewer or the end of a pencil.  

Transfer your shapes to an ungreased cookie sheet at bake.  I baked mine at 325 degrees for about an hour and a half (someone was in a big hurry to decorate).  The problem with baking at this higher temp is that your shapes rise a little bit and get puffy.  To get a flatter, neater ornament, I'd suggest baking at 200 degrees for two to two and a half hours.  Turn them half-way through the baking process, no matter which temp you use.

Cool on wire racks and decorate with paint.  Since I was decorating with a five year old, we just used a water based paint but if you want the paint to last, you could use acrylic and could even add glitter or seed beads to complete the look.
I forgot to take pictures of the painted ornaments and I just took down my Christmas tree yesterday. They turned out cute and Alexander was pleased to get to help with the whole process.