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It’s submissions time again and I am working on some new work for the 2012 Convergence Show in Long Beach, CA this summer. The neat thing about this show (put on by the Handweaver’s Guild of America) is that the art is excellent, it is biennial and in a different location each time, traveling across country and this year it is in my birthplace. Betcha didn’t know that! I was born in Long Beach and though I have grown up here in the Midwest and truly love it, I am excited to have my work and take Esther’s Place to California this summer.

Over the next few posts I would love to share some of my work and the thoughts behind them. Here is a the submission I am working on for their Latitude:All Media 2012 show. It is actually four pieces that I started on in November and before I even knew the theme of the show, I had the urge to call them the Latitude/Longitude Series. They are stiffened, hand dyed silks with nuno felt, painting with oils on the surface and stitching with threads and wire. These were wrapped on canvases, then I mounted them on painted canvases. The whole piece measures about 45″ x45″.  Here’s their story:

Latitude Longitude

 

In our lives, we have many paths. We have paths that lead us to discover our dreams, our passions, our imagination. Other paths bring us to the richness of relationships, to the interwoven framework of support and community of like-minded individuals. Paths can lead us to places that strengthen us, and other times to places where we’d rather not go.

These paths intersect with others at times. Like the earth has its lines of latitude and longitude, they provide a basis for our life’s timeline. It is these lines of pivotal moments that help us cherish memories, recall friendships, and cling to the best of life, even in the worst of times.

In a way, these pieces make up the quarters of our lives, the different eras we pass through as we change and grow. Our paths during each time in our life cause us to become the person we are today. Also, the view of each piece provides an aerial geographical survey of the land of life- our own continents and islands and the world we surround ourselves in. 

Latitude and Longitude. It’s a way to not only measure but also quantify, refer to and suggest a place, position or location. Much in the same manner are those significant latitude-longitude lines in our lives.

 I’ll be sharing more of my work, philosophy and artistry. Check back often!

 

Holiday Greetings!

One behalf of everyone here at your favorite wooly spot, we want to send out a special Christmas greeting. I want to tell you all how much we appreciate you and your support throughout the year.

 

I don’t know how many of you struggle with the holiday in some way. I know I had a harder time getting into the Christmas spirit this year for some reason. I blamed it on the snow- or lack there of; the absence of cookie baking (though my waistline appreciated it!) and other things. But a few days I got a realization of what Christmas was all about.

 

I had a prayer for a specific miracle this holiday season. And over the last few days, we have seen that prayer be answered in an amazing way. We received a blessing- something we needed and couldn’t possibly come up with on our own. We didn’t deserve it; it was a gift provided in the last moment and in the fullest way imaginable.

 

It was then that I realized that is the heart of what Christmas is about. It’s about the blessing we didn’t deserve; the gift we could never afford. It was about the most generous thing we could ever receive and God wrapped it in the simplest manger, for the shepherds to discover. It was the gift of grace in the form of a tiny baby boy. He would grow up to share the truth of God’s heart with us and would die a cruel death to bring us back to God. It’s something we can never get ourselves- it is a priceless gift that is so precious it cost God everything. And it was so important to Him that we were thought of as He planned having that little baby born in Bethlehem!

 

So our cares this Christmas are just as important. I know we all have a lot of prayers, wishes and hopes. Somethings answers we see, other we don’t and will only know on the other side of heaven. But this one thing I do know. God is listening. Christmas made sure of that, when He brought heaven and earth together on that silent, holy night.

 

I wish you a wonderful holiday and hope for the year to come. It has been a blessing to serve you in 2011 and look forward to an exciting, joyous 2012!
 
Sincerely,
Natasha

Here in America, we don’t generally stop our day to take time for a breather and a break. They do in other parts of the world. And manage to fit in all the things in their busy schedules somehow. In England, in Italy, all across the globe people recognize the need to pause in their day, collect their senses (sometimes I think it is my sanity I need to collect) and just relax.

At Esther’s Place, we try to make it a habit to do that. If you come in, please allow yourself time for a cup of tea. Gathered around the table, you never know what will come up, who you will meet, what you will be inspired by, how God moves and ministers to you and how your life can be changed. I want to share with you a few conversations this week….

I think our tea times are really more for me to reflect on being real and taking time to hear God’s voice in this busy world. Today I had in a mother who lost her daughter this year. Her daughter was around my age when she was diagnosed with a debilitating disease. She struggled and through it all was a testimony to the eternal hope and joy that God can bring even when suffering is unbearable and the future is unknown. Sitting here with her mom, listening to her share their experience of going through the days, months and seasons without her daughter was so touching.  It made me reflect on our relationships in life and how important they are. That relationship is more important than finding the perfect gift for that person this season. It is the gift of us.

I had someone else surprise me the other day. She has come out every holiday season, and last year when she came out, she sprang on me the news that she was moving to China with her husband. Turns out that, a year later, she has made friends with women from all over the world. Their common thread is fiber and in their knitting group, they share not common language but emotions, concerns and compassion in a way that no uttered word can compete. She stocked up on fiber and felting kits to take back and now our Christmas felting traditions are to be shared. And here in the shop we are enjoying tea brought to us; the same kind of tea I bet those women sip on while knitting in their group.

During our tea times, people become acquainted with old neighbors, former co-workers and complete strangers; in their conversations they find commonalities and connections. They learn from each other- hints about cooking, cleaning, politics, matchmaking, handwork, and all sorts of subjects. It’s delightful to sit back, sipping on a cup of hot tea, the flavors and conversations mingling, awakening and invigorating me.

That shrill of the tea-pot calls. As I pull open our tea drawer, and pull from the selection of china cups, every place I look is a reminder of people’s generosity and interactions. And it makes me smile.

 

The other day we had a trip to Bloomington-Normal planned for the Ill. Art Educator’s Conference. Now for those who may or may not know my mom, she hates highways. Not just the casual-kind-of-hate, but avoidance-at-all-costs type of intensity. This stems from years of driving the 405 freeway in California, and one close encounter with her old yellow Rabbit that had notoriously bad brakes.

Needless to say, this has influenced the types of roads I’ve driven around on because whenever a trip comes up, it’s always the “other options and avoid highways” button that we hit on Mapquest.  This has led us to all kinds of interesting places and through this small idiosyncrasy, we’ve discovered lots of unique highlights. So when we saw that our trip included a large stretch of Rt. 66 on our way to Bloomington, she says with a grin “Hey! Let’s get our kicks on, what do you say?” And to this, I answer with a laugh, slight roll of the eyes and a quick mental calculation of how many extra days we’re going to need for this trip. Most of the time, though the difference between a highway and a not highway route is less that an hour and so we take it. And I’m glad we did.

When we veered off of Rt. 47 and onto the iconic 66, we were kind of nervous, not having any idea of what to expect. But what we found delighted us. As we meandered through little town after little town, and we saw restored vintage gas stations, diners, murals, and a hearty slice of Americana, following those brown Rt. 66 signs. The biggest excitement (alright call us dweeby history buffs) was seeing the actual road, complete with bridges and all, running alongside us at points in our adventure.

We stopped in Pontiac and went to the Rt. 66 Museum because by this point, I was really curious about the road. What I found here answered all my questions. When was it built? Where did it go? When was the golden era of its glory? And why did we get our kicks by taking this route? It was Bing Crosby and the Andrew’s Sisters who made the song iconic, the road stretched from Chicago to California and was completed in 1926…. and I think the golden era is a toss-up. I’m told there are huge followings of Europeans who come to tour it in search of the American Dream. So its golden era could be yet to come!

But what impressed me the most is that by traveling this route, I went through towns, bought gas, ate food, shopped and otherwise supported small rural communities that are bypassed by the major highways that cut right through them. We supported the “little man” by choosing what route we were going to be taking. In an essence, by changing our driving patterns, we could make a small contribution to helping relieve our national economic crisis. We can help turn the tide for small business, small towns and small industry.

So as a small business owner, in a little town, facing our holiday season swiftly approaching, I hope you will make the choice to support the little man. It’s not much more out of your way, and maybe only a few dollars more, but I bet you will find a better experience, more knowledge and higher quality with the little man. Listening to country radio, I think Alan Jackson sums it up pretty well in his song. I found the video I wanted to share…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBh-m1yTZS0 

So Rt. 66 gave me more than kicks…. it helped me see my world in a broader sense and I’m thankful to my mom and her quirky ways for the opportunity. I’m even debating about taking 66 out to California for a show next year, and taking a fiber road trip along the way! You never know where the road ahead leads, but you know there will always be an adventure awaiting!

How come dreary days make me think of sitting and working on new projects? But do you know what usually happens? I get so excited that I start oodles of new things and get carried away and before you know it the day has come and gone and I’m in and over my head with more work than I started with. Sound familiar?

Here’s some highlights for being slightly “A.D.D” plus easily distracted with a bit of a sporadic personality.

- You’ll try everything once….and doing this you learn about a lot of new things! You also get a lot of UFO’s (unfinished objects). What the heck- what will the kids fight over when you are long gone if you don’t leave them all those UFO’s?

-You experiment and come up with terrific new ideas, concepts and perhaps even techniques. But you start something new and forget to use that really cool thing that you had booked marked in your mind on your next piece!

-You’ll never be bored. All you have to do is wander around and you’ll find half finished projects. If it is half done, that’s totally less work to finish it rather than start something new! That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

-I can probably think about more reasons but I’ve moved onto something more exciting….

Toodles! Got a new project to work on! Pictures to come soon….or better yet, stop in to the shop to see some of the new stuff we’ve been finishing up. New colors of Cheviot felting wool, new yarns, angora/ cormo batts, and new creations. And you can even see some of my UFO’s. They’re creations in the making!

-Natasha

P.S. Love to hear about your projects….maybe it will inspire us! Tell us all about it….. :)

It’s hard to believe a whole season has flown by. Here at Lamb of God Farm, it seems like just yesterday we were ushering our transplants along in the greenhouse, hopeful about all the bounty we were going to be enjoying! Visions of plump, juicy tomatoes and crispy cucumbers danced in the barren soil of early spring. Now it is fall and it’s all but a memory.

But wonderful memories they are! It’s about our members, old and new who have linked up with our small family farm in supporting us while eating better with their families. I have had so many delightful conversations about recipes and cooking; it has inspired my culinary palate. Throughout the twenty weeks, I saw members come together, many from diverse backgrounds and interests with the common goal of eating inspired this summer with seasonal, local produce.

Speaking of seasonal, I can close my eyes and take in a scent of basil, or tomatoes or musky potatoes and it immediately brings to mind a certain season. Recollections of sounds, scents and tastes are now but memories associated with our seasons. Spring is cold air, clammy soil, bright greens; fragrant with the fresh newness of life. Summer is about hot baking soil, welcoming rains to wet the dust, surprises as the plants cycle through blossoming, producing and yielding. Fall is the overwhelming feeling of awe and appreciate for the bounty, the taste of richness and earthy-ness which reminds us the winter is approaching.

It’s hard to believe all these memories can be packed into one 20 week season, but twenty weeks of your life can be spent with far less impact on you and the world around you.

The way I look at it, we fed about 40 families and more with our land, and
that makes the endless, countless hours of toil worthwhile. Plus it got me outside, closer to the ground and nearer to our Creator.

You can’t put a value on that memory! Cheers to our 2011 CSA… thanks for the memories!

Newsletter News!

 

Esther’s Place is Celebrating Spinning and Weaving Week

Oct. 3-9th 2011

 To kick off the fall season, and celebrate Spinning and Weaving Week, we are offering a special challenge: “Heart and Hands” Participants will receive 2 oz of hand dyed Merino Wool Top, grown and processed here in the USA, dyed by Natasha. You will then have until Dec. 16th to create by weaving, spinning, knitting, crocheting, felting, fusing, quilting, etc a pair of fingerless gloves. You can add anything you would like, but that fiber has to be utilized in some component. The gloves can be any pattern or design you would like- it is up to you!

 The challenge is free and the fiber comes complementary when you sign up. Registration forms can be requested by email info@esthersplacefibers.com , at the shop, and by phone.

 We’ll be displaying participant’s gloves here at the shop from Dec. 27th- Jan. 28th. We are looking for a collection of our customer’s work so it can inspire each other! We’ll also have postings about the gloves on our Ravelry club, Esther’s Place Fans, and on our blog, http://friendsofesther.wordpress.com/

 Call in soon or stop in to get your fiber and get started! We’ll have fiber starting Thurs. Oct. 6th…. Happy creating!

 

Classes Coming up…..

We’re filling up for a lot of our weekend classes- so check with us to register! We do have a change of time for our sock class… it is changed to 5:30-7:30 pm for Oct. 20, 27th and Nov. 17th.

 The whole month of October is filled with our favorite felting classes- the 8th is Slippers, the 15th is Nuno Felted Scarves, the 22nd is Hats and the 29th is Vessels. Plus at the end of the month we have our Spinning Overnight Retreat, always a great class, good company and the perfect to way make this October memorable!

 Plus we have knitting 101 starting shortly, and we added a Felted Tote Bag class on Monday Oct. 17th from 1-4 pm .

 I love fall and it’s just so inspiring to be surrounded by the beautiful sights, smells and emotions that accompany the season. If you need a class to inspire your creativity, call us up! We have our mix and match felting project which are just perfect for that.

 Before you know it, we’ll be into the holiday season so stop in if you need some ideas for green, economical and fun gifts to make this year! We’re your stop for creativity and inspiration! 

 

 Introducing two new clubs…our Esther’s Place Sock Yarn Club and Fiber of the Month Club 

Let us make your creativity soar in 2012!

Our Sock Club includes the following:

  •  Hand dyed, luscious merino/tencel blend of USA grown and processed sock yarn
  • You will receive four skeins of this luxury blend - one in Jan, March, June and Sept. 
  • 400 yards/ 3 oz skeins, enough for a pair of socks, or a scarf, cowl, fingerless mitts and all kinds of other creative things.
  • We’ll be including an Esther’s Place exclusive pattern written for the yarn. This way you will know exactly what you can make with your new yarn!

All of this is $120 for the year, plus a $15 shipping and handling fee- and you’ll receive a skein in January, March, June and September. Delivered right to your door and ready to go, you can’t ask for anything better!

 Our Fiber of the Month Club includes:

  • Participants will receive 4 ounces of surprise wool, which will be labeled along with its’ story. It could be hand dyed in luscious, seasonally- inspired colors, or a rich natural shade, harvested right here from Illinois flocks. Whatever surprise it will be it will beckon to be created in something beautiful!
  • We’ll also include a bonus goodie with each month’s delivery. These will be fiber and sheep related trinkets sure to delight!

This will start in January 2012, with a package to arrive in your box around the first week of the month. The cost is $25 a month, which is $300 for the year plus shipping and handling charges of $36 for domestic shipping. Just think of all the fun creativity you can have for about the cost of six gallons of gas….(that was meant to be a joke- But no kidding, you’ll actually have something to show for this as compared to fumes….)

 We have limited space, as we are accepting a small group for our 2012 season. It should be fun, inspiring and a great way to have access to different, wonderful, locally produced fibers while at the same time be supporting your community’s economy! This is a great gift for the fiber friend or relative in your life….we will wrap and send a gift certificate right to them. Or indulge in this special treat just for yourself. Call us today to secure your share in our Fiber of the Month Club!

 

 

Bread Pudding 101 

Those who know me well will know that I like to throw things together when it comes to cooking. No measuring, no fuss, whatever I have on hand. To me baking is like studying for exams. Too much stress!

 So that makes all my recipes hard to nail down exactly. But this one is my basic bread pudding concoction and some ideas for embellishment. Enjoy!

 5 c. Bread  (good and dry, torn into 1″ cubes…I use whatever I have on hand- cornbread, scones, muffins, etc)

2 c. cream (milk, half and half, flavored creamer, artery-cloggin’ whipping cream is the best, sweetened condensed milk, etc)

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 c. sweetener (sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, honey, etc)

cinnamon

vanilla/ almond extract

 Beat all ingredients together and pour over bread. Let sit for 15 minutes to absorb. Add whatever you would like of the following embellishments:

 Apples, dried fruit, cranberries, chocolate, raisins, pureed pumpkin, bananas, coconut, pineapple, etc, etc, etc.

 Bake covered at 350 degrees for about a half hour. Take off cover. bake until set maybe about 15 more minutes or until it smells like bread pudding in the air. (At that point you might want to run for the stove because it might be getting overdone!)

 Let cool slightly, then scoop and serve. Guess what I like it best with? Heavy whipping cream on top! hahahaha…. 

Outstanding in my Field

Now that the eternal summer is coming to a close, I will be a little less out standing in my field. I can tell you for one, my overalls will be greatful. They have busted at the seams, worn holes in the knees and are feeling more like threads than “worn in”. My boots probably would say the same thing if they found a voice. The garden is coming to a close, but we still have a lot of winter greens and roots still out there. I love seeing the lively green against the fading earth tones. We’re all getting ready for the fall season ahead aren’t we? I saw my first fox the other day, and my mom saw a coyote in the street. Ahhhemmm. Mr. Coyote you are a little too close for comfort. That makes you a tad bit concerned. Who ever said living in a wildlife preserve was romantic? My little cat catching chipmunks to play with certainly isn’t my idea of charming. But the crisp mornings, heavy dew, slightly smoky air from a neighbor’s leaves burning is romantic. Watching sun beams reflect off of dusty specks is truly glorious. And seeing combines chugga-luggin’ five miles an hour down the road remind you to slow down and thank God for the richness of harvest time. It’s a wonderful time, a time to be thankful and grateful and still and reflective. So I hope you’ll get a chance to do just that. I try every time I’m picking beans or out with my sheep or watching the sun set into the horizon. Those are the moments that take our breath away!

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