Sunday, January 5, 2014


My Mom's side of the family had some really cool names. There were my Mom's aunts, Emily and Rose, and her uncle Amadae (known as Ami). There was a Joe Champion and a Jimmy Valentine, names that belong in epic novels. And my Mom's step-grandfather was for some reason always referred to as Mr. VanDam. I guess if you marry a widow with seven children, you get called Mister out of respect. My Dad's side was more confusing. There was a bunch referred to as the "Oakland Relatives", although none of them lived in Oakland. And who could forget "Uncle Julie" who used to throw money on the floor for the kids?

The relative who's name fell like a ton of bricks is Aunt Hort. Now if you pronounce the name Hortence like the French do, it sounds lovely. Or maybe if our family used the pronunciation of aunt that rhymes with font instead of the kind that sounds like a household pest, Aunt Hort would have had a better ring to it.

What Aunt Hort excelled at was cooking and crafts. If she were alive today, she would probably have a blog and a website and a Pinterest account and a zillion Twitter followers. Poor Hort was just way ahead of her time. She was an amazing cook who tackled very difficult recipes. She was famous for her Grape Pie which involved peeling the grapes. And even though we were her little rug rat grand nieces and nephews out in California, she thoughtfully made us the most amazing handmade crafts. Her homemade holiday ornaments made our neighbor's cheesy store-bought ones shake in shame. She made me the cutest stuffed frog with a giant mouth pocket for storing my pajamas in. But burned into the memory of all us kids were the sock monkeys she would make us. Aunt Hort's sock monkeys were adorable. They had a place of honor on the window seat in our family room and even the dogs knew not to touch them.

In honor of those beloved toys from my childhood, I made Ernst a sock monkey hat. It was the first hat I've ever crocheted and it gave me quite the trouble at first. The initial version turned out gigantic and had to be ripped out. The second try went much better after I used a smaller hook and followed the directions. The full instructions are available on an amazing site called Repeat Crafter Me. The hat ideas are endless and I'm inspired to make the owl and puppy hats in the future. I think my Aunt Hortence (feel free to pronounce that the fancy way) would be proud. But I'm not about to start peeling grapes for pies.

The original on top, my version on the bottom.
I had such trouble with the ears!
I decided to make a Mr. and Mrs. Sock Monkey set.
The Mrs. has no ears, but she is sporting a pom pom.