Monday, December 31, 2007

Hapde New Year

Last year as we were ringing in the New Year, I had a moment to actually have a nice reflection on the passing of time.
This year I am completely without any sort of reflection, and I have given no thought to the year ahead.
Jack was up until 2 am last night. As in had not yet had a wink of sleep until 2 am. It was a really hairy night around here, and I am more like a zombie than I have been since he was a tiny infant. It was just a bad, bad night in so many ways.
So, instead of dwelling on that (or the toothpicks that are holding my eyes open), I thought I would revisit some of my favorite photos of this past year. Moments where everything is bright and shiny and lovely and everything was going just the way it should.

Because really, way more often than not, everything around here *is* bright and shiny and pretty much going the way it should.
And I always have all of you to share it with. This little bit from last year could not be more true this year:

"I want to take a moment to thank each and everyone of you who stops in here daily, or weekly, or even occassionally to see what we are up to. You inspire me with your own blogs, you amaze me with your kindness, you encourage and support me with your comments and emails. What a terrific group of women (and a man or two) you all are!"

I hope that 2008 is full of bright and shiny and lovely for each and every one of you.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

A semi-handmade holiday, part two

The exhaustive list of handmade gift ideas during November and December at the Sew Mama Sew Blog is awesome. When I was desperately searching for more gift ideas for Dave, I found several goods ideas there.

I made the CD Poket [sic] with some musical monkey fabric I had stashed in my cabinet.
I also made him a Box bag , which I am quite proud of. It's my very first zipper! (And made with a tutorial that doesn't have the clearest directions on inserting the second side of the zipper.)

Since I lack a lot of "manly" fabric in my stash, I cut up two of his old dress shirts that were in the donation bag to make it.

Things have been just plain weird around here the past two days. Jack has a little head cold that has turned into 2 am coughing fits. Yesterday that meant I was awake from 2 am until 6 am because I could not fall back asleep for anything. Last night I managed to fall back asleep after only an hour or so, but when I heard Jack playing at 5:55 I thought for sure we were all doomed. Imagine my surprise when his alarm went off at 7:45 and no Jack appeared. When I rolled over again and told David it was 9 am and Jack wasn't awake yet, he went running in there to make sure everything was ok. He was fine, but he was sleeping still.

This is the kid who has not been asleep until 9 am since he was an infant. (Actually, he is very rarely asleep at 7 am, never mind something crazy like 9 am.)

Strange days indeed.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A semi-handmade holiday

In a move that is completely unlike me, I have taken down most of the Christmas decorations already. For some reason winter is suffocating me this year. I miss spring already. I want flowers and sunshine and time to play in the backyard and bbq and yard sales and Jack in the sandbox.

Plus, I have ideas brewing for Valentine and Easter crafts already, and they seemed silly with the Christmas decorations up.

It's going to be a long winter, isn't it? :-)
While most of Jack's presents are of the plastic, requiring batteries type, most of the other gifts this year were made by me. At the last minute I was scrambling to find gift ideas that I could make to stuff into David's stocking. I found a piece of felt? felted wool? mystery fabric at a thrift store sometime last year, so I cut into it to make a little pencil cup for his desk.

It's pretty darn cute, I see a sewing room version in my future.
The other part of this present is still not complete, I need to applique an apple onto a shirt for Jack. An apple and an apple tree for them to wear, a.k.a. "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." LOL

It was hard to make the apple fabric stand out from the white shirt, and I still worry that the polka dots are too girly, even though Dave assures me that they are not.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I will hear Santa's bells

We have had a busy few days around here! We took Jack to historic St Charles on Sunday to see the train displays and the Santa parade. It was so cold we watched most of the parade from the car while munching on delicious Christmas cookies. Jack loved seeing all of the different Santas (they have Pere Noel, Santa Lucia, Frontier Santa and more) and the parade was much too short for his liking.
When Jack woke up on Christmas Eve he told me "I will hear Santa's bells when I go to sleep again," and he was so tired by the end of a busy day that I am sure he did hear Santa's bells.

We had a visit to the local hardware store to see their big train display, our small family gathering complete with the Christmas ham, and a trip to church for Christmas Eve service. (He was really way too tired to enjoy church at all. He refused to nap yesterday and by 8 pm he was getting to be a wreck. I couldn't' skip church though, it isn't Christmas to me without singing Silent Night in the candlelight at church.)
Bright and early this morning he was ready to see if Santa had indeed left presents under the downstairs tree. As we were making our way to the basement he caught a glimpse of David closing the basement door and he said in his most excited voice, "I see him down there!".

There was the usual flurry of wrapping paper, and much excitement upon seeing that Santa had indeed left many of the things on his little wish list. He has been down there playing with it all for hours now.

It's so nice to be able to make his little dreams come true, and that is all the Christmas I really needed.
When David asked Jack what he wanted to get me for Christmas he replied, "How about an acorn for her tree?", so I was the happy recipient of some gorgeous woodland type ornaments. Just seeing them makes me want to get out the green feather tree, all of my old glass birds and do a woodland tree. I think I will when the pink Martha tree comes down this week.

And I want to wish a very Merry Christmas to you too!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas decor and conversations with Jack

(The mantle in our bedroom, complete with tree toppers, snowmen, glass bead garlands and more.) A few conversations with Jack for posterity:

While driving around looking at Christmas lights, "Oh man, those freaking blue lights are terrible." LOL
(My favorite thing, my blue door, with a gorgeous Peace on Earth embroidery I picked up at a yard sale this summer.)

"Mom, the baby Jesus likes cake. I am going to give the baby Jesus a cake and the baby Jesus will think it is great!" (Birthdays equal cake for a three year old.)
(The bedroom armoire. My beautiful violet watercolor, glass glitter church and tree, and the Christmas tree I found in Kansas this summer.)

"Mom, is it soggy outside?"
"Yes, it is foggy."
"It's humid."
"Why is it humid?"
"There is a warm front here right now."
"Why is there a warm front?"
"The jet stream."
"What is the jet stream?"
"What makes wind?"
"The earth's rotation."
"Why does the earth have rotation?"
"Well, sort of because of gravity."
"What's gravity?"
"It holds everything on the earth."
"Oh, Jack, because the universe said so." (At that point I realized the conversation might never end!)

At least the science questions are easy for me to answer, eh? I am in big trouble if he starts asking me history questions.

Like everyone else, I am scrambling a bit to get everything finished. The presents need to be wrapped, the laundry really needs to be done, I still need to make Jack's pajamas and one of Dave's presents, and we are squeezing in the Santa Claus parade tomorrow.

Only 3 more sleeps until Santa arrives! Ho ho ho!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jack and the Baby Jesus

Last Friday at preschool Jack made the Baby Jesus ornament on the left, the toilet paper tube one. He is completely enthralled with this thing. He immediately hung it up on the tree in the living and requested a tree in the basement specifically to hang his Baby Jesus on.

On Monday he took the Baby Jesus for a ride with him on his "vroom, vroom."

He was thrilled to discover another Baby Jesus in my ornament box, a margarine lid Nativity ornament that I made when I was 4 years old. He swears that is his Baby Jesus also.

And no Baby Jesus in the neighborhood has gone unnoticed either. I think we have spotted every blow mold Baby Jesus within 10 miles of our house. I wonder what he would think if I reminded him that he was once that Baby Jesus in the church Christmas pageant? LOL I sure am getting a kick out of the fascination.
I finally finished the big glittery tree. The photos are not so great, but at this rate I will not have sorted out the new camera until after New Years. (Jack has a head cold and he is very prone to gigantic temper tantrums at the moment.)

I really need to figure out how to make the top of this tree stand up straight again. I can't even get a tree topper on it this year.
800 tiny twinkling lights, something like 400 vintage ornaments, 6 strands of glass bead garland and many hours of patiently hanging precious ornaments.
This is the best I could do at capturing the sparkle.

I love to lie in bed (it's in our bedroom, away from kids and cats) and just watch it glow.

If you need to see more of the ornaments, you can view my slide show from last year here .

I know that many of you are off very soon to travel to your families, so Happy Holidays to you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Making mischief

I still feel a bit like we are riding a too fast rocket ship towards Christmas, but when I saw the pattern for the Christmas pixie at Chickpea Sewing Studio , I just knew I had to stop everything and make one.

My husband grew up in a house with Nisse Men and I have been looking for a pattern for one for ages. The ears are still annoyingly off (one pointing up, one not so much), but he is a cute little bugger. When I was digging through my fabric I spotted the gingerbread man fabric* and knew I had to use it instead of the red ticking. Jack is all about gingerbread right now, asking for "gingers" (gingerbread cookies) every day.
I keep feeling like I should have shared some of our Christmas decorations by now, but they are so hard to photograph that I am avoiding it. LOL

This is the small tree in our living room. (Which actually houses 3 small trees instead of one large one.) I went crazy over the Martha Stewart K-Mart stuff this year, particularly the festive confections collection. My sweet husband bought me one of everything way back in October.

Yes, the tree topper is crooked. My trees themselves are vintage trees, so they are a little off kilter sometimes. The poor topper already acquired a hole from an unfortunate accident this year, so crooked it is.
Glass balls, glass candy canes in yummy pastel shades, glass glitter stars, those adorable tiny cakes, gorgeous striped bows, bead garland, porcelain cookies, and pink velvet strawberries, made just for me by Tiff .

I really love this tree this year.
This old paper mache Santa always makes me happy every year. I really love getting out the Christmas stuff, revisiting forgotten treasure and being able to display the newly collected stuff too.

We bought our real tree yesterday, and I hear Jack downstairs redecorating it now, he wants to hang every single ornament on one branch! I had better go supervise my little mischief maker...

*You can click to enlarge to see it better. I think I got that fabric at Hancocks this summer, part of their feedsack reproduction line.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kick in the pants

Apparently posting my panic here on the blog was, as my grandpa would say, a swift kick in the pants for me. I got the majority of the shopping done, the cards mailed, the ornaments on the tree, and we took Jack to a local Christmas light display. Jack is crazy for Christmas lights this year! He loved driving through the light display this year, and wanted to go over and over again. As we were exiting the display he said something that I would not ordinarily put on the blog, but I don't ever want to forget this one. He asked his father, very seriously, "did you toot in the woods?" Man that kid makes me laugh. LOL

It snowed a lot last night, and there is more to come this evening. Finally, the "piles and piles of snow" that Jack has been wishing for. And unlike previous years Jack actually is enjoying it. Riding in the sled, making snowballs, and falling down in it, just like he told me he would when he was asking for it all month long. He has a little sledding playdate in a few hours, then they are hoping to stop and see the Christmas trains, how fun!
There was a little indoor flea market we made our way to this morning. My thrifting luck has been completely non existent for months, so I was more than ready for some treasure hunting. It was pretty empty because of the snow, and the rent was high, which meant pretty high prices ($1 each on the ornaments, which is the absolute top of my budget for ornaments), but these were so gorgeous that they had to come home with me.

When Jack sees all the old ornaments on my big white tree he always gasps "it is so glittery!".
I also picked up another set of old canisters. I couldn't resist the charm of the old flower cart and they are in unusually good condition.

Off to make a pot of chili and ponder Jack's Christmas pajama sewing project, one more thing that needs to be checked off that old list!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's contagious

I am fairly certain that holiday panic is contagious. Consider yourself warned.

I know that every year I will start out with a ton of gusto in November and then come December I am totally out of steam. Thankfully I had most of the gifts that needed to be made and most of the decorating done by the time December arrived. By I am still starting to panic a little.

My Dad brought me over this gorgeous, fancy new camera. I haven't even cracked open the book yet to sort it out.
I have a huge pile of ornaments waiting to get on the tree.
A gigantic stack of postcards waiting to be mailed.

And the shopping? Pfffft. We've done a little for Jack, but let's not even go there, ok?

To top it off I have had a splitting headache for two days, I haven't slept well in a week and Jack really does not entertain himself at all these days.

Is everyone else just gliding through December, or are all of you panicked yet?

I think I am going to need a nap. LOL

Monday, December 10, 2007

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head

What am I about to say is going to make me sound like my grandfather, but so be it. It seems like every year we get less and less snow around here. And sadly, more and more ice. It started raining on Saturday (complete with thunder), but it is so cold outside it just freezes on everything. Ice storms are scary, and thankfully we still have power. I will take 18 inches of snow any day over this funny business.
Of course that means we have been housebound again for days on end. When I first saw the Scottie dog fabric at Hollyhocks I just knew I had to have it. I finally managed to scrounge up the remaining yard and a half in our JoAnns* a few weeks ago, and it has been sitting there calling to me ever since while I tried to decide on what style bag to make.

It takes a long time to browse a half million bag photos on Flickr you know! When I saw this bag again at Mint Basil , I knew I found the winner.
I used even more of those 5 inch squares from that fabric swap for the patchwork strip. I decided at the last minute that I needed some kind of trim on the front, and I had a tiny piece of green velvet ribbon that was *just* long enough. And no bag is complete without a vintage snowflake brooch, is it?
Not wanting to waste any of those precious 5 inch squares I made a patchwork strap.

It's cuter than I expected, but it took me an entire day to make. That's roughly the same amount of time as it took to make the flannel quilt. Whew. Bag making is tough stuff. LOL

*If you go to JoAnn looking for the dog fabric look in the juvenile apparel section. The ladies at our store never have a clue what you are asking about if you ask them, and I had to hunt high and low (literally) to find it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A mama's heart

We've been taking Jack to see the same mall Santa since he was 2 months old, but this year, well, this year was totally different than the last 3 years. Previously we waited in line (sometimes for hours), had our turn, took a quick photo and off we went. When we went on Friday afternoon, there was no line, and Jack was clutching his little wish list stocking he had made in school that day.

This year he understands Santa Claus. He climbed up on Santa's lap and they had a good long chat about what he would like for Christmas. They shared the pictures on his little stocking, and just watching him melted my mama heart. I had to choke back tears in the middle of the mall.
As we were standing in line forking over our $20* for his photo, I caught a glimpse of this photo on the monitor. The one they printed was the standard smile at the camera Jack photo, but this one, well, I could not leave it behind. For me, all the sweetness of kids and Christmas and Santa Claus is in that photo.

I will cherish it forever.

* It took awhile to sort out with them how to get the photo I really wanted, since they have a million crazy regulations about how many photos you must purchase and so forth. In the end I had to pay them an additional $10 to put this one onto a CD. We made a conscious decision when Jack was only a year old to try and visit the same Santa every year, so there would be some continuity to the Santa he saw. That means we end up not doing any of the "free" events, and it bugs me a little that they are so tight fisted about the darn photos. End of rant about that. LOL

Friday, December 07, 2007

What a great day

Yesterday was really a fantastic day. It was our fourth wedding anniversary. We follow the "traditional" gift list, so Dave bought me the K&Company Paper flower kit I have been wanting. Aren't they beautiful? I put old pearl and rhinestone buttons in the centers and I can't wait to turn them all into a paper flower wreath.

And we had a tiny bit of snow, which Jack and I watched fall together out the front door. He told me that he wants "it to make big piles, so he can fall down in it." Too bad we didn't get big piles, but we will, give it time. I heard him yelling in his room this morning that "it snowed! I'm happy now." Man, I love that kid.
(More flowers, this time made from fabric hearts that I sewed to vellum to make a card for Dave.)

To top it off, I woke up to a bit of a flurry of unexpected blog comments and emails about the button tree . Imagine my surprise to see it featured on Whip up ! Oh man, did I ever squeal with delight over that. Do go check it out, there are some fantastic holiday ideas over there.

I guess I had better go get something accomplished now, eh? Christmas is picking up speed and I am starting to feel underprepared. Happy Friday everyone.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Just cute

Has everyone seen the totally adorable ornament template at MushroomMeadows yet? I am so chuffed that she made them when I asked, and I have been thinking of other ways to use them. (The ornaments are cut out, but Jack has not been feeling very crafty, lol.)

I used Crayola Fabric Crayons around Father's Day to make a shirt for Dave with Jack's art on it, and I thought I would pull them out again. I traced the ornaments onto flour sack towels and then had Jack color them in.
Iron them onto the towels, sew on some ric rac and voila! more easy Christmas presents.

I love the tree one in this set, Jack gave it eyeglasses. (I know it's hard to see his coloring, like I said, he has not been in the crafting mood and he just wanted to draw a few lines and be done with it.)

The crayola website says not to use 100% cotton because it will wash out, but I am pretty sure I used 100% cotton for Father's Day and it hasn't washed out. Here's hoping, right? LOL
We also made them into a shirt for my Dad. Jack is asking everyday if Grandpa is going to wear his shirt. He is just too cute sometimes.

I keep forgetting to mention that we saw August Rush last weekend. Wow. Make time to see it in the theater, where it is bigger than life. And bring tissues. That is one awesome movie, and I don't say that very often.

P.S. You are all making such lovely bottle brush trees! Won't you add them to my flickr group ?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Simple Solutions

Since a day like today in my life includes: do the laundry, do the dishes, change a million diapers, wipe down the disgustingly dirty kitchen walls, repair the vacuum cleaner, read books with Jack, do puzzles, make 3 more Christmas presents, plan the menu and make the grocery list for the next two weeks, mop the kitchen and bathroom floors, work on the Christmas tree, feed Jack 26 times, etc. etc. etc.; I thought we could all use some simple holiday solutions.
I have a lot of old spun cotton package tie-ons that were made in Japan in the 1950s. I can never pass them up, but what to do with them? In 30 minutes or less I threw them all on a wreath. I love having them all together, and while I think the wreath could use more ribbon or glass balls or something, it works for now. This would work for any leftover ornaments you didn't put on the tree, ornaments that are too small for your tree, etc.

My wreath is just that fake garland wrapped around one of those $3 wire wreath forms. (Those things are handy.)
I always hear people say they are too afraid to put their old ornaments, or most precious ornaments, on their trees because they are afraid of them breaking. Many moons ago Dave and I worked together to create a system that works really well at protecting your Christmas tree from rambunctious kids/cats/dogs/neighbors/drunk Uncle Joe.

Every single one of my trees is screwed down to a table (or in this case a wooden packing crate). Make sure whatever you screw it down to is stable enough to not tip over though. Once you put on a fancy tree skirt you don't notice the ugly rigging underneath anymore. As an added bonus the trees get a lot more height without having to pay for 8 foot trees. (I use vintage trees, and they tend to be on the small side.) It also means most of the ornaments are out of reach of curious fingers. Then I wire on each ornament a la Martha. Wrap each hook securely around the branch several times instead of just hanging it there where it can be pulled off or slip off easily.

The only ornaments I have lost since I started using that method are due to my own clumsiness, Jack and the cats have yet to break a single one.
I never, ever do the gingerbread house thing because it is a crazy amount of work. We bought a kit at Costco for $9. Awesome. It went together in minutes, the icing is REALLY gluey and Jack loved doing it. He ate more candies than he glued on though!

Anyone else have super simple holiday solutions to share?

(What is up with bloglines picking up yesterday's post again and not this one? Wierd.)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

In the forest

I'm not sure how I managed to be so quiet for so long around here, things have been moving along towards Christmas here all week and I think I lost steam around Thursday.

I was doing a little blog hopping last week, visiting new to me blogs, and I saw a tutorial for paper clay mushrooms at The Fabled Needle that I had to try. These things come together in a matter of minutes, and they do look like the hard to come by spun cotton version. I am hoping to put together a millinery fruit tree, and they will join the fruit I think.
We woke up to 65 degree temperatures this morning, so off to the flea market we trotted. I actually love the flea market this time of year, very small crowds, very small amount of vendors and I usually find the best stuff then. These are two small gorgeous blue feather trees. Love them. Feather trees are so darn expensive, and these were a real bargain.

I've had a few questions about how I did the tulle wreath (Holley, I can't figure out how to email you, can you email me through my profile?). There really wasn't much magic or much precision (sorry about that, I tend to just do the Tim Gunn "make it work" thing). But here is a rough idea of what I did. My tulle was already cut into strips about 8 inches wide because we had tied it on folding chairs at our wedding, so I just cut those strips into 4 or 5 inch long pieces. (So the pieces are 8 inches wide by 4 inches long). I tied them all with a slip knot to a wire wreath form, the kind that have 4 rings of wire that you buy at Michaels for less than $3 bucks. It's a little bit easier if the bias of the tulle runs the 8 inch length of the strips, but you don't really need to make it that complicated. Many, many pieces later you have a wreath.

If you are still stumped, let me know. Have a lovely, relaxing, laundry free (yea right!) Sunday everyone!