Thursday, December 31, 2009

Because Grandparents Will Hang *Anything* On Their Tree (Christmas Crafting Reveal, Day 5)

Hi.  Mama let me blog if I promise not to get the keyboard sticky.
I want to take this opportunity to say that while she spent a fair amount of time being crafty for Christmas, the project she set me up with was lame, lame, lame.  I don't think it even qualifies as being homemade.  Personally, I think she ran out of steam.  I'm going to have a talk with her. I expect more next year.

I colored a bunch of wooden ornaments that had holes in which to paste my smiling mug.  So obviously, she then tortured me with a photo shoot to get a picture to use.  I formally lodged a complaint that she wouldn't let me chose the winning photograph.  Here was my choice:

Next year, Mama, I'm in charge, and our craft is going to be AWESOME!  We're gonna make fire truck chocolate train bears.  Hurray!

Mama asked me to tell you that she saved the best project to show you for last.  Tomorrow she'll show you, uhhh... freezer paper stencils.  But we don't have paper in our freezer, so I think she's nuts.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sewing for Knitting (Christmas Crafting Reveal, Day 4)

I don't know if all knitters have this problem, but my knitting needles are like a cross between feral cats and socks.  Not only are they never with their mates, but they run off and get lost and get hit by cars and mangle songbirds when I'm not looking.  Invariably I'll start a project that calls for, say, size 4 double pointed needles, and will quickly locate *one* of them.  One.  Out of five.  That doesn't do me much good.  But that *one* needle confirms for me the existence of its siblings, so I can't bring myself to go buy another set.  Because they are somewhere in my house.  Perhaps in the freezer.  Maybe under the floorboards.  But somewhere.  I clearly need a system.

I just assume that my sister, who also knits, has this problem as well.  We are related, after all.  So for Christmas, I designed a simple storage case for her straight needles using a place mat and a napkin.

Initially, I thought this design would make the case *easier* to make, as I would only have to attach pockets to a nice sturdy piece of fabric ready to just be folded in half to close.  But, ahem.  I quickly realized that in order for the outside of the case to be pretty, I couldn't just use the sewing machine to sew the pockets on.  I had to backstitch them on by hand....through only the top layer of place mat fabric.  UGH!  I had no thimble so I improvised with a child safety electrical outlet plug  (I highly recommend them for this use).  I was cursing my design by the end, but it turned out cute, and hopefully they'll tame Meredith's needles.  Maybe it's time to learn how to read patterns.

Tomorrow: guest blogger T cheats at being crafty

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gourmet Chef (Christmas Crafting Reveal, Day 3)

I never formally learned how to sew beyond a sweatshirt I made in 7th grade home-ec.  I remember wearing the finished product, so it must have turned out with at least the correct number of arms and a neck-opening, but I haven't sewed much of anything since, and certainly nothing with formal help.

Still, I have an old sewing machine from my grandmother and I've always really loved the *idea* of sewing.  I just don't know what I'm doing beyond threading the needle.  I wing it.  Sometimes this works well, and sometimes I bury the result in the backyard while no one is watching.

One of T's favorite activities is playing with his kitchen, so I really wanted him to have an apron of his own.  I made a pattern by having him hold a piece of newspaper under his chin while I drew the rough outline of a T-sized apron on it.  He didn't ask why he was holding newspaper under his chin, so no surprises were ruined.

I cut it out, traced it onto fabric, and sewed all the edges over.  I added a pocket across the bottom and sewed on some straps.  If you inspect the wonky lines of stitches, you wouldn't award me any prizes, but T gives it a stamp of approval.  Once he gets it on, he doesn't want to take it off.

The other kitchen-related item I made was noodles to put in a mini colander that I just wanted an excuse to buy.  This was the easiest thing in the whole world to make:  Hold felt in left hand, cut in strips with right.  The end.  Now we've been eating lots of spaghetti around here lately.

Stick around - tomorrow I talk sticks.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Baby Sweater (Christmas Crafting Reveal, Day 2)

Have I mentioned I'm going to be an aunt?
My sister and her husband are expecting a Little One in April and I'm so excited for them!

I sort of cheated and knit this baby sweater with yarn she gave me when she cleaned out her stash, but I figured that she must have liked it enough to acquire it at one point in time, so it would be OK.

Courtney one friend who will remain nameless might have exclaimed, "What a cute boy sweater!", but I'm hoping the color and pattern are neutral, since the parents-in-waiting want to be gender-amazed.

Next up: Critter apron and fake noodles

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fabric Gift Bags (Christmas Crafting Reveal, Day 1)

This year, I spent a little bit of time making crafty things for Christmas.  This was partially enabled by T's new opinion that I should "help" him play by watching him from the couch, and certainly not touching anything.  Any project that was portable to the living room was a possibility so I made the best of my time.
I didn't want to spoil anyone's surprise by blogging about them ahead of time, so now that the recipients have their gifts, I can show you what I've been up to.

For the next 6 days I'll show one project a day, but I'll save the best project for last (it's a show stopper you won't want to miss!).  Some took more time that others.  All were lots of fun.

For starters, I really liked the idea of having fabric bags to put our presents in each Christmas.  I don't terribly enjoy wrapping, I hate the waste, and fabric is fun!

I let T pick out 6 different Christmas fabrics and sewed about 20 bags of varying shapes and sizes.  All tie shut with a ribbon.  I embroidered a few felt tags to use as well, but ran out of time to make enough to label all of the presents.  Christmas morning I was resorting to squishing and smelling and peeking into a few bags to determine who I should give them to...  Next year I'm going to make a bunch of these tags from the purl bee, because they are more versatile than just a tag with a name.  My family likes to write hints on their gift tags, so giving a present with just the recipient's name on it spoils the fun.  I started to make one the day before Christmas Eve, but then the phone rang and that was the end of that.  Nothing like leaving things to the last minute!

"Wrapping" presents on Christmas Eve was a breeze.  It's really too bad Santa can't use fabric bags, too!

Stay tuned tomorrow when I'll announce I'm going to be an aunt! Oh wait....oops...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What new toys did you play with today?

Our favorite was the fire station.
While wearing the cooking apron.
Of course.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas pictures for faraway grandparents

T wanted me to tell you that he misses you and looks forward to seeing you soon!  He also is putting in an order for "lots" of Christmas cookies.  You can ignore that last bit.  Really.  He already ate himself into a sugar coma that has lasted 2 hours and shows no signs of ending.  He might not wake up until New Years...

Unwrapping his Christmas Eve footie pajamas

 Admiring the full advent calendar.  Ever the sentimentalist, "Can I take them all off now?"

 T has a bright future as a gift-opening-assistant

 We wish you were here!


Christmas Eve started with a To Do list.
A long one filled with Last Minute and Must Do and Needs Attention and Important, but also Silly and Relaxing and Crafty and To Enjoy all elbowing each other for their space at the top.

It was too much.  Then the fish tank heater broke.  The dog food ran out.  The phone spoke.  The errand demanded.  The dishes whined.  The laundry pleaded.

The list was abandoned.   Impossible.  We  drove to church and I cried during Silent Night, as I always do.  T sat on my lap and wanted to see the candle "CLOSER".

T crawled into our bed at 2 am and fell back asleep.  I whispered, "Your Mama loves you" and through his sleep, he whispered back, "I know".  "You do?" I whispered as my eyes teared up.  Eyes closed, breathing deep, he slowly nodded twice.

Now I am bursting.  I needed to write and grab this moment with the house still, my boys sleeping.

T knows I love him.  It is enough.  I am learning to let go of the list.  I have utmost progress, and it is enough.

My heart is full.  Full twice-over.
Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cookie love

My true purpose in posting is to stealthily catch up to Kyle's blog, ultimately surpassing him in number of posts and thereby earning bragging rights.

I asked T to entertain Kyle for the day so I could make Christmas cookies with my family.
12 hours, 6 pounds of butter, and many laughs later, we had about 750 cookies.
Please don't tell me how many calories I drove home tonight in neatly packaged tins.
Poor Kyle the family traditionally makes very few varieties without nuts.  I don't really sweat it, since it means more for T and I, and that is the *true* spirit of Christmas, right?

OK, then.  139 posts to go.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Candy, candy, candy

There is altogether too much sugar in T's life right now:

We made our traditional stained glass candy again with family.

T actually didn't get to eat any because he doesn't get the whole hard candy concept yet, but I think he inhaled enough powdered sugar to fuel him for a few weeks.  He also enjoyed (and tuckered out) the company.

After breathing 12 pounds of sugar into his system, T received his first candy canes when he met Santa.  He wasn't too sure about the whole thing, although at home he talks big about wanting Santa to visit and bring him "3 fire trucks".

T also gets to open a door of his advent calendar each day.  Behind every door is a piece of chocolate and a small treat like a magnet or finger puppet.  He is awfully excited about starting each day with a piece of chocolate.  So excited, in fact, we probably could have skipped the little toys.  But then I'd miss out on things like T begging me to look up exactly which tropical bird he got.  (One was a quetzal.  Ever hear a 2 year old running around yelling, "WHERE'S MY QUETZAL?  WHERE'S MY QUETZAL?"  Funny stuff.)

And today, T got to decorate gingerbread houses with some little friends.  He enjoyed that very much.  To be perfectly honest, I ate more candy than he did.  Poor kid mostly listened to me today when I asked him to keep the candy on his house instead of in his mouth.  What was he thinking!?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tea geek

Kyle can vouch for the complete randomness of my OCD tendencies.  My spices are alphabetized and my yarn is arranged by color, while my clothes are in piles on the floor of my room and my papers are strewn about like we've been burgled. I have no idea why I feel compelled to seek extreme order in some parts of my life and can let other things slide into chaos.  My tea?  Is now organized.  It makes me happy.  It's much nicer than my previous storage method.

I made the labels for my bottles by modifying some nifty ones I found online.  Caffeinated tea has black labels, while herbal teas get green ones.

The new system must be leading me to drink more tea lately, because T's play has included more and more tea-brewing in his kitchen.  He is very kind and always offers to brew a cup for me as well.  In reality, he doesn't care for the stuff (although I've only let him try herbal teas). My current favorite pairing is black apricot tea and delicate almond sugar cookies.  Mmmmmm...  What's your favorite?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

So sew

My sewing desk was originally in the basement.  It's approximately 36.8 degrees down there on that concrete floor during the winter, since we keep the house at a balmy 65 upstairs (have I ever mentioned that we're frugal?).  Sure, I could put on a parka, face mask, and mittens to sew something, but if I didn't pay attention, I could stitch my scarf right into the project I was working on and be stuck to the machine until Kyle heard my cries and came to rescue me.  I'm a wimp.  I didn't sew.

We have an extra bedroom that we were using as a waste dump extra storage so I decided to roll up my sleeves and make myself a sewing corner.  Here's the disaster I started with:

After some prettying up, I have a sewing nook that I adore. T has caught me just gazing at it lovingly:

Yes, I am a geek, but I love my shelves of yarn and fabric.  With them organized so nicely, I am almost hesitant to actually use them.  I said almost.  In the last 2 weeks I've been cranking out crafty Christmas presents left and right, plus a few fun things for myself.  I would show photographic evidence, but I don't want to spoil any surprises.

Now all my little room needs is some fun artwork from one of my favorite Etsy sellers.  I'm hoping Santa thinks I was good this year.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Annual Tree Slaughter

With more warm clothing than we needed, we visited our favorite tree farm to harvest a Christmas tree today. T spent the morning dragging bits from previously offed trees through the field. He worked up a sweat, and eventually begged to ditch his coat.  It's hard work moving all that wreath meat around.

I love cutting our own tree, but it stresses me out because I fret that I'm going to see some massive flaw the moment the saw hits the trunk. Like an empty hole 2 feet wide, a rabid squirrel colony, a 90 degree turn in the trunk, or purple needles.  The trees I pick always have crooked trunks, so I also stand out in the field for 10 minutes with my head tilted sideways saying, "OK, it's leaning, but is it leaning *too* much?"  Somehow, Kyle always manages to make them stand up.  We only had to resort to tying the tree to the wall once, and the only year our tree actually fell over was our first year together.  We have a much heavier stand now.

The unseasonably warm weather did nothing to speed my decision making, but we did eventually find the perfect tree - moderately wonky and misshapen (I like a little Charlie Brown in my trees), full enough for lots of ornaments, skinny enough for our postage stamp living room.  Have you seen those fake CB trees in a box at the store this year?  WHY would someone buy one of those when there are fields and fields of beautiful trees with actual character and originality?  Yuck.

We noticed only one other car at the whole place.  Everyone else was driving trucks.  Does everyone own a truck?  Or do car owners put up fake trees?  We'd like to conduct a survey.

Following the tradition I grew up with, we name our tree each year with a new letter of the alphabet.  Since this is our 9th Christmas, we're  up to the letter "I".  Kyle named our tree Icarus.  But, um, Icarus fell to his death.  Maybe we need to rethink the name...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

An obscene number of pictures because I'm trying to crash my mother-in-law's computer

Someone I shouldn't name (hmm...too late - guess she's in the post title) has lodged multiple formal and obnoxious complaints about the lack of recent blog activity. I left my camera at my parents' house after Halloween, so those pictures will have to wait, but to fry her little dial-up connection appease her, I offer these recent and not-so-recent pictures.

We had Thanksgiving with Kyle's dad's side of the family this weekend because they're busy slaughtering deer on actual Thanksgiving.  T learned to check the oil, kick the tires, fill up with gas, and wash the windshield of his grandpa's Mustang.  That's a lot more than we do with our car, so we're going to have to start putting him to work around here.

We also took a trip to the park.  Yes, I cut off T's head.  I didn't know Kyle would launch him so high.

A few weeks ago we were near the Twin Cities visiting Kyle's mom.  We had fun at the zoo, the kid's museum, and the conservatory.

T has a love-hate relationship with monkeys (ok yes, I know it's actually a gorilla).

At the kid's museum, T couldn't decide if he wants to be a fire fighter or a freight-shipper.  But one thing is for sure - from the looks of the cart he filled up at the market, he's embracing a vegetarian diet.

My favorite place to visit was the conservatory.

For good measure, here are some pictures I took while playing with my new camera.

Note to Charlene:  was that enough, or shall I post a video that will take 12 years to download?  Heh heh heh.  Be careful what you wish for...  =P