Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

We are at my in-law's house for the night, ringing in the new year and celebrating my brother-in-law & fiancée's engagement tomorrow evening.

I meant to post before midnight, a sort of "year-end" post, but I didn't get the chance - so I'll do it now, and you can just pretend.

I've been thinking about the past year for me sewing-wise, and I realized that while I bought a LOT of patterns and fabric, I didn't do nearly as much creating with it as I should have. I feel that I could have been a lot more productive, and I have some sewing goals for the coming year (well, it's here, but you know.)

5 Sewing Goals for 2014
  • use those patterns I own, rather than just buying new ones spur-of-the-moment. I'm very much an impulse buyer when it comes to patterns and fabric (although I believe that's true of most sewists). It's a very expensive hobby that way, though, and I need to make it worth the money I'm putting in.    
  • on that note - do more upcycling. I've been a bit snobbish about/fearful of upcycling, feeling on one hand that it wasn't "true" sewing because I'm not completely creating something new, and then of course most of the fabric I have on hand to upcycle is knit. And until a few weeks ago I was very afraid of knits. Now that I've become more comfortable, I'm looking forward to refashioning a lot of the old clothes I have lying around into new and fresh outfits for my girls. Plus it makes a lot of sense, financially. Knits can be quite expensive!
  • create stock for ready-to-sell doll clothing, and sell it! This is still very much a new goal for me, and I'm still wrapping my head around the fact that I could make money off of my hobby. I don't even mean to make it into a "business" right now, but it would be nice if I could at least make a little to feed the addiction! ;)
  • create (well, learn to create!) patterns! I alluded to (some time back) a little something I was working on, and it got laid aside for other projects as Christmas crept up. I'm still not anywhere near finished with it, but when I am it will definitely show up here. :) Patterns are intimidating to me, as well as the software to make them look nice (even if they are hand drawn, I need them to look as polished as possible) - but I'm learning, and it is a definite goal for me in 2014. I want to get this off the ground!
  • finally, I'd like to push myself to create something new every week. Even if it's something tiny. Even if it's a quick upcycle. Even if it's just an idea, a sketch of something. At least I'll have a consistent flow of work coming out, which is what I need. I am a terrible procrastinator, and I'm easily distracted (hello, ADD), and I'm determined to conquer that, or at least struggle past it.
One more goal, and this isn't sewing so much but crafting - I want to learn to knit and crochet again. I have done both at different times in my life, and I do enjoy them. Plus, there are so many applications for it along with my sewing, and I really just want to round out my talent. (If I can call it that.) ;)
Later (late on the first, or early on the 2nd) when I have my own computer back and can post a picture, I'll show you what my last sewing project of 2013 was! I'll give you a "word-peek" - it involves a little quilting/applique, some Heat'n'Bond Lite, and some hand embroidery. And it's a decoration.
It's not perfectly done, but I'm rather proud of it!
Finally, I hope that 2013 was a good year for everyone, and I hope that 2014 will be even better. I know that there were hard times, sad times, but there were good times too - and those are what I hope continue in the days to come.
                                                                                                                         

Monday, December 30, 2013

A double review from me to you. YAY!

^^I'm not being sarcastic, either. I just love them so much.

Once upon a time about a month and a half ago I was crazy, and signed up for two tests in the same day, not thinking I'd get either one of them.

I got both.

One was due on a Thursday and one the following Saturday, and I signed up on a Tuesday (or maybe it was Monday. Either way it was fast). But thanks to the quick and easy sews, good instructions, and - well, staying up late - it all got done. (Who am I kidding, anyway - I can stay up til three or four doing absolutely nothing! The sewing was good for me.) :)

I'm an incurable night owl.

Anywhoo. (see what I did there?)


Melissa from SewLikeMyMom (etsy shop is here) created the Kudzu Coverall & Dress pattern, and when one of the testers for the size range I signed up for had to pull out, I decided I'd sew a coverall and a dress! The bodices were the same, so some of it was batch sewing and the whole pattern was quite fast anyway.


The coveralls were a teeny tiny bit tight in the bodice, and way too long on the pants - but the dress was perfect. Hmm.

And then I realized that all that was totally user error. See, I'd sewed the side seams together before I was supposed to (that's what happens when I rush at 2 a.m.) and it's lined and then I had to sew them again...I know, it's just as confusing for me. So anyway the seams were pulled in more than they should have been and that was my own fault. And then the pants - sheesh. I can't read, I really can't some days. The pattern said how to cut them if I were to add a ruffle or a contrast band (which I did) - and did I listen? Nooo...

So anyway they're very long, but that's fixable, and Sam thought it was funny anyway, as you can see. And could still crawl. So it's okay. Crisis averted.

The only small thing I didn't like - the rise for the front and the back of the pants is the same, and I want it to be a little lower in the front. I kind of felt like the front of the coverall rode up a little too high, but I think that wouldn't matter so much on a younger baby. When they aren't mobile, it doesn't make a difference, but at this point Sam was just starting to move, so I noticed.

That, however, really and truly is personal preference, and something I can fix myself if I'm so inclined.

(Also the dress with that huge polka dot ribbon? That was so not in the plans. I had to put it there after I ripped a hole fixing the seam. :( I know, I know. I'm not supposed to tell you that. But I don't think the ribbon looks that great - what do you think?)

When I make her another pair I'll read. Or just remember. And I will make her another pair, because not only is there an adorable raccoon applique pattern, but there's an owl too! And if you look at the shoulders on the coverall closely-ish, you can see that they're pointed a little? They're EARS! How cute is that?

Natalie totally needs a raccoon dress. I can see it now.

****************************************************

My second test was for Meghan, the Sewing Geek (I'm not calling her names, that's her etsy shop.)

Meghan designed the Comfy Hoodie, which I was so thrilled to test even on short notice because I had JUST been thinking "Boy, I wish I had a nice hoodie pattern for the girls!" and then TA-DA! there it was. Not only that, but it comes in adult sizes too. If I'm ever feeling really ambitious I might make myself one...

(I do not selfish-sew. Maybe I should, but I don't. I guess I just like sewing tiny things better.)

Once again, I tested for Sam. I like to test for her size rather than Natalie's, because a) she's smaller, so I know I'll have enough fabric in my stash to do it and b) she sits nice(r) for pictures. Also c) she doesn't run away screaming when I try to put the clothes on her. Natalie has a sixth sense for handmade stuff, I think, and won't touch it unless I trick her and just throw them on over her head before she knows what's happening.

That sounds terrible.


*ahem* Front and back view of Sam's cozy fleece hoodie! It is so comfy and cozy, made with cuddle and regular fleece, and it's nice and stretchy and soft and warm. She wears it often, since it's so cold here. It's thin enough to go into the carseat with no issues, but still keeps her toasty. I did think the hood was too big at first, but the hoodie is a size bigger anyway - I wanted a bigger one, so she could wear it longer. No sense making her just-her-size when she's growing so much! After she'd worn it a couple of times I realized the hood was perfect, because it really does shield her face from the cold well!

She doesn't even yell when I make her wear it, either, Natalie. Take a hint.




*Also I know these pictures are really small and that's because they have to be. Because otherwise I can't for the life of me get them to stay nice and side-by-side, how I want them. If you want to see them bigger you can click them, or you can visit my flickr page, which I use specifically for my sewing/crafting photos.









Sunday, December 29, 2013

*cough*bragging*cough* I mean, a pattern review!

So in the past few months I've been lucky enough to test three different patterns for three different designers, and it's about time I said something about them. Ready set go...

First up, the Bubblegum Dress from Candy Castle Patterns. Rebecca is the designer, and she's - well, awesome, in a word. I own a few of her patterns now and I love them all, and fully intend to buy more. A while before I tested the Bubblegum I had purchased the pattern for her Princess Dress (intending to do a group sew-along, which I promptly got behind on). However, I did manage to eventually finish not one, but two of them, one for each of my girls. I posted a little about them here. Those dresses are the first (but not last) clothing items I've ever made that I am really and truly proud of, and my girls have both worn theirs more than once, so an all-around success I'd say.

I posted the link to my blog when I signed up for the Bubblegum testing, and Rebecca must have liked them, because I was picked! It was my first time ever testing, and after that I was definitely hooked. I love testing. I love the whole process, getting to see something new, putting in my two cents on someone else's work - it's kind of amazing. And then of course there's the (huge) perk of a free pattern when all is finished!\

These are all my Bubblegums (so far - I WILL be making more). This is one of the fastest, easiest, and most fun (funnest, deal with it) patterns I own, and I'm not just saying that. No one told me to write that, I came up with it ALL BY MYSELF.

The pictures are all out of order and also placed all wonky because, well, you know why. Blogger hates me, I don't understand HTML and placement and blah-blah-blah wah-wah.

Anyway.

My original test dress was the pink and purple polka dots, for Sam. I was having so much fun I decided Natalie needed one too. She was kind of obsessed with the "bugsh" (ladybug print) fabric, and I had some red with black dots to match and a little red/white chevron - just enough to squeak out a 3/4 size for her. She usually wears a 2T but I wanted it bigger to get more wear out of it - she's a growing girl!

Another thing I love about this pattern is that it's a wrap dress, so it really does grow with the child quite a bit. Plus, it can be a dress, then a tunic, then a wrap top - so depending on how fast they gain weight vs. height, they really could be wearing the same dress for quite a while.
There is also a hemming option rather than the bias tape, but I bought a bias tape maker specifically because of this pattern, so I could make my own (which I did for all five), and it's just SO. MUCH. FUN. I'm not even joking. I know some people hate doing it, but - um, you're crazy. It's delightful.



After I finished the first two, my sister and her husband and their baby girl moved from NC to ND, and stopped in MN for a couple of weeks on their way up. Obviously Lia needed a dress too, so I came up with the Batman one for her (my sister is kind of obsessed with Batman, and from what I hear Lia's following in her footsteps - she loves her dress!) She's under 6 months old and already has good taste! ;)

The last two are the fall colors dresses, which were Sam and Natalie's Thanksgiving outfits. Ordinarily I wouldn't have given special dresses for Thanksgiving a second thought, but after seeing on my Facebook groups everyone's discussions of their children's holiday clothes, I decided to throw something together - and the Bubblegum is perfect. I got those last two done in a day, and I'm not a very fast sewer (-ist? I never will get that right.) And that's with chasing my kids around, and occasionally remembering to feed and re-diaper them. ;) (For the record, I do feed them and re-diaper them regularly. They yell at me otherwise.)

The ties are meant to be on the side, but I have tied them in the back as well (handier for Sam, so she can't pull on them and untie her dress). I also have the Bubblegum Swing Dress add-on, which you can see examples of here. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm thinking they might need new dresses for Valentine's Day. Or Mother's Day, or whenever Dave lets me off my fabric-buying ban! ;) (heehee)



**I wasn't asked by anyone to do this - you all should know by now I just like to talk and brag about my own accomplishments and...stuff. And I really actually do like this pattern that much, just ask me.






                       



Friday, December 27, 2013

Post-Christmas

Other years I have experienced a definite "post-Christmas letdown" (if you recognize this Peanuts cartoon). The frenzied preparations, secret-keeping, spending hours in the kitchen creating the perfect feast...and then it's all done in the span of a day, and not even the full 24 hours. It's just - gone. Over. And you're left standing there going "What just happened?"

And then there's the peaceful, beautiful side of the day; maybe you're standing outside looking at the snow-covered ground and feeling just a perfect calm. Maybe you're staring out the window, detaching a little while listening to your friends and family sing. Maybe you're listening to someone reading the Christmas gospel.
But then those feelings of peace and goodwill that Christmas brings kind of dissipate too, after the day itself is over. Not entirely, but some of the intensity is gone. It's the reason that anyone has ever said "Why can't it be Christmas all year long?" because it's not the gifts and the food and the chaos we miss, it's the feelings of love, and just-plain-happy.

There's a particular peace to Christmas Day that you just don't experience the rest of the year, despite all the excitement and noise. But maybe it's supposed to be that way. If we felt those same feelings, had those same experiences day after day, maybe they wouldn't be special anymore.

There's no post-Christmas letdown here, this year. I have a vague sense of something missing, now that it's over. I don't think there is any other day in the year that evokes such emotions. Because along with the "missing" feeling, there's also hope. Excited hope, in the resolve I have to work on Christmas gifts for next year already starting in January. Resolved hope, for the same - so I won't be frantically sewing something-or-other at 11 pm Christmas Eve. And then there's the - I don't know. Just hopeful hope, waiting for that particular peace to come back and surround everyone again. No other day does that.



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day 25: Celebrate

I know this is kind of unbelievable, but I do not have one single picture of today.

Not one.

My cell phone doesn't take spectacular pictures, as you probably know, so I didn't bother taking it out of my pocket all day. And true to form, I plugged my camera battery into the charger last night, put my camera right in front of it on the counter...

and left them there. Dave came back to our apartment twice today (from my parents' house, where we spent Christmas Day with my siblings) and I never managed to remind him to grab the camera. Because I'm talented like that.

So here are a couple of pictures from last night that I managed to get before the battery died. (Sometimes I hate this rechargeable battery business. Bring on the single-use AAs.)
Pre-gift opening, Natalie had been sick that morning. We didn't think we'd be going out anywhere, so we put out our gifts under our own tree, and let the girls attack. Natalie also got the rest of the wrapping paper as a cape. ;)

 Then she opened all the presents, including Sam's. Sam really couldn't have cared less - she just wanted the paper after it was off the box. "Ohh, diapersh!" Natalie said. (We didn't get her diapersh.)
My Sammy girl.
But then - surprise! - Natalie actually hadn't been acting sick all day, so my in-laws said go ahead, come over. So we had Christmas AGAIN, there. And I don't think anyone is sick because of Natalie...;) At least, if they are I haven't heard yet.

Then this morning we headed over to my parents', and had Christmas for a third time. The girls were properly spoiled with all kinds of toys, clothes, and candy, and lots and lots of BOOKS. Which makes both of them, and Mom, very happy. We love stories here! :) Also, today we found out that my brother-in-law asked his girlfriend to marry him, and (of course) she said yes! 

So we had much to celebrate. A fun-filled, family filled holiday stretching over two days, with lots of good food and singing and love. I hope that everyone had a safe, happy Christmas eve and day, and that the joy continues into the New Year!



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 24: Carols

We are sick.

I've had a cold for a few days, and Sam has been a little stuffy too. Dave seems to be fine, but this morning Natalie woke me up, crying. I went in to discover that she'd puked on her bed. Thinking it was just because she'd been crying/snotty/gagging, I cleaned it up and went about my day like usual, giving her breakfast...

that was a mistake. It all came back up about 10 minutes later. So now she's banned from eating anything heavier than a popsicle, and we're sticking to water. Which is awful, for her, because she loves milk, and all those little snacks she's used to having throughout the day, she can't touch. Try explaining to a toddler why she can't eat... :(

So we'll be on our own for Christmas Eve, and perhaps Christmas Day too - although if this is a quick bug, and she doesn't puke for the rest of the day, then maybe we'll risk it. I don't know.

It's all right. We can make it feel a little more Christmas-y in here. We have a pretty lit up tree and some candy canes (that she can't eat, but oh well). All our presents are wrapped and waiting, and we have a very pretty CD of Christmas songs sung by a church choir to play and cheer us up. If we can't go out and carol with family, we'll bring the carols in. Already the calm is settling in the house, and I've just turned on the CD player. Beautiful music is one of the best parts of Christmastime, whether it's on a CD, or the radio, or sung with friends and family. I hope your holiday season is filled with friends, family, fun, food, and the carols of Christmas.




Day 23: Gift, and a Rare Recipe Post.

I'm a day behind, and it'll probably stay that way...but I don't feel bad about it, if it means I get to enjoy my entire Christmas day instead of racking my brain for a blog post! ;)

Christmas Eve already. It really did sneak up on me - somehow, with all my late nights and frantic busyness sewing and stitching. Funny how Thanksgiving just feels like a week or two ago.

I finished all my Christmas sewing this morning, so tonight I took a break and wrapped my little pile of gifts, and baked two cakes. I guess it was half-a-break - I love wrapping presents, but I don't like baking so much. (Ok, I lied. It was really only one cake, but I split it into two pans.)

I only had one roll of wrapping paper. #makingitwork
Christmas is so much fun when you're a kid, receiving presents - but I think it's twice as fun as an adult, giving them. Receiving is still fun, of course. But giving gifts to others, especially kids - there's nothing like it. Watching their faces light up as the paper is ripped off and discarded, revealing something special they've been hoping for...it's just an instant shot of warm and fuzzy.

This year for Christmas the family was split into two groups, those over 12 and those 12 and under, and both groups are doing a simple book exchange. With everyone home for Christmas this year (first time in, I don't know...a while!) we needed something small that everyone could participate in, from the oldest down to the babies. Yes, the babies are giving and receiving books too! Also, the book you (or your children) are giving to someone else has to be one that you already own. (I suppose in dire cases a thrift shop run would have been acceptable...) 

Sometimes it's not about the best and biggest, but the gifts that force you to think about the recipient, and what would they really like. Sometimes the perfect gift requires you to give of yourself, your time, and your own possessions. Trust me, I'm a book hoarder. But I'm giving up three of mine, and there is something very satisfying about knowing that those three books will be going to three other people, who (hopefully) will love them as much as I have! 

Now. Very quickly, the cake. This is a Rare Recipe, because 1) when I cook, I typically don't use a recipe. Most of the recipes I use, I have adapted to my tastes, stored in my head, and nothing is ever the same again; 2) the only time I DO use a recipe is when I bake, and I bake strictly as needed (basically, when I want cake badly enough to have to do it myself). I don't actually like baking. It's too picky. My sister told me I should have a show called "The Grumpy Baker", because of my penchant for repeatedly voicing my dislike for the craft, as well as my constant "But whyyyy can't I just (insert shortcut here)? Why does this have to be so exact? Why can't I just throw this stuff in and be done with it?"

Well, I can. This cake is so, oh so easy, that even the Grumpy Baker doesn't complain about it. Much. ;)
Growing up we'd go to my grandparents' for Christmas dinner, and this cake would always be the star of the dessert table (in my opinion, and not a few others too). 

 First, you get a medium-large bowl, and toss in 2 cups of flour (I always use all-purpose unbleached, but you could use cake flour I think, if you're picky about stuff like that.) Then a cup of plain old white sugar, two teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. And mix them up nicely.
 Then you cut up 6 Tablespoons of butter into a little bowl and microwave it until it's melted. Cutting it into smaller chunks lets it melt a little faster and a little more evenly. Measure out 2 cups of milk.
 You'll also need 2 cups or so of cranberries. Whole, beautiful, bright red cranberries. The standard 12 oz bag that you find in the grocery store will be just fine. They can be fresh or frozen - if they're frozen, don't bother thawing them. Just throw 'em in there. But rinse them first, and pick out all the yucky ones!
 Then make a little well in the middle of your dry ingredients (the flour mixture you made a few photos back) and pour in the milk and butter, mix it up, and gently add in the cranberries.

This batter is stiff. Like a really thick pancake batter. See? I broke my wooden spoon :( Don't worry, this is not a common side effect of making this cake. But even if it was, it would still be worth it.
What not to do.
 Once it's all mixed up well, pour it into a greased 8x8-ish baking dish. I made a double recipe (which can go nicely into a 9x13), and split it between my 8x8 and my 9 in round pan. That's why I said I made two cakes earlier up there, but then I only took a picture of one.

I like to take a little plastic baggie, stick my hand in it like a glove, grab a little chunk of softened butter, and rub it all over the dish. Then you just flip it back over your hand and throw it out! Easy, and clean.

Bake the cake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes, until the cake is golden on top and not squishy in the middle. I stick a toothpick in it and if it comes out covered in batter, it needs a few more minutes.
This one came out perfect.
Then you serve it warm with butter sauce, which you make like this: melt 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of sugar, and 3/4 cup of half-and-half (or heavy cream, if you're feeling dangerous). Bring them to a boil, then cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir frequently, because you don't want this stuff sticking to your pan - you want to drink it from a glass, trust me. ;)

No, you don't. But you do want to ladle it generously over individual servings of your cake (pour it into a cute bowl and let your guests do it themselves) and then eat it, and then go back for seconds. And thirds.

Not that I do that.

*ahem*

I don't have any pictures of the sauce because I haven't made it yet - one of these cakes is for tomorrow (well, today) evening at Dave's parents' house for Christmas Eve, and the other is for my parents' house on Christmas Day, so I'll be making the sauce at the respective houses. It's better fresh, but I would never turn it down reheated either. ;)


Monday, December 23, 2013

Days 21 & 22: Fun and Happiness

These two go hand in hand.

Christmas is a time of fun and happiness. Family get-togethers, parties and presents, games and visiting all contribute to the general feeling of joy. I think a picture is worth 1000 words or more...

Last night there was a party for my mother-in-law's side of the family. I think this picture is only about half of the family, so it could have been even bigger. I'm not even sure I could tell you who all is missing, besides the fact that I know Natalie was upstairs racing around somewhere ;). She's not a fan of pictures...

Good food, singing, and visiting - my kind of evening.

As for happiness, nothing makes me happier than these goofballs:
My mom gave Natalie a doll for her first birthday that came with a little carrier, and I've only just recently been able to convince her to put it on. She wouldn't hold still to look at me though (like I said, she's not a fan of the camera - or of sitting) so I had to wait until she stopped for Curious George and snap really fast.
Sam, on the other hand, is a natural poser. I must have taken ten pictures of her playing with the doll, and every time she would stop and grin at me, before going back to her fun. 

I love those two. :)



Friday, December 20, 2013

Days 19 & 20: Shadow, and Nativity

**This post brought to you by a mild case of ADD.**

I'm combining two posts again. Maybe it's cheating, but try as I might I could NOT come up with a picture for shadow. Except for the nativity. Which was supposed to be today's post.

Anyway.

 I like the stable's shadow, showing the side view of the shelter since the light was coming from off to the right of it. I only have one main light in my living/dining area, and a floor lamp in the corner, so at night it's very difficult to get any sort of decent lighting. Even if I knew the difference. ;)

This has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but shadows in general are a bit of a sore spot for me, artistically speaking. I have very little concept of them, and how they work in pictures, both drawing and photography. I remember when I first learned how to draw bubble letters, and watching my mom draw them and add the shadows on the sides to make them 3D. My mom is a wonderful artist in her own right, and I've always been a little envious - I wish I had the drawing talent, for one! Stick figures are just in my bubble of comprehension...
So if my shadow picture is lacking for you, I apologize. And then I order you to find me the best tutorial/pictorial on shadows that you can, so that I can get a grasp on the whole business.

Also, buy me a better camera. I'd learn to use it. ;)

One of my favorite books when I was little was The Christmas Story, a Little Golden Book by Jane Werner Watson. (I just found a copy on Amazon for $3.75, and I had to buy it - plus it'll be here in time for Christmas!) The illustrations are beautiful, and the story simple and more beautiful still. I think it's because of that book that I've always wanted a nativity set of my own - that visual reminder of the most wonderful story of all. Mine popped up on a local Facebook garage sale page, and for only $5 - I had to have it! :) 

It's lonely up on the shelf by itself, but since the Decorating Fairy hasn't come to visit, lonely it shall be...maybe by next Christmas I'll have a handle on things. ;) 



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Days 17 & 18: Peace, and Green

I've been feeling frantic. Between my kids who won't nap, trying to stay on top of Natalie's messing in everything, Sam thinking she's a newborn who needs to eat every 2 hours, and getting Christmas sewing done...I'm kind of a mess. During the day, anyway. I don't deal with stress very well, and not getting enough sleep doesn't help. What I wouldn't do for just a few uninterrupted hours...

I'm a night owl by nature, always have been, and it's the only time I get "me-time". The only time I get any peace and quiet, uninterrupted (unless Sam wakes up), to just work - or not work, whichever I feel like. The past few nights, however, even I've thought were ridiculous. I've been up until FIVE. So, I finally released myself from almost half of the sewing I was going to do. This may mean that some gifts won't be given, and I'm disappointed by that - at the same time, I have less than 6 days left, and I was throwing myself into a panic trying to work all day and all night. There's nothing saying that I can't just give gifts to people later, just because, or save them for next year - and once I embraced that, I finally felt like I could breathe again. Christmas isn't supposed to be this panicked.
 This is a somewhat blurry photo of my living room, right now. It was just cleaned and vacuumed this evening (thanks, Dave!), and just looking at it makes me feel a little more relaxed. I am not the most organized person in the world, I will admit that. But I feel 10x more agitated when my floor is messy, or my dishes are sitting in the sink unwashed. Having a full laundry basket makes my blood pressure rise. (I do have a few OCD tendencies - but then I think many people do.) Thankfully the laundry got done tonight too, so it's a rare gem of a night. ;) It's peaceful - just me, my computer, and a Christmas tree! I keep it all lit up until I go to bed because the room just looks sad if it's unplugged...
Green used to be my favorite color, until that spot was usurped by red. It's still one of my top five, though. I'm not really sure why. There's something calm about it, more so to me than blue. I know it's supposed to be the color of jealousy, or envy, but I think green gets a bad rap there. I don't see it. To me, it's calm and cool. And maybe it's the season, but it lends itself to a joyful mood too - it may not be warm, but it's happy and cozy.

Speaking of cozy - these are pieces cut out for a reversible unisex fleece hat, with cute little earflaps! And it's just happens to be green. ;) (It's a bit of a stretch, I'm sorry - but honestly, the only other green thing in here worth photographing at the moment is the tree - and that's a little overworked this month.) This color comes across terrible in my poor desk lighting, but it's not the prettiest shade of green anyway...so it's perfect for a men's fleece hat! ;) (Since when do they care about pretty, anyway.) This is one of the gifts I was going to try to make for a few people, so - well, just wait, you might get one yet anyway. Winter isn't over after Christmas (unfortunately).

I used a green fleece blanket that I've had lying around for a while, and this pattern and tutorial by Crafty Gemini. It's a video tutorial, and a good one - geared toward beginners, so I'm pleased to say I managed ;) I've made one for Dave already, and once I have the leisure to sew "at my leisure", I will be making more!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day 16: Decorations

My decorations are minimal this year, bordering on nonexistent. I have a tree, with a few ornaments and an angel. I have a nativity set on a shelf over my couch. My Christmas cards from family and friends are taped onto a closet door.

I've been too busy making gifts to even think about decorating! Not that I want to change that - better to have something to give. I may have mentioned I don't have that "decorating gene"? ;) Not to mention my procrastination levels are off the charts, as always. I've made a solemn promise that after Christmas I will start planning and creating for next year, so that I'm not in a frantic rush a week (a week!) before Christmas again...we'll see how that works out.

Having time to leisurely sit and craft sounds lovely, doesn't it?

Here are some little decorations I have been working on - I found a tutorial for these sweet little Christmas tree ornaments, and the hearts I drew and cut myself, and they will be stuffed into little pillows to hang on the tree as well.

Tree ornaments are my favorite Christmas decorations. While garlands and things on shelves are fun to make and fun to look at, ornaments will always have a place of honor on the tree. There's no guesswork, no pondering where to put them, which makes them ideal for a non-decorator like me. Just hang them up, and there they are, looking beautiful! They're fun to pick out in the stores, fun to create yourself, and can become heirlooms to pass on. Growing up we all had our "special" ornaments, ones we'd received as gifts, commemorating special occasions, or handmade as a school project. Those that belonged to us, we would hang on the tree ourselves, and each child knew not to take and hang any ornaments belonging to another. Tree decorating was always my favorite part of the time leading up to Christmas, and it still is. I look forward to it every year, and I'm always a little depressed the day after we take it down - the living room looks so bare and lonely for a while afterward.

What's your favorite part of Christmas decorating? What special decorating traditions did you grow up with? I love comments, leave me some!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 15: Gold

Gold is the fourth color of Christmas, after red, green, and white (in my opinion). Blue (except in certain shades/amounts), pink, purple - they have little to no place on a Christmas tree. And I will say there's an exception to white - I really can't stand those artificial white trees. Instead of Christmas, they scream commercialism and fake at me. (I have nothing against artificial green trees. I actually prefer them - that's the Scrooge in me, I guess.)


We had a choice, a few years back, of a silver angel for our tree or a gold trimmed one. I've always been more of a silver girl for personal choice, and was leaning for it, but Dave wanted the gold. So we brought the angel home, put it up on our tree - and I wasn't one bit sorry. Although our tree isn't quite big enough for such a large angel, I feel like it makes the tree, becomes a focal point of our living space. I'm not big on decorating - I just don't have that gene - so I need all the help I can get, especially when it comes to Christmas, which is probably the one time of the year when it's acceptable to have every square inch of your house covered in knickknacks and garlands.  Somehow, that angel makes the place look more decorated than it is.



Gold is one of the three gifts the Wise Men brought to Jesus. Gold is regal. Gold is old, cherished friends. Gold is precious.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Days 13 & 14: Toys; The weather outside is...

Circumstances out of my control kept me off of here last night...Sam would not go to sleep! It was well after one a.m. before she finally decided it was bedtime. Also, I was working frantically on Natalie's Christmas dress, and finished hers as well as Sam's this morning.

The dresses are made from quilter's cotton, white with a white leaf print, and crushed taffeta. I found a remnant at Joann Fabrics, and it was just enough - the skirts aren't as wide and twirly as I would have liked, but the dresses overall will be a bit too big I think so it should work. I haven't tried them on the girls yet, and I don't know what I'll do if they don't fit...
On the neckline and the sleeve and skirt hems I tried to mimic the leafy pattern with gold metallic thread and a decorative stitch. 

Yesterday's theme for the photo challenge was toys - and I have to roll my eyes a little. Not at the theme - but I thought we were having a "smaller" Christmas this year - the girls are so young yet and we're in such a small place that there really wasn't any point in going overboard. Natalie is getting a couple things that I picked up over the summer, and I'm making Sam an Amish puzzle ball - kind of a neat little toy, I've never seen one before! Then I have a huge tote of MegaBlocks that I got at a garage sale, so that will be a joint gift for them. I thought that was more than enough, and then our neighbor came to the door one day and asked if Natalie had a dollhouse. Well. She does now, and what a dollhouse.

A three story, bigger-than-she-is Barbie house. Plus Barbies. Plus My Little Ponies. Natalie can climb into the dollhouse and fit (more or less) comfortably lying on the floor...I know this because she's done it, and gotten stuck on the third floor.

I'm not worried about her for Christmas this year, that's for sure. 


Today's post is about the weather, which is - well, frightful. Dave said tonight "I hate when the night sky in the winter is so clear. It just means it'll be bitter cold tomorrow." I never thought I would like having a cloudy sky, but I agree with him. It's a disappointing -1 F tonight (-18 C), and tomorrow's high is a balmy FOUR DEGREES (about -16 or so C). Oh, we'll all be playing and enjoying...board games, in a cozy living room. 



Our snow outside isn't all yellow, really. It's just the interesting lighting and my interesting camera. :p But those trees - they just look cold, and the sky is clear and deep blue and starry. It's rather pretty, but I hate the cold so much that I can't enjoy it properly. Monday should be about 20 degrees warmer, though - I'm sure we'll all be celebrating in our t-shirts!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 12: Tradition

Guess what.

I found my camera charger and battery.

Guess what else.

Natalie didn't run off with them and hide them. I did. I mean, I stuck them on top of the fridge to keep them away from her, and in the aftermath of the ring incident, forgot and decided she did it instead. *heavy sigh*

Toddlers. They get blamed for everything, and it's really not fair. They only actually do about 98% of it.

Traditions. Christmas is full of them, and every family's traditions are different. Growing up, the stockings were hung on the stair railing (with care, and only a little bit of chaos) until Christmas Eve, when Santa Claus would remove them, fill them up with small gifts, socks and underwear (another tradition!) and nuts and candy - and an orange in the toe. (Another one!) They were placed under the tree to await excited children in the wee hours of the morning. The rule was, no presents were touched until Mom and Dad were up and had their coffee (a process that took probably 5 minutes, but felt like hours); but the stockings were fair game! I'm not sure if it was designed to prolong the kids' fun, or prolong the parents' sleep...probably the latter.

There are 10 children in my family, and seven of the ten have stockings handmade by Gramma. I'm lucky enough to have picked up the tradition for my own children, as well as my husband - and I will be making a stocking for each of my remaining three siblings without their own yet. I have to hand it to Gramma - the seven of us weren't the only grandchildren she made them for, and these things are time consuming. Like nothing else. Sewing is rewarding almost instantly - even if it takes a few hours to complete a small garment, you see progress within a few minutes. Cross-stitch...well, you're lucky to see progress after a day or two, and that's working steadily. But I enjoy it, really I do. If I'm not in a time crunch, like I am now finishing the baby's, it's relaxing, and fun.


Those of you who have read since the birth of this blog (or have gone back and read from the beginning) will recognize the second picture, but it's much more advanced now! Sam's stocking is still a work-in-progress, months later (though not steady work by any means). I have the border on top to do yet, as well as some snowflake and word embroidery and outlining. The other picture is the stockings I finished for Dave and Natalie last year, and my stocking that was lovingly made by Gramma, and is still in perfect condition 20-some years later. I only hope my work holds up as well. 




Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 11: Hope

I hope I find my camera charger soon ;)

While it's MIA, I'm going to do everyone a favor and throw in some old pictures in these posts, because there's only so many cell phone pictures you can look at before your vision starts to fade. Well. My cell phone, anyway. (I love my phone. I do. Can't live without it. But it does not replace my camera.)

I was racking my brain while putting Sam to bed about what I can post for today (yeah, I know, it's tomorrow). Hope. I hope a lot of things. I hope for a lot of things. I just couldn't put my finger on what, exactly, would embody hope for me, and I've been trying to tie the posts into a general Christmas theme, but they don't have to, and if there isn't one there then I'm not going to stretch and push and pinch and pull til it fits. The result would be awkward for everyone.

So this picture came to mind...


My babies. This is one of the very few pictures I have of them, because a) Natalie really doesn't care to have her picture taken and b) she doesn't usually care to sit still, either. There used to be a c) Natalie prefers to pretend her sister isn't there, but that's been changing. Adjusting from being an only was hard, I think.

This picture was the first time Natalie volunteered to hold Sam (come to think of it, it was probably the only time.) She was playing on the floor in a nest of blankets and pillows, and I brought Sam in the room and asked her "Can Sam come play?" Natalie held her arms out and said "C'mer, Sham! C'mer!" and snuggled her for about 30 seconds, and I called the record book people...

But they play together. They laugh together. Natalie runs in circles and jumps up and down, on and off furniture, and Sam watches her from the jumperoo, head swiveling back and forth and laughing until she's gasping. They splash each other and fight over toys in the bathtub. When Natalie is crying, Sam screams and squeals. When Sam cries, Natalie tells her "Sham, don' cwy! Sham, is ok! Whas wrong?"

They're sisters. And they're becoming friends.

So I hope they keep making each other laugh. I hope they keep comforting each other when one is crying.

I hope they treasure the bond they've been given. I hope they will share it further should they ever be blessed with more siblings. I hope that Natalie will embrace her role as "big sister", as my big sisters have, and be there with an outstretched hand if Sam needs one. I hope that Sam will enjoy being the "little sister", and encourage Natalie and lift her up.

I hope they'll always be there for each other.


  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day 10: Silver

It's quarter to four in the morning. Just get used to my posts being late. :p I don't think I'll be going to bed before three, at least, until after Christmas...

My camera is still out of commission, so although my cell phone really doesn't take the best pics, that is what I'm dealing with right now. Not that my camera pictures are anything fantastic either! ;)

Tonight I've been working on Christmas presents - not ones that I myself am giving, but that I've been asked to make - my first unofficial-official "orders" for my as-yet-nonexistent business. When I think of Christmas clothing I think of red, gold, silver, and green - sparkly, glittery fabrics and beads and buttons. These cardigans are made of super soft gray jersey cotton, sewn up with some silvery gray thread to match, and (this part would have been more in tune with this post, but I haven't got around to it yet) embellished with - well, something silver. I can't give it ALL away.

They're destined to be part of some little "ice-skating" costumes for a few lucky 18 inch dolls. Pour on the sparkle!

Pattern for cardigan by Heritage Doll Fashions

(Oh, and this is my third time working - successfully! - with knits! I'm liking them more and more all the time. Yay me!)



Monday, December 9, 2013

Day 9: Giving

In the past three days, my darling toddler has managed to lose my wedding band, and now my camera battery AND the charger. The latter, at least, I'm confident will turn up. The ring, not so much.

So today's picture is brought to you by cell phone, and not very good cell phone at that. (Someone needs to tell me it'll be okay. My beautiful, amazing, adorable children are really, really on my nerves this past week. They both refuse to nap. At all. My wedding ring is gone.)

But I have this sign on my wall. It's hanging kind of oddly off of...I don't know, the mount you hang a wall phone on? because I've been too lazy/distracted/forgetful/apathetic to hang it up properly. But I kind of like it where it is, because it's right in the hallway going from the bedrooms to the living room, and I go up and down that hallway many times a day. Which means that I see this sign a lot, and because it hangs at such a haphazard angle, I do actually look at it almost every time. And read it. And remember.


I remember that my kids love me. They do, even if they do horrible, awful things all day long and scream at me. ;) 

I remember my husband loves me. And I love him, and my horrible, awful, adorable, beautiful, amazing babies.

I remember to breathe.

I remember to keep giving. Giving my time, my energy, my sanity sometimes. Giving my patience. Giving my love.



"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give." 
-Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Day 8: Lunchtime!

At first, when I saw "lunchtime" on the list, I thought - what on earth am I going to do with that? Lunch typically is not a big deal around here at all. I know the point isn't to have something every day that's a "big deal", but rather, just part of everyday life...but still. Some days we're lucky to remember lunch. Sam is just starting to eat table food, Natalie - well, it's a rare day that I can get her to sit through a complete meal - Dave isn't home weekdays for lunch, and weekends we'll have sandwiches, maybe. And I eat about an hour after I get up, and then usually not again until dinner. (I know. I have terrible eating habits. It's just how I am.)

But then something happened - Dave got sick. Well, kind of sick. It's just a little bug, but he's not feeling well, and I thought - what if I made some soup? Chicken noodle soup, to be precise.

Now. I hate chicken noodle soup, actually. Out of a can, anyway (sorry, Campbell's, no mm-mm good here). But when I make it myself, it's actually - well, edible! (It's still not one of my top ten. But Dave likes it, and he's the sick one, so he can eat the rest. ;) )
I had chicken in the freezer, carrots and onions and minced garlic, spaghetti noodles which I broke into 2-3 inch pieces, and chicken bouillon powder to make broth with! Spices were a bit problematic - when I was actually at the store, I didn't think about it, and promptly remembered all the spices I wanted and didn't have as soon as I got home. "The weather outside is frightful", so I wasn't about to go out again...

I made do. There just happened to be a little shaker of dubiously labeled "Italian Seasoning" (.50 at Walmart, TYVM) in the cupboard, and it actually did the job! Plus, I'm pretty sure the stuff out of a can hasn't got a speck of seasoning in it (besides salt). No one here is complaining - even Natalie liked the soup!


I'm not a toast girl. (I am, on occasion, a bread-warmed-to-the-point-of-almost-being-toast girl.) But I'm definitely not a crackers girl either, and you just have to have something with soup. Add some cold, creamy milk, and one of those little California clementines that are oh-so-good this time of year, and you have the perfect lunch for a cold, snowy, windy, sicky day! 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Day 7: Family

Wow, I'm just running behind the last couple of days...I'm going to post and run, as I was up until 5 last night (this morning?) and now tonight was falling asleep while nursing the baby, and she didn't go down until 11:30. I go between "What is with my kids?" and being glad that they're night owls like I am, so at least I'm not up late and getting up early. Good thing I have a few years before I have to worry about school hours! ;)

So I'm late again, but hopefully this won't become a habit. Today's pictures aren't actually *my* pictures, my sister-in-law took them. But they are of my family, and one of them will be our Christmas card this year. I ordered prints for home delivery from Walmart, so we'll see when they get here. To be fair, that's how I've done our cards the last two years, and I've been happy with the results every other time!



The expression changes in each of these are cracking me up. Sam goes from bored, to "Don't look at me!", to gleeful, back to bored. Natalie (as usual) is in varying stages of discontent. I think I was the most focused one, but it may have been just because I was hoping to be done soon (NOTHING against my photographer ;) I just really, really hate having my picture taken.) And I have no idea what Dave was doing. Probably reacting to the peanut gallery we had joining the session! heehee (It was Dave's family's picture day as well, since all the siblings were in the same place for the first time in a while.) He'll probably not appreciate me putting these up here at all, but that's okay. I think we're an adorable family, don't you? ;)

This Christmas will be the first since we've been married that we'll be all together as a family, spending the holiday with family. Our first Christmas I was pregnant with Natalie, living with my parents while Dave was deployed. Our second Christmas I was in North Carolina with Natalie, and Dave was deployed again. Last year I was pregnant with Sam, and we were all (still) in North Carolina! Now this year all my siblings will be in town, and we're still figuring out which family to spend what days with and when - we have choices. What a nice problem to have!




Day 6: Santa

Whew.

I'm very late in posting; it's technically the 7th (and almost four in the morning). I've been up late (early?) finishing up another pattern test (my third! Yay me!) and dealing with Sam getting up every two hours! She thinks she's a newborn, I guess. Or teething. Or both.

So today's theme is Santa, which is appropriate considering that December 6th is Saint Nicholas' feast day. Try as I might I just couldn't get a picture of the man himself, so I went with a different approach. I have a copy of a big hardcover book, the Reader's Digest Family Christmas. It's filled with recipes for Christmas foods, Christmas crafts and gifts, and Christmas stories - lots of Christmas stories. It's a treasury. Now, some of the recipes may be not to my taste, and some of the crafts outdated - but the stories, there are the classics. Two in particular stand out to me as being the essence of "Santa Claus".

Miracle on 34th Street is the quintessential (I think) story of the struggle that some have with Santa Claus, and what he stands for, and the miracles that the Christmas season seems to invite. Of course a central theme in the story and of the season itself is giving, not just material things but giving of yourself. That is what I believe "Santa Claus" is.

Then there is the letter from a little girl name Virginia, to the editor of the New York Sun. You can read the story here. To me, the final sentence in the editor's response says it all - "No Santa Clause! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 5: Light

Today's theme is light, and I'm going to go with a bit of an obvious one - a Christmas tree light.

Funny story. When I set up the tree, and connected all the plugs (it's a pre-lit), half of it wasn't lighting up. I panicked. "This can't be. I am NOT unraveling all these stupid lights off this stupid tree. But it's either that or go through every single bulb with a working one...which is worse? Why me?" and so on. So I told Dave to come look, and what did he think I should do.

He studied the tree for a minute, and then reached in and...well. I hadn't connected all the plugs.

Cue sighs and eyerolls. (From me.) Snickering. (From him.)

As if. How was I supposed to remember that there were four connections on a three-section tree. Three sections, three plugs, right? Because logic.

Well, ya got me again, logic.

*ahem*


It wasn't this one's fault.

I love leaving the tree plugged in, all by itself, for just a minute before going to bed. There's something so serene about all the little lights twinkling in the darkness - how small they are, yet they can light up the room if given the chance. 

I love driving by houses at night and seeing their trees and candles set in the windows, casting their soft glow.

I love the lights of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 4: Joy

Joy! It's the expression on this little girl's face, her middle name, and today's theme!

I know it's not a "Christmas-y" picture, but no one ever said it had to be. It fits!


I know the picture is blurry, but I decided not to try to fix it. A) because I may have mentioned I'm not a photographer, B) I'm not a photo editor either, C) she was just so gleeful - well, joyful! - in this picture, that she was wiggling and bouncing like crazy. So I'm calling this creative license and claiming to showcase the emotion! ;) 

This is my newest niece, and she is one of the sweetest, cutest little girls EVER. She has an elfish little face, wise old eyes, and a incredibly wide range of expressions for how young she is (not yet four months!)

I love her.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Day 3: Red


Today's theme is red, and I'm seeing it...not just in these photos, but because of them. Or because of Blogger, more accurately. I want to have bigger pictures here, but if I want them to be side by side, Blogger won't let me. It makes them look side-by-side here, and as soon as I preview what the blog will actually look like, they're one below the other or kitty-corner.

I had my camera set to most vivid colors, and I'd say that part worked anyway! :) The little angel is from the nativity on my shelf, in her pretty red robes she stands out even though I stuck her in the back. ;) And then our gorgeous tree skirt, which you could probably see the detail on better if it weren't so vivid...oh well. Can't win 'em all. It was a cheapy from WalMart but I actually think it's quite pretty, and it'll work just fine til I get around to making my own! I have a great pattern, too...just have to find time, so - maybe next Christmas. :P

Red is my favorite color, so I guess I shouldn't mind seeing it every now and then. ;)