Category Archives: Christmas

Crafty kids

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quilt

There are lots of things I’m not sure about when it comes to parenting. I really struggle with my kids and food, for example. All my fine ideas about how they were going to love vegetables haven’t really panned out. But one thing I feel pretty confident about is the way they both (I’m excluding Daphne here, who can hardly be expected to show creativity or initiative at 10 weeks) can envision a project and tackle it head-on, with whatever materials they find. I think I’m doing a halfway decent job of giving them confidence in the “homemade” department. At least that’s something, right? So at least if they ever lose their teeth to poor nutrition and go to jail for bad behavior they can sit in there and knit a cozy for their meal tray. Or something.

Dorothy has really been into sewing lately. She sews lots and lots (and lots) of little pouches for things and gets really upset if we don’t use them for all the things they are meant to hold. Although I’ve taught her about sewing on the wrong side of the fabric she prefers her own free-form methods, which I think is fine. Just recently she’s progressed from pouch-making to quilting, and has made coverlets for her doll, a doll of her brother’s, and now one for baby sister. I thought it was an adorably sweet project, and I loved seeing the big sister cozy the tiny sister up in it. It did get slightly less charming when the big sister basically followed me around doggedly for the next whole day, placing and replacing the little quilt over the baby just in case I “forgot” to cover her up in it just for a trip to check the mailbox or something. But I understand; it’s the same reason I don’t like to sew Halloween costumes–you want your sewing projects to get used.
bracelets

Dorothy has also been really into making rubber band bracelets. I realize this is no different from almost every other 2nd grade girl in middle America at the moment, but it is possible that being a homeschooler and having more free time has given her the opportunity to be a little more prolific than most–she’s about to suffocate every bare surface in the house with these little rubber chains, made in two styles and a variety of colors. She and her friends trade them and make them for each other. It’s funny how every few years sees a new trend of childhood “currency,” and I think it’s nice that this particular trend involves the kids making something with their own hands to swap and gift.¬†cookies2

Yesterday we made iced sugar cookies to share with the kids’ grandparents after their church Christmas pageant this weekend. I cut out only snowmen to keep things simple, then set each child up with their own jar of icing, a small stack of cookies, little bowls of candies to share for the decorating, and a big fat lecture on hand washing and not licking.cookies3

Worth was not old enough to remember the last time we decorated cookies together and took the job very seriously.cookies4Of course the most enjoyable part of the project was the tasting at the end. Dorothy ate her “weird” snowman, I ate my piped icing mistake (oops! a uni-brow!), and Worth ate his snowman with the most candies and icing crammed on top. As is our custom when I have frosting in tubes, we wrapped up by me piping a “finger rose” on the tips of all their fingers, for them to lick off before going for one more good hand-wash.

first-christmasThere is nothing homemade in this photo except my beautiful baby herself, and her fine chubby cheeks. Breast-feeding can give such a sense of accomplishment when you see your child fill out and grow! Like I’m not sure how I did it, but I did it! Is it crafty? Nope, but still homemade. ūüôā She’s ten weeks old now and is doing great. She’s not a particularly easy or laid-back baby (of course I’m comparing her to Worth, who was just about the most pleasant and obliging infant I’ve ever encountered) but we don’t really mind trying to keep up with her exacting standards. She should have what she wants, this precious (final) baby #3!

Christmas outfits

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christmas-family christmas-kidsYou may not have noticed that I’ve been missing, but I have! Was I off dealing with that cute but rather fussy baby? Well, yes and no. My computer died almost a month ago, shortly after my last post, and it’s taken me this long to get the stupid thing replaced. First there is the denial (maybe it’ll come back to life!), then the half-assed attempt to fix it myself (will the vacuum cleaner help?), then the grief, then the period of pretending I know what the little numbers in a computer description mean so I can make a wise choice in a new one, then waiting for the damned sale to start (frustration is mounting!), then realizing that the stupid thing must ship from China (Costco, you’ve never done me wrong like this before!), and finally nearly knocking the poor FedEx guy over when he finally brought it to my door all these weeks later. In retrospect I should have just gone to a store and bought a machine that was more expensive but could have been in my hands immediately following the grief stage. My mental health is worth something, right?

Anyway, I seem to be up and running now (please, go knock on wood), and here I am. In the interim I’ve made matching Christmas outfits for my kids and they are cute. I bought a cotton plaid in Christmas colors at my local fabric store that seemed soft enough to put on a baby and used it for pants for Worth, a skirt for Dorothy, and a dress with bloomers for the baby. I also bought red t-shirts for the big kids from Children’s Place and painted a tree on the front with fabric paint. They have plans to embellish my tree with fabric paint ornaments themselves but we haven’t gotten around to it yet. Which basically means that the day Mommy could handle three kids, no computer, and permanent paint all the same day had not yet arrived, because it is still warm in hell. But I digress. The trees will be embellished in due time, before the outfits get worn on Christmas. That they were not yet embellished at the time of our Christmas-card picture-taking may have secretly been part of my plan all along, because who knows what they’ll look like after the kids go at them with paint. But if I had plans for a perfect Christmas card they went awry anyway, somewhere between not being able to get five people to look at the camera in a pleasant manner at the same time and having hair that mysteriously poofed into the shape of Church Lady hair on the day we took the picture. I promise the shape of it in this photo has nothing to do with my usual hairstyle or my actual theology, and it calmed down later and fell into a more natural-looking, messy, lefty-Presbyterian style. But I’m rambling. Just so glad to be back online.

Worth’s pants are from the book Sewing for Boys, Dorothy’s pleated skirt is McCall’s Easy Stitch N Save M5909, and Daphne’s dress and bloomers are from Making Baby’s Clothes. I need to make some elastic adjustments yet on the skirt and pant waistbands so they don’t fall off and ruin Christmas, but other than that they turned out well. Though I have to admit that after finishing two whole Christmas outfits and still needing to make one whole Christmas outfit it did occur to me that I actually have three whole kids now and that that’s kind of a big deal. Like, a lot of kids. But it’ll be fine–at least I’m online again. Oy!

This year’s homemade Christmas gifts

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aprons

We did some early Christmas unwrapping today, allowing the kids to paw through the little items that were from their parents, as opposed to the more mysterious gifts that will come from St. Nick tomorrow. I made the kids these canvas art smocks/aprons to wear during their own crafty pursuits. Dorothy had a tiny little painting smock when she was a toddler but it long ago lost its straps and fell by the wayside. My method of keeping the kids clean during art projects has been to send them upstairs to change into old t-shirts when I think about it, but that’s rather inconvenient when one has been hit by inspiration. These sturdy canvas smocks should allow them to act on their inspirations without the burden of climbing two flights of stairs and locating an acceptable shirt. I used fabric paint and freezer paper stencils to paint their initials onto each apron.

painters-at-workOf course unwrapping the smocks caused inspiration to hit immediately, so we had to pull out paints and brushes and canvas boards to try them out.

cufflinksI made these “favorite newspaper” cufflinks for Rob. He likes novelty cufflinks to lighten up his stuffy lawyer garb and we’ve had fun in the past gluing Legos and bottle caps onto cufflink hardware. This year I used a 1-inch round craft punch and epoxy dots to make cufflinks from his own used newspapers. I punched clear plastic (like from the packaging of new toys) for the backing.

cold-process-soapAnd this is a brand new batch of cold-process (lye) soap. I make unscented “man” soap for my brother whenever he starts to run low. He likes a soap without weird chemicals or fragrances and I like the opportunity to make something handmade for a brother who doesn’t need much. This soap will come out of my extremely expensive and fancy (ha!) dishpan mold later today and I’ll cut it into slabs before I give it to him tomorrow. It will still need to cure for 4-6 weeks, but if I give it to him straight from the mold then he will be able to cut it into just the right size bars himself.

Cookies, a sweater…oh dear, I’m disorganized!

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bow

It’s been almost a month since I’ve blogged. I’m sort of getting out of the habit of remembering to photograph projects when I finish them. I don’t think I’m ready to quit this blog thing yet because I enjoy keeping this little record for myself, but I do need to put a note or something on my crafty table so I don’t completely get out of the habit. In any case, here’s a little bit of what”s been going on at my house this past month. Dorothy and I made hair bows. I made a few for her (including this one I glued to a headband) and she made some for her cousins. We used a Bowdabra, which is simple and gives good results. It makes puffy bows–not the tidy little twisted kind you can make with templates. sugar-cookies

I’ve used the season as an excuse to try a bunch of gluten-free cookie recipes I’d been wondering about. I’m not gluten-free but my mother is, so I’ve been enjoying experimenting with gluten-free baking on her behalf. These sugar cookies were from Carol Fenster’s 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes and they were terrific. I don’t think anyone would have noticed they were gluten-free if I hadn’t said something. I rolled them out between sheets of plastic wrap as suggested, but I found the dough just as easy to work with as regular cookie dough.

jam-cookies

These gluten-free jam cookies were from The Wheat-Free Cook by Jacqueline Mallorca. I don’t care for this book overall as well as the one above, but these cookies were tasty. They were really great just-baked and were nice but crumbly once they had been sandwiched with the jam. The drawback to them came the next day, when they’d apparently soaked up all the moisture from the jam and almost fell apart when I touched them, so they really want to be eaten only on the day they are made. Still, they are tasty and light with a nice flavor and don’t scream “gluten free alternative!” when you taste them.

new-sweater

I finished knitting (knooking) myself this sweater a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the freakishly warm weather has prevented me from wearing it much. I ran into the difficulty once again of trying to get a decent photo of a project made for myself but this one will have to do. I’d like to show the neckline, which I particularly like, but I didn’t think to take off my scarf for the photo when I came in today from shopping. I used this Oatmeal Pullover pattern and the Lion Brand Wool-Ease yarn the pattern suggests, but in the color Eggplant. I like the sweater and it didn’t take that long to knook since the yarn is so chunky, but if this warm-weather trend continues I may never get to wear it since it is such a bulky, warm garment. I made the pattern in size medium, but since the knitter controls the length and the sleeve length I think I could have gone down a size and cut down on some of the bulk.

bookmarks

Finally, this is what my kids made their instructors/nursery care providers/extracurricular teachers as holiday gifts this year. Last year we did jars of homemade granola and I was going to do that again, but when my kids got snotty and sick it felt like homemade gifts from my kitchen stirred by their germy little hands might not be the most appropriate displays of our affection. Instead I cut strips of cardstock and cut the recipients’ names out with paper punches, then let the kids paint their own designs on the strips. Each kid needed to make about five. After they were dry we wrote the children’s names on the back and laminated them to make sturdy personalized bookmarks.

Hope you have a very merry, crafty Christmas!

After the holiday buzz

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I love that after-holiday feeling. As eager as I was to pull out the Christmas tunes after Halloween, I’m equally satisfied to have packed it all up now, returning to life as normal with a new zest. Doesn’t everything in the house look serene and uncluttered once the holiday decorations come down?

I guess I took a little break from blogging during all the whirl of celebrations, but here are some photos I’ve collected to share.

Belle got a new collar and tag in her Christmas stocking. Her collar came from this Etsy shop, and the tag (check out that awesome camper stamp!!) came from this one. Maybe I should be embarrassed that my dog’s accessories will match my camper but I’m not. Belle seemed impressed with it, but was more impressed with the chocolate she stole from our kitchen counter on Christmas morning. If I’d had to make that phone call to the emergency animal hospital before Christmas I might never have been so generous with the dog gifts! But it all turned out fine…nothing says “Merry Christmas” like inducing dog vomit. Oy. At least she’s nicely accessorized.

The owner of Stamped with Love also sent me this fantastic key chain, which I think speaks for itself. It’s stamped with the same words as our camper sign. I love it!

This is my favorite picture from Christmas 2011. My boy refused to let anyone remove his new shoes from his feet and he slept with his arms around his beloved new fire truck. He’s still too little to grant affection to Christmas gifts on any other basis than how much he loves them in the moment, and these wee running shoes and charming fire truck took the day. Dorothy’s favorite gift (I think), after all was said and done, was the new “pet” mouse Santa brought. We’ve been reading the Ralph the Mouse books, so I purchased a very cute toy mouse and stuck it in a real cage with a real rodent water bottle and clean shreds of scrapbook paper. The cage has a handle, so Dorothy totes the whole setup around with her. She loves it. It wasn’t a homemade gift, obviously, but I did feel like my creativity in assembling it made it more special than the ready-made gifts she has played with less.

These are the sugar cookies the children decorated at our New Year’s Eve celebration with another young family. I baked the cookies using Martha Stewart’s sugar cookie recipe, then iced them with plain white royal icing, then let the kids do the rest.

I put a shark applique on a plain white cotton tee as a birthday gift to a little friend who turned one on Christmas Eve. This felt like a useful and simple gift and I hope he likes it.

And last but not least, one of my own favorite Christmas gifts was a bit of a long shot. Some time last fall before Rob injured his heel we concocted a plan to acquire family pogo sticks this Christmas (with the exception of Worth, who has just perfected jumping on his own two feet). I don’t remember now what made us think this was a good idea. In any case, Rob got a pogo stick but can’t use it until his physical therapist and surgeon allow him to do so (maybe March?), Dorothy got a pogo stick with a nice, wide, detachable base to ease the learning curve but is still a bit of a stretch for a novice pogo-girl in chilly weather, but¬† me, well I’ve gone pogo crazy! I love it. I thought I’d never be able to get up on the thing, but it turns out that pogo jumping is rather like riding a bicycle; the muscle memory of the skill perfected as a young person followed me, forgotten but not gone, into my adulthood. Jumping on the pogo stick is the most fun exercise I’ve gotten in recent memory. It’s intense and makes the legs burn, but it’s so fun and thrilling I barely notice. I’ve been adding sets of pogo jumps to my day before and after our evening dog-walk, and the increase in heartbeat makes the whole endeavor more worthwhile, health-wise. If I’d just lay off the sugar cookies (see above) maybe I’d lose a few pounds too!

I hope your holidays were wonderful!

Holiday puttering

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Such a busy time of year! We’re making homemade granola and putting it in jars for teachers and sitters…

crafting up cute gift tags, baking cookies, using too much tape, running late to events, forgetting to water the tree, thoroughly enjoying the season, and being so thankful we’re not moving like this time last year!

Hope you’re having a wonderful Advent season!

Christmas t-shirts and a dresser

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This picture is what you get when you set the camera on something, focus on your children, hit the timer, then jump in yourself. Oops! I really do have a head–it just didn’t make it into this photo. Anyway, the point of this photo is the matching Santa t-shirts I made for Dorothy and me. I cut out round scraps from fabric left over from the pillow project (below), a coffee-drinking Santa for myself and a stocking-stuffing Santa for Dorothy. I ironed them onto the shirts with Wonder-Under and zigzagged around the edge in red. Also with the red thread I did decorative machine stitching around the neck and bottom hem of the shirts. I paid $2 for my like-new, name-brand cotton shirt at a thrift store and $.50 for Dorothy’s from the same place. Not bad!

Now the sad thing about making a t-shirt for Dorothy is that it was going to end up going into her closet, which is often a Horrifying Pit of Filth and Stuff, kind of like the rest of her room only worse. Housekeeping is not a talent of my five-year-old, but unfortunately hoarding does seem to be. One of the problems has been that she really hasn’t had enough drawers for folded clothing items. She has one vintage chest-of-drawers my Mom refinished before she was born, but it has very shallow drawers that won’t begin to accommodate the piles of accessories she accumulates. We were keeping skirts and pants in labeled kitty-litter buckets similar to these but as she got larger her clothing got larger too, and suddenly not very many pants would actually fit into a bucket at all, so they were mostly getting thrown in the direction of the buckets, spilling out, then mingling with doll clothes, dirty clothes, cat hair and who-knows-what-else on the floor. I got completely fed up with the situation all at once last week, drove to the nearest Goodwill, and promptly bought an old wooden dresser for $15. The drawers didn’t fit in quite right but I figured I’d see what I could do–I wasn’t making more than one stop.

The problem with the drawers ended up being that they weren’t in the right slots–easy fix! I sanded the whole piece, used leftover wall paint to make it a cheery yellow that coordinates with Dorothy’s beloved wallpaper, and sprayed the old handles white. I did need to purchase new knobs for the top because they were missing entirely, so I bought cute glass ones that look appropriately glamorous. We spent a productive afternoon organizing Dorothy’s things with the help of the roomy new drawers. She loves it and claims to be determined to stick to our new organization plan. I suspect she won’t, but at least now I can chalk her big mess up to her creative spirit instead of a system stacked against her.

As an update to an old post, we had a good thing happen in our family this week! Rob, who had been on crutches since he ruptured his Achilles tendon in September, is finally able to hobble around on his boot but without the crutches. He missed being able to drag the dresser downstairs to my work space and then upstairs to our daughter’s second-floor bedroom, but by the next time I drag home used furniture he should be much more useful!

Curtains and Christmas crafting

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Our family room has been late to get the love that some of our other rooms got months ago. I’ve had the fabric (Kiki Pinata) picked out to make the curtains for months but could never find the time to start them. I finally got fed up with not having curtains one night recently and stayed up until 2:00 a.m. sewing, but my sleepy brain screwed them up and I spent most of that time trying to fix my own dumb mistakes. Curtains are pretty easy–mostly straight seams–but for some reason that night I couldn’t hack it. I did finally did finish the set for this one window and I really love the print, even though it is not the most appropriate backdrop for the Christmas tree we just set up in front of it. Now one down, one regular and two double windows to go. Yikes. But this room is really shaping up. Here we were right after move-in last year, with the unlit last-minute Christmas tree thrown in the corner next to a pile of boxes. I’m thankful every day that we are not moving this year! This year we set the tree up on a table to keep precious ornaments out of reach of kids and puppies, and my crafty Grandma’s memory is honored by the use of her handmade felt tree skirt and complete felt nativity. A much more peaceful scene than moving boxes.

After enjoying the seasonal pillow cases I made for my sofa a few weeks ago I decided I needed new ones for Christmas. I used wide strips of Christmas fabric (which accidentally found it’s way into my Fabric.com shopping cart when I was buying the curtain fabric) of varying widths to make intentionally non-matching pillows for each side of the sofa. The kids keep taking all the cushions off to make a mouse house with them and some blankets so I was unable to photograph them on the sofa, but here is one on the floor in its more natural habitat. I did some decorative machine stitches where the strips are joined and it looks cute. The final product looks cheerful and seasonal and kid-friendly both on the sofa and off.

My other recent holiday project was to make Rob a new stocking. His previous stocking was small, and Dorothy noticed this year that it seemed a bit plain next to the others. (This year we’ve also added an Etsy-purchased personalized stocking for Belle the dog.) I was under the impression that Rob’s old stocking was one of those emotion-infused items that came with my husband and Must Not Be Changed, but it turns out he didn’t even remember who made it for him so I was able to stick it in his Thou Shalt Not Throw Away box downstairs (we have issues with him being a keeper and me being a tosser–but that’s another story) and upgrade his stocking by the fireplace. I wanted to make it myself since I love him better than the dog. I used a rather manly green and gold stripe print I had left over from a project a couple years ago and lined it with some green corduroy, also from my stash. I stitched his name in gold thread and then sewed on some red jingle bells for color. My favorite part of this project was the way Dorothy fussed over unveiling it for him when he came home from work–she’s so glad Santa can now treat him with adequate generosity!

A Christmas hat

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My daughter told me this hat looks silly on me (kids say the darndest things!) but I kind of like it. It’s this free pattern, scrap yarn in four different shades of red and green, and it was quick and easy. This was my first knooking project with a lot of color changes and that is clearly a skill I need to work on as the back seam (not shown) looks a bit scraggly. Still, I’m picking up confidence with the knooking and I like my cheerful holiday hat no matter what my five-year-old thinks of it. I did the stripes in a completely random pattern, which got difficult in and of itself after some time. Like wait, if I use three rows of green here does that still look random? I’m not accidentally making a pattern here with two light reds and a dark, am I?¬† Intentionally randomness will drive you nuts after a while–I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere.

This is a hinged shoe box Dorothy painted. I could get revenge and say I think it looks silly, but really I don’t. I think it looks cute. This is the sort of out-of-the-recycle bin project that can be so satisfying. I needed to keep her entertained in the kitchen at some point a few weeks back so I gave her an empty shoe box and some latex paint. She painted the box quite happily and then forgot about it until I needed to keep her out of the way again a few days ago, so I set her up again with her now dry, painted box and my private stash of Sharpies. (Permanent markers are only for grown-ups around here, except under rarest circumstances.) She was once again happily entertained while she decorated it and now she has a cute treasure box to fill with childhood ephemera and stash on her shelf until it gets stepped on or broken or chewed on by the dog–at which point it will land back in the recycle bin, full circle. That’s really¬† not a bad life cycle for a shoe box.

It’s beginning to look a lot like you-know-what

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About this time every year people start complaining about Christmas stuff being out, about the rush of the season, about holiday music. I’m not one of them. The kids and I had the Pandora holiday music station on the day after Halloween, and although I won’t decorate our house until Thanksgiving I’m thoroughly enjoying the pre-holiday planning. Christmas is fun; why not stretch it out a bit? I’m so glad we won’t have the craziness of last year’s Christmas-week move, and it’s going to a blast to have two kids at the perfect ages to enjoy all this holiday hustle-bustle. I like to take a photo for my Christmas cards pretty early every year so that if it looks terrible I have plenty of time to bribe them more and try it again. This year I was really lusting after some Hanna Andersson matching outfits for the kids to wear in the picture, but just couldn’t bring myself (meaning, well, that I just couldn’t afford) to spend so much money on clothes they’d only wear a couple times at most. Right as I was about to buy them anyway I remembered this pretty turquoise Christmas fabric I’d purchased on clearance at a quilting store over the summer. I’d only bought a yard and had¬† planned to make myself a tote bag out of it, but I realized I could probably stretch it to come up with homemade matching outfits for the kids.

I definitely got my money’s worth out of less than $5 of Christmas fabric. I sewed Dorothy a dress out of a winter white fabric I had in my stash, which I think I got from Wal-Mart’s $1 table a few months back. I made the dress from Simplicity 2237 and sewed her a bolero from the Christmas print from the same pattern. I’ve used that dress pattern before and found it to be a bit wide; this time I cut the pattern a little narrower and it fit perfectly. The bolero pattern wast just right. It fit adorably without any adjustments.

I used more of the turquoise fabric to make a ruffle around the bottom of her dress, which I sewed to the lining of unbleached muslin so it peeps out all around. I used gold thread and a decorative stitch on my sewing machine to add some gold embellishment along the hem of the outer skirt.

For the boy I made a bow tie out of the Christmas fabric and an oh-so-debonair vest out of the same fabric as her dress. I read this terrific tutorial on another blog, then sort of cut around a vest he’d outgrown. I used leftover curtain backing for the lining and back and buttons from my stash, which I think were torn off an old sweater that got turned in to something else a couple years ago. His bow tie is not really tied on because I’m not that brave–I sewed it to a hair clip. I ended up getting an acceptably good photo of the two of them (not pictured) and am glad to have that happy task checked off my list, and for less than $10 total.