Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Night Before the Night Before Christmas

Thought I'd do one more catch-all post before I sign off for 2010. I must say once again what a delightful advent season this has been for us. The time since Thanksgiving has gone quickly, but the weeks have been full and fun with just the right amount of busy. There has been some project or event nearly every day that has kept us all very much in the spirit of the season.

So without further ado, here are a few more from the "miscellaneous" Christmas pile:

Note to self for next year: Don't take on a mass-production edible Christmas gift idea until the recipe and technique has been fully vetted. This peppermint bark involved a lot of near-cursing, and I was not fully satisfied with how it turned out. Tasty enough, yes, but not quite what I envisioned.

However, one project that turned out even better than I pictured it was this Christmas dress for Amy's bear, Shuffle:

Shuffle is the Build-a-Bear Amy made about six months ago. She named her "Shiffle" at the time, and it morphed into Shuffle. I have no idea where she came up with either name, but it has stuck, and Shuffle is a good buddy to Amy. Over the last month or so I've found that I can secure sewing time during the day if I am using it to make clothes for Amy's dolls or critter friends. She gets an idea in her head and instantly we drop what we're doing as she says "Mommy, let's go make a dress for Shuffle!" As long as William is napping, this is all quite doable.

I am having lots of fun with these doll clothes because I can use material from my stash (this happens to be leftovers my mom gave me from a print she used to make me a Christmas dress when I was three years old). And, because they are small, they are really quick to do, but with all the techniques for full-size clothes, so I am learning a lot about garment sewing in general. Oh, and I even figured out how to do that little tail opening just like the purchased Build-a-Bear clothes.

Moving on. I went by me-self to the dentist yesterday, and before leaving I tasked Don with removing the dryer vent to clean out any crud that might be accumulating - maintenance long overdue. Since I wasn't around to make him stop, he proceeded to take apart the entire dryer to see how it works. Everything was back together (and functioning) when I returned, but he did fess up, and even took this picture mid-project. Yikes.

Earlier in the week Amy and I did some coloring:

Pretty good for a three-year-old, you say? Yes, it would be. Not so good a twenty-seven-year-old. I can do many things; drawing is not one of them. Too bad, because Amy is always asking me to draw things for her, and her requests are very specific. Here she wanted to draw the Nativity Scene, complete with Shepherds in the Field, an Angel, the Wise Men holding Gifts, Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus, and an Extra Diaper (very important), Donkey, Sheep, and a Flying Camel. I prompted her on none of this.

Yesterday while I was out I noticed that Kohl's had already moved their remaining pink trees to 70% off status, and since Amy has ooh'd over this one all season I thought I bring it home for her room. I assembled it while she was out shopping with Don later in the day, and told her all about the two Elves that appeared at our front door carrying this tree for her. I showed the Elves which room was hers, and well, there you go. Magic.

But of course Amy is always one step ahead of me, and immediately needed to decorate her new tree. She found a few odd bits to use as ornaments last night, and I promised her some crafting time today to make something suitable.

Circles traced on scrap poster board, paint, glitter, yarn, patience, and by this afternoon we had 24 pretty things to hang on her tree.

Now. To shift gears a bit, and wrap up this looong post, I'd like to share something that's been on my mind all month. In addition to this Christmas season being full of cookies, sewing, trees, lights, music, and fun, it has also been for me a season filled with a new level of contemplation about the birth of Jesus. Stories that we read every year, like this one, or songs like this one, have been making me downright misty.

I think a lot of that has to do with my own Boy Child. Our Lord and Savior was a little baby, a newborn in His mother's arms. An infant, a toddler, a boy, a man. Did He have rosy cheeks when He was seven months old? Did He like to grab his toes? Did He make Mary smile every time He looked her way? What could it possibly have been like to be the mother of God, and not just the mother of a little boy who makes mommy's heart melt anyway, with his every breath?

There is no way I could possibly know, but I like to think that my own babies are helping me understand Mary, and all of the beauty and magnitude of Christmas just a little bit more that I ever have before...

...and with that, I shall simply wish a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

Christmas baking season has arrived at the perfect time; I recently have eased up on the dairy restrictions to allow for butter and other minor milk ingredients, since William does not seem to be having any more issues. In fact he's looking like he could really use a cookie himself these days.

Every year for as long as I can remember my mom has made the cookies that we refer to as simply The Christmas Cookies. The dough is stiff; even my (finally!) repaired stand mixer can't handle all the flour. No problem, because a little kneading turns it into the most wonderful kind of grown-up Playdoh that rolls out better than any other cookie dough I've ever made.

This year I made gingerbread for the first time. Gingerbread has never really been my favorite thing, but Amy suggested it so I found this recipe and we gave it a go. I added an additional half-cup of flour over what this calls for, and still did the rolling between wax paper. Very sticky dough. But it cooperated and she and I had fun with some purchased frosting (which looked quite like a bottle of Elmer's glue), so I'd call the gingerbread folks a success.

Back to The Christmas Cookies. Every year there is the great debate: to frost or not to frost. The Christmas cookies of my childhood were always frosted, but as the years went on Mom took to simply baking them with an egg wash and sprinkles instead. That is how I've done them since, but taking my junior decorator into consideration, I thought we'd have better luck if Amy could just add sprinkles to the frosting as she liked, rather than dumping them all over unbaked cookies.

I did the frosting, she did the sprinkling, and I think they are quite pretty. Of course there never seems to be quite enough of this very favorite cookie of mine, so tonight I whipped off another batch in quiet solitude. I don't even want to think about how many pounds of butter have passed through my refrigerator in the last two weeks, but now we have plenty to share with friends, dinner guests, and of course, Santa!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


This is my second post for the night - my earlier post is the more interesting one, this is just to say that I've fiddled with my blog layout and from here forward will be using bigger pictures - how exciting!


Today was a good day.

It began with a partridge in a pear tree, er, I mean, a big, fluffy CAT in my Christmas Tree. Again.

Sorry the picture is out of focus - forgot I had set my lens on manual to catch this naptime shot yesterday:

Back to today. Amy and I both got haircuts this morning, followed by a little treat:

After lunch there was some serious brother-sister snuggling on the couch:

And to complete the festive mood, it snowed all day!

According to Amy, "When it snows, it will be Christmas." Have I mentioned yet how much I am loving the fresh enthusiasm and anticipation that is filling up our house this season?

Merry Christmas, today and every day!

Friday, December 10, 2010


I really thought I had JUST updated my blog, when I took a closer look and realized it was last Wednesday that I posted - more than a week! Where have the days been going??

Oh wait, I know:

Right now I have:

- Christmas presents in the oven.
- seven orange post-its stuck to my desk.
- a Santa hat on.
- a song called "Christmas Monkey" stuck in my head (be glad you don't).
- finished more sewing projects in the last week than in all of 2010 (I think).
- and still way too much on my to-do list between now and December 25th.

But, I'm not stressed or complaining about any of this - crazy busy, yes, but mostly self-imposed. An ambitious list gives me great direction and purpose for these days leading up to Christmas. And particularly in the sewing department, it feels so good to be working on so many things, and actually completing them at a steady pace.

Speaking of which, I better check the oven then trot on up to the sewing "closet" before the evening slips away in blog-land!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pants and Other Projects

***A note: I am now sharing this post over at amylouwho's "Sew and Tell Fridays" - I'm choosy about the blogs I follow because I really like to keep up with each one, and there are only so many hours in a week that I can justify sitting in front of the computer. But I am pleased to recently discover this blog and this weekly link party as a forum for continual sewing inspiration and accountability. Thanks for having me! ***

I have recently become obsessed with making pants, ever since stumbling upon this tutorial a few weeks back. For my first attempt I used one of Amy's old, stained t-shirts and made a pair of pants for her baby dolls. They were a success, and the process helped me really understand how pants are constructed. I've been wanting to make Amy some pants for awhile, because, while she has grown much taller since last year, she's not much wider, and many purchased pants in the next size are a little baggy. I've also been weeding through my own clothes, and recently discarded two long-ish thermal-knit tops that had done their time. I used a pair of Amy's too-short pants to draft front and back pattern pieces on muslin, turning the pants inside out and trying to trace each shape as accurately as possible, and adding more length. I cut them out (lining up the cuffs with the hem of the shirt) and sewed 'em up. This is a less-than-one-hour project, and I can even pull it off while Amy is twirling around the sewing room "helping" me. I finished the purple pair earlier today, and Amy wore them happily. The red ones I just finished tonight, and I made a couple of fit adjustments that I sort of think might not have worked out.... but we'll see in the morning when she tries them on. Here are a couple of action shots:

Since we're on the subject of sewing, here are some other quick hits from my sewing room right now... can we say, "too many irons in the fire"?

Above: brown polka dot fleece to make a vest for Amy. Hopefully before spring. Penguin flannel purchased to back a "pink blanket" Amy wanted to make for her brand-new cousin. Blanket completed and sent off. Bought extra penguins to make self pajama pants. Did not realize how much yardage it takes to make pants for a mommy-sized person. Now must decide what to do with 1.5 yards of leftover penguins.

Vest pattern all cut out and ready to go. Suspect it is going to be WAY too big. Kinda dreading that project because I want instant gratification and I have a feeling it is going to take a lot more time and fiddling than I have patience for. Fabric stacked below shelf: bits and pieces to make more baby doll clothes. (Baby doll clothes make for lots of instant gratification, and a happy daughter.)

Incidentally, can I just say how much I am loving my sewing space? It's been evolving nicely over the last ten months or so, and in recent weeks I've been working on something up here almost every day. That is nice. I love the worked-in feeling this "closet" has now; I love the heaps of pattern pieces, the multiple projects, the list on the wall, the functionality of having all my tools out and close at hand. And I love the butterfly wings. Oh, and of course my sewing machine. L.O.V.E. Best investment of 2010.

Moving on. To wrap up the tour we have here a broken clay pot thrown by moi in high school pottery class. Thanksgiving Day casualty, knocked off the counter. Bummer, but I think it can be glued, hence why it is taking up space on my sewing table.

Also above, yet another tote bag in progress, just for fun, from fabric already in my hoard, um, I mean, stash.

And lastly, all my thread finally out of a box and within arm's reach of the sewing machine, enabling me to switch projects at a moment's notice. Good thing, because between all of this and the unmentioned Christmas sewing, I've got my work cut out for me. And that's just the way I like it.