Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Garden Bell asked me if I'll be saying two-thousand-ten or twenty-ten. I think I'll probably use both at first, and eventually settle on one!

I don't have any big resolutions for 2010, but I do hope to participate in some of the 365 Flickr groups, namely 365-Around the House and 365: for the domestic types. We'll see how I do!
The above mosaic is of things I made in 2009. In 2010, I hope to continue to be productive with needle, thread, yarn, and food. I have plenty of projects in mind to keep me very busy for a long, long time. And I hope to continue to share it all here.
Happy New Year, and all good things for 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


One of our Christmas gifts to the children was tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters. None of us had ever been to their show, and it seemed like a fun Holiday activity for the family.

My daughter was born in the year 2000. That was a momentous year, and several companies offered babies born in 2000 perks and freebies, including the Harlem Globetrotters, who gave her one free admission every year for life. I was going to cash in on that free ticket for this show, but when I recently read the fine print on the card the Globetrotters sent me back in 2000, I realized we could not order her ticket in advance, and had to get it at the venue box office. That seemed risky to me. I wasn't sure if they would sell out or not, and since we don't live all that near to any of the venues, it would be inconvenient to go get it in advance, so I decided to order her ticket online and pay for it. Now that I've been to a show, I think if we decide to see them again in the future, we'll be safe getting the tickets the day of the show at the box office, and getting hers for free.
The players had an autograph session after the show, provided you bought official Globetrotter merchandise for them to sign. My daughter really wanted to get autographs!

Here she is waiting for Cobra to sign her shirt. (she's the one in the colorful poncho)

Scooter was signing autographs out on the concourse. The official Fan Photographer was on hand to snap photos of Scooter with the fans. I tried to sneak in my own shot with my own camera, but that photographer had as many moves as the Globetrotters themselves. He threw me an elbow right as I snapped, and blocked my shot.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Musical Christmas Greeting

By my husband and son. I put a couple more videos in this set on Flickr.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

We can always buy the hot fudge sauce

My Christmas to-do list is getting shorter, not because I am accomplishing the tasks, but because I am surrendering. I had a revelation yesterday when I was talking to my sister-in-law about dessert for Christmas Day. I told her I had peppermint stick ice cream, and if I had time, I'd make some hot fudge sauce, otherwise we'd have the ice cream without hot fudge sauce. She said, "Well, we can always buy the hot fudge sauce." It was a slap-forehead moment for me. Of course we can buy the hot fudge sauce.

It's time to cross everything off the list and just enjoy.

Happy Holidays! And thanks for reading and commenting. I really do appreciate it.

(Photo is of a photo ornament of my daughter when she was 3, wearing her favorite pink kitty dress.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Ornaments: Handmade

The best ornaments are the homemade ones. This is just a small sampling of ornaments in our home that were made by me, or by the children.

Jingle bell wreath. I bought the bag of bells the day after Thanksgiving, thinking I'd fill a small glass bowl with them, but in the very next store I visited they had a sweet little jingle bell wreath that stole my heart, and I knew what to do with my new purchase! Felt ornaments, from a kit. I made these ages and ages ago, I think when I still lived in Minnesota.

Crocheted Korknisse! Who can resist a wine cork masquerading as a gnome? Not I.

Cross stitch stocking, new this year. Pattern by Blackbird Designs. (I just googled that name, to verify I had the name right because for some reason it didn't look right to me, and holy cow, they have a blog! How did I not know until now?)

Baby Jesus in a milkweed pod, made by my daughter in preschool.

Button snowman, strung on a pipe cleaner! You'd think one of the kids made this, but actually, I did!

Perler bead gingerbread man, made by son or daughter, can't remember which. They went through a short Perler phase and made a bazillion things, most of which I turned into Christmas ornaments, but there are so many that only a few make it onto the tree every year.

When my niece was in preschool twenty years ago, she made the loveliest angel ornament out of noodles and beads. The body was a rigatoni noodle, the head was a bead, the hair was alphabet pasta glued to the bead, the wings were one bowtie noodle, and the angel cradled a little candle made from a tack in her elbow noodle arms. The whole thing was spray painted in a metallic gold, and it was glorious. My niece brought it home and told my sister she made it for Aunt Tracy and no one else, so my sister let her give it to me! I never fully appreciated how generous my sister was by letting me have that angel until my own children started bringing their own glorious handmade things home from preschool. The gold noodle angel always had a special place of prominence on my tree, but I started to feel guilty about it. If my son or daughter had told me that their splendid one-of-a-kind creation was for someone else, I would have said "no, mommy is keeping this for herself." I'm greedy that way. Two years ago when I unpacked my niece's noodle angel, I didn't hang it on my tree. I took it back to my sister. It seemed only right, and my sister was glad to have it back. I do miss it, though! (updated December 26, 2011: I got a photo of the angel ornament! See it here)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Favorite Things Friday #5: Easy Treats

Holiday Pretzel Treats, from my favorite source, Family Fun. Easy to make, even easier to eat. I love that you can make as few or as many as you want, although when it comes to these, more is always better!
Spritz cookies. You do need a cookie press to make them, but it's so much easier than rolling and cutting dough. My mom always made these when I was little, and my dad, without fail, would walk through the kitchen and say "Ready. Aim. Cookie!" He's one of those dads.

I don't do complicated recipes this time of year. Too many other things to do. My baking has to be quick. Most cookies are in bar form. I will be making layered mint brownies this weekend, also from Family Fun. I love those because even though they look really complicated, they are easy to make, and soooo good.
edited to add: If I am reading things correctly, this is my 200th post!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Ornaments: Travel Memories

A lot of the ornaments on my tree are souvenirs from trips and vacations. We go "Up North" to northern Michigan every summer, so we had to have a cherry "Up North" ornament!

Some of the travel ornaments are obviously souvenirs, with the place name printed on them.

Sometimes the gift shops don't have ornaments. In those situations, I'll find a keychain to hang on the tree.

I don't always buy the souvenir ornament just to have the ornament. I have to like it to buy it.
There are many times when I'll see an ornament on a trip that has no obvious connection to the place we are visiting. I'll buy it anyway as a reminder, and write the date and place of purchase on the bottom. We got this colorful cat at an art gallery up north a few years ago.
I bought this frog at Biltmore in 1994.

This little snowman I purchased at a non-descript grocery store somewhere in Pennsylvania ages ago. My husband and I had road-tripped to New York one November to visit some friends, a spur-of-the-moment trip when we were much younger and childless and could do such things. On the long drive home, we stopped at a grocery store in search of a cheap dinner, and I saw this ornament. I wasn't yet purposely buying souvenir ornaments, so this snowman was the unintentional start to that collection. I'm so glad I got him, because now every year when I see him, I remember that otherwise forgettable stop somewhere in PA, and it makes me smile.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

German Ducks

My Christmas tree doesn't have a theme, unless you want to call it a Hodgepodge of Memories.
Every single ornament on my tree has a story or memory behind it. For the next few days I'll blog some of my ornaments.
These little duck charms were given to me by my friend, Lynn. She brought them to me from Germany. I thought they would make cute Christmas ornaments, so every year they go on my tree. I absolutely love them because they remind me of my childhood. My mother was born and raised in Germany, so there was a German influence to my childhood (even though my mother fully Americanized herself, and, sadly, I've never been to Germany myself).
This little hanky was given to me by a German relative when I was a child:
I don't think Lynn ever saw my hanky, so little did she know what a perfect gift the duck charms were for me! When she reads this, she'll know. Thanks, Lynn.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

She knits!

Well looky here, I knitted something! Woot! When I visited my family at Thanksgiving, my sister asked me if I could make her a cup cozy or two. I said yes, figuring it would be a quick-to-crochet project, but after I got home and started thinking about it, I was overcome with the urge to dust off my knitting needles and see what I could do.

Knitting and I go way back. I always wanted to learn how to knit, and when I was pregnant with my first baby (13 years ago already!) I thought it's now or never. I signed up for an evening class that met once a week for 6 weeks, through January and February, and I dragged my first-trimester-nauseous self there through sleet and snow. I wanted to make a baby blanket, but the instructor said "You won't learn anything making a blanket! Make a baby sweater!" When I told her I wasn't sure what size to make because I didn't know how big a baby was, I got the impression she thought I was a hopeless case, both for knitting and mothering.

I realized very quickly that I am a very slow knitter. By the time the class ended I had less than half of the sweater pieces knit. I hadn't done anything tricky yet, like making buttonholes or picking up stitches. I ended up having to do all that on my own, without the teacher's guidance. I worked as a reference librarian at that time, so on quiet afternoons I'd pull knitting books from the shelves and study them carefully, writing notes to myself, puzzling out the pattern. Through the spring and the hot summer months in my un-airconditioned home, I propped my increasingly swollen ankles up on any elevated surface I could find and knit, knit, knit. I was shocked and proud when I actually finished the sweater before the baby was born (just barely!). I felt slightly dazed by what I had accomplished (both baby and sweater).

Over the next few years I tried to make a blanket for my newborn nephew and a little elfin hat for my toddler son, but I never got very far. Knitting required too much concentration, and with two small children to care for, I didn't have any concentration to give to knitting. I didn't understand how the stitches went together, and I could not fix mistakes. I had to be so careful to do it perfectly, otherwise it was all over. Knitting was too frustrating, so I gave it up.

Until last week, when I decided to knit a cup cozy. I searched on ravelry to find a simple pattern. I found my needles and selected some yarn. I was absolutely shocked when, after one quick glance at my notes from my knitting class, I remembered how to cast on. Look at me, I'm casting on! The pattern is a simple ribbing of k2,p2. I struggled a bit at first because I forgot to move the yarn to the front for purl, but then it all came back to me. Knit knit, purl purl, knit knit, purl purl. I was in the zone. I was slow, but I was definitely in the zone. I only had to knit 2.5 inches. I was at 2 inches and feeling pretty celebratory when, OMG, I made a mistake. I made a mistake! What do I do? How do I fix this? I don't even know what I did wrong!!!! I hate knitting I hate knitting I hate knitting! I am so not a knitter! I flipped through my two knitting books, feeling panicked. The instructions made no sense. It was all words and smug diagrams, taunting me from the page. Argh!

And then I remembered that you can get all kinds of video help online these days. I pulled myself together and sat down at the computer. I watched a couple of videos, then watched them again. I realized my best course of action was to frog back two rows, and put my stitches back on the needle. This has always confused the heck out of me because I don't understand how the stitches must sit on the needle, but the videos boosted my confidence, and I figured I had nothing to lose. So frog I did, and then very painstakingly, with sweat on my brow and curse words on my lips, I put the stitches back on the needle. I held my breath and started to knit across the row. To my astonishment, it worked! It actually worked! Hooray! I continued on my merry way, and a mere six hours after I started it, I had successfully made one 2.5 inch cup cozy. Whew!

Now what knitting project shall I tackle next? I think it had better be something small.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Favorite Things Friday #4: Christmas Decorating

Obviously I do Christmas cutesy, not sophisticated. It's all about being cozy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Merry Christmess

It's December, and that means the decorating has begun. OY! I love it and dread it at the same time. How did I get so many boxes of Christmas things? The tree is up and most of the ornaments are on, thanks to the children's efforts, but I still need to get out all the little extras like stockings and candles and bingle balls and whofoo fluff.

That tree is even larger than it looks. Usually we put it more in a corner, but the kids wanted it in front of the window. It's HUGE. When you look in from outside, it looks like a mountain sprouted in the middle of the living room. We had to roll up the rug, and now I'm trying to figure out if it's even possible to unroll it.

I think I should stop reading blogs until January. Either I will find more holiday things I want to make (and as you can see from all those boxes, I really don't need any more holiday things), or I will find more recipes I want to try (how many dozens of cookies do we really need to eat?).

Happy December!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Favorite Things Friday #3: Thanksgiving

I love a holiday that focuses on gratitude and thankfulness, and features good food enjoyed in the company of family and friends. And to make it even more fun, I love a little shopping trip the next day with my mom and sisters (and one cheerful nephew!) to some locally-owned stores, including one that specializes in the needlearts!

I hope you all have many good things in your life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I made a tote bag!

I proudly present my latest sewing project.... a tote bag, using Alicia Paulson's Jane Market Bag pattern. Structured items and I often don't get along, so I began this with much trepidation, but it turned out so cute, I can hardly stand it. I am so happy with how the fabrics came together. I think even my children were impressed. "You made this? It looks like something you'd buy!" This is very high praise from my two biggest critics.

I will definitely be making more of these! But first I must go to the fabric store, because my stash is boring me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Favorite Things Friday #2: My Immersion Blender

I love my immersion blender. I don't use it all that often, but it is small and easy to store, and when I need it to puree a homemade soup, there really is no convenient substitute. If you get along without one, thinking your blender or food processor does the job, trust me, the ease and convenience of pureeing a soup with an immersion blender right in the stock pot is akin to wielding a magic cooking wand. No slopping of hot soup from pot to blender and back again, leaving you with drips on counters and cupboards. An immersion blender is clean and easy (well, provided you keep it fully immersed, because if you're not careful about that, you will end up with a mess spraying all over the kitchen, so consider yourself warned).

I use my immersion blender almost exclusively for pureeing soup. I recently made this Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup (utilizing the immersion blender), and it is so yummy I can't wait to make it again! My children are not impressed by it, but I am going to make another batch, stat, and freeze it in lunch-sized serving portions for my husband and myself.

Here is another pumpkin soup recipe that I make a couple times around the holidays. The directions state to use a food processor, but I use my immersion blender, and voila, I'm done.

Pumpkin Pecan Bisque

2T butter
1 C chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
14 oz broth
16 oz pumpkin puree
1 1/4 C water
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C half-and-half
1 cup pecan pieces, toasted

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Saute onion and garlic over medium heat for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Add broth, pumpkin, water, sugar, spices, salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce heat. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in half-and-half and pecan pieces.

Use your immersion blender and blend until smooth. Heat to serving temperature. (Or use your blender or food processor to blend the soup mixture in batches, but man, that is such a pain in the neck!)

Serves 6.

Sorry I don't have any photos of the blender in action, but that would require either one of my children to blend for me while I photograph (um, no, see my hint about avoiding spraying all over the kitchen), or for my children to agree to photograph me while I blend. Neither event is very likely in this household!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sweet Dreams

From the Wee Wonderfuls Christmas Wishes Stitchette pattern. I let my children choose a face, bed, and dream from the patterns to represent themselves, so this is a mix-and-match result. I embroidered these a year ago, but never got around to finishing them into anything, and they shifted to the bottom of a pile. On my recent house clean-and-purge project, I rediscovered them. I wanted to make them into one wall hanging, with the beds side by side, nursery style, but my children balked and told me they each wanted their own pillow. Fair enough. I probably wouldn't have a place to hang yet one more holiday quilt anyway.

Backed with gingerbread men fabric!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Favorite Things Friday #1: My Dining Room

I'm going to try posting a regular feature every Friday, titled Favorite Things Friday.

For my inaugural Favorite Things Friday post, I am featuring my dining room. This room has a gravitational pull on me. When we looked at this house for the very first time, I walked into the dining room and thought I have found my home. It's not a big room, nor is it fancy, and it suits me perfectly. One window faces south and one faces west, so it's bright and sunny. The floors are hardwood. It has crown molding, and a previous owner put a continuous shelf about 11 inches below the ceiling around three of the walls. This room won me completely me over.

The dining set belonged to my husband's grandmother. She passed away about 6 months before we bought our house. All of her furnishings were put into an estate auction, and we traveled 400 miles to the auction to bid against total strangers to get her dining set. My husband's grandparents were dairy farmers, so this is a true farmhouse dining room set. It almost completely fills our little dining room, but it looks like it was made for the space.Our kitchen has no eating area, so we eat in this room, at this table, for every single meal. The children do homework here. I fill out forms and pay the bills here. I use it as my sewing/crafting space, too. I tried setting up my sewing machine in other areas of the house, but I like this room and this table the best, even though it means I have to clear my mess away for lunch or dinner. I like the sunshine, and the big table, and the proximity to the kitchen so I can keep an eye on dinner while I try to finish up one last seam.

Twice we have done remodeling projects on our house, and both times the architects wanted to change the layout of my dining room. Both times I was aghast. Perhaps the modern thing to do is to have an open floor plan with "site lines", but I like my not-modern, many-roomed home with its tiny, cheery dining room.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quilt for my niece

First, let me lament that my camera just cannot seem to capture the colors of this quilt properly. I have taken photos indoors and out, from every angle, under direct light and indirect light, and I've messed with the settings on my camera countless times, and this is the best I can do! This quilt is much cheerier and sweeter in person that it looks here.

That said, is it okay for me confess that I am in love with this little quilt? Because I am. My niece is turning two in December, and my sister-in-law asked me to make a quilt for her. I knew I wanted to do something simple and sweet, and while I was in the critical planning phase of the quilt, Alicia Paulson posted her Ollalieberry Ice Cream Quilt. Bingo! Exactly what I had in mind.
I love the little flowers and dots sprinkled all over. For my "solid" color I chose a tone-on-tone print. That would be the blue fabric. It has little hearts bubbled all over it, which are hard to make out in the photos.

I wanted the color palette to be similar to the quilt on my daughter's bed (seen in this photo--I didn't make my daughter's quilt), so that was my inspiration when I was fabric shopping. My daughter doesn't like the random placement of squares in this new quilt, but I like it.

It's all just so sweet and girly and cuddly. I might have to make another to keep.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spooky Reads

Our basket of Halloween/Autumn/Thanksgiving books has been sitting out for a few weeks now. Even though my kids are getting older, we still enjoy the fun of picture books. Here are three of our favorites for this time of year.
The Ugly Pumpkin, by Dave Horowitz, is a clever take on the ugly duckling theme. This poor pumpkin just can't seem to fit in anywhere. The story takes us through the season as it moves past Halloween and onto Thanksgiving, ending with a surprise (and hilarious) revelation as the pumpkin discovers some truths about himself.
Ghosts in the House, by Kazuno Kohara, is strikingly drawn with three colors only: black, orange, and white. A little girl moves into a house with her cat, and discovers there are ghosts in her new home. What to do? The girl's solution is rather cozy and cute.

Finally, Mrs. McMurphy's Pumpkin, by Rick Walton, a gorgeously illustrated, slightly sinister story about a woman who lives alone on a farm and is taunted by a threatening pumpkin. Mrs. McMurphy isn't scared, though, and she decisively handles that creepy pumpkin.

What are some of your favorites for this season?