Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Past

We had a Merry Christmas here, and hope you did, too. The kids are happily busy getting acquainted with their new things. We had dry roads for our long drive to and from my parents' house, where we gathered for the holiday with my whole family, including my newly-engaged niece. She was the flower girl in my wedding, so I really can't understand how she is old enough to be getting married!
Pictured is a quilt I made for my mom a long, long time ago, when I worked part-time and didn't have children yet (and when my niece was still a little girl). I would not have the time or the patience to make this now. Even back then it tested my patience. The machine appliqueing was fussier than I expected, and it started to drive me crazy! But the end result was worth it. I used some busy prints in this, didn't I? It's not easy on the eyes, but I think the overall effect is joyful and jolly.

I have blogged before about when I first got my sewing machine. The final push to me buying a machine was when I saw a pattern for a little felt bunny family that lived in a carrot-shaped purse. The bunnies could be made by hand, but the sewing for the carrot purse required a machine. I wanted to make that bunny family for my niece so badly, and they would not be complete without that carrot, so I said That's it, I'm getting a machine. I made the bunny family for my niece for Christmas that year, and the following year I made my mom this quilt, plus an advent quilt for myself and a second one for my sister (mom to my niece). It's nice to see some of my early hard work on display every year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas

Here is my Sampler Snowman, by Homespun Elegance, all stitched up. I've since finished him into a little wall hanging, and now he's hanging over my window on an old curtain rod hook. I took down the curtains in my family room years ago, but left the hooks intact so that I have a place to hang all my seasonal decorations. All the hooks are full this time of year!

This week is going too quickly. Today I made spiced pecans to give to neighbors and the mailman. They are an old holiday stand-by I've been making for 9 years now (recipe from Family Fun here). So yummy! I have a tiny bit of handsewing to finish up on some fabric candy canes. The candy canes will embellish the containers that will hold the pecans. I made sugar cookies today, which my nephews and niece (ages 7, 5, and 3) will come over to decorate on Thursday, after I give them a lunch of Star Wars shaped pancakes. My daughter and I hope to see Tangled tomorrow. On Wednesday we are going to see Mary Poppins on Broadway (except not actually on Broadway). Friday is Christmas Eve! Love this time of year.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it. Have a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow days

We had our first snowstorm over the weekend, and school was closed yesterday. Yay, snowday! The kids and I ate our breakfast while we watched the movie Elf. I hadn't seen it in a few years, so it hasn't gotten old for me yet. What makes me laugh hardest is the fact that Will Ferrell is willing to walk around NYC in that get up!

In this season of short daylight, I fully appreciate a bright and sunny day, and when the sun comes after a snow fall, it's blindingly beautiful. This morning when the sun came up, the gel gems my daughter put in the dining room window really lit up. You have to appreciate the unique beauty of a winter's day. Yesterday I brought out the Christmas picture books and put them near our tree. One of my favorite books to look at is Christmas Trolls, by Jan Brett. The illustrations are so gorgeous and detailed. I would love to have such color and coziness in my home. Just look at that tree!
As I examined every detail in the book last evening, I started to realize that my own Christmas tree actually does look like the one in the book.

Now, does anyone know where I can find an anorak, boots, and mittens like these?
Because I would totally wear all of that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Spice Cookies

There was a cookie exchange for teachers and staff at my daughter's school today. Parents were asked to send in two dozen homemade cookies, and this is what I made. I don't make these every year, but whenever I do, I think I should make them more often. They are similar to gingerbread or molasses cookies, but so much easier to make because there is no need to get out the stand mixer or the cookie cutters. (My kitchen is tiny, so I have to keep the stand mixer in the basement, and sometimes I don't feel like hauling it out.) If I remember correctly, this recipe was printed in a Wisteria catalog several years ago. I tried to find it online, but was unsuccessful, so here it is:

Easy Christmas Spice Cookies

3/4 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. molasses
2 c. flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg, beaten

Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and molasses. Mix together well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the melted butter mixture and stir well. Add the beaten egg; stir well.

Spread the batter in a greased 9x13 pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

While the cookies bake, make your icing:

1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
dash of salt
1 1/2 T cream or milk (water also works)

Stir all icing ingredients together, adjusting sugar or milk amounts slightly if necessary to make it smooth and not too runny.

Spread the icing on the cookies while they are still warm (about 5 minutes after they come out of the oven). Let cool completely and be sure icing is firm before slicing into bars. Store bars in an airtight container.

That's it! Nice and easy, and yummy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tis the Season

I think I finally have all the Christmas decorations out. It's such a huge job. I always face it with dread, but once we get started, it's fun, and when the house is all festive, I'm glad we made the effort.

I'm not doing too much crafting this year. There are plenty of things I want to make, but I don't want to get stressed about it, so my approach has been less frantic and more relaxed. I'm trying that approach on all aspects of Christmas this year! So far I feel pretty good about things.

I do have one cute cross stitch that I recently completed which I need to share, but my son has been using my camera, and he changed all the settings, and I don't know how to change them back. Grumble grumble. He has a half-day of school today, which means he'll be home at 11:30, which also means I can kiss the computer good-bye for the rest of the day. He drives me crazy and makes me happy at the same time. He is taking a bus trip to Chicago on Friday with his German class to visit the Christkindlmarket. I must get myself to that sometime. It looks wonderful.

I did want to share links to two Christmas craft tutorials I posted in the past, just in case you yourself are in a mad crafting frenzy and want some ideas. These two are very simple to make:

Sock snowman tutorial here

Fabric candy cane tutorial here.

Thanks for your kind comments about Michele. It seems strange to go about my holiday business knowing that she is gone, and that her husband and daughter are without her.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My friend

The heart ornament I featured in my previous post was made for my friend Michele. I've known Michele for almost 14 years. She passed away on Monday, after a 12-year battle with two different cancers, leaving behind her loving husband and 13-year-old daughter. I mailed the ornament to her before she died. I do hope she was lucid enough to see it and feel the love I put into it when I stitched it for her.

I know Michele from a pregnancy listserv. One wouldn't think online friendships could feel so real, but they are indeed very, very real, and I will (already do) miss her more than I can say. I think my other list moms know exactly what I mean.

Our group, which is still together today, was founded in the winter of 1997, when a bunch of newly-pregnant women ventured forth onto the Internet and somehow found a listserv devoted to pregnant women who were due in September that year. None of us knew each other. We came from all different walks of life, from all over the world. We jumped right in, introduced ourselves, gave our real names--including last names!--pinpointed our precise locations on this planet, and started discussing Things right away.

Michele was one of those moms, so willing to share so much of herself. She was one of our more prolific posters, and I found her quite entertaining, warm, and helpful. If you needed a recipe, she had one. If you needed a product review, she probably had the item in question and could give you excellent feedback. If you were having a bad day, she'd say something that made you recognize there had been good parts to the day.

She was so honest and open about her life, sharing with us the good, the bad, the hopeful, the heart-breaking. You would think with all she had to deal with that she would retreat into her own problems and stop worrying about the rest of us, but she continued to be an active participant in our group. I could post about the silliest little problem, and she would treat it as if it were the most important thing. And the times my problems weren't so silly, when they were very real and very horrible, she offered true wisdom and true strength, both by what she said, and by the example she set with how she lived her own life.

When she went into hospice at the beginning of November, we were devastated. What could we do to show this woman how much she meant to us, and how much we love her? One mom came up with the brilliant idea of sending her a table-top Christmas tree, and we each sent an ornament to decorate the tree. The heart was my contribution. She gave all of us so much, just by being. I hope she knew, not just in the end, but all along, what she meant to us.