Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Preparations.

Well, time is running short, with Christmas only five days away now, but we are almost ready* here!

Tree 2014

Our tree is up, and we added lights around the windows and over our porch this year! Very cheery. I'm more of a white lights type, but this year, Joe insisted on "rainbow lights," and who can argue with that? Can I just say: Five year olds are the best. Joe is so excited about Christmas and so eager to participate in Christmas preparations! His enthusiasm is enough to warm even my Grinchy heart!

December tends to be extremely busy at my job (the rush before the new year), and years of working long hours up until Christmas plus recession-budgets have meant that decorations and general Christmas-y preparations were minimal at best. Well, this year hasn't been much different (I'm actually facing down several major deadlines on Tuesday, eek, and of course we're always on a budget), but Joe's energy and enthusiasm for the project makes it irresistible! On the one hand, I feel some pressure to create a really magical Christmas for the kids. On the other hand, I have to admit, when I put in that effort, it feels a lot more magical to me too!

Gingerbread persons

Yep, that's butter! Last weekend, the kids and I made gingerbread cookies to give away as gifts and thank-yous (of course we kept quite a few for ourselves too!). We used the Cook's Illustrated recipe for "Chewy Gingerbread Cookies." I'm not a huge fan of "snaps" - I like soft moist cookies better.

This recipe appears really simple, but true to Cook's Illustrated form, once you get into the very long second paragraph, you realize the recipe requires multiple steps, including some time in the freezer rolled out between pieces of parchment paper, and it's basically a whole-day project. Oops! When will I learn to read the recipe before I start? (Getting the parchment paper off of the dough and cutting out shapes turned out to be a pretty tricky exercise and I had to reroll and refreeze it more than once, fyi.)

Gingerbread persons

Joe helped me with every stage of cookie preparation, except for the frustrating part. He was too busy watching a show at that point, and I ended up being glad he wasn't there for the curse-y part. I managed to cut out a bunch of gingerbread guys, and rolled the remaining (now too soft to cut) dough into round balls and sprinkled them with sugar to create what we affectionately called (for the five minutes they lasted in the house) "unicorn turds." The kids took this very seriously and were like, "mmm, yummy poops! hahahaha!" Nothing like a molasses-based cookie for some hilarity, I say.

Gingerbread Persons

Next time I might do less guys and more turds. Nothing wrong with a plain chewy gingerbread cookie!

Although the recipe was a bit of a pain in the neck, I must admit that the cookies are really good. Like, exceptionally yummy. Oh, Chris Kimball, I just can't quit you and your micromanaging recipes!

Gingerbread Persons

The kids did the decorating, which was really fun and crazy messy. Many sprinkles were eaten directly from the bottle (causing damp sprinkles that stuck together, but what can you do? eat my sprinkles at your own risk), and a bunch more ended up on the floor. But seeing my kids' very serious expressions while they worked on their cookies .... priceless!

Gingerbread Persons

I made a small batch of royal icing (just powdered sugar and a little milk) to put on the men as a base to help the sprinkles stick.

Gingerbread Persons

Gingerbread Persons

Aren't these fantastic?!

I hope the recipients got a good chuckle out of these. I can't look at them without smiling! As you can see, Maggie does not believe in skimping on sprinkles! She's also a fan of pink, obviously. Whereas Joe is a bit more representational in his designs. Ah, these kids. This was totally worth having to sweep up sprinkles for the next couple weeks.

Joe was a bit concerned because we gave all of these away or ate them ourselves, and there are none left to leave for Santa on Christmas Eve.  I keep explaining that we'll make more cookies (probably regular sugar cookies) on Christmas Eve for Santa, and also leave a carrot for the reindeer, but he remains somewhat worried and brings the topic up almost nightly, like he's afraid we'll forget! So cute!

xmas bunting

There has also been just a tiny bit of sewing going on around here. I made a little Christmas bunting to put up on our shelves, using Christmas-y fabrics (including some reds and greens from my stash as well as more specific Christmas fabric) and some cream double fold bias tape. This is a pretty straightforward project, so I didn't need much instruction, but I did use the template provided with this tutorial to figure out the size of my triangles. This is an easy project, although I should warn you, it's not fast! Sewing all of those triangles, and attaching bias tape is actually pretty fiddly! But done right, it can go in the box of decorations and last years. It's even washable.

xmas bunting

I admit, I've resisted the whole bunting thing for years, filing that whole thing under "way more effort than it's worth" or "something that only Pinterest moms do" but now that my house is more nicely or thoughtfully decorated, I am thinking I need all. the. bunting. all year round! Haha, it's funny how that happened. I am really loving my new living room! Apparently I'm graduating to "Pinterest mom"! HA.

xmas mantel

Yeah, okay, I might be. I crocheted a little snowflake garland for our mantel and actually threw together a little Christmas decoration on the mantel? But hey, my rosemary bush really needed trimming back (that bush would take over the whole yard and choke everything in its path if I let it), so ... win win! It smells nice too!

Oh, right the crocheted garland. These are so fun! I also made a snowflake/star/tree garland for a friend. I started with this pattern, but ended up making a lot of little changes to the pattern to make bigger and smaller snowflakes. Once you've learned basic snowflake technique, it's easy and intuitive to make little changes here and there, so that each snowflake is like ... its own special snowflake, haha! These are a lot of fun.

snowflake garland

And finally (maybe if I blogged more frequently, my posts wouldn't need to be so long!), a WIP. I am coming to terms with the fact that I will likely be busting my ass on work deadlines up until Christmas Eve, which doesn't leave much time for sewing gifts or pajamas this year. (Anyway, Joe won't wear pajama pants, or any kind of pants. We are now on Year #2 of Shorts-Only. He was cold yesterday, so I suggested he might like some warm PJ pants, and he said, "Mooooom. You know I don't wear pants anymore." So I guess he's given up pants for life? This kid.)

But I am still holding out hope that I can maybe finish a couple of stockings for the kids? I still have the stocking my grandmother made me as a baby, and I've been meaning to make stockings for my kids for years. We'll see if this is the year. If not, there is always next Christmas!


How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

* If you don't count gift shopping. Hey, I have days to finish that!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A mother's love.

Oh, Joe.

Oh, Joe.

Oh, Joe.

"I like you and I love you a lot, mama."

"I love you a lot - a lot - too, Joe!"

"You love me more than I love you, mama."

*gasp* "What? ... " *rueful chuckle* "Yeah, probably ... "

"I love you 150. But you love me 30,000." (He's really into quantifying everything right now.)

"Really? How so?"

"Yeah, because you are always kissing and hugging and squeezing me. But I don't like being kissed and squeezed that much."


(But seriously, can you really blame me for wanting to kiss those cheeks?)

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Ooh, boy. The blog really got away from me that time! Let's see if I can do a quick catch-up and get back on that ol' blogging horse:


So, the main reason for my blog hiatus was that we painted our dining room! Which would be enough of an excuse by itself, but remember: My sewing corner lives in the dining room. So all was chaos here for a while. And since this is mostly a sewing blog, sometimes I forget that I'm allowed to blog about non-sewing things! (Of course I am, this is my blog!)


All of the terracotta orange paint is gone now (!!), replaced by Sherwin Williams' "Sea Salt," a pale green-blue-gray that looks more green or more blue depending on the light. I painted the frame of the mirror above our mantel "Trinket" - which is a nice shade of deep gold - and the mantelpiece and bannister "Tricorn Black." To be honest, I'm not sold on the black mantelpiece - I think I'll go back and repaint that a lighter color or white. The black is too ... slimming. Haha! But seriously, it looks out of proportion with the fireplace now and I want to repaint it.

But not for a little bit, because I am tired of painting! I know you're wondering what room I will tackle next ... I do have some ideas, but I need a freaking break!

(I think it was the bannister that did me in. A word of advice: Never try to paint a bannister. Well, okay, do it, because it looks awesome, but don't expect to like painting for a while afterwards! Luckily, I love the black bannister, because I am not repainting that thing, like, ever!)

The dining room is still a work in progress, and I did not completely refurnish it like I did the living room (because I spent all of my money on the living room! so it goes, haha), but I did do a few things, including switching out the curtains for some lovely mustardy-gold midcentury printed curtains from Cost Plus World Market. As you know, mustard yellow is one of my favorite colors, so I really wanted it to be the accent in this room.

Tidy and newly organized sewing space

I managed to tidy and spruce up my sewing area a bit. I switched out our tired secretary desk for an Ikea Kallax shelving unit with desk, to provide some extra workspace. I'm pretty excited about the additional cutting/playing area! Everything else is the same, just a bit neater. (Here's a pretty messy but not out of the ordinary "before" picture.)

Now I can sew again! YAY! I actually really like having my sewing area in the middle of the action in the main living area of the house (this is good because I also don't have any choice!) but I fully admit - it is a small area and it is a struggle to keep it even reasonably presentable! Hopefully a little extra storage will help. We'll see.

Okay, seriously? Who am I kidding? You guys know me! This will be a disaster zone in a week!

One giant granny square

But look! While I wasn't painting, I was crocheting! I just finished my first real crochet project after many hours of happily laboring on it while I watched movies and television with my family. It's one giant granny square. Quick and easy double crochet, worked around and around and around until it was a nice throw size (about 60" square). It's fast-going, although each row is slightly longer than the last, so it starts to feel less fast-going towards the end.

Wait a minute ... where's Joe?

One giant granny square

AH! There you are Joe!

All the ends are woven in now, and this afghan is going to be auctioned off to raise funds for the kids' preschool tonight! I used Vanna's Choice 100% acrylic yarn for this project - I got most of it on sale and while it's nothing fancy, it's machine washable and comes in lovely colors. Perfect for a beginner project and perfect to snuggle under on the couch.

It's a little tough saying goodbye to this one, but I know it's for a good cause!

One giant granny square

One giant granny square

One giant granny square

That's it for now! I'm working on some Christmas decorations now, hopefully I'll back soon to share those. Are you doing handmade decorations this holiday? Do tell.