Saturday, December 18, 2010

Santa's Elves

The girls and I took to the streets of downtown today to play Santa's elves as we participated in The Toy Society's annual Christmas drop. The idea is simple - make a handmade toy, package it up and leave it in a public place to be found and taken home by someone. You can download "Take me home, I'm yours" tags and letters explaining The Toy Society once you join (they'll email you instructions on just how to go about doing things). In between all my other making, I've been working on some softies so that we could make a fun afternoon of it.

I told the girls that we were on a secret mission, that people couldn't see us leaving them and we had to be all slick and sly. They loved it and were very into choosing which toy to leave where. We covered both ends of the city, walking from location to location on the north end, then catching the electric shuttle to the south side.

We had five toys to leave in all. The above two ornament dolls (at least that's what they're supposed to be), two Black Apple dolls decked out in Christmas fabrics and one Christmas tree girl. Aside from the Black Apple dolls, the others were all made from thrifted wool sweaters that I've felted. A big thanks to my Aunt, who has scored lots of sweaters for me!

After riding the shuttle back to the north end of town, we went by two of our original drops and were glad to see that the toys were gone - that made the girls so excited. We celebrated with hot chocolate before heading home and now they're both sound asleep after being on the go all afternoon. This was so much fun to do with the girls, especially making it a top secret mission - I hope to have a stash built up at some point, so that we can do this more often!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In Full Swing

Remember this scene from just a few short weeks ago? It is no more. The above it what I'm seeing now. My Christmas crafting is in full swing. Unfortunately, I can't share some of the things I'm working on right now, but I can share my mess. That's part of my wool sweaters waiting to be fulled (felted) in front. There are three more boxes out of view. The remnants of the tote bags (I've made four so far) are in the window sill and at the end of the ironing board, as I hope to get a few more made and there's just a general mess going on right now. I'd be fine with it too...if I could just find that disappearing marking pen I bought just last week. I even attempted to pick up a bit in the hopes of finding it. So far no luck.

This is something I started last night and hope to finish up tonight. I'm calling her Christmas Carol and she's part of a covert operation the girls and I are working on. At least that's how we like to think about it. We're planning to participate in The Toy Society's World Wide Christmas Drop on the weekend before Christmas. Hopefully we'll have several toys to leave around town and the weather will cooperate so that we can leave them outside in some of the fun parts of town. Stay tuned for photos.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Getting Down to Business

So, the word on the street is that Christmas is coming. It's not like Easter, which can fall at any time between March and April, and yet still I seem to be caught off guard. It's not because I've been sooo busy with Thanksgiving festivities or anything - I don't know what it is....I should be prepared, ready and maybe even done preparing ahead of time so that I can sit back and enjoy this time of waiting and anticipation. But I am not ready in advance. again. this year. I have made some positive strides though! (Phew!!)

This is the first of four bags I've made over the past few days, fulfilling my need to give certain people homemade gifts. I won't name names though : ) This pattern for this bag came from the Fall 2009 issue of Stitch magazine. I really love this magazine and try and pick it up with a coupon each time it comes out (otherwise it's $14.99... bit to rich for my budget). The first bag took some time, as I worked through the directions, which were very clear and easy to follow and subsequent bags have come together much more quickly. One key is cutting out all the pieces at once, before you start - that really seems to move things along. Also, there was a lot of switching threads for design purposes (and practical purposes). I found that once the first one was made, I could do all the steps that used a specific thread at once and save a good bit of switching and re-threading. My other shortcut had me skipping the use of basting spray (because I have it but can't find it...a-hem) and "basting" my batting to my bag fronts with a few dabs of clear, washable glue stick. This worked for me - please don't cuss me if it doesn't work for you though.

I bought enough of the green fabric for two bags, but now I'm using what I've got at home, so these are very cost effective bags. Even the batting I've saved from quilts that were slightly smaller than the batting I bought was just the right size for these bags, which measure about 11 1/2" wide by 14" high (with my sewing skills). And speaking of saving scraps, the bottom of this bag is the leftovers from this skirt redo. Reduce and reuse!

On the agenda for tomorrow....come up with a new banner head - one that no longer feels of fall. After all, Christmas is coming!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jumping the Gun

Last week, or maybe it was two weeks ago, I explained "jumping the gun" to Rachel when she came out of her room, dressed for school in one of her Christmas shirts. I told her that we really ought to wait for Thanksgiving to be over before we dust of the Rudolph attire.

When we woke up this morning, the temperature was 30. That's pretty chilly for these Southern bones, so in the spirit of going to pick out our Christmas tree, I donned my Christmas tree shirt. I was soon being told that I'd jumped the gun. In all fairness, Thanksgiving has passed and we were going to get our Christmas tree.....I still think it was a good choice - I think she was just jealous of it ; )

Local, pick your own tree farms are a bit of a dilemma for this Northern girl in the South. Cypress and Ceder trees do not even register in my book as a qualifying Christmas tree, but they are what are most easily grown in these parts. We found a farm last year that grew a smattering of Virginia Pines, which at least have needles, so we returned this year. Upon arriving, it dawned on me that if a tree farm gets cleared out one year, they're not going to have a huge selection the following year. Yes, it took staring that fact in the face for it to hit home. I had almost resolved myself to a poser Cypress Christmas tree wanna' be when we found a pine that looked like it would work. Further inspection on Sarah's part revealed a bird's nest tucked in the tree as well - isn't that supposed to bring luck?

So chop chop chop (actually, saw, saw, saw) and we had a rather large tree to drag home. As a matter of fact, last years was sort of large as well.

This one is a bit of a Charlie Brown tree on steroids, with some rather large empty spaces, but it will do. My decorating plan involves lots of lights in bare spots and large ornaments strategically placed.

And what did we find when we got it home and into the tree stand? Santa's elves have returned! How they got into the tree, we do not know, but there they were and Sarah's pretty sure they have a look of mischief about them. The girls are actually so excited for the elves to get into some mischief that they were eager to go to bed! Oh, and Sarah called their arrival a "Christmas miracle". Too bad we're short on drama and flair around here.

But about that luck.....I'm guessing it wasn't luck that sent the fully lit and decorated tree crashing down on Rachel tonight. Perhaps it was karma for all the very similar scenes we've seen on America's Funniest Home Videos and laughed at. We found it much less entertaining when it was in our living room. And a tree stand full of water was spilled all over the floor. And Jim's one and only sentimental ornament lay shattered on the floor. Hopefully it's secure now and those naughty elves won't try tipping it over in the night!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fancy Pants

I could have easily called this "weekend cleaning" as well, but I'm feeling pretty fancy about how much I tidied up this weekend. It was long over due....long, long, long. Normally I don't let people into this area of our house, but because I tidied up, I thought I'd share.

We live in a house built in 1935 with lots of quirks. We chose our house because, of all the older homes that we looked at, we thought this one would require the least amount of work. We were wrong. Take this area, for instance. It was a crudely finished attic area - no central heat or air, divided into three areas with the laundry in the hottest, darkest, dirtiest corner. Because it became clear that we really needed to rewire the entire house (like I said, we were wrong), the easiest way to do such a thing proved to be going through the floor of the upstairs. That line of thinking led the Mr. to completely gutting the upstairs. And by completely, I mean completely - no floors, no walls, nothing. I'll have to dig some of those pre-digital photos out some day.

The upstairs area is an odd shape - long and rectangular with a stairway and chimney up the middle. Not ideal, but it's worked for us. I have one side, the girls have the other for playing and the Mr. has the area past the chimney for his man cave. Theoretically we could all be up here doing our own thing, happy as clams, but in reality it doesn't seem to work that way.

Anyhow, my sewing area is the first thing you see at the top of the stairs. I scored that Hoosier Cabinet (needs a good bit of repair) for $35! It holds lots of sewing stuff. All my fabric scraps are sorted by color in the empty (and washed) kitty litter buckets under the table.

The computer is in the middle of my area. I have a kitchen cabinet in the attic that I'd eventually like hung on the wall over the monitor....for stashing more stuff, of course. At the end, before you get to the man cave, is where I have all my card making and crafty stuff. The windows are original to the house, crooked, and very drafty. Charm, it seems, comes with a price.

My final crafty nook. The large white cabinet on the left became a necessity when a wee Sarah started using my stamp pads to color the carpet. It use to have a child lock on it (and probably still should). My table top is the top to an old Ikea drafting table. I still have the legs, but the top is currently set atop a series of our old kitchen cabinets which form an L. In the cabinets...more stuff, of course! Sometimes I feel bogged down my all my crafty clutter, but then I think about people who don't create and just watch TV at night and I don't feel so bad. I'd much rather be up here getting my craft on...although sometimes I do wonder where I might squeeze a little TV in.

Thanks for taking a peek - feel free to drop by in the next two days and see for yourself. After that it will probably be a mess again and I won't let you upstairs ; )

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Good Intentions Gone Awry

With the holidays quickly approaching, I thought now would be a good time to really try and lose some of the extra pounds I have stumbled upon in the past two years. This week I got serious, counting my calories, measuring portions - really trying. The Mr. and I even had a discussion about how to add some veggies to our breakfast. My intention this morning was to make spinach and tomato omelets and somehow I ended up with Ina Garten's Sticky Buns. Seriously, how did this happen?

I will say that I still tried to be good and ate just one.....for now. The recipe makes 12 and if I'd actually read the recipe through entirely before jumping in, I would have realized that it can be easily halved and have saved myself from all the buns still sitting in the kitchen. Alas. My only change to this recipe was to nix the raisins. Why make a good sticky bun go bad, in my opinion. And while this surely isn't going to help me lose any weight, it sure did taste good!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

One Down

Well I've got one Christmas present taken care of. Even if it isn't from me to anyone I know, at least it's done and I know I won't be letting anyone else down. I was all set to head out to the store the other day and pick out something to bind this with when I stumbled upon a pink gingham Ralph Lauren sheet that I'd picked up at a thrift store. It made the perfect binding, complementing some of the other ginghams in the quilt and saving me a trip to the store.

I'm relived that this quilted as easily as it did. I was worried, as some of the monogrammed squares were done on cloth diapers as burp cloths, and there was an extra thickness to those squares as well as the center panel being backed with a water-proof material. If held to the light you can pick the squares out, but otherwise they blend in and don't drape too differently from the rest.

I'm looking forward to delivering this on Sunday. The recipient will be a seven year old little girl, so I know it won't be a terribly exciting gift now, but hopefully she will treasure it in the future.

Now it's time to think about what I'm giving for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Days of Yore

This past weekend we went to a housewarming. I wanted to take something handmade, but had very little time in which to make it. The idea for these little potholders had been rolling around in my head, so I took the opportunity to the idea to paper....and fabric. The above is the end result. I was happy with one and the other fought me the whole way. I won't tell you which is which, but I gave both.

I paper pieced the house blocks, which is something that I'd done a lot of several years ago (as in before kids - when I had the the days of yore). I had a bag of pillows I'd made stuck in the attic and dug them out yesterday to see what I had stashed away. My oldest daughter is almost 8, so these pillows have been tucked away for a while now. The shoe pattern came from a quilt top that a friend had - I used the quilt to develop the block.

I designed this kimono pattern after looking at several others - combining what I liked most from several designs.

This butterfly pattern was from a book - 101 full-size Quilt Blocks and Borders by Better Homes and Gardens, I think, although I didn't find it in a quick flip through. I had fun with these butterflies, adding beading, hand stitching and layering fabrics.

Making the house blocks gave me lots of ideas for more paper pieced blocks. In the meantime, I need to figure out what to do with these pillows. I'm also thinking there might be another bag of pillows as well, as I also designed a bikini pattern and a button down shirt. I can feel an attic excavation coming soon!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Christmas is Coming

I'm sure this isn't really news to anyone, but Christmas is coming and it's coming fast and soon. Especially if you're the type that's inclined to try and make as many gifts as possible. I am inclined....and worried, because I have a loooong way to go! Take this quilt for example. The top is done, I have the batting and backing already - all I need is a few hours to quilt it, a good movie to bind it by and wham bam, I'm done. And that's excellent, because it isn't a gift I'm giving - I'm making it for a friend to give to her daughter. Yes, when this quilt is finished (hopefully next week) my gifty pile will still be empty.

About this quilt though. She wanted it throw size, which I found varies greatly. It will end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 4' x 6.5'. The monograms dictated the size of the squares to an extent, which then dictated the size of the quilt. Aside from the white sashing (which will also be the back), the quilt is comprised entirely of baby clothes from the little girl who will be receiving it. Each center square features her monogram and is surrounded by fabric from her dresses and bubbles. I think my favorite squares are the ones cut from diaper covers because you get a bit of the shape of the cover in the square - a reminder of those tiny little baby bottoms.

Quilting this will be a bit of a challenge, as some fabrics are thicker than others, the center square actually has a waterproof backing and a few pieces have a bit of stretch to them. Hopefully all will go smoothly and I'll have some better pictures to share when it's done. I had a hard time finding some nice warm light to take these photos in - another reminder that winter is coming!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

CANDY!! They have candy!! And lots of it. Oh my goodness, the candy has to disappear fast because if I hear "Can I have....." much more, I'm going to lose my mind! I believe Halloween was a hit this year, even though we celebrated a day early on our street.

Cuteness was in abundance as we traveled our street with our neighbors and some of their friends. Even the shy kids seem to come out of their shells and be willing to knock on doors, ring door bells and take candy from (mainly not) strangers.

The girl's pumpkins turned out great, in their mother's unbiased opinion. Sarah designed the Frankenstein face and her dad did the carving. There was a lot of debate between the two artists about cleaning the guts out. The designer wanted them out and the carver felt the gave the effect of brains and wanted them in. I think they came to some sort of middle ground and then I let Sarah gut my butternut squash that was about to become soup to appease her.

Rachel drew her pumpkin's face as well, and did her own carving until it came to the mouth. By the time she got to the mouth, all the small carving tools had broken off their handles, so I was relieved when she asked me to tackle the mouth instead of watching her jab at the pumpkin with a sharp kitchen knife! We're not ready for the blood and guts kind of Halloween yet - especially when it involves our own family members!

We had a nice evening at home chilling out together with the two bags of candy that we stopped and bought today, "just in case". Aside from what we gave our little two year old neighbor, that bowl is still here. I think it will be headed to school for the second grader's treat jar in the morning - especially since I was cautious and bought candy I didn't want to eat myself!

I hope everyone had a fun holiday weekend and don't look now, but Christmas is creeping up on us. I have no plans for making gifts right now, but I think I'd better get some, and fast!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Getting Ready

Halloween is beginning to be a week long holiday around here. With all the activities going on, it's hard to find the time to get a costume together or do any of the cute, fun things one might have (had, at this point) in mind. Monday the Brownies went trick-or-treating at a local assisted living facility. We send candy ahead, they distribute it to the residents and then our Brownies and their siblings come after school to trick-or-treat. I'm so glad they do this, as the residents really enjoy seeing them come in costume - it seems like a win-win for everybody.

The girls didn't have school today, so after getting some of my chores done and making a run to the store for candy to pass out this weekend (trying to keep it out of the house as long as possible to prevent myself from eating it!), I dug a Wilton haunted house kit out. I think I picked it up at Walmart last year after Halloween for about two bucks. We got two bucks worth of entertainment out it today for sure. Hardest part is discouraging the kids from wanting to eat the year plus old candy! Ack!

And since it looks like we'll be trick-or-treating tomorrow night in our neighborhood (this date changing thing really has me confused...will the neighbors be expecting us on Saturday????) we figured we ought to do some pumpkin carving tonight! Both girls made their own designs and Jim carved Sarah's while Rachel took her first stab (you can take that literally) at carving her own. Most of the handy little carving tools were broken, but in the end we still got two great Halloween faces that we'll light up and share this weekend.

And believe it or not, there is actually a sewing project in my life. It's sat idle now for about two weeks while I've run around all loosey goosey, but as soon as I have the top finished, I'll share.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saying Goodbye

The girls had Fall Break this past week, so we took the opportunity to head North to my Grandparent's house. For the past several years we have been up at least twice during the summer. This time it had been a full year since we'd been and it was not a happy anniversary. It's been a year now since my Grandpa passed away. This trip was my last chance to say goodbye to the town and house that I spent summers growing up in.

Our first day on the road proved quite eventful when Sarah started throwing up just hours into the trip. I was sad to have to cancel our visit with friends for the weekend, but thought a detour to my parent's house with some recovery time for Sarah might prove wiser. With everyone (relatively) well on Monday we headed North. Michigan greeted us with gorgeous color and beautiful skies. And yes, I do drive with my camera in my lap....please don't tell on me.

My girls slept in the same hide-a-bed that my sister and I grew up sleeping in. It's in my Grandparent's den and I loved how cozy we were in there. When we were up for Thanksgiving, we got to watch the Macy's parade in bed - such a poignant memory for me. It's also where we slept on Christmas Eve, giddy with anticipation at what we'd find in the living room, come morning.

My Grandpa loved three things above all else: God, Family and Wood. My Grandma has been known to say that the only thing he ever showed patience with was a block of wood. He taught me how to use his jigsaw, band saw, belt sander, drill press and many other things. I thought nothing of being a young girl in his basement going to town on pieces of wood. I loved it and he loved it.

He truly amassed an amazing collection of tools, hardware and "materials" (for lack of a better term for all the random boxes of things we found). The above shot should give you some idea of what I'm talking about. Sadly, part of the mission of this trip was to pack up the house. What stays in the family has been taken and what's left will be up for auction in the spring.

I'm thankful that I got to make one last trip back while this place still belongs to my Grandparent's. Grandma is now living near my parent's in Indiana and we will have to return once more to bid her goodbye, but the house will no longer be ours to return to and there will no longer be a reason to visit this small town that has been a part of my family's life for generations.

It seemed fitting and also a blessing that we were given gorgeous weather and beautiful sunsets while we were there. Closure looks so much nicer in the glow of a sunset on the lake.

Friday, September 24, 2010

You Know You're Loved When.....

Your mailbox contains a nice squishy, unexpected package from a friend.....and you find these in it. Two doll "robes" in fabric that has a Flea Market Fancy kind of feel to it (at least to me).

As well as a good bit of yardage of the two prints on the left, an awesome "Cowboys and Indians" print (totally not PC, but look at the colors!) and an apron in the prettiest little pink print. I was lucky enough to be home alone when the mail came and was able to open my package all by myself and then pour over the fabrics, take pictures of them and admire them some more without being interrupted or having them taken away from me. What a way to start the weekend! Wishing you an unexpected (and good!) surprise this weekend as well!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

For Me

It's hard to believe, but I made something just for pillow covers for the couch. And if I'd measured, they might have even fit properly. Instead, they are a bit tightly stuffed, but when you realize that at the very end, when the only step left is to insert pillows into their new covers, well then it's really a bit too late, isn't it? These blocks were inspired by this quilt by urban.patchwork. I don't love mine nearly as much as I love this quilt, but they will do for now. They have an envelope back on them because zippers....well, yeah, like I've said before, they elude me. One day though, watch out! I also thought that plain ol' muslin would be the perfect thing to sash these with. A quick perusal of my flickr favorites makes me think that a background and finish like this would have been better (don't you love these?!?). Oh well, there can always be more, can't there?

I actually made several smaller squares like these a while ago in the hopes of making a quilt for our bed. For a while I fell out of love with my blocks and several became potholders. I really like the way they look as potholders, but as of late I'm back to thinking about them in a quilt again as well. I even had the nerve to wonder if I could finish such a quilt by Christmas and call it my husband's Christmas present. (Probably not). But in the interest of trying, I think I'll go work on a block. I've got a whole hour ahead of me, as it's taken two and a half hours to put two little girls to bed tonight. Something must be in the air - I just hope it's not an illness!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Craft Hope Project 9

Craft Hope's Project 9 is about to wrap up. The deadline for sending in pillowcases for ConKerr Cancer is Wednesday. I was holding off on mailing mine until the last minute, so that I could send as many as possible. I was off to a strong start on making pillowcases and then school started for Rachel...and then school started for Sarah....and hey, whoa, where'd those last few weeks go? In the past week I picked up steam again and was able to send 21 pillowcases. All the main fabrics came from my stash and I only about a few small pieces to use as the trim when I couldn't find anything in my stash that would work. Since it was mentioned that they are often running short on selections for boys, I concentrated mainly on making boyish pillowcases. This was a good way to use up an unusually large boyish stash of fabric for a person with two girls.

I got everything packed up per the organizations requests and popped them in the mail this afternoon. And while the deadline for the Craft Hope project is the 15th., ConKerr Cancer is always taking donations. This page will take you to a state listing, where you can search for organizers in your area, hospitals they work with, brick and mortar stores that serve as drop off locations as well as mailing addresses where you can send pillowcases. These really work up super fast and are such a good way to share a smile.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Little Red Part Two

So here's my real life Little Red Riding Hood. She was so excited for today and it was so much fun to see all the kids dressed up - almost entirely in homemade costumes. It gives me a sort of Hallmark movie choked up kind of feeling - in a good way. Which might be a strange way to describe it, as I can't recall seeing a Hallmark movie ...... ever? Yeah, so maybe way better than a Hallmark movie!

I made cape number one following this tutorial. Sometimes, when directions aren't coming to me clearly, I don't do such a great job. That's not to say that this tutorial isn't clear, more that I wasn't clear. And I made a crappy cape with a hood that was really too small. And even if the hood was purely for Momma's photo shoot, I needed it to be good. And then suddenly I needed it lined as well. Cape number two followed the same tutorial with larger pieces except that I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out how to line the hood without a seam showing on the inside. For a visual person, sometimes I'm not very visual. I kid you not, I tore that hood apart no less than four times. I was getting cranky. That's when I found this tutorial and skipped down to the part where she makes the hood. And you know what....the first time I'd done it, I'd done it right (and ripped it out and then proceeded to do it incorrectly three times). So there we go.... lined hooded cape.

But do you want to know a secret? In the first tutorial the cape is closed with a button.....Yeah, well, I have never sewn a button hole. Save from Mrs. Koch in seventh grade, my sewing skills are self taught and so far I've not gotten around to teaching myself button holes (......or zippers). It's sort of like Algebra and I ... I can always can always find a way around it. My detour this time took me via this cool hook and eye closure that is kind of hard to appreciate in the picture. My Aunt picked up several cards of these from the most awesome Goodwill thrifting opportunity near her - "the bins". They are from Norway and are pewter - very pretty, heavy duty and just what I needed!

So the costume worked, the day was a blast and I won't go on about how the icing on the cupcakes was too runny and most of my cupcakes had their faces slide off before they made it to school. Nope, not going to dwell on that. Instead, I'm going to get the rest of my pillowcases wrapped up for Craft Hope's Project 9. The deadline is almost here and I've got a few more to make.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Little Red

Tomorrow is a big day in Kindergarten...... it's the Fairytale Festival. The 7th grade buddies organize all sorts of games for the kindergartners, who come to school dressed as a fairytale character and then everyone celebrates with lots of fairytale treats in the cafeteria. Sarah has had a long list of the characters she wanted to be - Humpty Dumpty seemed to make it to the top of the list more than once, but I knew that I would get carried away with that as a costume (I was envisioning a paper mache/hat attached to a box that she would wear and would serve as the wall) so I was thankful when Little Red Riding Hood started making it onto her list. The cape is finished, but photos will have to wait until it can be modeled. The snacks are ready now too. I got my inspiration from the book Hello, Cupcake! . I had so many ideas after going through the book, but finally settled on cupcakes to match her character.

First I melted red candy wafers in a baggie. I trimmed the tip off the baggie and piped the melted candy onto wax paper under which I had copies of my hood design. The hoods aren't as smooth as I'd hoped for, but I'm pretty sure that the kindergartners aren't going to be too critical. I chilled the hood shapes in the refrigerator for a few minutes and then went back with yellow melted wafers and piped in a bit of hair peeking out from the hood.

When the hair had chilled, I gently peeled the hoods off the wax paper and placed them on the iced cupcakes. I got lucky in the fact that the shape of the hood was pretty much equal to width of the cupcake, as I hadn't paid any attention to that when sketching out my design.

Facial details were provided courtesy of mini M&Ms for eyes, half a pink Jelly Belly for the nose and a bit of red licorice rope for the mouth. Rachel's hoping there will be some left so that she can have when. I'm thinking I may have to set one aside for her or else she might not get a chance to bite Little Red's head off.

Costume pictures to follow in the next day or so!