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!