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Category Archives: Holiday Magic

Getting Ready

Ah, Valentine’s Day. This year, with both kids in school (sort of), it’s double the fun.

After last year’s oh-so-clever stab at using what I had — which failed miserably — I was determined to do better this time around. After some thinking, I remembered that the whole friendship bracelet debacle only went terribly wrong (from a cost standpoint) when I had the bright idea to make them in the school colors…and then had to buy all new floss, thus defeating the whole purpose of coming up with a project that might make a dent in my overflowing supply of odd-colored floss. Doh! Therefore, the plan really could work this year with the girl’s class. Woo hoo!

Here she is, putting the finishing touches on her gifts:

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Hey, she wrote her own name on the backs, too; definitely a team effort. [Idea and template can be found here, by the way.]

And, through the magic of Pinterest, I managed to find another cute idea that doesn’t involve candy. My son’s school doesn’t allow them to bring candy, which is a huge pain, but whatever.

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Although I didn’t have the bouncy balls on hand, I did have everything else (except for a paper folder, hence the flathead screwdriver. I will have a tight crease on that fold!) I think this project is super cute, and am always so grateful to the talented artists who share the darn pdf files for the tags. SUCH a time saver!! Of course, the treat bags that I had were the wrong size, but it was nothing a little creative [off-center] cutting couldn’t fix.

All in all, both projects cost me $4.00, and — better yet! — they’re both done and it’s not 10:00 at night.

Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

 

Ooh, Shiny!

It’s been a very strange, wonderful December. This was the most go-with-the-flow Christmas I can remember (which seems to be the case for many of us, I’ve noticed), with nothing going quite according to plan. For me, I just decided that I wouldn’t force myself to do anything. Unfortunately for my family members, this meant eighty-sixing the Christmas Eve soup dinner that I’ve hosted for the past couple of years. Fortunately for me, they didn’t seem to mind that much. It just wasn’t happening, and the back and forth will I or won’t I argument in my head was giving me anxiety attacks. I know! Over something so minor! But that’s the way it was, so I just let it go, and the stress rolled off with it. Amazing. Know what? My household reaped the benefit, because it was the most relaxed Christmas Eve we’ve ever had. Who knew?

That’s not to say that you should breeze through life only doing exactly as you please, but I think I’m going to be doing a lot more of this brand of gut-checking in 2013.

There was a lot that didn’t get done. I’m not going to regale you with all of that nonsense, because what’s the point? Well, here’s the point: I’m easily distracted. It’s kind of a curse, because distraction is the enemy of discipline, BUT it can also be a creative boon. In moderation/as part of your healthy diet/and all that. This was also the Year of the Pop-up, wherein I found that I didn’t have time (or energy or motivation) to finish some of the projects on my to-do list, but magically did find the time to finish ones that just popped into my head.

For example, the crayon wallet for a certain niece that totally needed one, right?

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And why use fabric that you’ve already cut when you have the perfect excuse to use fun Seuss fabric?

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Then there was the scarf for a woman I thought could use a little extra cheer, and — would you look at that! — wouldn’t that fleece make a great wrap?

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And wouldn’t you know that making these gifts was about the most fun I’d had (it’s amazing how much fun making ONE of something can be after months of multiples) in a long time. The lesson? Make room for pop-ups! They’re fun!

If I have my way, this is going to be a big year for making. I’m already setting the stage, and can’t wait to get started on some new stuff. Happy 2013, friends!

 

All Candy Cane, All the Time

Can there really be such a thing as too much of a good thing? I think I’m testing that thoroughly with the liberal use of peppermint in my gifts this year.

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The first time I came across Peppermint Popcorn Bark, I wasn’t so sure. And then it kept popping up on Pinterest. And then it started to sound good — REALLY good. Lo and behold, it is a tasty treat, and super easy to boot.

And who doesn’t like a sweet chunk o’ marshmallow in their cocoa?

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Vanilla or peppermint? ‘Cause I got both! Here is the recipe for my favorite tried and true vanilla marshmallows. (I make the half-batch.) For the peppermint, I made another half-batch of marshmallows, but instead of using 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, I substituted 1/4 tsp. vanilla plus 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract (inspired by this recipe.) I think the tiny bit of vanilla keeps it from getting toothpaste-y.

Now the festive food making is almost done. There are a few more gifts to be wrapped, a little soup to cook, worship by candlelight, and a wild day of fun and family– hopefully followed by a few relaxing days of just about nothing. Sounds good to me!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and joy in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

 

Loving the Village

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I really love making and giving gifts; you would think that this would be the total best time of year for a person like me, and yet….

Sometimes things get out of hand. Say, for instance, when you’re trying to assemble teacher gift. This is definitely an area where I find myself really wanting to do more, and yet wishing I could do less. I find the whole exchange very awkward, mostly because I’ve sat at table with too many teachers who complain about the crummy gifts they receive from their students. And hey, who hasn’t complained about a sub-par gift at some point in their life? But it does make me a little self-conscious. Still, there are practical aspects, such as a limited budget and a legion of teachers. So many teachers! But they are wonderful and have really been a blessing to my kids this year, so no one gets left behind.

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The homeroom teachers (and the directors of my girl’s preschool) received Happy, Healthy New Year jars, filled with a tissue pack; lip balm; hand cream; Burt’s Bees throat drops; and tea. I made the purse packs for the tissues and found the rest at ye olde Target.

For the art and music teachers, I made ornaments:

tree ornament

(for the art teacher)

xmas carols orn.

(Well, you probably figured this one out.)

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on the wrapping of said gifts — all wrapping/packaging materials which I dug out of my abundant supplies, thankyouverymuch — I realized that the P.E. teachers had been totally left out in the cold. Aw, man! Then I thought about baking a couple of kinds of scones and making little breakfast bags for them. And then I remembered that I had the supplies for these tasty treats in the pantry:

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We have a winner! They are festive, delicious, and don’t require me to make a much larger mess out of my kitchen tonight. Joy to the world!

Now if I could just get my act together and finish up the stuff I wanted to make for the neighbors and a few other beloved local citizens, I’ll be golden. Then again, I might end up settling for preserving my sanity and taking the bronze in this event. Time will tell.

Moving Right Along

 

Oh, November — where have you gone? Thanksgiving already kind of seems like it was a long time ago (although the fact that we’ll be eating leftovers tonight should be enough to clue me in to the fact that it was only day before yesterday), and we’re heading straight into Christmas. Ho ho ho!

This morning, as promised, I dragged our family room tree down the stairs and set it up. It still sounds strange to me, this “setting up” of the Christmas tree. Not chopping it down? Or picking it out? Nope. Since we’re all allergic to pine, it just makes sense to go artificial, but…yeah. Sounds strange. And I do love my white tree. I say if you’re going to go fake, GO FAKE. Anyway, it took all of fifteen minutes to get it in place, and then I let the kids do the decorating. It only took me fifteen more minutes to sneak back in and move some of the ornaments around for a more balanced look. What is it about kids, that they beg and beg to help and then race through at top speed to get the job done? About 90% of the ball ornaments were hung in one section of the tree (of course), perched on the very tip of the branches. (So thankful for non-breakable ornaments!) But we had a good time, so it was a success.

In other news, the annual craft sale is behind us;  most of my Christmas sewing is complete, except for maybe two or three projects; and the majority of the shopping is DONE. Instead of going out shopping yesterday morning (or Thursday night), I shopped online. So much more fun! And a little bit dangerous, because every time I got a new sale email, I wanted to buy a little more…and a little more…ooh, and maybe one more thing. Whoa! Back away from the keyboard! After a break, I was feeling much less frenzied and so relieved to have made some serious progress.

Know what else? I didn’t even buy a bunch of stuff for myself, nor did I go to Joann’s for the flannel blowout bonanza sale. Every year, I say how much I hate it (because I do), and then every  year, I wake up at five and go anyway (because I love it! The flannel — not the wild-eyed, crazy shoppers or that horrible never-ending line.) Not this year. Nope. You see, this year, by the end of my 31 Day project, I didn’t have the house transformed and my life in order. I did, however, come away with a revelation: There’s just too much. The idea of a place for everything and everything in its place isn’t really enough. For me, everything has to be in its place, and that place can’t be in the third shoebox from the top in one of those cupboards. One of the reasons I can’t find things is that there are too many places for it to be stashed. Neater stacks are still stacks, and we are kind of drowning in them. So, one of my goals for the new year  — big surprise — is to create more space instead of a finding a better system. Therefore, it wouldn’t really be prudent to haul in a sweet load of $2.00 flannel when I currently have three shelves devoted to just that. Even if the prints were really cute. I wouldn’t know if they were cute, actually; haven’t even been by to check them out.

Things are happening, friends. Here’s hoping that we can all slow down just a little to really enjoy the spirit of the season. It’s going to speed by so quickly!

31 Days: Little Gobbler

 

A couple of months ago, I got all super ambitious and made up a bunch of Thanksgiving patchwork bib fronts with plans of finishing them before the sale season. Unfortunately, once they were done, I decided to go with another design, and found that all of the fronts were now too small. Meh. It happens.

Fast forward to a few days ago, when our neighborhood crossing guard shared the good news that she had welcomed her first grandchild into the world this month. Sounds like a certain someone should have a special bib to commemorate her first Thanksgiving, right? And, since she’ll still be a newborn, I was able to let one of the patchwork pieces fulfill its cottony destiny. Rather than wait until November, yesterday seemed like as good a time as any to whip it up. Now all it needs is a snap, which may run the project right on into November after all.

31 Days: It’s Not All Bad

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take those 15 minutes I was talking about yesterday to think things through and get it together before jumping into a project.

For instance: A couple of weeks ago, I was going through a basket of sewing projects that were in various stages of production. At the very bottom was some patchwork that I’d pieced together earlier in the summer with the intention of making some Christmas chargers for our table. Now, if you think it sounds ridiculous to start Christmas projects in the summer, I’ll go ahead and ramp up the ridiculous by telling you that I’d bundled up the fabric for this project at least a year ago, maybe two.

(For those of you of the non-sewing persuasion, let me just tell you that this kind of patchwork? Not the kind of project worthy of a delay measured in years.)

So, right that minute, I decide to stop what I was doing and just make the darn chargers already. I pressed the patchwork, selected and cut the backing, and got down to business. As I was pinning them together to sew them, I kept thinking about how I was going to quilt them. Also, I couldn’t help but notice that they were kind of flimsy — much flimsier than the ones I’d made a couple of years ago. Ah, well. That was pretty heavy-duty backing. Must be it.

Keep pinning. Think some more about the quilting.

I figured, They’ll probably have a little more body after they’ve been quilted.

After they’ve been quilted…

…quilted!

OH! I totally forgot to add batting. Without it, they were most certainly not going to magically have enough body to be anything other than a big round napkin. Idiot!

Fortunately, I hadn’t gotten a single stitch into them yet at that point, so I just re-pinned–with a layer of batting this time–and carried on.

See?  A few minutes of preparation probably would have come in handy, here.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have this project checked off and out of its basket prison!

Fake It ‘Til We Make It

We had three cool, beautiful mornings this week. It was all I could do to not break out the sweaters and whip up some hot cocoa; the 90 degree temps in the afternoon provided a good reality check. Still, if we wait for the REAL Fall weather to kick in, we might miss the whole season.

Hence the wreath:

Inspired by the completely awesome Agnes Blum , I’ve been wanting to make one of these for months. Since I’ve been housebound with Ms. Sickie this week, it seemed like now would be as good a time as any to just do it already. Once I sat down to wind the yarn (a remnant from my mom’s knitting leftovers, thankyouverymuch), it only took a couple of hours total. Longtime readers with a keen eye might even recognize the leaves and accent fabric from years past. No sense in letting them sit on a shelf like they did last year!

I already have an idea for a Christmas version, and one for The Girl’s room. The latter will probably be a way’s off, because I’m not sure what to use for the decorative elements. Maybe I should wrap the wreath and then figure it out?

Or maybe I should wash the dishes. Those might actually be the more pressing matter today.

 

 

Easter Fun [Pintastic!]

Sure, none of our kids “need” new Easter baskets or one more bunny, but I couldn’t help it! Once I saw these buckets (although now I can’t remember where I first spied them, but they made their way to my Pinterest* board somehow) and hand puppets, well, what choice did I have? Especially seeing as how I had all of this pretty scrapbook paper amongst my supplies, not to mention the fabric for the bunnies.

Actually, I didn’t have any of the fabric called for in the bunny tutorial, but improvised by using fleece for the body/ears and knit remnants for the inner ear accents and tails. [Bridget took one look at the polka dot  ear pieces and said, “What are you making with my shirt?” That girl has a memory for pattern — she outgrew that shirt over a year ago!] As a result, these bunnies are decidedly more floppy than the originals, for sure. I’m okay with that. Let’s face it: The six-year-olds are about five minutes away from being “too old” for this kind of thing, and I’ll be happy to have cheaped out when these begin their new lives as the cutest Swiffers you’ve ever seen.

I also managed to make some lemonade — in the form of a tried and true skirt — out of last year’s failed Easter dress attempt. Just cut off the bodice and started fresh. I even had enough of the same fabric left over to make a matcher for my niece. Bonus!

Hope your weekend was filled with lots of fun. Now, back to work!

 

*If you’re looking for more “I will do that!” inspiration, check out the monthly Pinterest to Real Life round-up on Simple Organic. Love it!

 

The Factory

Well, our church is definitely taking a cue from nature this year — so many women are expecting babies this spring! With that in mind, I figured it was high time to re-open the gift factory.

This season’s offering:

A variation on an old favorite, the Keep It Clean set. I just love making these! Thankfully, Heather has taken a hiatus from burp cloth-making, and didn’t mind me tagging in on those. Several more sets are already in various states of production, and there are still more on the list.

Of course, at some point my enthusiasm may wane and I’ll have to move on to making something else. Here’s what I learned [again. Why won’t this lesson take??] this past Christmas:

One of a particular thing might be fun, and only take a few hours, and leave you wanting to make more!

But — when you decide to make nine more…

…embrace the simple math and common sense which tells you that this might take longer than you think. And you might have a blast pulling fabric and creating beautiful combinations, but you’re going to have to finish them, too.

Ah, but see, even now, I’m thinking about making another of those blankets. Or two. Some people aren’t meant to be helped, even by themselves. And I’ve got ideas for sooo many beautiful baby sets still in my head, yearning to be free….