Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Matchy Matchy

We really try not to go overboard with Christmas. This year all my husband and I bought for the kids were books, and a portable CD / tape player for each of their bedrooms. Of course, Santa (wink wink) brought each a stocking overflowing with goodies. (S, my son was ecstatic when he saw the purple glittering Barbie Mariposa he asked Santa for sticking out of his stocking.) The kids also got matching jammies from Mama this Christmas. I was kind of nervous they would be a big dud after opening toys from Grandma and Grampie, but I was pleasantly surprised. Immediately after S opened his his, he asked if he could put them on. Both kids have slept in them ever since.

They were really easy to make using Butterick 5565. Each leg was only one piece, so there was one seam to sew up the inside of each leg. Using my serger, they went so fast. I think each pair took a little over two hours - including cutting out the fabric. The tops were a breeze too. I just opened up part of the side seams of purchased T-shirts, appliqued a stripe of the flannel , and then used my serger to close the seams up again. When I bought by serger I bought some stabilizer and spray adhesive to use with it - and it is wonderful. I will never pin again on projects like this! Using the adhesive makes everything so much easier. I think jammies from Mama may have to become a Christmas tradition...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We are celebrating the holidays with my husband's family right now and soon we'll be celebrating New Year's Eve with friends. (We've been celebrating together since 1989! This year's group will total nine adults, nine kids, five dogs and a cat.) Needless to say, we'll be packed in like cord wood and I'm going to be very busy. So my posting here will probably be sporadic or nonexistent until after the New Year.

Until then, I thought I would leave you with a couple of photos of the island decked out in her holiday best. One of my favorite island traditions is the gigantic Christmas tree in the middle of main street. I love how my little ones "oooh and aaaah" as we drive past it. If you're wondering - the red streak in the photo is a snowmobile tail light - it drove past while my shutter was open...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Modern Baby

My two and a half year-old daughter is all about babies. She loves dolls and takes good care of them. Well, at least she tries to. I often find them wrapped in a blanket and crammed into a step stool or a drawer for a "nap." In an effort to help improve K's parenting skills, this year Grandma got her a doll-sized Pack-n-Play for Christmas. Of course, I though she needed a quilt to go with it. Amanda Jean inspired me on this one - I just love how the backs of some of her quilts look. My daughter is getting a little matching yellow pillow too, but guess who forgot to get a picture of that...

Here is a close up of the quilting. I just meandered and made free-motion loops using my Bernina. I am pretty happy with how it turned out. I hope K likes it too.

If you are curious, that is a graduation tassel hanging on my Christmas tree. My high school and college tassels are both hanging there. I didn't know what else to do with them...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Table Topper

I just can't make enough of these watercolor wreaths - they're addicting! They are so easy to make using the pattern in this book. Now I keep watch for fabrics that will work, and pick them up when I see them on sale. I've got fabrics in my stash for another winter, a spring and a summer version too.

I just love how it brightens up the dining room table. What do you think?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More Minty Goodness

Or Teacher Gifts Part Two...

The other thing my children gave their teachers and babysitters this year was "Hot Cocoa Kits." Each bag contained five cocoa packets, five candy canes dipped in milk chocolate for stirring and five jumbo holiday marshmallows. (I owe Marie a big thank you for the idea.) I was a bit worried about having my little ones work with the melted chocolate, but they did a great job. Especially after I promised they could snack on the leftover chocolate! I hope the recipients enjoy these as much as the kids enjoyed dipping the canes and putting the bags together.

I think it is important for children to be a part of the presents they give to others. I want them to learn the idea that giving of ones self is important. As a teacher, my favorite gifts are the ones my students make for me - especially the ornaments. I love the little walk down memory lane I get each year when I put up the tree. This year one of my sixth graders even sewed me an apron - an orange apron with white polka dots. Another student made a Christmas ornament for each member of my family - including the dog and the cat! To me, those are the kinds of gifts that are the most special. I know not every mom has the time, energy, or skills to do things like that, and I do love the purchased gifts and baked goods I get too. There's just something special about a homemade gift, don't you think? Some how I think I'm preaching to the choir...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You Light Up My Life

or Teacher Gifts Part One...

This is what the kids made for their teachers and babysitters for Christmas this year. These candles look so cool with the kids' artwork on them, but they were super easy to make using the tutorial I found here. The hardest part of the whole thing was helping hold the tissue paper taut while the kids drew (and that really wasn't that hard!) S and K did the artwork while Miranda and I used the hair dryer to adhere the drawings to the candles. I hope Mrs. A, Miss. W, Mr. S, Mrs. M, and Mrs. K enjoy them. They'll all be getting something else too, but those little goodies aren't quite finished yet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pepperminty Goodness

This weekend a friend of mine held a cookie swap. What a good idea that was! Whip up eight dozen cookies, hang out with friends for a few hours enjoying sangria and then take home a dozen cookies in eight different varieties! So my holiday baking if officially finished. My friend, Miranda, and I made these great cookies and packaged them in little fabric bags. Having a serger made the bags so easy to make. I pulled some fabric out of my stash and had all eight bags made in less than an hour. (I cut strips 6x24 inches, roll hemmed the short ends and then serged the long sides together and viola! I had a quick and cute cookie bag.) Here's the recipe we used:

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 T milk or cream
2 tsp peppermint extract
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups flour

1 cup crushed candy canes (about 2 boxes)

Cream the butter and sugar and then beat in the eggs. Add in the peppermint extract and the milk. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder and the salt. Crush the candy canes. I put them inside a ziplock bag and beat them with the rolling pin. You want very small pieces. Bigger pieces will melt and stick to the cookie sheet. We fought this problem by using parchment paper. It worked beautifully.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter / sugar mixture and beat until the dough pulls away from the of the bowl. Scoop out some dough and roll it into a ball. Roll the dough ball in sugar and then use the bottom of a glass to flatten the cookie. Sprinkle colored sugar on top if you wish. Bake at 350 for about 13 minutes. Let the cookies cool for two minutes on the cookie sheet and then move to a wire rack. Makes about four dozen cookies.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Top Ten Christmas Towns

Last year a film crew came to the island where I live to film our local Christmas celebrations. We, all 500 of us who live here year round, were thrilled when our town made it into the show. So, if you're curious about my little island life, here is a five minute taste...

This year's Christmas Bazaar was last weekend, and yes, we all went... The show left out one of the more interesting things we do - and one of my favorites - the community wide garage sale in the Fire Hall. Everyone donates everything and all the proceeds go to the Island Medical Center. This year I found lots of treasures: dresses for my daughter (new with tags,) five wool sweaters for felting, a beautiful aqua angora cardigan (to wear,) a tie for my son, and a My Little Pony (my son named her "Fireworks.") I owe my friend, Wendy, big time for all those bargains. She watched my two little ones so I could go thrift. I also owe my husband a thank you for editing and then uploading that video.

So what do you do to celebrate the holidays that is unique to you or your town?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Icosahedron Ornament Tutorial (A.K.A. The Recycled Christmas Card Ball)

Its name may sound complicated, but this ornament is really easy to make and it doesn't take nearly as long as it looks like it will. (Sorry about the name - it is the math teacher in me. An icosahedron is a 20 sided three dimensional geometric figure where each side is an equilateral triangle. OK, I digress...) If you are a home schooler this ornament can be a great geometry lesson.

I made my mine out of old Christmas cards, but I think for my next one I'm going to use pictures of my children. It would also look cool if you made one out of 20 identical cards. I'll have to wait to see how cheap they are at the day after Christmas sale...

Here's what you'll need:

About 20 old cards
template material - I used old sour cream container lids
ball point pen
glue - I've found rubber cement works quite well
liquid glue (if you plan to glitter the edges)
ribbon for hanging
clips for securing the pieces as they dry

Here's what to do:

The size of the finished ornament depends on the size of the circle you start with; the bigger the circle, the bigger the ornament. Feel free to use this image and resize it, or you can draw your own. If you draw your own, it is easy. Start by tracing a circle and cutting it out. Fold it in half in a couple of places to locate the center of the circle. Then, fold in a portion of the circle so the curve touches the center point. That fold line is one side of the triangle. Fold another piece into the center - just make sure one end of the fold touches the end of the first fold. Where the two fold lines meet will be one of the points of the triangle. Fold in a third piece making sure it forms the last side of the triangle. If that doesn't make sense let me know and I can write more detailed instructions.

Use your drawing to create two templates. One of the circle and one of the triangle. I used the tops of disposable plastic food containers. You may need to trim off very thin strips from the sides of the triangle. You need to make sure that the triangle will fit inside the circle. I had to trim off very narrow pieces - perhaps 1/16 of an inch (1 0r 2 mm.)

Use the circle template to trace around images on the cards you like. From most cards you'll only get one circle. Next, cut them out. You'll need 20. Don't worry if some of the black lines show up, you'll cover them later.

Turn the cards over so the image is down. Center the triangle on the back side of the card.

Use the ball point pen to trace around the triangle. Press hard! You want to score the card so that it will fold on those lines. I placed the images right side up on the front of the card, but they don't all end up being right side up on the finished ornament. For my next one, I don't plan to pay attention and I'll just place them willy-nilly. Do one and then go on to the next step. That way you won't have to redo all 20 if you make a mistake.

Now, fold the card toward the printed sides on the scored lines. If it doesn't fold fairly easily, you want to press harder when you trace the triangle.

Do this to all 20 circles.

Now you can begin to glue. Put rubber cement on one back side of the flaps on each of two circles.

Glue the flaps together and clip them in place so they an dry without sliding. I used big clips and they worked really well.

Glue 5 of them together into a kind of circle. I clipped each one together to let them dry. Think of this five sided piece as the "base" of the ornament. I let mine dry for a while at this point, but you don't have to. Next you'll start building up...

Here's the same piece from below - you can see how it is still clipped together.

Next you'll start building up and around. In this picture you'll see the five pieces of the base on the bottom of the photograph and the two pieces I added up on top.

Next put another triangle, upside down, in between the other two and glue into place. Does that make sense?

Keep going around the base until you have gotten all the way around. Then fill in the top with more triangles.

When you get to the last triangle, stop for a minute. You need to think about how you are going to hang it. I used a very thin gros grain ribbon with a piece of felt tied to it to keep it from pulling out though the cards.

Stick the end of the ribbon down into the center of the ornament, then put in the last triangle and glue and clip it into place. At this point you want to let the ornament dry for a while. I left mine over night.

Now it is time to use glitter to conceal those not-so-perfect edges.

Put a thin ribbon of glue along the edge of both sides of a curve. Sprinkle on the glitter until you are happy with the coverage. Then continue working your way around the ornament until all the edges are glittered. Let it dry and you are done!

Please let me know if anything is unclear and I will do my best to clarify the instructions. Also, if you make one of these, I would love to see it. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Zipping I Will Go...

Monday morning I woke up to this, and you know what that means...

...it means I got to ride this to work instead.

Winter has officially arrived in Northern Michigan. My trusty Polaris, who took a bit of coaxing to start after her long summer rest, makes the one-mile-up-hill bike ride home from work a snap. Well, a pull actually since she usually takes three pulls to get started. I don't know if those of you who regularly travel by motorized vehicle can truly appreciate how much freedom this little snowmobile offers me. All winter long I won't have to budget the extra travel time into my daily schedule - I can zip where ever I need to go...