Sunday, November 29, 2009

Can I just tell you...

  • Our Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful! I hope yours was, too.
  • My mom flew in on Friday to visit for the week and I'm loving having her around! So is a certain 3 yr old.
  • My house is scattered with bins filled with Christmas decorations waiting to be displayed.
  • Our tree is up, patiently awaiting it's decorations. A certain 3 yr old (the same one who's loving having Grammie here) isn't so patiently waiting. Apparently she remembers putting the candy canes on the tree last year and has adopted that as her official holiday assignment. She's eager to fulfill her duty.
  • Blogger is totally frustrating me! My layout is totally messed up! When I try to change it around or add buttons to my blog, or blogs to my blog list in my sidebar, Blogger either deletes some things I've already got in my sidebar or rearranges my layout! I want my blog list on the bottom of my right sidebar, I want my photo and profile on the top left of my blog and I want all my "I was featured" buttons on the left sidebar. At this point I've been featured on One Pretty Thing, The Crafty Crow and Craft Gossip -- Thanks for featuring my projects :)!!! So, when you visit here, just envision the beautiful layout I've described. At some point I'll take the time to try sort it out.
  • Mom and I hit Kohl's yesterday for their Thanksgiving weekend sales. Mom got me some adorable Christmas decorations, and some micro-fleece pajamas that I am absolutely in-love with! (Tip- if you wish your spouse was more cuddly in bed, get these pajamas!)
  • My pantry is stocked full of holiday baking essentials and the aroma of sugar cookies will soon fill our house! Yummy...
  • Have I mentioned I love the holidays??? ;)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Projects in Progress

WOW! When I said I couldn't get in the groove, I didn't think I'd be taking such a long blogging break! Well, I've been crafting for the past week, but I kind of have crafty ADD. I'm starting lots of projects and finishing very few. But I have finished one skein of my wrap that I'm knitting. And I've made lots of progress cutting felt food pieces that will become yummy play treats for Taylor for Christmas...

And, I started 2 sewing projects, actually feeding my fabric through the machine. Problem was, the upper thread kept breaking, leaving me completely frustrated during the first project, so I ditched it, started a second project, had the same problem and finally realized my thread tension was too high. Interesting parallel between my crafting and my life right now...tension...LOL.

I've got pieces cut for a 3rd sewing project, too. I'm making my first quilt. It's not a traditional quilt, but I've saved all of Taylor's knit jammies from her baby and toddler years. I cut up my favorite ones and am sewing them into a quilt as a Christmas gift for her.

I've got some other random projects that I need to add some finishing touches to before I can call them complete and wrap them all!

Of course, I'm still stumped as to what to make some people on my list. My sister is particularly difficult to make things for. My niece, on the other hand could have a whole house full of gifts from me! At 9 yrs old she has an incredible artistic side. She's very good at drawing, has an eye for photography and wants to get into scrapbooking. I think I should kidnap her and adopt her as my own! Maybe someday she'll at least come to visit!

What are your projects in progress?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Just can't get in the groove

I've got several gifts to make for Christmas and for some reason, I just can't get in the groove. I don't know where my craftiness has gone? I have a head full of ideas but lack the motivation to follow through on the creation...perhaps once I perk up this morning I'll be able to finish a project I've started. It's not difficult and I've made one before, but for some reason it's just taking me forever to complete it. I've also got a gift on my list that I'm excited to see the finished product, and give it to the recipient, but I'm a little intimidated by the process of making it. Again, not something that's terribly difficult, but the project uses some techniques I've never tried so I'm not feeling super confident about the endeavor...I think I just need to jump in and get 'er done!

And then there's the realization that Thanksgiving is only 10 days away!!!! Did you hear my panicked screams when I realized that this morning???

And then, come January 1st, we will likely be living in another house. Where? You ask. I don't know. Somewhere within the same area that we are now, but we need to move for financial reasons and not really sure how it will all work out. I don't do well with uncertainty. I'm not overly stressed about it, but house hunting and moving is one more thing that's weighing on me in addition to the responsibilities of the holiday season....

One day at a time, right? How do you manage uncertainty, challenging tasks and major changes? What do you do to get back in the groove, when you've lost your creative zest? I'd love to hear your ideas...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Simple Fall Decor

This is what the top of the armoire looks like in our living room right now. All decked out for fall!

What are your favorite fall decorations?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tissue Paper Decoupaged Picture Frame

Taylor made this picture frame for Daddy's birthday back in September and I'm just now getting around to posting it.

I know I say this about most of my tutorials, but this is a super simple, easy, fun, inexpensive project. My daughter LOVES to play with glue. I have been known to give her a full bottle of white glue and some paper and other bits and have her sit at her table in the craft room, and empty the whole bottle and just play with it however she chooses (keeping it confined to the table, of course). It drives my husband crazy but is one of the best ways to keep her occupied!

Anyway, I knew she would love decoupage with her love of glue! So I decided this was the perfect project to create for Daddy.

Set up: Tear bits of tissue paper in desired colors. Pour white glue or Mod Podge into a small container.

Process: Have your child brush glue onto the frame,

then press tissue paper onto the frame, then brush another layer of glue.

Let dry.

It doesn't matter how "messy" it looks, the finished product will look beautiful!

These are on our holiday gift list, too!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Holiday Planner

As I said in this post, I want to be mindful of the things we do throughout the holidays. I also want to plan and add the most important events to our calendar. Well, in order to help me with this process, I've created a Holiday Planner.

I had seen this idea on several blogs last year, and decided to implement the idea for myself this year to help reduce the craziness of the season. To create my planner, I simply covered a composition notebook with patterned paper. Then I decided what sections I needed in my notebook to help with my listmaking. The idea is that ALL of my holiday ideas and notes go into this notebook. So, by adhering my patterned paper to the pages of my notebook, I created the following sections:

1) Calendars and general lists - because I'm bound to realize that I forgot a section so these blank pages at the beginning on my notebook keep me covered!
2) Gift Giving - This section is where I will record my master Gift List - who is on our gift list, what are we giving them, what supplies are needed to create the gift, where can I find the tutorial.
3) Decorating - This section includes decorating ideas/inspiration and lists of what to purchase
4) Food - my favorite section! This is where I'll plan our holiday menus, note recipes (even print them and clip them into this section), and write grocery lists
5) Crafts with Taylor - This section is where I will plan projects to do with Taylor to ensure that I have supplies on hand. If I add a project to our calendar for the weekend, I can look ahead and see what supplies we need, set up involved, etc. My key for crafting with Taylor is setting up in advance. I find as soon as I mention we're doing a project, she starts in on it, before all supplies are set out and before she even knows the instructions! So, to ensure crafting success with kids, I try to set up in advance.

So, that's it! That's my Holiday Planner. I'm really hoping this simple notebook keeps me sane this holiday season. I should add Holiday Planner 2009 to the cover and I really think the tree needs a star on top (how about you?). Also, I plan to use this as a bit of a scrapbook, adding pics of completed recipes, decorations, etc. So next year I have a visual reminder and a record of what I did this year.

Oh and, these altered notebooks make a really nice, inexpensive gift! Simply cover in paper that's the favorite colors of the recipient, embellish with a monogram or other little pretty and Voila! No need to include multiple sections, leave it undivided and the recipient can use the notebook in any way they choose.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Setting the Tone for the Holidays With Your Senses

It's Week 2 of Heartfelt and Handmade Holidays with the girls of Roots & Wings Co.

This week is about creating a holiday atmosphere that stimulates all of our senses. For me, this is one of my favorite parts of the holidays.

First let's think about Fall and Thanksgiving. For me, this is all about the scents of pumpkin and cinnamon. During this time of year, my taste buds crave pumpkin muffins and apple cider. I love autumn images of pumpkin patches and sunflowers (I'm a bit of a sunflower freak!). While I'm looking forward to the the Christmas Holidays, I want to ensure that I also appreciate the season of Fall and not let it pass by two quickly in a rush for Christmas!

The scents of Christmas are big for me. When I was growing up, my mom was always burning candles. On Christmas morning we had freshly baked muffins (otherwise my mom wasn't much of a baker - sorry mom, but true!). During the holidays I love to burn candles. They create a warm glow that's visual appealing but also fill the house with incredible smells. The first few years that my husband I were married, we had a real tree so our house smelled like pine. Now that we have an artificial tree, I burn a candle from Gold Canyon Candle, Co. (Love Them!), called Holiday Wreath. It fills the house with that incredible scent of a real Christmas Tree (and no need to vacuum up pine needles!).

My first "taste" of the holidays comes with a Starbucks Peppermint White Mocha on Thanksgiving weekend. I recently learned that Starbucks has peppermint syrup all year round, but I refuse to drink it any time other than December and January. I think that keeps it as a special treat! When I think of the other tastes of the holidays, I think of my mom's Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (maybe I'll post that recipe for you?), my mom's Simple Squares which are a decadent mixture of graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, coconut and sweetened condensed milk. I have never made these, although I have the recipe. I always bake treats that are safe for my daughter and I don't have a safe sub for sweetened condensed milk (she's allergic to dairy and soy). But, I've been mean to try coconut milk with her, so I can make Simple Squares.

Of course the holidays are not complete (for me) without the turkey dinner with all the fixin's . The stuffing has to be homemade or Stove Top. That's how it was when I was a kid. Now that I'm in the kitchen, I add fresh diced apple, celery and onion as well as dried cranberries to the Stove Top Stuffing. When we have holiday meals in our home, my father-in-law cooks the turkey (because I don't know how ~blushing~), I make the gravy (Our first holiday together, my father-in-law brought over canned gravy! Canned Gravy! Please, Please, Please people, gravy is soooo easy to make ~I'll post a recipe~, treat yourself and your guests and make gravy on the stovetop while you're waiting for the juices of your Turkey to set before carving. DO NOT open a can of gravy. OK?). Mashed potatoes and steamed veggies, cranberry sauce (I love Harry & David Cranberry Relish), and warmed rolls complete the meal. Growing up, dessert was always pumpkin pie or lemon meringue pie. This is a tradition that I continue in our home at the holidays, too.

I have to add that a critical part of my menu planning and holiday baking includes recipes from Kids With Food Allergies (KFA). If you've followed me for very long, you know how much I love KFA. I don't think I could stay sane during the holidays without the recipes and support of the people at KFA. Food is such an integral part of holiday celebrations and it's essential for me to be able to provide safe, yummy food for my daughter at this time of year and all year round. There are over 1,000 recipes in the database at KFA. Many of these recipes are free of the top 8 most common allergens. Some of the recipes are free to anyone, but ALL are free with a small membership fee of $25/yr. The membership fee gives you unlimited access to all that KFA has to offer for one year (discussion forums on anything and everything you can imagine related to food allergies, printable articles and resources backed by a medical advisory board and current news and research, to list a few). During the holidays, I spend a lot of time talking online with the people who actually created the recipes in the database, so if I need to sub an ingredient or need some extra hand holding as I buy ingredients, and make the recipe, the folks at KFA always come through for me. These people literally taught me how to bake. Need recommendations on bakeware? Want to find out if that Kitchen Aid Stand mixer you've been eyeing is really worth the money (trust me it is!), looking for food-free ways to celebrate the holidays? Ask the parents at KFA and you'll get all the answers.

I love the sights and sounds of the holidays, too. In the evenings I love to dim the overhead lighting and turn on the Christmas Tree lights (love all white lights) and lamps. As I mentioned I light candles for an added glow. As a kid we had a wood burning stove in our basement and I really miss that. It rarely gets cold enough in the Southern California Desert to warrant lighting a fire, and we don't have a fireplace in our current house. We've always had a fireplace in all the other houses we've lived in, but they were gas. I still love the warm glow of a fire during the holidays.

I love Christmas Trees covered in white lights and simple glittery decorations. When I was growing up, we had a staircase in our house and I was in charge of decorating the banister with the evergreen garland, cranberries and big velvet bows. I also love tables set up with holiday houses and other vignettes. When I was a young teenager, I babysat for a family that had a miniature ceramic village in their living room during the holidays. I always loved that village, and a couple of years ago my mom bought me my own ceramic village. (Hit the after Christmas sales and get GREAT deals on these!). I also love the simple touches of the holidays like peppermint candies, pine cones, and fresh cranberries in glass vases.

When I remember our Christmas music, I first think of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. I absolutely LOVE this album. I'm not huge into Country and I don't remember listening to much Country music growing up, but who doesn't like Dolly and Kenny? This album was always on in our house during the holidays and my mom bought me my own copy the first Christmas I was married. I also remember listening to Alvin and The Chipmunks Christmas Album on my record player as a kid and a Cabbage Patch Kids Christmas Album. I wish I still had a record player and record albums. I need to look through my daughter's CD collection and see what holiday albums she has or needs. Any recommendations?

I love the warm textures of the holidays, too. I have cozy red blankets that I only bring out during the holidays, fuzzy socks, warm scarves, flannel jammies, velvety table runners, holiday kitchen towels and hand towels in the bathroom, these are other simple ways to add to the special atmosphere that is created only once a year!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Handprint art

First, my apologies for these pics. It's really hard to photograph artwork behind glass, but I wanted you to see the finished product in the frame.

Taylor and I made this gift for my mom for Mother's Day, but I never got around to posting it. With the holidays approaching I thought now would be a good time to share this project with you.

To create this gift, I had Taylor press her hand into a puddle of acrylic paint and then I pressed her hand onto white cardstock. Tip: With little ones, it really helps to have 2 adults help with this. One to hold the child's hand still on the paper, while the other presses down firmly to ensure even coverage. Then lift the child's had straight up off the paper to ensure the image doesn't smear. We repeated that with each color shown. I then cut out each handprint.

Next, I cut the flower pot shape out of brown felt. Then I cut the stems out of grossgrain ribbon and cut the leaf shapes out of green flannel scraps that I had. I machine stitched the ribbons to the 12x12 piece of cardstock. Then I stitched the leaves so that the stitching resembled the veins of a leaf. Next, I added a very small amount of stuffing to the back side of the felt flower pot and stitched it to the cardstock. Finally, I adhered the hand prints to the top of each stem with "pop dots" or 3D foam dots. (people call 'em different things). As a finishing touch I added a distressed piece of cardboard along with the saying "Happy Mother's Day 2009, Love Taylor".

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Heartfelt & Handmade Holidays With the girls of Roots & Wings Co.

Week 1 - Setting Priorities and Determining What's Important

Have you met the girls of Roots & Wings Co.? I've linked to them before and I am always inspired by the sheer craftiness of these girls. They have their share of parenting struggles and keep it real, which of course I love. They deal with food allergies (sound familar?) and EE and autism. It really stands out to me from reading their blog how important family is to them.

So...they are hosting 8 Weeks of Heartfelt & Handmade Holidays. I hope I can keep up with them and share in their weekly themes. This week's focus is Setting Priorites and Determining What's Important. In doing this, they encourage family discussion and consideration of what feelings, values and memories you want your holidays to be filled with.

Overall, when I think of the feelings of Christmas I think of love, warmth, genorosity, and kindness. I really get struck by the magical feeling around Christmas time. As a kid with my parents divorced and both remarried, we had the blessing of celebrating Christmas multiple times during each holiday season. Although I have heard that Christmas is often known as The Dysfunctional Family Olympics, and we definitely had our share of Christmas Chaos, overall, I love Christmas and the feelings it stirs up in me...I want to create those same wonderful feelings in our home all year round but especially at Christmas.

I want to instill in my daughter values of kindness, consideration for others, gratitude and creativity, as well as a deep appreciation for family connectedness and traditions.

I want to be mindful of the activities that we do during the holidays and the traditions that we create. These are the things that memories are made of. When my daughter looks back on the holidays I want her to have memories filled with decorating the house as a family, baking yummy goodies for ourselves and to share with friends and family, memories of creating handmade decorations and gifts for those we love. Some of our family traditions include decorating the house Thanksgiving weekend, going to see Santa, hosting a Christmas Eve Open House (or going to Christmas Eve service at church when we're at my Mom's in Canada for Christmas), driving around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights, going for a walk in the evening while it's snowing when we're in Canada or driving to the mountains for a day in the snow when we're home in California for Christmas.

The Roots & Wings Co. girls suggest scheduling the events and activities, put them on the calendar! I'm going to do this because if it's on the calendar we're much more likely to make sure it happens. I'm also going to schedule a back up date for the most important events. Winter means lots of sickness in our house so I want to make sure we don't miss out on seeing Santa because Taylor was sick.

Christmas isn't about creating The Perfect Norman Rockwell Painting Worthy Holiday. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the pressure and hussle and bustle of the holiday season, but the holidays are about being together with the ones you love, doing things that bring you and your family joy and showing the people you love how much you care about them. It's also about recognizing those less fortunate while showing gratitude for your blessings, while remembering the true spirit of Christmas.

What are your holiday traditions? What memories do you want to create with your children? What's important to you this holiday season?

Leave your comments here, and share them on your own blog and leave a link at Roots & Wings Co.

Tiger Costume Tutorial

I know it's a little late to be posting a costume tutorial the day after Halloween but Taylor was so sick this week, we really didn't even know if she'd go out trick or treating. And although she's been telling me since the summer she wanted to be a tiger for Halloween, she came up with several other ideas once October hit so I held off on making her costume. (Seriously, how the heck was I supposed to make a DOLPHIN costume??? And, Friday night I was trying to convince her to be a ghost so I could just throw a white pillowcase over her head -- Oh, come on, I'd cut holes so she could see and breathe!) In the end the Tiger won out and I was frantically sewing this together Friday night and Saturday afternoon/evening. So, here's how I made this really easy, budget friendly costume:

Supplies - Orange Fabric (I bought a shower curtain on clearance for $10 - it was 72"x60" and I used about 1/2 of it to make a size 3T costume.

Black Fabric (I used black T-shirt that I got for free at a seminar last year)

Pipe Cleaners, Thread, Elastic band (optional for waist)

For the Pants, I used this tutorial as a guideline. I didn't make an elastic waistband, the pants fit her pretty snug, and then I just added a safety pin at the waist. Again, I wasn't even sure she'd be wearing it this year so I wanted it to be big enough to use for Dress Up play and to wear next year if she wanted to.

For the shirt, I used the Sienna Dress pattern as a guide. In cutting out my fabric I narrowed the bodice and shortened it so it was more like a long shirt than a dress.

AFTER CUTTING all my pattern pieces and BEFORE SEWING, I cut long strips of the T-shirt fabric. Don't worry about the width of the stripes. Random and MeSsY is GOOD in this step of the project :). mine varied from about 1/2" to 1" and I cut them so some of them were narrower at one end and then thicker at the opposite end.

Arrange your stripes on your orange fabric so they look like tiger stripes. Pin and then topstitch them to the orange fabric. Then sew your pattern pieces together.

For the ears, I cut out ear shapes from the orange fabric. I sewed black strips of fabric to the ears -- before sewing them together-- then I put 2 ear pieces right side together, and sewed 1/4" around 3 sides of the ear, leaving the bottom open. Then I curled up a pipe cleaner (loosely) and stuffed it into the ear to give the ears some stiffness. I did the same for the other ear. Then I sewed the ears to the strip of black fabric and simply tied a knot in the black fabric to make a headband.

I also made a tail that isn't shown in the pictures. I simply cut a long strip of the orange fabric (about 2 1/2 " wide), sewed on black stripes and sewed along the edge and one end of the tail. Then I wound together pipe cleaners, end to end to create a wire the length of the tail. I used multiple pipe cleaners to thicken it up (does that make sense? I held about 3 pipe cleaners, then I wrapped those to the end of 3 other pipe cleaners, so my finished wire was about the thickness of 3 pipecleaners).

For the nose, I cut out one section of an egg carton, painted it black (actually had hubby paint it black because I was working frantically on sewing the rest of the costume!) then poked 2 holes in the bottom section so she could breath through it, and 2 holes on either side of the egg carton. We used a strip of black fabric, cut in half and tied it through the one of the holes on each side, to be used as the strap to secure the nose to her face. We pushed 3 pipe cleaners through each of the other holes on the side, tightly folded the ends to avoid any sharp points, and we were DONE!

Of Course we had to snap some pics and she had to practice her ROAR!!!

The Fine Print: As mentioned, this was a last minute project, no pinning was done in making this project and the quality of the craftsmanship is much less than excellent. The finished product does not do justice to the patterns/tutorials used and cited herewithin. The ears could have been much better constructed. My sewing machine was very cooperative through the entire process of making this costume, but toward the end, it sensed that I was becoming waaaay too impatient and sewing much too fast. It also decided it DID NOT like sewing through pipe cleaners and it just wasn't gonna do it. So, I respected that and opted to use a safety pin to attach one of my ears rather than risk breaking my beloved sewing machine. Hence, the ears look a little funky. The first photo shows a better picture of the ears.


Other ideas for creating a Tiger costume...

Paint black stripes on orange fabric instead of sewing the stripes on.

Use black face paint for the nose/whiskers. (My daughter has very sensitive skin so I intentionally opted to NOT use face paint)

Make a square hat and tie 2 knots on top for the ears.

I hope you all had a rip RoARing Good time on Halloween...what were your costumes?