14 December 2010

Project roll call!

I achieved a record  yesterday.  I actually started and finished a project in one day.  Well, I guess I was technically up past midnight, but I'm still counting it.  The reading pillow that I was unsure of making came together very quickly, despite having to master sewing with faux leather.  That was a new experience for me.  I had more grand plans for it, but I was thwarted by a scrawny, sorry excuse for a craft section at the Wal-mart near my mother's house.  Pitiful.  If there had been an associate anywhere near the area, I would have told them my feelings, but I didn't see any.  Here's the finished product:

I thought it turned out pretty well considering I had no pattern and I have never made a pillow before. I really wanted some fun tassles hanging from the ribbon ends or from the corners, but alas, it was not to be.
And here's the finished doll house.  It could have used a few more buttons to hold things together, but I had to finish it up and go.

I was at my mom's to drop off (and make) the gifts for that side of the family.  Due to my travels, baking day will have to happen tomorrow.  I for-see many cookies being made.  Ginger, sugar...forgot to pick up an ingredient for peanut butter blossoms... we'll see what is created tomorrow, I guess.  Then Thursday will have to be laundry and packing, as we must leave by noon Friday, on our way to the in-laws for Christmas.  Maybe while there, I can post my feelings about traveling during the holidays versus staying comfortably at home...

I'm feeling so optimistic about my many little projects, I thought I'd make a list of all my undertakings and bring myself back to the reality that I still have more things to do than time to do them.  And since we're getting so close to Christmas, I'll add some festive colors to my list. 

Little Cowboy book:                                             done!
Cowboy Christmas book:                                     done!
Peasant girl dresses:                                             done and done
Fabric doll house for niece:                                  done
Fabric doll house for daughter:                            in progress
Sewing a number onto a hockey jersey for son:   needs to be done
Slippers for baby:                                                in progress
Mend dress-ups for daughter:                              needs done
Cloth blocks for baby                                          sew while traveling 
Reading pillow for nephew:                                done! and in record time
Write and send Christmas letter:                         written, needs sent
Bean bag heat pad for hubby:                             done, even though this is not something on his list
the quilt:     to eliminate stress, I am not worrying about finishing it.  I will work on it in my leisure time, or after the kids go to bed.

Despite the many things left to do, I'm feeling pretty peaceful, and not really frazzled at all, which is surprising.  I must be forgetting some things.  We'll see how I'm doing at this time next week.

13 December 2010

Christmas projects and mommy brain

I've been so busy, I haven't had the time to write anything!  I have planned on writing many times, but I am madly trying to finish up gifts for nieces and nephews before we take off for the holidays, so I haven't dared to take the time.  But I pulled a stupid today that just needs repeating, so I thought I'd take a minute while the kids eat lunch to share my sewing experience.  This turned out really long, but I think I got everything off my chest.

I am almost done with so many projects, it's painful.  For some reason I just can't quite finish anything.  Okay, I take that back.  I finished these dresses for my niece, but I still have more to finish for her gift.
I suppose you have to know my niece to understand the greatness of getting two plain, peasant style dresses for Christmas.  This girl will wear only dresses, and only certain dresses.  They must be long sleeved and long- usually to her ankles.  In trying to save her Sunday, going to church dresses, we always keep our eyes out for sturdy, play dresses for her to wear.  Last summer we were wandering around a mountain man Rendezvous and she spotted a little peasant style dress and she wanted it badly.  I promised her that I would make her some, so here they are, finally. My daughter is only three months older and was more than thrilled to try them on for me at every stage of making.  She has asked to try them on every day since they were finished also. 

Since these were actually supposed to be a birthday present back in October, I thought I should add a bit to her gift.  I mentioned this doll house a while ago and planned to make one for my daughter, but why make one when you can make two?  Here's her doll house, almost finished.  It just needs some buttons and some felt flowers sewn on.  My daughter thinks it's great, which is good because she's getting one too.  Hers is a bit different though.  I'm making these from my mom's fabric scrap bins, so they are definitely one of a kind. 

My niece loves cats, so I thought the crazy vintage kitty fabric would be a hit.  I even made cats looking out the little windows.  I really had a lot of fun making this.  My almost 6 year old son thinks he needs a barn now as well.  We'll see.  I kind of hoped to not be sewing on Christmas eve this year.

My other huge project has taken a back seat to these other little projects.  The quilt top I've been working on was a much bigger job than I anticipated.  I haven't posted about it for fear that my sister might suddenly stumble into blog land, but I think I'm safe now.  When one of our aunts died, family members picked through her many started quilting projects.  My sister liked this one, but it was way too small to fit her bed.  There wasn't enough extra fabric to make it big enough and she kind of became discouraged with it and put it away.
This is what I started with
I spotted it in her attic while she was giving me some other fabrics and decided that since I have her name for Christmas this year, I would finish it for her.  Most of the hard work was already done, I figured it would be easy to add some borders.  It was much harder than I thought.  Just finding fabric that complemented it took forever.
This is what I have now.
I do like the red, and I know that she wanted to add more red, so hopefully she'll like it.  Now, I just have to quilt it.  HA!  So next Christmas, she'll be getting this...  I'm taking it along with me to visit my husbands family.  Hopefully, I can finish it up there.  Maybe the real gift will be in getting to do it together.  :)

So now that I have almost finished most of my projects, (I won't mention the ones I haven't really started) I got the crazy idea to add yet another!  We also have a nephew that we are gifting.  He's 10.  Not really into doll houses.  I am giving him a few books that I made.  *Finished projects!  I do have some!  If they would every get here in the mail.*  I thought maybe he needs more, but what?
In my blog world wanderings, I stumbled upon this.  A reading pillow.  Does he want one?  I don't know.  My sister didn't know either, but she did tell me that they would like to encourage more reading.  Maybe this will do that?  Maybe this will get an eye roll, I don't know.  I want one for me, I do know that.  Reading books about why my baby doesn't like to sleep at night would be a lot more comfortable for a tired mommy with one of these.

I was still undecided about doing it, but since I had to make a trip to Walmart anyway, I figured I would swing past the fabric department.  If, I told myself, they happen to have a cheap remnant of some heavy duty upholstery fabric, I will do it.  How likely is that, anyway?  Apparently, very likely.  I found some faux leather fabric.  A nice manly look to it too.  So I stood there in the fabric area debating on if this was a good idea or not. 

I should know never to make decisions when I have three grumpy kids in the cart.  I really do know better.  Instead of being smart, and looking at the pillows right there to figure out how much piping I would need, I hurriedly added up all sides of the remnant, which is all rolled up in a tight ball, so my visual brain couldn't inform the math side of my brain that I was making a stupid mistake.  The reasonable part of my brain did not kick in until after check out, when it occured to me that four and a half yards of piping was a ridiculous amount for a lap pillow.  Silly frazzled mommy.  You sew pillows to the pillow size, not to whatever the remnant size is.  Which is , by the way, enough for two, maybe three pillows. 

This is not the first time I have made this type of mistake.  I still have a few yards of flame-print fabric from a blanket I made my then boyfriend, now husband almost a decade ago.  I have used it in anything that I could, but there's just so much you can do with flame fabric.  Because of these types of mistakes, I have learned to take pictures with me, or the project in the making so that the knowledgeable ladies at the quilt shops and fabric departments can inform me that unless I am making baby quilts for triplets, I don't need that much.  Sigh... and then I forgot thread.

07 December 2010

Baking Day Tuesday resumes! Bread, bread and bread

I went a little bread crazy today.  I haven't baked in a while.  I like baking.  I think I always have.  I remember getting a cook book when I was pretty young and being very excited about it.  I also remember deciding it wasn't cool to be in the kitchen and being a bit grumpy about getting cookie sheets for Christmas when my sisters got sleeping bags.  Cool sleeping bags.  Or maybe it was when they got those cool leather-man pliers, or those fun colored lariats.  My gifts always had to do with the kitchen.  Maybe I'm not a natural baker, maybe I have been programmed...  And now that I think of it, those cookie sheets are still at my mom's house.  The cook book probably is too.  Hmmmm.

Anyway, I made three kinds of bread today.  My standby wheat bread, much better than the last time, some pitas and a no-knead dutch oven bread.  Once I got going, I decided that three different doughs at three different stages was maybe not such a good idea.  Add to that the appointment I made at 2:30 and you've got a little bit of a crazy scene in the kitchen.  Thankfully, it worked out well.  The wheat bread raised the second time while the dutch oven bread was baking, the pita dough was punched down and rested while the wheat bread was baking.  It went pretty smoothly, but down to the wire.  My husband walked in to see me frantically spritzing water into the oven, rolling dough balls into pita shapes and shifting cooked things around because my little cooling rack just couldn't handle everything.  I'm sure it was a pretty scary sight.  I finished at 2:15.  Plenty of time to change my shirt and readjust my pony tail.

I've been wanting to make pitas for a while, ever since I ran across a recipe while searching for a good wheat bread recipe, but we don't really use pitas much.  We're more of a bread or tortilla family.  I found a recipe idea for a tuna salad type filling for pitas, and I already had most of the ingredients, so we tried it tonight for dinner.  Not bad at all.  We used all the good pitas though.  Most of them got too thin in the middle and too fat on the edges, so the pocket wasn't really there.   I'll do better next time.  If there is a next time... I have a few other ideas for them.

On to the dutch oven bread.  I lived in Germany for a year and a half.  During that time, I fell in love with the bakeries.  The bread is so different and wonderful.  And the pastries...if only I could make a chocolate croissant.  When I came across this recipe it really caught my attention.  It promised to replicate the bread that I fell in love with in Germany.  The "no knead" part also drew my eye, as my wrists have been giving me trouble lately, so the less work for them, the better.  This recipe makes up for that though, in the lifting and moving of a heavy dutch oven.  I don't have one, so I stole a cast iron pot from my mom.  -She does have my cookie sheets, you know.

I actually started this bread last night.  And I read the ingredient list several times before I believed what I saw.  1/4 tsp of yeast.  I kept looking to make sure it didn't say 1-1/4 tsp, or maybe Tbs.  Nope 1/4 tsp is all.  I mixed up the four ingredients, yeast, water, flour, salt.  No sugar.  How un-American.  I was doubtful that the puny pile of goo would actually rise, but sure enough, this morning it was big and full of bubbles. 

The morning after
 The recipe said to generously dust the towel with flour.  I think I was a bit too generous.  The flour is a bit overwhelming.
In the pot, ready to bake.
 I'm honestly a bit disappointed in the outcome.  The texture and taste is good, but it is flatter than I wanted and it's smothered in flour.  Maybe my pot is too oblong for it to stay round.  It's pretty good with butter though.  I may have to go buy some gouda to put on it so I can close my eyes and pretend that I'm in Germany for the advent.  I'm not giving up on this though.  Mother Earth News has more recipes in this month's magazine to try as well.  I won't be able to perfectly replicate that bread, but I'll enjoy trying and eating what we end up with.

05 December 2010

Nativity Scenes

I never intended to collect nativity scenes.  I would really like one out of olive wood, but I'm afraid I'd have to buy it one piece at a time in order to afford it.

What we do have is a strange bunch of very different sets that have been acquired in meaningful places or handed down to us from others.  The two that I bought are the little wooden one and the pyramid that I bought in Germany.  It's nothing fancy, but it reminds me of my Christmases spent there.  Those Germans know how to celebrate the advent.  The Christmas markets were so much fun and everybody seems so happy during that time.  The plaque type one was given to us for Christmas one year and the shiny ones were my Grandmas.  I noticed as I put them out that my aunts initials are on the bottom, so I should find out if she wants them.   We also have a set that I let the kids play with, and boy they have.  It's been fun to listen to their play and their version of the story.   I thought that having their own would keep them from playing with the others, but it didn't.  The pyramid is now up high and the shiny ones are all lined up dangerously on the dressers edge.  I found Joseph down the hall.  I remember wanting to play with my mom's set and sometimes she would let me.

I love how magic this time of year is for children, and not just because of presents.  They seem to sense that there is something different and special about it.  We talked a lot at church today about Christmas being the birthday for Jesus.  I was impressed by the children and their knowledge of the reason for our celebrations.

Twenty days left to complete my projects!  I'd better get organized, and quick!

Happy second advent!

03 December 2010

My temptations

It's December 3rd already!  Christmas will be here before long, much to the joy of my children, and to the terror of their mother.  I'm not ready!

I love doing homemade gifts.  I think they show more thought and love than a store bought gift, (unless that store bought gift is something I know they really, really want).  But for a procrastinator like me, that means most of November and December are devoted to finishing all those projects that I started in the spring.  I have finished a few projects like the book for my son, but I have many more in various stages.  I have almost finished a quilt top for my sister, but I still have to quilt it.  My husband assures me that with his help we will finish it in no time.  I don't know how he knows that, he's never quilted, but I'm glad for the help. 

I have one dress started for my niece.  I plan to make one more, at least.  Then, I plan to make a play house for her and my daughter like this one with some scraps.  Finally, I hope to get to make some cloth blocks for the little one.  And that still leaves my husband, who just can't think of anything that he really wants or needs.  He doesn't have the same problem with me.  I gave him my list: rolling pin that actually rolls, wooden spoons, a timer, and I always welcome subscriptions to Mother Earth News or Mary Janes Farm.

Amid all this Christmas workshop atmosphere, the worst thing happened.  I received a seed catalog from Seed Savers Exchange!  Normally, this is a welcome sight.  I love curling up in a chair and spending hours perusing all the interesting varieties and planning out my garden.  And that's the problem!  It's so hard to keep my gift making momentum up when that catalog is staring me in the face!  It tempts me so.  I can be strong.  There is plenty of winter to spend with that catalog after Christmas.  And I will put it away...after I peek at the tomatoes...
My -believe it or not- clean desk with the dreaded catalog.

 After that week of endless eating, I felt the need to make a change for a few days.  I committed myself to eating only fruits and vegetables for four days.  It doesn't sound like much, but for a meat eater like me, it's tough.  I'm on day three today.  I'm getting tired of vegetable soup.  It's amazing to me how normal, everyday things become a temptation when I decide not to eat them.  A slice of cheese, a piece of bread... nutella has never looked so delicious to me.  I am craving cookies and dying to make some, but my family will have to suffer a little longer because if I make them, I know I will eat them.  It feels good to prove to myself that I can do this.  I don't have to eat everything in sight, I can control myself.  I am strong enough to do this.

I sure will be happy on Sunday when I get to eat some roast beef though!

02 December 2010

Beginning the Christmas season

My goodness!  All day long I have planned to sit and write what is on my mind, but I just never got to it, and now the day is gone. 

We finally put up the Christmas tree!  It's pretty easy, considering that it's fake and only four feet high.  It is our apartment tree, since we really can't fit a real tree in here.  I let the kids decorate it, which means I'll have to move a few things around a bit.  They seemed to like the same type of ornaments all on one branch, but for a 4 and 5 year old, I'd say they did good.   The nice thing about a four foot tree is that kids can actually reach the top while decorating.  That, and the tree can easily be placed up high on a dresser or table so the baby doesn't climb into it.

So now that we actually have our decorations and Christmas books out, let the season begin!

...and let me go to bed!

01 December 2010

Monkey see monkey do

My almost 10 month old baby has learned a lot of fun things lately.  She's walking with a rolling toy, makes motor noises, and can now reach the table top and pull down whatever isn't hooked down.  "So Big" and clapping are still  crowd pleasers, but she's expanded to waving hello and goodbye, giving five, or knuckles, and her most recent gesture is wagging her finger and saying "no no no".  I did not realize I even did that. 
Catching that finger wag is harder than you would think.
 After I laughed at her starting something like that and wondering where she learned it from, I caught myself doing that very thing.  She spit her food at me and before I could even think, I was shaking my finger at her and saying "NO".  I wonder what else I do without realizing it?  I'll probably know before long, when she starts doing it.

In other news, my disposal decided to quit me.  It still works, but it fell away from the drain.  It's just hanging out down there until my husband comes home to fix it.  I guess it just couldn't handle grapefruit rinds.

I almost finished a peasant girl dress for my niece.  It took a little longer than it should have because I had a four year old helping for most of the time.  If I had some dark thread, it would be completely finished.  They are so simple, I can't believe I've never made one before.

We are still not decorated for Christmas.  We really aren't that busy, but we just haven't found a good time when we are all home.  Maybe I will just do it myself.  Not that we have much to put out anyway, but now that it's officially December, I want to feel Christmas-y.