Saturday, December 26, 2009

Twas the night after Christmas

The night after Christmas. Whew, it was a whirlwind of holiday activity around here. My work week was absolutely insane, cramming all of December's work in preparation for a very busy new year...into two days or so. When it was finally over, and I was just kicking a touch of the flu, it was Christmas Eve.
How did it get here so quickly? The days on the advent calendar flew by. Regretfully, I found myself shopping on Christmas Eve. I blame my brother, who was doing about 90% of his shopping that day. A mild day turned into full blown winter as I went to Ross in search of a tin for baked goods. Kids screaming, a 20 minute wait in line, and the store looked like it had virtually been looted. The redeeming point of the day were the two Santas I spotted, one the jolliest Christmas crackhead ever strutting in his green pants, red t-shirt, santa hat, and leather pimp coat. The other was a lady Santa wearing a red jumpsuit almost cut to her naval, and black knee high patent leather boots. Classy. She was clearly shopping for more than gifts.
This is the shopping list of a person with a craft problem. I had a few last minute crafty things I wanted to do before the holidays, and a few that I will just have to file away for next year. My family comes over to my house on Christmas Eve for dinner, so I had a table to set. I tried to do it mostly with things I had around the house already.
I had every aspiration to make a tablecloth or at least napkins out of this pink floral fabric for a Christmas table. The best laid plans often go awry. In the end, I found a red floral tablecloth at Ross for $9 on clearance. It would have been $80 at least at Anthropologie and looks almost just like one I have been eying there. I used the snowflake doilies again, reused the votives from Hanukkah, and got some new green napkins. It has been Project Kitchen Upgrade around here. I feel like I'm too old to still be using the hand me down utensils and worn out linens anymore. My stocking was stuffed with spatulas, a fancy basting brush, and serving spoons. We survived the shopping, and went to the candle light service at church, which was lovely as always. There was a flamenco dancer in the service! Back at my house, we ate the traditional Italian sausage and fried potatoes and had the obligatory screening of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. This an essential holiday tradition.
My brother and I slept in and made our way over to my parent's house. We opened presents, had lox and bagels and my dad's insanely strong coffee for breakfast, and cooked meat and sauce and lasagna all day. It was a feast.
I got wonderfully lovely and thoughtful gifts. I am so very blessed. I also learned that a dear friend is going to have a bambino, and my best friend got engaged over the holidays. Many wonderful milestones to come this year.
My favorite gift was the one I gave my mother, a print of this photograph she took of my grandmothers hands. I played with the coloring and put it in a beautiful frame with a mat. It was so gorgeous I wanted to keep it. She really loved it.

I have promised myself that I will not work until Monday at the earliest. I am on vacation until the 4th, and I couldn't be more in need of a break. I have a to do list that I have to accomplish to be ready for the new year, but I have a whole week to do it. Until then, I'm turning off the alarm, may unleash the crafty beast a time or two, and generally taking it easy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay

The giant old tree in front of my house bit the dust today. It was about 75% dead, limbs dropping all the time, and it was really time to pull the plug. So the tree-climber-cutter-downers, which you could call urban lumberjacks, arrived early this morning, strapped in to a harness and scaled the tree. I decided to stay and work at my desk in the front window, and was entertained until a limb swung from a rope uncomfortably close to the glass. I ducked out and came home to find a guy half up the tree and a gigantic pile of limbs blocking the front door. I squeezed in and tried to mentally block the drone of the chainsaws until it got dark. It's sad to see the old tree go. The lumberjacks showed me where the tree had been struck by lightning years ago, you could see the impact on the rings and the way the tree was starting to grow over it. The stumps and big slices of the trunk are scattered in the yard, which a guy will come and grind up tomorrow. Hasta luego, Mr. Tree.

You'll have to pry this glitter out of my cold, dead hands

Much like my fun with turquoise spray paint this fall, I have excessively used this fantastic mint green glitter from Martha Stewart. It is subtle and a super fine grain, and don't we all love sparkly deep down? I have glued and glittered and my porch has a green metallic sheen that will probably last until spring. I recycled my fall pine cones and used card stock and white paper strips to make the trees inspired by my trip to the NYC Anthropologie flagship store on Park Ave.

Oh, Charlton Heston. Maybe I should start a National Glitter Association.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's all in the wrist

Last night was the final evening of Hanukkah. My family came over to my house to eat and celebrate. I have gifted myself with some new kitchen things for the holidays, first some white dishes from Ikea, which were $20 for a set of dinner plates, salad plates, and bowls for six. I decorated the table with a turquoise twin sheet, also purchased at Ikea for $5, snowflake-like doilies from the dollar store for $5, and napkins and votive holders from Big Lots for $10. The place cards were a total find at Publix when I was finishing up my grocery shopping. Total cost for tableware that I will use again for Christmas Eve - $35. Considering that my dishes previously were cobbled together from a set I had in college that is missing most of the pieces, a few from the thrift store, and some plastic ones from Target, this is a big step for me.
Of course, Hanukkah must include latkes. The technique is all in the wrist. You eat a lot of fried food, partly because the oil is symbolic of the lamp oil that lasted for eight nights, and also just because it is delicious. My mom is a master latke maker, which you must serve with applesauce and sour cream.
Penny Lane was tormented while we cooked and ate, especially because I made a new recipe for brussel sprouts with pancetta. Like a good part Jew puppy (it's legit from your mother's bloodline, so she's covered), she sniffed and snacked on crumbs all around the stove and the latkes fried. She was a maniac.
The brussel sprouts were sooooo good. It's a Nigella recipe from the Food Network. Words cannot express how delicious these are. Even if you don't like brussel sprouts, you will love these. Pancetta is like $10 a pound, so I considered just using bacon, but it was totally worth it. I left out the chestnuts and parsley but it was still amazing.
The evening was rounded out with a little dreidel spinning and gambling with chocolate gelt. We played "high stakes" dreidel, the competition was vicious. I'm kind of sad Hanukkah is over, I really enjoyed it this year. Even though I stumbled over the Hebrew readings, I got better and it was nice to spend some time each night with my heritage and remembering those who came before me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Yarn wreath with glittered sparrow now on sale in my Etsy shop

I decided to list the winter yarn wreath I created on my Etsy shop. You can view it here.

Eight crazy nights - night 6, and an advent stole

This is my first Hanukkah where I have lit the candles and said the readings every night on my own. It's really lovely and meditative. My Hebrew sounds like I'm a 2nd grader but at least I'm trying. I have learned a few things, though. I was basically doing it all wrong, oops. The candles are put in right to left, and you don't have all of them on there at the same time. One gets added each day, but the middle one always stays. You learn something new every day.
I promised a stole for my friend Jeannie for advent this year. She had seen one from another artist that inspired this one. Mine isn't all that technically advanced. I sketched used a heavy felt backing cut and sewed it into a V shape. The designs are basically a fabric collage, but I used fabric glue. The tassels make it look legit, though, I think.

I sketched it out and figured out the measurements. The essential design element are, first, the pregnant Mary with her hands on her belly. And the roses on the side make me think of the song "Lo, How a Rose E'r Blooming". I was also totally enamored with a children's story by Ken Medema growing up called "The Story of April". There was a song with the chorus -

Bring me a rose in the wintertime
When it's hard to find
Bring me a rose in the wintertime
I've got roses on my mind
For a rose is sweet most any time, and yet
Bring me a rose in the wintertime
How easy we forgot

I really love the stole and was blessed be able to make it. The message for me is really expectation, hope, and that joy is always approaching. I hope Jeannie likes it, too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Home town tour

I was out and about this weekend and decided to do a little tour of where I live. I am inside the Atlanta city limits, but just adjacent to City of Decatur, the cutest little town within a big city. It's just four and a half square miles. People who live here are very specific to say "City of Decatur" instead of just Decatur, they are a bit snobbish that way. But, I have lived here for around six years now, and I love it. I get the anonymity of the city and a small town feel at the same time. Here's the giant water tower with the city logo, which is also plastered all over the place in town.This is downtown Decatur, where there is great boutique shopping, coffee shops, pubs, condos, the most bad ass yogurt shop ever (they have Captain Crunch and Nutella as toppings).
And here's my church, I doctored up the photo a little bit. Ooooh, mysterious. We had our Moravian love feast at church on Sunday night. It's like an advent celebration with lots of choral music, carols, and the youth pass out coffee and sweet buns. I volunteered to bake a batch this year, and they took literally 5 hours to make. It was pretty intense for a Sunday afternoon. But the house smelled delicious, and I love kneading dough. Here's the bread rising...

The pinnacle of my crafting career

I was inspired by KnockKnocking on Etsy to make a yarn wreath. It took forever to wrap the yarn neatly around the wreath form, but it was totally worth it. I made a few yarn flowers and attached a vintage button in the center. I also made some rosettes of of lace, some snowflakes, and the cute little glittered bird. I think the chandelier glass in the center really makes it special. OK, so maybe I got carried away with the glue gun and some little rhinestones and a few feathers, I bedazzled it quite a bit, but it's sparkly and fun. I also love that I can leave it up post-holiday. I'm already envisioning how sad my bare my apartment is going to look after Christmas.
I'm considering putting this guy up on my Etsy shop, I had so much fun with it I would love to make another.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lighting the lights

It's the first day of Hanukkah. We celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah in my house, so we've got candles and latkes until sundown next Friday. Here are the lights around my house tonight.
And here's the Hanukkah bush, miraculously just like a Christmas tree. It's going undercover this week.
I'm spending the weekend with friends and family, and baking buns for the Moravian love feast at church Sunday night. The buns take five hours to make. I've made them once and as I remember, they weren't that fantastic, but I have to use this traditional recipe they gave me. Bread making is always therapeutic, though, so Sunday afternoon I will be laundering and baking.

My Top Ten Christmas Movies

Here are my all time favorites...

  1. Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special – While Pee Wee was controversial after that unfortunate movie theater incident, this show was one of my favorites growing up. I watched it every Saturday afternoon and still have the entire 1988 season on VHS. I don’t have a VHS player anymore, but that’s beside the point. This should be in everyone’s holiday film repertoire. You can’t go wrong with guest stars like Cher, Oprah, Magic Johnson, Dina Shore, Joan Rivers, Grace Jones, and Frankie and Anette.
  2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – You cannot escape Christmas Eve with my family without eating Italian sausage and fried potatoes, and watching Christmas Vacation. It never fails. “The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.”
  3. Home Alone – My little brother was obsessed with this movie. We decided it was a must watch this year, but agreed to wait to watch it together. We did take a few sneak peeks on Hulu, though. Kevin!!!
  4. Bad Santa – Billy Bob Thornton as burger Santa and a chubby kid looking for love. My favorite part is when he eats all the kid’s chocolates from his advent calendar and replaces it with random things from around the house.
  5. The Family Stone – I have a soft spot for most of the actors in this movie. It’s a little cheesy, but the cast is fantastic. Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and my favorite My So Called Life-r Claire Danes.
  6. Home for the Holidays – Who doesn’t relate to awkward family holidays?
  7. The Muppet Christmas Carol – The Muppets make anything worth watching.
  8. A Christmas Story – The classic scenes make this totally worth it to watch again. Who can forget “You’re going to shoot your eye out!” and the Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant. “Deck the harrs with barrs of horrry, fa ra ra ra ra, ra ra ra ra.”
  9. Elf – Because I love Will Ferrell.
  10. Scrooged – Because I love Bill Murray.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Post office mayhem and making cards

It took me three attempts at the post office (and TWO post offices) to finally get my stamps so I could mail all my holiday cards. I work from home, so I even got to go at odd hours when I thought there would be less people in line, but no luck. Here was my mistake - using old first class stamps that needed that little extra postage to make them legit. I went out of my way to a post office that I knew had a kiosk where I could just buy from the machine and be on my merry way, but after standing in line for that machine, I found out you can't even buy them there. So I waited, and waited, and waited and finally purchased my 2 cent stamps from the postal worker who appeared to have checked his personality at the door.
The view from the post office in Little Five Points, across from the Junkman's Daughter, which I used to think was the mecca of cool when I was in high school.

I made my cards again this year. I can never find cards I like in the store, I hate the generic sayings inside, too. So I got some blank cards and a new stamp at the craft store and used my embossing powder and hot air thingie that makes it all work (which is the purple phallic looking contraption there in the picture). If you have not embossed, I highly recommend it. It is minimal effort and it looks really fancy.

The paper whites emerge

I planted these paper white bulbs just after Thanksgiving in this little kit I found that had dirt, three bulbs and the aluminum planter. You have to keep them in a dark, cool place for a week or so until the leaves come up, and about two weeks later you have blooms like these. They are so pretty and they smell amazing. It's also just a nice sense of accomplishment to actually grow something!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Textile fringe necklace giveaway drawing!

Enter the giveaway contest for a textile fringe necklace fringe necklace like this one from my Etsy shop. These make cute, inexpensive Christmas gifts, too. Just post a comment with your name and email address and make sure you're following this blog to enter the drawing. Post by this Friday, December 11 at noon EST. Winner will be posted on Friday.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Penny Lane hibernates

I estimate she sleeps 14-16 hours a day. She sleeps like it is her job, and I guess it sort of is. Oh, Penny. I think she is going into hibernation. This is her new favorite place to nap.

Packages, packages, packages

I spent Thursday night getting together all of my wrapping for gifts that needed to be shipped. I made a lot of little gifts for girl friends, and I'm excited to be done and have them all in the mail. Here is one of my boxes of gifts for my best friend from high school. I sent her a monogrammed ornament, some jewelry, and some kind of smelly bath product.
I also have almost all of my gifts purchased and wrapped, thank god. I love wrapping presents and making cards, and I got amazing paper from Ikea for 50 cents this year. Here's one of my favorite packages - I used braided yarn as ribbon and made a little embossed tag from the boxes of cards I bought.

Ornament of the day - Bert

I made this ornament as a memorial to my dear friend Russell Groff, who died from complications from the AIDS virus in 2002. Russell and I went to college together, and he was one of the most joyful, brave, and loving people I have known. We studied theater together at Maryville College, and his Bert doll was hidden on stage for all of our shows. I love to remember him each year when I take out this ornament.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Blog feature

My black and white polka dot shoe clips are featured over at Inkihandmade. Thanks so much!

Is that vinyl real wood grain?

Who knew there were so many uses for wood grain contact paper? I have been eye-ing this refrigerator makeover project, but this paper was surprisingly hard to find. I have to be honest, it took way longer than I am comfortable to admit to cover that fridge in contact paper. But now I have my very own fake wood appliance. It's kitschy, I love it. I have miniature, out of date kitchen space with old appliances, what's a girl to do? It's a design dilemma. But, I think you just have to embrace the quirks of a space and roll with it.

I already showed you my wood grain wrapping paper idea with the contact paper, and here is my next project, the faux mantle. Perhaps I have gone a little overboard with the stuff...I still have another way I have used it - in wrapping gifts. Do I need an intervention?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A home made, earth friendly advent calendar

I made my own advent calendar this year, and decided to use materials I already had in the house. I used plain white envelopes to make square paper pockets, and cut out interesting photos from magazines and some old books from the thrift store. I buy a lot of books just for the pictures to use in collages and card making. I added a little ribbon loop from scraps and hung each on a wide gold ribbon with an ornament hook. The ribbon was salvaged from some old holiday decorations my mom was sending to the thrift store this year. It was perfect for this project because it is a wide weave, so the ornament hooks worked out great. I wrote numbers with a Sharpie, and in each envelope a put a page from the Advent meditation book that is a collection of writings (new each year) by people in my church. You could put little candies or treats in the envelopes for kids, but I don't need any more chocolate in my life than there already is.

Ornament of the day(s)

I promised an ornament and the story behind it each day in December, and sadly, I have slacked by Day 2. I do have a bit of a note for the teacher, my mom went to the hospital yesterday. She's fine now, nothing catastrophic, but I spent most of my day yesterday with her and then had to make up for the work day I missed until the wee hours of the morning. I have a very challenging, wonderful, yet insanely huge and time consuming project for work. My job is developing a program for teen girls to inspire activism through art, primarily theater. We wrote curriculum based on a play for teens about stories of girls around the world (which I can't mention yet because it's not published), and now we are building a social networking site. It's not going to be your everyday web site, we've got big plans. It's a new endeavor for me, and I love it, but it's ginormous. A family illness on top of that this week has been a bit nuts. How is it Thursday already?

Anyways, I'm making up for yesterday with two ornaments today. Ornament number one is my God's eye. I made this one last year at the children's advent festival at church, but it really reminds me of my many years working at summer camp. I have probably made a hundred God's eyes in my day. Who doesn't love a craft made out of yarn and sticks?
And this is my Moravian star. I have always loved these, and they hold special significance now. We have a beautiful Moravian star on our big Chrismon tree in the sanctuary at my church, and this one reminds me of that. I am on a perpetual hunt for a lighted Moravian star for the top of my own tree. If you don't know about Chrismon trees, they are trees with ornaments that are all symbols from the Christian faith, and they are all in gold and white. Here's a little bit of info on them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Saving the trees with my e-card

I was looking for a really free and easy way to make a holiday e-card using my own photos. I found this site called Smilebox where you can upload your photos and customize your card. You can even add music. It takes a little bit of time to get acquainted with the program, and you do have to download a little bit of software. But it's fun to send a non-generic Christmas card via email. It definitely saves on postage, although I will still be sending paper cards. This year I'm reducing my paper card list and I always make my own cards. I can send this e-card and still maintain my own aesthetic and make it personal.
Click to play this Smilebox greeting: Custom holiday ecards
Create your own greeting - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox greeting

Faux finish wrapping paper

I love to use unexpected things to wrap a gift. Here's a little project using one of those free standard rate mailing boxes from the postal service and some wood grain contact paper. Trace the box on the contact paper, cut out, and apply. Getting the paper on straight takes a little bit of time, but you get a very unique faux finish gift box. Wrap some ribbon, lace, twine, or even garland around it, and apply one of your eco chic recycled gift tags.

Easy eco chic gift tags

These gift tags are a great way to recycle your old Christmas cards, which I never throw out. Cut the old cards into interesting gift tag shapes. You can usually get 4-8 tags from each card. Punch a hole and thread with a ribbon and you've got yourself a unique and eco chic gift tag.

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