Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas lights

I love so much about Christmas...the foods, the smells and the sights. There are so many emotions and memories tied up in Christmas. One of my favorite things is all of the lights... twinkling Christmas lights, candles in the windows, and fires burning bright. I am so utterly grateful for the star that shone many years ago and heralded the birth of the baby Jesus. He came so that we might walk in light. He is the light. May your Christmas be one filled with walking in the Light. Merry Christmas my friends!

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a Light has shined." Isaiah 9:2

Sunday, December 20, 2009

of snowflakes and snow

When we bought a new Christmas tree this year, I thought it would be fun to decorate it with all our Wendell August Forge pewter ornaments that we've collected over the years. Every year my mother in law gives me the ornament for the year from WAF...I have over 25 of them. My husband has always wanted an 'all pewter' tree, so with the fresh start of a new tree, I thought it would be the perfect time to try it. So, after the lights were on, I strung on the cranberry garland and put on the muslin bows. I then added all the pewter ornaments...but it lacked any was kind of dull, so I put on some red balls for color and then added some icicles. That was better, but something was still missing. Then I saw this snowflake pattern and this one and the rest is history. I cut snowflake after snowflake and as I put them on the tree, they just transformed the entire tree. I loved that they were free and they added the perfect something to an ordinary looking Christmas tree. Not only do we have snowflakes on our tree, we've got piles of them outside. We're going to have a white Christmas this year, thanks to the amazing 22 inches of snow that piled up here on Saturday. It was a gorgeous snow, albeit the blizzard conditions that abounded. We stayed home and with the wood stove cranking, the kids went sledding, I baked some cookies, we watched basketball on TV, (whew, the Mountaineers pulled off a win....barely!) and John plowed and blessed our neighbors. Then our adventurous friends piled in their four wheel drive truck and headed down for dinner. We had a blast visiting with them and their 3 beautiful nieces. (and yes, they got home safely and all was well) So, today, we'll finish digging out and enjoy the transformation that snow brings...both inside and out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

holly days!

These are such holly days. In the midst of all the basketball games and schoolwork and checking our lists, we've been enjoying:

::{munching candy canes...the kid's favorite Christmas treat!}::{creating secret gifts}::{enjoying the snow....while it lasted}::{incorporating some holiday reading into our school days}::{decking the halls, and windows and walls!} ::{doing our best work, even when it's hard because of all the excitement in the air}::{watching surprise science experiments} ::{enjoying some kid directed baking} ::{savoring our family advent time}
Hope your holly days are filled to the brim with all things wonderful!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

quilted gifts

I had some leftover blocks from my scrappy log cabin quilt. I was planning on making them into pillows but I've seen some cute pot holders around the blogosphere and thought I'd try my hand at making some for Christmas gifts. I sandwiched a layer of batting and insul-brite between my front and back fabrics. Then I quilted the top with a traveling line that makes a square into the center of each potholder. (A more experience quilter could probably tell you a name for what that's called...not me) Finally, I top stitched the edges. I like how they turned out...I kept the one I made first for's rather wonky. But, I really got some practice using my walking foot! These will be fun to give with my favorite cinnamon rolls for Christmas. ( I made them last year and they were so delicious...the recipe makes about 7 pans of rolls...enough to enjoy and give away!)
Enjoy your holly days...may they find you full of joy!

Friday, December 4, 2009

it's that time of year!

It's that time of the year when everyone's hurrying and scurrying about...trying to finish up this or get started on that. The lists seem to grow and the project piles mount with each day. We're especially busy with basketball right now, so as I find myself sitting on bleachers and traveling to games I am continually jotting down things that need to get done. Last night, I read on Beth's blog that she's purposing to "doing something Christmas every day!" I really liked that. In additon to that, my girlfriend Kristyn, who knew I had an extremely busy week, sent me a note to " do something special for myself this week" . (I asked her if going to the bathroom with the door shut and no one coming in and interrupting counted! ) But in all sincerity, I think Beth and Kristyn are right! I need to be purposeful during this season to take care of myself and my family and choose wisely those things that will enhance our celebration. It doesn't have to be big stuff. Years from now, they won't remember if I baked 6 dozen cookies or 10 dozen, but they will remember sitting in the living room and reading together by the light of the Christmas lights. They'll remember that we took time as a family to share our Advent readings each night. The phone calls and emails will be forgotten next month, but the time spent wrapping and talking while listening to the holiday music will stay with all of us. My to do lists are important but they're not more important than creating special times to truly celebrate this season. So...what are you doing to keep the season special at your house? Have a wonderful weekend...the girls are performing in a play today and we've got a holiday basketball tournament this weekend so I'll be back sometime next week! enjoy.... stay jolly!

Monday, November 30, 2009

gingerbread and peppermints

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving as we spent time with family and friends. I'm still feeling rather stuffed from all the great food. On Friday, the girls and I helped my mom decorate her house for Christmas and then we decorated our home on Saturday. I just love pulling all the decorations out of the boxes and remembering special significances about each item. One of my favorite decorations (which I say about most of them) is my gingerbread man and peppermint garland. I made this about 9 years ago and I still enjoy pulling it out and hanging it up every year. It was so simple to make and the bonus is that it doesn't require any tricky sewing! I've added the pattern and the directions to my side bar so that you can make one yourself.

You'll need:
Warm and natural batting or wool felt in cream
Gingerbread brown fabrics (any variety will work)
Cranberry red fabric -scraps
Red and white striped fabric
Wonder-Under® (iron on adhesive web) I used the heavy duty type to make the gingerbread men a bit sturdier
Black paint
Needle and thread
Button thread or sturdy yarn for stringing the gingerbread men and peppermints together

Trace the gingerbread man onto the paper side of the Wonder-Under®. Cut this out leaving some space around the traced shape. Iron this onto the wrong side of your gingerbread fabric. Cut carefully on the traced line. Now you can peel off the paper backing and iron your gingerbread man onto the Wonder-Under®. Iron him right side up, the adhesive should be on the back of the gingerbread man. Cut out, leaving a ¼ inch showing of the warm and natural batting. Repeat for as many gingerbread men as you desire. Next, trace the heart onto the paper side of the Wonder-Under®. Cut this out leaving some space around the traced shape. Iron this onto the wrong side of your cranberry fabric. Cut carefully on the traced line. Peel off the paper backing and iron the heart onto your gingerbread man’s chest.

To finish off the gingerbread man, iron on the heart and glue on a button. Dot his eyes using the end of a pencil dipped in black paint. After his eyes are dry, use a q-tip to apply some blush to each cheek.
To make the peppermints, trace the circle onto the wrong side of your fabric. Fold under the edge of the fabric to the wrong side and stitch on the fold, through both layers of fabric, using a needle and thread. (For more help with the peppermints, Heather Bailey has a great yo-yo tutorial here.) Make your stitches a bit long and that will allow the center to be drawn tight when you gather the stitches together. Once you’ve stitched around the edge completely, pull your stitches taut and secure with a few stitches to hold everything secure. Tie a knot and trim your thread. Flatten your peppermint with your hand. Ta Da!

Now just stitch the gingerbread men to the peppermints alternating until the garland is the length you desire! Hang up and enjoy! Merry Merry!
I used a small brown check and a solid brown on my gingerbread men, but they'd be cute in non traditional colors for a kids room. Feel free to leave the hearts off and put letters on their little bodies to spell out a special sentiment. Or just make some single gingerbread guys for creative gift tags. Anyways, you guys will come up with your own way to make them yours, I'm sure! Enjoy! If you make a set...send me a picture, I'd love to see them! Merry Merry!

Monday, November 23, 2009

setting up residence

My intentions are usually to be a thankful person. I try to look at situations and see the good in them. In my head, I can easily recognize that there is much to be thankful for in my life. And most days, I do a pretty good job of having a heart of gratitude. I've noticed however, that when things aren't going according to my plan, or they don't have my goal as an end result, that I easily move from being thankful to being resentful. Another place I've found myself lodging is in fear. I end up here when I look too far down the road. Circumstances, relationships, financial issues, and personal faults all send their calling card to invite me to dwell in fear. The thing is, I want to reside in Thanksgiving. My heart is at rest when I'm thankful. Seriously, it's hard to be truly thankful and fearful at the same time. Have you ever been filled with gratitude and resentment at the same time? There's a verse in Philippians which directs me in how to find a home in Thanksgiving..."Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things." (4:8) See, if I've got my mind on things that are excellent, like the power of my God or things that are lovely, like the family He's given me and the great friends that support me....then my mind is given less opportunity to set up shop thinking about and dwelling in fear or resentment. So, while I've said before that I want to be thankful...I've changed my mind. I want to abide in Thankfulness. Switching residencies back and forth between fear and gratitude is too wearying. I want my address to be Thanksgiving. I'm sure, it's going to take some time and concerted effort on my part, but the good thing is that my place there is already paid for in full...I just need to take advantage of the deal. Happy Thanksgiving my friends, may this be the Thanksgiving that we never leave.
"Oh, thank God - He's so good! His love never runs out." Psalm 107:1

Friday, November 20, 2009

justifying a rainbow

If you're a knitter (or a mother or a daughter) you'll see the logic in my newest project. My middle daughter Mckenzie got a new-to-her (thrifted) winter coat. We had one here at the house that her older sister had worn two winters ago...but Maggie and Mckenzie are very different when it comes to certain things. Maggie's old coat was a bit 'too puffy and too purple' for Mckenzie. That was fine I told her, but I wasn't spending $80 on a new coat just because the one at home was 'too puffy and too purple'. It worked out however, that we were both blessed to find her current winter coat at the consignment shop for $8.00. BONUS! And it was tangerine to top it off. We've never had a tangerine coat before. She's a girl after my heart because as we were leaving the consignment shop she said, "Mom, maybe you could knit me a new scarf to go with my coat?" oh. man. melt my heart. She knew I wouldn't be able to resist that request. So, a couple of weeks later, as John and I were out on a date, I found the perfect yarn for my rainbow girl with the tangerine coat. Here's where you might have to be a knitter to appreciate the project. The yarn was hand dyed with some mohair and it cost $15. Yes, I recognize that was almost double the cost of the coat. But you's rainbow for goodness' sake. It will match every coat she ever gets from here on out. It's an investment in the future (ahem) and a deposit in my little girl, who's not so little's the knitty gritty on the scarf:
pattern: none..but I did follow the directions to Jared Flood's Noro Striped Scarf
yarn: Dancing Leaf Farm's Salsa and Paton's Classic wool in ivory (which I had leftover from another it doesn't count)
needles: size 7
length: 75 inches
being able to knit something special for my girl: priceless
*Mckenzie is thrilled with her new scarf. So being the obsessive knitter good mother that I am, I asked Maggie if she would want one too. She said, "It's really pretty mom, but it's Mckenzie's style...not mine." enough said.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

quilt weather?

Today is gorgeous here in our neck of the woods. The sun is shining and the temps are expected to hit 70! Great weather for being outside...not for snuggling underneath a quilt. But that's OK...I'll take this perfect weather even though I have a finished quilt that's just waiting to be snuggled under. Yes, that's right, I finished my Scrappy Log Cabin Quilt. Larissa was my teacher and she is fabulous. I referred back to her tutorial more times than I can count. Some days as I was working on different parts of the quilt I even had my laptop right beside my sewing machine. If you're wanting to try a quilt but have never done one before, I would loudly urge you to gather your supplies and link over to Larissa's! She knows her stuff! With that said, I followed her directions for all the different parts of building this quilt...but I did not have the courage or the equipment to quilt it myself. (The quilting is the top stitching that holds all three layers of the quilt together. ) I took my quilt to Jessica, who lives in our area and quilts for a living, and she did the meander stitching on the quilt. Her quilting machine takes up an entire room in her house! Ginormous! I have since purchased a walking foot so I can learn how to quilt through smaller sized projects. (I'm wanting to try some quilted potholders for Christmas gifts). I watched this video (several times) to learn how to make the double fold binding, sew it on and do the mitered corners. Each part of this quilt project was a learning experience for me. I am not a precise person by nature so I learned the importance of measuring accurately and pressing carefully. My favorite part was choosing the fabrics and doing the least favorite part was all the ironing. My family was tremendous as I worked on the quilt. They've cheered as I completed each milestone of the project. In the car the other day, I overheard John Samuel as he said, "Hey Kenzie, did you hear that mom's quilt is done at Miss Jessica's? She's going to pick it up tonight!" So touching to know that something so treasured by me is also high on their list of big news events. My finished quilt measures 41" X 51" and is a collection of cotton, flannel and some upholstery fabrics. (I included my new chair fabric). The batting is warm and natural and I added a strip of quilt blocks on the lower back for interest. Thanks again Larissa for all the wonderful help and encouragement along the way!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

daily bits of beauty

I've been busy enjoying life - Training my eyes to look for the lovely that surrounds me. The days are just whistling by... nothing monumental, nothing to stop traffic or make the evening news (thank goodness!), just little bits and pieces of the daily beauty that's this life of mine.

I've been:
[enjoying the beauty of the season and all the bounty that it brings][knitting rainbows for winter][capturing the seeds of the season past][cozying in and baking][being amazed at the changes in the woods...daily][starting on some secret Christmas crafting] [uploading the sounds of the season to come][and of course, gathering the leaves in our yard]
'"May you live every day of your life." Jonathan Swift