Friday, December 30, 2011

ForEvergreens

Pulled out the blue wintry table runner. I'm starting to hibernate...

Cause

baby

it's

cold

outside.

Time for the warm, wooly blankets to come out. And my yarn stash. 

I'm back to knitting. 

I finally finished (well, P, my knitting teacher finished it for me...she knit the handles together with a kitchener stitch...a horribly confusing set of stitches that connects pieces and you need a video to help you get through it and a glass of wine) a market tote bag I started about a year or so ago. She had it felted for me a few days later and now it's my new project bag.

The next project is a pillow I saw at a famous-but-will-remain-nameless retail shop.

I refuse to pay gobs of hard earned cash for a pillow

But I love this pillow. So I have to make it.

You can see one of the little stockings above, next to my newly felted bag. I'll post photos of the finished project.

When it's finished.

In the meantime, the photo below (courtesy of pb) shows the pillow I love.
Had dinner tonight with a good friend, G. We were both bachelorettes for the dinner hour and decided to get a burger at the local burger joint.

Oh me, oh my. Best burger ever. Pepperjack cheese, crispy onion straws and homemade guacamole. 

Wow. I love this combination. I really love this combination.

Try it. You'll like it. What commercial was that from?

After dinner, we stopped at a gift store and found their holiday florals, and wreaths, and garlands marked down by 70%. Unbelievable. We were like kids in a candy shop. Each item looked prettier than the next. We had armloads before we even blinked.

I found four new {for}evergreen trees to display for the grand total of $25. 

Now that's a bargain. I can't wait to tell the Man how much money I saved him.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Birthday Celebration, aka Christmas Day

I don't when I started doing this but I always take a picture of the tree on Christmas eve with all the presents underneath. 

Lights out in the house.

Just the lit tree.

And then I leave it on all night. The Man told me this is what his mom used to do on Christmas eve.

I like that. Makes the house look very cozy and warm and welcoming all night long. 

Christmas morning. 

Gifts had been opened.  And put away.

The dog lying on his new-ish dog bed. The bed was four days old. I'm giving it two weeks.

Two weeks before it's turned into a small ball of fluff.

He eats his dog beds. This is about the twenty-seventh dog bed we've had in twelve years. He and his sister, Sissy's last dog, also jointly chewed a few of her beds. We were dog-sitting one weekend and when we came home, the library was filled with floating fluff and no sign of fabric anywhere. Bed was gone and both dogs were slinking around. We still don't know what took place while we were out.

But he hasn't had a bed in a long time. And he's getting old. The floor is hard. So I took pity on him and bought him {another} dog bed. 

I should just take a twenty dollar bill and throw it out the window.

Remember this? K's new knit stocking that I made for her after last Christmas. J and the Man got new stockings too.

Oh boy, do they stretch out. I kept stuffing and stuffing and stuffing and still didn't fill the stockings. There was so much room left I could have put their presents in there as well.

J saw the Man's stocking stretched waaaaaay out, held it up and said, "This isn't a Christmas stocking. It's a Christmas leg." The thing stretched from the floor to above his hip. 

Uh-oh. I'll never be able to completely fill these things.

*Note to self - make next set of stockings out of non-stretching yarn. Using non-stretching stitches.
My new favorite finger dessert.

Oreo Fudge Bars


1 16 oz. package of Oreo cookies
1 stick butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
Couple handfuls of chopped walnuts, maybe 1/2 cup


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line 9x13 pan with foil and lightly spray with PAM. In food processor, crush the cookies. If you don't have a food processor, roll out cookies in a zip baggie with a rolling pin until the cookies are fine crumbs. Add the salt to the crumbs and stir to combine. Melt butter and gently stir together with the cookie crumb mixture. Press firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Over a double boiler or in the microwave, melt 1/2 cup semi-sweet and 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips together with the condensed milk and vanilla. I microwaved this mixture on very low power for about 2 minutes. Stir frequently until smooth. Spread evenly over the prepared cookie crust. 

Sprinkle 1/4 semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips, and the chopped walnuts over the top of the filling. Press down gently into the chocolate topping. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Allow to cool on counter for one hour. Chill in fridge until completely cold and set before cutting into bars.

Don't make this if you are alone in the house. You will eat them all. Danger, Will Robinson.
M gave me the greatest table runner. It's filled with tomtes.


Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Happy birthday, dear Jesus.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Vignettes


White chocolate covered cherries. Can you say "yum"?

When I saw this idea on Pinterest (and yes, I get a LOT of ideas from Pinterest), I knew I was going to make them for Christmas.

Why?

Because they are a fairly healthy treat. Being mostly cherry. 

And they are red and white. My two favorite colors at Christmas.

That's a win-win in my book.
K dresses like an elf when she wraps Christmas presents.

And she sings.

Although she probably would not admit this to anyone. 

Her mother thinks she sings pretty nicely.
I told my niece that she looked like an Old Navy model on Christmas eve. 

I love that hat.

She looks very European in that hat. Come to think of it, she lives closer to Europe than any of the rest of us.
I finally got the NOEL sign made. 

Actually, the Man made the sign for me. He was home a few days before Christmas and was at odds with himself. As Nana would say, "He had an egg and didn't know where to lay it."

Kind of looking for trouble, if you know what I mean. 

So I decided to give him a project. I didn't let him know he would be c-r-a-f-t-i-n-g. 

I told him how I wanted it to look and let him have free rein with the glue, my hot glue gun, and some spray paint. 

Love it. He did a great job, didn't he?
J gave P a cute gift on Christmas eve. Another Pinterest idea.

J and I took a bunch of pictures, with his arms posed in all kinds of positions, and pieced them together to form a heart.

I think she liked it.

~~~~~~~~~~

Some things I want to remember about this Christmas:

Going to see The Nutcracker for the first time, just K and I. It was magical and wondrous and I felt like a  kid again.

Finding joy in the smallest pleasures of the season...listening to K sing a Christmas carol......seeing J wrap his gifts in a horrendous fashion.....enjoying a glass of mulled wine with the Man while watching "It's a Wonderful Life".......hand stitching some ornaments for friends. As my kids would say, It's all good.

Deciding that my favorite night of the season is December 23rd. The anticipation is still building, but the holiday is close enough to feel. 

Cutting out a lot of the baking I used to do. We don't need it. And I get mad when I end up throwing it out after Christmas.

Changing my attitude about gift-giving and decorating. I'm going to go with "less is more" next year.

Favorite discovery of the season? Doing photo cards for the first time. And loving them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Take This Show on the Road

Our Knitwits Christmas party was last night. 

These women are insane. Funny. Sweet. Full of love and support and hugs.

We laughed, we sang, we ate, and ate some more. We opened presents. Passed on recipes. A fantastically fun night was had by all.

At least by me.

Except three of us weren't there. Two of those haven't been coming lately. And we're fortunate to see them once every other month. 

But the third missing one is a regular. And she was missed. A lot.
I started bringing small packages for each Knitwit the very first year I went to a Christmas party. 

Party favors. 

Who doesn't like to get a party favor at a party?

This year's package was a linen Christmas dishtowel. And a handmade ornament by yours truly.

I love them. I found the idea on Pinterest and knew I had to make them from some wool sweaters I repurposed after felting.

See? I actually do some of the stuff I pin.
This was what my Secret Santa gave me! 

Matryoshka dolls!

Can you tell how excited I am by all the exclamation points?

Truly, I love these dolls. I started collecting them about twenty years ago, when J was just a little guy. And I don't have any like this at all. And my Secret Santa must have known that. Guess who my Secret Santa was? 

My very own dear friend, M!

More exclamation points.

I suspected her from the beginning. Each gift was absolutely perfect for me. She's such a doll.

Ha. Doll. 

Get it? She gave me dolls. 

I make myself laugh.

~~~~~~~~~~

The Queen brought sheet music to the party so we could have a carol sing. We sat around the dining room table, singing our little hearts out. We sound great. Especially after a glass of wine. Or a cup of eggnog.

We sang half a dozen songs or so, each note getting a bit more wonky as we sang and finally closed with "Silent Night". Only some of us misbehaved.

After singing the first verse, those ill-behaved Knitwits didn't want to sing any more verses. So the Queen said, "Second verse!"

You know what they said?

"Second verse, same as the first!" And broke into "Henry the Eighth" in perfect harmony.

Unbelievable. 

Where else have you heard "Silent Night" and "Henry the Eighth" sung as a round?








Saturday, December 17, 2011

Yesterday's Movies/Today's Technology



Not much going on today. Feeling a touch under the weather. Enough to keep us home from a Christmas party.

Snuggled in a cozy chair with my soft, cuddly, red furry blanket and a cup of tea.

Watched Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Twice.

Bringing Up Baby.

The Philadelphia Story.

Kate and Cary are very funny together. I wish there were more actors like them today. 

And writers. We need better writers. Writers that don't resort to potty, wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap humor. I do not like sitting down to watch a movie and finding I have to turn it off within the first fifteen minutes because of awkward situations or bad language.

I wish that bar had never gotten lowered. 
On the funny side of the street, my dad got an iPhone a few days ago.

He's been crank calling all of us, trying to figure it out. He called me twice one night and couldn't hear me either time. I called him back to find out what was going on.

"Did you just call me?" I asked him.

"Well, I called you twice. But I couldn't hear it ring. So I don't know if I actually called you," he answered.

"It only rang once. And there was no one on the other end so I hung up," I told him.

"Huh. Are the kids home? I was hoping they could answer some questions for me."

But they weren't home. So I had to send him to Sissy and P. Sorry Sissy.

~~~~~~~~~~

Fast forward a couple days and he now knows how to text. Sort of. He's been texting the kids all day.

He hasn't quite figured out auto-correct so K's getting some pretty funny messages from him. I told her she should start her own blog, "Texts My Grampa Sends Me". 

She's been smiling all night. Thanks, Dad.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gingerbread Plans, or how we made Hansel and Gretel's house

We changed it up a bit this year. Sissy and I have been making the same style gingerbread house for years.


Lots of years.


But this year I got it in my head to make a different style house. A Swiss chalet, to be exact.


Kind of reminds me of a cross between Hansel and Gretel's house and a house we used to rent at the beach when we were very young.


Let's just say it wasn't my most thought out idea.
Oh, these pictures make it look so easy putting these houses together. 

It wasn't. 

The angles were hard to work with. They didn't want to hold each other up at all.

As a matter of fact, they were very uncooperative.

They kept wanting to fall. Away from each other. 

And the roofs. Ack.

They started caving in under the weight of the candy. Some of us put more weight on our roofs  than others. Those caved in more. But they didn't break. And they stopped sagging at some point and are now holding their own.

Sissy wasn't too happy with me for changing things around. She kept muttering things like, "What were you thinking?" and "We're not doing this again EVER. We're going back to the regular houses next year," and "I'm not listening to you again."

Poor Other Sissy and my niece, M, came to do gingerbreads with us.

They didn't know what they had gotten themselves into. 
Somehow, it all came together.

Just like I knew it would.

~~~~~~~~~~

You gotta have faith, Sissy.
I didn't do anything to our house this year, except bake the pieces a few days before with Sissy.

K did all the piping, and designing, and decorating. 
And all the sass.

Yes, she does all the sass around here.
The front of P's house. 

I love the "Merry Christmas" over the front door.

Don't be surprised if this photo shows up on a Christmas card next year. 

I love it so.

~~~~~~~~~~

What we learned:

Don't mess with success.....next year we're going back to the standard house design.

Don't be afraid to try something new.....it was hard work at first, but it all turned out in the end.

It takes a lot to make something go from bending to breaking.....things are stronger than they look.

Don't shop for candy on an empty stomach.....well, you can guess why that's been included.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Gift

Just sitting in front of the Christmas tree, listening to Handel's Messiah, and giving thanks for such a perfect holiday moment.

Quiet amidst the chaos.

Peace among the busy-ness.

Driving home a few nights ago, I headed toward the center of town. It was just dark, the stars were out and the moon was high in the sky. I could see some white twinkling lights up ahead and found the fire department all decked out with lights outlining the building and covering the shrubs in front.

Oh, how pretty. Boy, they sure did a nice job decorating this year.

Then I rounded a curve, coming up to the town green. 

And saw so. many. lights.

The gazebo, where our high schoolers all gather before the prom, was home to a small Christmas tree, lit with white lights. Evergreens all around it were strung with more white lights. I could just make out the tomtes in front of the Scandinavian shop behind the gazebo. Shining brightly, the whole scene was a beacon to travelers passing through our small town. All we needed was a little bit of snow to make it into a perfect Christmas card.

At the other end of the town green, a tall pine tree stood, lit with thousands of colored lights.  Lights strung along its long, sloping branches and winding up the trunk at the base of the tree. With the backdrop of an inky black sky scattered with hundreds of stars across the heavens, the lone pine tree stood sentinel, announcing Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming!  to all driving by.

Oh my. I wanted to stop the car and just stare at our lovely town green. On the radio, a familiar instrumental Christmas song came on, filling the car with its soft melody, lifting my spirit and bringing with it such complete feelings of contentment. 

Content that I could find the spirit of Christmas in a moment. 

Not in a thing.

I think I've discovered the perfect Christmas gift. 

Moments. Burned into memory, to be pulled out years from now and enjoyed again and again.
We sponsor a Christmas tree at the library to benefit a local shelter for abused women and their children. 

They have nothing.

And need everything.

Every year I am amazed at the generosity of our patrons. 
Guess what we did a couple weeks ago? 

Gingerbreads!

Just a quick look at the construction of the Swiss chalet style homes. Can you see Santa hiding in the house that K is putting the final wall on?

More photos to come...
Finally put together the order for K's senior pics. 

Getting ready to ship them out with the Christmas photo cards. As soon as they get here.

Ack! Hope it's soon. Christmas is in less than two weeks....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

All I Want for Christmas...

Nan carries this picture around with her in her wallet. 

We didn't even know it existed.

I love it. A perfect family photo. Everyone's smiling and looking at the camera.

My dad is on the far left, the guy in the groovy Indian chief sweater. Next to him is Gramps, holding Aunt N. Nan is sitting next to Gramps, holding Uncle J, and Uncle T is the fashionable little guy in the snowflake sweater. Uncle T is the guy who owns the beach house we get to visit each summer.

Me and Uncle T.

I can see that cute little guy in him.

I wonder if he still has that snowflake sweater?

----------

I ordered photo cards this year for Christmas. That's a huge deal for me.

I always include a photo of J and K in our Christmas cards, so it's not the photo that's huge. 

It's the format.

I've been pooh-poohing photo cards for the past few years, thinking it was the easy way out of sending Christmas greetings. 

Because some people only send the photo card. No note, no handwritten greeting, not even a signature. Just a typed "Merry Christmas from the Can't-Be-Bothered-to-Write-Cards Family"

But I saw this great idea on Pinterest and immediately Changed. My. Ways.

All I want for Christmas are photo cards.

----------

I still think they are the easy way out but I'm going to write a little note on the back of my photo cards. So if you send me a photo card, please sign it.

I like the handwritten touch.

But finding this photo of my dad and his family from a Christmas long ago made me realize just how important those photo cards will be years from now.

Thanks, Nan.