Sunday, December 20, 2009

Piano/Violin Recital 2009

It was a wonderful night! A perfect combination of serious performance in front of an audience, and laid back so the kids felt comfortable. I made a million and two cupcakes for the reception afterward and programs for the performance, and the kids had practice before the recital, so we were BUSY yesterday. So I've declared today stay at home in pajamas day. Ahhhh... laziness, I do embrace thee.

Yesterday was a lot of fun though, in all of its frenzied glory. I didn't take video because the show was recorded and we can buy a dvd of the whole thing. Seemed a lot easier to do it that way, leaving me free to just snap a few pics and then enjoy the performance.

The kids played amazingly. I was a proud mama. I'd have been proud even if they hadn't rocked the stage as awesomely as they did, but it is always nice to see practice pay off. Kind of reinforces the whole purpose of practice and all that good stuff. Afterward we had two rounds of visitors over to snuggle the new puppy and hang out with us. Just a good day all round.

Now, I must return to my day of leisure. I have a sleeping puppy on my lap, the husband is cooking dinner in the kitchen, the kids are playing, and life is good. A great way to end the weekend! Hope this coming holiday week is wonderful for everyone. Relaxing, comfortable, safe and fun!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

This is the little photo collage that I am including in my Christmas cards this year.  Clicking on the image makes it larger and more readable, though I actually printed it really small as our cards are tiny.

This was about as much creativity as I could get to this week with our new puppy underfoot. We are settling into a sort of rhythm which is helping, but I have to admit I am looking forward to the Christmas decorations coming down soon! Too much temptation for one small doggy!

Happy Holidays everyone! We're almost there, huh?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I know it has been quiet around the blog lately. Blame this...

Well, don't blame the girl with chocolate on her face. But what she is holding. A puppy! The holiday season just didn't seem frantic enough so we thought introducing a baby that doesn't wear diapers and that can chew through cords in the two seconds you lose track of her would fix that for us.

I kid! She is a lot of work, but it has been really fun too. She's a good girl, sweet and mild. A schnoodle (mix of a schnauzer and poodle) with black eyes, nose and fur, so she is really hard to photograph. It has been wonderful to watch my kids learn how to be around a pet, she's their first one! Between allergies and just plain old frantic life, we've been dogless for over eight years.

So between the mountains of snow outside, the holiday season shenanigans and a new puppy - blogging time, heck all computer time, has been scarce. But all the puppy kisses make up for it. Here's one for you!


Meet Poppy Shaboodles Bryant. The newest member of our pack.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Of course that is easy for me to say since I don't have to go anywhere, and in anticipation of the storm I scheduled a free day for our business on Thursday. It is supposed to still be storming on Friday, but living with snow is part of the Michigan package. We can't take them all off in advance. Sometimes we just suck it up, dig ourselves out and go on about life. Other times we take it job by job, hour by hour, based on safety.

“We have a very deep storm coming toward the Great Lakes, one of the deepest ones we’ve had in years... The unusually intense storm system is going to have very high winds, easily 25-35 gusting to 45-50 in open areas." - A quote from our local paper about the storm that has yet to hit. The snow pictured was just the appetizer.

According to the paper, eleven inches of snow had already fallen by 11am and will probably go way past the sixteen predicted inches. And 'the storm' hasn't even hit yet! The schools in the area were closed today and closed in anticipation of tomorrow's storm. Lots of happy kids in town today. That means dance class is canceled for us, which makes me happy! I like to avoid driving until people get their snow brains back on. The first few weeks of winter driving is like watching bumper cars driven by drunk, lead-footed idiots. I wish I were exaggerating. People calm the heck down again after a bit, and then I don't mind snow driving so much.

Today was lovely. (Once the people I love got home from the few jobs they didn't cancel, of course. I get nervous with my boys on the road.) The snow was gorgeous! I wish I knew some of the different words for snow that Eskimos use. This snow was incredibly packable and tinged a gorgeous blue. Shoveling it was easy since it stuck together so well, but wasn't frozen at all. I wish I knew its name. Lumping it together with all the other kinds of snow seems wrong. This snow is special. Heck, I half expected our snowman to start talking after being built with this magical stuff.

The winds haven't started yet. When we were out playing my cheeks didn't even get cold. I am guessing it was barely cold enough to snow, but just cold enough to keep it all snow, no slush and ice. Yet. When the winds start tonight the word cold should really mean something to the folks in my town. But by then we will be well snuggled in with blankets, cocoa, books and movies. Our home warmed with baking. We plan on making cookies, apple crisp and I have a pot roast on the stove right now. Mmmm.... We are ready for some serious snow day lazing!

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Update on clay snowmen and tree topper...

The snowfamily is all put together and waiting for my girl to paint and felt them into adorableness. Though I think they are pretty cute already.

The finished tree topper.

I did a quick brush of galactic blue acrylic ink (name is fitting for stars, huh?) and then wiped away the surface ink quickly with a damp cloth. My husband has a hankering for a blue and white Christmas tree, and it sort of reminds me of blue and white pottery, so I am happy with the result. Then the girl and I assembled the stars into several different circles before we settled on this one. There were a few stars left over that I'll just string on ribbons for individual ornaments.

Hot glue seems to be the best kind of glue to use on the ultralight sculpey in this type of construction. It held the snowmen wonderfully and I could even make them little bases out of the glue so they could stand up. I had tried two other permanent clear glues on the stars last night and they fell apart this morning. I was glad the hot glue seems to be working since I am impatient and didn't want to wait another day for other types of glue to dry!

Detail of the stamps on the stars. Now I hope we can get it to sit right on the tree. The wire I used might be too flimsy. I need to wait for one of the tall ones of the family and trim the top of the tree and put this up. The teen tall one is out and about and the husband tall one has a migraine. :( Poor guy. He doesn't get them often, but when he does it usually eats up at least one day. So that means lots of quiet crafting for this calm, snowy Sunday.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More Holiday Crafting...

My daughter and I were brainstorming to come up with a tree topper... We thought a wreath of stars might look cool. To make the stars we used sculpey ultralight which I had on hand. I figured it wouldn't hurt to make the ornament as light as possible. After we rolled the clay out and used a cookie cutter for the star shapes, we stamped designs into the stars with little bindi stampers. My daughter also made a snowman family out of clay scraps that she plans to felt scarves and hats for. I love that kid. Always coming up with ideas that sort of blow me away.

I am not quite sure how I am going to make the stars into a wreath. At first I was going to glue them all together randomly, and I still might. But part of me wants something lighter, airier looking. Maybe glue them to a circle of wire? I also don't know if I will add a wash of color to bring out the design or leave them crisp white yet. Or add glitter. Hmmm... so many directions this could go.

No, my advent cones aren't done yet...

My list of projects is growing and the time before Christmas is shrinking steadily. There's a felted Santa I started last year that I'd love to finish. Doilies I won in an auction last year that I'd love to do this with. Cookies would be fun. And of course the advent cones.

Snow is covering the ground outside now, and the air is properly blustery. The time for a busy warm home is here and I am feeling very content. Happy weekend everyone!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Finish it Friday... Better late than never!

I thought I'd use a Friday meme I've seen around the crafty blogs as means of inspiration to my winter slow self. I am trying to finish these little Advent Calendar Cones (yes I know I am four days late). Yesterday was our first snow of the year AND my husband brought home a real Christmas tree!

The kids have never experienced a real tree, and we haven't had one in ten years. So it was pretty exiting! Right now it is drinking water for a day and we plan to decorate it on Saturday. It is a sweet little tree. The branches have already started to drop quite a bit from this picture and it is filling out nicely. Not that I'd really care. I'd be happy with a Charlie Brown tree, if it came with the lovely real tree smell!

So this means the Christmas music is officially playing, the stockings are hung, my entryway is decorated with fresh boughs cut from the tree and cinnamon scented pine cones.

We are officially feeling festive. Snow seems to be the key to the start of the holidays, for us folk that are used to nature providing well defined seasons. A long snowless fall is so nice in some ways, but the darkness and lack of snow sure mess with my internal clock!

Here a few shots from this morning's craftiness...

The pile of triangles I cut the other day. Some of this material is stuff I've had since high school. Some my mom gifted me. Some I bought for projects long forgotten. It is nice to use it all together like this.

I'm set up in the living room so the kids and I can hang out and listen to Christmas music and fight over the sewing machine. They like to try to take it over whenever I bring it out!

A nice mess. I love crafty messes. They are so much more fun than regular messes.

Here is the almost finished product. I think I'll add tags for the numbers. I don't mind so much that this will be 'late', since it will be all ready for future years and I am sure the kids won't mind as they aren't even expecting anything at this point.

All and all a sweet, quiet, and happy start to December. Wishing everyone who reads here the same!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Winter wanders in slowly...

A jumble of holiday type material...

Plus scissors, clothes line rope, and some knots...

Equals the beginning of the holiday decorating.

I saw this handmade swag project on a blog a few weeks back and wish I could remember where it was so I could link to it properly. I was digging through my material stash because I really want to make these sweet little fabric cones for an advent calendar. That is what the square pattern paper is for in the top picture actually. Yes, I know I'm a day late for a proper advent calendar, but the kids won't mind opening two presents on Wednesday.

I was sidetracked when I remembered the swag and started cutting strips and tying them to the rope. It is really addicting. Next thing I knew, I had a little holiday garland to throw up on the windows. I plan on losing the blue star and adding random cinnamon scented pinecones along the swag. The icicle lights replace the snowflake lights from last year because I sort of crushed the snowflake lights in a mad closet organizing project this summer. Oops!

This is all we have out decorating-wise so far, but nature hasn't decorated yet either. It is crazy how dark November is without snow. It has been all rain and clouds and short, short days that never seem to brighten past twilight. I keep waiting for the light that tells my body that the day is starting but it never quite gets there before the sky goes completely black again. I realized the difference is the lack of snow. Once the snow falls, the blinding white everywhere makes the world much brighter and the skies are brilliant blue at least some of the time. This odd humid fall has been really interesting. Not bad, because it has given us more time to roam trails, but we're definitely creeping slowly into the holiday season, not sledding headfirst at breakneck speeds.

Today ends my 'obligation' to post daily for nablowrimo. It was a good experience. Through it I found some great blogs to add to my google reader. I also blogged during a month I very likely would have skipped, due to illness and a general scatteredness I seem to struggle with when the weather turns cold and dark. I am interested to see if I want to blog more now that I don't 'have' to. I do have quite a few projects lined up for both the holiday season and the winter days that follow and this blog is basically my virtual refrigerator to my hobbies on. I'm not afraid to admit it. ;)

Goodbye November! It's been fun.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Today I got sick of my hair...



Pictures really washed out due to me trying to take the pictures with no sunlight. It was dark grey during the daylight hours and well, the sun basically is all but down between 4:30 and 5pm. My hair is now really layered in the back, so it feels ten pounds lighter. Such a relief! It was driving me crazy and stayed damp after my shower for hours.

I know I promised painting pictures, but I never took the after pictures before I lost the light. (What light? It is truly the dark part of the year.) I was busy having fun with the day after all the work yesterday. Haircut and a walk in the woods, which is crazy since we were able to take a walk with only fall coats and light gloves. We didn't even need hats. Other than the short days you can hardly tell it is two days from December!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Trying to find that holiday rhythm...

This song is helping. I downloaded the album and like it. Though Sting's beard is really messing with my head. With his beard he looks like my biological father and my husband merged into one person and that is just all sorts of messed up. But I can't hold it against the man. I just close my eyes and listen.

We aren't feeling the holiday vibe around here. Typically we start decorating the day after Thanksgiving, but none of us are really there yet and haven't the stamina to drag out the boxes and shift furniture. It has been really grey and rainy and I am guessing that is most of the lag. Once the snow covers the ground, as much as we dread it, it tends to bring the desire for Christmas trees, music and such.

My husband and I are considering doing some projects instead of decorating this weekend. Like painting the toy room and build some shelves out there to house the family's movies and games. It would be great if we actually did that, but I am really tired tonight and it is hard to imagine finding the energy.

Or, I might just put on my new, groovy holiday album, knit and drink hot cider all day. Hmmm... right now that idea is winning.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mmmmm.... Cranberries...

I think cranberries are one of my favorite parts of this season. I love seeing fresh cranberries in the stores and always buy a bag when out shopping. I don't cook them even though I do enjoy them served that way too. I make a sort of salad? relish? I don't know what it is really, but it is fresh and yummy. I learned the recipe from my mom and I think she got it from her grandma. It is a favorite of mine and now of my children, a sort of sweet/tart type taste that we like to eat at breakfast time. It wakes up the tastebuds!

There might be a real name for this somewhere. The kids and I call it sweet tart salad. :)

Cranberry Sweet Tart Salad

Bag of fresh cranberries
Orange (with peel on)
Apple (I like jonamac in this but you could tweak it a lot by the flavor of the apple)
Sugar to taste (My mom's grandma used 2 cups! Yikes. I used about 3/4 cup.)

Wash all the fruit including the peel of the orange because you use the whole thing. Cut the apple and orange into chunks. Throw all the fruit into a food processor and pulse until it is all chopped as finely as you wish. I like to make it really fine, almost like a sauce. Add sugar and pulse to mix. Done! It is even better the next day.

I had meant to take a picture of the finished product. Actually, I had planned on taking pictures of Thanksgiving from beginning to end. It is now 10:30 pm and a couple shots of cranberries in lousy lighting is the only proof of today's feast. Well, that and about 5 pounds of mashed potatoes in my fridge. That might sound like a lot of leftover potatoes, but we started with 30 pounds. My husband has brothers. We all like potatoes. The end.

Fun day! And now we get to enjoy the first long Thanksgiving weekend we've ever had together. One of us has always had to work at least the Friday before if not more of the weekend. (I don't count the Thanksgiving that I came home from the hospital with my son. Newborns are sweet and nice and lovely, but don't count as a relaxing weekend.) And we are NOT shopping. Just three days of relaxing and fun. And turkey sandwiches!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Woohoo! I can knit! I can knit!

Okay, this might not look like much to anyone else, but this is the first time I've followed a knitting pattern and had it look like it was supposed to. I have been trying to break past my knitting disability since my daughter was a baby. So for almost eight years I have been stuck on scarves, plain hats, or simple things on circular needles, as I could never get past simple knitting and purling.

With the help of google, and some awesome knitting help sites, I figured out part of my problem came from accidentally teaching myself the 'combined method continental hold' way to knit (and I was even doing that a bit incorrectly). When you knit that way, then you have to convert patterns to work. And I barely even knew what the regular way was, so it was like trying to translate Spanish to Braille when I could hardly speak Spanish and didn't know Braille. So I usually gave up and knitted a scarf, or some sort of free form creation. Or hats, that typically ended up really large.

I enjoy knitting, it soothes me. I love yarn stores. We have an amazing one in town, but the women there pretty much know me as the chick who buys wool roving for her felting crazed daughter. (Well, maybe I am imagining that label, but it feels like that.) I've longed to be able to try out some of the amazing projects that are shared on blogs and to join Ravelry, and be able to understand the patterns.

I've been recovering from illness, and get tired out quickly. I've spent a lot of time sitting and resting which tends to lead to knitting. But I was getting frustrated with my inability to follow a knitting pattern. So yesterday, I followed video after video online. After ripping out the same little bit of yarn at least twelve times, it finally started to click. This morning I knit something that looks exactly like the picture of the pattern I was following. FINALLY! It only took me eight frickin years to make holes that were supposed to be in a knitting pattern and be able to repeat it.

Sigh... somehow this feels like I finally learned to read after years of longing to but struggling with how to combine letters into words. My son calls himself a 'basic reader' as he can read, but knows he's still limited to early readers books. Books are starting to unlock for him, and he is just at the threshold of that large, beautiful book filled world. He is excited and awed by what awaits him in his reading future. So I guess I can finally say I am a 'basic knitter'. I CAN read patterns (and then translate them into my backward, inverse way of knitting). It is slow going but I am so relieved and excited to actually get to cross over that threshold. I am excited and awed by what awaits me in my knitting future.

And I can't WAIT to go to the yarn shop and buy yarn along with the pile of felting supplies I typically get. Today my daughter informed me we were out of red roving and that she would like some for holiday projects, so I think we will have to go soon. Yay!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Unloved Shoes, pt. 2

You want us to WHAT?

Yes, I did turn the kids loose on the shoes with permanent markers. It was a lovely suggestion that really appealed to me. Even after seeing the results. ;) The kids had fun creating and I had fun watching. Wearing the little works of art out in public... maybe. I like them better now than when they were plain screaming orange, since in their current state they make me laugh. But I am thinking they are still a work in progress.

As the shoes really are not finished I won't post today's results yet. My husband came home and took one look at the results of today's art session and said, "What did you DO to them?" So, I think it will be a group project, and I'll add some of my own art to the shoes. Or I am guessing my husband won't be seen with me in public.

Why didn't I just return them? I guess the thought of all the fuel and postage waste over a twenty dollar pair of shoes bothered me. Also, since they fit many of the areas of things I desired in shoes, I figured I'd try to make them into what I wanted. Well, they are certainly unique! Work in progress. Caterpillar to butterfly. I know my husband has his fingers crossed!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Birthday Party Day

What a fun day! My boy woke up early, excited and zipping around - supercharged with energy. It was his party day (birthday is on Wednesday) and to say he was excited is a huge understatement. By bedtime he was weepy with exhaustion. It was just that good of a day. And well, this mama is almost weepy with exhaustion too. It is funny how frantic cleaning, chasing kids around, lots of sugar, then more cleaning and chasing kids around can take it out of a person!

Short work week ahead! Woohoo!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Three weeks later. No more color, but no snow either.

Today we roamed one of our favorite trails at the local state park. It is the same one where I took a bunch of autumn photos a few weeks back. Right after I took those shots the weather turned cold and windy, and all those gorgeous leaves were down within five days. Today was warm enough to bring my camera out again, so I wanted to get a few shots to show the contrast. (When it is too cold, it creates condensation on the lens.)

This fall/winter transition has been a long one, which is fine with everyone but my son, who yelled out to the sky today, "Bring on the snow!" He's been ready for some snowball action ever since we bought this year's pair of snow boots. I am pretty sure he'll get his wish soon enough.

I've been photographing some of our favorite places in all different seasons and plan to continue to do so. I got the idea after reviewing our huge stash of digital photos. It was as fun to see how our surroundings changed over the years as it was to see ourselves change. It helped us to notice things like certain caterpillars that were here last year, but didn't make an appearance this year. And then gives us the drive to figure out why. Was it the cold summer? Are they on a multi-year cycle? Also it is cool to track how the seasons vary over the years. Like last year, we were already knee deep in snow not wandering the trails at the state park in light fall jackets, listening to the hunting rifles firing in the distance (deer season).

This picture shows the most extreme change that happened in the three weeks. Not only are the colors and leaves gone, but the park opened the dam more and drained some of the lake to prepare for winter freezing. So in the newest picture you can see sand where there was once all water.

 Three weeks ago.


Next up. Snow. We are in Michigan. It is inevitable. And honestly, there is a coziness to the first few weeks of snowfall, so I am not really dreading it. But I am sure not complaining about being able to hike trails (without skis or snowshoes) in mid-November.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New shoes. Don't love. Must alter. Suggestions?

First, I have to admit. I am not a shoe person. I would walk barefoot all year if I could. My husband and daughter are the two that could fill the closet with shoes. I know, I know... It is some sort of betrayal to womankind to not drool over shoes or something like that. I can't help it. It is just really hard for me to spend money on shoes. I don't enjoy it. This might be hard for some people to understand, I know. Can we still be friends?

I was feeling lazy and wanted winter shoes I could just slip on, verses the hiking shoes I usually wear that require tying (gasp!). I also wear the hiking shoes while walking trails (duh) so they are often rather dirty on the bottoms. So I started to wear my slippers out and about in the world and did so a few too many times to really continue to count them as inside shoes. (We don't wear outside shoes in the house unless you are trying to pretend your slippers are shoes like me.) I figured it was time to look for something to fit my quirky shoe taste before I became known as the chick in Walmart in her slippers. I am sure there is a space for that on the Walmart bingo card, right?

First I went to our local shops because being a small business owner in a small town, I truly get the call to shop locally. So I do try to do it as much as possible. But honestly? I couldn't find anything for under $90. And I can't pay $90 just because I don't feel like tying my hikers.

So I had a coupon for free shipping/no minimum order for Lands End, and found these shoes on sale for $20. Not bad. Seemed cute enough for the price and fit what I was looking for. Well, I thought they did. When I received them today I was dismayed to see they weren't the autumn type orange that they appeared on the website, they were 'HELLO HUNTERS I AM NOT A DEER' orange*. Now, I am an orange loving girl, and this is a hunting kind of town, but I can still see a whole lot of trips to the store wearing my slippers in the future unless I do something to change up these shoes a bit.

So I was thinking I could decorate them, but don't have a clear vision. Maybe paint a design or picture on them? Or permanent markers? Should I do a few subtle designs or should I just make them look tattooed? I don't know. But I want to do something. I just don't think I'll wear them otherwise. So I am curious if anyone has any brilliant ideas. Suggestions?

*Maybe you are thinking that they don't look so bad in the photo. Don't be fooled. They are much more ORANGE in real life. Like Blogger logo orange. Or maybe you realized this immediately and wondered what in the heck I was thinking of in the first place to order such things? Yeah, my husband wondered too, but then again he would have just bought the $90 pair to begin with. Sigh... shoes are confusing. Bare is better.