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.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sleigh Bells Ring... Are You Listening?

I guess the holidays are officially here. I was at the store today and they had Christmas music playing. I always get a weird trapped feeling when I am in a store playing holiday music. Even more than I usually feel trapped when I am shopping. One winter during my college years I worked as a part-time night stocker/security for K-mart. It was a sort of soothing job since it all brawn/no brain, so I didn't mind it except for being a little freaked out by some of the janitorial crew I was locked in with.

Locked in. Yes, that is what I said. As in, once when I became really sick when I was working, we had to call the manager at 2am and he had to drive thirty miles from his home to unlock the store so I could leave. It was such an odd feeling being at someone else's mercy to let me leave my job, the whole work as a prison metaphor made too fitting. After that the music, dusty dark store room and the smell of the floor polishing machine all took on a sort of menacing twilight zone hue for me. A midnight in the bowels of K-mart, the Christmas episode, sort of thing. I don't need a therapist to explain my holiday shopping anxiety to me. Well, maybe to get over it...

It really surprised me to discover that the music is played on a continual loop, which didn't even stop at night. So from 10pm to 5am the same constant holiday soundtrack played over and over while I straightened shelves and restocked end caps. There are still a few songs I cannot listen to because I just overdosed on them that season. But I do like holiday music in general. I don't mean to come across as a scrooge, because I am the sappy holiday type and a bit of a seasonal music junky. I just put Christmas itunes playlists on the ipod yesterday, so I get it. It is time for the good cheer and Rudolph and Silent Night. But not one of the K-mart Christmas loop songs make the list. Nope.

Is there a point to this post? No. I don't really think so. It was mostly triggered by my trip to Meijer tonight with my husband and the holiday music playing there. We were shopping for last minute birthday gifts for my boy, and we both almost talked ourselves into leaving without everything on our list. We are forever talking ourselves out of the store once we go in, and the holiday music just adds an over the top element to our store phobias, but leaving just means that I end up going back and facing the crowds alone. Alone with the dazed faces, dangerous carts and stockers blocking aisles all accented with a frenzied holiday soundtrack. No way. So I dug in my heels and I do believe we are totally ready for the party this weekend. Yeehaw.

But I am not ready for Thanksgiving, and I am guessing I will be alone for that adventure. Maybe I'll just wear a Santa's hat and pretend my life is a musical. It always works in the holiday movies. Sigh...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday*

* Two posts tonight to make up for my lack of one yesterday. No swine flu here after all, but I am fighting off some sort of bug. Nothing too awful, but I am a tired girl, so another early night. I need my energy to keep up with the two young ones. Night all!


Seems sort of foreboding, no? Some sick part of me wants to create some sort of macabre greeting card with this image. But I blame the Clariton D for that...

Hey, Critter (my sister) - See! Three year olds aren't the only ones who break heads off knick-knacks. Sometimes clumsy husbands do too. Glue is a good thing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Too tired tonight!

Only posting for numbers sake and it seems lame. But my throat hurts, head hurts and I am so exhausted my eyes burn. I've got swine flu on my mind and google is not this hypochondriac's friend. Goodnight all! Wash your hands!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good Movie - Good Day

We saw The Men Who Stare at Goats today. We weren't sure what to expect since a few people had given us negative reviews. But we really enjoyed the movie. I liked it more than any movie I've seen so far this year, and since it is mid-November either I've seen a lot of bad movies, or this one is pretty good on my scale. It was really different, a quirky combination of hard topics and humor. I could have done without the twenty minutes of hideous previews before the movie. How many zombie/haunted/psycho killer movies do we need in the world, really? But other than those, the whole date was a wonderful experience. Yes, a date! No kids. Movie and dinner afterward. Yay for birthdays!

I am thirty-six today which I think is pretty cool since in ten days my son will be six. The only time in our whole existence that his age will be the square root of my age. I don't know why that tickles me so much. It just does. I guess this might be where my son's fascination for number combinations comes from. Huh...

My kids were looking through youtube today for a birthday video to play me, but then found on my computer one of the videos I made my father a few years back. So we watched that over and over again and it made us so happy so I totally had to share. I can't believe how much they've grown in just a couple years.

This video was actually the first thing I ever shared on this blog. I wrote on a different blog back when I was juggling a full time job and two babies, another lifetime ago it feels like - but I gave that one up after deciding to stay home. After trying over and over to email my dad this video I gave up and started this blog and threw it on here. (A strange little beginning for two-plus years of my rambling thoughts, huh?) But I wanted to repost the video because it makes me smile and I think it is one of the best birthday songs out there. A good way to start a new year for me and my little square root... Forgive me, I am a total doofus. Happy, happy all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Just because he grew up...

Doesn't mean he gets out of having a sappy post written about him. This was quite awhile ago. Back when the Rams were more fun to watch. My husband's favorite team since his youth for some reason. I am not quite sure why since our state has its own losing team to root for. Just kidding, just kidding. Rams were rather exciting for a few years at least. The Lions - not so much.

Not the most flattering picture of me ever taken. In my defense I am pregnant in this photo. As you can see, my stepson was such a cutie. (And he still is of course, just in an 18 year old sort of way.) I was feeling an imbalance in the force not adding him to my kid appreciation posts earlier.

It didn't seem fair since he was the kid who got all my practice attempts at mothering. He was always so patient and sweet with my clumsy early efforts at cooking for a family (if you ever meet him, ask about my soap spaghetti). He taught me to relax with his little boy humor and his easy affection. He was the first person to call me Mama. And he's one of the reasons I fell in love with my husband - watching my husband parent his son with such genuine affection and attention melted me. How someone didn't snatch up the pair of them long before I came along is a wonder, but it worked out really well for me. :)

In a way it feels like my stepson got the last portion of my own childhood, because as I look back I was in a much more youthful place with him and his cousins than I am now for my two little ones. Don't get me wrong, I am young at heart and all that, but there is no denying that it is a bit easier to keep up with all the reindeer games when in my mid-twenties than mid-thirties. But he also was around for a version of myself that was less used to children in general.

I am so grateful for this kid in my life. He was the one that made me a mother. He was the person that helped me realize that I actually liked kids and the silly stuff they are constantly doing. And now, this 'kid' in young man form reminds me how fast it all goes. How one minute he's a wacky little boy holding bunny ears behind my head in all pictures and the next minute he's driving to college classes in the car he bought with his own money.

So while my little ones still fill my days with the silliness and the reminder to live in the moment, this boy has taken me to the next level of parenting where reflection lives side by side with wonder. There is still parenting to be done, but much less hands on, much less active. The bond is the same and different. Always the one to break me into the stages of motherhood. This is my first time parenting a young adult, the first kid that I have to let go of a little more each month, even as I hold him closer and speak more frankly to him than ever before. So confusing and rewarding all at once.

So silliness with a dollop of laughter just might be the secret ingredient to happiness true, but the reflection and humbleness that this older child brings to my life is like the spice that deepens the whole recipe. Taking it to another level entirely.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Random Thought Thursday...

• Today was over before I got used to being a part of it.

• I am trying to figure out where to eat breakfast tomorrow. We scheduled a long weekend off together and the husband is taking me out to breakfast/brunch. We don't go out to eat that often so this feels like a bigger decision than it really is.

• I had a sore throat today and hope I am not getting sick. Nothing like a pandemic to make every little sniffle scary. I remember the good old days of being paranoid about moles and lumps, now cold and allergy symptoms are enough to send someone into a hypochondriac frenzy.

• My daughter read Calvin and Hobbes cartoons to my son for two hours today which melted my heart. Ummm... I never remembered the cartoon about Calvin smoking a cigarette. Of course my kids thought that one was the funniest.

• I am still in my jeans. Why? Pajamas were called for hours ago.

• It took me 14,000 words into a romance novel to figure out there is no way I will ever be able to write a love scene. I don't know if that is funny or sad. I even spent a very uncomfortable half an hour on a website that offered helpful lists for people so stuck. It just gave me a headache trying to read through my fingers as I was half covering my eyes like a little kid doing something naughty. Is there such a thing as rated G romance novels? Is that how/why the Chick Lit genre was started?

• Sigh...

• Want chocolate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ATCs with my girly...

We decided it was a good night to veg in front of itunes and draw. First we took turns sharpening a bunch of pencils which always makes them so much more inviting. Nothing like a jar of brightly colored pencils to make a girl start drooling.

It was right before bed, after quite a long day. So we are tired and the light isn't that great for photos. A calm and peaceful way to wind down though. It has been a little while since we've done the little ATC pictures. I could tell, I could practically hear my hands creaking they felt so rusty. But it was fun. And the time with my girl listening to music is awesome. Have you heard this song, btw? I just downloaded it from itunes. We listened to it over and over.

Our finished works. You'll have to click the pic to see my girl's art larger. Daddy was calling out bedtime and we had already stalled enough, so I didn't get enough satisfactory shots of the whole shebang.

You can tell by my picture that I've got winter on my mind. The air has the snowy smell to it, and I am surprised it has held out this long after such a cold summer/fall. Might be almost time to deck the halls and all that good stuff.

Have a warm and cozy night!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sweet Children of Mine*

Warning: Unapologetic sappy mommy blogger type kid swoon post.

He's a warrior ninja... Can't you tell? This is his 'ferocious' face and his ninja hair style. What? You've never seen a ninja with five ponytails? Well, you have now. BTW, I did his hair to his specific instructions. He was very opinionated about how this needed to look.

Awwww... isn't it cute? Oh, I mean, terrifying? Completely unnerving in battle, I am sure. I can picture the enemy gasping out... "Dude. What is up with your hair?" As they pass out from laughter. (Don't get me wrong, I love his hair. It just doesn't look the same to me as it does to my son.)

This kid cracks me up. Yesterday he told me that he has tried and tried to bite his toenails, but he has never succeeded. He was very serious when he confessed this. I tried to act appropriately disgusted. But really, I bet he even bites his toenails in a cute way. He can't help it. He might try to come off as all tough and gross but he was just born to be cute.

Today when his sister was explaining to me why she smelled like apples (some spray she received as a gift), he chimed in and told me that he smelled like ideas. Sometimes the cute is almost too much. Painfully delicious.

And this sweet thing? Don't you just want to chew on those cheeks? She gets those from her mom, but that is almost the only thing. Hard to believe this tall blonde kid came from her dark hobbit of a mother. She is about half a shoe size away from mine. Sadly, I think that we will miss out entirely on shoe sharing since I don't have an eight year old kid's taste in shoes.

She too was very opinionated about how her hair was supposed to look. This picture makes me itch to trim her bangs, but she's proven to be very stubborn about this and refuses to let me near her with scissors. She gets that from her father. The stubborn part. (Don't laugh, mom. It's my blog so I get to decide where the stubborn comes from.)

A few years back I would have never believed that I could spend a morning braiding and putting ponytails in my kids' hair and it would bring me a contentment similar to meditation. Especially since I have never been one to fuss much with my own hair.

It is so hard to believe that it wasn't just yesterday that she was bald and referring to herself in third person. Now she can often be found camped out in front of itunes, memorizing songs with a crazed concentration that I never expected before the teen years. Parenting is a continual study of the unexpected.

I am so grateful for these little people in my life. They sure notch up the amount of silly I am exposed to each day, and that I think, is the secret ingredient to happiness. Silliness with a dollop of laughter.

Wishing you and yours a very silly Wednesday!

*BTW, I am not forgetting my stepson. He is just less happy with me acting all sappy over him on my blog ever since he decided to grow up on me.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. WOW!

My husband came home today with my birthday present. Early, he can never wait once he makes up his mind on a gift for someone. (That is one of the reasons I am in charge of buying the Christmas gifts.) This mixer is one of those things that I've always wanted but never really expected to have any time soon.

Meet my precious.

My husband stopped in from work and told me to answer the business phone if it rings because he was taking some laundry downstairs. So when the phone rang I ran out to the kitchen to answer it, totally missing the big box covered by a dishtowel on the counter. (I guess I am not overly observant, but I was focusing on the phone and books.) When I answered the phone my husband's voice said, "Look beside you." I almost dropped the phone. Shocked doesn't even begin to cover how I felt.

I am off to bake the day away.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The unexpected...

A few months ago, we took a spontaneous trip with the kids to visit a Leonardo da Vinci machines exhibit in a town a couple hours away. We booked a hotel room for a weekend and looked forward to kicking back, swimming in the pool and spending time with the kids outside of our usual environment. What we didn't know is that there was a sort of weekend festival going on in the town. Unexpected fun things to see and do were suddenly added to the weekend.

That evening our hotel room was the best seat possible for an amazing firework display thanks to the festival. I found a firework setting on my camera and grabbed a few neat shots. The fireworks felt symbolic of this frivolous trip we almost reasoned ourselves out of. The unexpected joy of it all making us feel just 'right' in our skins.

Sometimes things work like that. The unexpected often gets a bad rap. People often use the term to talk about the bad stuff that pops up in life, and sure... that happens enough. But sometimes the good pops unanticipated into life too.

The other day we signed a two year 'lock in' deal with our cable company. It was/is way too much to pay for cable and internet, but in our area it is the monopoly and unless we want dial up it is our only option. But the unexpected thing was we will pay the same rate that we had before, and we get to keep that rate for two years, but they upgraded us to high definition digital, which unlocked a ton of channels, and upgraded our internet from the slowest service they offered (which seemed really fast to me anyway) to the fastest. So we aren't paying any more a month for a whole lot more service.

Sure, it is still not really a 'deal' as it is a major expense on mostly entertainment. But I do justify it a bit with the fact that I need a broadband internet connection for the freelancing I do for the paper. But it has been a wonder to suddenly have more of something that wasn't planned on. Fun.

My kids were unexpected. Really. Both of them. (Yes, I know how that all works, and now I know how it can all malfunction.) And well, they are wonderful bits of the unexpected. We were going to grow old reading books and playing video games. Perfectly content to be weekend parents to my stepson. And bam! Life changing life. Unbelievably unexpected and unbelievably amazing.

And one more bit of the unexpected before I close this drifty little post. At least unexpected to me. My nanowrimo novel is a romance. I am writing a romance! And I've written more than 13,000 words on it. Crazy? Yes. Embarrassing? Yes. Fun? Yes. Unexpected? Completely.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Saturday to us... Happy Saturday to us... Happy Sat-ur-day to uh-uhs...

Close your eyes and make a wish...

I wished to catch up on my nanowrimo word count.

I think I can share that since this isn't a birthday wish and subject to the rules of birthday wishing. It is just a weekend wish over a random candle. That sort of casualness should allow for wish sharing, no?

The good news is I just might catch up! The 'novel' is junk. Oh yes, yes, yes. But it is getting written. Yay! So maybe?

And yes, I know baking a chocolate layer cake sort of goes against the whole thing I was trying to accomplish with the ridding the home of the Halloween candy tantrum I threw a couple days ago. I am complex like that... I accept it. And so does my husband when cake is involved.

Happy weekend!

Friday, November 6, 2009

This was how I felt today...

I know... It is Friday, so feeling like this is all sorts of messed up! My day started with tripping over the dirty clothes that a grown male in the family left piled in the bathroom (right in front of the hamper), then opening the refrigerator and pulling out an empty water pitcher and ended with me forgetting to turn on the dishwasher (can't run it at night as it is too loud). With a whole bunch of mini irksome things in between waking and sleeping. Not anything big thank goodness, but just enough continuing annoyances that it made it hard to escape the little black rain cloud hovering over my day.

I think curling up under fuzzy blankets and listening to a new audiobook sounds like a nice balm to soothe my frayed nerves and I'll top it all off with an early bedtime.

Goodnight, sleep tight, and don't let the lame day bedbugs bite! Again.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dear Halloween Candy

I am sorry to be the one that has to do this, dear Halloween candy, but I am afraid you have proved immune to my subtle hints. You have overstayed your welcome here. I have to ask you to leave. Especially you, Kit Kat, with your impish cookie crunch that even the gods would find irresistible. And you, Hershey's. There is not a drawer deep enough that can contain your chocolaty temptress self from stealing into my brain as I sit innocently googling weight loss tips. I am afraid our relationship is over.

You have time and again stepped over the rules I established at the beginning of our time together. You refuse to stop seducing me with your brilliant packaging, your intoxicating sweet scent, your bewitching crunchy and chewy textures. So I call halt. Halt to this charade that we can belong together in the same place in time.

Goodbye. Forever.

Or well... until next Halloween.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Making procrastination work for me...

Yes, I signed up for both Nablowrimo and Nanowrimo, because while I am not a 'joiner' in real life, the online portion of my personality sure seems to be one. The daily blog writing hasn't been much of a problem since the cold weather has contributed to adding screen time to my days. But honestly, my nanowrimo word count is abysmal. Unless I have a crazy wordfest of a weekend (which I am honestly hoping for), I might just be bailing on the old nanowrimo, ummm... I think this is year four or five of nanowrimo-type failures. Sigh...

There is a reason I sign up for nanowrimo every year, well a different reason than the all too typical dream of writing the next Harry Potter series, (yeah, yeah, yeah). Nanowrimo inspires prime moments of procrastination. I mean, think back when you were a kid. Cleaning your room was lame, a pain, but if you were expected to do the dishes - suddenly, sitting in your room organizing toys didn't seem so bad. It might actually seem... fun.

So when staring at a blank document page that is supposed to turn into a NOVEL, suddenly every home improvement project I've dreamed up this year but haven't tackled yet seem so easy. I've organized the extra bed sheets. (Which is not such an easy task when you don't have a linen closet, or any closet for that matter). I built shoe organizers for the entryway (two of them!). I figured out a better way to sort and store seasonal decorations. I created a home for all the mateless socks, with the hope that some of them will find one another again - A sock mating service. And the mother of all procrastination projects... I am organizing two years of paperwork for our home-based business. Bam!

See? Signing up for nanowrimo is so good for my household. Though it is not very good for my writing dreams. For when November starts to slide past week one, I feel a bit short of breath. Wondering if I should just quit the contest rather than FAIL. Again. Sigh... But honestly? The procrastination is just too good to put an end to it.

Mind games much?

So wish me luck for a crazy high word count weekend. It would be so awesome to look back from the other side of November and see not only a home organized and ready for the upcoming holidays... but also have a hastily written, but complete novel on my desktop.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Good Mail Day - Holiday Art

I was so excited to get this package in the mail. After weeks of mooning over this artist's work on etsy, I saw this print and couldn't stop myself from pushing that little buy button. I am so glad I did. The print is even more gorgeous in person. I will definitely be a return customer!

The artist has a pretty blog too.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gandalf's Staff... A Picture Tutorial

This is the picture I used as inspiration for my staff project. I admit we initially looked for fallen tree limbs or drift wood along the beach for an acceptable staff. But as that plan failed, we decided to make one.

When my son announced he wanted to be Gandalf the Grey for Halloween, my husband and I were excited. We both thought the little guy would make an excellent Gandalf. Of course we had to go overboard on the costume, because that is what we are about here. If it isn't worth going to the extreme, then you might as well skip it. Sometimes I regret that exuberance, but not this time. Out of all the things he could have picked, it would have been hard to come up with a costume that gripped my imagination like this one. So I grabbed my glue gun, sewing machine and got to work.

My favorite part of his costume ended up being the lighted staff. I took pictures while I was making it for anyone who might feel they need something like a homemade lighted Gandalf staff in their lives. It is sort of involved and has a large supply list, but I figure if you are the type of person who is interested in making one of these, then you are also probably the type of person that has a stash of wire, paper towel rolls, velcro and crystal type rocks. It is just a guess (or perhaps a hope?) that I can't be the only odd craft/hobby supply junkie out there that has a love for MacGyver-like projects. Right? So anyway, I dedicate this tutorial to any like minded geeks crafters out there in blog land.

What you will need:

Paper Towel Roll
Tongue depressor type stick
Duct tape
Hot glue gun - avoid dollar store ones, trust me
Lots of hot glue sticks
Crystal type rock for the top
Xacto knife
Regular tape
Fake flickering tealight candle that doesn't get hot when lit (mine runs on a watch battery)
Adhesive Velcro on a roll
Acrylic paint
Mod Podge
A dowel rod that is painted to match or walking stick to put this on top of when finished
Burn Gel - I recommend this brand. It is awesome. Hey, this project calls for a lot of hot glue. Just saying.
10 cups of tea
3 mini Milky Way Bars (because at some point during this project, chocolate will save your sanity)

This tutorial is for the the lit end of the staff that I attached to a walking stick with velcro once finished. I had planned on attaching it to a dowel that I had painted to match more seamlessly, but time got away from me and the walking stick was good enough. Okay, got your supplies? Ready to start?

First cut four slits large enough for a tongue depressor to fit through cross ways from each other. Then cut the tongue depressor mostly flush with the paper towel roll. Do this twice for each set of slits. Tape into place by fixing a plain piece of tape on the depressor by squeezing the paper towel roll a bit to expose the depressor, add tape then pop the towel roll back into shape and tape to the outside face. Do this with two pieces to form an X type shelf inside the roll. It should look like this...

Next, secure the slits and regular taped area with duct tape.

Using a Xacto knife cut a little door that will fit the fake tealight candle.

Here is a picture of what we are trying to accomplish here. The tongue depressor X is a little shelf that the tealight will sit on and this little light will be what subtly lights the crystal when it is dark.

Here is a photo of the fake tealight, in case you don't really follow what I am referring to. I found it in the Halloween decoration aisle and I got two of them for $1.26. They are probably half off right now. Hurry! Go stock up. But in case you miss them, I've seen them out for the holiday season as well, only the base is more likely to be red or green.

Next, duct tape the paper roll around where the door is to secure it. And duct tape the door, extending it a little further past the opening to create a place to add velcro. This is how you will close and secure the door to both hold in the tealight and cover the light. Add the velcro to the roll and the door. I covered the whole end of the door to prevent it from curling up and exposing the light.

Now with the wire and the crystal, make a base for your crystal to sit on. I used four pieces of wire with eight spider-like extensions coming from it. The crystal has to sit on this so make sure it won't slip through the base. It will be later secured with a LOT of hot glue, but it still needs to be pretty secure for the next pain in the butt part.

Here is a view of the other side for reference. No wire on the face as you don't want the wire to show in the end product. It is basically just resting in this little base, not stuck fast in there yet. Do NOT trim the wire too short. If it is a bit long it will be easier to do the next step. Lesson I learned the hard way.

Next I secured it with a bit of hot glue. Notice the discolored glue left over from my daughter's orange witch hat. This is also the moment that I went through my first dollar store glue gun, got my first burn and ate my first Milky Way.

Next punch the same number of holes as wires in the tube above the door, in equal distances around the tube. I had eight wires, so I punched eight holes.

Cut slits in the top of the tube, much like flower petals. At this time, four will work. You might need to cut pretty close to the holes to get the stupid wires to go into them. At least I did.

Welcome to the hardest part of this tutorial. Try to get the wires through the holes. Here is what I learned. Tweezers really help get the wires through the little holes. It also helps to go over the holes using a xacto knife from the inside and make them larger. The crystal will probably pop off from the hot glue, but that doesn't really matter at this point. Bend the ends of the wire once you get it through the hole so it won't pop back out. Here is a picture I took once I finally figured out the bending the end of the wire trick. I complain about this step, but it really didn't take that long. Just a bit more frustrating than the rest of the project is all.

Secure with a bit of hot glue on the top. Don't cover the crystal, but really fill in around the sides. Think of it as a hot glue 'setting' to the stone. Here is where I killed the second dollar store glue gun and delayed any more hot gluing I had to do until I could procure a new one. Hence the rest of my pictures are rather bad due to the fact that I finished this after dark and had no natural light to take pictures by. But here is a shot of how the crystal sits atop of the tealight.

Here's a shot I took while testing the glow of the crystal when in a dark room. The tealight I have flickers like a candle, so it was an especially cool effect, but one I can't capture with my camera.

Still with me? I broke this project up over the course of a couple days. Probably a good time to share that... By the way, soon we will be using a lot of hot glue. Get your burn gel and newly purchased six dollar hot glue gun that can handle a heavy duty project. It is a good time to find something around the house to set your staff end on so you can work hands free. I took my knife sharpener that is like a long screw driver and put it into a ceramic container upside down to put the wand on so I didn't have to hold it. A hammer in a container should work too. Just something heavy. You do NOT want it tipping over while you are covering it in hot glue!

This next step, I cut the 'petals' into eight thinner pieces and twisted them a bit. I then gave them more shape using duct tape. I looked at the picture of the staff online and tried to capture the same sort of look of the 'branches' of the staff. You can see the staff picture in the background up on my computer to see what I mean.

There is a step here that I didn't photograph. Now is the time to fit your staff end on the base of your chosen stick, whether it is a walking stick or dowel cut to size. We won't be leaving it on here, but we have to fit our top to the base at this point because soon we will cover the whole thing in hot glue and it won't be adjustable after that. Cut two slits in the bottom of the paper towel roll and duct tape it to fit around the dowel. Not so tight that it is hard to get on, but snug enough that it isn't rocking around on top. Then add a strip of hook velcro to the top end of the dowel (walking stick in my case) and loop velcro up inside the staff. I used scissors to place it up in there. This worked perfectly to secure the end of the staff to the walking stick. It didn't budge but removed easily when I needed to mess with the tealight to turn it on and off.

Hot glue time! Now cover the thing in hot glue. Fill out the branches. Drizzle it down the sides. Go ahead and put hot glue on and around the door, but try not to cover it too much where it opens. You will end up covering it some and once it is dry you can cut it open with a xacto and scissors. Actually, covering it a little bit and then cutting it open helps to hide the opening better. Just keep in mind it is a bit tedious to cut through hot glue, so less is more around the opening. Here is my hot glued staff topper held up near the picture on the computer.

Once the glue is dry (it doesn't take that long), then paint a base coat with acrylic paint. I used black since it is a dark staff. I used a ton of paint to fill in all the little valleys that the glue gun made. The base coat took a few hours to dry.

Once the base coat is dry use a mix of browns and yellows over the staff topper to get your desired look. I used a dry brush technique and kept adding color with a dry brush and wiping off the excess. It doesn't have to be perfect. The following picture isn't very accurate to how it ended up because it was taken at night. The actual staff is much less varied in tone. But this gives the general idea. Let it dry. I let it sit overnight. (The velcro door in these photos always seems to show, but in actuality it closes quite tight and you don't see it at all. However, using black velcro would help mask it even better. I only had white on hand.) BTW - In this picture you can see how the base tapers in where I cinched it to fit on top of the walking stick in the step I failed to picture.

Seal the whole thing (except the crystal) with mod podge. This helps protect the paint from scratching off the hot glue and offers a bit of a protection. It rained a bit during trick or treating and the staff held up perfectly. Mod podge isn't water proof by any means, but it is much better than just leaving it and gives it a finished look. I used a matte finish mod podge.

Once it is dry, turn your tealight on and put it in the staff. Velcro the end of your staff to your dowel or walking stick and VOILA! You have a happy little Gandalf. (He's smiling on the inside.)

P.S. I am aware that my Gandalf has a gnomish look about him. He is rather sensitive I figured dealing with a mustache would be too much for him. I also couldn't figure out how to do a brim to his hat that didn't look like a witch type brim. So I skipped it. But all in all, it was a very successful costume. Especially because it was forty degrees here and his double layers of fleece and wool wig and beard kept him toasty warm!

Inevitably there are people reading this wondering... WHY? Why do all of this for a costume. Well, it isn't really just for the costume. My kid would have been happy with the plain walking stick. It was really just the joy in the craft journey. Brainstorming the idea and figuring how to do it. It keeps me out of my husband's hair. It keeps me from organizing the sock drawer. It is fun. I have a million excuses, but really it just come down to the fact that I just wanted to. I start plenty of things like this only to have them completely bomb, this one just happened to work out, so I thought I'd share. So for all those like minded, somewhat manic, LOTR loving, craft supply hoarding folk out there all three of you... this tutorial is for you. Happy crafting!