Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Word For the New Year

I have been hoping to post some photos this week of the handmade Christmas gifts and some of our Christmas activities, but I've been having a challenge. I recently bought Photoshop Elements 8, and I'm still learning how to use it. My last update was PSE 4, so you can see I'm a little behind. As soon as I figure out what's going on, I'll post a few photos. I hope you won't be totally over Christmas during the first week of January!

As you may have figured out, I'm a big fan of Ali Edwards. Since 2007, she has had a challenge to choose a word for yourself for the year. This is the word that guides what you want to do with your year, what you want from your year. You can read more about the challenge here.

I've never participated in this challenge, but this year there are some concrete, exciting plans, and a few hoped-for and scary and exciting possibilities that may occur this year. This is the comment that I left on Ali's blog:

The first word that came to me was while reading Lain Ehmann's post yesterday on ways to keep your word in front of you. The Lisa Leonard necklace said "Courage." It felt too easy, but the more I think about it, that's the word I need. I have goals for the year that I'm afraid of, and we have possible changes coming in our lives that are exciting and scary. I sometimes lack confidence, and thought about that being my word, but really it all comes down to Courage.
So that's it. My word for 2010 will be Courage. I'm sure I will share more about what it all means as the year goes by, but for now I need to keep it close. For now, I am seeking the Courage to meet my goals and face new things this year.

I challenge you to pick a word for the year and share it here! (Share it at Ali's blog too - she's compiling a list of words that are chosen.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About. . .

how we celebrate Christmas, but didn't care enough to ask. (I borrowed this from Sorta Crunchy, who borrowed it from It's Almost Naptime.)

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

Hot Chocolate - just the thought of eggnog is disgusting to me

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? 

This year, Santa left unwrapped presents around our stockings. It seems a little more exciting that way.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? 

I've gone back and forth on this over the years. As a child, I loved colored lights. Then I thought they were gaudy and only wanted white lights. Now, as the mother of a toddler, I think colored lots are lots of fun. We have blue lights on our porch and white/blue lights on our tree.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

No, but I would if I had access to it. I would if I didn't have a cat who thinks all greenery is edible, anyway.

5. When do you put your decorations up?

As soon as possible. I like to put them up by Thanksgiving, but we don't always get to. We didn't put up the tree until December 23 last year. Sometimes we try to get the tree up before Thanksgiving so we can get our family photo done early and get our Christmas cards in the mail.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? 

This is really tough. I'm a dessert girl, so I guess my favorite is the red velvet cake and lemon cheese cake that I make for Christmas, even though those are technically not holiday foods.
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? 

Perhaps getting the homemade Cabbage Patch doll that my Mama made to look like me. This was when Cabbage Patch was still only the soft-sculpture dolls that come out of Cleveland, Georgia, several years before the mass produced ones were the rage.

8. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

Yes, we exchange an ornament. Also, our daughter exchanges with her cousins.

9. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

With our blue and white lights, sentimental ornaments that we've exchanged over time, and an old fashioned Saint Nicholas-type Santa on top. Next year, I hope to start adding homemade ornaments. Those were my favorites as a child.

10. Snow! Love it or Dread it?

It depends. It seems to only snow when I have plans that I'd rather not cancel. If I can stay home and we have things to do and we don't lose power, it's not so bad. I really hated it in Georgia though, because we always lost power for several days, and there was rarely enough snow to play in.

11. Can you ice skate?

I tried many years ago with the church youth group - I'm really not good at balancing on thin blades of metal.

12. Do you remember your favorite gift?

As a child: that Cabbage Patch doll I mentioned before

As an adult: a beautiful necklace my husband gave me

13. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you?

spending time with family and getting letters, notes and photos from friends

14. What is your favorite holiday dessert?

I answered this above, but I'll leave both questions in case anyone else wants to write about non-desserts

15. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

baking cookies

16. What tops your tree?

a traditional Santa Claus
17. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?

both - is that so wrong? I love thinking about what someone will enjoy, and I love seeing what other people thought I would like
18. What is your favorite Christmas song?

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan

19. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum?

Yum - I love peppermint, but I also like the cherry ones. This year, we also got Spree candy canes and those were good too.
20. Favorite Christmas Show?

This is really tough, because I love so many of them. White Christmas is one of my traditions with hubby, though, so I really like it.

21. Saddest Christmas Song?

River? It's a Joni Mitchell song, but it's been covered a million times.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Today. . .Christmas Edition

Outside my window... it is not cold enough for snow to stick to the ground, but still cool enough to feel like Christmas to me (mid-40s).

I am thinking... that this Christmas is going to be exciting with an almost three year old!

I am thankful for... not being as sick as I was two weeks ago (even though the cough is lingering).

I am wearing... a comfy pair of jeans and a Life Is Good shirt I snagged on clearance a couple of years ago.

I am remembering... that I still have two cakes to bake.

I am going... nowhere else tonight, but to my sister-in-law's tomorrow for dinner.

I am reading... nothing at the moment, but picked up the 4th book in the Forensic series by Alane Ferguson at the library.

I am hoping... that this cough goes away sooner than the doctor predicted (several weeks).

On my mind... the few things I have left to finish before Christmas.

Noticing that... little girls get more excited and feelings get more fragile the closer we get to December 25.

From the kitchen... red velvet cake, lemon cheese cake, and a surprise cookie (I hope).

Around the house... wrapping paper, shipping boxes and Christmas cards.

One of my favorite things ~ getting photos, letters and special notes from friends and family in the mail.

A few plans for the rest of the week:  enjoying the weekend with my little family and my parents.

Christmas Novels

Do you read Christmas novels? I never really understood the point. I enjoyed Christmas scenes in some of my favorite novels (who can forget Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy deciding to give up their Christmas breakfast?) but I didn't understand why people would want entire novels devoted to the season. Who has time to read an entire novel (or even more than one) about Christmas during December? I purchase children's picture books about Christmas, but didn't have any interest in Christmas literature for adults.

Then one year, I saw A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg in the book section at Sams Club. I am a long time fan of Fannie Flagg, and I really needed a pick-me-up that year. Ms. Flagg cracks me up and it's a short novel, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The book was heartbreaking and heartwarming and changed my opinion slightly about Christmas novels.

I lent it to my Mama the next year. She works at an assisted-living home, and lent it to a resident. I'm fairly certain my copy is now with someone's family and I hope it is in a good home. I saw that it's available at Sams again this year, and I think I may just pick up another copy. Another book that I loved by Fannie Flagg has gone out of print, and I'd hate to lose my chance to own this book I enjoyed so much.

I also saw that Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked has a Christmas novel out this year, Matchless, that is a reimagining of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale "The Little Match Girl." I am a big sucker for reimagined fairy tales (and fairy tales in general), and I have wanted to read a Maguire novel but never gotten around to it.

I currently have Knit The Season by Kate Jacobs on loan from the library. I finished The Friday Night Knitting Club a few weeks ago, and thought I might continue the series. I don't have the second book, though, so I may not get to this one (the third). It's a full length novel, though, so it won't be finished before Christmas at any rate.

Do you read Christmas novels? Which ones have you enjoyed?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Favorite Christmas Music

I had such plans to post nearly every day this season, but things got in the way. Oh well. I'm feeling much better, though. Thanks for all your well wishes. This seems to be a nasty year for strong bugs. I hope everyone is able to stay relatively healthy for a while!

I recently bought Sarah McLachan's Christmas album and have been listening to it constantly. It was released a few years ago, but for whatever reason I kept putting off the purchase. About ten years ago, I made a decision to each year buy one Christmas album, one Christmas movie and one Christmas book. I haven't done all three every year, but doing this has added to my collection over time, and I enjoy the variety.

a few of my favorite Christmas albums:
  • Sarah McLachlan Wintersong - I think my favorite track is River (a Joni Mitchell cover). I prefer the Indigo Girls version, but Sarah's is beautiful too. Sarah just has a wonderful voice, and I enjoy listening to this over and over. An added plus is that my husband and mama don't dislike her, so I may be able to get away with listening to this one more often.
  • Maybe This Christmas by various artists - If you like an eclectic mix, and don't mind odd-ball songs, this may be the right album for you. My favorite Christmas song is included - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan. Plus, the Ben Folds song may be the funniest thing I've ever heard in my life (but is SO not kid appropriate).
  • John Denver Rocky Mountain Christmas - I am going to come out as a huge John Denver lover. I had some trouble locating any of his Christmas music about ten years ago, but a quick search of Amazon shows me that it's easily located now.
  • John Denver and the Muppets A Christmas Together - I had a really tough time finding this album a few years ago. I had a vague memory of John Denver singing Christmas songs with the Muppets, and had a music store run a search for me. This is also easily available now. Such memories!
  • This Warm December: A Brushfire Holiday vol 1 - I picked this one up last year. It's a Christmas release by Jack Johnson's label. There are only two songs by him included, but the whole album has the same relaxed feel that his music does.
A couple albums that I look forward to getting in the future:
  • Barenaked Ladies Barenaked for the Holidays - As much as I love the Barenaked Ladies, I can't believe that I don't already have this album. Maybe next year.
  • Sugarland Gold and Green - I'm not really a country music fan, but I've been a fan of Jennifer Nettles for a very long time. I love listening to her sing, and I know I would enjoy this album.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Handmade Gift Ideas

I know. I am so far behind in the listing of gift ideas. I am even farther behind in the making of said gifts. Anyway, here are a few ideas (or sets of ideas) that might help you out this year. Or you can do like me, and hope you remember them for next year.

The thing is, I worry sometimes about giving handmade gifts. I'm never sure if the gifts are wanted or appreciated. Some people just don't like to get homemade stuff. And in the case of food gifts, especially at Christmas. . .well, there is SO much food around at this time of year. How do I know that the recipients will ever eat anything I've made them? And lets face it, standing over a hot stove/oven for hours making something that will never be eaten is not my idea of fun.

I think the best solution is to make sure that the gifts we give are high quality and are things that the recipients would love regardless of where they came from. In other words, don't give your uncle-who-hates-coconut a large tin of handmade coconut macaroons. He will never appreciate that. But homemade nut-caramels for your turtle-loving mother? That just might be a hit.

  • Photo Coffee Sleeve @ The Object Project - I can think of a few people who might like this one, if I can do it this year.
  • Kid Tote @ Just Deanna - Ok, first how cute is the name of her blog? Love it. Second, I think this idea can be adapted with some of the other tote patterns I have.
  • Animal Sewing Cards @ Chez beeper Bebe - I've been looking for ways to make our own sewing cards.
  • Fabric Memory Game @ Chez Beeper Bebe - Too cute, and she sells it in her etsy shop with a fabric box, too.
  • Full-length Apron from Tea Towel @ One Pearl Button - I think tea towel aprons are cute, but I really prefer full-length aprons.
  • Ultimate Handmade Holidays Master List 2009 @ Sew Mama Sew - All of the above ideas I found this the Sew Mama Sew Handmade Holidays list. This is the link for the master list. Lots of great ideas!
  • Sea Salt Caramels @ Through the Camera Lens - These sound wonderful, and would look so yummy under the tree.
  • Caramel corn @ Orangette - This sounds like a crispy caramel corn that would keep well as a gift.
  • Rag doll @ UK Lass In US - Isn't this doll the cutest? I bet the book where she found this pattern would be in your library or used book store, or perhaps you could find a similar pattern?
  • Edible Gifts @ Simple Mom - This is a huge list of recipes from around blogland, including cookies, gifts-in-a-jar, jams, etc.
  • Edinburgh Rock @ From High In the Sky - This looks kind of like after-dinner mints (but I don't think it is). I haven't tried it yet but it looks like a lot of fun.
  • Coffee Cozy @ House on Hill Road - This might be more likely to get done this year (at this point). I think it would be cute, and those cardboard cozies never block the heat enough for me.

I am also looking through the books Bend the Rules Sewing, Handmade Home and In Stitches to find ideas for this year. These are a few of my favorite sewing books that I actually own and can reference any time. I think the ideas included are gifts that anyone might enjoy.

What are your thoughts about handmade gifts? Do you hesitate to spend the time, concerned that the thought may be wasted? Or is everyone on your holiday list into the handmade treats?

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Best Christmas Tree Ever

With the exception of about nine months after I graduated from college (and college itself, of course), I lived with my parents until I was nearly twenty-five years old. Part of it was economic (I was an idealist and worked for a non-profit), but part of it was that I really enjoyed coming home to have dinner with my whole family. I enjoyed going out to the movies with my younger brothers on the weekends and going for walks with Mama every day after work. And I really loved preparing for Christmas the same way we had always done.

My parents have always gotten a live Christmas tree. Some years were prettier than others. Sometimes we got a tree from the woods, and sometimes from a tree farm. Some tree farms shape their trees better than others. Some years are just hard on Christmas trees. This story is about the most beautiful tree we ever had.

This story takes place when I was an adult - I think it was 1998. (I moved back in with my parents in June of 1998, after graduating in 1997.) Mama and I (and perhaps the rest of our family) had not had much Christmas spirit since 1995. My Grandma (Mama's mama) passed away in March of 1995 and as if that wasn't going to make the holidays difficult enough, my boyfriend was in a fatal car accident about three weeks before Thanksgiving. So both of us lost our enthusiasm for Christmas for several years. My youngest brother, who was born with a love of Christmas, had done most of the decorating in the meantime.

But in 1998, we both got excited and wanted to have a nice Christmas.

Our tree was so pretty. It was nicely shaped, about seven or eight feet tall, wide at the bottom and a gentle slope upward. I think it was a Douglas fir, so it was a pale mint green with delicate needles. It was full. Such a beautiful tree.

Sometimes we used colored lights, but this year we chose a strand of white lights. We couldn't find a lot of our ornaments, only the red velvety bows that we tied onto the ends of the branches.

Since we couldn't find most of our ornaments and I had become obsessed with recipes, Mama and I decided to make gingerbread men to hang on the tree. Martha Stewart had a syndicated column in our paper (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), and we found the recipe specifically designed for gingerbread ornaments there. We always had ingredients for baking in the house. We were set.

Making the ornaments was a fun experience, but nothing compared to seeing the gingerbread men hanging from the tree. It was the perfect tree - the traditional tree that I imagine when I think back on Christmas trees from my parents' home.

We didn't take a lot of pictures back then - not by my standards today. It was a few weeks before Christmas, and it was well past dark when we finished. We went to bed, intending to take the pictures later.

The next morning, I entered the living room, anticipating our beautiful tree, only to find the floor littered with little headless gingerbread men. The heads were still hanging from the tree. I can laugh about this now (a little) but at the time, I am pretty sure I sat down and cried.

So I have no photo of our beautiful tree. I am trying to draw the scene, but it hasn't worked so far. I'm trying to get over my hangups about my drawing abilities, since I believe that all children are born with the ability and confidence to draw.

I've had beautiful trees since, but I haven't had the courage to try gingerbread ornaments again. And I think Martha Stewart's crafts are beautiful, but I may never trust her again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Family Connection

I can't remember where I read about this Family Connection Writing Center, but I saw it on someone's blog in November (sorry!). It appears to be based on an idea in Amanda Soule's book Handmade Home. As a long time letter writer, I love the idea of a little corner spot to store all your correspondence related items. 

What really struck me about this article though, was this:
When we spend our days with small children, so much of life has to be focused on the here and now that we sometimes forget we're actually building long-term relationships. We forget, or just don't even think about, the fact that our children will one day be grownups with whom we will have lifelong, grownup relationships. And we will have those grownup relationships for a whole lot longer than we have small children in the house!
I think it is SO important that we remember that these little people we love and tend to and get frustrated with and feed and bath and clothe will not be there forever. They are going to get bigger. They are going to change. And they are going to remember the lessons that we teach them when they are with us.

So if we teach them that our relationships with our older relatives are not important, then they may not see their relationships with us as important when they are adults. And if we don't treat our children with respect now, what kind of relationship will we have with them when they are adults?

I'm not suggesting that we should "be friends" with our children. As parents, we are supposed to teach our children and train them. So, I'm definitely not talking about letting your kid do whatever they want just so they will like you. (I suspect if you do, your kid won't respect you.) But there is a line between "befriending" your child and having fun with your child.

I know that I want to have a relationship with my child when she's an adult. I have a wonderful relationship with my parents. They were strict and had expectations of me. We also had a good time and made wonderful memories. Now that I am adult, they let me be an adult and make my decisions. We enjoy each other's company and we are still making memories.

In a sense, this little paragraph sums up what my whole blog is about: building family relationships.

What do you think? How are you building relationships in your family?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gift Ideas for my Todder, 2009 edition

This time last year, I posted my idea list of things I thought would make good gifts for my daughter Abigail. It's getting to be that time of year, so I'm planning once again for Christmas (and her birthday coming in January). You can find my ideas for last year here.

Last year I was very ambitious, and listed all sorts of handmade things I wanted to make for her. I still haven't completed most of them. And while I have lots of ideas still, I know I'm running out of time. Hopefully some of my thoughts on what we believe will make good gifts for our almost-three-year old will give you some ideas for any toddlers you know.

  • more train components for her wooden train set (not Thomas)
  • a doll (she specifically asked Santa for one, and has been adamant that he is bringing her babies)
  • more play silks
  • art supplies (glitter glue, paint, nice art paper - I'm getting ideas from Young At Art by Susan Striker)
  • dress up clothes
  • doll clothes
  • wooden play food
  • Olivia books (by Ian Falconer - we have none, surprisingly)
  • sewing cards
  • art easel (I especially like the one from Melissa and Doug that has clips to hang our art paper from)
  • Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales illustrated by Lucy Cousins - Yes, Lucy Cousins from Maisy fame. I don't care for Maisy, but I love Cousins' style. She has the best Mother Goose book I've ever seen, but it's unfortunately out-of-print. This fairy tale book is new and I can't wait to see it in person.
  • original Memory game
  • family memory game (with family photos)
  • handmade blocks (really, I will eventually finish these)
  • Olivia quilt (I bought the fabric in June, cut it out several weeks ago - doubt I'll finish by Christmas)
  • sock monkey (handmade, of course)
  • little red wagon
  • wooden play kitchen

Of course, she won't get all of this. These are just some of my thoughts as we've made the list of things we want to give her and given suggestions to our loved ones who ask. I really would like to finish the quilt, but after my pot fiasco, I'm worried about running my sewing machine!

What kinds of things are you considering this year for your children or children you know?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pumpkin Bread, Take 2

For those of you who were wondering, I did try the pumpkin bread recipe again for Thanksgiving. I really did want to try the recipe with the correct amount of canned pumpkin.

This bread came out much better. I served it with the choice of very gingery cream cheese or very buttery cream cheese. Not much of it disappeared on Thanksgiving Day, but I heard that it was a very popular breakfast item the next day.

I still thought the bread came out too cakey. I thought it was a little dense to be properly called pumpkin bread, and I didn't mix all the lumps out because I was worried about overmixing. I don't care for flour lumps in anything (my fault, entirely, though). It was good, but not my favorite. In its defense, though, I did sneak some fresh ginger into the batter, and it's possible those were the lumps.

Fortunately for me, my Mama did find her pumpkin bread recipe and she emailed it to me several days ago. I'm not sure when I'll attempt it because I think everyone else is done with it. I keep thinking about the Amish restaurant in Sarasota, FL that we tried when we were at the beach in October. They served Mama pumpkin bread and zucchini bread with her salad, and they just seemed the perfect thing to serve with a country meal. Maybe I'll do a semi-traditional New Year's dinner and attempt pumpkin bread again?

Here are a couple of recipes you might want to try if the Maine recipe I shared before isn't your thing:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There'll Be Days Like This

As I have mentioned here more often than I really should, I've been sick for the last two and a half weeks. When I'm sick, especially with a sore throat, I like to eat soup. Normally when I make soup, it's a very hearty vegetable soup. When I'm sick though, I prefer a brothy soup, like chicken noodle. I usually use canned soup, because if I want it badly enough it means I'm too sick to think about making soup from scratch.

Unfortunately, we have no chicken noodle soup in the house, and I keep forgetting to pick any up when I'm out getting prescriptions or doing Christmas shopping. I found some ramen in my cabinet, but I wasn't really in the mood for it.

On Monday I remembered that my mother-in-law left some pho in our cabinet when she was here. Pho is packaged like ramen, but it's a Vietnamese soup. The noodles don't seem to be fried. Instead of cooking the noodles, you boil water and pour it over the noodles and flavorings, and then put a lid on the bowl until the noodles are soft. Normally, there's more to it than that (like adding beef and bean sprouts and cilantro), but we've already established that I didn't really have more in me.

So I boiled the water, poured it into the bowl, put the pot back on the stove, covered the bowl and sat for a few minutes while I waited for my pho to be ready. I wasn't sure how long it would take. Suddenly it hit me - I put the pot back on the stove. I didn't turn the stove off.

My copper bottom pot, the pot that my grandparents bought for me when I was in college so I could make myself soup, the pot that had figured into some colorful stories, was now black and a strange shade of orange. The metal had bubbled up on the bottom. I turned off the burner, and moved the pot to another burner. Then I decided to turn it upside down. My white stove was littered with a fine black dust.

Then came the realization that perhaps I am too sick to actually cook for myself. I can microwave leftovers. I can even put something into the flavorwave and hope that I enter 10 minutes instead of 100. But actually cooking on the stove? Not a good time for that.

There were other moments during the day. Little breakdowns. Abigail is alternating between feeling better and feeling miserable, and the little miscommunications that happen with toddlers magnify. The day dissolves into chaos.

I relate this story not for pity. I mention it because I've heard other women say that they feel bad when they read some blogs that sound like everything is always right and perfect. Some blogs sound like the children are always well behaved and everything always goes well. We all know intellectually that everyone has bad days, but sometimes reading about someone else's supposedly perfect life can be frustrating when you're personally having a day from. . .well, you know.

I don't have the time or inclination to write about everything that happens during our days. Because I plan eventually to bind my posts into a little book for Abigail, I would prefer that she not find out that I made my Mommy frustrations public. Besides, this is my corner to remember and share the good times. I can vent in my private journal. But I think that occasionally, it's okay to let other in to know that we're all in this together. We all have those moments. We all have bad days.

Through all of this, I keep reminding myself that at least I don't have a stomach virus. I would much rather have whatever this is. And I got antibiotics on Tuesday which will hopefully make me feel better soon.

Another plus, my two year old has learned to cough into her sleeve. Who knew she could be trained in that so early?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Our weekend

I've already mentioned that we got our Christmas tree up this weekend. Abigail is loving the tree. When she was getting ready for bed last night, she had to go into the guest room and say "Goodnight Christmas tree!"

On Friday I said that I was hoping to get Angels and Demons watching this weekend finally. I finished reading the book two weeks before the movie was released in May, but didn't get to see the movie in the theater. I couldn't imagine how they would fit the whole story into a movie, but I was not disappointed. Every plot point that I felt was important got covered. And Ewan McGregor was perfect (see me not being surprised). The one thing I didn't like was that they left in the scene where Robert Langdon topples part of the Vatican Archives. The archivist in me was cringing.

Since I don't want anyone spoiling The Lost Symbol for me (and I think I'm 200th in line to get it from the library), I won't say anymore about Angels and Demons. Other than it's so good!

(In case you're wondering, I know that Dan Brown's books are works of fiction. Dan Brown knows it too. I am a history major which involved a lot of study about the Catholic Church, so i understand that some of his information is based in fact. My main draw to his work is the intrigue and adventure though.)

Christmas Books We Have

When we got out our ornaments Saturday night, we also got out the box that contains the collection of Christmas books that I started when I worked at a bookstore for four Christmases. I really thought I had more books in that box, and I wish I had collected a few since then (can it really be six years ago since I left?), but I thought I'd share a list of the books we have. Abigail has also received a few Christmas books of her own, and I combined them in a great stack to read together.

The books we own:
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson - This isn't a picture book, and is too old for Abigail anyway. This has been one of my favorites for years, but that's another story for another day.
  • Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies - This version is illustrated by Tommy dePaola. I think it's basically the novelized version of the original screenplay. I love this story!
  • The Snowman by Raymond Briggs - Our version is a chunky board book that has words. I bought it as a decoration years ago and now Abigail asks me to read it.
  • Helping Holiday Hands - This a Rudolph board book that I bought as a decoration. The cover is the Abominable Snow Monster.
  • The Night Before Christmas - a board book version I got for $1 at Walmart for Abigail's first Christmas when we really could only read board books to her (10 month olds are tough on paper books)
  • The Velveteen Rabbit - another board book that I got for a $1 last year (perhaps I need to check there this year - I really like their little board books)
  • The Snowman Postman by Andy Rector - An out-of-print book that Grandma sent to Abigail.
  • The Gingerbread Boy - Another book from Grandma for Abigail.
  • A Christmas Anthology To Ring In The Season edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi - One year when I worked at the bookstore, Christmas anthologies seemed to be in. I really liked the one Mary Engelbreit did, but sometimes her artwork is overwhelming. I ended up getting the Barnes & Noble anthology because it had several stories I thought were essential. Now I wish I'd gone with something a little flashier.
  • 'Twas the Night of Christ's Birth by Donna Miles - I'm fairly certain this was a review copy given to me by the author who was hoping to do a book signing at our store (which I believe we did). The author is from Kentucky and pairs the Christmas story with sepia photos of children dressed up as characters. The cover is three children dressed as the wise men and one child dressed as a camel. It's really a beautiful book. It isn't available on amazon, but the details are here.
  • The Sweetest Christmas (A Pooh Little Golden Book) - I love Little Golden Books!
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer - I'm a big fan of the Little Critter books, too.
  • The First Christmas retold by Gaby Goldsack - The illustrations (by Caroline Pedler) are nice and colorful. This was sent by Grandma to Abigail.
  • The Little Fir Tree retold by Gaby Goldsack - This is from the same series as the above and was also sent by Grandma.
  • Christmas Is Here (a Strawberry Shortcake book) - This is a beginning-to-read book, which I mostly put away since I think it defeats the purpose of the book for me to read it to Abigail. My mom bought this one because our nursery is decorated in Strawberry Shortcake and I'm obsessed with it.
  • How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss - My mom bought this either for Abigail's first Christmas or the Christmas that I was pregnant. We haven't read it yet, but I'm excited to have this classic.
  • If You Take A Mouse To The Movies by Laura Numeroff - I bought this the year it was released. I've been a fan of the Cookie Mouse for years and was really excited to have a Christmas version. Abigail requested that I read it first.
  • Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home For Christmas by Holly Hobbie - I love all the original Toot & Puddle books and this is no exception.
  • How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky - This is so cute. Santa tries out different jobs and then gets hired by the elves. There aren't too many words, and I used to read it at storytime at the store.
  • The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Tasha Tudor - I'm a late-comer to Tasha Tudor. The intricate details of her illustrations are magical.
  • Santa Cows by Cooper Edens - This is one of many adaptations of The Night Before Christmas. This was given to me because of my cow obsession.
  • The Christmas Humbugs by Colleen Monroe - This was a review copy given to me by the publisher. The Christmas humbugs play tricks on the family.
  • The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Mary Engelbreit - Engelbreit's excess lends itself well to this Christmas story. Her Santa is jolly, her decorations are festive, and there's a Scottie dog. I'm so glad I bought this one!
(I think it goes without saying who wrote The Night Before Christmas, but just in case, all my editions were written by Clement C. Moore.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Decorating our Christmas Tree

Last night, very late (much too late), we finally got around to setting up our Christmas tree. We'd spent the afternoon Christmas shopping, which was difficult as we were all buying for each other. There was a lot of "don't come in this store - we're busy" and Mommy keeping Abigail's attention while Daddy bought gifts and snuck them to the car and vice versa. We've recently discovered that this girl has an amazing memory and we can't afford to let her see any gifts like she did last year.

Unfortunately, she fell asleep as we were leaving the mall and heading to Target, our last stop. We thought she would wake up when we got there or while we were walking around. She didn't. This made it easier to shop for her, at least. We figured she would wake up when we got home and have dinner with us. (Lee made a pot roast in the crock pot before we left home.) She didn't wake up when we got home, either. Let's face it, we've all been sick and our clocks are all off. So I won't share times, but I won't feel guilty about it either.

Anyway, once she did wake up and become her cheerful self again and ate a little, Lee brought our Christmas tree upstairs. We have a seven foot tree, but we have only put it up one time because our nine year old cat thinks she a kitten or a puppy and hides in the branches or steals ornaments. She's harder to catch in a tall tree. So for the last eight years or so, we've used a 3 1/2 foot tree and since we've been in our current house (five Christmases now) we've kept our tree in the guest room where we can actually lock our cat out of the room. (Since we have guests during Christmas, our larger tree still isn't practical.)

Lee brought the tree up and put the lights on (blue and white) and then Abigail asked if she could finally start putting the ornaments on. I enjoyed telling her the stories behind our ornaments as I handed them to her. I didn't think she was paying attention until Lee came back in the room and she handed him one saying "Abby and Daddy give this to Mommy."

Our ornament tradition is to give each other an ornament on Christmas Eve. We almost always give Hallmark Keepsake ornaments although I have bought some from different sources over the years. When Lee was in high school, his best friend's family had the tradition to give Hallmark ornaments and they started giving them to him too. Now we also give them to our niece and nephew and our daughter. The reason we exchange them on Christmas Eve is because on our first Christmas together, Lee wanted to open all of our presents on Christmas Eve. I compromised by saying we could open our ornaments then.

As predicted, when we turned our backs, our silly cat started stealing ornaments. I really should know better to put the fuzzy teddy bear on the tree. She has stolen it every year since I got it. It's back in it's box again. I'd like to display our more breakable ornaments, but I love our cat and I'd rather enjoy her presence than be upset that I have to put some things away.

Some of my favorites ornaments:
  • a golden Scottie dog with a halo to represent my friend Cathy (I bought 3 the year after she passed away, one for me, one for our friend Jen and one for Cathy's mom)
  • a pine cone with two mice snuggled into it signifying our first home togetherCheck Spelling
  • a set of crocheted ballet shoes that my sister-in-law's mother-in-law made for me last year to symbolize my college roommate who passed away shortly after we graduated
  • the El Salvadoran "G" I bought from a a shop that specializes in Fair Trade crafts (Just Creations, for locals) when we were engaged to symbolize that I would take my soon-to-be husband's last name
  • the Delta Flyer that says "This is Captain Janeway of the Starfleet vessel Delta Flyer" when you turn it on - in Captain Janeway's voice!

When we left to go shopping this afternoon, Abigail ran to the guest room, opened the door and yelled "Goodbye tree!" before leaving. (She also said goodbye to the cat.) I love this time of year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Marie Antoinette Award

My friend and fellow blogger, Monica of Without Filters, gave me the Marie Antoinette award so long ago that I'm embarrassed to say when it was. It's also known as "The Real Person Award" and I appreciate so much that Monica gave it to me for "being true to myself."

The rules for this award are to display the icon and present it to seven bloggers that you feel are real in who they are. I'm trying really hard to spread the love around with these awards. So if you don't get nominated here, please don't feel like it's because I don't think you're being real!

Friday, December 4, 2009

For Today. . .

Outside my window... it's getting dark

I am thinking... about ordering all my Christmas presents online

I am thankful for... my family

I am wearing... sweat pants and my Black Cat t-shirt from 1993 (Black Cat is my women's college version of homecoming)

I am remembering... to relax when I'm sick

I am going... to hopefully stay home for a while and get better

I am reading... my blog roll (between books right now)

I am hoping... I get more photo Christmas cards this year - I love those

On my mind... Christmas gifts for my parents, husband and daughter

From the learning rooms... I've been reading a lot about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi texts. Fascinating subject

From the kitchen... key lime coconut patties and leftover take-out chili. I so don't feel like cooking (or eating)

Around the house... toys, blocks, newspapers. . .Must clean up before putting up the tree this weekend!

A few plans for the rest of the week:  putting up the Christmas tree, hopefully watching Angels and Demons on dvd

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Wish List

Mama’s Holiday Wish List Meme
TodaysMama and Provo Craft are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.

1. What 5 items are on your holiday wish list this year? 
  • family or mother jewelry (pendant with my child's name, etc)
  • How To Make an American Quilt on dvd (I think I waited too long on this, and it's out-of-print - tragedy!)
  • new books by some of my favorite authors: Silas House, Barbara Kingsolver and Isabel Allende
  • music from artists I enjoy: Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, Dido, Jason Mraz
  • this is more of a dream request: a Cuttlebug or a Zutter Bind-it-all
2. What is your favorite handmade gift you have received?
A soft-sculpture doll (think original Cabbage Patch) that my mom made for Christmas when I was five. She made it to look just like me.

3. What handmade gift have you always wanted to tackle? 
a quilt

4. What was the best Christmas gift you received as a child? 
probably that doll, but if I have to pick something else, then one of the dolls my grandma made

5. What items are on your kid’s wish list this year? 
She told Santa she wants toys, specifically a new doll because "I need more babies."

6. What is your favorite holiday food? 
lemon cheese cake (not a cheese cake - it's a layer cake with lemon curd icing)

7. What will you be hand-crafting for the holidays? 
maybe a few scrapbooks

8. What is your favorite holiday movie? 
The Miracle on 34th Street (the original with Natalie Wood)

9. Favorite holiday song? 
God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman by Sarah McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies

10. Favorite holiday pastime?
baking cookies

You can enter too. The deadline is Sunday, November 13. Click on the link above. Good luck!

Another Sick Day

I posted a while back, asking what you do when mommy and baby are sick. It seems when one of us gets sick, eventually we both do. Abigail and I have been fighting something since the Monday before Thanksgiving, and we just don't seem to be getting better. I refuse to call it the flu, but I can't imagine what else it could be even though Abigail got a regular flu shot back in October. We haven't gotten the H1N1 vaccine for various reasons, but it hasn't really been available to us anyway unless we want to stand in massive lines with people who could be sick. Our policy has been to try avoiding people as much as possible, but it seems it didn't work this time.

We've been sneezing, coughing, aching and whining for days now. We've watched Toot & Puddle, Olivia, Oswald, Max & Ruby and Creative Juice (that one's mine) over and over. I know Abigail is sick when she just wants to sit on the couch watching cartoons and being held. Oh, and refuses everything from ice cream to popsicles to milk shakes to soup. She's a great eater normally, but we're struggling to get her to even take sips of water.

We finally had to take her to the pediatrician on Wednesday because she had had a fever since Saturday night. That's when we learned that she has her first ear infection and will have to take antibiotics for the first time. Yes, I realize that we're beyond lucky to just now be reaching this point. I'm so grateful that that it's only an ear infection - it could have been much worse.

I'm headed back to my spot on the couch where I'll read my book or read Abigail one of hers (mercifully, I managed a side trip to the library when we went to the doctor and I used lots of sanitizer the whole time). Or maybe I'll watch one of the episodes of Scrapbook Memories that I've been hoarding. I'm all out of Creative Juice now.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tandoori Chicken

One of my current obsessions: tandoori chicken, masala sauce and a little garlic naan (not pictured). Garlic naan is a soft, warm, tender flat bread. Tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and barbequed in a tandoori oven. Masala is indescribeable. I love it.

I waited thirty-four years to try Indian food, and now I can't stop thinking about it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dia de los Muertos 2009

My altar for Dia de los Muertos was very simple. I was out of town for so much of October, and I was still trying to finish the dragon/lizard costume until almost Halloween. I just didn't have the time to gather everything I wanted to add. I included photos of my Grandma Bozeman and my Grandaddy Turner because I could get to them very quickly. The dinosaur and truck represent a close friend who died at twenty. I believe they are both items that I gave him. The rubber stamp is the quote "We do not remember days, we remember moments." I included the cake plate because it reminds me of  my grandma. The skull shaker and placemat were both given to me by my friend Jen, who has been celebrating this holiday with me for the last thirteen years. I found the fabulous backdrop last year at JoAnn. It's a Dia de los Muertos themed flannel.

I believe that some people are disturbed by my happy skeletons and the fact that I celebrate this holiday, so I thought I'd explain mt reasoning.

Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico on November 1-3. Families go to their loved ones gravesides, decorate elaborate altars, prepare favorite foods, etc. I am familiar with the general idea, but I have very much adapted my celebration.

I still keep the happy skeletons because they remind me not to be afraid of death, and they just look so joyful with their bright colors. I have never dedicated an altar to one person as is traditionally done, though. I discovered Dia de los Muertos in the fall of 1995 when the art department at my college had an altar on display. I lost my PawPaw the year before and my Grandma just a few months earlier.

So in my windowsill outside my dorm room, I placed a begonia in a jelly jar, an American flag, a couple of photos, and a package of ramen noodles (my grandparents introduced me to them). It helped me release some of the grief that I'd been holding inside. Just a few days later, the close friend of the dinosaur was killed in motorcycle accident.

The following year, the grief was still intense. I asked for (and received) permission to use a table in our dorm hallway for an altar so that several of us could participate. Jen wanted to remember her grandma, and Cathy's father had just died. We put up a few items about a week early. Over the course of the next several days, the altar transformed. Rather than anyone thinking it was morbid, anytime someone new saw it, she would run to her room and come back with an object to memorialize someone she loved. It became such a beautiful tribute to loved ones for so many women.

So, I do not see it as morbid when I embroider sugar skulls or skeletons like I have been off and on the past month or two (great patterns available at Sublime Stitching). I don't think it's depressing to display photos of people I loved who are no longer with us. I don't believe it's sacreligious when I call the display an altar because "altar" has more than one meaning.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the holiday and why this American chooses to celebrate (in my own way).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our Nature Table - Autumn 2009

We finally got around to making our nature table. We don't have trees in our yard, so we picked up leaves and acorns at a park one afternoon between trips down the slide.
The smooth rocks were put in Abigail's stocking last year by Santa Claus. She has ten and enjoys playing with them.
The painted rocks are from a painting session we had at my Mama's house in August. Abigail and I hunted all over their "farm" for just the right rocks (which are quartz and granite in Georgia - in Kentucky we mostly have limestone), and my mom had some acrylic paint. Mama, my sister-in-law, Abigail and I painted all afternoon. We left our samples with them to remember us, and we brought theirs home for our nature table.

The fabric is a velvety fabric I found in a remnant bin at a fabric store about a year ago with the nature table in mind.

I'm on the lookout for sweet gum "balls." They look like a cross between pine cones and cherries on a stem. I haven't found any in Kentucky yet.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making of a Dragon costume

For Halloween this year, Abigail chose to be a lizard.

My husband and I took her to JoAnn so we could decide on a pattern in early September. We picked out several and then let her chose one that she wanted. One of the patterns we chose contained six different costumes - a mouse, a dragon, a panda, an angel, a monkey and a devil (Simplicity 2506). They were all cute and we thought she might like the monkey. She did want to be a monkey, and carried the pattern around for a few days telling us she was going to be a monkey.

Then one day, she announced she was going to be a lizard. I let her walk around for another few days before I bought any fabric. I didn't want to risk have scales on a monkey!

I took Abigail to JoAnn a second time to let her pick out corduroy for her costume. (The pattern called for rayon cord with contrast in broadcloth. Since I could find no one who could explain what rayon cord was, I bought cotton corduroy. It seems to have worked well.) She chose the bright teal. I thought for sure she would pick pink, and I was rooting for the forest green. I believe in promoting individuality and creativity, though, so a teal lizard/dragon it was. I eventually found some lime green broadcloth to match.

There were times when I really regretted tackling this project. It was harder than I expected it to be. And then I read about BreederMama's hooded sweatshirt costumes and felt really stupid. (I did decide to leave on the footie covers because we happened to have teal socks and teal crocs.) I got very fed up with it in early October just before we left for our long trip, and decided to take it with me. I hoped that someone might let me borrow a machine once I was in more relaxing surroundings.

That didn't happen, but when we got home I was in a better place to deal with it. We got home on Sunday, October 25 and on Monday my sewing group met. I took the costume, asked for advice, and ended up spending most of the day ripping out the last couple of steps I'd finished before leaving for the trip (once again, the lesson of quit when you're frustrated). Anyway, I'd managed to sew the arms on in such a way that Abigail wouldn't be able to move when she got into the costume. Once I had an experienced seamstress standing over me, I got it done correctly.

My favorite part was sewing on the wristbands. They're just like wristbands for sweatshirts, made out of cotton knit. I had a hard time understanding how to pin them correctly, but once I started sewing it all made sense. They look so professional! (As long as you don't look too closely.) 

Abigail really enjoyed going for tricks and treats. We went over to her aunt's house so she could go with her cousins. Her daddy, her aunt or I walked with her to the first three houses or so, and then she got the hang of it and started running up and yelling "Trick or treat!" This is the same child who will cling to me through an entire playgroup without looking at anyone. It all depends on perspective, I suppose.

After our dinner of chili and pumpkin bread, and a very long walk to get candy, Abigail ran around her aunt's house laughing and playing and eating some more. Then she had a huge lizard/dragon tantrum. Of course, she also kept announcing she was an alligator, so this photo could be of either one.

Oh, and I keep calling her a dragon because this costume reminds me of the dragon costume my Mama made for me when I was around the same age that got passed around to numerous cousins, siblings and neighbors before it was lost.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yesterday + Today

Please pardon the photo. I know it's awful. I have a tough time photographing double page layouts. This is from the second assignment in Ali Edwards' Yesterday + Today class. This assignment was to write about six memories and pair them with photos from our childhood. I have a few childhood photos already scanned and haven't had a chance to scan in more yet. I mostly just described what was going on in the picture or memories of things I recognized in the background. Sometimes a photo triggered another memory and I wrote about that too. So I didn't entirely follow the assignment, which was supposed to be words first.

The templates for this class come in both Word format and in jpgs so they can be used in Photoshop Elements. I have been using PSE for nearly five years for my photos, but I have not figured out how to make the digital elements that Ali supplies work for me. I hope I figure it out soon. That's really part of what I wanted to learn from this class.

Regardless, I'm writing and scrapbooking stories that I have not done until now. That is a victory in itself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gorgeous Blogger Award!

Kelli at A Mountain Mama has given me a blogging award. I so appreciate being included and the sweet things she said about me. And being called a gorgeous blogger? So awesome.

I've received two awards in the past but never wrote about them because I couldn't figure out how to post the award image on my blog. I decided if I couldn't even figure that out, then maybe I didn't deserve the award! I'm going to try and find these awards again, though because I so appreciate that anyone thought of me.

I'm supposed to write about six things other don't know about me, and nominate five other bloggers. So I will share six things my readers may not know about me:
  1. I got my navel pierced when I was twenty years old and kept it until I was thirty one and way too pregnant. I was afraid the hole would stretch if I left it in.
  2. I love dried pineapple. I can't get enough of it. I would love to learn how to dry it myself because it's expensive and difficult to find.
  3. I have eaten popcorn almost every day since I've been a stay at home mama. I've always been a fan, but now it's a staple.
  4. I have collected cows since I was in 8th grade. I have stuffed animals, rugs, figurines, blankets, towels, mugs, etc. Fortunately, the collecting has tapered off in recent years, but for a while it was a little crazy. And no, I'm not sharing the reason for the obsession.
  5. I am introverted. I enjoy socializing and if I push myself I can even be outgoing, but I find it exhausted. I really need some alone time to recharge. I love public speaking though, and hope someday to be able to incorporate it into my career again.
  6. I'm terrified of heights. Even while watching movies, I have physical reactions to perceived height. That said, I enjoy roller-coasters and mountains and insisted on climbing the lighthouse in St. Augustine. You won't catch me ever bungee-jumping though.
Other gorgeous bloggers:
  1. Stevie @ TwoBoyzTwoDogzTwoCrazyParents - I've known Stevie for five years now, and I admire the way she lives her life with such passion. She's an amazing photographer and I appreciate the glimpses she shares on her blog.
  2. Robin @ Do You Not Know What Causes That? - I met Robin originally because she teaches childbirth classes in Louisville. When I searched for classes, I just happened to come across classes taught by the author of several pregnancy books that I'd been reading. I am so thankful that I found her. I enjoy reading about her life with eight kids and often find inspiration for my own life.
  3. April @ Capture the Memories - I love how April shares her life and details that will be memories for her family.
  4. Monica @Without Filters - Monica's philosophy is about sharing with the blinders off. I'm inspired by how honest and real she is.
  5. Amy @ The Salt and Pepper Diva - Amy is so adventurous in her cooking, and she always has wonderful photos. And she is just so sweet!