Friday, December 28, 2007

The end of the year.

Ah, Christmas. It was lovely. It always is. I hope you had a lovely Christmas as well. On Christmas Eve we took our daughter on her first boat ride, a trip across Puget Sound on a Washington State Ferry. We spent some time in the town on the other side, eating lunch and walking around, but mostly the trip was just for the experience of the ferry ride. Our daughter loved it. She was enamored by the "bubbles" (foam) in the water; the trees that "fell down and broke" (driftwood); and the fact that cars could drive right onto the "big, big boat". It was a good day.

Christmas Day was beautiful as well. It took opening just one gift for our daughter to understand that, hey, all those packages under the tree have something fun inside! She was perhaps, um, just a tad bit spoiled. If not by us, then certainly by her other relatives. I may have been a bit spoiled as well. My husband surprised me with tickets the The Nutcracker. I have wanted to go for years. We went last night, and it really is as beautiful as everyone says it is. It's just...beautiful. The opening dance scene, all the guests and children at the party - wow. I wish I could find a painting of that scene, although I can't imagine that a painting could ever do it justice, since so much of the beauty is from the movement. It is, after all, a ballet. Thank you, Andy, for such a wonderful Christmas gift! One thing that took away from the serenity of the performance, but added greatly to the comedy, was the woman sitting next to me after intermission. She carried with her a heavy aroma of alcohol. A smidgen more and her aroma would have been an odor. Throughout the second act, whenever a piece of particularly famous music began (which is frequent in The Nutcracker), she yelled, "Yeah!" or "Yes!" (Think arm and fist pumping in the air.) I thought about congratulating her on apparently recognizing the music, but thought that might be rude. I am glad that she seemed to enjoy it so much. I know I did.

And now Christmas is over. We'll be taking our tree down this weekend. Now I am looking forward to 2008. I know that, in the progression of time, January 1 is arbitrary. There is nothing about the day that makes it different from any other day, no reason that we should start new habits or break old ones on that day any more than we should on any other day of the year. I know that it's psychological. I'm okay with that. Psychology is a powerful thing. January 1 provides a good measure of progression for our personal goals. It's much easier to remember how long we've been working on something when we begin on January 1 than it would be if we began on, say, August 19. (Unless that happens to be your birthday. It's not mine.) And so I have started my lists. Disciplines I want to develop, books I want to read, quilts I want to make, habits and values I want to instill in my daughter, skills I want to learn. They won't all become New Year's resolutions or goals. I make huge lists and then narrow them down to the things that I really want to focus on, a (hopefully) realistic number of goals.

2007 has been a year of much progress and some setbacks, much joy and some worries, much happiness and some heartache. In short, it has been a normal year, made up of the normal ebb and flow of life. I'm glad to have had the privilege of experiencing this year, both the good times and the bad, and I'm hopeful about what 2008 will bring.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband! Okay, so his birthday was yesterday, but we're celebrating today. An afternoon movie and an early dinner out - pure luxury to parents of a two year old!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holly and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It wasn't really so bad. It just felt like it at the time. The recipe was a large portion of toddler wilfulness, a dash of holiday shopping crowds, a sprinkle of poor professional service (does McDonald's count as professional service?), and a spider-dropping-from-the-car-ceiling-in-front-of-my-face-while-I-was-driving-down-the-freeway thrown in for good measure.

Then I got home and, during the eight minutes of my daughter's nap (truly), read this post at Write, Mama. Write. I appreciate so much of what she has to say. Our children are just about the same age, so I can relate to many of her parenting experiences. She is a thoughtful, intentional parent, and she likes to read, write, and sew. All the makings of a good blog, in my opinion. Anyway, I was encouraged by reading the post. I was also inspired to find a chance to go to a bookstore by myself.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Joy

Does it get any better than this? This is my daughter, mid-laugh, with strawberry jam smeared all over her face. She thought it was great fun. I agreed.

This is the Christmas wreath she made for her grandparents. (It was still hiding in the camera when I wrote the previous post.) She has had such fun with those pompoms! I wish I had a picture to share, but I don't. I'll still tell you the story. My girl lined up all of her Little People characters, each in their own chair (or stroller, bed, table, etc.), and then gave them each a tiny pompom for a ball. Then she went down the line and threw the "ball" for each of the characters. They were playing Circles, a game that my daughter made up. We play it almost daily. It was wonderful to watch her playing so imaginatively.

Today is a quiet day. The last few days have been kind of busy, so I appreciate this slow-paced day at home. Today is full of laundry, gift-wrapping, prepping packages to mail - all of those things that I never think to schedule time to do, but still must be done. With any luck, I'll get a little sewing time in as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Christmas is well underway here. The house is decorated inside and out, the gift shopping is nearly done, Christmas baking has begun, Christmas music is playing, and pictures of Christmas' past are up. My daughter believes that her first Santa picture, taken when she was four months old, is a picture of Santa Claus and Baby Jesus.

I don't have beautiful Christmas pictures or crafts or tutorials to share, as I've seen all over other blogs. Maybe later. (Probably not.) We have really been enjoying the season, however, and I thought I'd share a few recent highlights with you.

Our daughter participated in her first Christmas program (first program of any kind) on Sunday night. She refused to wear the sheep costume that the well-intentioned program directors tried to force her into. I knew she wouldn't wear it. She hates dressing up. That's the primary reason why we didn't go trick-or-treating this year. Costumes bother her. So...I knew she wouldn't do it, and I am not going to force my daughter to wear a costume just so I and other adults can say, "Ooh, how cute!" I'll make her wear a coat against her will; I will not make her wear a sheep costume. Anyway. So I did my part - knowing it would be futile - and tried to calmly talk her into wearing it. Nope. So I informed the program director that if she wanted a happy two-year-old on stage, she would have to settle for a non-costumed two-year-old. That is when all adults involved in the production, and some who were not involved, surrounded my daughter, apparently believing that they held some magical influence over her that I do not hold. One mother used comparison guilt: "Look at my son, he's in his costume. Don't you want to be like him?" (Incidentally, that particular little boy was carried off the stage screaming.) I sat there holding my daughter, doing my best to deflect the pressure being placed on her by the well-meaning, intimidating adults. She was not misbehaving. She was not throwing a fit about it. She was just saying, "Mommy, I don't want to", over and over again, in a scared little voice. And I sat there, holding her, asking the other adults to please leave her alone, all the while wondering why in the world we put such pressure on our children. She's two. Leave her alone. In the end, my little girl walked calmly to the front of the church in her Christmas dress and sheep ears headband (but no costume), sat on the stage steps, ate her animal crackers (one teacher wisely brought a bowl of animal crackers to, um, encourage the younger children to remain on stage for the entirety of the two preschool songs), clapped whenever the adults clapped, and adorably shouted out, "Happy birthday, Jesus!" during a quiet moment between the two songs. I was proud. Of the four two-year-olds in the program, one wore the costume and stayed happily on stage the entire time; two did not wear costumes, but stayed happily on the stage the entire time; and one wore a costume, but was carried off stage screaming bloody murder. So I think my girl did just fine.

Hm. I hadn't intended to write a book about the Christmas program costume incident. All that just to say - my daughter's first Christmas program was precious.

Another recent highlight was my daughter making wreaths for her grandparents. We picked up two chipboard rings from a craft store, along with a big bag of pompoms. She has been having a great time. She dabs the ring with a glue stick, then pushes a pompom onto the glue with all her might. So far, about three pompoms have stuck. I hope Grandma and Grandpa like minimalist wreaths. Well, we'll work on it. Mommy might help out with a hot glue gun.

Another highlight: pigtails. We've done barrettes, we've done the sides of her hair pulled into a ponytail on top, and we've done a ponytail. This week we tried pigtails. I love them! They're cute, and they're clean. My daughter has an amazing ability to get food in her hair, which makes for - well, really gross hair. Pigtails keep her hair clean. They're fabulous.

And, the last but not least highlight: Last week, my husband was told that he "personifies the servant heart of a ninja". These words were spoken during a Christmas party by an elder in our church. He was speaking in a very serious tone, and everyone was kind of nodding and listening reverently, until he said "ninja". Then the room erupted with laughter. He went on to explain that Andy serves in a variety of ways, always professionally and thoroughly, but in a quiet manner that does not draw attention to himself. And this is true. I was very pleased that my husband received such a compliment, and very proud that the words were accurate. Good job, honey.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Handcrafters' Holidays: Traditions

Here is the rest of my response to the Sew, Mama, Sew! Handcrafters' Holidays Meme:

What is your favorite family holiday tradition?

~Growing up, my favorite tradition was baking. My mom always baked candy cane cookies, Russian tea cookies, fudge, and Clifford tea cakes. Christmas was typically the only time of year that she made those particular treats. We always got to help. The candy cane cookies were the most fun - rolling and twisting the dough into perfect (or not-so-perfect) candy cane shapes. Another sweet Christmas tradition in my home was the filling of the candy dish. We only kept the candy dish full at Christmas. Every year my parents would fill my grandmother's pink Depression glass candy dish full of old fashioned hard candies, which we counted as a great treat.

Have you started any new traditions with your family that you didn't practice growing up?

~We give our daughter a special dated ornament each year. (Of course, this is only her third Christmas, so this tradition has not yet stood the test of time!) I don't have any of the ornaments from my childhood, even the one or two that were "mine", and I wish I did. With that in mind, we plan to give our children each an ornament every year, so they'll have a starter set when they have their own homes and trees.

What do you love most about the holiday season?

~I love the spirit of Christmas. I love that people tend to be kinder and more generous during the holidays. I love the coziness, the music, the gatherings of friends, the wonder, and the memories. I love searching for and finding the perfect gift. I love having cards and letters and packages from distant loved ones delivered to my door. I love that people are willing to include generosity to strangers in their busy holiday schedules, like the girls who just came to my door collecting canned goods for a food bank, the cheerful bell ringers who greet me outside every major store, and the people who arrived at church this morning carrying wrapped gifts for families they do not know.

What do you like least about the holiday season?

~I dislike holiday advertisements that would lead us to believe that we need more stuff. Big screen TVs will bring your family together? A new minivan will make your kids get along with each other? Come on.

Anyone close to your heart that you'll be missing this year?

~My big brother. I actually never get to see him and his family at Christmas, so that aspect is not unusual. This year, however, he is serving in Iraq. This leaves me feeling both sad and proud, and my heart is with him as well as with his beautiful wife and children in Colorado.

What is your favorite holiday food?

~Just one?! Sorry, can't do it. My favorite holiday foods include lefse - a Scandinavian dessert to which I was introduced upon marrying into a Norwegian family; Christmas cookies in general; peppermint lattes; and this year I've really been enjoying gingerbread (of the cake variety, not the cookie variety).

Do you have a great recipe to share?

~Indeed I do. This is my great-(great?)-grandmother's Clifford Tea Cake recipe:

1 c butter
2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c nuts (walnuts or pecans)
3 1/2 c flour
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Stir together dry ingredients and mix w/butter mixture. Add nuts. Mold dough into a log and chill at least two hours or up to overnight. Slice and bake for 9 minutes in a 300 degree oven.

I just copied this recipe straight from the recipe card, no adaptations. 300 degrees sounds a little low to me. You might want to play around with that a bit.
Thanks to Sew, Mama, Sew! for a fun meme!

Friday, December 07, 2007

We interrupt this blog to bring you a tip.

When Friend #1 announces her pregnancy in a room full of people which includes Friend #2, who has been unsuccessful in her attempts to get pregnant...don't turn and stare at Friend #2.

I'm just saying.

And now back to our regularly scheduled less personal blog.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Handcrafters' Holidays - Gifts

The wonderful women over at Sew, Mama, Sew! have invited us to participate in their Handcrafters' Holidays Blog Meme. I've enjoyed reading the responses of other people and decided to join in the fun. Sew, Mama, Sew! has broken the meme into two categories - Gifts and Traditions - and I will respond to the questions in two different blog posts, just to make it a little easier on myself. And so, without further ado, here are my thoughts on Gifts:

Do you have a favorite gift that you love to give?

~I really like to try and customize gifts to the recipient, so my favorite gift to give changes each year. Usually my favorite gift is a compilation gift - a gift basket, a kit of some sort, etc. Compilation gifts this year include a dress-up box for my niece, an Advent calendar for a friend, and a storybook/pajama combo for a soon-to-be two year old. My all-time favorite compilation gift was made two years ago. We made penpal kits for our then six year old niece and nephew. We included cool pens, markers, notepads, stickers, envelopes, and - the most special to the children - stamps.

If you're making gifts this year, what are you making?

~ What I'm actually making and what was on my list to make are two different things. The "want to make" list is much longer than the "am making" list. So far I have made an Advent calendar for a friend. It is pictured above. I borrowed the very excellent idea from Allsorts. I've also made a baby-themed wreath for the door of our church nursery, but, silly me, I forgot to take a picture! Oh, but it was fun to do. Miniature bottles, a rubber duck, a teddy bear, a train, some alphabet blocks - I had a great time making it. There are a few other projects in the works that I cannot mention for fear of alerting the intended recipients. I also hope to try my hand at this penny rug for the end table, Allsorts' Elf Clogs, and Montessori By Hand's Paper Clip Ice Skates for gift toppers. And hopefully a few wreaths for my own house. We'll see.

Do you have any good stories about handcrafted gifts you've given or received?

~ Andy and I received several beautiful handcrafted items as wedding gifts. A gorgeous wooden tray, a plate made by a master blacksmith, hand-dipped candles, a beautifully knitted blanket. We treasure them all. One gift, though, had us confused. It was a package of small, pink and white, crocheted...shapes. Had they been square, they would have been approximately 6"x6". We looked at them, studied them, turned them over in our hands, and could not figure out what they were. In our thank you note to the creator, we simply thanked him (yes, him) for his beautiful handiwork. We figured they must be kitchen linens of some sort, so we tucked them in the back of our linen drawer. One day I pulled them out and showed them to Andy's mother, who immediately pronounced them washcloths. You see, Andy and I were young and naive and still thought all washcloths had to come from a department store. I remember thinking, "Really, yarn washcloths?" I tucked them back into the drawer until one day, more than a year later, I fell behind on the laundry and ran out of washcloths. Having no other choice, I pulled out the pink and white wonders and washed my dishes with them. I've never gone back. They are fantastic! They work so well. They are still my favorite washcloths. Once they wear out, I'm going to have to make myself some more. And they'll have to be pink and white.

Do you have any great gift compilation ideas?

~Ooh, I should have read through the whole list of questions before I started answering. Well, as I mentioned before, I love giving compilation gifts. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:
  • a complete diaper changing kit (clearly this one is very recipient-specific)
  • a storybook paired with a related item. I'm giving Llama, Llama, Red Pajama along with a pair of classic red flannel pajamas. Other variations could include a storybook with a related stuffed animal, a themed quilt, or a movie.
  • a complete cleaning kit. My mother-in-law gave one to me for my wedding shower, and I gave one to my sister for her wedding shower. We included all sorts of cleaning and household supplies, and then wrote a letter using all of the names of the supplies. "Your husband may not always be Mr. Clean, but remember your Pledge to give him your All, and you will find that each day will Dawn with renewed Cheer and Joy." That sort of thing. It makes for a good, practical gift, and a great laugh at the shower.
  • a penpal kit, as mentioned above. Stamps, notepads, markers/crayons, pens, stickers, all in a school box.
  • a Wedding Survival kit. Not exactly holiday related, but still a fun gift. I gave this as a shower gift several years ago and included a small sewing kit, a pair of pantyhose, Kleenex, Tylenol, a miniature bouquet of silk flowers (in case the florist forgets the throwaway bouquet, as happened at my wedding), chocolate, and duct tape.
  • One of the best compilation gifts I have ever received was a New Parent Survival kit, given to me at my daughter's baby shower. My friends and family included Tylenol, magazines, tea, lotion, bath salts, and unmentionable things that recently pregnant women need but don't know that they will need, among other things.
  • a "Beach Baby" kit. For a September-born baby, we made a summer kit of things that would fit him the following year - a pair of swim trunks, sunscreen, tiny little sunglasses, and arm floaties.

In making this list, I realize that I don't give a lot of Christmas compilation gifts. I seem to give them more for showers and birthdays. Maybe that is because I am only giving to one person on those occasions, and thus have more time to devote to the creation of the gift.

Name one thing on your personal wish list.

~Joelle Hoverson's Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts. I have this book from the library right now. It is one of the best sewing idea/pattern books I have seen.

Do you make and sell things that would make fantastic gifts?

~Not yet. Etsy may be in my future. We'll see.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Sunday in Advent

Today marks the first Sunday in Advent. A lot of people - my family among them - choose to begin their Advent observations on December 1st these days, rather than the traditional fourth Sunday before Christmas. It makes it easier to keep track of the days and easier to write, make, and use Advent devotionals and calendars. Nevertheless, today marks the true beginning.

Advent is the season in which Christians prepare their hearts for the coming (the advent) of Christ. We contemplate the true meaning of Christmas - God humbling Himself to an unfathomable degree, becoming man. We refer to this as the Incarnation. It's an astounding concept. A devout person could go through a lifetime of Advent seasons and still not come close to wrapping his mind around it. Wonder is an appropriate and common sentiment during this time of year.

The Advent wreath pictured above was a gift made for me several years ago by my friend Janene. (Speaking of Janene, check out her alphabetical Advent at her store's blog.) It is one of my favorite Christmas decorations, and it is usually the first to be put up. I just pulled it from its box tonight (yes, I very nearly missed lighting the first candle). We don't have a tree yet and our mantle is still decorated with autumn leaves and miniature pumpkins...but the Advent wreath is out. When I was a child, my family used three purple and one pink candle in our Advent wreath - the traditional colors, I believe - but I have always used red in mine, adding a fifth candle in the middle to be lighted on Christmas Day.

Earlier today I was reading through a 1912 copy of The Lutheran Hymnary. I am not Lutheran, but my husband's family is, and so I have been introduced to many of the traditions of that liturgical denomination. While my family celebrated Advent, we did not observe the rest of the liturgical church calendar at all (save Christmas and Easter). I learned a little bit about Lent in college and have observed it off and on since then. I have found many of the traditions associated with the calendar to be interesting, admirable, and meaningful. I have suspected for some time that I would find greater meaning and enrichment if I were to delve deeper into the church calendar, were to actually follow the readings, prayers and songs of the entire year. Advent marks the beginning of the church calendar. I think I will try to follow it this year. If you're interested in following along, I'll be posting about it here. I don't know yet exactly what I'll post, but I suspect it will be traditional readings, other passages that I find relevant, and my personal thoughts on the topics. I hope you'll join me!