Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Nostalgia

I was going to post about the cookies I made for my kindergartner's class, but there just isn't much to say other than I got the idea from Bakerella, and hers, naturally, put mine to shame. So I'm going to babble on about something different as I show you the photos of my messy process.

I'm a fairly traditional person when it comes to the Holidays. I get especially nostalgic around these times and find comfort in celebrating the Holidays the way I did as I was growing up. I prefer the classic sound of Burl Ives over most any modern Christmas song and the cartoon version of the Grinch will always win my vote over the movie remake.

When I was a child we would open Christmas presents at Grandma and Grandpa's house on Christmas Eve. When they passed on and we made families of our own, my parents took over the tradition. Then they moved away to Kentucky, and so I have somewhat taken over that tradition by having my siblings and their families over for Christmas Eve dinner. We also take turns having Christmas breakfast every year, which is a tradition I thought I could do with out, but found out I missed the year we didn't do it.

We also read the Night Before Christmas just after setting out cookies and Coke for Santa. The girls will be dressed in their Christmas PJ's as we tuck them in. When Santa fills the stockings he always includes a Lifesavers book and he will place the items asked for in front of the Christmas tree in a grand display.

When the kids wake up, they will come get us first before finding their way to the treasure. My Aunt will come over to watch us open presents and to exchange gifts with us.

It is pretty much the same every year, but I wouldn't change a thing.

How about you? Do you stick with traditions or do you change it up every year? What are your Holiday must haves/do's? Is there a tradition you just can't let go of?

This reminds me, I need to dig the Christmas Story DVD out of the closet. I surely can't let the season pass by without watching it!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Havoc

My house is in total distress. There are bits of felt, strings of frayed fabric and stray pieces of wrapping paper scattered about the house. The Mr. is climbing the walls because of the mess, but it doesn't make sense to clean it all up real good when I'm just gonna mess it all up again every few hours.

I'm cramming in the sewing machine time in between baking batches of cookies. I've taken just about everyone else's Christmas pictures but our own. So when I had an hour to try to set up the tripod and a makeshift spot in the living room, the light was crap and nobody was in the mood to wait for me to adjust things accordingly.
Once again I've over-booked myself on the volunteering department. I love to volunteer, I just need to learn that magic little word every now and again, to save not only my sanity, but that of my family as well. I did volunteer for two easy items at two of the kids' Christmas parties. Yay for chocolate milk and candies to decorate gingerbread houses!

Most of the handmade projects are awaiting the final touches. I ran out of elastic and so I now have six pair of PJ's, six pair of doll PJ's, and four skirts to put elastic in before I can wrap them up.
I haven't taken many pictures of the finished projects yet. So I can only share with you a couple for now.

I had enough fabric scraps left over to make matching PJ's for my youngest child's' doll. When I showed the oldest, she said she wanted matching PJ's for her favorite stuffed bear. So I ended up making matching PJ's for each kid and their doll or stuffed animal of choice.
This weekend is cram time for sure. The kids will be spending the weekend with my sister, and I plan to finish things up and work till my fingers bleed. Of coarse, this is after the four Christmas parties, cookie swap, co-op, two teacher conferences, orchestra concert and finishing up teachers gifts for the last school day of December...

How about you? Do you over do it during the Holidays? Do you over extend yourself throughout the year as well? Have you learned that magic little "no" word? If so, can you teach me?!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving weekend recap

It's been fifteen days since my last post...
That almost sounds like a confessional eh!?
And yes, I do confess, I've been a slacker on here. However, in real life, I've been pretty darn productive!
So please forgive me...

A few years ago I made Mexican food for Thanksgiving. We weren't having any company that year (this rarely happens) and we weren't going anywhere either. So I thought "what the heck", "why not something different?"
My kids were beyond upset! There were tantrums and looks of disgust. There were even some tears. Two of them down-right refused to eat.
They made me promise to never, ever do it again. I had to cross my heart and hope to die, then they stuck a needle in my eye.
Well, they didn't actually stick me with a needle, but I'm pretty positive they would have liked to! I'm sure you get the picture. It was ugly around here for a week. Every time someone went to the refrigerator to find something to eat, they'd moan about "if we only had turkey leftovers..."

I didn't realize as young as they were, that my kids were already set in tradition. It never occurred to me when making the Carnitas, beans, rice and what not that year, that I would be upsetting the way the whole day felt for them!
So I'm careful to ask them now what they are looking forward to most on Thanksgiving.
These were the "must-haves" they requested for the day:

Well, this last one is a must for me! Mmmm...Pecan Pie!

I usually have the table done up with place settings for everyone, but I didn't have a final head-count and it was possible I wouldn't have enough settings. So I didn't bother at all!
Then the girls thought it looked a little plain, so they cut out all these leaves, and then strung them into a garland to hang above the table!

We chose to spend "Black Friday" at home where we decorated for Christmas.

(Good ol' Santa. My momma made him for me years ago in her ceramics class.)

I think I'll post the other two days in the next entry. There are too many pictures to upload and re-size.
But it will contain the progress I've made on my handmade Christmas gifts!

How about you? Do you have any traditions you HAVE to stick with each year? Have you ever destroyed Thanksgiving by not keeping them?

Whatever your tradition, I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving full of new memories!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Making Christmas Time

For the past three years we've done "Homemade Christmas" for our family. Most of the gifts are handmade by myself. My Mr. even gets his creative juices flowing and has contributed such things as puppet theaters and marshmallow guns.
Some of the gifts might be purchased from handmade venues like Etsy or local craft fairs. If there is a store bought item, it is usually there to accompany the handmade item (think books to go in a handmade book tote).
I've only five weekends to work on Christmas gifts before the big day.
And so the count down begins.

Last year I was working up until the day before and this year I'm getting off to a rocky start thanks to this lovely flu virus that has been making itself cozy in my house. (The hubby is all better now and I'm about two days behind him so I'm sure I'm on the mend!)

I have most of the materials gathered to start. The fabrics have now been washed and pressed for a week and are waiting to be pinned to their patterns. PJ pants will be back by request. Last years are ready for the rag bin they're so worn through!

Why my children are obsessed with those "snuggies" I'll never know. But I found a pattern and JoAnns was having 40% off of anti pill fleece, so what the heck, snuggies all around!

Have you seen the gorgeous bib necklaces that seem to be all the rage? I'm so excited to make those! And some big artsy fartsy headbands and hair pins too!

I've got more, but I gotta start somewhere and here looks good.

Now I'm off to bed with hopefully my last dose of Nyquil!

So what about you guys? How do you prep for Christmas? Are you a Black Friday kinda person? Or a "wait until the Eve of" sort of person? Or are you completely insane like me?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Putting MORE food by...

I keep telling myself I'm done canning for the winter. But then the co-op tempts me with such things as fresh green beans and pickling cucumbers!
I caved and bought a thirty pound case of green beans this week and my great friend Anne and I put them by this weekend.

Anne also purchased thirty pounds and so between the sixty pounds of green beans, we canned thirty-two quarts, and blanched/froze (six) one pound bags.

Here are about thirty pounds.

Anne chose the method of snapping the ends off the beans. I chose to cut em off.

I'm still not sure which way was quicker. I think it's about the same, just preference.

We did have a little help in the beginning.

Until they figured out how much work it was!

Here is some of the finished product.

We sampled a jar and YUMM! They were so good, we ate the whole thing!

It sure helps to have a friend in the kitchen with you while canning, but it is still an all day process!
I need to get out of the kitchen and into the craft room! Christmas is only a month and a half away!

I kinda hope they don't have those pickling cucumbers next week. I'm not sure I can pass them up, even though I should!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Weekend

This Halloween...

This little Miss won her school costume contest.

This little Miss perfected her "Man in a Box".

And this little Miss chose her first "evil" costume.

Some of the goodies they chose to bring to their school celebrations were these:

And these:

They had a Halloween slumber party with a few good friends.

They all helped to make this for dinner.

And chose to make these for their dessert.

Then snacked on these:

While watching this:

The next day, they carved these:

And after a long night of trunk & trick or treating, they came home and I made this for them.

(That would be Halloween colored farfalle!)

I didn't have to sew elaborate costumes this year, or throw a big Halloween party, or heck, I didn't even decorate the outside of the house!
Regardless, the girls had a wonderful Halloween!
And really folks, that's what it is all about!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My fall garden

For those of you who don't know me, I live in the desert. It can be really hard to grow things here because of the extreme heat, lack of water and high alkaline levels.
About three Earth days ago (we try to do something every year)we started trying our hand at gardening.
Needless to say it's been hit and miss! But we are learning quite a bit with each thing we plant!
The first year was full of misses. We planted a bunch of starters indoors, went through the process of "hardening them off", fertilized them and cared for them, only to have them die off a few weeks later.
Over the past few years we've managed to get lucky with a few things, but this year has been our most successful so far.

I think the raised beds help!

Here's what we've started:

The tomato plant on the left is a larger tomato variety. The one on the right is a cherry tomato plant left over from the spring/summer garden. I was told to trim it way back and keep it watered so it will come back and it did! It is enormous!
Here are a couple new tomatoes growing on the larger variety plant!

Here we have jalapenos

and cayenne

As you can see, they are taking over the whole garden!

I think I need to thin them out soon!

Also in this large bed I planted some cauliflower.

If you think they look a little rough then you should have seen them a week ago! They were attacked by lovely little fuzzy caterpillars! I had my first experience using "pesticide". I found an organic one that doesn't kill the pests but repels them instead. Now the plants are looking much better!

This gardens "honorable mention" is this sole surviving pea plant. There were six, but I think the sun was too much for them. This one made it though, and she's quite a hardy little thing!

I raised all but one of the side garden beds to make them deeper. I had my first success in these but I think things would have done better had they been deeper. Underneath all the good stuff is a rock solid ground! This is not easy for the plants to take root, however, the weeds seem to do it!

Here we have sweet potatoes.

Here is some butternut squash

I really hope these survive!

If they do, it will be my first surviving squash!

Here are some white potatoes.

And some cabbage.

In the shallow bed we have some herbs.
They don't do too hot in the winter so we only have a few.


and Parsley

I have a few buckets & pots with stuff too.

I'm trying out some raspberries.

And some grape vines.

Neither will be ready for another year or two though!

Oh, and some Oregano! I just trans-planted it in a larger pot and it's already time to transplant again!

Since we lack bees I planted some flowers. I thought they were dead and past their season but more are growing!

I didn't get pictures of the asparagus. They are still in the fern-looking stage as they need another year or two to mature.
And I forgot to take pictures of the few strawberry plants and some other potted flowers.

I sure hope I have lots to post when it comes time to harvest!

If you have a garden, what do you have growing right now?