Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Do you "carrot" all?

"Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again." (Joseph Campbell)

I guess I spoke too soon about only making one gift this year. I did knit three carrots, using this pattern from Jimmy Beans Wool (They're supposed to be rattles, and there's a eggplant, banana, orange and cucumber, too.) I made them a little bigger so they resemble real carrots, though now I wish I'd made them smaller.

The carrots are the first in what I hope are a bunch of "softie" food for Sam, who got a new-to-him kitchen for Christmas. I was super tempted to get this cute retro pink one, but aside from being pink, it was $239. The above bright-colored one was $25 from my friend Staci, whose boys had outgrown it. The IKEA table was a gift from Sam's godmother Kristin, and the two white chairs I got at a garage sale a few years ago for $1 each. This little set-up is in the corner of our dining room.

He loves pretending he's cooking. It's so cute!

While on the Jimmy Bean's site, I found this cute hat pattern. I've just started the first of a pair of them for one of Ed's friends who had twin boys the day after Christmas.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


"It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear... It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold onto." (Marilyn Ferguson)

I only made one gift this year--probably a record for me. Of course, I still made several batches of toffee to give away, but only one crafted gift. It was this cashmere blankie for my new nephew with the Christmasy name of Nicholas.

I made it out of felt from recycled sweaters--but all cashmere, so it's super soft. I've only made one of these before (one I donated to a Chinese orphanage), and that time I zigzagged the squares together, but this time the cashmere was too slippery for that. So I had to do two lines of straight stitch instead. It's a little messy, but I guess that's just the "handmade" look.

I used an interesting combo of bright colors, since Nicholas' mother is not into traditional boy baby blues. I did some red highlights, with large rick rack and polka dotted ribbon with a few loops for sucking on. And I hand stitched his name on it.

There was a little boy here who wanted it for himself. I really should make some of this stuff for my own kids!

P.S. We made it home safely from a lovely Christmas in Wisconsin, despite lots of snow here, there and in between. I know most people take a blogging break during the holidays, but this is when I finally have some time to read and write blogs posts. So hopefully I'll do a little catching up on the (few) creative projects in my life lately.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

"For unto us is born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope everyone had a wonderful, safe, and relaxing holiday.

This is Sam playing with the newest "toy" in our house--a beautiful, hand-carved nativity set from the Holy Land. Of course, I saw these when I was there in 1999, but didn't buy one. My parents gave it to us as an early Christmas gift this year. Sam loves it, especially the star, which winds a music box that plays "Silent Night." (I know the Palestinian artisans are really suffering because of the decreased Christmas tourism these past years, so I'm glad my parents supported them by buying this.)

When I ask him what happens on Christmas, Sam has been saying, "Jesus born." But tonight, after a long fun Christmas Day of presents and playing with his cousins, he said, "Santa born." Oh well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cookie Baking Weekend 2009

"Many hands make light work." (John Heywood)

The annual Schlumpf Women Cookie Baking Weekend was held a week later this year (it's usually the first weekend of December) because I had a work party and a baby shower. Plus, I had to miss half the say Saturday because I was teaching. For that reason, it was also moved to my sister's in Aurora--though with some finger-crossing, because the last time we had it there, my sister's dog died. Buddy, their current pooch, survived this year.

According to the official counter (my mom), we baked 2, 225 cookies this year--our second highest number in history. However, my mom arrived with some three kinds already baked for us, so it's kind of cheating.

We had an extra pair of hands this year. He rolled, cut out and sampled a few. He also played with Grandpa, Uncle Andy and his cousins.

Once home, he chose a sugar cutout snowman that had black frosting on it and made a bit of a mess. But he loves the cookies. His favorites are the cutouts (especially the candy canes) and the creme de menthe balls, which he calls "Christmas balls." It's a simple, unbaked cookie that we've made since I was a little girl. The recipe is from "The Electirc Company Christmas Cooky Book," from 1964 put out by Wisconsin Electric Power Company (here's one for sale on ebay).

Creme de Menthe BonBons
1 c. vanilla wafer crumbs (Nilla Wafers--we grind in a meat grinder, but you can use food processor or even buy as crumbs)
3/4 finely chopped pecans
1 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/2 c. green creme de menthe
Green food coloring
Powdered sugar for rolling

Mix crumbs, pecans, sugar, syrup and creme de menthe. Add a few drops of food coloring. Chill dough. Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in powdered sugar. Refrigerate. Makes about 5 dozen.

This is a great cookie for little hands to help with the rolling in powdered sugar.

**Our family loves creme de menthe. I remember us pouring a bit on vanilla ice cream for dessert, or having (weak) grasshoppers. My mom also makes a yummy creme de menthe cake topped with fudge topping and cool whip that is a favorite at family birthdays.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

"A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes... and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

We have been a bit slow on the Christmas preparations around here. There were final papers to write (for Ed) and lots of final papers to grade (for both of us). In the midst of the end-of-the-semester madness, we also have had to deal with Sam have a major reversion on his sleep progress. It's been exhausting.

Little by little, I've put up some decorations, but it wasn't until Friday--yes, less than a week before Christmas--that we finally made the trip (to Home Depot, I admit) to get our tree. Sam helped pick out this Blue Spruce for $24.95.

Ed did the all-important straightening adjustments at home.

Sunday we finally decorated it. I carefully sorted through all my silver, gold and crystal ornaments and packed them away for about 10 years. Instead we decorated with every old and unbreakable ornament I had. It's a mish-mash, but it looks festive--and I don't have to freak out every time Sam plucks an ornament off the tree, which he did a lot at first, but a little less so now that we've blocked it off.

Once finals were done, we started trying to catch up with friends. I was happy to use a vintage tablecloth for a simple supper of quiche and Tom & Jerrys with our former neighbors. (At the condo we didn't have a dining room table.)

* It turns out I've used this title before. I guess after three years, you run out of clever titles.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


"Don't pray when it rains, if you don't pray when the sun shines." (Satchel Paige)

I didn't mean to disappear for a whole month. This semester has been crazier than ever: I'm teaching two classes, plus Ed is teaching one and taking one. So we have a lot of papers to write and grade these last weeks.

Thanksgiving was also an adventure. We went to Kentucky to meet our new nephew Nicholas (snuggling with me in the above photo). On the way home, we had car trouble (on Saturday afternoon) and ended up stranded in Indiana until a mechanic could look at it on Monday. We've had about $1,500 in car repairs in the past four weeks. I hope we're done for awhile. Still, it could have been a lot worse, and at least we broke down near Lafayette, so we were near a hotel and many fast-food joints!

There has been very little Christmas readying around here. No tree yet, no cards, just some thinking about presents, and a few batches of homemade toffee. Some friends are coming over tonight, so I'm going to try to make a batch of Tom and Jerrys. And this weekend is the annual Schlumpf Women Cookie Baking event. I'll have more to report after that, and more Christmas fun after my last class (Dec. 19, grades due Dec. 22). No homemade gifts this year, though.

I hope life settles down soon. It's just too crazy. All the more reason I enjoyed just snuggling with a month-old baby on Thanksgiving! Isn't he so cute?