Random Christmas-adjacent Thoughts

If I had the money, I’d do a complete Christmas makeover of my house every year, from the bedding to the living room curtains. Yes, I am secretly that person.

And, yet, simultaneously, I wonder why in the world we spend so much money on temporary decor that only goes up for a month. I try to cheat this system and decorate before Thanksgiving, but it seems to take a lot of energy to defend that decision to the very vocal “after Thanksgiving” crowd. (Honestly, why is this even an issue?)

I really thought Christmas parties were going to be more of a thing when I was an adult. I’ve watched too many movies that take place in the 1950s and 1960s. Also, I suspect that the no-drinking thing has soured that significantly. People generally don’t want to go to dress up and go to other people’s houses to just eat and talk without the promise of inebriating spirits, I’m finding.

My kids are obsessed with these little seasonal bird decorations from Walmart. They’re $5 a piece and we have to look for the newest ones each year and my children have informed me that it is my collection of $5 birds that they will fight over when I am dead. Not, oh…the quilts I’ve lovingly stitched for them, the hats I’ve knit for them, or the embroideries I’ve spent hours and hours working on…no, it’s the mass-produced blobs of styrofoam covered in cheap fabric scraps with metal legs sticking out of them that they’re going to fight over.

One of my biggest memories of childhood Christmas decorations was a book that played music. I don’t remember what the name of the book was, or what song it played, but I remember holding it in my hands and pressing the little hidden button/circuit that would make it start singing. And it always smelled like fake spice soap because it was packed away in a box that contained little polymer gingerbread people that smelled like that.

I’ve still never made a wreath, despite planning to do so every year.

I’m still chasing my dream of Christmas quilts on each bed. I’m getting closer with a few finishes this year, and I am very excited about it.

I bought buffalo plaid sheets for Nathaniel’s and Emms’ beds to match their new Christmas quilts. Because I had to, obviously.

I never did buy a Little People nativity set. That was the most adorable children’s toy set I’ve ever seen.

People who get in a tizzy over fresh Christmas trees would really get into a tizzy if they knew that my family actually cut down two trees each year so that we could drill holes into the “good” tree and insert branches cut from the other tree in order to make sure they were no bald spots in the overall fullness of the tree.

One of my neighbors had an inflatable turkey on their lawn this year for Thanksgiving, and every morning that Ren and I saw it, it was slightly deflated so that its head was leaning back like it was yelling, “Why, God, WHY?!?!” to the sky.

I don’t like inflatable lawn decorations. Don’t let that keep you from using them. You do you. I’m just not going to have them on my lawn.

I didn’t get to making a tree skirt for my craft room’s Christmas tree this year. Again. I’m hoping really hard it’ll happen next year.

Our Christmas Eve PJs this year all match. I’m smug about it. I think the kids are all apprehensive about it. Mwa ha ha.

In an effort to make the Isolated Christmas of 2020™ a little more special, I changed our Christmas morning breakfast into a Christmas Tea. It was well-received and I think I’m going to make it a tradition. Anyone know of some great breakfast finger/tea foods?


Finished: Fresh Cut Pines Quilt

You guys, I finished a thing! Like, completely finished it all on my own! I made a plan to finish a thing and it WORKED. No crazy injury to derail the plans, no pie-in-the-sky wishful scheduling that was impossible to maintain…just realistic, practical planning and showing up to do the work and it made me actually finish a thing. That is a big freakin’ deal to me because finishing things has not been something I’ve excelled at for the past year.

And it’s a Christmas quilt! For my kid! And he loves it! And it’s for Christmas! I love Christmas quilts! I finished a Christmas thing!

The details:
Pattern: “Fresh Cut Pines” from the book, Winter Wonderland, by Sherri Falls of This and That Patterns.
Fabric Collection: “December Magic,” by Emma Leach for Blank Quilting (from my brand ambassador days), paired with some random greens from my stash.
Background Fabric: “Fog” Bella Solids by Moda
Backing Fabric: A fantastic one-inch red buffalo plaid 108″ wide backing made by Windham Fabrics, Style #51462
Quilting: Aurifil 40 wt in Natural White in the needle, and Aurifil 40 wt Red in the bobbin. I quilted straight vertical lines, 2.5″ apart. I now wish I’d done a little more, but I was nervous about quilting my first twin-size quilt and wanted to keep it super simple.
Dates: I pieced this during May & June of 2020 and quilted it this November.

I’ve mentioned before that it is my dream to someday have a Christmas quilt on every bed in my house during the holiday season, and this is the first such quilt towards making that dream a reality. I am extremely, extremely pleased with its completion!

Keeping Track of my Year has Made Me More Grateful

I started using the app 1 Second Everyday last year when quarantine started up because I wanted a historical record of a historical event. As a result, I take more little snippets of video, which are so fun to watch of my kids. (I’m more of a still-image person, so video is a reach for me.) And the video at the end of 2020 with a one second snippet from every day of that monumental year? Amazing. So I’ve been keeping up with this year, too.

I was hardcore into some self help books at the beginning of 2021, because you know…2020 kinda whomped on all of us, and I noticed that a lot of them kept mentioning the importance of looking for things to be grateful for, trying to have a positive attitude, trying to frame things in a more positive light…all those rose-colored glasses suggestions that make me want to punch people, basically. BUT…I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try for a bit. Just an experiment. Watching the 1 Second Everyday video at the end of 2020 had helped me to remember a lot of good things that came out of that year…what if I also made an effort to write them down as I went along?

So I downloaded a handful of journaling apps and whatnot, started using them, and slowly uninstalled them as they annoyed me until I was left with one called Delightful. It’s a simple little app that asks you to write down three good things twice a day. I have reminders that go off in the morning and in the evening, and if I can’t think of anything, there’s questions to think about and answer. And if it’s a really terrible day, I don’t write down anything at all.

All of these Thanksgiving posts about gratitude had me feeling the pressure to write something similar, but I don’t really like writing those posts because they can come off as being boastful, and I’ve realized that I learned somewhere along the way that saying what I’m grateful for out loud is boastful and arrogant and show-offy. But I’ve also learned that’s not entirely true. Don’t get me wrong, I hate a humble brag, but being thankful and saying it out loud isn’t boastful.

I sat down with my Delightful gratitude app today, and it looks like I started recording my gratitudes on March 11, 2021. I’m rather hit-and-miss, but I do have 107 entries as of today, which is ~321 different things I’ve been grateful for this year. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are some random things I’ve been thankful for this year:

  • Michael is a thoughtful dude
  • My Zoom tea party group and my Sunday Zoom knitting appointment
  • Quesnel, Charlotte, and Marshmallow do so many little things that make me laugh
  • Watching people succeed
  • Gaining strength through so much physical therapy
  • The kids got to go back to regular school and not have to do distance learning anymore
  • When Emms found out about the college they want to go to and got all excited that such a place existed
  • Nathaniel’s first time trying to play the trumpet
  • Nathaniel’s first baseball practice in the spring, when I got out my EPP kit and just started crying because it had been two years since I’d stitched at a baseball event. That that little normal thing was back.
  • So many things about gardening make me happy.
  • Playing Mario Kart with the kids
  • Free time
  • When an unexpected rainy day happens during a busy time in the garden and I’m forced to stay inside all day and I get to do extra sewing or knitting
  • Every time another member of our family was officially fully-vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Michael made me a porch swing
  • Rachel’s newfound love for full, poufy skirts
  • Reading an article in a magazine about a town I’d never heard of and how fun it was to discover a new place I’d like to visit someday
  • Conversations with James and Denise
  • My neighbor planted a new species of grass in his yard and it was really delightful to listen to him be excited about it
  • Michael helps me a lot. Often.
  • People being really kind about my need to rest and heal after my foot surgery.
  • The drive to my kids’ schools has beautiful scenery, especially in the autumn
  • Renaissance’s work on her witch costume for Halloween
  • The kids like to cook and bake

This year has felt stressful and overwhelming almost every single day, but when I read back through these little entries I’m reminded of how much good there has been that I’m apparently blind to after the fact. I’m glad I embarked on this little experiment. And I’m not trying to pressure you into doing the same, because I always dislike it when the shiny, happy people give life advice. (And no, I’m not what I would classify as a “shiny, happy person.”) I’m just glad that a little experiment turned out well and that I have a way to see the good a little easier now. Life is always full of difficulty and good, and I appreciate any little trick to help me focus on the good a little bit more.

I hope you and yours have a lovely weekend. Given the international nature of my friends reading the blog these days, I wish my American friends a happy Thanksgiving, and my Celsius friends a fantastic end of November. Whether or not you have a holiday tomorrow, I hope the end of this week, and the rest of this year, treats you kindly. Thank you for being here and reading my words and writing your comments. All of those bloggy things bring little sparks of happiness into my world throughout the year, too, and I’m grateful that you allow me to experience them.

Also–I’m not affiliated with 1 Second Everyday or Delightful.
I just use those apps and like them a lot, so I wanted to share a good thing.

Sew little time…

Em & Renaissance with Nathaniel after his band concert! (Rachel was at her own rehearsal and had to miss it.)

Last week was a doozy! Nathaniel had his first band concert and Rachel was in four showings of our school district’s drama production, complete with rehearsals from 4:00-7:30 pm on the days leading up to the shows, and then she had to be at the theatre from 5:30-10:00 pm Thursday and Friday for their first two shows, and from 12:30-10:00 pm on Saturday because they did a matinee and evening show. I drove back and forth from the school 3-5 times each day! But she had a blast and it was a great show, and hey, that’s parenting.

Which meant not a lot of crafty times, but I did finish the Fresh Cut Pines quilt, label and all. I don’t have pictures of it yet because it’s been really rainy and a disc in my upper back went out Saturday morning, which incapacitated me for the entire weekend. Sigh. I have plans to take the quilt’s beauty shots over Thanksgiving Break while I have helpers available during the day.

I pulled out the Yuletide Botanica orange peel quilt this morning to start working on it, and after having a bit of a lazy crafter hesitation, decided to go forward with attaching a border because it will look better with a border, even though I didn’t want to take the time to do it. (And yes, I’m glad I did…it really does look better with the border…) I also basted this bad boy and now have the aching back to prove it. I’m hoping to get going on the quilting tomorrow, as long as everything goes as it should during the day.

I am so ready for the Thanksgiving holiday. Hopefully I don’t have to go anywhere Friday and Saturday so I can just plough through all my wonderful Christmas prep activities! I just want to be at home, sewing all the Christmas things!

Teacher Gifts 2021: Include a handwritten note

I’ve been helping out a lot in my kids’ schools since we stopped homeschooling forever ago, and I’ve seen the entire gamut of teacher personalities: From having their world revolve around their students to having a chip on their wizened shoulders about everything and only showing up to do the absolute minimum with a scowl on their face. I started substitute teaching last school year, and I’ve really seen what’s going on in my kids’ schools as a result, rather than just the professional face you get to see at conferences and school functions.

And oh my goodness, my kids’ teachers deserve some gifts this year. (They really deserved them last year, too; but I was in abject survival mode at that time and the thought didn’t even cross my mind. We’re all doing the best we can in the moment.)

Teachers are tired, man. Kids are stressed, depressed, they can’t stop looking at their phones for more than two freakin’ minutes, and can’t stop spewing their parents’ opinions about masks and vaccines if the shadow of an opportunity presents itself, which it often does because there’s still a lot of “Masks up, please!” reminders happening throughout the day. Parents are stressed and depressed, and super prone to flipping out and shifting the blame of their kids’ poor behavior choices onto the schools. It is absolutely insane right now.

To the teachers who are smiles and sunshine and there for the kids: I don’t know how you’re doing it, and THANK YOU SO MUCH because it has made a difference in my children’s lives to have your enthusiasm and optimism shining in their lives these past two years. I hope you’re finding healthy ways to cope with all this stress so you can keep up with the cheerfulness.

To the teachers who hate their lives right now: Wow, I totally get it. It is rough out there, and you are being asked to do a lot of hard things and it makes sense that it feels hard…because it is abso-freakin’-lutely HARD right now. I hope you’re able to find some way to release the stress and frustration that has been heaped upon you in recent years. I hope things start feeling better soon.

With all that in mind, I’ve got a hankering to spread a little cheer to the people who have been showing up for my kids via Zoom and from behind their masks after wiping down desks between classes, because I am so thankful that they’ve kept pushing through the difficulties of the situation and kept showing up, regardless of how they felt about it all. I do not take their presence in my kids’ lives for granted at all after these last two years.

So I’m trying to come up with an easy idea for teacher gifts this year because all my kids are now in high school and middle school, and 4 kids X 6 teachers = 24 teachers, which is a lot of teacher gifts, plus gifts for music lesson teachers, club teachers…it’s a very large list.

Whatever I come up with, I am going to insist that my kids each write a note to their teachers, personally thanking them. In all my subbing this past year, the one thing I’ve noticed that almost all the teachers have in common is that they keep those notes. They’re usually tacked up on a wall, but sometimes arranged on the inside of a cupboard door, or secretly taped to the inside of their desk drawer. One teacher had a well-thumbed stack of thank-you notes wrapped in a rubber band, with the note on top dated 2012. Quite a few teachers have printed off emails from students expressing gratitude. Those notes matter a lot to them.

And maybe I don’t get around to including a physical gift to go with the notes, because things are still a little crazy at the moment, but I can make sure my kids take a little time in the next few weeks to write a few sentences to their teachers.

And *I* can also write a handful of thank you notes to let these persevering souls know how especially thankful I’ve been for them these past two years. It’s been a long journey together and I haven’t expressed my gratitude nearly as much I should have.

Quilting the Fresh Cut Pines quilt

Alright, then, crafty friends, we’re at the end of the first week of reinstituting crafty goals and WOW did I get stuff done this week. All hail the power of setting goals!

I had to rip and re-sew on the top border of the Fresh Cut Pines quilt because I originally sewed it on upside down, and then it needed one more solid border all the way around. I basted the quilt sandwich on Tuesday, and would have started quilting it too, but the power went out at my kids’ school and I had to go pick them up and deal with the aftermath of all that.

So I started quilting it Thursday while my kids baked and giggled downstairs, and it was a great, warm and fuzzy kind of day. I’m shaking my head over how fast this quilting is going now that I finally just started doing it. You ever just psych yourself out about even starting a task? Quilting is one of those things for me. Sewing in sleeves is another. And then one day you just start doing the work and voila, you’re done in a fraction of the time that you thought it was going to take to do it all. Sigh. Oh, Anxiety, you relentless liar.

Nathaniel is really excited about his Christmas quilt! Despite telling him quite a few times that I’m making it for him, he keeps forgetting that it’s for him, so I’ve been able to witness him go through “initial” excitement over this quilt a number of times, which is very heartwarming. It’s going to look so great in his room during the Christmas season!

The secret knitting is coming along nicely as well. (I totally want to keep this project for myself.) I finished up the first half of the project and am starting work on the second half today. This project/gift should be done by the middle of next week, easy. Yay!

I’ve got more secret knitting to do after that, and I’m trying to decide if I use a stash yarn that…will suffice, or order new yarn that will elicit feelings of perfection. I’m leaning towards sufficing because I’m apparently super jazzed over finishing UFOs and using up stash right now, and it’s probably best to capitalize on that feeling. The new yarn I want to order will probably happen eventually anyway (like for next year’s version of this project), so it’s not like I’d miss out on that yarn in the long run. I’m strung out on the feeling of being responsible, y’all…it’s been a long time since I felt like I was on top of things and it’s nice to experience this again!

How are your holiday crafting goals coming along?

Meal Planning and Sharing Cooking Responsibilities with Teenagers

I’ve noticed an uptick in views on my two autumn meal planning posts in the past couple of weeks, and I thought I’d take a moment to write about how we’re doing dinner in our home these days with four relatively kitchen-ready kids. Quarantine really had the kids baking and cooking a lot out of sheer boredom, and I’ve had a lot of back and foot pain for the past year, so we’ve morphed into a more “all hands on deck” meal preparation group.

Summer Recipe Master List

As summer was beginning this year, I put in three zucchini plants in the garden because our one zucchini plant in 2020 failed and I didn’t want to run that risk again. I then decided to go through all my cookbooks and find every zucchini recipe I could so that I’d have an arsenal of ideas for dealing with the very likely avalanche of zucchini we’d encounter. Whilst perusing zucchini recipes, I noticed a lot of fantastic vegetable recipes that I’d always wanted to try every summer but had never gotten around to preparing, so I decided to make a giant master list of summery recipes in my bullet journal. I tried to choose as many recipes from this master list over the summer, and the kids got caught up in the novelty of it and started helping me prepare dishes. By the end of the summer, we often had four different people working in the kitchen at once and could get a full, vegetables-included dinner on the table in about forty minutes.

Another recently-added consideration is that I’ve developed a soy allergy, which means I can eat very little processed foods anymore. Soy is in freakin’ EVERYTHING, people, UGH! So we’ve had to start making a lot of stuff from scratch, which means more cooking and time in the kitchen.

I decided to invest in a 24″x36″ whiteboard at the beginning of autumn and drew in gridlines. With school and after school activities returning to something resembling normal, I knew I was going to become very busy very quickly and that we were going to need a dinner command center that the kids could consult if I wasn’t home when it was time to start cooking dinner.

I went through my cookbooks again, this time for autumny recipe goodness, and now I spend a little time each Saturday morning while Michael and I are catching up and planning out the next week to write down each day’s activities in the top boxes on the meal plan board, and then I use my autumn recipe master list to plug in some dishes in black ink. (Or, for busy weeks, we just have easy-to-make foods, obviously.) As the kids wake up, they come along and write a star in their personal color next to the dishes they’re going to make, keeping in mind what they’re going to be up to that particular day in regards to music lessons and the like. (Don’t volunteer to make anything if you’re not even going to be home at dinner!) It’s been a godsend with my foot surgery recovery…very little standing in the kitchen for me anymore.

Last week’s meal plan, with activities blurred out because it’s a bad idea to post your kids’ schedules on that internet.

It’s interesting to read through the many iterations of meal planning that I’ve done over the years. It just goes to show that we’re always adapting to new circumstances and abilities, and if it works for you in that moment, then it’s the right choice. I used to get critical of myself for not doing things the way I saw other adults doing things in their homes, and it’s only been recently that I’ve really figured out that it’s ok to change the way you do things and it’s ok to not take another person’s advice if you have a pretty solid expectation it will not work for you. You do you, and I’ll do me. But share what you’re doing so I can steal the ideas that will help me out, and I’ll keep sharing what I’m doing in case you want to steal some of my ideas, too.

Happy eating!

Crafty Goals: November 2021

I’m resurrecting the idea of monthly crafty goals because ever since I stopped making them, my crafting performance has plummeted. Let’s hope this little bit of effort gets me back on track. (Although, to be fair, the last couple of years have been kind of crazy and full of obstacles that massively hampered consistent ANYTHING.)

Alright friends, it’s November, and the Christmas bug is biting hard. For years I’ve outlawed Christmas sewing this late in the year because of how stressful it can be, but I’m throwing that out the window this year because…I’m a grown woman and I can do what I want.

With all the slowdowns in shipping happening, I made the decision to not wait for Black Friday sales to order my kids’ gifts, which meant I needed to access my gift list that I update throughout the year. Whenever a gift idea pops into my head, I just jot it down in my little gift app, and come holiday gifting season I have a ton of ideas. And, shocker, there’s a lot of handmade gift ideas on that list. Many of those handmade gifts are already in-progress but living in some “time-out” pile in a shadowy corner of the craft room.

Well…the more I read through my gift lists, the more I liked the idea of checking some of those projects off, which has stoked the fires of Mt. Mojo and has me pretty excited to start working on them again.

November’s list is big, but most of these things are almost done, so I’m hoping they’ll go quickly?

Fresh Cut Pines quilt: One of my Blank Quilting projects from last year, it just needs to be quilted and bound. I keep hoping that I can send out my quilts to be long-arm quilted, but they’ve now been sitting for over a year. That means it’s time to just suck it up and quilt them myself, even if it’s just straight line or serpentine quilting. Done is better than perfect. This is Nathaniel’s Christmas quilt for his bed, and I still haven’t made him a regular day-to-day quilt, so his Christmas quilt is the first on the list so that he can have some sort of quilt to his name!

Yuletide Botanica Orange Peel quilt: Another Blank Quilting project, needs borders, quilting and binding. This is Emms’ Christmas quilt, and seeing how the kid is a senior in high school, it’d be nice for them to have their Christmas quilt done before they graduate.

Some secret Christmas knitting: A little gift for a special someone, and that’s all I can tell you at the moment.

If I’m going to limit myself to “practical goals,” I think I can feasibly get those three done this month. However, we all know I like to plan big, so there is hope that I’ll…somehow…magically…also be able to finish:

Patchwork Forest quilt: aka The “Hipster Christmas Tree Quilt.” I can’t believe I made this two years ago. Remember life before COVID-19? Those were the days. Anyway, I was going to hand quilt this one, but I really disliked the process and ripped out the hand quilting. It’s got a beautifully thick Mammoth flannel backing that makes it an incredibly heavy quilt that I cannot wait to snuggle under…the quilting is going to have to be extremely simple on this one because it’s a beefy blanket! I think I added borders to it to make it twin-sized, but none of my kids has claimed it for their own. It might live on Renaissance’s or Rachel’s bed until I finish up their requested Christmas quilts. And if not, it will make an excellent living room quilt.

Sew Many Stars Christmas quilt: Remember how I designed a whole quilt along last year? Geez, I kept myself busy! (Probably too busy, though…hence the almost zero amount of quiltiness that happened this year…oi.) It needs quilting and binding, too.

So yeah, it’s a big list, and I’ve still got to be careful to not overdo stuff with my healing foot. I’ve got the Fresh Cut Pines quilt up on my quilt wall as I type, and I’m already lamenting the supremely simple quilting I’m going to have to do to get it done. BUT…I wanna use this quilt, and if I wait for perfect conditions to finally get it sent out, I’ll be waiting a long time. There will be time for better-looking quilting in the future, but there’s not a lot of years left with my kids being at home and it’s important to me for them to have Christmas quilts on their beds. I don’t know why, but it is. Straight-line quilting will accomplish that, and someday, when I have my own long-arm quilting machine, I’ll do fancier quilting and we’ll wax poetic about the early quilts and their simple quilting designs.


What are your crafty goals for November? Are you doing any holiday crafting, too? Let me know and we can cheer each other on!