Cookies & Cocoa

One of my Wise Mama bits of advice:  When you send your (young) children out to play in the snow, set a timer for 30 minutes when the youngest goes out the door.  When the timer goes off, start the kettle.  It usually works out that I’ve just finished mixing up everyone’s cocoa when some of them start heading back in, pink-cheeked and in need of some refreshment.  So much easier than having them clamoring around my knees and telling me how cold they are while we’re waiting for the water to boil.

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Aspen Frost Piecing Completed

There’s all these link-ups on Fridays for “Finished” items, but I have no finished items to share.  Boo.

However, I did finish a step in the construction of my Aspen Frost…table cover/runner/mini quilt…thing.  (What am I going to call this?)  Hee hee, chevrons make me smile.

I’m thinking that I’m going to do a minimally-pieced backing instead of just one fabric.  I love the aqua blue in the Aspen Frost fabric collection, and so I’m going to try to get some yardage.  Then, after using the chevron side during the Christmas season, I can flip it over and enjoy the very appropriate winter hue during January.  It will be quilted with red, green, white, and blue thread…but I think it will work.

Or I could go with a plain color back and just let the quilting shine on the other side.  So many options.  I’ve never done a pieced back before, and I totally love the look of the ones I’m seeing in Elizabeth Hartman’s The Practical Guide to Patchwork, and would like to give it a try.

Decision, decisions…what do you think?

Oh, hey, look at that, a “Finishing” link-up that doesn’t require a fully-finished object.  Awesome!  I’m linking up with the Link-A-Finish Friday @ Richard and Tanya Quilts.

The Yarn is My Proxy

I’m trying to be a good little auntie.

I have a weird sibling situation that I finally came to a conclusion upon last year about how I’m going to treat all my present, former, and kind-of siblings:  I’m just gonna love them all.  More love always wins, right?

One of my sisters had a baby last week, and there’s nothing like the actual birth of a baby to really light the fire under one’s rear end to finish the crafties intended for said baby.  She had a little boy, and he is beautiful.

I’ve been working on this layette since October.  The plan was to finish it all before Christmas and then ship it so it’d be there before the birth, but…yeah.  Whatever, it’s finished, and it’s heading to the post office in the next couple of days to make its way to the chilly, chilly Canadian town that boasts one more beautiful baby boy as of last week.

The cardigan is the Little Coffee Bean Cardigan pattern, knit up in Plymouth Yarn’s Jeannee Worsted (51% Cotton, 49% Acrylic).  The buttons are from JoAnn Fabric.  I knit up a matching hat following the Basic Hat Pattern in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns, by Ann Budd.

The blanket is crocheted, as is every blanket I’ve ever made from yarn.  (The idea of knitting a blanket makes me twitch a wee bit.)  The pattern is “Pastel Waves,” from Leisure Arts Our Best Baby Afghans, which I’ve owned for years upon years.  I used good ol’ Red Heart Super Saver for it, despite its baby-melting acrylic content.  I just haven’t reached the point where I can buy that much cotton yarn at once.  That also makes me a bit twitchy.

So I’ll send this off, with much love and many wishes that I could live closer to this new soul.  It’s somewhat heart-breaking to watch all these nieces and nephews grow up, and know that I’m only seeing it in photographs instead of experiencing it in person.  Sigh.  But, perhaps, they’ll be reminded that I care when they snuggle up in a blanket or sweater I’ve made for them.

That’s the hope–that they’ll feel my love and know that I wish I was right there with them.

Happy BIRTHday, Little Baby J.


This post is participating in Small Thing’s “Yarn Along,”
“Anything Goes Monday” at Stitch by Stitch,
and “Sew Cute Tuesday” at Blossom Heart Quilts.

Piecing my Aspen Frost Mini Quilt

I know, I know, Christmas is over, but I received Christmas fabric in my stocking and I just can’t leave it alone!  Part of the Santa Stash was two charm packs of Basic Grey’s Aspen Frost collection, and I succumbed to temptation over the weekend and started a new project:

I’m finally acknowledging my affinity for chevrons, and I keep seeing beautiful chevron quilts, so I’m jumping on the bandwagon and making one of my own!  If my math is right, this will end up measuring 36 x 36″, so nothing big, just a teeny wall hanging or table mat.  I’m excited about how it’s going to turn out!

I have a few ideas about how to quilt this–I started learning the basics of free-motion quilting before the holidays, so I’m eager to try out some new skills.  Hopefully we can all just get along and have a good experience?  Alright, Aspen Frost?  We’re cool, right?

I guess we’ll see…

Junebug’s 5th Birthday: Snow White Party!

Junebug’s Snow White birthday party is officially over and done with, leaving us only with apple-filled memories and hordes of Disney Princess paraphernalia.

The Snow White theme emerged from the very first thing Junebug blurted out when I asked her what kind of birthday party she wanted:  “A Bambi party!”

Me:  “Bambi?  As in, the deer?”

Junebug:  “Yep.”

Me:  “Why Bambi?”

Junebug:  “So we can play ‘Pin the Tail on Bambi!”

After a few more minutes of brainstorming ideas for a “Bambi birthday party,” Junebug mentioned how much she loved it when Bambi showed up in the Snow White movie and helped clean dishes.  I pounced, and we agreed upon a Snow White party in the next few minutes.

Pinterest gave me a lot of great ideas for this party; we decided to decorate crowns, paint with apple halves, make caramel apples, paint fingernails, and play “Pass the Poisoned Apple.”  (After playing “Pin the Tail on Bambi,” of course…)  Junebug had a blast and came over to me to give me a hug and kiss on my leg a few times because she was so happy.  (Awwwww.)

The Invitations

The Food

I made little apple cupcakes, based off of the pumpkin cupcake instructions in Hello, Cupcake!  (Love that book.)

We also served Broken Glass Jell-O in Snow White colors, pigs in blankets (because that’s what Junebug wanted to eat!), veggie sticks, and chocolate-dipped strawberries with cheesecake filling.

The Fun

As guests arrived, we had them sit down to decorate crowns.  (Burger King crowns, spray painted gold by yours truly.)  They had glitter stickers and gems, which stick on incredibly well if you use “glue dots” instead of white glue or anything like it.  (I wish I could remember where I found the glue dot idea because it is wonderful!  I found our glue dots in the scrapbooking section at Wal-Mart…yeah, that easy.)

Next, they used apple halves to paint apples onto tote bags:

We then played “Pin the Tail on Bambi,” and I have no pictures of it!  That might be a blessing for you, because my drawing of Bambi has been mocked by almost every family member as resembling either a:

A.  Fox
B.  Dog
C.  “What is that?

After “Pin the Tail on [Whatever That Is],” we herded the girls into the kitchen where we made caramel apples.

One of my trusty helpers returned for Birthday Party 2.0.

Then we had lunch, and opened presents, and ate some cupcakes, and painted nails.  And then we danced.  Because all the cool princesses dance at parties.  🙂

The End

Bluebird’s 9th Birthday: Baking Party!

It was during the week after Christmas–you know, when you’re fighting the urge to be sad that the big day is over, and you’re kind of euphoric with all the lofty New Year’s Resolutions to which you’re thinking about committing–that I found myself obsessed with the idea of throwing each of my kids their dream birthday parties in 2013.  We don’t do a lot of birthday partying in Brooketopia, mostly due to cost and logistics (newborn babies every two years will do that to you), but here we were going into a new year with no new babies…the idea sounded feasible.
 
Bluebird and I sat down to gorge ourselves do a little research on Pinterest birthday ideas, and we happened across a pin of a baking birthday party and she was awestruck.  Culinary celebration, commence!
 

First, we raided the fabric stash and picked out fabrics that somewhat coordinated with each other, and then I settled in for three weeks’ of sewing aprons for Bluebird and her guests:

Apron B from Little Retro Aprons by Cindy Taylor Oates
(Yes, you’ve seen this pattern on the blog before, both the child’s version AND the adult version–I’m totally in love with it.)

Then we hurried about with all the other preparations (amidst all the ear infection fun we were also dealing with at the time) and Bluebird bounced off the walls as she counted down the days until her party.

Finally, the Big Day of Baking Fun arrived…

…but first the girls had to stop and adore Baxter for a few minutes before I could entice them towards the birthday fun.  (After insisting they wash their hands after touching the dog.)

First, they made cupcake liner flower pins to adorn their new aprons, then we gathered in the kitchen to make mini pizzas for lunch.

While waiting for the pizzas to bake, the girls made fruit kabobs which they then drizzled with milk and white chocolate:

 

I had hired two of the young women in our ward to help me out, and they cleaned up the lunch mess while the party girls watched Bluebird open her presents in the living room.  Then, while the party girls decorated cake boxes, my helpers finished tinting batches of frosting for the finale of the party:

Man, a gang of 8-9 year old girls can pick up the basics of cake decorating pretty quick!  Candies, marshmallows, sprinkles…we had it all and they had a blast creating their own dream cakes.

After decorating cakes, we sat down to enjoy Bluebird’s actual birthday cake, complete with raucous singing and laughing:

Hardly anyone wanted any cake after the candles were blown out because they had just spent the past three hours stuffing their faces with candy, pizza and frosting.  No biggie, just more left over for the other Brookelets when they returned home!

Nine years old.  Bluebird, you’ve been with us for almost a decade!  You bring me so much joy, and I’m happy to indulge your lofty ideas.  You are such a creative spirit and I look forward to fleshing out more of your big birthday plans in the future.

Family Handmade Christmas: How Our Family Did Christmas Presents This Year

In case you haven’t noticed, I like to make things.

However, this can make Christmas a little bit troublesome.  I want to craft a treasure for each person on my gift-giving list, but (in case you haven’t noticed) I’m terribly busy with growing and educating my family.  Crafting time is a bit hard to come by at times.  As a result, we haven’t sent out Christmas presents in years because I didn’t want to send handmade gifts to some people and generic store-bought gifts to others, just in case it caused hurt feelings.

That all changed this year.  I delegated the Christmas gift-giving list amongst members of our family and allowed everyone to partake in the joy and anticipation of giving to our extended family.  I think it was a smashing success and plan to continue with the practice for next year’s Christmas.

Unfortunately, this idea of delegation came to me in October, which didn’t allow for extravagant crafting, but it was fun nonetheless.  First, I wrote up the list of the people we I wanted to give gifts to and then we had a family meeting and everyone took turns choosing a name from the list and accepting responsibility for making their present.  I put a “handmade gift only” rule into effect because I was not about to open the gates of allowing a 7, 5 and 3 year old to run rampant through the mall, choosing any gifts they desired for their recipients.  I’m OK with spending a few dollars to purchase fabric and odds ‘n ends for projects; I am not OK with forking over $50 for some novelty monstrosity that my 3 year old thinks would make a good gift.

Our list of thirteen gift recipients was divided amongst five people, which meant the girls each made three gifts each and Michael and I were each responsible for only two.  A “Handmade Christmas” has an actual shot at success when you’re only responsible for making 2-3 gifts!

The girls LOVED making their gifts.  Bluebird put her newfound sewing skills to use and sewed up little lavender-stuffed heart sachets for two of her recipients, and I took her and Penguin to a ceramics studio to make a gift for one person on their lists.  Bluebird chose to paint a cappuccino mug with matching saucer for her Aunt Sandra and it turned out so incredibly cute that I would possibly have thought about keeping it for myself had Bluebird not painted a gigantic “S” on the saucer.

Penguin used her ceramic studio experience to paint a gift for…well, I can’t exactly say yet because I’m not sure if that particular family has received their box yet (I’m glaring at you, Canada Post, for this infraction).  We were at the ceramics studio for THREE hours as the two of them diligently tended to their projects.  I was so proud of their commitment to producing “good” presents.

Penguin also painted a picture for Granny and helped make a basketball-themed hair ribbon for her cousin Amber, who recently made it onto her high school’s JV basketball team as a freshman.

Junebug…knows what she wants to do and will allow nothing to distract her from accomplishing what she decides she is going to do.  She wanted to paint pictures for everyone on her list.  Period.  I tried to talk her into other ideas, but she was adamant–she would paint pictures for all three of her recipients.  So she did.  And I packaged them in gift bags with a big bag of Ghirardelli chocolates as a way to sweeten the deal.

Michael had big plans for his people, but a last minute business trip to Hawaii made it impossible for him to make his ideas tangible.  He ended up purchasing some thoughtful gifts for the people on his list.

I knitted for the people on my list.  (Shocking, I know.)  As luck would have it, I ended up with my mother and my father as my intended giftees and I made both of them hats.

My mother’s hat was hard to give away.  The pictures turned out terrible because lavender purple does not look cute when photographed in a lime green-painted room.  The pattern is Leafy Rosette Beret, by Amy Jansen and I enjoyed knitting it very much.  I used Berrocco’s Ultra Alpaca yarn in colorway 6283 “Lavender Mix,” and I’ve already used up the leftovers in a project for myself.  It’s a gorgeous shade of lavender.
My father’s hat was super soft and warm.  I made him a Turn a Square (designed by Jared Flood) from some charcoal Ultra Alpaca (#6289) and the leftover forest green yarn from the scarf I made for his wife a few years ago.  I have only one picture of it, and it’s while it was on the needles.  In my haste to get the packages out on time, I neglected to take photos of just about everythingHopefully I can avoid this error next year; or, better yet, hopefully the recipients of each gift will email me a picture of them enjoying their gifts, which I can then add to this post.
With Junebug’s insistence on sending pictures to people on her list, I “stole” one of her recipients and made him a hat.  He’s 17 years old and I’m quite sure the cuteness of a 3 year old’s painting would have minimal effect upon him.  He received the first Turn a Square that I ever made.  I made it earlier in the year because I felt prompted to make one to have on hand “just in case” come Christmas-time.  Awesome.
And that was that.  🙂  The day after Christmas we “chose” our names for next year.  With the success of this year’s gifting, we decided to expand our list to twenty-something people and changed up the selection process a tiny bit:
  1. Everyone got to hand-select one name up front.  We all get “perfect ideas” for random people, so I wanted to allow everyone a chance at creating at least one of those “perfect” gifts.
  2. We then drew the rest of the names out of a bowl to assign the remaining names.
  3. Each person had the opportunity to “trade” one of the names they drew for a name on someone else’s list, if the “owner” of that name was willing to trade.
  4. You could not have a name that you had last year.  (And, in future years, this rule will extend to the last two or three years…I’d like to avoid monopolies.)
Now we each have 5-6 names we are each responsible for and an entire year to work on the gifts.  I’ve sectioned off the next year and set up deadlines for gift-making–if they want to take advantage of this idea, then all their gifts will be completed by the end of September, thus allowing them total freedom in Halloween costume design and any other last-minute gifts they may wish to make for members of our immediate family during November and December.
So watch out Family, we ALL have our eyes on you in this next year…

Fourth of July Jell-O!

Bluebird is working on the requirements for the Brownie Girl Scout “Wave the Flag” badge, and one of the things she could do was hold a celebration for a patriotic holiday.  Naturally, she chose to throw an Independence Day party.  She kept herself and her sisters busy for the two weeks leading up to the 4th making decorations (which they never hung up) and decided on a menu (Cookies and Lemonade Water).

I stepped in to help with the menu, and while we were browsing for dessert ideas, we came across a recipe for Layered Jell-O, which I’ve been searching for for years!  A link at the end of the Layered Jell-O post led us to the recipe for “Broken Glass Jell-O,” which Bluebird thought would be smashing (hee hee) in Fourth of July colors.

Bluebird attended her dessert-making responsibilities well: she cut up the colors, mixed them together and supervised my pouring of the white liquid into the dish.

The Jell-O went into the refrigerator to set, and the dessert was met with rave reviews at our little holiday dinner:

Good job Bluebird!  Thanks for making our Fourth of July dinner extra special!

Creepy Little Gingerbread Man

We’re experiencing a bit of the Winter Doldrums around here.  In an attempt to buck the gloominess of one particularly gray day, I spent naptime sewing up a little stuffie friend for Junebug.

Pattern:  Gingerman, designed by Cathy Gaubert, found in Fa La La La Felt by Amanda Carestio

Materials:  Eco-Felt, Embroidery Floss

We didn’t get to do a lot of Christmas crafting around here this past holiday season, so I think we’re making up for it by crafting in January and February and making big plans for this next Christmas.

I originally started this project with the intent of it becoming a little decoration for our home, but Bluebird and Penguin both exclaimed that Junebug would love it, so I figured…”Hey, why not?”  (Her blog codename really should be “Gingerbread Girl,” as she loves anything with a gingerbread person on it.)

When she woke up from her nap I presented her with the doll and the two has been inseparable ever since.  Another crafting success.