Friday, December 31, 2010

Year End Post

I thought I'd do one final post for the year, and highlight a few of my favorite Christmas things. Below is a photo of our house all lit up for Christmas. The lighting is very simple and kind of old fashioned, with the pine roping, mostly white lights, and large bulbs on the spruce tree. The tree was planted in my oldest daughter's honor, as she was born on Christmas day.

And right next door there's a real spectacular light show! Our neighbors like to do Christmas in a big way and their house is one of the brightest and most colorful on the block!

Another gift from my neighbor next door: every year they put lights on an evergreen tree down by the lake. I love looking at it from the kitchen window, shining down there in the dark woods. It looks so cheerful and humble.

Another one of my favorite Christmas things: my Santa Claus collection. This started soon after we got married, when I bought one small, skinny hand-carved Santa. Then I mentioned the idea of starting a collection to my father, who got out his carving tools and made one per year for us for several years to come. One Santa holds two black cats, old pets of ours, the central Santa is very tall and thin, and a more traditional Santa carries a fabric sack filled with miniature toys. Those pictured were not all carved by Dad, but my favorite ones were!

This old-world Santa is my most favorite. He has an air of mystery about him, don't you think? I love all the details.

Here is another Santa Claus carved by Dad, this one an ornament for the tree.

We have made it a family tradition to buy a Christmas ornament wherever we go on vacation. Below is the beautiful beaded seahorse we picked up on St. John this year.

This is the hand-stitched likeness of Jo-Jo the dolphin that we picked up in the Turks and Caicos Islands where Mark and I went for our 10th anniversary trip 8 years ago.

And here is a likeness I stitched in remembrance of a special cat, Squiggy, who died in 2003. We have several pet memorials on the tree. Looking at all the ornaments on the tree is like reliving our years as a family, remembering vacations, pets, events, people, and other happy things!

Speaking of happy things, here is another thing I love about Christmas: peppermint ice cream!
Happy New Year everyone, and many wishes and blessings to you in 2011! (I'll think about laying off the ice cream and cookies next year...)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas at home

There's a bit of a lull here this afternoon, now that the presents are opened and the bulk of the work is done, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to tell you about our family Christmas this year. For once, we are not going anywhere, nor having guests over, so it's quiet and peaceful and a chance to catch our breath after the busy month.
Here are a few of my favorite Christmas things: my basket of greetings received from friends and relatives far and near, my little homemade (not by me - a gift from a former student years ago) santa - he holds holiday chocolates, and the book I got for myself a few years ago: "A Bit of Applause for Mrs. Claus," after I realized how much work it is to plan and organize and pull off a family holiday like Christmas (and then Santa gets all the credit!).

Yesterday, after some last minute shopping, baking and wrapping, we're finally ready to eat!

The table is set and the fresh ravioli are waiting! I picked them up at a local deli, which carries produce from the famous Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. I was contemplating making homemade, but didn't feel up to taking on a project like that without some practice first. The ravioli were perfect - flavorful, tender and delicious!

After the pasta course, a seafood feast! Fried shrimp, King crab legs, and lobster tails (still in the oven when this shot was taken). Mmm, everything was delicious! After a quick clean up, off to mass with lots of carol singing to really put you in the Christmas spirit.

After mass, Sarah's birthday cake, carrot cake this year, with cream cheese frosting!

Here is our tree in the living room with all the gifts crowded beneath. Christmas Eve is the best - the hushed anticipation, the holy and peaceful silence as the world settles down to wait.

Just past 7 this morning, the girls came in and woke us up, excited to get to the unwrapping! What seemed to take weeks to shop for and hours to wrap was all unwrapped in about an hour! Everyone was happy with what they found under the tree. I got some new snappy waterproof boots and a sweatshirt, just right for dog-walking in sloppy weather.

Then, for breakfast, all my favorites: crisp bacon, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, and cinnamon buns, with grapefruit juice on the side! A great way to start the day and celebrate with my family. Merry Christmas to everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

They're done!

(finally!). Cross it off the list!

Monday, December 20, 2010

One more down... more to go! Here is another sketch; this one will be last in the sketchbook, for the month of December ( I still have to do February and a cover...). For this one, I started with a piece of white canvas and put glue gel snowflakes and dots, which dried overnight. Then I used ink washes to paint in the blue skies, which came out kind of blotchy which was pretty much the effect I was going for. I washed out the glue and printed the words on Extravorganza, then cut them into hexagonal shapes and fused them in place. I decorated them with hand stitching to look like snowflakes. I also added a bunch of french knots all over, a few houses and evergreen trees, and there it is, my December sketchbook page!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Look what was living in our attic!

We've been hearing scurrying sounds coming from the attic for about a month now. My husband has finally been home long enough to go up there with a have-a-heart trap, and look what he brought down this morning! (BTW, this is not my photo; it came from here). He seems to be a southern flying squirrel and was as cute and sweet as can be. Apparently people keep these as pets - which is why we didn't show it to the girls! Mark took him over to a nearby park and let him go. He also reset the trap - there's probably more than one. Maybe I'll get the camera out in time for the next one. Who knew?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Moving Along

Here are some of the things I crossed off my list this week! First, a sketchbook page for September. It's a photo transfer of a picture I took at Stonecrop Gardens in August (see the original photo by clicking here). I only transferred the flowers, not the background, and I put it on the reverse side of a golden cotton fabric, so it looked faded. I thread painted in only the central flower using rayon thread, and just did outlining on the other flowers and added leaves. I also wrote another quick haiku (I never really got why people like to write haiku until now - it's fun fitting a little vignette into those 14 syllables!) which I stamped on. I wasn't thrilled with it when I was working on it (I find thread painting kind of tedious) but now that it's done, I'm pleased with it.
I also finally got to some baking. I decided some of the gifts I'll be giving this year are home baked cookies, along with either a handmade bookmark or pear ornament. I started with our favorites, these "jewel brooch" cookies (I posted the recipe in 2008 - find it here). They are also a little tedious and time-consuming (I tripled the recipe) but delicious and worth it!

Below is a new recipe I found in the November/December issue of Family Fun magazine. I am one of those people who is just crazy about the flavor of chocolate and mint together, so I had to try these homemade peppermint patties. They aren't baked - you just mix up a stiff dough or paste made mainly of confectioner's sugar, chill it, roll it, cut out shapes (we couldn't find a nice circle so we made these little trees), dip them in melted chocolate, and sprinkle them with crushed candy canes. Kind of a lot of steps, a little messy, but also worth it - they're scrumptious!
Tomorrow we'll get the bulk of the Christmas decorations out of the attic and get the house looking festive. Hopefully we'll have time to bake a few more batches of cookies and watch a few holiday movies too (the girls have never seen "It's a Wonderful Life" in its entirety yet!). How are your holiday plans progressing?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Christmas Rose

Look what I found out in the backyard this afternoon - roses in bloom! The bushes grow on a hillside behind our house, so maybe they're protected from the worst of the frost. Otherwise, I can't imagine by what miracle they're still here. I couldn't resist bringing them inside to enjoy their beautiful Christmas colors. Do you know the old German Christmas Carol "Es ist ein rose entsprungen" by Praetorius? (If you've never heard it, click here for a Youtube video). I think the song and the flowers are a perfect match - equally beautiful.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Trying to remain calm...

A week into December and this is my first post of the month! As you may have guessed, the holiday rush is on. Today I left work at noon, munched on a nut bar in the car, and spent about three hours shopping. I got a lot done, and I've also done a lot online, but I got this crazy idea to invite my sisters-in-law and their families for a Christmas get-together on the 19th, so now I have another deadline. This evening I made a list of all the baking, cleaning up, and decorating that still needs to be done in the next two to three weeks, which is why I'm trying to remain calm. What's almost got me panicked is the sketchbook project, which needs to be finished and in the mail on January 15th. I've been working on a "sketch" that's turned into more of a thread painting, so of course it's taking longer than I'd like. And when the nephews come on the 19th, they'll want to play downstairs which is where my work area is, so that needs to be cleaned up - and good! I'd love to have the sketchbook finished and put away by then, but I may have to push it until after Christmas. I hate to leave things for the last minute.
Meanwhile, here are some new ornaments I've been playing with. I used some of the green paper-cloth to create these pears. They might make a nice embellishment on a wrapped gift, so I'll have to make more of them... or some more bookmarks. If only I didn't need to sleep until January...!