Friday, December 31

Happy New Year!

Another fresh new year is here…
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!

This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest…
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!

I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!

-William Arthur Ward

Many blessings to all of us in this fresh new year!

Monday, December 27

December Gift-Making...Hollow Book

Just squeezing this quick mention of a gift I made for 17 year old Mado this Yule: a Hollow Book in which to hide away secret treasure.

First I chose a pretty book from the thrift store...not too flashy or attention-grabbing, but very handsome nontheless.

I looked for a title that would be a good tongue-in-cheek reminder and set the volume apart from other books in Mado's collection.

I used a straight edge and an x-acto knife (and a couple of hours of Netflix) to cut an opening in the center of the book, a few pages at a time.

I left about 50 pages intact in both the front and back of the book.

The book I chose was not very thick...I would have preferred a heftier tome, a Tolstoy or Proust, maybe...but there was just enough room for a little jewel box to fit inside this slim reader.

...and this awesome pin is what I tucked inside the jewel box (found at The Animal Den)

This gift was really well-received by my Mado...she actually started reading the book (which she thought quite interesting) before she realized the secret compartment and the pin, and so was doubly delighted :)

Sunday, December 26

Some Christmas Moments

hanging straw ornaments

staying up till the wee hours playing board games

blooming tea

hiding in the bedroom to wrap gifties

sleeping under the tree...with a buddy

a white christmas!

Grammy's fab vintage tree
ummm...Naya? Sodie?...those are felted purses
turkey, ham and all the trimmings
inherited superpower from Grammy, working jigsaws at light speed

Friday, December 24

A Christmas Memory

Mado (age 11) holding Toucie ( 8 mos.) - 2005

Friday, December 17

December Gift-Making...Bookmarks - two ways

(Oh my goodness look at tiny!) A few of years ago, when Toucie was 2 years old, we struck upon the idea of beaded bookmarks as a holiday gift that she could, with her toddler's skills, make mostly on her own.

She chose ribbons and beads for each loved one and did the cutting and threading while I sat nearby and tied the necessary knots.

We worked in short sessions, matching her attention span, over several days to complete about a dozen bookmarks.

Here is what one looks like in action.

There is not much to the instructions once you've decided what kind of book to size it to (small paperbacks, large storybooks, etc)...
1) cut a length of ribbon several inches longer than book
2) tie a knot in one end leaving a decorative tail of about an inch. Make sure the knot is bigger than the holes in your beads!
3) thread a couple of beads on
4) tie another knot to keep those beads in place
5) move down the ribbon and make another knot...the distance between this knot and the previous one should be just a bit greater than the height of your book. this allows the flat ribbon to be sandwiched between the pages while the beads stick out from the top and bottom of the book.
6) thread a couple of beads on
7) make a final knot to keep those beads in place and trim the ribbon leaving a pretty tail
8) give to a loved one with chest puffed out in pride

This year, Toucie revisited this craft (with the help of some big sisters) and was the lucky recipient of 2 pretty bookmarks! I was totally elated as I am always in need of a bookmark :) Every year I set a goal for reading a certain number of books...this year it was there are alot of books around here that need marking!

The one on the bottom is made in a similar fashion to the ones described above. The top bookmark is simply three pretty ribbons braided.

This is how Toucie learned to braid, by the way...ropes hanging off the doorknob.

Pinning the knotted ribbons (or hemp, yarn or whatever) to the curtains (or the sofa cushion, tablecloth, etc) helps small hands manage them.

Perfect! Simple, practical, beautiful...something to feel proud of :)

Thursday, December 16

December Gift-making........All Natural Heating Pads

Toucie and I worked on these as gifts for our college girls, Naya and Sodie this year. They are cotton socks filled with corn and essential oils and stitched up. They can be stored in the freezer to be used as cold packs, but we know our girls will prefer them as hot pads. They are designed to be warmed in the dormitory microwave for 1-3 minutes and draped around the collegiate neck (or any other part of the body) for comforting, therapeutic, moist heat. We hope they will feel a bit like hugs from mom and little sister.

We started with feed corn...about 6 cups per sock. I don't suppose this is necessary, but we rinsed our corn clean in clear water, then spread it out to dry on a towel in front of the fireplace. Some folks use beans or rice or flax for filling....I chose corn based on the fact that I think flax and rice are more likely to be damaged in the microwave and beans don't smell as good as corn :)

Once the corn was dry, we placed it in a bowl and blended in a combination of essential oils. We used about 15 drops of peppermint oil and 25 drops of lavender oil for our 12 cups of corn. Some folks put dried herbs inside, but we considered that a microwave hazard.

These are old, 100% cotton, over-the-knee socks purchased a few years ago at a Renaissance Festival. These heating pads can be made by just filling a sock (tube socks are good for this) with corn and tying a knot in the open end, but Toucie and I wanted ours a bit more finished. To begin, Toucie turned the sock inside out. In the photo above, I marked a black line on the sock (where my scissors are pointing) to show where I made my stitch line.

After stitching across the sock, I cut off the excess (the foot of the sock) and Toucie turned the sock right side out again.

Toucie then got busy filling it up with our scented corn. The sock only looks about 1/3 to 1/2 full when she's done...that's perfect because we want a flat heating pad not a stuffed tubular one.

I took the sock to the machine again to close the top. The cuff was still intact there, but it was wide and red...for the sake of an evenly patterned final product, I snipped off the cuff and turned the edges in as I stitched it closed. I tried to show this in the photo above.

When the socks were stitched closed, we laid them down and patted them flat distributing the corn evenly throughout. In the photo above, you can see that I made lines of stitching at three intervals to keep the corn distributed nicely and prevent it from running to one end of the sock. All done!

Wednesday, December 15

December Gift-Making...Postcards

Here is sweet gift that Toucie made to give to Naya and Sodie...she is hoping that when they are off at college they will think of her occasionally and drop her a line. (To that end, we actually stamped and addressed these postcards with Toucie's name and address to help facilitate the desired outcome).

We started with the heaviest watercolor paper we had on hand, drawing lines to divide it into nine 4 x 6 sections. We chose 4 x 6 because that worked well with the paper we were using, but you have flexibility. Here are the U.S. postal standards for postcard sizes. I used masking tape (blue painters tape is even better) to mask off each individual section on the paper...this will leave a clean, white frame around each postcard when done. (If you use regular masking tape you run the risk of tearing the paper when you try to pull it off I use a trick that Mado taught me: press each strip of masking tape to your clothing before pressing it to the paper...this reduces the stickiness just enough.)

Then Toucie let fly with the paints! This is watercolor paint on dry paper (not our usual wet-on-wet technique...we needed the tape to stick and also wanted the back of the paper to stay clean and white)

Once the paint was dry we pulled off the tape.

The paper we used was not heavy enough for my taste...I was worried they wouldn't hold up in all the postal machinery. I decided to use these laminating sheets to help make the postcards sturdier. I just laid the adhesive sheets on the painted side of the paper we had made and used a rolling pin to press it on very firmly.

Then all that was left to do was cut the paper up into cards following the pencil lines I had marked back at step one. Then we made some lines on the clean white side to show where to write the address and place the stamp. We stored them under heavy books until gifting time to press them nice and flat.
I love the way these came pretty!

Tuesday, December 14

snowy day

A walk in the park

Toucie needs a rest...Mado is so patient.

We make our way to the Nature takes on a new mystique covered in this white blanket

Throughout our wanderings we come across deer, rabbit, and opossum prints...and many little bird prints like these. There were many animal prints criss-crossing the play area itself.  We imagined the creatures playing here when all the human folk were away.

Toucie made "pie" from snow ...this young friend was happy to gobble it up. I've never been successful at keeping children from eating the snow.

Beautiful day. Snow is a gift uncommon one. I am so grateful for this wintery magic :)