There are still two more Christmas get-togethers for me – and and I don’t usually get together until January. I like to stretch this out as long as possible (plus, I almost never have gifts ready for them by Christmas, so it’s nice to have the extra weeks).
Our trip to Illinois was good. Short, but good. I cannot properly explain in words the perfection of Christmas Eve, and I don’t even have pictures, but my heart is full of images and memories. Perhaps it helped that I was sure that things were going to pretty much suck this year. Last year, on Christmas day, Grandpa died, after being removed from life support several days earlier. Christmas Eve dinner is always at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and things just wouldn’t be the same without him (and his Christmas sweater) there. And true, his recliner sat empty, and there were some conversational lulls because we were missing some of the links that connect us to each other. But Grandma was so happy when we arrived, full of hugs and smiles. This was the first time (in my memory, at least) that she said grace before the meal, and she was overflowing with love and thanks to God for her many blessings. It’s hard to be sad in the presence of so much joy.
On our way home, we took the long way so I could see some sights. I had the strangest feeling that it would be the last time (for a long time) that I’d get to pause and take a moment in St Charles. drove by the house I spent most of my childhood in – it’s still there, and nothing much seems to have changed on the outside. Then we drove down main street to see the lights. Perhaps it was something special only for those of us who have seen it all our lives, but it was beautiful. All the light poles have trees on top of them with multi-colored lights, and at the big parks the trees are all strung with white lights. I found a few pictures for you on Flickr: bridge over the Fox River, and this short (34 second) video of photos.
It was, as much as possible, a perfect evening.
We also spent some time shopping, with family, tons of time eating, and talking. We found out that Grandpa had owned some very random properties that are now owned by – one in New Mexico (total desert, absolutely nothing around at all, and the streets have been marked out in the subdivision but nothing was ever done with it) and one in Missouri (wooded area, dirt road, but at least there’s a house across the street). No one is quite sure why he owned them, but it was fun to find them on the internet ( did that part) and look at satellite views. A reminder that there’s always more to know about someone. Gifts were exchanged, cookies were eaten, puppies were pet.
While we were slowed down by some snow on the way down, the weather on the way back was beautiful. Sunny and clear skies – it reached 50* here yesterday! I almost had to complain about the sun, it was so bright! This is the first time, in my 10 years living in Minnesota, that there is not snow on the ground at Christmas. This time last year we’d had snow for over a month, and it didn’t all melt away until the end of April. It seems a bit strange, but I’ll take it. The wind was quite biting this morning, and as I waited for the bus I was regretting my choice to wear a skirt.
This should be a fairly slow, normal week. School is out, so I’m at work every day. Classes at Metro don’t start up until January, so no homework. Christmas with the other side of my family is Thursday, and there are gifts to wrap for that, but nothing else needs to be done. I’d like to sew. I’ve got about half an hour of knitting left on ‘s scarf, and then I can go back to focusing on a mustard yellow knitting project I started two weeks ago. Hopefully I can make it over to get a massage, as my right shoulder is hard as a rock.
Life is good.
The number of cookies made, that is. It was a lot. And there are still two batches of dough in the fridge (chocolate crinkles and ginger chewies, because I couldn’t resist). Those should be easy to make up tonight with plenty of time to wrap gifts. I don’t have to spend any time getting ready for teaching tomorrow, because of some chaos yesterday and generally not knowing what’s going on tomorrow. I’m just going to let what happens happen. (Is it just me, or has the Celexa made me more laid-back?)
During yesterday’s really boring 3 hour [pointless] meeting about student teaching, it was implied that my chances for student teaching are higher than I had thought. I will be fine with whatever happens, and it’s out of my hands, and I’m just not going to worry about it. But it’s good to know that it is still a possibility.
How about a cute story from class yesterday? During fourth hour the teacher had me sit next to a student, N, with whom I had not previously worked. The students were supposed to think about what someone should have to do to become a citizen (if one isn’t born in the United States), and write down their thoughts. Then we turned to share our ideas with the person next to us. N shared his thoughts, which were good. I told him, very casually, that I knew there was a test people had to take to become citizens. He looked at me and said, “You know way more about this stuff than I do.” Well, um, yeah. That’s kind of my job.
My co-workers are dutifully gorging themselves on cookies, as instructed. I’ve had to refill some of the cookies once already. (I brought in a 9×13 pan full, but laid some out prettily on a plate – I didn’t dare bring a wrapped plate on the bus, naively thinking that it wouldn’t somehow get destroyed.) Those hours spent baking were definitely well spent.
Whether or not I’ll make it back here to say anything before Christmas is unknown, so I’ll say “Merry Christmas!” now. I hope your holidays are spent with loved ones, happy and celebrating all that we are blessed with.
So Friday night was lazy, and we had a very late start to Saturday, but from 12:30 on, the weekend was a whirlwind. We got 90% of our Christmas shopping done Saturday afternoon in about 3 hours (Bed Bath and Beyond, Toys R Us, Mall of America, and Sams Club, plus some online shopping). Then I went to St Paul for ‘s birthday party at an Italian restaurant I was unfamiliar with (but it was good). On Sunday morning, I finalized my cookie list while got his hair cut, and then I finished up my Christmas apron (sorry, no pictures! I thought might have one posted on her blog, but she only has one of my summer fruits apron that I never photographed) so that I could get on with the cookie making. I decided to forgo going to the grocery store and just make what I could with what was in the house, and stop when I ran out of things to make. Total success on that front, by the way. Had to order flour and both kinds of butter when we did our groceries online last night.
made us some lunch and then went to a movie with , and I started up the mixer. Chocolate roll-and-cuts were first, and are still in the fridge, as they needed to refrigerate 3-4 hours (up to overnight). Matcha (green tea) shortbread Christmas trees were next, though they had to sit in the fridge for an hour after being cut out, so by the time came over, I was 2/3rds of the way through White Christmas and still hadn’t turned on the oven. did almost all of the work on the spritz cookies and all of the work on the Snickerdoodles, while decorated the spritz cookies to perfection. I spent my time moving things in and out of the oven, finding ingredients, changing the movie (the Christmas classic Rudolph, followed by Love Actually), and talking on the phone ( called to finalize plans for our trip down). Oh, and I made up meatballs for dinner. Whew! I was going to make up the chocolate roll-and-cuts after dinner, but it was 8 pm by that time and I was exhausted. The dishwasher was filled and ran, the sink is overflowing with more dishes, and there’s more flour hanging around than there should be, but there are 4 tins full of cookies. refused to take any cookies home, as she’s leaving for Ohio shortly. I managed to get to take a few home, but basically, there are a whole lot of cookies at my house. I’m planning on bringing in a big plate to work on Wednesday, and a tin to the teacher’s lounge tomorrow or Thursday.
Oh, I also got ‘s Christmas hat done, so I just have to finish up the scarf with whatever yarn remains. It looks pretty good, even though I messed up my cables a few times before deciding that doing them without a cable needle (as recommended in the pattern) was ridiculous and not working for me.
Despite not having any homework or volunteer commitments outside of the work day, I have a very full week planned. Tonight I’ll get the last of the dough made up for the remaining cookie recipes (chocolate crinkles, maybe some ginger chewies, and something else that I bookmarked but can’t remember at the moment), and hopefully get most of them baked. Tuesday night after I go to a mandatory student teaching meeting I will wrap presents and bake any remaining cookies. Wednesday night I’ll prep for teaching (I get to do that Thursday with the sixth graders), Thursday night is Christmas dinner with and company, and then we’re leaving for Chicago on Friday. Whew! Can’t say I didn’t give it my all this year!
Yesterday, we got the tree up, Christmas decorations out, and even got the lights on the outside of the house! We’ve never put up outside lights before, so there was a bit of a learning curve (especially since our gutters have covers, so we couldn’t use the gutter clips as they were designed), but after we figured it out, it went quickly. Everything is on a timer and the house looks so pretty.
But I forgot to take pictures, so you’ll have to take my word on it.
Saturday was ‘s birthday party, which was a lot of fun. Legos ruled the day, which is good, since we’d already bought Legos for part of his and ‘s Christmas gifts.
I managed to make it through the whole cable section of ‘s hat (more on Ravelry), and am very glad that part is done. Now there are just ribbing and tapering to the top. Easy.
I went to JoAnn on Saturday morning (yikes, there is a good reason to not leave the house before 2 pm on Saturdays – people are crazy!) and re-stocked on green thread, so hopefully I’ll be able to finish my Christmas apron, and then I can bake some cookies. Now that I am homework-free and have fewer commitments after today (last day of tutoring), I think I might devote myself to sewing and cookie baking. Sounds like an ideal life, right? Better make sure we’re stocked up on flour.
And all the while, I’ll be listening to Christmas music and probably driving crazy, between that and the Christmas movies. It took me several hours yesterday to get my iPod updated with Christmas songs, but I finally did it and got to listen to seasonally-appropriate music on the bus ride.
As you can see, I don’t really have anything of significance to say. However, I am still without necessary software on my computer to do any work, so I’m kind of stuck trying to entertain myself. Bummer.
I have lots to be happy about today.
I’m wearing my 40-year-old sweater (sadly with a turtleneck and long underwear beneath my jeans, because it was 7* this morning), and even though it wasn’t made for me and is a bit big and perhaps not the most flattering thing I could wear, I love it. I love looking at the tag inside that says, “Fashioned and Hand Made by Karen.” I love the color, an early 1970s olive green that flatters my redhead complexion nicely. I love who it was made for and who made it. It feels like a big hug from the past, kind of like a Norman Rockwell painting.
While I’m not at the school today (so sad), I was yesterday, and it was a good day. I’ll spare you of all the details I need to include in my official reflection. I think it’s sufficient to say that days I’m at school end with me being tired, but happy, while days that I go to work end with me being slightly less satisfied (usually). And while I have no doubt there will be a fair amount of horrible days when I’m a teacher, especially during that first year, it is really encouraging to know that I picked a career that is so right for me, and that makes me happy more often than not.
My co-workers continue to be super supportive, which is awesome. They don’t have to be. Also, everyone is here in my row today, which makes the day more fun. I have a good row. (We named it “Main Street,” a mock homage to our own importance and awesomeness. Don’t judge unless you’ve worked more than 5 years in cubicle-ville.)
My house is clean. Well, at least the first floor, and I picked up my stuff that was laying about the family room. It took me three hours yesterday, but I dusted, vacuumed, cleared off surfaces, moved a piece of furniture, scrubbed down most of the surfaces in my bathroom, vacuumed the floors and even cleared the ceilings of spiderwebs. Whew! I’m putting the tree in a new place this year, hence the furniture moving, but I think it will be nice. Since everything isn’t all messed up like it was last year at this time, and we got rid of some superfluous furniture in the last year, there’s more space and I think it will be nice. Tonight before I go to class, we’ll pull the boxes of decorations and the tree out of storage, and then tomorrow we’ll hang lights on the house and I’ll decorate the inside. Yay!
Tomorrow’s plans also include going toy shopping for a certain little boy who turns 5 on Monday. I can’t believe I have a nephew who will be 5! There’s a family party that evening, where I might steal a moment with my sister’s belly, the current home of my niece. As much as I complained about it last Saturday at No Coast Craft-o-Rama, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t learn the gender of her unborn until yesterday, because I would have bought everything that was vaguely girly, and now we’d be broke.
My Wednesday night class is over and all my assignments have been turned in. Of the grades she’s recorded, I have a 98%, so I’m not too worried about the one shorter essay and my participation grade that are not yet in the system. I do have class tonight, which is a bummer, but then I’m done with classes until January 9th. Yay! That light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. (See counter. –> )
So, I have a lot to be happy about these days. (It would also appear that the Celexa is working, don’t you think? I mean, it’s hard to tell how much of my mood can be attributed to spending 2 days a week doing something I love and how much can be attributed to drugs, but I think it’s safe to say the Celexa is doing something.)
What are you happy about right now?
One class tonight, one class Friday night, one more volunteer tutoring gig on Monday, and then it’s basically over. I mean, there’s still that Tuesday-Thursday middle school thing, but all I really have to do for that is show up, do whatever I’m told, and write reflections. At some point, I need to teach 3 lessons, but I’m not concerned about that. I’m assuming that he’ll want me to teach an already-prepared lesson and that I shouldn’t have to write up a lesson plan.
Last night, grabbed dinner at Jimmy Johns, and as he frequently does, he brought me home a chocolate chip cookie. What can I say, he’s good to me like that. Well, last night’s cookie was kind of short on chocolate chips, but it was still soft, and it really made me want a peanut butter cookie. This led to my talking aloud about baking such cookies, and then deciding that I need to finish my new holiday apron before I can do this. laughed at me for this, but since he doesn’t have an apron (because I still haven’t made one up for him – bad crafty wife!), he doesn’t know how cool they are.
This is the one I’m working on right now:
I actually have three of these planned out with fabric already in my stash, but I seem to have lost McCalls 5825, which has some half-aprons and the oven mitts as well. Major bummer. (This isn't even the cutest apron planned, but the missing pattern forced me to do this one instead.)
I’ve got the bodice done except for attaching the shoulder straps to the back and the tie (the last apron I made with this pattern has straps that are a bit too long and continually fall off my shoulders in a very annoying way). I had to stop last night because I ran out of green thread. Like, completely. No green thread in my possession, in any shade or tone. Major bummer. All of the exposed seams have been bound using that red print for the oven mitt. It’s mostly a bunch of straight seams left, other than those ties (which are really long, but it’s a very nice feature), so it should go quickly. The other nice thing about this pattern is that it nearly meets in the back, so you get good coverage. Plus, it’s sized well (8-10-12 instead of S-M-L).
They re-imaged our computers at work over the weekend, but mine didn’t take, so I spent most of Monday morning watching it update itself. And then I temporarily lost all of my bookmarks (they’re back now – something about the sync key in Firefox that wasn’t matching up), so I couldn’t blog because I had no idea what the address to the editor was. Seriously.
Things seem to be mostly ironed out with that, other than the fact that I’m missing three major software programs and a mapped drive, so I can’t actually do a bunch of my work. Minor detail.
Yesterday at the school was not nearly as stellar as the other days, though I still enjoyed myself overall. I had a few difficult students, and couldn’t come up with solutions when asked by the teacher (strategies to use, ways to help them improve). After thinking about it the rest of the day, I have some thoughts on what I would do differently next time, and I suppose that’s all that’s really important (at least in terms of “reflective teaching”), but it was still disappointing to feel like I could have done a better job. There’s always tomorrow!
I am finding it hard keeping track of my online life while doing the school-work thing. This doesn’t bode well for the blog once I get an actual teaching job, but that would be a small price to pay to have a job I love. I think I’ll need to significantly cut down my subscriptions in Google Reader, and maybe even on Twitter (most of what I have there is news, but even then I usually have too much to read). And then there’s Tumblr and Pinterest and Facebook…. Good thing I’m easing into this spending whole days away from the computer thing, or I’d go into social media withdrawal.
I think the Christmas tree is going up tomorrow night, and lights should be delivered and installed this weekend (we had to order the lights we wanted online, since they were out at all of the Home Depots anywhere near us). I’ll have to forgo the garland on the fence this year, and try to get out to the stores super early next year so I can hopefully find something satisfactory. Also, I need to make my way over to the music store and buy some more sheet music; in particular, I need a solo piano version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite (I have a water-damaged one piano four hands version, which is not very usable without another proficient piano player in my life).
Alright. Now I need to go be reflective. And summarizing. Would love to get some work done, but alas, I am missing some key things still.
I have to tell you that I am so thankful for my co-workers today. They have been really supportive about all the time I need to take off to be in the schools, and then they want to hear all the stories, and even though making it through the program means I’ll be leaving them, they are still encouraging. (That said, of course there are plenty of days when I want to hurt them, but right now, I’m feeling the love. Between the Celexa and getting to be in a middle school two days a week, my mood has majorly improved lately.) By the way, yesterday was just as awesome as Tuesday – I am LOVING my time in the middle school!
But, I promised you pictures, didn’t I?
First off, the pillows! (See what I mean about it being sunny the other day? Lovely!)
The patterns were in the latest American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. You can see their versions here, but you have to get the magazine for the pattern.
Pillow #1 - not my favorite only because of the gathered panel that doesn't match perfectly (yes, there's technically green in the bottom print, but it just seems out of place). I love the other three fabrics though. There were supposed to be buttons on the middle (non-gathered) panel, but the snowflake buttons I have just disappeared on the business of the ornaments print. Sad. Korben has been enjoying knocking them off my cutting table, a different one every day.
My favorite, and Prince Charming's favorite too! I have been dying to use that center print for years, and still have some left that I will use judiciously. So cute!
You wanted a close-up on those skaters, didn't you? How can you not be in love with them? You can't.
The backs. (They have invisible zippers at the bottom, so both sides are usable.) Matea just wouldn't leave the frame. You'll see these pinwheels again in a bit.
How about some details?
Top to bottom: close-up on the pleats, the gathered panel (I didn't like the instructions given, and if I use this design again, I'll do it differently), and the matching prints for the borders of the pinwheels.
And now, a project that went much faster, and involved math! (Also, a sneak peek at our dining room that I still haven’t shown off. Bad blogger!)
A Christmas table runner! It fits the table perfectly, with just two or three inches at either end. I used the rest of the pinwheels that I'd made for the backs of the pillows. You can tell that I didn't do math when I originally made those up, since all 9 were supposed to be the back for one pillow. I mean, I was planning on cutting them down, but not that much, and in the end I couldn't bear to do it. (Sneak peak: in the background, our new buffet, and in the foreground, our new dining table. I promise I'll show them off soon, and tell you about all the work we did to get them to this point.)
The binding is in the same line as many of the prints, and even shows up in one of the pinwheels. The red border is the same as I used on the pillows. Print-on-print pinwheels are a little bit harder to see, but I tried for as much contrast as I could get. There are red and white pinwheels, green and white pinwheels, and dark print on light print pinwheels. Each is technically unique, though each print appears twice (I made my favorite no-waste half-square triangles). The back is some green felt I had stashed. Everything, in fact, is from stash. Absolutely nothing was purchased for the pillows or the table runner (except for two invisible zippers in the right color/length). Go me!
I almost don’t need a tree, these are so cute!
Last night I went to JoAnn and bought some fabric to make two fun and flirty yet winter-appropriate skirts. I was so sad to put away my summer clothes – all the fun dresses and skirts I’d made are no longer right for the season. It took me forever to find darker prints and things that weren’t overly floral, but I finally did it. Skirts are so quick to do, and I love making them. I know, I’ve got a ton of other projects to do too, but self-made winter clothes are a goal and I want at least some of them to be fun. Not everything has to be boring and “perfect for student teaching” (as in, browns and blacks, sedate, nondescript and/or classic blah-ness). I got some cute beads too – I think I’d like to make some more jewelry. The early sunset lends itself well to my hobbies, which are all indoor crafts, but now that the semester is almost over, I’d like to spend more time with ERIC, which means not spending the whole evening upstairs sewing or doing homework, but hanging out with him on the couch in the basement. Beading is perfect for that. I can stay busy, but we can be together. Plus, I’ve got a new plan to make jewelry to match clothing that I make, so that I’ve got outfits (or parts of outfits) ready to wear. It seems smart to make jewelry to specifically go with an item of clothing (especially necklaces), and it’s always nice to have things that coordinate with a newly made item of clothing.