I’m not done with Christmas yet

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.

Christmas projects are so much fun!

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!)

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The fronts

The patterns were in the latest American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. You can see their versions here [link removed], but you have to get the magazine for the pattern.

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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.

 

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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!

 

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You wanted a close-up on those skaters, didn’t you? How can you not be in love with them? You can’t.

 

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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?

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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!)

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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.)

 

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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.

The Spirit Has Arrived

The Christmas spirit, that is. In my head. This morning. I suddenly found myself wanting to leave work to go home and bake cookies and decorate the house (which shall not take place until at least Saturday, at least the decorating part). This was surprising. It’s not that I’m a Scrooge – in fact, Christmas is my favoritest time of the year, and the only thing that makes snow and those long dark hours of winter worthwhile. But I don’t really care for this whole starting-Christmas-in-October thing that retailers have been doing for… the last decade or more. And Black Friday sales? I would prefer to ignore them completely.

But I digress.

So, my heart has gotten into the Christmas spirit, and now I’m forcing it upon you. It started with browsing Etsy, where I spent way too much time looking at vintage brooches (I made it up to the $15 mark before my eyes glazed over). Then I took my joyous self over to Pinterest, where I found all sorts of things to make me smile.

In all honesty, most Christmas-related things make me smile. Even bad Christmas songs. (There are a few themes that don’t exactly make the list, like Santa, and vintage drawings of kitty cats in bows and hats, and I could really do without blow-up, lighted lawn ornaments, and “A Christmas Story”, but that’s it. And I thought I’d get that bit of Scroogy-ness out of the way so the joy could continue.)

And now, for some of my favorite parts of Christmas, courtesy of Pinterest… (source for each image below the image; clicking will take you to the Pinterest page, where you can then click through to find the original source… eventually). [pics removed]

Eggnog, source: catscroonerscook.blogspot.com [link removed]

Christmas music: source: xmasluv.tumblr.com [link removed]

Berry Wreaths: source: potterybarn.com [link removed]

Garland – I’ve been wanting to do something like this (without the lights) at our new house, but haven’t calculated how much garland we’d need and what that would cost: source: bhg.com [link removed]

Christmas trees and pianos (arguably the latter isn’t Christmas-specific, but I do love Christmas piano music very much): source: Uploaded by [unknown] user

My collection of red and white snowflake mugs – each is unique, like snowflakes: source: indiska.com [link removed]

Deer – I don’t have any, but I think I’d like to acquire some deer Christmas decor: source: camelandyak.co.uk [link removed]

Stars – I have many ornaments and decorations that are stars. They are so pretty: source: bhg.com [link removed]

Gingerbread houses – My FIL gave me a gingerbread house kit last year, and I think it needs to be christened, don’t you? I’m sure my end result will look nothing like this. (I tried to find the one decorated the simplest, and this was what I got. The internet has high standards.) Source: google.com [link removed]

Christmas cookies – not *just* roll-and-cut, but they are some of my favorites: source: glorioustreats.blogspot.com [link removed]

Spritz cookies – another gift last year from my FIL, a press to make spritz cookies. I’ve been wanting to make some up for… forever! Source: tasteofhome.com [link removed]

Christmas Eve Candlelight Services: source: google.com [link removed]

Now I’m interested – what’s your favorite part(s) of Christmas?

My Completely Unrealistic Christmas List

We’re busy exchanging emails with Christmas gift ideas at the moment, which required me to come up with some things that I wanted. Arguably, my list of “things I want” is quite long, but most of it is stuff that I would buy myself – things that don’t make for good gifts (anyone want to buy me enough fabric to make the backing of our quilt? I thought not). However, after perusing my Amazon wish list and Etsy favorites, I came up with a small but appropriate list.

All the while, though, I kept coming up with things that I really wanted that no one was ever going to get me. No, seriously. It’s not because y’all aren’t lovely and generous, but more because, well, they’re impossible gifts.

I’ve written them down for your entertainment:

  1. Time. Available in many increments.
    1. Time to craft for myself. I’d love to run out of fabric. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
    2. Time to create gifts for others (a certain little boy’s quilt, for instance).
    3. Time to make a quilt for our bedroom.
    4. Time to totally chill and not feel guilty that I should be doing homework.
  2. A permanently clean house. (No, I’m not asking you to get rid of my cats for me, even if they are the main source of dirty floors in our home.) I’d love to never again have to vacuum or wash a floor.
  3. A snowy winter that averages around 50* every day.
  4. A teleporter so I could visit friends and family, no matter how far away, any time I want (without having to take time off of work and drive through Wisconsin).
  5. To magically know everything I need to know to be a good, quality teacher, and then get a job (without having to go through 18 more months of school.)
  6. A paint color for the basement that is somehow yellow without being too yellow (but not looking puke-y either).
  7. 12 pounds to disappear from my midsection.
  8. For the basement remodeling to go smoothly without any hiccups or problems whatsoever, and to finish it on time. Ha!
  9. For my grandpa to reach his goal of living to 100 – not for me, but for him, because if he wants it, that’s totally awesome.
  10. A calorie-free version of Caramel Nut Clusters.
  11. Grey dress shoes (that are comfortable and have a heel). I’m beginning to think they don’t exist.
  12. Someone to come and take care of my pile of things that should go up on ebay or Etsy (this includes taking care of shipping out said items when they sell).
  13. An unlimited spending gift card for Ann Taylor. I’ve recently fallen in love (via ebay, not the actual store – I do not enjoy paying those retail prices).
  14. Those gorgeous $300 frames to show up with my prescription in them. (While technically attainable, I don’t know anyone who gives gifts this expensive. Plus, we went back to look for them on Monday night, just to get the brand name so I could e-stalk them, and they were gone!)
  15. To not be asked when I’m having babies for the entire 2011 year.
  16. A Brazillian Blowout (again with the possible but really expensive ideas!).
  17. Several cruises or tropical vacations (where I miraculously don’t get sunburnt).

As it so happens, I also have a list of things no one needs to get me (because life is that good):

  1. Great friends and family.
  2. Happy memories.
  3. A loving husband.
  4. A home of our own.
  5. Cats that drive us crazy yet are so adorable as to prevent us from kicking them to the curb.
  6. A job (I may not like it all the time, but I have one, and I know that I should be thankful for that).
  7. Cute and hilarious nephews (though if you want to find a way to give me more time to spend with them, more power to you).
  8. Education.
  9. Books and music (I am surrounded).

What’s on your list this year? (Either list – unrealistic or “don’t need because I’m blessed.”)

Wrap-Up

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Christmas Eve was spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, which is the only thing to do if you’re in Illinois for the holiday. As is our new tradition, Grandma and Grandpa got all the gifts (the rest of us got $).
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Grandpa gets bored sometimes and sorts through old photos. He passed around a box that held this gem in it. That’s Dad there on the right, at the age of 4, with his big sister. Isn’t it darling? Later Dad let me take some oldies that he had, and I’ll share those sometime this week or next week.
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Christmas day was spent with Dad and Candy (and Candy’s mom, and the 4 dogs). Dad got a power cord, and was particularly thrilled about it.
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Shimmer (I finally learned how to tell the two look-alike dogs apart!) made herself a next of wrapping paper.
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Last night, we went to Mom’s to exchange gifts. Upon walking in to the house, everyone realized that Alison and I were wearing the same sweater/scarf set, which we had received from Dad.
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Grant liked his alphabet shirt (link below) so much that he ripped off his clothes to put it on. Then there was the obligatory picture-taking. Probably the only year that he’ll think clothing is a cool gift, but I’ll take it. (He had a hard time locating the “g” however, because it’s in lower case on the shirt, and he only knows his upper case letters. Oops.)

The shirt is from my little deer [link removed] (local to Minnesotans).

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Joey fell asleep in Mom’s arms while she was wearing her cuddly new robe. Her fiance, Jim, makes his first appearance here on this blog in this pic.
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As cool as the matchbox cars, Batmobile, and all of Joey’s toys were to Grant (“mine!”), he was greatly entertained by a box. He pulled the wrapping paper off of one present and shouted, “It’s a box!” He was so happy. Who needs Toys R Us?

Briefly

I’m not feeling particularly bloggy. Perhaps it’s because Google Reader has several hundred blog posts from Tuesday evening to present. Perhaps it’s because random things have made me a bit of a grouch today. Perhaps it’s because a headache is in my forecast. Or, perhaps it’s because I don’t have any Caramel Nut Clusters to help me cope with life. Whatever.

However, I did have an amazingly lovely and wonderful Christmas. We drove down to Chicago on Wednesday – it took nearly 10 hours, which included some longer stops, and while the weather slowed us down, it wasn’t actually all that bad. Just a few cars in the ditch (4, I think), which is pretty remarkable. Christmas Eve was perfect, as was Christmas Day. took pictures for me at both events, so maybe I’ll share. and were thrilled that we spent the holiday with them (seriously, we probably could have gotten away with not bringing a gift, though the one we brought was the best gift ever, and much loved). Grandma and Grandpa were both in great moods on Christmas Eve. We had to leave earlier than preferred on Saturday to try to outrun the storm (which had started overnight, so we didn’t get to say goodbye to because he was already out plowing parking lots), a task at which we were successful. After we hit Madison, the snow stopped and we even saw blue skies and sunlight for a while! We returned home expecting to spend the next hour or so shoveling out our driveway in order to even get my car near the house, but found instead that ‘s dad had shoveled for us! So instead, we loved up on the cats and exchanged gifts between the two of us.

Tonight is the last of the scheduled Christmas celebrations, with and & Co. The decorations are staying up for a bit longer, and I might see how many batches of cookies I can make up this week. I got new cookie sheets from and am excited to use them.

The afore-mentioned headache has finally arrived, so I will bid you adieu until I am in a better frame of mind.

Heart on my sleeve

I’m going to be honest. The thought of not going home to Chicago for Christmas this year makes me want to cry. There is a “huge” weather system on its way here, though reports vary wildly as to when and where and how much. All I’m asking for is that it not hit the Twin Cities until Wednesday afternoon (because we’re leaving before lunch).

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That's a reasonable request, right?

I know, we were just there in September, and if I get my Christmas wish there will be many more years of celebrating with my grandparents. We would do just fine to stay at home and exchange gifts and laze about, if need be (though we’d have to brave the weather to buy some food, or risk eating frozen pizza for days on end). I would rather not, though. Also, I would rather not ship the gifts we’ve bought (including the previously mentioned one to and that weighs a ton).

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Ornaments. I'll ship ornaments.

My first winter living in Minnesota (2001, I moved here on December 1), there was a huge snowstorm the day I drove home to Illinois for Christmas (back then, both my parents were living there, and was still in college, so she was probably home too). It took forever, driving slowly down the highway behind a snow plow, trying very hard to be patient and not scoot around (because my car would not have handled that well). says that when we went home two years ago for Christmas we had bad weather, but I can’t remember that, and have no blog references to it.

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I'm sure he's right. I just don't remember it.

I’m staging a protest.

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How about, "every time a bell rings, someone arrives safely at their holiday destination." Ring on!

Maybe Santa could leave some snow tires under the tree for us (I don’t even care which car – I think has most of a set for his), or a transporter so we can avoid the snow altogether. (Not being a Minnesota native, I don’t actually know anything about snow tires, nor have I ever really given them a second thought. I’m not really asking for them. The transporter would be nice, though.)

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We have enough firewood to last through the long weekend, if necessary.

OK. I didn’t intend to be so whiny. Christmas will be wonderful, wherever we end up spending it, regardless of what we eat or who we’re with or what we receive. I love Christmas, I really do, and one little snowstorm can’t change that.

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from me... to you. Merry Christmas!

Your guess is as good as mine

(What this blog post has to do with the pictures I’ve included.)

I’m not sure if this is a universal reaction or not (because I respond strangely to cold medication), but you know that feeling you get after taking a dose of OTC cold/cough/flu medicine, that strong compulsion to go to sleep? I’m totally experiencing that right now (thankfully without the fuzzy/lightheadedness that usually accompanies it). The thing is, I haven’t taken anything today. And I didn’t really stay up that late last night, so I’m not sure what’s going on. I am thankful that it’s my last day of work this week. We’re supposed to drive down to Chicago tomorrow. There is a snowstorm that is threatening those plans, so who knows what will end up happening.

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Here's what we're giving Dad and Candy this year. They are dog people, and even though their dogs aren't white, I thought they'd think these were cute. I avoided getting the matching place mats and napkins and substituted the snowmen, you know, for variety. Table setting for 6 (desert pates and mugs, place mats and napkins), an ornament, and some kitchen stuff.

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The weekend before last, we went to Sam's Club and bought a whole bunch of stuff that we can actually store now that we have a freezer. For example, this 10 pound tube of hamburger. Prince Charming divided it up into 1/4 pound segments and pressed them into patties, which we then froze in 4-patty sets. Very convenient. (There was also an 8-pound hunk of rib eye that I cut up into a roast and four very large steaks.)

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Also at Sam's, this container of mixed greens, my favorite kind of blend. Do you see how big that container is? Our plates/bowls are huge, so I kept the light switch in for perspective. We're never going to finish this before it goes bad, even though I've been eating a lot of salad. I think we're going to bring it with us to Chicago, because we're only halfway through and we'll be gone for four days. Still, even if we don't eat all of it, it was a fabulous deal on what is normally pretty expensive.

Check and check

Last night, with a few exceptions, we got all of our Christmas presents wrapped up. (We didn’t wrap our gifts to each other, and I think there’s one more thing I want to get .) New rules for next year: 1) No spending an hour and a half sitting on the floor wrapping gifts. My back hurts. 2) Since I live by two of the most horrendous (read: gigantic) malls in the metro area (Southdale and the MOA), I really need to get presents purchased long before having to deal with those crowds. It was not fun.

That aside, I feel like Christmas is coming along just fine. Oh, sure, I don’t have gifts for and just yet, but they don’t seem to mind doing Christmas in January. And yes, weatherpeople are not sure if there’s going to be a big snowstorm on Wednesday while we drive to Chicago. Oh, and I keep forgetting to get a Christmas gift for my grandparents. BUT, still, I’m feeling good about things. It probably helps that we don’t have kids*, but between and myself we have four sets of parents to arrange. I started thinking this weekend that the person who wrote “The Twelve Days of Christmas” had a huge extended family and lots of Christmas gatherings, because that’s how it starts to go. (I’m not complaining, really. I love all of our family, and have had a wonderful time so far, and am really not stressed about any of it.) Thursday we had Christmas lunch with ‘s dad. Saturday evening we had ‘s mom and her husband over for Christmas dinner. Wednesday we leave for Chicago to celebrate with and , which includes Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparents’ house. We return on Saturday, and will probably exchange gifts then (because we’re certainly not taking them to Chicago with us). Then on Monday night, we’re doing Christmas with and & Co. And then, of course, there’s the as-of-yet unscheduled gift exchange with and .

I did complain on Facebook earlier today that I haven’t made any Christmas cookies yet. I am bummed about that. I’m also bummed that while I have a bunch of Christmas fabric that I bought last year, this year, or found in storage, I have yet to make a single thing with any of it. That makes me sad. Who wants to bet that, despite my best intentions, I will have no desire to make a new tree skirt on January 3rd? Yeah. And then I won’t remember it until next November. It’s times like this that I wish I didn’t have to “waste the day away” at work. I mean, who wants to answer phones and doctor up Word files when I could be at home baking cookies and sewing? Not me, that’s for sure. But, I don’t actually want to burn all of my vacation over Christmas.

Question for the comments: if you had enough time to bake exactly one batch of [Christmas] cookies, what kind would you make? I’m leaning toward something gingerbread-y.

*Sidenote: I gave blood today. The experience re-inforced, and perhaps strengthened, my fear of childbirth.

…and that’s why I was so tired this morning.

Friday night, after a fabulous time at the No Coast Craft-o-Rama* with and , I spent an unreasonable quantity of time getting the PowerPoint presentation ready for class on Saturday. (This involved installing the trial version of Office 2007, which wouldn’t activate, among many other things.) It was much too late when I went to bed.

I was wise enough to drive to class on Saturday, and though I had told my group members that I would be there half an hour early, none of them showed up until about five minutes before class. (No worries – the professor gave us over 45 minutes to prep, while the rest of the class twiddled their thumbs. Bummer for them.) I had checked Facebook and saw a status update that warranted a call to . While on the phone with her, I found out that she is now officially engaged (not the reason I called)! Things had been unofficial for quite a few weeks, but on Friday night her boyfriend proposed. The wedding is in June. There was also some other drama on that side of the family that I won’t divulge, but suffice it to say, it was an eventful phone call.

Class went well enough. It was perhaps the first time I did some public speaking where I wasn’t nervous at all. I mean, I’m pretty comfortable with [planned] public speaking, but usually there’s still that little bit of nervousness in my stomach. Not this weekend. Everything went well (once I figured out the technical difficulties), and we got an A. I had already turned in my final exam, so I’m done with class! I don’t think grades will get posted for several weeks, but I’m comfortable in the knowledge that at mid-term I was the one who set the curve.

Saturday afternoon, and I cleaned the garage and managed to make enough space so that he can park in there now! A major accomplishment, for sure, and perfect timing. It’s getting quite cold here, and we’re expecting several inches of snow starting tomorrow. (Boo!)

Sunday afternoon we went to Target. We were thwarted in our attempts to get several things on our list (firewood bin, outdoor clips for hanging Christmas lights), but I did knock out most of one Christmas gift. had the awesome idea that we should skip hanging lights this year (which I was seriously considering already) and purchase lights and hooks/clips right after Christmas, when everything will be on sale. Genius!  This way we can hang the clips/hooks next summer after painting the house, and will just have to string lights after Thanksgiving. We might also figure out a way to get an additional power outlet on the front of the house that will make things much easier.

Then I learned that I still don’t like basil. Oh well. I tried. Really, I did! We did find a new good recipe, that is easily modified to create lots of variety. It was on the AllRecipes.com iPhone app, which is handy if you’re not very good at coming up with things to put on the dinner menu (“Orzo with Parmesan and Basil” if you’re looking – it’s probably on their website too). And then I set up the Christmas tree, which was wonderful and made me smile a lot. I don’t remember exactly who gave me each ornament, but I do remember a lot of them. The whole process reminds me of all the people I have had in my life over the years that have been so loving and caring. It also reminds me of childhood, since I have quite a few ornaments that I made in elementary school.

I’m still hard at work on some small embroidery pieces for the Ornament Swap. Sadly, I will be late, since the mailing deadline is today, but I don’t think I’ll be horribly late. Hopefully just a few days. I have half of them done, and at least a few stitches on the remaining ones. I have only received two so far, and last year several of my 10 partners didn’t send anything out, so I don’t feel too guilty for missing the deadline.

That is probably how I’ll spend most of my free time this week, working on those ornaments. I do have two weeks of Homework Hub left, but no more [personal] homework! My advisor hasn’t responded at all to my application to the program, so I’m assuming things are OK (barring my two missing recommendation letters). I am watching the three classes I want to register for, and they still have double-digits of seats available, so I’m not concerned at this point. It is, after all, a busy time for professors too, so I’m being patient.

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I hope you’re having a wonderful Christmas holiday season!

*Purchased: a new Cayenne Peppy [link removed] purse, to replace the one I bought last year at the NCCOR and carried for an entire year, getting compliments all the time, and an alpaca knit scarf that I may or may not be allergic to. Also some foodstuff from the HolyLand Deli and some tamales for dinner.

Feeling Nostaligic

Apparently I’m longing for an old-fashioned Christmas. While editing pictures I took this weekend, I found myself fixing them to look like pictures from my childhood (just missing the rounded corners).

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Sepia is totally appropriate for a 150-year old piano

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In those boxes? Two different sets of desert plates. The gorgeous candlelabra is from my FIL. Finally acquired candles for it last night.

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Still practicing taking macro photos. The lighting was terrible to try and get this one right.

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Someone often insists on being the tallest "person" in the room.

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Even the kitchen can't escape photo editing! (Don't you like this paint/cabinet color combo? I think I like it better than the real color of our kitchen.)

Pausing to Ponder

[Yes, I finally uploaded some pictures to Flickr, but no, I don’t have time to blog about them just yet. Sorry.]

So, like most people at this time of year, I am feeling like there are way too many things that I’d like to do, and not nearly enough time in which to do them. For example, I would love to spend an entire Saturday baking a dozen different kinds of Christmas cookies. However, I don’t think I have a free Saturday between now and Christmas. There are several Christmas gifts that I’d like to make, as well as several Christmasy things for the house I’d like to make, and I’m sure most of them won’t get done. I also want to finish up the semester well (one class session left, with a presentation to give and about two hours of work to do to get it right), purchase Christmas gifts, celebrate and ‘s birthdays, and hang lights on the house (our tree isn’t up yet, but the boxes of ornaments are piled up where I want to put the tree). I’d like to go to Advent services at a church near us (which I may or may not have picked out), though I cannot go to church on a Sunday morning right after getting up for class on a Saturday morning, or the whole week is just worthless. I’m sure there are half a dozen more things that I can’t think of right now, too, that I want to do.

So… exactly how does one go about deciding which of the wonderful things one should actually do? I mean, some of them are obvious. Christmas presents have to be purchased (though I am lucky that many of my official Christmas celebrations don’t occur until well after Christmas, and there are several people on our list who have requested no gifts). The tree has to go up (yes, this is non-negotiable).

How do you decide what doesn’t get done? Or do you not decide consciously, but just let what happens happen? Or do you have a magic machine that adds extra hours of the day without making me tired? I’m sayin’, it’s an option. 🙂

Also, I’m looking for a food item to give up for the first few months of 2010, one that might help me lose a pound or two. I already drink diet pop. I gave up caffeine. I am not giving up “sugar” or “chocolate” (mostly because I would fail miserably at that). Any suggestions?

The Last Christmas

This weekend, , and I got together to celebrate Christmas. It’s often the last Christmas celebration of the season for me, which works out especially well when I’m crafting gifts and run out of time. renewed my Real Simple magazine subscription, which I always appreciate. gave me Artisian Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which I had previously checked out from the library and loved (also, has the book and made some when we were over this fall, and it is indeed yummy and -approved).

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She also gave me these cute earrings.

I’m not sure I’ll have time to make bread before May, but if I do I will definitely be using this book. I will have time for the earrings, though, and for reading my magazine (it makes for great reading on the bus).

My gifts went over well too, I think. I gave a wooden elephant to build, some embroidered napkins (with elephants), and potholders to match her new kitchen.

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Potholders
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Elephant Napkins

got a set of placemats, napkins, and coasters made with an owl print I found on Etsy.

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Placemats, napkins, and coasters

I’m really pleased with how all of them turn out. There’s more commentary (and more pictures) in Flickr, so click on the pictures to get to my photostream.

Productivity Levels on the Rise

Last night, I finished ‘s Christmas present. I just have to wrap it. Of course, her birthday present hasn’t been started yet, but the list of outstanding gifts is definitely shrinking. I also made more progress on ‘s scarf, and brought it with me today so I can knit on the bus ride home. I’m hoping I don’t have much more left on it. That leaves the fleece jacket I gave him for Christmas (well, I gave him the pattern, and we went and picked out the fabric together). That’s it – the rest is all done!

Swap-wise I’m on-track too, though I had somehow forgotten completely about a recipe swap that was due the day after Christmas. It’s fixed now, though. I think it’s time to start working on Tom’s [link removed] quilt for the Mini Quilt-in-a-bag swap, which means deciding on one of the three ideas I had. I think I might be able to get that cut out tonight though. The other “big” project is figuring out what to do for the My Favorite Things swap. The idea is to pick one of the “favorite things” from the Sound of Music song and make it in any way we desire. The person I’m creating this for has her profile filled out and I’ve perused her Flickr stream and her blog and still don’t have any inspiration. I will figure something out – the problem is that it has to be done by January 9th, which doesn’t give me too much time, and all the good ideas I’ve had so far would take much more time than I have.

We did have our last Christmas celebration over the weekend, with , , and , the latter of which loves his new “big boy bed” and was a hoot. He only had one present to open, since had given him money (or given his parents money, I should say), but it was an awesome gift. If you can’t tell from the picture, the screw driver is battery powered and really works, and you get all you need to make a car (two pieces of car “body” and five screws/bolts). got right to work assembling it, and was completely enamored, staying busy while the rest of us opened gifts. gave me exactly what I asked for – a black satin robe and some new canisters for the kitchen. did too – a sweater and some long-sleeved shirts. I was very happy. At some point, all the excitement became too much for , who had been up until midnight the night before, traveling back from Iowa, and he started running around the room yelling something only he could understand. He was very excited. We made our exit at that point (it was nearly 9:30) and left his parents to bathe him and put him to bed.

Sunday we attempted to stimulate the economy by participating in after-Christmas sales, but had absolutely no luck. was trying to find new jeans, but Lucky was out of his size, as usual (though he did determine that he can just order them online and save the shopping trip). I was looking for some casual work pants (preferably cords) and after half a dozen stores and pairs, we left the mall altogether, empty-handed. The pairs I tried on at Old Navy made me look like I was 5 feet tall (instead of 5′ 8″) and unflatteringly curvy, and the pairs I tried on at JCrew, who only had skinny-legged ones, made me look like my hips were transplanted from a very large person. It was very, very bad. As usual, Express has their store set up to make me want to flee the scene without shopping, and Limited, while calm and subdued, has even fewer casual clothes than they used to, which is unfortunate since one of the pairs of cords I’m getting rid of is from them (a Black Friday purchase five years ago that I didn’t even try on).

I will confess that in the midst of yesterday’s productivity, I completely failed to go to the gym. I thought about it at about 9 pm and decided it wasn’t worth it. I also did not eat what I should have. Full disclosure is good, right? Also, my skin no longer likes the lotion I’m using, as I am itchy again, but that’s OK because I am almost out anyways, and needed to buy a new bottle. I’ll just pick something different out – I did make it all the way through two bottles of what I had, which is pretty good for me.

It’s freezing at work (again, though I’m better prepared today), and I’m going to go take my break and get some decaf chai. That means my two visits for the week will be all used up, but Tuesday is double-stamp day, so it’s worth it. I’m not sure how I’m going to keep warm tomorrow though. I have some bags of tea in my desk drawer and there’s hot water in the break room. Doesn’t sound very exciting, but I bet it’ll work.

Swap (and other things) Update

Poor has spent the last couple of days bringing in mail for me, full of packages (fabric, swap items, his Christmas presents) and the occasional Christmas card from family or friends. We finally had some sunlight this weekend (as evidenced in the photos), so I took some pictures of what has arrived lately.

Some more ornaments for the Holiday Ornament Swap:

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A set of 5 little squishy, glittery ornaments, including two trees, two birds, and a star!
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A glittery blue ornament and some cookies, all the way from Germany!
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And, a Santa from crazyhairdesign.

(Here’s crazyhairdesign’s [link removed] Flickr photo posting of the ornaments, where she talks about how she made them.)

Unfortunately, most of my swap partners don’t have their blogs or Flickr accounts linked in their profiles, so I can’t give link love.

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Also, I received my package from Katherine for the Holiday Traditions Swap!

The guidelines were: an ornament, a tradition tutorial, and a recipe. She sent… a rose felt pomander (that I’d seen a tutorial for but didn’t have time to try it for myself), a set of coasters, an embroidered linen sachet, a CD, a letter, and a copy of Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris as the tradition tutorial. The latter is a book that I’ve heard about and haven’t had the opportunity or energy to go find myself a copy, and she did the hard work of going to the used bookstore and getting me one! Aren’t used bookstores great? I haven’t had a chance to throw the CD into my computer yet to listen to it, but the playlist looks amazing. Thanks so much, Katherine! (I don’t think we swapped blogs, so I don’t know if she has one or what the address is, unfortunately.)

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I also finally photographed the second towel I embroidered for Mom, before packaging them both up.
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Both towels

I’m definitely not as happy with the second one (the darker background) as the first, but I think she’ll like them both, and I learned some new stitches (on the second one, I did tons of laisy daisies, french knots, and made up a way to stitch grass, plus the pear on the potted plant is satin stitched with a variagated floss, which looks pretty cool).

Finally, on Friday night I drove over to Hancock Fabrics, hoping they would have a different selection from JoAnn, since I had been having great difficulty finding the fabric requested for her pillows. I hadn’t been to a Hancock Fabrics since I lived near Roseville, so it’s probably been about 5 years. If you’ve been to a JoAnn anytime lately, you know that it’s crazy there around the holidays, always busy and it takes forever to get my shopping done. They’ve had some good sales, but they haven’t had the fabric I needed for this particular project. So, I hopped in the car and drove over to the Hancock in Richfield (or whatever city that is over by 494 and Penn). Much to my surprise, the place was practically vacant, and almost everything was on sale. Still, it took me nearly 2 hours to pick out fabric.

Barring finding the perfect fabric (to match a red wall in her house, to go on the tan/taupe couch, preferably with retro-looking rectangles, which was basically an impossible order to fill), I had decided to use the modern log cabin pillow pattern from Stitch magazine [link removed]. Matching reds proved to be quite difficult, and I had decided that it would be basically impossible to match the pillows to her wall, given that I haven’t been to her house since August, and didn’t pay much attention to the wall color at the time (though, to be fair, I did paint said wall when they moved into their house four years ago). So, I decided that if I used a variety of colors, that probably none of them would match but hopefully the overall idea would (we’ll see, come Saturday).

There’s also another fabric (a taupe with circles on it) for the backing and for use on the fronts.

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Here’s the layout of the first pillow, before stitching

Several more rows had to be added after sewing, since it gets smaller with each seam sewn. Last night around 9:45, I finished the fronts, and then I spent another half hour getting the backs ready. So, next up is quilting them, which shouldn’t take too long. I did run out of red thread (well, nearly out – the spool is visible and my bobbin is almost empty), so they’ll be quilted using white thread, which is probably a lot safer in the end). Putting them together should take almost no time, and the pillow forms have already been bought, so this project will definitely be finished before we get together to celebrate on Saturday (barring major illness, natural disaster, or act of God).

Last week (or maybe the week before?), JCaroline Creative had updated their short cuts and sale sections, which I took advantage of. I bought up a ton of short cuts, some of my favorite fabrics, which are now in Flickr if you’re interested, which you’re probably not. I think several of them will be used in making my next nephew’s quilt, two years from now (there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead, when sale prices and limited stock are in the picture). I also bought a bunch of cotton solids, and perhaps my favorite holiday fabric of 2008.

So, there you have it. I only have Christmas Day off of work, so I will still be around tomorrow, probably posting earlier in the day. We have ‘s family Christmas at 3pm, so I’m taking the afternoon off of work. Tonight’s plans include baking up the 2 batches of cookie dough that I made up last night (to bring to aforementioned family function on Christmas Eve), and maybe working on those pillows some more. Oh, and we have to find a Christmas present for ‘s brother. And I have to do any prep work I can for Christmas Day dinner, to which has been invited, as well as ‘s dad and brother, and if she’s in town (, were you not in Ohio, you would also be invited, but you’ve got your own fun going on right now). So, a busy night, for sure. In case you were wondering how it all gets done, my keys right now are: getting home at 4pm, which means dinner is usually eaten and cleaned up by 6; no homework to do; and, don’t stop moving. Oh, another key to my recent productivity is that we’ve moved my computer into the spare bedroom where my sewing machine is, so that I can watch movies and TV. ‘s dad has been recording Angel for me, and right now I’m part-way through season 2. Great show, I must say. Loved it the first time around (I think I’ve seen probably 90% of the episodes already), and loving it again now.