Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

Yikes! It's the 31st already!

We have returned from the mild winter climate of the Texas Hill Country, and I am pleased to report I have both unpacked all my bags and nearly packed away all the Christmas decor. I am a whirlwind of efficiency.

I am excited to participate in Joy's Year in Review link-up, and I believe I am just making it in. Thanks to Lisa for posting today and reminding me.

Gained or lost weight?

I took up jogging for the first time in my life last January and lost the baby weight (but not the belly; never the belly), but then I quit in July. Didn't gain back all the baby weight but gained back some.

Predominant feeling in 2013?

I have been stuck on this one for some time. I'm going to say calm. No one who really knows me thinks that's a defining characteristic, and it definitely only fits moments. But my life has been more calm and settled this year than in a long, long time.

Predominant feeling for 2014?

Optimism. This is the first New Year's in several years that we settled in a home, and I am not thinking, "Well, next year will surely be better than this one."

Something you did for the first time in 2013?

Lived in the US but outside the southern US. This was huge.

Something you did again in 2013 after a long pause?

Owned a home. Five months is not a huge pause, but it's a long time to live on someone else's generosity.

Something you unfortunately did not do in 2013?

Not exactly unfortunate, because I have been enjoying the break, but I didn't teach any school children this year. In fact, it's the first year that my life has not revolved around a school year since 1981. Though my daughter is in school, so I guess a school year plays a part in our lives still.

Word of the year?

Transition or change.

City of the year?

I guess I'd have to say DC for that since we bought a home in the general area.

Hair longer or shorter?

Same old, same old.

More or less money spent?

Whoo! More! It's expensive around here. On the other hand, I spend quite a bit less on treats for myself because...it's so much more expensive around here.

Highest mobile phone bill?

I believe it's the same month to month. But I don't pay our bills so I'm not sure.

Hospital stays?

I am happy to say no to this.

(Fallen) In love?

Not fallen.

Most called person?

I talk less and less on the phone. But I guess it would be my husband to talk get an answer to a question, see when he's going to be home, etc.

Whom did you spend the most beautiful time with?

My babies, of course.

What did you spend most of your time with?

My phone or my computer, I bet.

Song of the year?

Consider Yourself. Really, it's only been a major presence in the last month or so while I practice for my audition into a women's chorus, but it also seems to fit in with our big move.

Book of the year?

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. Haven't actually read it yet. I checked out from the library in late winter, it held pressed bluebonnets this spring, I had to argue with the library about whether I'd returned it or not (I had) in the summer, I found it at a book sale in the fall, and I may read it someday. I hear it is good.

TV show/movie of the year?

I can't get House of Cards out of my head. I was so struck by the characters played by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. They're so calculating and duplicitous and fascinating to watch. But Kevin Spacey has gotten himself into quite a mess, and I am both highly anticipating and dreading the next season.

Insight of the year?

I need to slow down. Even more.

Three things you totally could have done without?

Moving into a new house without any childcare

Most beautiful event?

My babies playing together or with cousins sweetly.

More short-sighted or more far-sighted than 2013? 

I'm a little confused by this question, but Joy answered it literally, comparing 2012 to 2013, so I will too. I don't think I'm 20/15 anymore; in fact, I'm not sure I'm even 20/20. Oh, the sadness of approaching 40.

The most dangerous thing you did?

Last January. Tried to drive to NC in an ice storm. Gave up when I started skidding around the highway.

The most expensive thing you bought?


The most delicious meal or food you ate?

How can I narrow this down? I'll use my standby: Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.

The best party?

A family one: Easter at my parents', the 4th at Okoboji, Garatoni Girls' Weekend, Christmas at my aunt and uncles'--one of those.

The most important thing you wanted to convince somebody of?

I actually have a good answer for this, but it's too long to write here.

The most beautiful present you gave to somebody?

My time. I'm not trying to praise myself here as much as admit that stopping what I'm doing to give someone else my time is a valuable gift, and I should work on giving it more often.

The most beautiful present that somebody gave you?

The opportunity to not work outside the home. Thank you, Brian!

The most beautiful sentence someone said to you?

I love you, Mama.

The most beautiful sentence you said to someone? 

I love you.

How will you celebrate New Year's Eve?

With my in-laws: eating lobster and dancing to oldies.

What will you have for dinner?

Lobster (as mentioned) and Mediterranean takeout.

What drinks will be in your glasses to clink?

Some sort of sparkling white wine.

Will you ignite any fireworks? 

No fireworks. Much dancing, especially to You Can't Always Get What You Want, a family anthem.

What are you going to wear? Comfy or glamorous?

Somewhere in between, but I'll still be the dressiest.

Did you have any resolutions for 2013? And how about 2014?

I say it now publicly: I will make more of an effort to live in the present and not be thinking constantly of what comes next.

What are your wishes for the new year?

To continue to live a relatively peaceful life with no more upheaval and trauma and bad news. I'm dreaming, aren't I? Limited upheaval and bad news. Maybe we could let the trauma go entirely.

In one word: 2013 was...

Exhausting. I recognize the contradiction with calm. Somehow they both work.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Your heart is full of unwashed socks...

If I had to choose a favorite movie played at this time of year, I'd choose It's a Wonderful Life. The Dude would choose Love, Actually. Leo's doesn't care for TV, and Maggie didn't for years, but now I'm sure she would choose How the Grinch Stole Christmas. No Jim Carrey version; the animated one with Boris Karloff narrating is the one we prefer.

She's loved the book for years, but this is the first year that it occurred to me we could play her the cartoon. Without exaggeration, I can say she shrieked with laughter. She loved the whole thing, but it was Max, the dog, who captured her heart.


I was most taken with the lyrics to the songs. I mean, the insults in the famous You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch... are quite creative and surprisingly detailed (source).

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel,
You're as cuddly as a cactus, you're as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch,
You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel!

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch,
Your heart's an empty hole,
Your brain is full of spiders, you have garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch,
I wouldn't touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch,
You have termites in your smile,
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch,
Given a choice between the two of you I'd take the seasick crocodile!

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch,
You're the king of sinful sots,
Your heart's a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch,
You're a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!

With a nauseous super "naus"!,
You're a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss, Mr. Grinch,
Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful
assortment of rubbish imaginable mangled up in tangled up knots!

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch,
You're a nasty wasty skunk,
Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch,
The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote,
"Stink, stank, stunk"!

In my research into these lyrics, I discovered that it is not Boris Karloff singing. He couldn't sing. Instead it's Thurl Ravenscroft. Never heard of him? But you have! He's the voice of Tony the Tiger, who claimed of Frosted Flakes, "Theeeeeeeey're GREAT!" A little trivia to impress at parties.

The more I read back story here, the more I wondered about Ted Geisel, himself. He was indeed 53 when he wrote The Grinch (same as the Grinch), and he said he identified with the character. Which, of course, might just mean he was anti-consumerism rather than a full-out grinch. That stance would certainly jive with his beliefs about nuclear war (The Butter Battle Book) and environmentalism (The Lorax).

Other interesting Ted Geisel facts (courtesy of www.biography.com):

1. He attended Dartmouth and Oxford (though he did not finish his degree at Oxford). At Dartmouth, he got kicked off the magazine staff after he was found drinking in his dorm room with friends (Prohibition).

2. He worked in advertising before becoming a children's book author, and he made a nationally famous ad for Flit, an insecticide.

3. He wrote The Cat in the Hat in response to a challenge to write a children's primer using 220 vocabulary words.

4. He totally John Edwards-ed his wife (yes, she even had cancer at the time) with a family friend, and then his wife committed suicide. That one, I wish I didn't know.

I've read him described as somewhat curmudgeonly, but I bet I would be too if I were a famous children's book author. Oh, the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!

But, to cheer ourselves back up, here's a great conversation between Brian and Maggie while they were watching The Grinch one afternoon:

Brian: Who's the Grinch dressing up as?

Maggie: A pig!

Brian: A pig?

Maggie: Yes!

Brian: Huh. Let's watch.

Brian: Now look at the Grinch. Who is he dressed as?

Maggie: A pig!

Brian: OK, a pig it is.

What can I say? The girl has a lot of learn about pop culture.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Treats For Those You Appreciate and If You're Giving Teacher Gifts, I Need You to Read This!

A little clarification on that title: I appreciate everyone to whom I give a gift. The gift-receivers I'm thinking of here are teachers, neighbors, etc.

I taught for 14 years, and I received a pretty wide range of gifts at this time of year. I don't want to sound unappreciative, especially for those dollar store gifts that you know are all the family can afford, but come on, all a teacher really wants is a gift card (even $5 is a treat!) and a nice note. All those cutesy teacher gifts? Those are given by people who have never been teachers. Teachers are poor, and teachers are busy. What they want is a little help with their grocery bill or the luxury of buying their morning coffee at Starbucks.

And a nice card. Since we're always crafting anyway, we made teacher cards this year:

Maggie was sure a cake was an appropriate holiday card design. Oh, and we have discovered glitter glue.
But that's not necessary. Send your teacher some sign of genuine appreciation. A nice note will warm his/her heart. But maybe you don't have time or you don't really jive with the teacher this year. At least have your child sign his/her name. You have no idea how a tiny gesture like that can be meaningful. I've saved every single card from a student if it has his/her handwriting on it. If it said, "Thank you for teaching me," it probably moved me to tears. Those little touches matter!

And then baked goods. Maybe that's not all teachers, though. I'm not gonna preach that one. Here's the thing: I like to bake, but I don't like the baked goods sitting around my house. So I use teachers and neighbors (and the mailman!) as places to deposit those baked goods.

This year we made brownie cupcakes and peppermint marshmallows dipped in chocolate. I buy the festive liners and boxes during post-Christmas sales and stash them away until the next year.

Our neighbors got a sampling of the baked goods, too, and I tried out this card idea I found on Pinterest:

Those are supposed to be trees. Can you tell? I jumped when I found another use for old holiday cards, but I'm not sure how these turned out.

Now, off you go to buy those gift cards for your child's teachers! And don't forget the note!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

TToT5: The Flying Pig

Anyone who had read one week's worth of blog posts from me knows I like to make things. It provides the creative satisfaction I need to continue to feel like myself when mostly just taking care of two little ones. If I were to make a list of what I was most thankful for in my life right now, having time to be creative would rank just below the members of my family. Well, maybe a home and food to eat would squeeze in above it, too.

But I am not making that thankful list today. Today, I will be thankful for my poor, scarred flying pig.

Some projects, you can envision the process/outcome beautifully. Then there are some that get a little tricky, but you work them out. Then, there are some that end up being a great big old snafu. The fact that I have a complete pig instead of felt pieces in the trashcan is what I'm thankful for this week.

Since The Dude and I have been married, I have bought a new ornament for the Christmas tree every year. I always tried to buy something representative of what had happened that year or of where we were living. Fortunately, Asheville is such an arts community, handmade ornaments were easy to come by.

This year, in honor of our desire to pinch pennies, I decided to make one. What I had in mind was a pig because I find pigs to be cute and charming when artistically rendered. And I had all this leftover pink felt from Olivia's and Ian's ears.

Then, lo and behold, I get an email with this tutorial in my inbox! Commence inner monologue:

"Yay! I wonder if I could add wings to that?"

Reviews felt stash and cuts out pieces. Sews wings and stitches them to outside pig pieces.

"Easy, peasy so far. Adding wings was no big deal at all. I should totally take pictures as I go and then use this on my blog."

Begins rest of pig.

"Wait, these instructions don't make sense. There are no solid or dotted lines as written!"

Yes, Martha, your instructions for your little stuffed pig suck balls. There is a major part missing from from the pattern which means poor, amateur crafters like I have to just guess where to fold and stitch. Bad form, Martha.

"Hey, I think I worked it out! You rock, Sarah! I'm going to post a better tutorial than Martha's on my blog!"

Realizes she sewed the wrong sides together. Throws pig to floor in disgust and goes to bed.

OK, that's enough inner monologue. I gathered up my perseverance and tackled that pig again the next day only to discover after ripping out my stitches and trying again that I had genuinely sewed it wrong the second time. So I ripped out the stitches and tried a third time. That time worked. But then I discovered that is impossible to turn a small piece of stitched felt (like a tail or an ear) inside out. Impossible, like hours of trying impossible. So I just decided the rough edges could show on those pieces. I was going to finish this pig, dammit! Oh, and trying to stuff a pipe cleaner in a felt tube? Next to impossible. The rough wire end gets caught on the edges over and over. I began thinking the whole project was metaphorical. A flying pig that's impossible to make? Obviously.

But I finished. The pig and the ears are wrong side out, the end of the nose balloons out oddly, his legs look as if they can't support him, and the poor pig has scars all over his body from where I had to do additional finish stitching because you know what happens to felt when you tear out stitches over and over? The felt rips and tears. Stuffing would have been leaking out if I hadn't given my poor pig stitches.

Hmmm...wasn't this TToT?

1-3. Completing the pig surely counts for more than one.

4. Extra crafting supplies on hand. No purchase necessary.

5. Children who take good naps and go to bed early.

6. The ability to put hubris aside when it was clearly misplaced (no tutorial).

7. The ability to accept imperfection.

8. Sense of humor in adversity (this was adversity, people).

9. The ability to persevere.

10. Lizzi, who I hope will accept my whiny excuse for a TToT this week.

Your hosts

Thursday, December 12, 2013

FTSF7: O, Come for the Superficial...or Delicious

Last week I labeled my FTSF post as #4. Um...it turns out it was #6. So, this week is #7. People post some pretty solid, thought-provoking stuff on FTSF, but I'm just gonna go light (well, maybe not light) and superficial this week. But delicious.

My fat jeans were tight over Thanksgiving so I have made a concerted effort to cut back the last week or so. For me, that means cutting out the bread and dairy (not the alcohol, heaven forbid!). I haven't been perfect (my coffee needs milk), and I do love a bowl of Cheerios (yellow box, thankyouverymuch). We also just might have made muffins two days ago (actually, I haven't eaten one, but I think there might be one in my future). And I seem to be overindulging in parentheses.

I am also overindulging in dessert dreaming. Here are some of my daydreams:

Eggnog Florentines
Most of my favorite desserts are chocolate, but this one is definitely calling my name. Doesn't it sound delightful? And rather complex, and therefore, exciting to make. I have already sent the recipe to my mother, and it is on the agenda once we arrive.

Grasshopper Brownies

This is my idea of a nearly perfect dessert (the white chocolate in that filling is making me a little nervous). I have an extremely high tolerance for rich chocolate (please get that milk chocolate away from me), but high standards for what can be mixed in (fruit and nuts, gag me with a spoon!). Mint and coffee make the cut. I've made a similar dessert, and these looks tantalizing.

My very favorite cookie in the world is not one I have a photo of. It's a mocha cookie you pipe out with a cookie press and then dip in melted chocolate on the ends. It is the.best.thing.ever. Silly people sprinkle nuts on the melted chocolate; those who know better do not.

Finally, I know this will be waiting for me in my parents' freezer when we arrive, even if I didn't write a post about it that my father will read.

Are you from Texas? Ever lived in Texas? I only know of one person in the world who had had this ice cream and doesn't believe it is the best vanilla ice cream in the whole wide world. And she's crazy. "Blue Bell's the best ice cream in the country!"

How about you? Are you trying to keep the weight down until later this month, or are you already indulging?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pinecones with Subtle Bling and a Simple Pinecone Wreath

gold glitter pinecones
Add caption

I would not say that I typically go in for sparkles. I don't like tinsel on the tree. But there's so much glitter inspiration on Pinterest that I came around to the idea and thought it would be fun to dress up our pinecones with a little gold glitter paint. Just a little, mind you; I didn't want to go overboard. A little bling goes a long way, if you ask me.

I know you can buy pinecones at the craft store, but I was dead-set against spending money on something I could find for free. But I discovered that our neighborhood has very few pinecone-producing trees. I would keep my eyes peeled while on our walks and when driving and could not discover a decent pinecone collecting area. Then, I remembered our nature center. We had pretty good luck one afternoon, and I came home and immediately got them drying out in the oven, per Mary's instructions. Thank goodness I read her blog because I didn't even know this was an important step. But, drying them in a low heat oven for an hour or so helps kill any bugs, dry up the sap, and open up the pinecones. Plus, it make your house smell "beautul" as Maggie pronounced when she arrived home from school.

I really hit the pinecone jackpot when we traveled south for Thanksgiving, though. The good old piney woods. At one cousin's house, we collected a bag of enormous ones without straying more than a few feet from our car. They got the same oven treatment when we made it home again, but I noticed the big ones didn't need to stay in as long.

I bought this paint a few weeks before in preparation for this activity. I really didn't know quite what to get, and I see now that many people use spray paint. But, I'll say this, you can control the coverage better with this stuff and a brush, and it's great for preschooler use. Judging by the smell, it's less paint and more glue and fine gold glitter.

gold glitter pinecones

Maggie had a ball with this project, painting heavily here and lightly there. It ends up looking pretty no matter what your technique. I concentrated mainly on the ends, and I love how they turned out. It may sound like labor-intensive process, but since you just slap the paint on, it took me only about 45 minutes to paint 50 or so pinecones (with a little help). Pretty much finished 'em up while the kids ate lunch.

gold glitter pinecone

At first, I just scattered the pinecones about in vases, bowls, etc.

gold glitter pinecones

We made a little forest for our reindeer and added them to the manger scene, overlooked by a hornbill.

gold glitter pinecones

gold glitter pinecones

But I wanted to make someone really special so I tried this pinecone wreath idea of stringing them on a wire hanger.

simple pinecone wreath with wire hanger

Here's what you would need to do it yourself:
A bunch of pinecones, a variety of sizes is best (I used 35)
Thin wire (I used picture-hanging wire)
Drill with small bit (I used 5/64")
Hot glue
Wire hanger

First, you drill a small hole in the bottom of each pinecone. This works surprising well and is surprisingly easy. Seriously, don't be intimidated!

simple pinecone wreath with wire hanger

Cut a small piece of wire and twist the ends together, leaving a small loop open at the end. I varied the lengths of wire used so that the loop reached just slightly beyond the bottom of the pinecone to make it easy to string on the hanger.

simple pinecone wreath with wire hanger
My hand is not really green. I have much to learn about picture editing.

Put a dab of hot glue on the hole, insert the twisted ends of tire and let dry. This is a great starting place for a ton of pinecone ideas like garlands, etc. It makes it really easy to reuse your pinecones in different arrangements, too. I'll be able to use these pinecones for years.

simple pinecone wreath with wire hanger

While they dry, arrange your wire hanger into a circle. Then slide the pine cones on. I found using two or three smaller ones between each large one made a nice design. Then, I used a bit more hot glue to stick neighboring pinecones together once I had the arrangement I liked. I did this all in front of the TV, and it took no more than a few hours.

Here's how the back of the wreath looks:
simple pinecone wreath with wire hanger

Cheap and easy holiday decor!

simple pinecone wreath with wire hanger

Sunday, December 8, 2013

TToT4: Annual Review and The Holiday Season

It's time to get get thankful and turn my frown upside down. Why? Because we had an annual review for my daughter this week. I know I am not original in hating these meetings. When I was a special educator and didn't have children, I had no concept of how anxiety-producing these meetings could be.

Maggie's a likeable student and is making progress, but no teacher will ever advocate for a student the way a parent can. And I hate confrontation. So once or twice I year, I have to gird up my confidence and get ready to say, "I would be more comfortable if...," or "I am concerned this amount of time is not enough," or "I think a goal covering X would be appropriate."

I hate every second of it. Partly because I know what it feels like to be on the other side of the table. I know how many conflicting messages are given to teachers regarding IEPs, and I know how little time they have. Plus, if I am going to be completely honest, I don't want to raise a fuss because I just want people to like me. But, of course, making sure my daughter receives the services she needs trumps all of that.

1. After that rant, I will say the meeting went pretty well. We may have gotten a bit bogged down in one area and had to exchange a few emails afterwards to follow up on some issues, but I think the team churned out a pretty good document.

2. And, as I said before, her teachers seem to really like her. If you're gonna have special needs, try to have a good personality so your teachers like working with you. From my experience, there are the students you really love and the students with whom you do your duty. I hope Maggie will always be on the "love" list.

OK, that's the best I can do on annual reviews.

So, onto the holiday season that is so much more exciting.

3. It's snowing! The day we decorated the Christmas tree, it snowed! So perfect!

4. Obviously, the tree.

5. Every year, I forget how busy this time is. How is it that even your regular duties that are not related to the holidays, get heavier? But, like Stephanie, I really do love the hustle and bustle. At an early age, I realized that the anticipation of Christmas is as much fun or even more fun than the actual day. The shopping, the decorating, the baking, the post office runs, I really love it all because it all builds the anticipation of the day. Yesterday, I ran to Trader Joe's for some groceries, and the store was a zoo. Why are all Trader Joe's so small anyway? But, everyone I met and nearly ran into was smiling and cheerful. Someone complimented my coat, and I had a nice conversation with the check-out guy. Plus, I was there all alone, and is there anything better than running errands sans kids?

6. I had a coupon to Sephora and needed mascara anyway, but I ended up with a new tube of lipstick as well. I reveled in the freedom of shopping alone and the joy of a new luxury. I let the saleslady have her way with me and enjoyed every second of it.

7. I have finished addressing nearly all of our holiday cards.

8. I thought my kids would get a kick out of taking a walk in the snow, so we took the cards to the big mailbox in our neighborhood. Let me tell you, it was the worst idea I ever had. My children thought the snow was torture. They screamed the entire walk home. I mean, people opened their doors to see what was going on out in the street. How is this #8, you ask? I took their behavior as a clear indication it was naptime.

9. Holiday bakiing has begun with brownie cupcakes. No more need be said about that.

10. My in-laws had a belated Hanukkah celebration last night, and afterwards, The Dude and I left them there and went and saw Catching Fire. It was intense and exciting, and I thought Jennifer Lawrence was excellent.

One extra because I can't help it:

11.  Maggie is singing in the background as I type this.
"M is for princess, mmm, mmm, princess;
"U is for zebra, uh, uh, zebra."
So glad we have a goal about recognizing initial sounds in words.

 Your hosts

Friday, December 6, 2013

Let's Liebster it Up!

Lisa and The Meaning of Me was oh, so generous and encouraging to nominate me for a Liebster award. In case you don't know, liebster means "boyfriend, sweetheart, darling, or beloved." Not sure which Lisa meant for me. Boyfriend, probably.

I actually had an inkling as to what liebster meant because my high school history teacher and Academic Decathlon coach had a dog named Liebchen. The Academic Decathlon team met at her house in the evenings, and this award conjures up memories of cookies and the Camp David Accords.

But this assignment has been a challenge for me. Which eleven facts and answers reveal just enough about me? What are my most interesting traits? Not sure I nailed it, but I tried. "'Course you always try."

So, first of all, eleven facts:

1. My favorite people in the world are members of my family. I have good friends, but not one I'd choose to spend time with over a parent, sibling, nephew/niece, aunt, uncle, or cousin. Sorry, friends.

2. Speaking of family, I am distantly related to both Buffalo Bill Cody and a poor, young soldier in the Alamo who traveled from TN with Davy Crockett. Rebellion runs in my veins. Though, in me, it is a quiet rebellion.

3. One of my favorite family traditions is with the Italian side of my family. Aunts, uncles, and cousins all participate in ravioli (rav) making. Some make dough, some roll dough, some make balls of filling (the filling is made in advance), some place the balls within the pasta, and some seal the edges. The lowliest worker stabs each completed rav with a needle.

4. I would choose to be cold rather than wear a coat. I hate layers. I only give in when it's really cold or if I'll have to be outside for awhile.

5. I have moderate scoliosis. I wore a pink back brace at night that bent my spine the opposite directions of its curves when I was a teenager. The scoliosis never gave me any pain until I got pregnant.

6. I gave birth to both my babies at home in my bed (on purpose with a midwife). No meds, no nothing. I'm fortunate to have inherited short labor genes (six and four hours) from my mama and to have had relatively small babies.

7. My brother, sister, and I once invented a card game somewhere in Italy. It is named Boechlin, for reasons to complicated to explain, and several game plays are named after characters from our childhoods.

8. I can quote quite a few poems from memory, most from A Child's Garden of Verses. When I was a teenager (sleeping in my back brace), my father would wake me up in the mornings by choosing one of the poems from the Little Golden Book on my bedside table and reading (or reciting--I got this memorization thing from him) all of the poem but the last line or couplet. I couldn't stand to leave it unfinished so I would murmur out the final line(s) into my pillow. It doesn't get any cooler than that for a teenager.

9. I once used the bathroom with Lucinda Williams, who is also one of my favorite musicians. I still think "Car Wheels" is her best album, though the Dude disagrees.

10. I have truly unattractive feet. I managed to inherit the worst traits of my parents' feet. My toenails curve up to grow perpendicular from my feet (mother), and I have large bunions (father). At one point in my life, I toyed with the idea that since they were so ugly, I shouldn't wear sandals. No go, though. I don't much care for shoes, and I go barefoot whenever I can possibly get away with it (and maybe when I shouldn't).

A pedicure would help.

I read a book this fall in which the narrator described another character's toenails as "too friendly" because they pointed up. I like that. I have excessively friendly toenails.

11. Laura Ingalls, Anne Shirley, and Jo March were hugely important in my childhood. Then in high school I came across Elizabeth Bennett. It wasn't until many, many years later that I realized what feminists those ladies were. They all chafed under the restrictions placed on their gender in their times and pushed the boundaries when they could. Considering #8 below, which I actually answered before writing this, I'd say they had a profound effect on my personality.

And, secondly, Lisa's questions:

1. If you had to choose, would you rather give up your sense of sight or your sense of hearing?


Get it?

But, yes, I would give up my hearing. My sight as always been excellent, and my hearing is already going at the ripe old age of 37, so I might as well stick with the trend.

2. What is your favorite time of day? Why?

Whatever time I crawl into my bed and to fall asleep. No explanation necessary.

3. What is your favorite article of clothing?

I love to dress up for short periods of time. A dress, heels, the whole shebang. But I think my favorite clothes are my pajamas. They vary during the year and are either warm and cozy or light and cool. They are never constricting. Plus, if I'm wearing my pajamas, bedtime is surely near.

4. What household chore would you rather not do ever again?

What I really want to write here is pumping gas, but I'm not sure it fits as a household chore. For the record, though, I detest doing so, mainly because it always interferes with my plan. I don't like my plan interfered with.

If pumping gas doesn't work, my least favorite task involves shlepping something outside like trash, recycling, or compost. I hate those trips out of the house that always seem to happen in the dark or wet or when I really need to be doing something else (hmmm...trend?). Fortunately, my husband does these tasks 99.9% of the time, so I am getting my wish.

5. Who is your hero? Why?

Golly, this is a hard one. I have to have only one? I'll do a collective: my female ancestors.

From what I know of their lives (I know at least basic details four-five generations back), they faced amazing adversity and still most managed to lead long, happy lives. Some stayed put most, but many moved far from their families of origin, as pioneers, immigrants, or for another reason. They suffered through civil war, economic depression, harsh winters, ill health, in-laws, and difficult moves. Not all, but most were well-educated. Even one of my great-grandmothers had a college degree and every one has had at least one college degree since. Their strength, intelligence, and love are traits I hope to pass on to my daughter. To keep their memories close, I wear their names (three generations back) as talismans around my neck.

6. How do you like your steak cooked?

Medium rare. Bloody to feed my blood, the way Cher would cook it.

7. Describe the worst/weirdest haircut you've ever had.

I don't think I've had many bad haircuts. I do look back to ones in elementary school and the big bangs of high school with a bit of a shiver, but I was stylish (or attempting to be) at the time.

There was  a period of time in middle school, though, when I took to trimming my own bangs. I would get them to the right length, but they'd be just a little uneven so I'd trim the long side. Then, they'd be a little too short on that side, so I'd trim the other...

I had really short bangs for awhile.

8. What would you like to be known for?

Geez. A person who was herself and no one else. Manners but no pretense.

9. Dog person or cat person?

OK, I'm about to horrify some people. The answer is 'neither.' I don't like animals; honestly, I can't understand what appeal they hold that makes up for their mess and smell and all the extra work that comes along with them. I like people, though. At a distance.

10. Which is better - the book or the movie?

Always, always, always, the book. Always. I'm a snob that way.

One exception, sort of: Horseman, Pass By and HUD. The movie is very different from the book. It's distinct enough that I think of them as different stories...with the same characters and similar plot. If you haven't read and see them, do so; you'll enjoy the and see what I mean, Plus, Patricia Neal is magnificent in HUD.

11. Hmmm...Lisa only published ten questions.

This Liebster award has been making the rounds in the blog circles I read so I'm afraid I'm hard-pressed to come up with eleven awardees who also have fewer than 200 followers. I've decided to just let the thing die here. If you really want to participate, though, let me know, and I'll send you eleven questions.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

FTSF6: Christmas Ornaments

I believe I've mentioned before how much I loved decorating for the season when I was a child. Then, I got busy working and parenting and kind of lost my energy for it. Then, I became a SAHM and rediscovered the fun.

I've been putting up Christmas decorations in brief bits of time this week (it's been a pretty crazy week around here), but we haven't got the tree up yet. This is not OK in my book. I agree you should wait until after Thanksgiving, but I want the tree up the day after. Of all stupid things, the Christmas tree lot near our house doesn't open until tomorrow. So I've spent the week grumbling under my breath about how people in Maryland don't understand how things work.

Anyhow, favorite childhood memory encompasses a lot, but since it's Christmas tree season, I'm going with decorating the tree.

First, set the mood: one decorates the Christmas tree with The Nutcracker playing in the background. That's the way it's supposed to be done, folks. Link here in case you'd like to listen to it now.

Then, the most spatially adept person puts on the lights. Sadly, in my family, that's me. But, growing up, it was my dad.

Then, the fun. In my family, you dashed for you favorite ornaments and made sure to hang them as prominently as possible. The plastic white stag, the shiny red Santa, the ancient green elf, the flimsy paper baby carriage, the 2nd grade picture of my brother in red and green yarn frame I made? These achieved places of honor at the top front of the tree. Rather than being valued for freshness or beauty, they were beloved because they were old and ugly and someone sometime suggested that
they be pitched.

No. Way.

To punish that person for suggesting such an atrocity, those ornaments would hang front and center for everyone to see.

Clearly, we didn't go in for themed, trendy tree decor. Unless the theme was old family favorites.

But in addition to those favorites, there were the felt Disney characters my grandmother made, the wooden ones my parents painted their first Christmas together, the unbelievable multitude of
engraved brass ornaments my great aunt sent each of us every Christmas and countless,  and countless, countless others. They never all make it on to the tree.

If you planned in advance, which I often forgot to do, you took a really good ornament and hung it on the tree in a kind of hidden area to prepare for the post-decorating game.

Because when it was all done, it was time to play the find-the-ornament game.
"Who can find the hippo with the tennis racket?"

"How about the dog in the blue overalls?"
If you were clever enough to have placed some of your ornaments carefully, you could really challenge your family members. And in my family of origin, challenging the other members is always a goal.
Not to hard to spot that photo of my brother, but how about the white stag, the baby carriage, the shiny red Santa, or the dog in blue overalls?

Last Thanksgiving, we were visiting my parents at their home. Since we didn't have a home of our own at that time, my mother suggested we help decorate the tree at their house. It made me teary to see all those old ornaments and remember all those fun times. I took the pictures in this post and sent them to my siblings with the caption, "Old friends."

But the most fun was this:

Linking up with the FTSF ladies, Janine, Kristi, Stephanie and Kate.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Eight-Pocket Hanukkah Banner for the Kiddies

It would take some effort and might not be even possible for me to be prouder of this Hanukkah banner. I wanted something interactive with pockets that could be made cheaply. All told, I think this banner set me back about $15 in felt and fusible web. Therefore, it will still be labeled with my "Frugal Decorating" label, but I will admit, there's nothing frugal when it came to the time and energy this thing took.

eight-pocket hanukkah banner

I've mentioned on this blog before that we celebrate Jewish and Christian holidays around our house. Aside from the retro Advent calendar (or four), I really must make for Christmas 2014, we've got lots of Christmas stuff. But, beyond the several menorahs (I don't know quite how they accumulate), we don't have much for Hanukkah. Enter late-night Pinterest browsing.

After Pinteresting for a month or so, I decided my favorite banner I'd seen was one made my Land of Nod in some year past. Using that one for inspiration and this blogger's applique tutorial, more or less, I got...

Seriously, does it get any cuter?!?! Even considering the fact that the large Star of David pocket is oh, so slightly tilted?

The main panel and each pocket are double-sided with fusible web in between. I managed to construct it all from six 9x11 sheets of colored felt in greens and blues (and one yellow) and one large 1/2 yard piece of felt from the roll (72"). The ribbons and thread I had on hand. After years of collecting crafting supplies that I never used because I didn't have time, these stashes are paying off!

eight-pocket hanukkah banner

The candles are designed to be pulled out of their pockets the night they are lit. But the pockets can also hold a small treat of some kind...like gelt. The chocolate only indiscriminate children will eat.

Poor Hanukkah got a bit of the shaft this year while we did our Thanksgiving traveling for most of it, but the banner did get some action at the end of the holiday. 

eight-pocket hanukkah banner