Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Tree Is Up With 34 Years of "Stuff"!

Here it is!

I always love my tree.  After 34 years of putting everything possible on it, it's hard to find places for stuff.  And, I do mean everything.    In addition to the homemade ornaments, the store-bought ones, and the gifted trinkets, we have the cheap plastic giveaways from all kinds of companies including Ponderosa Steak House, Life Savers, the Energizer Bunny, M & M's, and last year's coke bottles shaped like ornaments.

Any little colorful treasure that made its way into the house at Christmas time including fast food restaurant giveaways got a ribbon on it and was slapped up on the tree.  Small toys that had been outgrown during the year are there and even a rubber chicken.   All the outgrown dolls and stuffed animals ended up in the Christmas boxes and grew to the point of not needing a tree skirt.  You couldn't see it under all the stuffed animals anyway.

Taking a picture of any portion of the tree will turn up a strange collection like this.  The handmade thing with a hat has a smiley face on one side and a frowning one on the other.  Who could resist that at a craft fair?  The blue at the top is one of those clear glass balls with acrylic paint rolled around inside.  I absolutely have to do those every year.  The Chinese doll is something my sister brought back from Chinatown at least 20 years ago.  I couldn't figure out what to do with it, so it went on the tree.  Peeking out from the side is the crafty little box sewn together using yarn with a pompom bear inside.  Those were popular about 20 years ago.  My oldest son made the sled in school.  Notice the very Christmasy colors of black and white.  You will see that this inability to get that Christmas things might be in Christmas colors is something that none of my kids ever understood.

Before we home schooled, my kids would buy things at a little fair the elementary school set up.  Students had a special day to buy items at special prices as gifts.  Here are a few of the things my kids brought home.

Yes, those are the traditional orange, blue, and yellows that we all put on the tree, right?  How about this one.
He paid for this!  Frankly, I was used to strange things coming from these craft fairs by the time these two trinkets were proudly carried into the house.  My daughter started the tradition of strange things with this item:
Who sells this stuff to unsuspecting children?  I've had this for over 25 years now, and I still laugh until I cry looking at it.  I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face.  You know the worst part?  She liked it so much she bought two of them.  Yes, for 25 years I've had two of these 7 to 8 inches long and about 4 inches wide dangling from my tree.

By far the most bizarre item has to be this one. 
It is some kind of imitation stained glass on plastic glued on a sawed off cardboard oatmeal container.  Believe it or not this side looks better than the other.  I have no idea who made this stuff or why the school foisted them off on my kids. I know these were not made by students at the school.  The idea that no more would get into the house may have been in the back of my mind when I decided we'd home school.

My kids contributed their share of strange things, too. This "ornament" is about 5 by 8 inches.

Kyle gave me this for Christmas.  The F K had me momentarily stunned, but it turned out to be, "To Mommy from Kyle."

Fortunately, it's a big tree and crowded to the point that it is hard to take in all the individual oddities without working at it.  I'll bet you didn't even notice the rubber chicken.  Oh, yes.  It's on there. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

2011 Owl Calendar Freebie From My Owl Barn

Want to create your own calendar using incredible artwork of owls from 30 talented artists FREE?  Go to http://www.myowlbarn.com/p/owl-lover-2011-calendar.html?r=f

It is so easy to do!  The hardest part is deciding which of the pictures to choose for each month.

The pictures are even more impressive when you see them in the final pdf.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Introducing a Young One to Harry Potter this Christmas With Chica and Jo's Help

Ever since I saw the butterbeer recipe on Chica and Jo's blog, I've been planning this basket.  Being kind and generous, Chica and Jo made a recipe card that can be downloaded free.  They even offered very reasonably priced stencils at their online store so that I could copy their etched butterbeer mugs.  It's so nice to have someone else imagine great things for me ;-})

I thought that the first Harry Potter book, a copy of the recipe which soon became two recipes when they created a hot version, some butterbeer mugs, and a few other Harry-inspired items in a basket would be a great way to introduce a special young one to Harry this Christmas.

So here it is.  Yeah, it needs a few more things, but it's a good start. 

In back of the book, is the black Hogwart's robe from a simple pattern found here.  Wrapped around is a polar fleece scarf in Gryffindor's scarlet and gold colors.  This is just rectangles of polar fleece, twice as wide as long, sewn together.  Then the strip is folded in half lengthwise to get the square blocks of color.  The edges are sewn all around leaving a spot large enough to turn it right-side out.  Last, that opening is sewn closed. 

My mugs--actually very large cups--were too rounded to use the full stencil. I HATED losing the lovely decorative edging, but they look really great with just the lettering.  This picture doesn't do them justice.  I love the font Chica and Jo used. 

In back of the mugs, you can see the recipe card Chica and Jo made.  I printed both recipes on nice heavy card stock and used double sided tape to put them back-to-back.  Laminating them would be even better.  They'd make a great bookmark!

Last is the wand.  It's just an old long-handled paint brush.  I took the brush part off, sanded it, painted it black, and covered that with gold glitter paint.    Yes, I know there were no glittery wands in Harry Potter.  I think Hermione and Ginny would have wanted them, though.

I need to find some Harry Potter candy to finish this off.  It's not even Thanksgiving and one Christmas gift is done!   We just won't think about the fact that I'm still working on the Thanksgiving tablecloth and napkins.  Well, maybe it will be the Christmas tablecloth with napkins.

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Early Winter Wonderland

Nature must have decided to make up for the completely dark sky we have at five o'clock this time of year by dropping lots of crisp, wet, white snow to reflect the outside lighting needed to see when I left work.  I'm not a big fan of cold, snowy, icy, winter weather, but I must admit the first snow is always a nice--just the first one, though.

It even made the left over pumpkin look good (albeit a bit lonely).

To Elke in lovely Florida:  Do you guys even HAVE shovels down there? 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Messy, Messy House

Is anyone else suffering from Halloween overload.  I love my creative blogs, but pre-holiday posts can drive me away for a while.  I have been busy, though.  In an effort to fix up the house, I have created a very messy house!

The bathroom remodel continues.  I am taping and mudding the new walls while Brian finishes up the plumbing.  I am also fixing the stairwell wall while I have all the paraphernalia out.  I tried to get away with NOT repairing the wallboards on the stairs that had begun to bulge at the joint over the years.  The new paint job actually emphasized it.  Every time I walked downstairs, it was there grabbing my attention, demanding to be FIXED.

Am I good at mudding?  NO.  I always end up having to sand a ton.  I feel totally inadequate every step of the way.  I'd hire someone in a heartbeat, but the price for that around here is just too much.  In the end, however, I am always freaking amazed that I can pull it off.  It's frustrating and messy, but the end product is always more than adequate.

I'm also still in the process of moving the sewing room.  Aside from the closet, it is one messy room.  I'm sharing space with the new bathroom vanity and granite top along with the various tools for the bathroom remodel for now.  One job has to wait for the other. 

I'm ALSO recovering some sofa cushions to use as floor cushions.  There is a good reason for doing this with all these other projects going on.  They are a big part of the new sewing room mess.  I thought it would be a quick and easy job.  I've done it sooo many times now!  I cut apart one of the original cushion covers and use it as a pattern.  This way I can reuse the zipper, too.  BUT the manufacturers did something I've never seen before on this set.  They didn't cut a separate piece of material for the edge piping.  The piping was sewn into the side panel.  What seemed like a great idea that would make things easier, has turned out to be a real pain!  It is really difficult to make those corners turn for one thing. 

All this is snowballing into one big mess.  I may not be the cleanest housekeeper, but I have always prided myself in having a neat house.  "A place for everything, and everything in it's place" is the motto.  It fools people into thinking that the house is a lot cleaner than it is.  NOW, I have the master bathroom and bedroom, the stairwell, and another bedroom looking like disaster areas while housework falls behind in the rest of the house.  I've decided to tell people it is all part of the holiday decor.  It really is scary.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stashing the fabric without spending a fortune

As part of the "Use Your Crap Challenge," I needed to be able to see what crap I needed to use.    I cannot show you how the stash looked to begin with because it would take too many pictures--it was all over.  (Not to mention that I would die of shame if I posted pictures of the mess.).  Now, I can show it off!

 and this:
Lessons learned from past attempts are that you HAVE to have dividers or the stacks will fall over as you rummage through.  You also cannot stack things too high.  It makes it sooo difficult to get at the stuff on the bottom.

Taking out the wire closet organizer was not an option--too expensive to replace it right now.  Fabric or plastic cubes would have been nice, but at $5 a pop at the very least, that was not happening.  Instead, I folded large pieces of fabric over hangers, used corrugated storage boxes small enough to fit  between the shelving to hold fabric and serve as dividers, put in a hanging cloth piece meant to hold sweaters, and used plastic containers on the floor. 

Yes, I know the cardboard storage boxes are not acid free. I'm planning on that being encouragement to succeed at the goal of USING the fabric rather than just looking at it.

Let the sewing begin in earnest.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stitch magazine should be named "Stitch: The Expensive Sewing Magazine"

I was in Borders Bookstore yesterday at lunch time.  I thought I'd get a small latte and a magazine.  I buy an occasional  latte and sometimes a magazine that seems to have a few appealing ideas when I thumb through it. 

There were only two general sewing magazines there.  I already had the issue of "Threads," so I grabbed "Stitch."  I didn't find anything particularly appealing to me thumbing through, but there was nothing else.  When the total came to over $18,  I was in shock.  I think the cashier recognized buyer's remorse when I listed backward with eyes wide muttering a long, "wow."  She offered to take it off, but I figured there is nothing like being ripped off once to learn the lesson about checking prices before reaching the cashier.  I really wanted something to read, too.  Stitch has a list price of $14.99--not $15, $14.99. 

The magazine is very nicely made.  It's eye candy.  It is on the upper level of sewing magazines.  I'd call it a hip version of Sew Beautiful.  It has two ideas that I might use--I counted.  They're things I've seen before, with a slight change.  I will use none of the patterns included in the magazine.  Most patterns require going online and downloading as a PDF.  I expect that a magazine will show some old ideas with new fabrics or a bit of a twist. Frankly, there is very little in Stitch that I haven't seen on the internet for free. 

I don't expect to pay $14.99 for any magazine.  I won't be again.  I could have gotten the book I blogged about yesterday, "The Feisty Stitcher" for less,  not been bombarded with advertising, had a better quality paper product that would hold up over time, and used most of the ideas included.  If all those ads couldn't bring the price down, maybe they should consider a smaller magazine.  How about leaving out the stuff that some one has already put on the internet free?

There was an ad that offered a sweepstakes entry.  I thought I'd enter in order to have a chance of making this magazine pay off.  As it turned out I would  have to drive across the state, buy a book  with a list price of $29.99, and, then, the  participating store would give me an entry form.  In fairness further down the page from the "go to a participating store, buy the book, and get an entry" information, there was a small note saying no purchase was necessary. They lost me at the 12-hour trip anyway.

Expensive lessons learned:  check prices, check prices, check prices, don't bite the bullet, return the overpriced item immediately so you don't end up blogging about what an idiot you've been.