Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hello and Happy Christmas to you!

While this is a most joyous and celebratory time of year, I must confess that I've not had joyous and celebratory words to share for the past few weeks. Yes, it's Christmas, and that in itself is a gift and a blessing for which I'm eternally grateful. We have spent time with important family and that's been pretty cool, too.

With the recent events in the news of late...Sandyhook families and our more local firefighter tragedy, it has been hard to put together words that meant much of anything...especially as it relates to making stuff and sharing gifts and baking goodies and my fashion of the moment. I'm sure I'm not the only one that has had a sort of glum skimming over the top of what is other wise such a joyful time.

JR was away for a few weeks before Christmas. I certainly kept busy during that and wrapping, and finishing those dang nightgown sets! We celebrated Henry's One Year birthday...

 And, while JR was away, I was robbed of packages that were delivered to my porch. Well, that gave me a whole new level of freak out and I wasn't much in the mood to share an awful lot about what was going on in my home and life. Well, all that got resolved, but it still left me with a sense of violation? Unease? I'm not quite sure how to describe it.  More than anything I wanted to rejoin my husband in Chicago while at the same time, more than anything I wanted to protect our home. I hated to leave it unattended! But with good neighbors and family, I was somewhat settled to get on that plane and GO.

The day of departure, flights were cancelled, but I was able to re-book and get on one of the last planes to leave Buffalo for Chicago. And that was  after I started my morning by rescuing a hawk from my porch in my pajamas!

That's right...a hawk rescue.  His flight plan was disrupted when he flew straight through our porch and into the glass window wind break at the opposite end. With my bare hands, I was able to corner him, gently subdue his wings and carry him to the open side of the porch and watch him fly off. It was pretty cool.

When I arrived in Chicago, we pretty much stayed put at Amelia's house since the weather took a windy shift. But it was relaxing and enjoyable to spend that time watching Christmas movies and playing with Jameson. I did a little exploration of my favorite shops in Glenn Ellyn, though and started a collection of my new obsession:
Glitter Houses!

From there, we drove to Grand Rapids and touched base with our Michigan family, where we crashed for the night before driving back to WNY on Christmas Eve morning.

We got home that evening just in time to unload the truck and head to Meghan's house to share the rest of the night with my kids and all the grandbabies...except for Ben, who is away at work this Christmas. We'll be having another family event next week when he's home for a few days.

Christmas day found JR and I home, settled in to a day of doing nothing. We didn't have groceries in the house since we had just gotten in the night before. So, with three eggs, a few cooked potatoes and sausage from the freezer, I made up a delicious Christmas scramble plate and homemade buttermilk biscuits (Thank you Pioneer Woman!)  using powdered buttermilk from the panty. They were about the best batch of biscuits I've ever made!

We ate dinner at Denny's with the other Christmas Dinner rejects!  But all in all, it was so very good to be home at last, sleeping in the same bed...our own bed, and contemplating the many blessings that we enjoy each day. It is truly Chrismas each day in our lives when I think of it. Our family, each other, health, the comfort of home, warmth and provision. Given the state of many families this year, I'd say that's a pretty good way to think about our circumstances.

So, this week, I'm already looking forward once again to Friday since I've had to be very concentrated and focused to get a week's worth of stuff done in three days....the deadlines didn't adjust for Christmas and New Year's!

So there's my holiday story... Merry Christmas, my friends.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ten on Tuesday on Wednesday...Cookies

Ten Best Christmas Cookies

You know that when it comes to Christmas Cookies, just like with Thanksgiving Dinner, you don't mess with tradition. There are those recipes that get made year after year and if you don't make the sugar cookies, your husband can pretty much have the option of disowning you.

Every few years, we try something new and it sticks. In addition to the holiday faves, and over thirty plus years of cookie baking, this is my go to list:

1. Gold Medal Sugar Cookies
2. Chocolate Crackle Cookies

3. Ina Garten's Jam Thumbprints
4. Ina Garten's Pecan Squares
(note: several years ago, before Ina was on television, I bought one of her cookbooks. Then I bought the next one. And the next.)

5. Molasses Crinkles  (these are the ones that Santa really likes with a glass of milk)
6. Those little peanut butter cookies made in mini muffin pans with a mini peanut butter cup in the middle of them....which you must eat as soon as the pb cups are put in place and are melted just right...while still warm.
7. Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
8. Raspberry shortbread bars with white chocolate chips that Meghan makes.
9.. My mother's Cucidati, which are the best I've ever eaten...and she's not even Italian!

10. Jingles with coffee

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I've never met a cinnamon bun that didn't make me happy

 JR left for Chicago this weekend to do some work for our Chicago kids. I am going to fly to Chicago the weekend before Christmas to meet up with JR and then do a marathon of Christmas from Chicago to Grand Rapids and finally home on Christmas Eve to hang with my kids.
It’s a good opportunity. I’m happy that he gets to spend that time with them, too. However it is a tragedy that our new tradition of JR making coffee and warming the weekend cinnamon buns then waking me up so we can eat them in the living room will not be happening. Trust me, nothing says love like a hot cup of coffee and a warm cinnamon bun served up by an adorable husband.

So, now I have to figure out how I’m going to spend my evenings with him being away at this “Most Wonderful Time of The Year.” I need a plan so that I don’t over-indulge in Cheetos or eat homemade Cinnamon Buns for dinner every night.

My girls here have graciously accepted my invitation for me to spend the night at their houses on a few nights…baking, watching Christmas movies with the kids, maybe eating homemade Cinnamon Buns. Baby Henry will celebrate his one year birthday, too. I will indulge in a few school Christmas concerts.

Five more sets of nighties for girls and dolls are on my list.

I would love to sew myself a new pair of pajamas. I’ve been wearing the same flannel pajama set printed with dogs and dog biscuits for years. I love them so much. But maybe It would be fun to find some cute flannel printed with Cinnamon Buns…or at the very least, donuts.

Actually, speaking of Cinnamon Buns, I do need to bake up several batches to share with the neighbors and work pals.

Want to know some of my very favorite Cinnamon Bun recipes?

The Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Buns with Maple Icing  You've got to trust me here. Your neighbors will offer to do all sorts of favors for you if you deliver these to their doors. I love this recipe. It's easy and fast and makes up a big old batch to share.

Cooks Country Ultimate Cinnamon Buns  Okay, it only makes eight. Eight of the plumpest pillowy brioche dough baked into giant love filled buns and topped with an enormous amount of cream cheese icing cinnamon buns that you will ever eat. This recipe is in the December/January 2009 "Cooks Country Magazine". And it's been in a few other of the Cooks Illustrated or American Test Kitchen Publications as well. You can also find the recipe on various blogs. I will not share my Ultimate Cinnamon Bun with anyone....I eat the whole thing by myself.


Neoma's Sweet Rolls. This is a recipe my mom has been making for years. And to be honest with you, I think that because it's what I remember, and what I know, they are my favorites. I made them for the fist time last winter. The dough is sweet. And they're best when, according to my mother, you "just put lots of butter and cinnamon on them before you roll them up. Oh, I don't know how much...alot. I always add raisins, too, because I like raisins."

Assorted members of my family would tell you that we secretly hope that my mom will make a batch of these and just drop them off at our house on a Saturday morning. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ten on Christmas music and a little something I made

 Oh! It's Christmas Time and my Ipod is ready and loaded!  I couldn't resist today's Ten on Tuesday for the Best Christmas Music EVER! Brought to us by our good friend Carol, at Carol Knits.

1. "Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters"
2. Jewel: "Joy, A Holiday Collection"
3. Mary Stahl: "Mary Christmas"
4. Vince Guaraldi: "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
5. "Christmas Time with the Judds"
6. Ray Charles: "The Spirit of Christmas"
7. Amy Grant: "A Christmas Album"
8. Harry Connick, Jr.: "When my Heart Finds Christmas"
9. "James Taylor At Christmas"
10. Brooklyn Tabernacle: "Christmas at the Brooklyn Tabernacle"

So there you have it.
Last night, I made a wreath. For years I've wanted to do an ornament wreath like the ones by Georgia Peachez.
Then I found a tutorial posted on RetroRenovation blog, which details the technique that Suzy uses to make her fabulous ornament wreaths.

I have a massive collection of ornaments that I've gathered for the past twenty years. So I picked out some that I was willing to engage in hot glue and I made this:

It makes me smile.

Monday, December 3, 2012

red (read) all over...

One of my favorite blogs to read is Handmade by Carolyn…not only  because she makes really, really cool stuff, but because she has the most interesting outlook on life in general, and is always good for a chuckle or two. In recent posts, Carolyn has shared her thoughts on language translation..the good, the bad, the ugly and the humorous as it relates to writing and reading blogs.  In the most recent post on the subject, Carolyn opened up the dreaded spam comment box and gave us all a good laugh at the expense of those foreign spam translations.
I’ve gotta say, while I don’t get the novellas which to which Carolyn has been treated, I do get my share of vic*d*n, vi*g*ra and weight loss spams…which I try not to take too personally.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.
Carolyn bestowed upon me a “lovely blogger award” which has been  round about in many different forms and fashions over the years, but is no less capable of prompting a “Goodness gracious …who, me?” reaction. So, thank you Carolyn.

Now I have to share a little something about myself? I’ll just let you know what I did this weekend. How about that?

1.      I have encouraged my husband to start a new weekend tradition which involves him getting up before me, making coffee and Rhode’s frozen Cinnamon Buns and waking me up when the feast is ready. This is the second weekend. I think the tradition will stick.

2.      There was no thrifting/estate sale-ing/auction-ing this weekend. Instead, we finished a few furniture projects and delivered them to Patricia’s Back Barn.

3.      I finished up the Christmas decorating. I think the children are freaked out by the fact that part of my woodland inspired look, I put a $12 auction deer head over the mantle. And when I say “theme” I don’t want you to think too “theme-y.” More of a suggestion of a theme. (although that deer head does kind of  scream “woodland.”) Think birchbark candles. Pinecones, lots of greens and mercury glass and red vintage shiny brite ornaments.

Inspired by Miss Mustard Seed

4.      And slipcovers were made from dropcloths.

5.      Our friends Jon and Lisa came for dinner. You know when you have friends that you don’t get to see that often but when you do it seems like you just hung out with them yesterday? That’s Jon and Lisa We made homemade pizzas for dinner.  And Lisa brought dessert: chocolate pot de crème in little glass jars, which is SO Lisa, and so me. And SO delicious.

6.      I started working on six sets of nighties and matching doll dresses for a friend who commissioned me to make them for Christmas gifts. I makes me wish for my little girls again, and remember that I had the best big sister ever who made doll clothes for me when she learned how to sew.

7.      Sunday night dinner with my kids and their kids…a make your own Primanti Brothers sandwich feast and never enough grandbabies to go around.

We celebrated my son’s graduation from the department of corrections academy…now, he is a man in uniform, joining the ranks of those people that keep us safe every day. I am so proud of my family.
I know, I know….now comes the part where you have to recognize seven other bloggers. I can never decide to whom I should spread the love. I wish I could just share my entire Google Reader feed. Because the blogging community is a fantastic thing…and we are all worthy of recognition for even being willing to share what we do with each other. Seriously…to share our handmade triumphs and tragedies, and then photograph them to boot! To put ourselves out there for public opinion, and spammers…to sometimes share our most difficult words.
       So, to all of my best blogging buddies, I will say in the words of one of my favorite spammers:

“Yours are impressive  articles! Keep up the sunny handiwork!”

Saturday, December 1, 2012

when the blessing becomes a curse

What is wrong with these pictures?

 It's noon. I'm in my pajamas.

 We have guests coming for dinner tonight.

I bought a drop cloth yesterday at Walmart and it's burning a hole in my pocket.
And I decide that I need to make slipcovers for the dining room chairs. Go figure.

Yes, this is when the blessing of creativity and being able to make stuff becomes a curse. You know what I mean...when your hands can't keep up with your brain's ideas and inspiration. When you have that special relationship with your sewing machine and serger, your yarn and needles, your brush and paint.

And you cannot turn it off!!!!!
I'm just glad that our guests are bringing dessert tonight!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Well, Bust my Buttons! I won a contest!


I won the Pattern Review Refashion/Repurpose Contest ! I think?  I don't know how these things work, but voting closed last night and I have the most votes...I guess that means I won! This contest was right up my alley, and after entering, I certainly could see that I was in good company. There were some really cool projects posted by the participants, and there's lots of inspiration there. To repurpose and refashion is as old a concept as making dresses from feedbags, and it's great fun to dream up a new way use old or pre-loved stuff.

This good news was a great way to start the day...I was so excited to tell someone at 6:30am that I texted right away to share the good news. And then I remembered the time difference...yikes. But at least I didn't wake her up, and I knew she would be the one that would totally "get it."  This is an awesome sewing community, isn't it?

This week, I've been decorating my house for Christmas...under great pressure from another knitting friend who is coming for dinner on Saturday. When we were making our plans, she declared that she would not come until our house was fully decked out!

                                                 So, time's a wastin'...I've got more work to do!

Monday, November 26, 2012

painting projects and sewing a sweater

Well, this has been about the nicest Thanksgiving weekend ever. Being with family, eating what was decisively voted the best meal we have ever eaten...and by the way, who knew Rebecca could make such incredible pies!

While I know many people struggle with holiday time ( have you ever had Thanksgivings that were served up with side dishes of resentment, bitterness and loneliness?)  I was happy to be happy with the day as it was.

So what's leftover?  A zip-lock sandwich bag full of turkey and thoughts of winter and Christmas ahead.

JR and I have been spending LOTS of time working our business, which has involved hunting for treasures,

these little auction finds are for keeps!       
restoring and repainting, and doing lots of custom work. It's been good and satisfying...the kind of thing we love doing together. But that means the weekends are pretty busy, and some weeknights, too.  We've been fortunate to have developed a comfortable relationship with a shop owner who is moving our pieces out almost as fast as we can finish them...which is a blessing and a curse at the same time!
So, here's a few examples of what we've been up to:

Well last night, I just had to sew something. Don't you get that urge when you haven't connected with your machine in several days? It's like we have this co-dependent relationship or something. At least I'm pretty certain my machine can't live with out me, either. SO, I like wearing leggings on the weekend. Leggings and boots and.....whatever.

and every weekend, I struggle to find something with appropriate length and warmth for this time of year. I like the idea of sweater tunics, but good gravy...are they all chunky and short sleeved with huge cowl necklines???? And, I certainly can't do the shorter top thing with leggings...on no.  I need something long sleeved...and that covers my butt, and would play nicely with the vests I like to wear for an outer layer.

I have shopped around for weeks. Then I remembered Renfrew. I love the fit, I love the style. And I started thinking about how I could change up that pattern to make it tunic length. I just happened to have a sweater knit in my stash, too. So after years of hand-knitting my sweaters, I actually sewed one!

This is just the best solution ever! My modifications? Added 4" to the length, narrowed the sleeves. And since I didn't have enough fabric to cut two of the cowl pieces, I used just one and finished the edge with my serger. I like it this way, actually...not as much bulk.

And tonight, I'm fixing to sew up another one with a ponte print. My sewing machine and I are happy once again.

Remember to go vote for your favorite re-fashion project on Pattern Review! The voting ends 11/29 and I must confess, I'm secretly yearning for those prizes from Threads Magazine!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

a thankful confession

Am I thankful?

Not always, I confess.

Getting caught up in the day to day world of work and more work, wants and desires, keeping up with keeping up, and trying to find three more hours in a day can sometimes suck the thankfulness out of me and I have to hit pause, rewind, and begin a conscious recognition of all that I have and how little I really need.

While I long to have more meaningful relationships with family and friends, I pause to remember that I already have many of them that are covered in love, healing, honesty, forgiveness and joy…and I’m thankful for that.

When I feel lonely or forgotten, or sorry for myself, I pause to remember that I need to reach out to others and share what I have with those that are discouraged, alone or without hope.

I think on the blessings of grandbabies and the hope of their future.

I think on the moments of Life Sharing just in the last week….an idea, a tearful confession, a special found gift, an offering for a cause for which I may never witness the result, a song, a story, a book, a paintbrush. A phonecall, a text, a hug, silent moments. Vanilla from the pantry of a neighbor, God’s love, a surprise, the support of friends. A kind word and a full belly. A comfortable home.

Not a bad life for someone who can forget that from time to time.

I hope your week is filled with opportunities to remember blessings large and small

Thursday, November 15, 2012

And, my finished jacket!

I am totally in love with this re-styled jacket!  I was also SO thrilled to get it done in time to enter it into the Pattern Review Refashion/Repurpose Contest!  What a fun batch of projects that have been entered!

    The voting starts on 11/17/2012, so please stop by the Pattern Review site and vote on your favorite!

I am CRAZY about this jacket. It's totally on trend with the mixed media look, but still classic in it's own way. I love the fit, and the fact that it only cost me:

jacket: $4.00 ( half off day!)
fur collar: $.99
sweater: $1.99
1/2 yard faux leather : $4.25 (Joann's $8.49 a yard on sale)
2 7" pocket zippers: $3.25 (Joann's 50% off)
1 18" separating zipper: $4.75 (Joann's 50% off)

And that is why I love to re-style/re-fashion!

                                Thanks for voting at the Pattern Review Contest site starting Saturday!