Monday, December 31, 2007


My posting is slow this week - not because of some wonderful family outings or a planned break from blogging or anything, but because I have a cold. A first had it (mild) and we desperately worked to keep G from getting it (my little asthma guy). Of course that means I got it. I rarely get sick - once a year MAYBE, and in this house we haven't even had a cold bug since last April. But here it is. It didn't help to have a sick 4 year old sleeping on my head. Ah well. Any respiratory/sinus bugs tend to hit me hard if they in fact get me at all, so while everyone else is pretty happy, my head is about to implode.

I'm working on some posts about our crafts, the new year, and some other projects we are planning. Fun stuff. Soon!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Seed catalogs...ahhhhh.

I can feel it. The itch. The snow is coming down. The holidays are about over. Ah, yes, it is that time. Gardening catalogs. Almost the only printed mail I indulge myself with (allergies to paper/ink) because I have to be able to flip back and forth 1,000,000 times and sticky note everything and write down and plan sitting in bed late at night or while sitting at the table with the boys...and looking online just doesn't cut it.

We have such a teeny tiny yard, but I work hard to maximize the space (containers, corners, nooks, borders, hanging pots, you name it). We grow just about everything from seed in our basement starting around late March/early April - it is a great family project and A has always helped with each step and now G will be old enough to help more this year too. I like to explore uncommon varieties and things that we might not otherwise eat. With our CSA we get the main veggies, so our small garden is to supplement with different foods, as well as for preserving (canning, drying, freezing) for the winter.

Of course, seed catalogs are not only for obsessively searching through 180 heirloom pepper varieties or 79 types of squash to try something you haven't had before, but also to read the tidbits. I tell you, the catalogs I get have some good reading. Organics, sustainability, conservation, history, industry issues - very interesting.

This week a couple favorites arrived:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds -
Seeds of Change -

This is just the beginning of my garden planning - it is early. Books are on hold from the library and rolling in, my catalogs are coming, and I have a fresh notebook in my gardening binder, along with notes and empty seed packets of what I have tried/grown the past several years. I have a box of saved seeds from last season. I'm ready to plan!

Wood Crafts.

The thing I love most about snowstorms and vacation days is everyone is home and cozy. Lots of games, crafts, and family. We are just mere inches away from the snowiest December ever in our area and we just might make it. I shoveled it, I know.

Having family come the weekend after Christmas means I can have a few extra days to wrap up the crafting and sewing. Today we finished up some plaques for Oma and Opa who are coming to visit tomorrow. I also finished a scarf in my sewing which ended up as "extra" after evaluating how many gifts I had actually sewn, meaning, wow, something for me (never happens)!

For the plaque, I painted the base of the letters, so that all the little nooks and crannies were covered - with acrylic craft paint. The boys each painted the base of one plaque, and then with added some iridescent gold for some depth, and some shading and stripes (stripes with help) for texture. While the big wood pieces dried, we added some darker watered down colors to the letters for some shadow and then gave them a little iridescence too. After it all dried we used wood glue to apply (dries clear) and then applied 2 coats of non-toxic water based varnish. They are cute, and I'm sure Oma and Opa will appreciate the little guy touch. I think the boys did a great job!

Since my husbands' family speaks German, we wrote "Wir (heart) Oma/Opa" - Wir meaning We.

We also made some yummy peanut brittle--look!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Favorite Thing.

I hope you all had a nice extended weekend. While we were basically snowed in at our hotel over the weekend (forecast changed significantly after we arrived there...too late!) we still had fun. Lots of swimming and board games - but we were very happy to come home.

We have been snuggled in at home since we got back. Reading, playing games, assembling puzzles, bird watching, and baking (and of course gifts and family). We had a nice day with my mom and sister and will have many more relatives coming next weekend.

The boys have a new favorite - a wood tree house filled with all kinds of fun things and occupied by a gnome family. The gnomes also have a few special animal friends which arrived just in time from this creative family - the moose seems to get into trouble and needs rescuing and the "wise turtle" heals everyone. I think the dog just barks (a LOT!) but is best friends with the two gnome children. The boys have played and played together for hours on end, chatting away.

Well, I'm off. My dual roles of hedgehog and wise turtle are being requested, and I just can't say no.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Una Volta in L'Inverno.

We are off over the weekend for a mini-trip north for a little Solstice R&R before a quiet Xmas at home. We have had so much work and late nights that a little break is very welcome. Although today seems almost muggy and warm (30s) they say another storm is coming. So perhaps we will have a different weekend than we planned!

Gifting is almost done - only a few little things to wrap up next week before family comes to visit. Ahhh.

Wishing each of you a warm and wonderful holiday. Peace and light. Enjoy your long winter night.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Busy in the Kitchen.

In addition to all of our crafting, we have been having fun in the kitchen too. The boys love baking. Well, I should say the boys love measuring and making a mess. But it is all good. Today we made a delicious ginger spice cake (here is the recipe!). We have made other goodies too - many of which are posted over on my food blog.

Spice Shortbread
Candied Orange Peel
Solstice Butter Cookies
Cream Cheese Cookies

What are you cooking/baking/mixing/gifting from the kitchen?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Linen Scarves.

I found this lovely fabric several months ago. I couldn't bring myself to cut into it, and so it has been hanging up for me to look at until I knew just what to use it for. Today I finally took the plunge and made it into two scarves. I think these will make nice gifts for two particular relatives of mine. The linen is so soft and the stitching so colorful - I hope they like the fabric as much as I do. twitchy sewing machine didn't leave behind massive balls of knots today, but worked perfectly. Ahhh.

A wanted to model one too--as he saw me having a time getting the right angle on myself. A bit big for him, but he wears it well!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Home Office.

The other day A said to me that he wanted to go to school or an office. "Why?" I asked. "Because I want a desk to practice my writing and a place to put my things," he said. Well, we can make a desk right here, how does that sound --to which he said GREAT! He always wanted his own home office (!).

We took his wooden table, found a new cloth covering, and got a lamp from elsewhere in the house. We set it up at the bookshelf so that he would have shelf space at hand - where he placed his pencils, erasers, a sharpener, notebooks, and a few maze books. He then went through the house carefully collecting things. On his table he placed a photo, a winter "scene" using a few wood snowmen, and a coaster for his water glass.

He turned on the lamp, and then proceeded to write words in his notebook, look through many library books, and play with his trucks. We move the table when the boys have snack time but always put it back. Over the past few days his books have been rotated, he has some bowls now on a shelf filled with rocks, shells, and chestnuts, and he keeps a basket of cars. It is his own cozy corner.

He says he now has just what he needs to do his work!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thick White Blanket.

Here are a few bonus photos for those of you still jacket free this December. We keep getting more snow than expected, and Saturday was no exception. We had fun playing in it - sledding and shoveling and digging. The mountains of snow at the roadside are challenging to summit but the boys love climbing something so tall. We had to carve steps out of the mounds just to get to the road to reach our mailbox.

Being outside while the snow is coming down is so nice. Big, fat, fluffy flakes, so thick and heavy that they cloak everything and stick to the eye lashes.

The blanket of silence and yet so clear the chirping of the dozens of birds at our feeders.

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
William Blake

Friday, December 14, 2007

Photos of the Day.

Three years ago today.

G was almost 3 weeks old, A was 21 months. They were quite a duo already.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fabric Coasters.

I picked up a bag of odd fabric scrap strips at the fabric store -- thinking I could do something with it all. I think that fabric has been sitting on my table for over 2 months. I pull strips out, lay a batch together, look at it a few days, change them around...not sure what to do with them since they are so narrow. I finally decided to make fabric coasters.

This is a first try so they are not perfect - but I like the color and textures from the fabric and the stitching. The back has some contrasting thread and a different middle stripe. I think I must make more!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Today the boys made bookmarks - small handmade gifts from them to go with the sewn library totes. We made them very simple - and they look nice!

We first cut heavy card stock to a good bookmark size. We then took the decorative papers the boys picked out and cut many pieces that would fit onto the strips.

The boys glued and assembled the paper, mixing and matching carefully, and then punched a heart shaped hole in the top of each piece. We slipped a piece of yarn in the hole and made a knot. Done!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Winter Birds.

Snow and cold weather means more cozy days at home (well, that + having a car in the shop all week) - and more time for birdwatching! Both boys have loved learning about and watching birds all summer, so once the cold came, we cleaned and filled our bird feeder, expanded our setup, and moved some feeding spots closer to our back porch. We made pine cone bird feeders and hung them all over our tree. We have had a LOT of winged visitors since we started getting all of this snow. The boys love seeing the birds (many of them now have nicknames). We have several bird identification books in our home library, but we found a few books from the library just about winter birds.

Feeding Wild Birds in Winter by Clive Dobson

Backyard Birds of Winter by Carol Lerner

Since we are in a residential neighborhood, we mostly get Juncos, Mourning Doves, and American Goldfinches. We have been reading a few books (and looking up online) and learning more about the birds. We plan to make some other feeders which are in the books - suet and rice cake types. It will be fun to see who else visits us this winter! We might even keep track.

"Dover" checking us out.

NOTE: I realized that some images were broken in IE and Safari while they showed in Firefox. Bizarre--I had a hard time with blogger last night so something must have been funky. I have reposted images so hopefully everyone can see them now!

Winter, Winter.

Am I the only person who thinks it feels like February and not December? The snow is plowed into massive mountains in every parking lot and to the side of every road. It has been snowing every other day (another big one today!). Side streets are not at all clear. It is cold (cold!).

I suppose since it isn't 20 below zero with 25 mph winds that it isn't *quite* like February.

Don't get me wrong - I love the cold and snow. But it is only December 11!!!

Keep warm.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I love seeing the pile of completed gifts getting higher - the things hanging on my craft room wall, the items lined up on my windowsill, the little bags hanging from my bookshelf - all completed. Along with the bigger coordinated things (zip wallets & library bags, etc.) I have also been making smaller items, such as door & drawer sachets. They are very easy to make, are small and work perfectly for the fabric scraps in such abundance from all the gift making, and are a nice addition to a gift box.

I have been making a few types - the most simple of which is a square bag, with a ribbon, which hangs over a door handle.

First cut two 4.75" x 5" pieces. Right sides facing in, sew 3 of the sides, leaving one of the shorter sides open.

Stuff it with your potpourri mix and some poly-fill or wool. I like to make my own scented mixes, which you can do by buying unscented base and then adding your own essential oils. Many spice and craft stores have this, or there is always the amazing San Francisco Herb Co. which has everything you could imagine to make your own. Using bagged scented potpourri would work fine too. (Essential oil on rice would also work!) I like to add some fill with the potpourri, because otherwise it sinks to the bottom or is lumpy. By using about 1/3 potpourri and 1/3 stuffing, it has a nice even shape (and is more manageable when sewing the top shut). Leave yourself some head room when you stuff, so you can sew the top shut.

After stuffing, fold the top in to make a clean edge, inserting a ribbon (about 8-9" long) in the seam. Carefully machine sew the top closed. I run it twice to keep the ribbon snug and prevent edges from opening.

It is done! It hangs over the doorknob and scents the room or closet!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Holiday Train Show.

Yesterday we visited the local holiday train show. We have visited many times each year for 4 years now - and A who loves trains, has evolved from just shrieking as the train goes by each time, to standing to the side chatting with the "engineer" discussing garden railway, model scales, and track designs. Each year A has studied each train, each car, and remembers from year to year which trains have re-visited. It is fun to see...G, on the other hand, while he enjoys seeing the trains for a moment, was content just hanging out on the bench waiting for his brother and then wanted to go to the lobby for a cookie and cider. NOW. So interesting to see how different they are.

This year the show again included the fantastical artwork by Tatiana Katara. She builds amazing scenes, cities, buildings, and pieces from moss, bark, branches, twigs, berries, baskets, seeds, and more. They are wondrous.

For those of you from the area... should recognize the above -- Monona Terrace...

...and this is of course our state capitol. The little book on the stand in front of the capitol is open to a page which says "Be Nice." Photos cannot capture the detail of these pieces (click on them to view larger)-wow!.

Hope you are all having a nice weekend!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Creative Process.

In our house, we enjoy the "projects" -- having a plan with a process and a result. I think that having a plan is nice with kids - having all the parts and pieces ready and an end result in mind makes it easier to put it all together and they have something in hand at the end that they made. Of course with things like science projects and baking a plan is pretty necessary. But the freedom and creativity from just letting it all go - well, the end result doesn't matter, and yet somehow we always end up something fun and unique. So, in our house we also love to experiment, play, try it out, get it out and see where it goes - ideas and creativity rule.

This morning I taped wax paper to the table, pulled out slabs of air-hardening clay - and then the boys helped me dig through our supplies to see what else to add to the pile. They chose red glitter, rubber stamps, cookie cutters, pencils, a few odd kitchen utensils, and paint brushes. At first they were just stamping and digging and poking and ended up with blobs. After a bit, they asked for a rolling pin, and rolled the blobs flat again. A got the glitter and poured a whole container on the clay (so G did too). He took the rolling pin and rolled some more-which embedded the glitter into the clay. From there, G got a star cutter and began cutting out red glitter stars. His brother started to help (that thick clay can be tricky to get out of the cutters) and they soon had a dozen stars. A wanted to make them into ornaments and realized they needed holes. So, they pushed the end of the paint brush through each piece, and ta-da!

I love watching how they process, think, create, and work together - and they came up with an end result all on their own - stars to hang on the tree (we could have had lots of gray rocks!).


Photos of the Day.



More snow is coming today!