Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Lavender Christmas Breakfast Table

I woke up with a sore throat Christmas morning--The Christmas Cold revisited for the second time this month, a new record for me!--and am still battling it, the stuffed-up head, the runny nose, and the complete fatigue a few days later, but this Christmas was lovely.  As has been tradition each year we've been married, I made our Christmas breakfast cinnamon rolls late Christmas Eve (or in the wee hours of Christmas morning, since I went to bed at 2 am this time), but instead of setting the table in this year's color--last year the table was orange, 2013's was a buttery yellow and cream, 2012's was pink, and 2011's was aqua--I just frosted and covered the rolls and went to bed. 
I woke up at 7 am with the sore throat that didn't let me sleep any longer, so I got up, set the table in lavender, and made all the casseroles and side dishes that were to go with our supper.  'A good thing, as I would fall asleep almost seconds after eating that night. 
These two purple-winged cherub bookends are always on my shelves, but they struck me a few weeks ago as perfect for our Christmas table, so a lavender Christmas, it became.  The tiny cupcake and ball ornaments beside them were from my aunt Heidi years ago.  
Mom gave me the lavender napkins, candle, purple tinsel-garland, and the gorgeous Chickadee card this year with my Christmas gifts, since I'd mentioned the lavender table idea to her while home last month.  
The snowflake-shaped candle holder below was a gift from Aunt Laurie this year. 
The snowflake spreader was only twenty-five cents on clearance at Walgreens years ago, and I've used it every Christmas morning.  Mom found me the beautiful lavender snowflake ornament and hobnail ramekin-that-served-as-a-butter-dish below.
I'd forgotten until Christmas morning that I had thrown our usual snowflake-patterned lace tablecloth into the hamper a couple weeks ago when I'd noticed a stain on it, and since I wasn't up to doing last-minute laundry Christmas morning, I used a piece of leftover white kitchen curtain material over one of our lavender-patterned flat sheets.  I've spent most of the weekend sleeping and reading in bed and in my chair, but it's still been a sweet holiday.  As I was getting ready to leave for work last night, my supervisor called to tell me I didn't need to come in--BLESSED surprise!  ♥--so that gave me an extra night off to recover.  'Two more days off, so I'm confident I'll be starting the new year in better health.  And I wrap up this Christmas with a relieved "Whew! I pulled it off!" as I head back to bed.  :)  'Hope you've all had a sweet weekend.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas Eve

My favorite day of the year.  This Christmas Eve feels strange both because of my sleep/work schedule and because of the weather:  I just woke up a little after 4 pm after having worked last night, and it is still 51° outside as I write this at 7:30 pm.  We have a fan on in here and all the windows  wide open and I have yet to turn on the stove or oven for supper-cooking and cookie-baking.  Odd day.  Mike and I both got to see our families this past week although each visit was too brief.  And yes, Mom and Dad loved their "Alice Otter."  Mom squealed and squealed while pulling the white tissue paper away from it as she opened the package, and she was as tickled with Alice's doily-cap as I was.  :)  Mike and I also made her and Dad a cd of "their" songs from 1968 when they finally met for the first time when he was on leave from the service and a few others of their favorite songs--"Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell, "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells,  "Both Sides Now" by Judy Collins, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, "For Once in My Life" by Stevie Wonder, "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young, "Cherish" by Kool and the Gang, and a few more--and that was a big hit with them too.    I managed to get tomorrow off work, as well, so it will be a late and happy night of cooking, baking, Emmet Otter-watching, and gift-wrapping here.  I eagerly await the moment it will suddenly--just like that!--feel like Christmas.  So far tonight, it feels more like just a happy and festive night off from work, but the moment is coming. . . .A merry Christmas to everyone celebrating, and a peaceful night and weekend to you all. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

And Now. . .Alice Otter (My Favorite Gift I'm Giving This Year)

Whew!  I finished making Alice Otter earlier this morning.  She is part of my Christmas presents for my parents, just as Emmet Otter was last Christmas.  
 I can't be with my family while they watch Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas on Christmas Eve--enjoying the movie over eggnog and dessert is a family tradition--but now they will have the complete set of "Ma" and her Emmet to hold my place.  :) 
I started creating Alice in November and soon realized that I was mistaken to have thought that Alice Otter would be easier to make than Emmet.  I had expected her to be easier since her body is hidden by her dress, but between the dress-making and simply the ongoing trying-to-making-her-face-look-right, she was quite a challenge.   At least she and Emmet are a two-member family, since I don't think I'd want to construct a third otter next year.  :)  I also didn't realize until right now that I attached her lace-and-red-ribbon trim to the front of her dress upside-down.  BAH!  Maybe I'll attach extra lace under the red ribbon to make up for it.  BAH!  And BAH! again!  Anyway, she is either done or nearly-done, depending on my handling of The Lace Issue now.   :)  Her outfit in the movie is just lovely, so to have gotten it even this close was quite the feat for me, since sewing's not really my thing.  
I began with a stuffed animal I bought to cut up for fur and parts. 
I re-cut it to form the body--
--and re-stuffed it to re-shape it a bit. 
The plan had been to start with her face, of course, but I found myself beginning with her costume instead.  "Measure twice, cut once"-type thinking made me too nervous to add her face, I think, since once it was attached, there would be no going back to correct itThe collar and bow were made from a piece of leftover lace in my fabric stash. 
I found one button in Grandma's button jar that matched the dress well, and I took the lid off a mustard bottle to make the nose.  :)  
I had bought the fabric back in August after a long search for one that closely resembled Alice's talent show costume in the movie.  (I wanted to make the talent show costume because so many of Mom's other Christmas decorations are blue, and Alice's other dress in the film is a brown-with-gold print.)
I didn't realize until I went to attach the finished arms that I had made them way too big and too long, so I spent at least an hour redoing them. I made a basic wrap dress that I'd later cover with a pleated fabric-piece for a proper dress. 
I remembered from last year to use white paint to add a life-like glint to her eyes.  The eyes and eyebrows were pieces of black fabric cut off a raggedy piece of a bag lining. 
I found a doily in October that I thought would be the right size to use as a cap, and I guessed correctly.  I made blue ribbon/cord from a length of the dress-fabric and threaded it through the doily's holes.  The ball-trim is from a piece I've used for so many other projects.  It all worked. 
And then I stopped taking pictures until I was done with her this morning. 
If I had stopped to refer to the photos of her I'd been using as reference all along, I'd have noticed the upside-down lace-and-red-ribbon-trim, but I'll live. 
Dad will get a kick out of her, as he did with Emmet, but I know Mom will truly love her.  :)
I'm so tickled with this. 
I tried making a mouth a few different ways, but I never came up with one that looked even remotely right, so instead I added extra fur with hot glue and bunched it up until it looked like there was at least an opening there.  The suggestion of a mouth looks better than any of my attempts at a real one did.  I added blush to her cheeks with a little of my lipstick, to make her look different from Emmet, and I used a paintbrush to spread some white eye shadow above her eyes. 
I attached her to a plastic container to make her a bit taller and to give her a way to stand, since it bothered me last year that the boots I'd created for Emmet hadn't worked out and he needed to be leaned against something to stay upright. 
And like last year, I made a gingham label as a finishing touch. 
Oh, I love that cap!  Anything with ball-trim just sends me, I love it so much. 
I go home tomorrow for a way-too-short visit and look forward to seeing not only my family, but also Alice and Emmet together for the first time.  ;) 
And now to figure out The Lace Issue before I pack this into tissue paper and box it up for Mom and Dad.  This is my favorite gift that I'm giving this year, although one for my nephew keeps making me laugh too.  Ah, holiday silliness!  I love it. 
Merry Early Christmas! 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

My Parents Make Me Laugh

My parents' Christmas card arrived yesterday with the above note from Mom enclosed.  My laughter turned into cackling pretty quickly at this.  This crazy month.  Since she wasn't able to drive to get out to shop on her own the first few weeks after surgery, Mom's behind with All Things Christmas this year. 
Then I got to the end of Dad's included note and laughed again.  He clearly hadn't forgotten my "demotion" in his last note
'Too funny all-around.  Both blessed and charmed, I am. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Best-Laid Plans

A bit earlier than usual, I've come down with my seemingly annual Christmas cold, so it looks like I'll be slowing down even a bit more than I'd even intended while writing my last post.  I'm most-grateful to be done with shopping for my family since my Christmas with them is next weekend already.  I had planned to put up the tree yesterday but only got as far as clearing the space on this tiny wall beside the mantel and then was too pooped to do more.  I went to bed around 7:30 last night, and there's no time or energy for tree-work today either, so it will have to be good-enough in the meantime just to have the spot ready and waiting, especially since I feel like dragging a blanket and pillow over to the cleared-out corner for a nap.  Ah, December!  I will take the cold as confirmation of all my good intentions from last Friday and simply let myself rest.  

And somewhat off-subject:  How handsome is actor Barry Bostwick?!  
His movie Holiday Baggage was on TV while Mom and I put up the tree while I was home last week, and as I told her:  Hubba-hubba!  Talk of tree-decorating reminded me of him and the movie just-now.  And I'll let that be the positive note on which this post ends.  :)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Gum on the Sidewalk, Carrot in the Soup: My December

Two favorite found hearts this past week, these.  And what a Discombobulated-Val week it's been, as any week I return home from any trip is, which makes the hearts all the more treasured.  December's are the weeks of the year that more than any others seem to blaze by in a blur of demands on our time and energy anyway, and their crazed hoopla doesn't really suit me anytime.  I prefer this commercial to all the look-at-me holiday-party eyelashes and diamonds-equal-love ones.  My December is not one of credit card debt, and please, God, let me not get swept up in the culture's near-mania that tries to convince me otherwise.  "There is absolutely no reason for being rushed along with the rush," wrote Robert Frost.  Indeed.  I'm spending today straightening up the apartment, then, and finally unpacking my bags from my couple days at Mom and Dad's, shopping for healthy groceries, and updating my to-do lists.  I finished all but the last few odds-and-ends bits of my Christmas shopping earlier this morning and took my daily vitamin and calcium-magnesium supplement too, and I'm counting those as the day's first two successes, one big and one small.  Designating a day or two at the start of each December for today's kind of quiet reorganization will become a tradition here in my home, I think.  Maybe I will even assemble a little Care Package to Self for next December and hide it away with the holiday decorations when I pack them back into the basement again next month:  Another candle, a couple bucks to treat myself to a bakery muffin with, a few stamped postcard to help me get brief thinking-of-you notes out to loved ones, and whatever-else I think of before next month.  The rest of this December day, then, will be one of dish-washing and list-revising, and of journal-writing and beef stew-cooking to help me get back on-track and to feel more organized for the days ahead.  One of enjoying a vanilla-scented candle while writing a note home.  One of washing the mountain of clothes in the laundry basket.  And of appreciating the heart-shaped hellos from God found in both sidewalk litter and store-bought soup.  May I always remember--or at least never go too long before reminding myself--to slow down enough to see them.  

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November's Visit Home, with Video :)

I knew even Saturday morning that I needed sleep more than the visit home, but I wanted to help Mom put up the Christmas tree, since she's only four weeks post-surgery and still can't lift much on her own and I didn't want her to push it, and I wanted to see my family, of course.  I was to have caught the bus home to my parents on Saturday but called them that morning to say I needed another day to sleep and catch up around here, so I returned home Sunday instead--and soon realized I'd uncharacteristically told my dad the wrong time to pick me up at the bus station.  When I called home to let him know, Mom said he was out for a walk.  After finally arriving at my parents' house around 9 am, I felt half-asleep again and ended up napping in my former bedroom until about 2:30 in the afternoon, only waking because Mom knocked on my door to let me know my brothers would soon be there.  The exhaustion just dogged me the entire visit.  I went to bed Sunday at 9 pm but woke up around 3 am and read til joining Mom when she got up at 7.  I napped from 1-4:30 pm Monday but then only slept from 10 pm to a little after midnight, reading the rest of the night.  I somehow stayed awake on the bus's return-trip today, finishing the last of the three books I'd packed for the trip, but then crashed once back here at the apartment and slept from noon-5, only rousing myself because I needed to run out for salad things for supper.  The book trilogy I'd decided to reread the past few days was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and the disturbing world of the three books coupled with my collapsing into sleep, or confusedly emerging from it, all weekend added to the muddled-brain feeling. We all had a great dinner Sunday, though, and Mom and I did get the tree up Monday morning, so all was well, even if I felt a bit like I was underwater the whole visit.
The yard was coated in frost Monday morning, and the deck in ice, but the snow held off.  Despite the rain, my younger brother got a deer on the first day of  buck season, and when my two-year-old niece saw it in the back of his truck, she commanded him and my nephew to "Wake it up!  Wake it up!"  Sweet angel.  My older niece also simultaneously broke my heart and made me smile when I learned that after having eight inches of her hair cut off a couple weeks ago, she came home and wrote out a Christmas wish list and the first item on it was "My hair."  These girls!  It is so wild and funny and heartbreaking and beautiful to watch them grow up.  Here's a minute and thirty seconds of Mom with little Bianca:

Sweet, sweet, sweet.  And so begins December.