Holidays


Painting Ornaments
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Painting ornaments

Every year my knitting group gets together for a handmade ornament swap and this year I though I’d combine my swap-ornament making with kid-crafting and make some cornstarch dough ornaments inspired by these.

The dough was easy enough to make (though the cornstarch gives it a sickly sweet smell) and it was easy enough to roll out, but my attempts at yarn embossing were awful and LMC’s insistence at playing with all the dough (not just her half) meant I had to keep rolling it out over and over again, which I just don’t think it was designed to do. So in the end, I had some brittle dough, a lot of ornaments missing a limb and a few with a rather prickly texture. Nothing suitable for gifting.

But, because they were no longer “precious” it meant that LMC and her dad could go to town painting them all and now I think they’re the most beautiful smudgy mud-colored things I’ve ever seen – missing legs and all.

All of this is to say, it was a valuable lesson in managing my expectations. Of course she’s going to want to the play with the salt dough like her play dough. Of course things are going to break. But you know what? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter a jot because LMC had a great time poking and painting and hanging them up on the bottom of the tree.

So while I did have to come up with another plan for my swap ornament, I’d say all in all, it was a success.

Speaking of success – thanks to the 136 (!) of you who entered the giveaway and a very warm welcome to any of you who are staying around as new readers!

The winners chosen via random number generator are commenters Liz (#129) for the subtle kit, Rachel (#10) for the spicy kit, and Magda (#109) for the gift certificate. Congrats -I’ve sent you all an email about claiming your prize.

I’m down to the wire on my holiday crafting, with one toddler sweater on the blocking board and three more handmade projects in various stages, but the good news is come Friday, I’ve got two weeks off – one to finish everything and one to recooperate!

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As we’ve now done every other since 2008, the Cleaver clan (now expanded!) took our bi-annual trip down to Southern California for Thanksgiving. It’s a long trip cobbled together on buses to/from Boston and long plane flights, but the travel is worth it to see my now-distant family.

A few nights before we left Mr. Cleaver and I tried to figure out how many times we had done this Thanksgiving trip (this was the 4th): there was the year I have memorialized in a photo on my desk, when my mom  and her mom came and my cousin Preston was there and my grandmother Leota was still alive and there was only one wee member of the next generation.

Then there was the year my grandfather, now a widower, had my brother and I cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner two days before Thanksgiving and when we visited my Great Aunt Betty at her house and she gave me a little brass bird to take with me to look at and think of her. She’s since moved to a senior living community and I haven’t seen her since.

Then most recently, the year we met my little red-headed first cousin once removed, while I was pregnant with my own little red-headed girl, and we stayed with my Aunt and Uncle and went to Disneyland.

This year there was one less member of the eldest generation and two more members of the youngest.  All reminders of why its so important to make the trip, if only every other year. My uncle said it best this year  – “traditions like this don’t just happen, you have to put in the work and everyone has to pitch in.”

I’ll admit that this year, with LMC as part of the group, made for a very different experience for me – not to say she was trouble – she was spectacular on the all the travel and in adjusting to the new people and surroundings, but it really struck me how much more your attention is divided when you’re the parent of a small child. When a half an hour conversation turns into 10 minutes because she needs you in another room, or the shift in times from up late and sleeping in to early to bed, early to rise. But I loved seeing LMC read a book with her Great Aunt, or sit in her Great-Uncle’s lap to watch the Polar Express or for her to play kitchen with her cousin and try to be like the big girl. Not to mention her first experiences seeing a baby hippo, chowing down on In-N-Out fries, or taking her first pass at big-ball bowling.

To some extent, visits to my family during the Holidays have always felt a little bit nostalgic – going back to the places I loved as kid and remembering all the things we did in those backyards and houses, but this year I was reminded how great families (and I have some great family), allow you to change and grow and love you all the more for it.

And for that, I’m thankful.

Punch-Through Advent Calendar

Prepping the Advent Calendar

Prepping the Advent Calendar

I finished my homemade calendar just in time for the start of Advent today!

When I was a kid we had an Advent calendar with little numbered doors that my mom would put candies in. In truth, I can’t really remember what it looked like, butt I do remember the fun of hunting for the right door to open for the day. As an adult, we’ve purchased the crummy $1 chocolate ones with the smiling Christmas mushroom, but I wanted to do something a little more for this year.

I have big dreams of making a beautiful quilted or embroidered or felt calendar for use year after year, but it time-wise, it just wasn’t happening this year and I wanted to make sure LMC had something to open on December 1st.

After scouring Pinterest, this project seemed a little more my speed. So I painted some toilet tubes, bought a Toob of farm animals* and some tissue paper and was off to the races. In reality, this was a three nap project, one for shopping; one for cutting, painting and gluing tubes; and one for assembly of the little gifts and activities (about a 50/50 split).

Today she got a little German shepherd figure and wanted to start punching in all the other days. So I guess you could say it’s a hit. So much so that we had to hide the calendar until tomorrow. 😉

Do you do Advent calendars or wreaths?

* Though they’re a perfect fit for this calendar, technically, the Toob figures aren’t recommended for under 3-years old.  LMC has had some similarly-sized dinosaurs for a while that she loves and hasn’t managed to choke on or eat, but use your best judgement for your own household.

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Happy Halloween Everyone!!

I love costumes. It’s the theatre kid in me. But to my surprise, LMC was excited to wear hers too. The first thing she said the morning when I got her from her crib was “ears” because she wanted to put on her headband. Gotta love it – and I think she looks pretty stinkin’ adorable.

Mr. Cleaver and LMC painted the pumpkins together on Wednesday. The tempura paint is starting to peel a little, but I think they’ll make it through the night.

We’re planning to eat pizza and hand out candy, we get 80-100 kids a year. We’re holding off on treat or treating for at least another year.

Hope your Halloween is fun and fabulous!

  • Olivia Dress: McCall’s M6913, View B with D collar. All Kona cottons from JoAnn’s.
  • Pig Ears: Improvised by me. Wool Felt from Z Fabrics.
  • Striped Leggings: Target
  • Tintin outfit: Goodwill and Mr. Cleaver’s closet

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We went Smiling Hill this weekend, picked some pumpkins, petted a goat or two and took a ton of photos.  Beautiful fall day and adorable kid? It’s hard not to.

Since we last came in the spring, the petting zoo goats have gotten a lot chubbier and LMC’s gotten more independent. She wanted to be wherever the bigger kids (3-5 year-olds) were: climbing on the trains and planes, driving the John Deere-a-saurus, riding the mini tractors, going down from the top of the tall slides. She also wanted no help in carrying her pumpkins of choice. Is it any surprise that we’ve switched to the booster seat from the high chair at home? This girl is ready for her seat at the table.

With the pumpkins brought home and her costume finished last night (she’s gonna be so cute!!), we’re all ready for Halloween here. The only thing left to do is pick out the kind of takeout we want for Friday night (a Cleaver Halloween tradition).

Do you have a favorite pumpkin patch or Halloween tradition? When I was a kid in California it was Stanly Lane for pumpkins every year and my mom would sew whatever incredibly complex costume I desired that year (as chosen from the back of the Simplicity or McCall’s pattern book at JoAnn’s) including full renaissance dress. I figure this is probably my last year before LMC has an opinion about what she wants to be for Halloween (maybe one more?) so I’m trying to make it a good one.

Me-Mades: Minoru Jacket, Lamina Sweater

Little Miss Cleaver and Miss Maggie Rabbit
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Miss Maggie Rabbit
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When the day starts so early, it’s hard to get non-blurry photos of an increasingly active (and expressive!) little one. She’s just on the cusp of toddler-hood these days – walking more than she crawls and understanding things and almost almost talking. But Easter started around 5:30 AM with opening the basket/bucket and a low-key egg hunt with 6 or so eggs placed in highly visible places filled with cereal puffs.

Having put my clothing-making energies into her birthday dress not that long ago, I turned my maker skills to toys this go around. The rabbit is Alicia Paulson’s Miss Maggie Rabbit kit, which was a joy to put together. I misplaced the yarn that came with the kit, so I made the capelet out of some Berroco Vintage DK I had left over from earlier projects. I also dyed a pair of playsilks with Kool-Aid (Mixed Berry blue and 2 packs of Lemon-Lime green), which was quick and fun. Of course, I got totally upstaged by her Memere who showed up with a tricycle! Not that her feet touch the pedals yet, but I imagine they will before too long.

Little Miss Cleaver has become obsessed with belly buttons of late, whether it’s spotting mine and poking and laughing or displaying her own upon request. Onesies are definitely out. So obviously she had to check her new bunny for a belly button.

After some unwelcome snow on Tuesday, the weather seems to be settling into spring. My daffodils are blooming, with tulips coming not too far behind. It means we can go to the park, try out slides for the first time and play in the yard. Now if only we could convince LMC to wear shoes. Right now it’s like putting booties on a dog, with much awkwardness and whining.

We’ve already had one happy afternoon with a batch of neighbor kids in the driveway. We’ve got sidewalk chalk and digging tools at the ready.  I’m hoping to get together with our neighbor in the next few weeks to have a raised bed building day. It’s been so long since I’ve had a veggie garden  and I want to get out there and grow some things!

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Last week was National Pie Day, so this past Sunday my knitting group gathered for our annual Pie Day celebration, but far more importantly, we invited a few more folks over and held a baby shower for Ms. Maggie.

Maggie’s expecting twins in the early spring, so we took the opportunity to shower her with pie, love, and handmade baby things!

As is now my typical baby gift, I made two sets of envelope tees from Growing Up Sew Liberated,  tag blankies from Simple Sewing for Baby and Made by Rae’s Basic Newborn Pants. All versions of things that we used/use often with Little Miss Cleaver and all of which, I seem to have forgotten to photograph, except for that glimpse of green corduroy above.

We ate pie, played match the baby photo to the party guest (harder than you’d think), opened gifts, ate more pie, and stenciled bibs and onesies.

Can I talk a minute about stenciling clothes? Why have I never done this before?! So fun.

I found a perfect Handmade Charlotte Woodland stencil collection and we used Tulip Soft Fabric Paint at Michaels. I’ll have to get a report back on how they hold up to washing, but having the stencils took the pressure off of a) coming up with ideas and b) having the skills to pull it off, that free-hand drawing would require. I kinda want to stencil everything now.

As per usual, the food was delicious and the versatility of pie continues to impress. There was veggie quiche, apple/cheddar/leek tart, mixed berry pie, cranberry custard, chocolate caramel, chocolate pecan caramel, as well as an array of other lovely snacks and  hors d’oeuvres.

Pie Day may be one of my favorite days of the year (especially in the midst of a cold January), but it’s even more fun when you get to celebrate a dear friend. Now to wait a few months for the little guys’ arrival!

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