Painting Ornaments








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!


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.













We got our live tree at just the perfect time this year. Picked it up Saturday morning without incident, including my first attempt at strapping it to a car (thanks bungee cords!) and set it up just in time to head to the third almost-annual ornament swap with my knitting group. I made the needle-felted winter scene and took home the snowman head, which went perfectly with my non-breakable/no-hooks-needed theme for this year’s tree. Once again, I was super impressed with all the ornament makings (though I still can’t get my brain around how the pom-pom ones work).  Our timing was also perfect since we got about a foot of snow the next day. We did make a first attempt at sledding with Little Miss C, and while the snow was tasty, the cold and snowsuit and the dog in her face was all a little too much and big tears were shed about .05 seconds after that last shot was taken.  Good thing there’s a cozy warm house and pretty lighted tree to return to.






This weekend, I put up all our decorations (indoor and outdoors) with the exception of the live tree. Since last year, my Christmas decoration stash significantly expanded when my family shipped out all the decorations I still had at my mother’s house, which amounted to a rather large plastic tub of ornaments and my collection of about a dozen Christmas-themed music boxes. We also bought a silver tinsel tree at the after-holiday sales, because I have always wanted a silver tinsel tree. And since it’s the first question people ask when I tell them we have a silver tinsel tree, no I did not get the lighter spinner to go with it.

Of all my decorations however, there are two there are most precious to me. First is my pair of German Nutcrackers. The soldier I received as a gift as a young ballet-loving girl. I loved it so much that I saved up my money to buy another nutcracker (Herr Drosselmeyer), a year later at a little shop in Eureka, CA we stopped at each year when we visited my great-grandmother for Thanksgiving. It was the biggest purchase I made as a young child and I remember it vividly.

The second, and far more precious, is the needlepoint stocking my grandmother made me.  My grandmother had a tradition of making everyone in the family some kind of needlework stocking. They are detailed and specially chosen and very beautiful. Every spouse and new grandchild or great-grandchild got one – not right away, as they are terrifically labor intensive and finding the right one could take time, but sooner or later, there it was, given with a lot of love and no great fanfare. When my grandmother passed away in 2009, my Aunt took over stocking-making duties for her own grandchildren and in-laws; and while my mother offered to take up the task, I knew I would want to make Little Miss Cleaver’s myself.

So for the past 7 months or so, whenever Miss Cleaver takes an extended nap in my lap, I’ve been plugging away on her stocking. Though I learned how to cross-stitch at a young age, and distinctly remember cross-stitching bookmarks in the pews at church as a young child, I can’t say it’s my favorite craft. For me, it tends to fall somewhere between soothing and the world’s most tedious form of coloring in the lines. But the thought of her hanging it up with anticipation every year makes every stitch and tangled thread worth it.

I’m maybe a third of the way through the pattern at this point, and I certainly know that I won’t be done in time for this year (nor will LMC miss it), it feels good to be working on it at this time of year and knowing that I’m carrying on this tradition.





Yes, I just made a spreadsheet for my holiday baking



Back when I first started blogging, I made a promise to myself that I’d never apologize for my blogging, particularly for not blogging for a while. Because as we all know, life happens and sometimes that gets in the way of the best intentions of a twice-weekly posting schedule.

That said, every since this summer there seems to have been a lot of LIFE happening and this past month has been no exception.

Since Thanksgiving, the Cleaver household has experienced a total of the following:

  • 1 holiday dinner hosted;
  • 2 full days of holiday baking and a pair of second-degree burns;
  • 2 1/2 hours in a semi-frozen field shooting photos for an upcoming design collaboration;
  • 3 knitted items finished being finished at 11:30pm the evening prior to said photo shoot;
  • 3 weeks of contractors installing, among other things, insulation in our attic and a new ceiling in our living room;
  • 4 colds (2 for me and 2 for the mister, and maybe even one for the dog!);
  • Watched Skyfall, The Hobbit, Les Mis, and a handful of Harry Potter films; and
  • 17 boxes of stuff from my mother’s house in California arrived and were sorted and stored.

Mr. Cleaver and I had both agreed that we would just get through all of this and enjoy our Christmas to the fullest extent possible. We had a great time with Mr. Cleaver’s family on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Now that we’ve had a few days to breathe (and a grateful snow day home from work for me) – we at the Cleaver camp are turning our attentions to that next most important of projects: preparing for the Wee Baby Cleaver!

Here’s a few more things I either made in secret (ornaments) or at the last minute (wreath):








Did you do any Christmas making?

I was trying to not to be one of the those crazy pet parents who gets their pets Christmas parents (which seems to be a largely American thing – yes?), but I gave in and not only got Steinbeck a gift, I sewed him a stocking.


In my defense, it only took me the baking time of about 2 dozen cookies to get the whole thing done from conception to completion and it’s totally cute. The fabric was leftovers from my Valentine’s skirt and a wreath I’m still trying to finish up.


In addition to the aforementioned cookies, Ive made my annual batches of dark chocolate mint fudge and peanut brittle.


The goodies are baked, the house decorated, the packets shipped, and the gifts (mostly) wrapped, with three days left, I think I’m good to go!.

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