Friday, November 30, 2007

What can you do with an acorn?

These wonderful little acorn people have been up on my bulletin board for a long time -- a page pulled from Parenting magazine from 2002. I've been looking at them a lot lately and thinking about a whole holiday crew of them, and we certainly have the acorns and pine cones out in our yard for the taking. Dean's pretty enthusiastic about making a set, too. He's having a friend over on Monday and they are going to make fudge -- Dean found an easy recipe in one of his cookbooks. I love that. I have been informed that I should just be on stand-by -- that Dean and his friend will do everything and I should just be available if help is needed. Can do!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


So it's just a universally accepted fact at this point that time moves faster at this time of year than at any other. You think a day has gone by and it has been almost a week. We all know it. It still hits me up-side the head, though.

I love old photos of Christmas trees, reflecting the utter pride and love people feel once they get their masterpieces decorated. I also appreciate what they say about the times -- about how much (or how little, I suppose) was just enough. I have some old pictures that my parents took when they were newlyweds, new parents, of their decorated tree and the gifts spread out below, and I think about how precious it was to them, how monumental (and photo-worthy) it was. It helps to remember that it wasn't very long ago that photos were NOT instant nor instantly disposable -- that to take out the camera and use film really meant something.

We're going to hear Candlelight Carols at Trinity Church in Boston in a couple of weeks; if you live in the area and have never experienced this I can highly recommend it. This choir is one that instills in you complete awe that human voices can be so beautiful, so perfect, and celebrates the richness of Christmas music. When we lived in Boston, we used to go to Trinity Church for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which is also an intense, awe-inspiring experience that I can highly recommend (whether you are religious or not). I hope someday to be able to take Dean to a Midnight Mass, just so he can have that experience, although the churches out our way are not nearly as majestic.

I'm working away on my gift projects, happily and contentedly. Sending my sister's family homemade cookies and not feeling guilty about it. And hey, we're even going to go get our tree tomorrow night; with so many people decorating earlier and earlier, we've realized that if we don't get on the bandwagon then we'll end up again, as we did last year, having a "choice" of one tree by the time we get to the lot. We do buy cut trees now. We did buy and successfully replant live trees for many years, but it's not workable anymore. Our cut tree purchase supports the tree farmer who keeps his fields planted in trees (and not turned into over-sized housing developments) and we have space in the woods behind our house to leave the trees out to rot (and support all kinds of wildlife along the way). We'll start reading our Christmas books, and watching our holiday movies soon. I just wish I wasn't the only one in the family who likes eggnog....

Friday, November 23, 2007


Feeling better; thank you, all, for the support and kind words. Thanksgiving is now under our collective belt (and how!) so we look gleefully ahead now to Christmas.

I bought this book, A Grateful Heart, when Dean was a baby. We use it every holiday or special occasion meal to read out a grace, or blessing. It's a terrific book because it is non-denominational and includes very short, simple pieces with rich meaning that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Dean was proud to be the reader this year -- I mark in pencil next to each piece with the date we read it and now am marking the reader as well.

Another simple little tradition I undertook before I was married was to use a small, hardcover blank book to record special meals. I write down the date, the guests, the food and wine, the weather. I love being able to look back and remember the year, the meal, by the notes I've taken. It helped Ken prove his point the other day when I commented that "it is so much easier [Thanksgiving] when it is just us" and he said I don't cook any less even when it is 'just us.' Ah, well. Got me there.

I've decided to be less sensitive to perceived criticisms about a simpler, more handmade holiday and am simply going for it. I'd be happy to receive a sweet little doggie ornament like this -- wouldn't you? Once again I see that I don't have it in me for the kind of mass-production required when you sell your work, but I *think* I can get all my little gifts made on time!

Monday, November 19, 2007


So, okay. Yes. This post-every-day-in-November thing just isn't working out for me. I've been stressed over figuring out what I need to get done and then trying to find the time to do any of it -- weirdly putting things off which is so not like me. Running into some snags with the trying to do less for Christmas things (I spared you the hyphens because I care). Not feeling okay about spending time blogging. I think it'll get better after Thanksgiving; that's my plan, anyway.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

39 crafting days til Christmas

I don't update my blog from work -- or at least, I've never done so before. Seemed like a good line to draw. But I'm all caught up and am only still here because Dean insisted on spending time in the after-school program to visit with his friends and sooo....

Lots of Christmas crafting love going on in blogville these days. I've been inspired by the numbers of people making real efforts to give mostly, if not wholly, handmade gifts, by those who are talking earnestly about giving (and wanting) less, and those joining the effort to avoid things made in China. I was intrigued to come across a movement to avoid buying anything on the day after Thanksgiving (traditionally THE shopping day in the US for Christmas). Read more about it and see what you think. We've always made it a point to stay at home on that Friday -- to revel in the mostly clean house, in the rush of relaxation that comes after any big event, to enjoy the riches of the fridge and larder all stocked with leftovers, to avoid the crowds and insanity of the world outside. Last year at about this time, I had an interesting conversation with a woman who worked at Sears. She was delighted that she had drawn the opening shift and had to be at work at 3 a.m. (you read that right) the day after Thanksgiving because it meant that she'd be able to get a parking spot. She explained to me that the people who had to be at work later in the day would have to arrive hours early just to circle the lot and find parking (unless they were lucky enough to have someone who would drive them to and from work that day). I was horrified -- I'd never thought about the impact of those ridiculously early opening times on that day on the people who work in those stores and malls. It isn't right. So I like the idea of declaring it a "no-shopping day," although I'm less enamored of the "resistance" efforts (I don't think the people working as security guards at large chain stores deserve to have to deal with people intentionally trying to gum up the works). But then, I'm not an extremist and you knew that about me already.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Actual crafting

I actually made stuff today! Four small zippered bags, three tissue holders. Dean's going to a birthday party soon and the gift has a whole dog theme, so a little zippered doggie bag (for which Dean intends to sew up a dog softie to go inside) seemed just right. The only adjustment I'd make to this tutorial would be to say that you should sew the lining pouch with a larger seam, so that the pouch is less deep (and therefore does not wrinkle at the bottom) than the size of the bag. I can't decide yet if the tissue holders are going to be as useful as I'd hoped, so I may test-drive one for a while before I make any more as gifts. Next I really need to finish up the mini-quilts I've got going, and figure out if there's anything else I particularly need to make in the next month.

Meanwhile, Ken's off again -- Phoenix, this time. Last night I dreamed that his flight was canceled because of torrential rain, but he appears to have gotten off all right and will be in Phoenix at just about the time Dean and I are finishing up story time and heading toward lights out. I'm not as nervous or as stressed this time, which seems good. So far.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Have you discovered Blurb yet? Oh, my goodness. You go there, you download their book building software (I'm on a Mac and it works like a dream), and you create your book which they will then publish for you -- hard or soft cover -- for a pretty reasonable price. I'm in the midst of converting my old blog postings to book format so that I can delete them online but save them for myself. It all started because I've noticed Blogger is dropping out some of my photos, which I'm guessing is because I've hit a storage limit. I'd rather pay for a book to keep than for more online storage space, so there you go. My paternal grandmother, Ellamae (is that a great name, or what?) kept a diary, but every New Year's Eve she'd burn the prior year's book. I appreciate her sense of privacy, and yet what a treasure it would be to have one of those diaries (she was private in everything, so it makes it all the more frustrating not to have what she purposefully kept for herself, alone). But I'm driven to keep, to save, to record. The big downside to this book making business is that it is yet ANOTHER big time drainer, another thing keeping me away from the Christmas-gift to-do pile....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dragon rider

Catching up on photo sharing -- Dean as Eragon. 10/31/2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

At long last

Back in August, I really did finish this small broken dishes quilt (titled "Too Much Going On") and Dean promptly claimed it. Here's my picture, promised so long ago; I literally picked up the roll of film today. Better late than never? Dean was giving me his "but I AM smiling normally!" smile -- I miss the days when the camera didn't bring out some other creature in him, when he didn't go all pose-y on me. He does cooperate, though, so I know I shouldn't complain. Dean likes to put this quilt on his bed and sleep under it, which has pushed me into working on a real bed-sized quilt for him. Hope to have it done after the holidays, and then maybe by spring I'll have a picture to share.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Comfort food

It surprises me to realize that I've never mentioned the magical recipe for Pumpkin Bars here before; Pumpkin Bars are such a part of our lives this time of year that Dean even said, when talking with someone we hope to have over to our house for dinner one of these days, "and there will be Pumpkin Bars!" I made the mistake of sending this recipe to Helen; a mistake only because now I know that canned pumpkin is NOT something you just go to the store and buy if you live in England. Maybe you do need to live in the U.S. to be able to buy canned pumpkin? In any case, canned is the only way to go -- don't even think about peeling, seeding, and cooking down an actual pumpkin. I often use canned squash in recipes that call for canned pumpkin, but dollars to donuts that's a U.S. thing, too. Maybe even just a New England thing? If you have recipes that call for canned pumpkin and you can get canned squash, give the switch a try!

And before you go thinking otherwise, let me be right up front and tell you that Martha and her minions are the ones to thank -- it's their recipe.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Holding on

Another calendar page; this one's from mine, for next year. Lately I've been trying to tackle the piles that are all over the house of pages torn from magazines and catalogs by cutting out the particular images and filing them in my image binder. Makes all the difference to have the things right at hand, "semi-filed" (in that my system of categorizing is pretty loose), and already cut. Also helps cut down on the slag heaps everywhere....

Tuesdays are our marathon days: school/work, Dean's piano lesson, Ken's guitar lesson, a late dinner. I'm trying to figure out how to hold on to November, how to have a grip that keeps it from utterly sliding away the way October did, and I think part of it may involve not thinking too much beyond today.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A month of posts

I've just learned that November is post-something-everyday-on-your-blog month. (Well, officially, "National Blog Posting Month.") Did you know that? I won't be defeated by having just learned this and already being out of compliance -- I'll just forge ahead and see what I can manage.

I truly, deeply dislike Daylight Savings Time, and so am feeling better about everything, now that I've fallen back. Did you see all the reports in the past few days about all the scientific studies supporting the idea that "springing ahead" should be abolished because the human body was simply NOT designed to have twice-yearly tricks played on it to adjust to a new time? That it's typical human hubris to think that we can just arbitrarily set the time, ignoring the body's clock? Yeah, baby. One time, all the time -- that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

The picture up there is from the latest calendar I'm making -- one for Dean, at his very special, ardent, request. He'd asked for one last year, too, but I didn't get to it really mostly because I didn't think a person of his, um, age, would have a great deal of use for a week-by-week calendar. But whether or not he'll use it is, I've realized, not the point. The point is that he values homemade things, enjoys the stuff I make, and wants me to make for him one of what I'm willing to make for other people. Fair enough. I'm lucky to have his encouragement and support and I'm already having a lot of fun with this one.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Plastic perils

One page from this delightful book, which I used to make Dean one of these bad boys for his Halloween day lunch box treat (his was white and taupe, with a batman-type mask and a 'trick-or-treat' banner in its paws). Oh, Halloween's all done with already? And October's over, too? Where have I been?

Well, one thing I've been doing is researching plastic (particularly BPA content in food containers and in the lining of canned foods) and searching out replacements. Read more about the dangers of chemical leaching into foods and drinks, but only if you're prepared to shop for replacements. This time (unlike my microwave panic), Ken's on board, having checked the sources for all this information and finding solid science behind it. There IS controversy, because the plastics industries/bottle and can manufacturers, etc., are claiming that while BPA is present and does pose health risks, that the amounts needed to reach toxic levels are higher than what people's 'normal' exposure would be. The challenge is that there are myriad health risks, and the ability of BPA to interfere with hormonal/reproductive health occurs at the kind of low levels that use of these plastics delivers. The biggest risk is to children who stand to face a lifetime's daily exposure. Go here and download their "Smart Plastics Guide/Healthier Food Uses of Plastics" for some helpful details.

I have ordered, at the staggering cost of about $60 (includes shipping), three stainless steel drink containers designed for lunch box use for Dean, and also found a great list of links for even more information at that site. While I cannot deny that $20 a piece for a drink container would, under any other circumstances, be unthinkable for me, limiting Dean's exposure as quickly as I can in as many ways as I can is critical. He will still be exposed to Bisphenol A (BPA), Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and Polystyrene (PS) -- these toxins are everywhere, given that very little food or drink is packaged in glass anymore (which, of course, uses more fossil fuels for shipping, etc.) -- but I want to take charge every place I can. And as with the China-free thing, I want to send clear messages with my purchasing.

It is easy to get stuck in feeling hopeless. When I first started down this path, I almost gave up; after having figured out how to package Dean's lunch foods differently, I realized the sources for those foods were plastic containers that the stuff gets packaged and sold in. But it's back to that idea of incremental change and wanting to do what I can. If you find good sources for alternatives to plastic, please do share.