Saturday, November 29, 2008

Early Christmas

My dad's side of the family got together Thanksgiving day, and since (almost) everybody was going to be there, we did our Christmas grab bag exchange.

I wasn't quite prepared and armed with handmade gifts at that point, but I survived after a few adjustments.

For the kid's exchange I was going to make a sock monkey. I started one as practice maybe right before we decided to do the gifts at Thanksgiving, but it took longer than I expected (or I procrastinated a little too long) and it ended up being the actual gift. I hand stitched it all since I didn't get a chance to go to Mom's and use her sewing machine, but there wasn't too much I could have done on the machine. There's a few things I wished I could change, but I finished it Thursday morning and hadn't come up with a Plan B. I used this pattern, and like any recipe or instructions I made my own tweaks here and there.

For the adult exchange, since there's always a few undesired gifts that need to be thrown in, I recycled a gift we had gotten from a previous grab bag and never took out of the box.

The other adult gift was going to be some hand made tree ornaments, but those also took longer than I expected (are you seeing a pattern?), but I at least had a backup for that idea. A long time ago I had done a few home-made books. I don't remember how they all turned out, but I had a nice fabric-covered one almost ready to go, with lined paper all printed out and folded, but needed to learn how stitch it together. It's been in my craft box through both of our moves, and this was the perfect time to finish it.

I had instructions for doing the Coptic stitch, but the instructions weren't the most straight forward so I improvised a little. I was happy with how it turned out, although the stitching wasn't as tight as I would have liked. If the little one would have cooperated, I could have spent some time looking for different instructions on the internet, but that was not to be. I also wrapped the stitching thread around a pen to go along with it.

I'm not changing my mind about doing handmade/local gifts, but it's a lot different than I expected. For our immediate family gift exchanges, I knew it would be more personal gift giving, but for these grab bag gifts, I found myself a lot more "worried" than I expected to be about whether the person who got it would like it since I had invested more time. I could have quick run to Walmart and grabbed some easy $5 gifts and not cared whether the gifts were going to be enjoyed or put in a box to be regifted later on.

At least now I know I should get started on my gifts now, since they're all going to take at least twice as long as I expect. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting Crafty

This isn't a Christmas gift idea, but I've made baby books for my sister-in-law and now my friend. I do digital scrapbooking, and I designed the pages so all the recipient has to do is fill it out and attach pictures. I left a few empty pages at the back and sent a bag with coordinating paper scraps for mats and journaling blocks, and made tags for each month.

I also made this album myself, covering 1/8" masonite plywood with scrapbooking paper, and made a little photo holder on the cover.

I originally made it for my sister-in-law, with the idea of just reprinting pages for future gifts, and using them myself. But, when making my baby's baby book, I decided I wanted coordinating papers, and from there just started from scratch each time. With my friends, my Type A personality (or would it be OCD?) would not let me just reprint the pages. I wanted a coordinating book and I knew the baby was a girl. So, I did a redo, changing background papers on some, but starting from scratch more often than not. But it didn't take as long since I had a base to start with, and it was worth it.

I also recently decided I wanted to learn how to sew. Some time in grade school I started a patchwork quilt, so I was familiar with it a bit. But I wanted to be able to produce some useful stuff. I found an easy pattern for an apron, so I went to my mom's the other day and "knocked" this out. It took longer than I expected and has more than one issue, but it works. Plus, I got the denim fabric as a remnant for right around $1.

More ideas to come. Time to cheer up a sad boy and make supper.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Handmade Christmas

I took the challenge - handmade or local for all my Christmas shopping.

I have a bunch of ideas to post, so hopefully I'll get a chance in the next few days.

(And I don't know why my picture won't show up in the column over there <- )

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In the Kitchen Again

My hubby has never been a fan of Reuben sandwiches, but I really like them. Neither of us liked them when we were younger, but he insists he still doesn't like them. In the book I reviewed earlier, they had a recipe for "Reubens Reinvented." They're healthier, and different enough from my original version that I thought he may just like them. I used:

1/4# deli sliced corned beef (instead of the canned)
1/4# deli swiss cheese (instead of the Kraft singles)
2+ c. shredded cabbage (instead of sauerkraut)
2 heaping tablespoons canola mayo
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
8 slices white bread (I don't think I could have convinced him to try them if I used rye)

Mix the cabbage, mayo and mustard. Assemble meat, cabbage, and cheese on bread and grill.

They were a hit. The corned beef was less salty, the cheese tasted less sugary, and Doug even thought the cabbage mix would be good on burgers.

Alright. Want more kitchen tips?

I doubt I'm the only one, but I often use utensils for other-than-intended purposes.

* A pastry cutter is perfect for chopping up tough ground meat. (We don't like big chunks of meat)

* A whisk is great for "sifting" together dry flour mixtures.

* A narrow spatula works better than a butter knife for spreading mayo on sandwiches.

Hmm. That's all I can think of for now.

Other than being in the kitchen, I'm busy running after the boy as he finds out what all he can get in to. My biggest dilemma is where to put the kitchen trash can - it doesn't fit in any of our cupboards.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


So after 2 months, give or take several weeks, I am DONE PAINTING.

We needed about 70 extra pieces of siding, so I ended up painting those. But I could only do it during naptime, six pieces at a time, and they needed two coats. So it was slow going. Finally got that done and then the siding needed to be touched up after it was installed.

I couldn't do a little here and there because we've had such wonderful weather these past few weeks, and we knew it wouldn't last.

Today I finished the last of the trim, and I am SOOOOOOO incredibly happy to move on with my life. Now I can do trivial tasks around the house, such as make a menu and get groceries. I seriously don't know how I've found meals these past few nights.


So it's not completely done. Our doors need to be painted and a little bit of that ugly brick remains along the bottom of our porch. But it's still a million times better.