Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Classics - 8 tracks to mp3s

I love Christmas music. I won't let myself listen to it until the day after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and retailers are pushing it to the side for Christmas more and more every year and I don't appreciate it.

Growing up I was in school Christmas plays and pageants and loved every minute of it. We'd start practicing the songs in music class and belt them out on stage as loud as we could. I was in my church choir during the holidays, too. They only let the kids sing during the holidays and I always looked forward to it. One year I was super sick with a nasty cold, but begged my mom to let me go to mass to sing anyway. I ended up falling asleep on stage leaning up against the organ. The organist did a good job of waking me up in time for my triangle duo during "The Little Drummer Boy." Oh yeah, I rocked that triangle. Ding...ding...

Why the triangle and not a vocal spot? I can't sing worth a lick! I'm not tone deaf because I know I am off key. I just don't know how to get on key. That never stopped me though. It still doesn't. I'll let the spirit of the season roll through me regardless...bleeding ears and all. ;]

My all time favorite Christmas album is The Beach Boys' Christmas Album. We had this on 8 track, on cassette, on CD and now I have the mp3s. I would bet my parents bought the record new in 1964. It is just a really happy, dance your socks off, sing it out loud album. Here is the playlist:

1. Little Saint Nick
2. Man With All the Toys
3. Santa's Beard
4. Merry Christmas, Baby
5. Christmas Day
6. Frosty the Snowman
7. We Three Kings of Orient Are
8. Blue Christmas
9. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
10. White Christmas
11. I'll Be Home for Christmas
12. Auld Lang Syne

I can't decide if Man with All the Toys or Santa's Beard is my favorite. It's a total toss up. My mom and I would always put it on repeat during our cookie baking fests. My dad even played it in July when he painted the living room. He said it made him feel cooler and he would sweat less. Sure, pops!

My "new classic" favorite Christmas album is Barenaked for the Holidays by Barenaked Ladies (hands down my favorite band). This album has great versions of the classic classics like God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen with Sarah McLachlan and awesome new songs like Elf's Lament with Michael Buble. You can see the playlist on the right side of the album cover, if it's not too small. Again, great music to do holiday stuff with...bake, wrap, shop, decorate...not that I've done any of that yet.

If you are looking for some last-minute gifts I highly recommend both these albums. They'll make wonderful and appreciated stocking stuffers and gift swap presents. Listen and let me know what you think!

Happy Holidays! =]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Super colossal stocking stuff!

My favorite holiday tradition from back in the day, you know, the 80s, is my granny-made, granny square stockings. Among other things, my great-grandma Kate was a phenomenal crocheter. I remember she was always working on some project or another. I don’t know when she made Christmas stockings for my cousins and me, but I can’t remember not having them. Mine is green.

All my cousins have and still hang their stocking every year. There were nine of us great-grandchildren and my cousins collectively have twelve kids now, all of whom have stockings my grandmother (their great-grandmother) made for them. Oh, yes. All are hung from the chimney wall with care every year.

These stockings are nearly 30 years old and look as good as new! She must have made hundreds of granny squares to piece the stocking together. Then she trimmed each with a white fold-over cuff and hanging loop.

I barely remember opening presents from under the tree, but I clearly recall tearing through the overly stuffed stocking. My mom later told me that the stockings stretched to triple their size when the goodies were placed inside! In the picture below my stocking is as big as I am! She and one of my aunts had to run to the store on Christmas Eve to pick up more things to stuff them with. My grandmothers were determined to completely stock the stockings. We got coloring books, crayons, tiny toys, candy and of course a pack of Underoos! I still give underwear in stockings…it makes me giggle every time.

My parents and all my aunts and uncles have pictures of us standing in front of or holding our stockings which are stuffed to the gills with goodies. One year, my cousins and I all got cowboy boots, jeans and a cowboy shirt for Christmas. We took a picture that I am trying to locate with all of us standing in a row wearing our new outfits completely geeking out with excitement! I have to find that picture…

Don’t you love Polaroid’s? I do. I heard the other day Polaroid is ending the manufacturing of the film. I am so unhappy.

Our granny square stockings made by my great-granny 30-40 years ago is truly one of the best holiday traditions in my family. It’s one of those things that as soon as I see it takes me back to those Christmases growing up. Back when it was easy to get into the feel and joy of the season and all I had to worry about was writing a letter to Santa and snaking as many Candy Cane Cookies and Buckeyes I could get my hands on! Happy Holidays!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The history of our holiday cards

For the past four years I’ve made our Christmas cards. We have had a lot of pets that make up our family. They just had to be part of the card and commercially available cards just didn’t cut it anymore. Getting the pictures to use on the card was going to be a challenge. At one point I would have had to get seven dogs, two cats, two fish and the two of us together, still and looking at the camera all at the same time. Never, EVER possible.

So I figured I’d set up individual photo shoots and arrange the photos on a card, make it cute, print and send. I’ve even e-mailed them to friends and family overseas (or when I can’t stop adjusting them and it’s Christmas Eve…)

All it took was one photo shoot and I was hooked. Photo shoots are the best part of the Christmas card making process. I love taking pictures of the animals. They can be such hams…

Sometimes they can’t help showing me how much they love photo shoots, too…

And sometimes we…




Then, magically all the good mojo karma vibes align and I can get great pictures like these…

Unfortunately I can’t locate the cards from 2004 or 2005. I think I made them on an old computer whose hard drive went kaput. Trust me they were super cool. Here are some shots from photo shoot 2004:

YEA! My mama found her old cards and I was able to scan them! The photo quality is not great, but they are still cute.

The headline read “North Pole Security Systems.” Loved it.

2005 rocked, too. That year I made it look like everyone was making snowmen. They dogs either had scarves, hats or sticks in their mouth. I even got a shot of one of the dogs sniffing the ground and I arranged it to look like she was rolling the bottom ball. So cute.

In 2006 the pets were offering their talents and services to earn some pocket change…

Moose was a master scheduler. :)

Last year we went old school with matching dresses, sweater vests and bowties. I made the girls’ dress myself. It’s the smock from Bend-the-Rules Sewing by Amy Karol (angry chicken). It’s just plain red quilter’s cotton trimmed with white bias tape. I also made the cats’ bowtie from left over fabric from the dress.

This year’s card is still under construction and top secret, but I’ll share closer to Christmas.

Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Note to self, swatch more

OK, so I am a new knitter. You would think that I wouldn't try to establish bad habits. I would knit and frog and re-knit and re-frog correcting my mistakes. I've gotten pretty good at squares (wash clothes) and rectangles (Swiffer pads). I've even learned to decrease and change colors. I am pretty proud of myself being self-taught and all.

A few weeks ago I decided to make the "Hot Head" pattern from Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook by Debbie Stoller. I don't have a big stash--pretty much just the yarn I swiped from my mom--so I did a little substitution. Instead of bulky wool, I used Lion Brand Velvet Spun. I figured, it's classified as bulky on the label, I had several skeins and I like the way it feels.

Like a good little student, I read through the instructions, re-read the section on mattress stitch since I had never done it, got out my 10.5 needles and started swatching. I swatched about 5" by 5" knowing full well all the articles and books I read and all the podcasts I listen to are filled with non-swatching nightmares. Why can't I learn from other's mistakes? Why? Because I laugh in the face of proper swatching...ha, ha, ha! It's just a hat, right and I'll make the smallest size so it can stretch if it has to. Yeah.

This is my impression of Dumb Donald from Fat Albert.

The result speaks for itself. I'm going to try to shrink in into submission by dowsing it in hot water and drying it on high. The hat is super cute so I hope it shrinks up some. OK, a bunch.

Knitting is so awesome. I love learning how to knit and attempting new projects, even if they don't turn out exactly as the picture. Last year for Christmas I asked for and receive some needle and books. I joined Ravelry earlier this year which has helped a lot. Add me to your friends list... I'm drizzle. I am not much of a forum poster as a forum stalker, but that site rocks! The portability of knitting is one of my favorite things. The repetition of stitch patterns is really soothing a great for decompressing after work.

I also listen to several knitting podcasts. My favorite is Stitch-It! Meghan's mid-western accent reminds me of home and I love that she talks about both her successful and not-quite-so-sucessful moments. Her laugh is infectious which is a sign of a great person in my eyes. Listen to her podcast if you haven't yet. You'll like it. Go do it now. I've got a hat to shrink.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sassy Apron Swap Goods

I've enjoyed taking part in the Sassy Apron Swap hosted by Lucy. The most recent swap had a winter/holiday/cookie themed that I really got into.
My partner was Jennifer who requested a winter apron so she could wear it all through the season. Excellent idea. Here was the apron I sent to her:

I tried to make the snow people look like cookies chilling out in a snowy field of confectioner's sugar. I appliqued the snow hill, snow people and carrot noses. The twig arms are just an embroidery stitch kind of freely waving. I used some black yarn knots for the eyes and called it even.

I thought about adding some buttons or scarves, but I was afraid that it would be too much for an apron. The apron is also one big pocket with light blue pocket lining and solid white backing.

For the added goodies, I gave Jennifer some mini cookie cutters and snowflake sprinkles. I typed up my favorite cookie recipe...Candy Cand Cookies from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book published in 1963.

Yesterday I received my apron from Cynthia. She also embraced the cookie theme by fashioning a cute half apron from a little gingerbread and candy cane print. She also hooked me up with sugar cookie mix, three cookie cutters, sparkle gel and a nice container to hold all the yummy cookies! Thanks, Cynthia!