Thursday, December 22, 2011

the Spirit of Christmas

This year at Christmas is not the best of times. It is a little stressful, what with my new job venture not working out and me looking for a job at my age, but we'll get through it. I had been thinking about the season and that it is better to give than receive, because no matter how difficult it might be financially, there are always others worse off.

Tyler should learn about giving this year. That is what I told myself. Most of our neighbors are elderly. Then I got another one of the millions of emails about Christmas cookies and a lightbulb went on over my head.

Let me tell you that I have never made sugar cookies from scratch. Chocolate is more my thing, but Alton Brown's recipe seemed like a no fail plan for us, so I made a double batch.

Having made 2 trips to Joanns this week in between rain storms (EVERYTHING for Christmas is 70% off!!! more on that in another post) Tyler picked out a gingerbread man cookie cutter and big can of various red and green sprinkles, so the plan seemed made to order. We jumped in. Here we are rolling out the dough. We learned that it doesn't roll well right out of the frig, and not well after it gets too warm. And it requires a LOT of powdered sugar to keep it from sticking to everything.

Tyler loves learning about anything and everything. He wants to help all the time, even with sweeping and mopping, so he was very excited to use his new cookie cutter and the rolling pin. I was excited to get out my long neglected copper cookie cutters! 

Look at that effort!

This was a great crafty project to do with an almost 3 year old. The breaks we needed for baking and cooling of cookies allowed him to go play and then refocus. By the time we got to icing and decorating, he was still totally excited about it thanks to Claymation Christmas  (we have the whole dvd - a favorite)  and the Backyardigans.

Tomorrow should be a great day to walk down our little street and make gifts of cookies to the neighbors.

Hey, they might even want to leave these out for Santa!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pre-Christmas Activities

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas, friends! We are half way through December already, can you believe it???
Here's what is cooking at our house! We haven't had a Christmas tree in a few years. Now that Tyler is almost 3 it seemed wrong to not have one this year. He was SO excited to go with his Papa and Nana to pick one out and to help put it up and decorate. Christmas is a real thing to him already. The whole package. The movies, the songs, the baking, the lights, all of it. Childhood excitement about Christmas is what makes the holiday magical, if you ask me. And of course we are working on the concept of it being the birthday of Jesus.  

I took Tyler on errands yesterday and he spontaneously told everyone we saw "Merry Christmas!" He made a lot of people smile, including me.

Here is how you decorate a tree with a toddler boy. God bless his Papa (sore shoulders and all) because like me, he cannot say no to the grandson! If I had thought of it earlier, I might have made this photo into Christmas cards! Ha ha ha!  I can foresee a "Christmas Vacation" decorating team  in our future. Tyler with the ball of Christmas lights to untangle, Bryan overloading the electrical system. That is Bryan's favorite part of the movie - when the emergency switch has to be thrown to stop the blackout. It takes a former Navy gas turbine mechanic to appreciate the humor there. Or an electrician. Anyway...
I did not get the Advent calendar made in time to start the month. I told myself I would do it next year, but when Tyler started asking how long til Christmas, I knew I had to get this made, even half way through Advent. So here it is. It has a sleeve on the back and I found a magnetic curtain rod, so it is displayed on the back of our entry door! How cool is that? I am pretty pleased about it. No nail holes in the walls and it is out of reach.  This is a fabric panel from Makower fabrics that I have had for a few years. There are little pockets on and around the tree for gifts or tiny ornaments or what-have-yous. I plan to go out after Christmas for some major markdown ornaments that will fit in the pockets, and a small wreath to hang them on for 2012. For now, the remaining Advent pockets have candies and Hot Wheels. There is even a Scion XB Hot Wheel like my daughter's car!
While I made the calendar, my daughter and Tyler made their first gingerbread house together. Can you say sugar high? Tyler was eating the colored sprinkles by licking them off his sticky hands! When my kids were little we lived near this wonderful German bakery in Costa Mesa, CA. Every year they had gingerbread decorating days where the house was pre-assembled and you decorated it with what they supplied or brought your own items to add to it. When that was over, Santa showed up with candy canes and you could take pictures with him. It was fantastic! My kids and I had the best time there! Not having found something like that here yet, we were glad to find gingerbread house kits everywhere. I even saw a chocolate version at Cost Plus World Market. We don't have an IKEA, but we have Cost Plus!

My freaky camera created some interesting effects with the lighted tree in the background. I sort of like this ethereal image of Tyler, who begged me late at night to take his picture in front of the decorated tree. He's sort of the Ghost of Christmas Present, here, right?

I hope you are enjoying the countdown to Christmas too!  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Little Baseball During Football Season

Tyler is an All Sports boy, my friends. He likes hockey,  football, golf, frisbee, basketball, soccer, but especially baseball. He got a tee stand and plastic bat set when he was a year old. He's only 21 months now, but he thinks he's ready for the major leagues already. 

He got a golf set then too (just the cheap $5 Walmart set) but that golf set has seen a lot of mileage. One club left, and it is a hockey stick, a pirate sword, an under the sofa ball retriever and any number of other things most days.  But the golf set, the basketball hoop and soccer set cannot compare at all with baseball.

This boy has never even been to a real game, but he loves it. Maybe in part because he's watched "the Sandlot" about 20 times. He could quote lines from the movie this past Spring. Anyone else have a 2 year old who tells you "You are Smalls, I'm Benny" when you go out to play?

And he really does not want to use the tee. He wants to take turns pitching and batting.

This weekend has been cold and windy and overcast, but that can't keep him from play. His pitch is very accurate, so look out, cause it might be coming at your head!

Notice the pants? Go Steelers! He has a Steelers shirt under his hoodie jacket too. He told me this weekend "I like Polamalu! He's on the Defense!" He may not understand exactly what that means, but it has helped him accept that our #43 is not on the field all the time for a reason.

It is so rewarding to be outside with a little one who is so enthusiastic about being active! I cannot wait til there are Little League games to go out to and cheer. No, I take that back. I can wait. He's growing up too fast already!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

O Christmas Wreath

I love making wreaths. It is really very simple, whether you use a straw base or one with artificial greenery, you can do what ever your imagination can come up with.

Here are some examples of past creations. 

I bought the foliage and straw base etc with my mom, then gave her the directions for creating this beauty for my grandparents. It is about as big as my tiny grandmother!

The second pic is the small wreath I hang out every Fall. There are silk butterflies on it and they are starting to come off the wires they are mounted on, so next Fall, I'll be replacing them.

To make one: purchase the long strands of silk leaves from a place like Michael's when they have their big discount sale, usually in August. Wrapping the straw wreath with the strands of foliage and using floral wires and wire cutters, one of these wreaths takes maybe half an hour. I stick sunflowers on stems and other items into the straw wreath base and wire them down separately. Sometimes a glue gun comes in handy, but you have to be careful not to melt what you are making!

Today I gave my Christmas a makeover. I made this one about 5 years ago and it had gold glass ball ornaments that have lost their paint and luster over time. I un-wired them and removed the ribbons that were wrapped around the wreath taking it down to the wreath I started with, plus the magnolia swags and the Cardinal bird ornament that hangs in the center. I just love that little Cardinal bird and his snowflake!  Last year a little finch tried to build a nest in the wreath.! I guess she liked his company.

I bought this heavy, very real-looking greenery wreath at Old Time Pottery. It is 3 feet across and the base of it is a double ring of strong steel. Very sturdy. Great for tying floral wire to and I know this wreath is going to last and not get bent or anything.

Initially I planned to put all plastic ornaments on here in place of the faded gold glass ones because they won't fade in the sunight of our West facing exterior wall, but I saw the cutest red glass ornaments that spell out J-O-Y and had to have them. Red plastic ones went on also going on. Red is my favorite color.

Here is the finished product. I reused the wires from the first version so I spent less than an hour on this. I hope I have inspired you to try this yourself. Do it with your kids or grandkids or friends! You could put stuffed animals, unusual ornaments, cookies, candy canes etc on it. Even a string of lights.

Next year I will be getting another wreath and assorted toy ornaments. I'll put a string of lights on it and hang it inside so that we can make it an Advent wreath, adding a new ornament to it every day until Christmas.

Happy December! Make it a memorable one!