Archive of ‘holiday’ category

Family Trip to Ireland

Family Trip to Ireland - Blarney Castle

We have returned from our glorious family trip to Ireland! Our lungs are full of fresh, clean air and our bellies full of ‘chips’.  My husband is Irish and while his parents live in the U.S., not far from us actually, his extended family are mostly in Ireland.  So, it became apparent about three days into our trip that we were not on ‘vacation’ we were, in fact, in the midst of a family reunion.  And, quite a beautiful one at that.  Our visit prompted the rounding up all the family in the area for a BBQ on the family farm.

Family in Ireland

And, more than one cup of tea with a side of lots of chin-wagging as we visited everyone we could.

Family in IrelandThere are so many stories to tell from the trip (the amazing colors, our hikes, our Kid’s Appreciation Day to name a few) that I need to split them up but here are some highlights.

the family farm

{J, the Mr. and my husband’s Uncle on the family farm}

family trip to Ireland _ Inch Beach near Dingle

{Inch Beach Near Dingle}

Family Trip to Ireland

{view from King John’s Castle or Limerick}

Family Trip to Ireland

Family Trip to Ireland

{Atop the Beacon in Baltimore, West Cork a one mile journey from our cottage, we ran here for our morning runs. It was so beautiful I nearly cried every time I was up here.}

Family Trip to Ireland

{View at dusk from our cottage in West Cork}

Family Trip to IrelandThe trip was not without mishaps (um, my glasses broke in half on the second day and I’m blind as a bat but luckily was able to convince an opthamalogist to sell me contact lenses)  and the kids had difficult moments but overall we fell in love and are still marveling at just how many family memories we made in one small trip.


Happenings at Home

Oh dear. I didn’t expect to be away from this space for over a week but it has been a while, hasn’t it? Thanks for all the kind words about my poison ivy, it has mostly cleared up.

It’s no excuse for my absence but we do have lots of exciting happenings at our house right now. The biggest is that we are heading on vacation to Ireland in a week! We leave the day  after school ends for C. (J is already done with preschool, which is lending itself to a real, true ‘summer’ feeling around here. He and I have already gone for pedicures, which are his favorite thing now.)

My husband’s extended family live in Ireland so we will be visiting lots of family in addition to the regular touristy stuff.  I think we all have that mix of insane excitement and mild trepidation that precedes a big trip.  It’s hard for us parents to get our heads around how our picky eaters will survive when faced with restricted food choices but surely we will be ok.  Right?  That aside, it’s our first international trip as a family of four and what better place to go to than the lush and green Ireland!  It’s going to be a true getaway.

We’ve also gone completely World Cup crazy.  Have you been watching the games? We are living and breathing World Cup 2014.  I’m not even a sports fan and I’m keeping track of who is playing who on every given day with genuine thrill about the whole event.  C & J both have these sticker albums that you fill with stickers of each player on every team, they get a pack of 7 stickers a day for an album with over 600 stickers…the albums fill sloooowly.  But, it’s all the boys want to talk about.  I was getting a little worried that they were too obsessive.  They are literally doing one of three things at any given moment: 1) watching one of the World Cup games, 2) pouring over their World Cup sticker albums and discussing teams or 3) playing soccer in the back yard for hours on end.  They have never slept so hard at the end of the day, their brains and bodies are facing pure exhaustion.  Parents are approaching me at the end of the school day to report their kids are coming home full of analysis of upcoming games, all information gleaned from my sons.  J wandered over to our neighbor’s house at 6:50 this morning to report yesterday’s scores in the USA game. Seriously, it’s obsessive.

I decided to stop worrying about future OCD and bring a little craft to the craziness.  So, on a quiet afternoon this weekend, I pulled some toilet paper rolls and egg crates out of a bin I keep in the basement and I cut out 24 little men in soccer uniforms.  My husband even helped make some of the faces because he is a great dad and great at drawing.  The plan was to make two soccer teams that the boys could decorate.

soccer players made out of TP rolls

We didn’t finish all 24 players but we all sat down together and made some toilet roll men for a good hour or so.  Team jerseys were invented as were referee jerseys and goal keeper colors decided.  The boys got excited about making fans and using the egg cartons as bleachers and, well, the ideas were grand and involved but the interest waned early.

Toilet Paper Roll Soccer Players for the World Cup 2014

And wouldn’t you know, the next afternoon J was building a castle and our soccer men had been reinvented as knights protecting the castle.  Finally! A non-World Cup related activity!  Never would have guessed at that result.

I’m hoping to squeeze in a tiny bit of sewing in between teaching my last class, preparing for vacation, caring for J and everything else that needs doing around here.  I’ve also made lots of clothing lately and hope to find some time to share all of it here before we are off next week. That’s what our summer looks like! Why does it feel like it’s already over? Is there a name for that phenomenon? Over before it started, I guess.

Our (child-driven) Leprechaun Scavenger Hunt

making gold coins

Guys.  I gotta tell you, the best thing ever happened on Saturday and it was a complete, beautiful, going-with-the-moment accident.

It started when we found out the kids weren’t allowed into an Irish music event we wanted to go to.  Mostly, they weren’t allowed because of the booze and drunken nature of the event (fair enough, really) but the boys found this grossly unfair (there has been much talk about the letters they want to write discussing equality & suggesting next year’s event involve kids.  It’s pretty cute).  Considering they have Irish blood, it’s been really important to them that they get to celebrate St. Patrick’s day.

They decided we were going to throw our own Irish Party and we discussed what would be involved when I brought up the idea of a scavenger hunt.  Somehow this led to a whole idea of the boys and I becoming leprechauns and making a scavenger hunt for Papa. It was all a secret and there was a good deal of scurrying around and whispering with their ‘I’ve got a secret’ faces on.  Papa was getting ready to go out to watch a rugby game and it was TORTURE for them to wait for him to leave.

As soon as he left they got started.  The making was furious.  J made the maps…so many maps.  Maps requiring lots and lots of pacing around the room, sitting and standing and SO MUCH DISCUSSING.  The maps never really played into the whole leprechaun scavenger hunt but they were essential in his mind and that was a beautiful thing to watch.  C, quietly started making gold coins out of paper and tape and we decided each clue would be taped to one of his gold coins.

making maps for the leprechaun treasure hunt

leprechaun treasure hunt notes

I worked with them to create a scavenger trail that made sense and was fun but, for the most part, they were calling the shots, which they clearly LOVED!  This was the most gleeful, concentrating-with-all-cylinders activity we have ever done.  Our trail wound around the house and also around the block.

leprechaun treasure hunt-child-directed

As soon as Papa got home they were jumping up and down and suggesting leprechauns had visited the house and left some clues.  C was so excited to be tricking Papa he could hardly stand it and kept really obviously winking at me.  I love when he thinks he’s being really smooth.  J was just a blur of constant motion and chatter.  The scavenger hunt itself was so much fun, the boys totally gave away the location of every single clue with their attempts to be ‘helpful’ and Papa was biting his lip so he wouldn’t laugh.

leprechaun treasure hunt - child-driven

The enthusiasm was sky-high. About halfway through the scavenger hunt, C bursts out with, “We are leprechauns!! We did this for you!”  It was awesome & I might have welled up a little bit.

leprechaun treasure hunt - child-driven

You know sometimes I pick out supplies ahead of time and prepare elaborate activities and they fall flat.  Or worse, they are interesting for 5 minutes and leave nothing but a mess behind.  This was a great reminder that these guys are ready to run their own show and it doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive, it just needs to be theirs.

The Valentine’s Day Countdown of Love

valentine's day countdown

Hello February!  It’s time for a countdown to love.

I’ve been sitting on the idea of an advent-like countdown to Valentine’s Day for a while.   The boys love our Christmas advent calendar so much and I love Valentine’s Day so I thought I’d combine the two loves.  I saw something on Pinterest (way back when) that used sewn paper hearts filled with candy as Vday cards.  Of course, the last thing we need around here is more candy.

Instead, I opted for different loving activities;  love the earth by picking up some trash, love a friend by telling them a joke, love the cat by giving her a treat,  love your ears and make up a song, etc.  The activities are really simple and easy to accomplish. I think one of the most involved activities is “love your tummy: make something sweet to eat”.  My intent is not to make life more complicated or hectic but to slip a small something loving into our day.

Ta-da the birth of the Valentine’s Day Countdown of Love!

Of course, I woke up this morning surprised to realize it was actually February 1st.  Seriously, where did January go?  Sheesh.  I quickly made this up this morning.  14 different paper hearts sewn together with love-based activities inside.

love messages for valentine's day countdown

Next, I rolled up and tucked the messages between two pieces of pretty origami paper and used a heart cookie cutter to trace a heart.

valentine's day countdown

valentine's day countdown

I used the traced heart marking as a guide for sewing the hearts together.  I love sewing on paper. Feels like I’m a sewist gone rogue.  So naughty.

valentine's day countdown

I made 13 hearts in regular origami paper and 1 in silver paper.  The boys get to trade off who opens the day’s heart to reveal the day’s activity but the silver heart is saved for the Valentine’s Day itself.

valentine's day countdown

The boys were definitely excited about ripping open the hearts and it took them a long bit of negotiating to decide who got to go first.  (Everything is a learning opportunity, isn’t it?  Even when mama is a little “done” with learning opportunities.)

valentine's day countdown Let the countdown begin!

valentine's day countdown

surprise! the flower quilt was for grandma

flower quilt made by a happy stitch

Remember the flower quilt I was being all cagey about before Christmas?  My grandma got it.  My grandma is 91 and had a difficult year, she really deserved a quilt.  She had open-heart surgery several months ago.  Yes, a 91 year old lady had open-heart surgery.  Not just any lady but my grandma. My beloved grandma who believes, no matter what, that her grandkids are amazing.   That everything I sew is incredible and perfect even though she sews well enough herself to find all the flaws if she were looking for them.  My grandma who spent my childhood summers sneaking me Twizzlers while cooking in her swimsuit at their rustic lake house.  My grandma, who as a young pregnant woman, walked herself to the hospital during a snowstorm to give birth to my aunt.  Only stopping to sit down in snowbanks and wait through any contractions.

It seemed for a little while after her surgery, when her time at the ICU kept extending and intubation and pain kept her from doing anything but pleading with her eyes, that the doctors had forgotten this was my grandma.  She had been a healthy, woman just weeks ago.  The surgery was a pre-emptive decision based on the condition of her artery.  My mom blew up a picture of her from the church directory and tacked in on her door to remind them.   And, slowly, she got better.  Amazingly, she is now walking around and back to living on her own in her apartment enjoying wine and movie nights with her friends.  It still blows my mind that we could have lost her.

flower quilt quilted (from a happy stitch)

Despite all of that, everything heroic she went through, if I had just asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she would have replied like she always does.  “Oh. I don’t need anything”.  The unspoken end to her sentence being “…because I probably won’t be around much longer.”  It’s what she says every time.  So, I didn’t ask.  My grandma deserved something priceless and in my mind, the time and care it takes to make a quilt makes them all priceless.

flower quilt detail (from a happy stitch)

As soon as I saw the free pattern designed by Ellen Luckett Baker up on the Sew Mama Sew website I knew that was the one for her.  I was able to use special scraps, some from pairs of pajamas I’d given my mom or things I made for myself.  All of it worked its way into the quilt.

Of course, December was crazy for me with classes and markets and the quilting and binding of the quilt almost didn’t happen.  When I did get to it, it happened quickly and frantically.  The quilting is pretty simple, as a result.   I was right down to the wire.  For real.  Very down to the wire.  I finished the quilt, took it outside for these pictures and then had to wash it because of the snow (!).  While it was still hot from the dryer I stuffed it into a Priority Mail box and it arrived to Grandma the day before Christmas.  Phew.

flower quilt

I wasn’t there when she opened it but when we talked on the phone she was so thankful and happy to have it.  She thought it was amazing, of course.  (I know she is ignoring the larger than 3/8″ sewing errors.)  She also told me, in a whisper, “The quilt comes right back to you when I’m gone.”  Ha! I guess grandma got the last word anyway.

Love you grandma!  Stay warm.

last-minute gifts & well wishes

peace and joy in 2014From our family to yours, we wish you all the best in 2014!  It’s been an amazing year and we are prepped and ready for an incredible holiday season.  But, it wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful and amazing as it has been without all of you.  I love the connections, heartfelt and full, that have been made through this little blog and thank all of you so much for reading and cheering me on!

In that spirit, I’m sharing my favorite last-minute gifts! First up is this incredible infinity scarf tutorial from imagine gnats:

jersey infinity scarf


One of my students turned me on to this tute and I’m so glad. She managed to whip of 6 of them in one morning!  I made these two in a jiffy… they definitely came together easily.

Another favorite of mine is the small wallet.  This $3 pattern from Valori Wells makes a great wallet…an easy and cute way to give cash or a gift card without feeling awkward.  It’s my go-to teacher gift!

tiny wallets

Now, I really hope your gifting is done and you are nestling somewhere enjoying the quiet and ready to relax.  But, just in case, you are wondering what to make and eyeing your machine, I hope these tips come in handy.

I, for one, am about to polish off a bottle of red wine and kick some butt at a game of Scrabble before I play Santa! Happy Holidays all!! You are the best.



how handmade makes the best holiday

handmade xmas

Oh December. You are happening so fast.

Yet, the final sewing classes have occurred, holiday markets are complete and the last handmade gifts and custom orders are done and done.  Our family has been really busy but we are starting to feel the great slowing-down as the long stretch of winter break approaches.

When I was growing up, life was never really stable enough for family traditions to form and stick from one year to the next so I am fierce about making sure we have our own.  There is no Martha Stewart-style perfection about it. Not a lick.  These are our traditions and our family magic, nobody else’s.  I treasure all of it, so much.  Despite the stresses and the hurrying about, December in our house is everything I wanted it to be and more than I imagined.  Making it handmade is a huge part of the traditions we are building.   Such as our stockings and the peace banner (it says ‘joy’ on the other side) up above.   I made those a few years back and it’s nice to see them this time of year.  In a few days, after the kids go to sleep, my husband and I will open some wine and turn on our favorite Dry the River and make mince pies until the wee hours of the night.  The boys are in love with our advent calendar. There is just so much heart in hand-cooked and handmade.

advent calendar

advent activities

The advent calendar is hung up on two dowel rods that are taped together.  It makes the middle of the advent droop and sit unevenly.  Nobody cares.  Each little mitten holds an easy activity….simple stuff like ‘hug a friend’ or ‘sing a Christmas song to your grandparents’.  Nothing that creates a massive hassle for our day or a stressful time-crunch for me. Easy stuff that is somehow really exciting for C & J to accomplish every day.  Today we played in the snow.  This weekend we will head into NYC to see Rockefeller Center and grab a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery…the advent will tell us to do it but we would have done it anyway, we do it every year.  The boys think it’s pure magic and wake up dying to find out what is in the day’s mitten.

boys in snow

Under our Christmas tree is a tree skirt sewn by my grandmother.  After my grandparents stopped farming and gave up cold, bitter Minnesota mornings on the farm for a cozy home in a small town they started quilting together. My grandmother sewing and my grandfather helping to stretch out and tie the quilts.  The fact that they are both gone now makes this tree skirt priceless.  It’s as close as I get to their hands.

grandmas tree skirtDangling on our tree is the ornament my Aunt handmade for me when I was born.  I never get to see her, she lives far away, so it’s great to catch glances of this ornament all month long and share stories about her with C & J.

cindy's ornamentSame thing with this ornament from my mother.   She painted it for me from when I was little from some kind of kit.  My mother was a talented artist who had to give it up to raise me and my siblings but she managed to carry her artistic sense with her into everything she did.  Only now in her retirement is she finding little ways to explore getting back into making art herself.   It takes so much courage to do jump back into something like that.

kit house

I love how December ushers all of these stories into my home and I’m watching my boys and wondering what memories they are making and how those will turn into their stories.  I’m late in saying this because you are also crazy busy but welcome December…it’s nice to have you here.

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