advent insanity

I’ve been very hung-ho with holiday decorating this year.  my goal has been to slowly but surely make a handmade Christmas home.  that way I don’t feel the need to make EVERYTHING in one feel swoop. by making a few things every year I can get closer and closer to the homespun goodness this holiday deserves.  this year I’ve tackled advent-ing with fervor.  this was one of those ideas that grew really organically…drawing inspiration from a few places and then working its way into something that was its very own idea. a kind of a  mod advent hanging:

     {sorry for the sloppy, cloudy picture}

I loved the idea of little mittens.  our house is full of them…scattered everywhere…they never, ever match. so, mismatched mittens litter this advent…each one is its own pocket. I didn’t go in with a plan for these pockets and it turned out they are too small for toys and would only comfortably fit kitkats or candy canes.  neither are my favorite thing to get the kids on as a steady diet all December long.  so, I decided to go with something new and made little slips of paper with an activity on it. that way the boys can take turns pulling out the ‘advent’ but can both participate in the activity.  I had so much fun making these little tags. some of pretty generic and some are specific to things I know we are planning on doing.  lots of the tags involve making things (of course!) and I was aiming for a mix of giving acts for others and fun things to make it a magical month. I also mixed big activities with simple ones that can be easily accomplished on a weekday so it doesn’t become an addition to an overwhelming  ‘to-do’ list….one of them is ‘hug a friend’  or ‘pet the cat’, for example.

   

the mittens themselves are made of red felt with lime-green accent sewn onto white fleece backing. I used lots of stitches as part of the decorative effect.  the mittens are ‘hung’ on single-fold bias tape and the dates are marked with regular stamps using fabric paint. I kept the number pretty subtle because I like it like that.  a simple ribbon frames the bottom and makes a tube for hanging at the top.

  

and, oh yes, there is more!

I went a little head over heels for the whole advent things and made a second one as a gift my guy, Kevin, who built this website (he did a good job, no?). he has, prepare yourself (breath), four young girls. so, I made really big pockets on this one.  lord only knows how you manage ‘fairness’ with numbers that big. each pocket has a number on it. I was going for a patchwork quilt effect with this.  the fabrics are from here.

  

{don’t worry, I didn’t give him nasty old paintbrushes, just used that to illustrate the pocket-ness}

bring on the food

i really can’t express how happy thanksgiving makes me.  we’ve been menu planning all week.  here is part of an actual conversation:

what about brussel sprouts? oh my god! we don’t have a brussel sprout plan!

babe. babe. it’s okay. remember, we are going to do them for Christmas.

(and then i calmed down.)

 

it’s urgent and important these decisions.

in the end, we are having homemade cranberry relish and green bean casserole from here (horrible name but great magazine); roasted root vegetables; raw kale salad; marinated radishes because i couldn’t stop thinking about them after hearing someone discuss a recipe on the radio;  roasted potatoes; apple crumb pie; cupcakes from here; and oh yeah turkey/fake turkey and stuffing.

a mix of new and old, i suppose.  we will eat well, that much is for sure.

what about you?

whatever you munch on…have a great thanksgiving!

 

shop update and upcoming craft fair

  

just popping in quickly to say that i’ve added a few bibs to the shop.

and calling all locals! i will be selling goods at an upcoming craft fair (my first!).  so come and join me on Sunday, December 4th, 1-4pm at the Irving Primary School’s cafeteria here in Highland Park.

art projects for kids, mostly

for a long, long time my oldest, C, was just simply not interested in art projects. he dreaded them, complained about them, and refused to participate.

as you can imagine, this made a little part of my heart ache. eventually, (perhaps developmentally?) he came around. now he loves art projects and is eager to join in. i noticed that part of what won him over was when the results of his effort were more vibrant and exciting.  for example, he was all over coloring as soon as i brought oil pastels into the mix and he had more than drab crayons to color with.   (have you ever noticed how awful some of the art supplies are for kids! like the crayons they give you for free at the restaurant that barely even work! why bother! it’s such a turn off to the whole process.)  anyway, i’m trying to be all over this one and think up some fun and exciting art projects. so, the other day we went on a walk and collected rocks for the express purpose of painting them. the boys thought this was great. “paint rocks!” it was very exciting.

i’d envisioned this project as being simple…we paint the rocks, add some eyes and shazam! pet rocks.  but, we didn’t have goggly eyes, just green dots and the boys didn’t want two green dots on some of the rocks they wanted lots of green dots.  so, green dots were added with abandon and each new creation was set aside to dry on little foam sheets.  pretty soon we had a growing company of rocks and it was beginning to look awfully nice.

i’ll admit that i was responsible for lining them up quilt-like, in the beginning, but once it started it was C that decided which one went where.  in the end, both boys spent an honest 40 quiet, fully-concentrating minutes on this project, which is a lot for us. the best part? i really enjoyed this project and think it genuinely looks nice.  plus, i got a humbling reminder that my kids have their own innate sense of style and design and the best thing i can do is butt out.

this next project is basically the opposite.  i pretty much took charge and did most of the work (including the work of encouraging them to get excited about it) but it was totally worth it.  it’s so exciting.  SNOW GLOBES! ok, not snow globes but halloween globes but the same idea.  oh yes. homemade snow globes. let me say it again: snow/halloween globes. and, we made them. it’s so easy.

1. save up some jars with their lids and clean them.

2. find some stuff that fits inside.  this is a good things for kids to get involved in…’what fits? what doesn’t?

3. glue the stuff to the inside of the jar lid with hardcore glue, let it dry.

4. throw some glitter in the jar (we only had these metal party favors) and fill up with water (preferably distilled water if you want it to last a while) and a drop of glycerin to help the glitter float.

5. pop that lid on the jar and tip upside down.

yes, it is that easy. (we found glycerin at the health food store but i didn’t look very hard and i think we could have found it for cheaper elsewhere.)

here is martha’s version.  i can already tell you that we are going to be making a lot more of these for christmas.  if i had all the time in the world i fear that i would take this snow-globe making down a long, weird road…making little snowy worlds in a jar….i could get sucked into that, for sure.

the love ambush

my husband and i first wandered into the world of parenting like one of those freaky friday-type movies when a teenager wakes up to find they are ceo.  we had no idea what we were doing.  i’m still a bit perplexed by how we could be so completely blindsided by the whole thing. i was older than both my siblings and took care of them a lot.  we both had friends with babies. shouldn’t we have a better idea what we were supposed to be doing!?

i remember wishing that the pediatrician was coming home with us from the hospital.  um, he didn’t. he let us take the screaming, pooping, totally dependent little person home with us and nobody was even supervising the whole operation!

“you got a car seat? great, you are good to go!”

i’ve had time sheets given more scrutiny.

as we stumbled blindly through–amazed on a daily basis that we all remained alive–we slowly amassed the community of people essential to surviving the ride.  one of those people was our daycare provider, sandi.  she has the gentle nature that makes it possible for a sleep-deprived, work-stressed, over-caffeinated, crying jag-prone parent to hear, ‘yes indeed. your child is hungry. you are not feeding him enough and you need to supplement with formula even though you are fiercely dedicated to breastfeeding.’   huh.

for nearly two years, she was the one that let us ride off to work without worrying or feeling guilty. when our second child came along, we were excited to get to see her again on a daily basis.  she and her staff became nothing short of co-parents with us.

so, it was a bittersweet moment in the late summer when it came time for our youngest to move on out of her care. it meant we were moving on from miss sandi.  and, i knew i couldn’t let it happen without doing something special.  so, i got in touch with as many parents as i could and we made her a quilt. one quilt square for each child.

 

i rented out the space i use for my sewing classes for a one-day ‘make a quilt square’ event. and then dropped supplies off around town for a half-dozen more.  after a small bit of nagging and email hounding i gathered up all the quilt squares and started making the quilt. we’d already arranged the meet-up with her, so i had just a few days. i had to bust it out!

 

{even the cat helped a bit}

in the end, we made a quilt for her with squares from 24 kids and 17 different families. stitches and fabric from a sample of the kids and families she has loved over the past few years.  look at that quilt! it’s amazing! what if those kids all grow up and stay in this community and this little bit of time in their lives is still there on this quilt? it’s like a time capsule. the quilt has bits of fabric from special blankets, favorite type of toys and songs represented, the things that are special and amazing about each kid stitched together.

we intended to throw her a surprise picnic. i told her that my family wanted to meet up with her for bagels at the park.  really, 8-10 families planned to meet at the park and surprise her…let the kids play in the park while we snacked and chatted and gave her the quilt.

and, of course, it rained like crazy that day.  sandi and her husband were stranded in long island with water flooding the roads. but they got up at something like 4am to drive back FOR A SMALL GATHERING AT OUR HOUSE. they really did.  the roads were treacherous and rather than cancel they drove because she didn’t want disappoint my boys.  meanwhile, our house was filling up with kids and parents and food waiting for her.  and, that is when we (as one mom described it) love ambushed her.  she arrived…unshowered, tired, expecting a relaxing brunch with 4 people.  she was greeted by about 10 kids screaming SHE’S HERE!! then came the crowd and the food and the quilt.  it was a bit much i think.  there were some tears and a (respected) request for no close up pictures.  was it nice, what we did? i’m not sure.  but, it was well-intended. it was a love ambush after all, not just an ambush.  just an awkward way to say ‘thanks. you are amazing.’  thanks sandi. you are amazing.

notice: sewing salon…next thursday night!

sewing salon ($18)

thursday, november 17, 7-9:30pm

got a project you need a little help with? having trouble setting aside time to work on something? want to hang out with awesome people, listen to awesome music and be productive at the same time? it’s time for a sewing salon.

bring your project and your self over to the basement of the reformed church next thursday and join the fun. it will be like a speakeasy during prohibition.  ok, not at all like that. more like the hearth occupied by the Ingalls girls. and, it’s going to rock.

i need to be sure that at least four people are definitely coming in order to run the class. but, don’t worry if you register and i have to cancel, i will refund you, lickety split!

p.s. i’m having a little bit of paypal trouble so if you would like to pay via paypal and the link isn’t useful for you….let me know you are interested and we will sort it out. thanks for your patience!

update! no more paypal trouble! register away!

 

 

the car bags

this summer, we all went on vacation to the midwest…minnesota and wisconsin, specifically.  it was a ‘high agenda’ type of vacation. we were stuffing in visit-time with grandpa, a work-y reunion for my husband, lots of meet ups with old friends, and a trip to my hometown of duluth to see grandma, aunty and uncle.  needless to say, there was much driving not to mention flying.  and, you know, kids are soooo awesome about sitting while fully strapped in for hours on end.  so i tried to be pretty prepared.  i made these ‘car bags’ that are really just single-strap bags made with heavy-duty interfacing so that they stay upright on their own, for the most part.  i added a fancy front pocket so i could rotate some eye-catching coloring books or truck books (more likely) to minimize the whining and hassling that inevitably occurs every time we get into the car.

they ended up being pretty handy and easy to tote into grandma’s house and the hotel, as well.  a transportable play station for the unplugged, kind of thing.  (that is, as long as i stayed diligent with repacking and resorting everything so that it was sure to draw them in. a practice no longer employed at home.)  the single strap included snaps so it could be unsnapped and hung over anything we pleased.

{i’m completely smitten with this canvas elephant fabric, believe i got it from sew mama sew.}

 i also threw together two crayon roll/paper pad combos that turned out to be GREAT for keeping little people occupied at dinner time in restaurants.  in our experience, dinner in a restaurant can be a wicked combination of both humiliating and also exhausting…it’s something we almost never do at home. so, a tiny solution to that problem was awfully welcome.

that’s not to say that two crayon rolls and upright fabric bags got us through every pickle but there could have been more, let’s just say that much.

it was a great trip and well worth the hassles that accompany traveling with little people, made a little bit better with a slice of mama-made, to boot.  and, of course, i wouldn’t miss a chance to see the three boys i love the most in the world next to the lake that takes my breath away.

 {lake superior}

 

 

hello there!

welcome to the long awaited (for me, at least) new site for a happy stitch.  i’ve been sewing and even blogging for a bit but this marks the beginning of making it a bigger,grander part of my everyday.  in January I left my paid job when my passion for that work was overshadowed by a strong desire to find more time for my family, my kids and my (what was then) hobby.  tentatively but steadily, i moved ahead with bringing my love of sewing center stage in my day.  i started teaching some classes, quietly opened an etsy shop and found myself hooked up with kevin trainor, who made this site possible.  i now have lots of time with my kids and sew the heck out the time away from them.  consider me outed—sewing geek extraordinaire.

{the right light and some fabric awaiting its fate made for a still moment in the studio}

thanks for stopping in, be sure to check back as i stumble, trip through sewing, selling and teaching!

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