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The softness that comes in time

All my life I had known that the stereotype of ‘grandma’ included soft edges, kind words, endless encouragement, and cookies.

My grandmother, who we call Grandy, was basically none of these things.  She was always game to read a book to us and I remember sitting in laps long long ago, her encouragement was more in the form of challenge, her kind words were rare but insight or conversation was common and I learned more about avoiding sugar than eating it from her because she is a diabetic who gets sugar rage when it is out of control. She would hold us all to an internal standard and was not afraid to call us out and if you chose to fight about it she was up for a fight, often at volume.  She was a teacher, a mover and shaker, a businesswoman and the person who taught me first lessons about finance and investing (at probably 5).  There was time for us, when we fit in, because she was the glorious center of her solar system.  She loved us without question, wanted the best and helped push us all toward her vision of ‘the best’.

Every so often I wished I could have that soft grandmother figure but I was always proud of the grandmother I had.

Today I realized I have a soft grandmother now.  She is rounded around the edges. The fight is a flicker.  She may still be fiesty with aids but it is more petulant then defiant.  I talk and she listens and I know she loves me but she isn’t hearing me anymore. I’ve called every week for years and at one time I could talk to her for hours and these days she can only hold the conversation for a few minutes.  He voice is softer, her words are softer and I worry that it isn’t just a bad day anymore.

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4 year old picture – If I put a picture up now she would kill me

 

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Suddenly Christmas is in 2 weeks

How does this happen to me every year?  I feel like there is ages to go and then suddenly it is crunch time.

I got the Christmas cards created, printed, address updated and printed, stamps and all in the mail.  I must say that Avery templates have gotten really good.  I used them to make super cute return address labels and they printed out so much easier than using the mail merge.

We have completed our holiday craft item.  I’m experimenting with essential oil sprays and settled on 2 – one full of anti bug stuff to repel anything crawly, and, the other is just good smelling and with the high alcohol content it is really good at taking the smell out of non-washable things.  We did a very scientific test – we took Lars’s riding gloves that are full of years worth of hand sweat and sprayed one and not the other and then got everyone who came over to do a sniff test.  I think we actually did it because while the experimental glove never exactly got to smell ‘good’ it no longer smelled bad and the control was found every time.  More credit to Avery for their printable templates.  I buy the labels and go online and super easily create the perfect size graphics.  I got the kids to do the drawings and I uploaded and tweaked them to fit and I’m happy with the results.

I’m in the middle of the sewing project for the kids.  This year I’m inspired by the fact that they constantly steal all the living room blankets and find ways to tie them onto themselves as capes or dresses or disguises…  I decided to make each of them a cloak with a hood out of a blanket BUT they have built-in scarf/tie to make them easy to keep on AND little hand pockets on the edge that can either be for better wing shape, or, putting things into.  I wish I had a loner kid to test the design, I can’t wait to give it to them!

 

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modeled by Good Girl Puppy who is about the same size as Fiona’s head and torso.  Note the paw pocket on the right. 

 

Decorations are on the scant side this year.  We put a bunch of them into storage and I don’t know where they are.  The 2 boxes we kept out did have some of the most important ornaments and there is enough to look festive overall.  It did hower prompt a Dad-joke.

Lars – “look there is a bare spot”

Me – “where, I thought we found enough to look pretty good”

Lars – “right here” lol

Me – eye roll and laugh, I do love a good bad joke.

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I’m glad the major projects are winding down and the decorations are all up (rather than in totes around the house waiting) so the house can get back to a mostly clean status.  I was reluctant to put up the tree given the ornament situation and that we are always away for actual Christmas.  However, all three kids have remarked on how much they love it and how magical it is that I’m glad we did it.  One bonus to not having our decorations – we had to go get new lights and we finally found a solution to our White v Color lights situation.  Target had lights that are BOTH!  and also LED so I don’t feel bad leaving them on for maximum magical moments.  Even being woken up by a 2am nosebleed is more magical when gently lit by a Christmas tree.

 

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color

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white

 

This is my last full week in MN for the year – next week is my birthday and then we take off for the holiday to return sometime near newyears (not totally planned).  I hope to do the gift rationalization where I go investigate my hidden stashes and see what I need to finish up.  That is my plan for the rest of today before kid time, just wanted to hop online to see how the blog world is doing.

Dress for cheap = cheap

We have all seen the super inexpensive sites with cute dresses or coats for unbelievable prices.  You know there is a catch.  There is always a catch….

When I saw this one though I was hooked.  It was the A-line, it was the cool top, and the real reason I forked over the price of 3 coffees was the fabric.  I wanted it for Christmas and it has been ages since I got a dress for an occasion so I took the risk.

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Note!  I have done some research on this topic, I’m not the first person to take a risk and so I learned from others that the sizes are very very very different.  I zoomed in on the size chart and found myself ordering an XL as that best correlated to my 6-8 American size.

I also know that shipping is slow but since I was seeing this two weeks before Thanksgiving I crossed my fingers and hoped it would arrive before Christmas travel.

  • It arrived yesterday, about a month later but in plenty of time
  • Right out of the package it needed an iron but otherwise, construction was decent.  Finished seams and the zipper worked.
  • Fabric was as cute as I hoped, very pleased with the print.

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The real test was fit.  I tried it on and it was both too big and too small at the same time.

I absolutely had to do some tailoring on the sides so I didn’t even bother taking a picture of it on me before I took out 2 inches on each side because instead of the hourglass shape in the model picture, mine was more of a cylinder with a pleated skirt.  Trimming in the sides did  make it better, I solved the ‘too big’ issue in just a few seams.

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black lines are where I pulled it in.

So here you see it.  It isn’t ‘bad’ but it sure isn’t good.img_4744

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Do you see where my hands are? They are on my natural waist, about where the skirt should be…  it isn’t.  It is two inches or more off and it makes the proportions of the top look wrong to me (and to the other people who saw it on me).  It looks frumpy and even if I carved out another inch or so to make it actually tight I can’t fix the length of my top.

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The second odd situation is the bust area.  I like the way the structure looks (still needs an iron) but it too high for my chest.  Ironically if I pull it down to be in the right spot for my chest then the waist is closer to correct but it is impossible to actually make it stay like that.  Maybe the shoulders are wrong?  If I added length to the shoulder then the armhole would be so big you could see my entire bra.  The armhole is actually the only thing that is about perfect.

I think the only way to salvage is to chop the top off and have a cute skirt with adorable fabric.  This is a test shot with the top folded down.  While I’m at it, I might shorten it a touch to be knee length instead of tea length but I’ll see about that later.  Since I’m cutting and sewing already I’ll probably add pockets.

In the end, I’ll end up with a skirt I can probably wear more frequently than once a year for Christmas but I’ll also have put in the time to make it happen.  I do like that it already has a zipper, that is my least favorite part and if someone said that they would do the zipper on a skirt for me for the price of 3 coffees I would absolutely do that.

I think I learned my lesson on internet cheap dresses.  Unless I’m looking at it for the fabric, it is not worth the price regardless how low it is.

Rememberance day 

Original bullet holes

Monument as seen from the base

Final rest and a rainbow

Christmas is coming!

Every year I’ve tried to do a little something handmade for Christmas.  The kids have caught the bug and love to make things for people.  Sometimes the results are questionable … but I’ve found that I can really impact the quality of the product by providing good materials.  In fact, if you just give them good supplies and no guidance you sometimes get some really creative things.

The theory is – if they can string pasta on yarn, they can string pretty beads on a nice chord.  Understandably this is a choking hazard for little little kids but if you can trust them to not eat the goods, you can give them good things to work with.

I started with Oriental Trading Company online looking for some cool bits and pieces for them to create into gifts for teachers and friends.  Oriental Trading is my go-to, not just because they sponsored this post but because the prices are fantastic for the quality AND it isn’t the ‘same old stuff’ you find in the craft area of WalMart or Joanns.  By virtue of being online, they can have a million things for Christmas or charms for any hobby where a store has to limit what is on the shelves.  Niamh actually helped some this year and selected a cute bunch of snowflake charms, a winter mix of charms, and a solid style bracelet.  I supplemented with a specialized ‘teacher pack’ and per Zoe request something ‘with a dog and best friend’.

It all arrived and the kids could not contain themselves.  I had to hold them back from instant creation because we were about to eat Thanksgiving dinner and that is NOT the time to bust out the beads.  When things mellowed out the got to the organizing side of things, sorting out all the different things into our ‘upcycled’ craft organizer – egg crates.

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The rest I left up to them.  Niamh went classic with an arrangement of charms on a bracelet, she even made a custom on for her snow hating teacher.

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Fiona went a totally different way and used almost all large beads and then put the whole thing on a necklace and it looks pretty cool like a big pendant.

Niamh actually did way more on the bracelet, adding spacer beads etc but just in case her teacher is reading I’ll keep some details a surprise for Christmas!

I love that they feel confident that people will love what they create, I love helping build that confidence by giving them the tools to actually make quality things.  And by ‘make’ I mean like how I ‘make’ a cake from a nice packaged box and some eggs and water – There is no way I can make as good from scratch in as little time with as consistent results.

I love that we share

Over last week as I put things back on track from Thanksgiving and aimed ourselves at Christmas I put in a solid baking day because while we are flush with pies, we are in a tragic cookie deficit.

Our family favorite cookie is one that my sister found on the internet and shared with me.  It is tasty, pretty simple, and the kids adore it.  When I wrote out the recipe ages ago I labeled it “Aunt Josie Cookies” and that is how they are known here.  As I was mixing them up I was thinking about how lucky I am to have been raised in a family with no ‘secret recipes’.  If anyone makes anything they will tell you exactly how with zero reservations.  I know that to be a bit unique in the world where people guard their recipes and ingredients.  However, with things like Pinterest and the internet, there are so many great recipes shared that I’m hopeful that the world is moving more in that direction.

You can use this ‘open ip’ concept for so many things but I’m particularly glad that I can trust that my sister found a great recipe just like she trusted my chicken pie that I also got from a friend.  Sharing good food and the ability to make good food I think just makes the world a better place so extra big thanks to all the food bloggers out there paving the way.

 

With Love Kate

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