Tag Archive | Christmas

Gifts for cold and creative kids

Every year I make something for the kids (and sometimes more people) and this year I was inspired by the fact that they tie blankets onto and around themselves, with various levels of “success” to be part of their games.  I read ages ago that giving kids things that can be used in games rather then specific use objects is better for their imaginations.  I posted about this a few weeks ago when I had just finished #1 and said I was excited to see how they liked them.  I also got an email asking how they liked them so here is the answer 🙂

(If you don’t recall or don’t want to click over, they are capes made from blankets that have a hood and a built-in tie/scarf.  They also have pockets for either hands or stuff.)

I knew when I made 3 identical capes they would be used in very not identical ways and I was not wrong.  In the crush of Christmas they were overlooked a little, but, I was rewarded when we got home when Zoe and Fiona were using them in an elaborate game.

Zoe was a bird in the game and she was using the hand pockets to make wings and loved running around the house.

Fiona was a hunter and tied her hood tight and wrapped the scarf around her whole body to make it a coat and she was trying to hide her sword (bird catching sword) when I made them pose for the picture.

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Niamh actually started using hers instead of a jacket and has worn it out to walk the dog more than once.  She ties a bow in a third perfectly valid, and very sweet, way to wear the cloak.img_4837

We also live in a cold state and our house is pretty tight but there are still cold spots and a wearable warm thing is a good idea so I made myself one too.  I find myself wearing it in the evening for reading time to give extra snuggle time while also keeping my phone safe in the pocket as we transition into bedtime.  So many of my outfits lack pockets…

If anyone wants the how-to on this let me know.  I used $3 blankets and they took me under 20min to make.  I have never seen this particular pattern online but it also isn’t all that unique a design so I may have just missed it.

I have used up my computer time for now so I must get back to the list of things to do (that may or may not include reading the book I finally got to start….)

 

 

 

 

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Dashing through the snow…

Today we GO!

(lets not talk about when we get there…)

I have spent the past few days chipping away at the pile of things that need to be done as well as getting in a few things that would be harder to do later.  My NOT procrastination totally paid off because Lars and I were in HomeDepot, the 6th shop for the day, on a fact-finding mission about suites of appliances and we happened to see a fridge-sized box with a price tag of $160.  I dismissed it, figuring it was some odd special thing or something that needed to be part of a larger, much more expensive, system.  The sales lady just mentioned to us “hey, you guys need a fridge?” and we are like “um… yes?”  Apparently, the warehouse missed this one and now it had to GO because they couldn’t inventory it anymore (or some such inventory reason) so we got a fridge originally priced $860 for $160.  We have been working with our tiny fridge in the garage for extra milk but this will be way better.  I see it as our reward for #1 checking out appliance prices for the house months in advance and #2 already have a clean car ready for travel that all we had to do was move car seats.  #3 I just happened to have organized my ‘car bin’ of useful things including tie-down straps AND put it back in the car that day so we were able to fit the fridge in, and, tie the back gate down since it was just a little longer than our cargo area.

Don’t you just love a deal?!?

At this point, I have lists about my lists but we are near the end of them all.  All trip stuff and clothing is assembled and job #1 today is to pack.  People talk about ‘packing’ like putting things into a bag is hard, that is the easy bit – finding all the things you want for 5 people and a dog is the hard part.  There is one load of laundry to do, final dishwasher load to run for today’s things.  I need to make up the guest room for the house sitter but since we have guests often that is an easy thing.  Books reserved at the library for pickup, food ready for prep for the trip.  Lots to do but I’m in the last bit and positioned well.  Thank you yesterday self for NOT falling into the new book you just downloaded and have waited for a year, You can read that tomorrow as a reward.

Teacher and friend gifts are ready for delivery, already delivered, or ready for when we get back.img_4884

 

I think I’ve completed all the things I NEED for Christmas and I packed supplies for cooking and final projects at my parents.  Driving may mean 2x travel time but it also means I can bring more ‘stuff’.  The kids are so used to a second Christmas when we return that they asked about it so we made the decision that all the things that the kids picked for each other and us can stay for mini Christmas.

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Kid wrapped gifts under the tree ready for mini Christmas!

I’m writing this at 7:30 in the morning and our go time is 3:30 so I have time to do what I need to do as well as go to my birthday massage appointment.  I’m getting in the spirit here, things are looking good.  This is the first year in YEARS my sisters will both be at my parents so I’m excited to see everyone. I hope to avoid the panic of leaving last minute and so far so good.  Time to get breakfast, school lunch, kids to school.  T-7h to takeoff.

 

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.

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.

Happy Second Christmas

We are home!

One of the tricky things about travel over Christmas is what to do about gifts.  Do you do them before the trip or after or drag them along on your trip?  This is doubled or tripled by what does your family do?  Give in person or ship to your home?  Complicate that more by variables unique to each situation and you get quite a situation.

We have been doing this for years and have come up with a few things that seem to help so if you are thinking of traveling during Christmas and wondering what to do here is what works for us;

  • If we are traveling very close to Christmas we do gifts before we leave
    • Also if something that is a Christmas gift but also needed on the trip
  • If we are leaving well before Christmas (like this time) we told the kids the gifts would be waiting when we got home and we would do Second Christmas
    • To make this work well I wrapped gifts well before we left and put them out so they could be shaken and wondered about, physical proof gifts exist
    • Had a friend put out the last few gifts and arrange them a bit and text a picture so on Christmas morning I could show the kids that Santa had come and set the gifts out just like normal and there they were, waiting for them.
    • “santa” still came to us in Hawaii, but, for us Santa fills the stockings so that wasn’t hard to do there
  • Make Second Christmas a real deal – We got home late and groggy and cranky from travel and I made the kids wait one more night so this morning we woke up to Second Christmas where we had fancy pancakes and talks with relatives as we opened gifts and I’m treating the whole day like a private Christmas.
    • Also talking up the fact that we have an extra Christmas day full of family time and nice food etc helped them feel good.

Bottom line is that we talked honestly about what would happen and how and why over and over to make sure they knew.  Also, a good time to work on the fact that a trip to Hawaii and all the fun things we did were part of their Christmas, and, spending time together is better than spending money on gifts…  However, that is a concept that is beyond many adults so I had realistic expectations for my kids and they did really well.  Especially well now that they have their second Christmas 🙂

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twas the night before 2nd Christmas

They did thoroughly enjoy what we got them and what was sent from family.  It seriously sounds like Christmas here today with all the playing with all the toys.

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final moments of torture waiting for Fiona to finish breakfast!

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super tight bows are hard…

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Grandma wins for most interesting and creative!

Next I need to tackle the unpacking.  Our flight was nasty timing, departing at 11:50 pm meant that we couldn’t really have a normal bedtime but on the positive Zoe and Niamh and Lars slept.  Fiona kept half waking up and freaking out so she and I did not get much rest.  Landing in LA at 7:30am with a 2-hour layover was not too bad.  You need at least 30min in LAX to get to the right place so we had enough time for a little breakfast and getting where we were going.  I was a zombie and Niamh kept falling asleep everywhere but we did ok.  Thankfully we had Vacation Mom to pick us up and we got home and ordered pizza and told the kids to eat and watch TV while we went to sleep.  Lars actually ended up sleeping on both flights so he was reasonable when we got home and went to work to pre-catch up.

I’m, not unexpectedly, unsure on what day it actually is but I know we have a weekend and new years day to go so we have plenty of time to readjust to this time zone and weather.  The house is decent, I need to grocery shop, but I did leave my sisters with clean laundry so I’m going to enjoy this day.

 

PS. this day for me made possible by my prents getting married 38 years ago.  Happy Anniversery!