November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

breakfast - pancake animals

Some happy pancake animals from Misha to put a smile on your face.

Have a restful, delicious holiday, everyone!

November 24, 2008

Some More Little Kitchens!

candicami and welli

On the left, by Etsy user candicami, and on the right, by Etsy user welli. Aren't these adorable? What is most incredible about the one on the right is that it is hand-painted! All I have to say is, Wow.

November 21, 2008

A Set of Pretties

Japanese paper notebook set

Thanks to Linda, I have a gloriously large collection of offcuts of beautifully textured and patterned Japanese paper. I used some of it to make this set of little notebooks (just long rectangles folded in half and stapled on the spine). They came out so pretty! Um, if I do say so myself.

Oh, and yes, this will be another Hanukkah gift. It occurred to me yesterday that many of the recipients of these presents read the blog and thus won't be entirely surprised when they open them (although of course no one knows who will get what)... but I like showing you the things I make, so I guess that's that.

November 20, 2008

In full swing

Collage - Lara & Liza

Present making is now in full swing around here. It's really so much fun! I feel like I am constantly forgetting the types of things that are possible to make, and am rediscovering crafts as I study my tiny craft cabinet of supplies.

Speaking of, one of these days I am really going to need a better paper and ephemera organizational system rather than my current stack-them-all-on-top-of-each-other-in-no-particular-order-thus-impossible-to-look-through. Any ideas for a better system?

November 19, 2008

It begins again...

... the handmade holiday season, that is.

I was actually going to buckle this year and buy things instead, so we loaded the family into the car and headed out to the mall yesterday evening. It was quite an eerie experience. There was no one there. At all. We saw one family taking pictures of their kid next to one of the numerous Christmas trees decking the empty halls, and another lone little girl cajoling her mom into letting her go talk to Santa in his huge cage-like enclosure. The only highlight was a brand new board games store, which also had some Lara-approved animatronic stuffed animals in the front display. The teenager working there was so bored he actually came over and turned them all on for her. Otherwise, our trip turned out to be just be a nice walk indoors. Lara ran with delight from one plastic reindeer to the next without the usual danger of colliding with adults not monitoring below-knee activity. We wandered after her, slowly more and more shocked at the emptiness, which is probably the first real sign I've seen of the economic disaster.

And of course I'd rather give people things made by hand than mass-produced ones.* I'm not really a complete corporate snob - just bought Lara another bunch of sleepies from The Children's Place, and a pair of winter boots from Target. But gifts seem different somehow than necessary objects. We are expected to have thought them through, to have taken time to wonder about the taste and needs of the recipient, to have factored in the complexities of our relationship with that person and the unspoken meanings a gift may carry. It's really hard. There are people in my life whom I love dearly, and to whom I am incredibly close, who have yet to ever buy me something that I actually like. I am sure there are people in my life for whom I am that horrible gift giver. But at least a handmade present, by virtue of the time and creative energy it embodies, is a symbol of some of that necessary gift-giving care and attentiveness.

This Hanukkah, someone is getting a set of the wine charms (or I guess napkin rings) that I like to make:

Beaded wine charms (or napkin rings)

In case the picture makes it hard to tell, they are basically just short beaded lariats meant to wrap around the stem of a wine glass or a rolled up napkin, with the large bead on the end threaded through the lariat loop. More doodads to come.

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*I think books count as handmade. Or at least they do in my gift world.

November 18, 2008

forty-two roads in Print!

My enormous thanks to Good Housekeeping magazine for turning one of my blog posts into an article in the December '08 issue! If you are here because you stumbled on my blog through the magazine - welcome!

Good Housekeeping December 08

Here is a blurry picture of the article (the inset is the magazine cover), which is a combination of last year's Hanukah posts and which features a couple of cute photos of Lara amidst the holiday decor.

November 17, 2008

Thanksgiving vignette

Autumn sunflowers and pumpkins

Lara picked these flowers out for her daddy on a recent shopping trip. "What color do you think daddy will like?" "Yellow." "Not pink?" "No, daddy likes yellow." By a happy coincidence they went quite nicely with the two pumpkins we seem to have accumulated to mark the season.

This morning, we walked into her classroom and her beloved teacher for the last two years was already there. She and I said good morning, and Lara didn't say anything.
Me: Do you want to say good morning to Miss Ella?
Lara: No!
Me: Why not? Say, "Good morning, Miss Ella!"
Lara: (tucking behind my leg) No, Mommy, I want to be shy.
Meanwhile, any random stranger in our building elevator gets a sprightly, "Hi neighbor! [or sometimes, "Hi man!" or "Hi lady!"] What's your name? My name is Lara."

Three is a good age.

November 14, 2008

For the Family

Why we're happy:



Yay!

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Oh, and also? I finished chapter 3 of the old dissertation! Whoo-hoo! Better eat your Wheaties, Dickens, cause you're next.

November 11, 2008

More Zoo

So, now that Ms. Fortytworoads (Mrs? Future-Dr? Not sure on the correct polite appellation for the wife, here) has given you a bowl of delicious soup, I have to share with you this monstrous creature from the black lagoon.



This turtle fascinates me. I mean, I love taking Lara to the zoo, and if I had the time and technological know-how to figure out what's wrong with uploading Google videos, you'd get treated to such footage as me desperately trying to get our 3 year old to look at a gibbon as he swings at warp 9 all around his cage, trying vainly to inveigle a giant orangutan (orang-utan?) to play with him. However, I can't upload that, so you'll have to use your imagination. Lara likes the apes. She calls them all gorillas. She seems amused at the actual gorillas; last time we were there a female gorilla was carting around a box, sat down, opened it, and took out a carrot, and started to munch it. Lara likes watching them eat their vegetables, and will comment on it endlessly; however, "eat your vegetables like the gorillas" does not succeed in getting Lara to actually imitate her healthier ancestors.

Anyway, back to Godzilla up there. Lara is, umm, aware of this turtle, but I think it's sort of commonplace for her. "Oh yeah, that giant turtle the size of a VW bug; I've seen it before." She's been in the zoo countless times, and, since the house of reptiles is the first in-door exhibit, and is superwarm, we tend to bolt in there all winter. Now, while this beastie is common to her, I'm thinking, "Where did they dig this thing up? Is it 2000 years old? How does this guy get this tiny aquarium, he's a monster!"

So, I'm sharing with you, our local Philadelphia Zoo's biggest turtle. Enjoy!

Comfy soup

Potato barley soup

You know what makes any vegetable soup amazing? Barley. Adding it to a soup transforms an appetizer into a full meal with all the food groups - and that slightly chewy, buttery texture is just so perfect. I made this soup heavy on the barley and the potatoes, instantly making comfort food. Really good stuff when the days are chilly and the evenings are getting positively frigid.

Very Simple Potato Barley Soup:

celery
carrots
yellow pepper
red pepper
onion
potatoes
whole barley grains

- dice onion, celery, carrots, and peppers
- add water, salt to taste, let boil for 10 minutes or so
- add potatoes and barley
- let boil until potatoes and barley are soft

I like mine with a spoonful of sour cream. How do you eat your soup?

November 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Honey-Bear!

Eek! Lara is 3!

A fun party at Nancy's was enjoyed by all. The "cake" was a banana bread - Lara blew out the candle, and then just grabbed the whole thing and tried to run off with it.



Reading some books with Uncle Max:



Showing Julian the big present favorite of the night - these beautiful hand bells:



There are enough bells to make an octave and they come with instructions for playing a few songs. We had a great time parsing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," while Lara mostly liked distributing the bells to her party guests - here to Norman:



Then she came up to Avi, gave him a little piece of her bagel and grabbed a huge piece of his, thus initiating a brilliant career in business.



Happy 3rd birthday, little girl!