December 29, 2008

Hanukkah, part III (party at our house!)

True to our almost-new-year pledge of being more social, we had a few people over for the fourth night of Hanukkah. So fun! It came together surprisingly easily, too - certainly enough to make us want to entertain way more often... which shouldn't be too hard considering our average right now is .5 times/year... I made latkes and banana-cranberry bread, and the rest was pretty much potluck. Party enjoyed by all:

There is pretty much no better way to define "parallel play"...

Though I was happy to see the little kitchen actually made Lara and her friend Matt play together!

Matt brought Lara a completely amazing present - an enormous tool kit complete with things like calipers, a level, both a jigsaw and a regular saw, socket wrenches, and a few tools I might not even know by name! Plus a totally cool tool belt and hard hat:

Of course, for Lara the belt instantly turned into the accessory du jour, to be paired with matching hat and shoes, and interestingly contrasting briefcase. Girls.

December 28, 2008

Little Kitchens for the Holidays

I hope you all had a good last few days! I will post some more pictures of our many many Hanukkah doings in a couple of days, but for now a nice distraction - looks like some tots will be getting new cardboard toys for the holidays! Here are a few just sent to me.

This one is from Sarah, who blogs at Raising a Teeny Greenie Peacenik:

Here is another from Jen at HomeSweet:

And finally, a beauty from Fiona from neverending lists, whose alterations to my original I really love (check out that cool oven control panel!):

December 23, 2008

Hanukkah, part II (the decorations)

The beautiful table spread at Dadie's house this weekend:

Hanukkah 08 - table at Dadie's

My greening gift wrap this year consisted of trying to make nice gift boxes that could be reused (thus, nothing sealed and no permanently attached gift tags). I decorated the boxes with rectangles of art paper, making sure to cover any labels or brand names. Anything that I didn't have a box for was wrapped in brown craft paper and decorated the same way.

Hanukkah 08 - gift wrap

The gift tags were birds from the delicate artwork on this year's Nordstrom shopping bags, by illustrator Lisa Evans.

And as for the clues (those little rolled up pieces of white paper)? This year we went for riddles. Here they are (the answers are at the bottom of the post):

1) You love them in 3D, and remember them flat;
collect the flat memories in me and see them at the drop of a hat.

2) I'm a book where yesterday follows today,
and a cynical mood is on display.

3) After you use us for your thought threads,
We’ll be black and white, and all over red.

4) Outside they grow, inside they decorate;
put them in me to keep them long past their sell-by date.

5) I’m many but also one;
use me around the house and the job is soon done.

6) You drink it to keep sleep away;
put it in me to keep it hot all day.

7) I can be oval, square, or round;
whatever you love, I will surround.

8) A long time ago, my work saved Penelope;
now my job has been replaced with machinery.

9) We go around stems to keep confusion at bay;
Use us like bracelets at your next soiree.


Meanwhile, at our house, some garlands of snowflakes and stars of David:

Hanukkah 08 - garlands

And some wintry flowers to add to the theme. I made sure to get some eucalyptus stems - smells delicious!

Hanukkah 08 - flowers

1) photo album, 2) Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, 3) little notebooks, 4)flower vase, 5) tool kit, 6) insulated coffee mug, 7) photo frame, 8) loom (the actual gift was an antique shuttlecock), 9) wine glass charms

December 22, 2008

Hanukkah, part I (the people)

There really is no better way to spend a Sunday than surrounded with love and family. What a lovely, lovely celebration.

It was freezing (and also sleeting) outside when we came, so Lara didn't put on her party regalia for a little while. This is us mid-dress-putting-on-coax.

Emily, Irina, and Max valiantly try to get Lara to share her goldfish. Guess how many they got? That's right, 0.

Running barefoot to Emily to escape. "I want no stockings!"

Lexi, Nancy, and Emily are much easier to get to pose than Lara is. Aren't they adorable?

Ta-da! All dressed up. She is pulling along one of her presents - a set of golf clubs. She wasn't all that interested in hitting the ball with them, though. At first there was a lot of caddying, but then she figured out how to somehow make the bag into a ride-on toy and was scooting around on it for a while.

We had a pretty high-tech gathering, patching in Jane and Bob from North Carolina and Amy and David from California. They were really a part of the whole thing, and even got to play some of the clues (more on that in the next post)! How cool is that? Of course, eventually, the computer screen became devoted to various team rivalries, as those various "sucks" signs kept coming back in different incarnations. Love it.

Happy Hanukkah, everybody!

December 19, 2008

Big Shirt to Shirred Shirt

Blue shirt recon with gathered neck

Another shirt recon. The original looked just like this one, except in blue. I used the first recon to take in the sleeves and shoulders, and then made two rows of elastic thread stitching to gather the neckline (this shirring tutorial rocks, incidentally). I really like the resulting silhouette, but I ran out of embellishment creativity. Should I just leave it as is? Do something more to it? All ideas welcome.

December 16, 2008

A new Little Kitchen

This one was made by Annette for her granddaughter. Love that antique-y oven door handle!

Little Kitchen - made by Annette

Also, I have to say that I am thrilled that so many people are making these as holiday presents for the kiddos in their lives. It really makes me so happy to be a (granted very indirect) part of other people's celebrations. Even more gratifying are the several notes I've received from people affected by the overall misery of the economy, saying that they were happy to find a gift that wouldn't break the bank. Yay! I love that frugality and green thinking so frequently coincide.

December 15, 2008

More presents

Re-covered notebook

I have to say, present-making is much more laborious without small elves to help me out. Here is another one to add to the growing pile - a notebook that I recovered with paper bits, and with a super-cool post card that my mom brought me from last year's annual Moscow Theater Festival. I love the little figures under the biplane, especially the pantalooned fellow holding the red umbrella on the left.

The first of our Hanukkah celebrations this year is on Sunday, and I have to say that we are usually quite a bit further along in the present making, wrapping, and clue-ing process... Hopefully all will be completed on time!

December 14, 2008

Oils - Karen's sons

A fun giant painting of Karen's sons (it's 24" x 18"!). This was somewhat challenging, but interesting, to work on because it is a composite of two different photos of the boys. Anyone who's ever tried to take a good picture of several people knows that it's almost impossible! True confession: many of the photos of multiple people on my blog are actually composites Photoshopped together. See if you can spot them!

December 13, 2008

New Portrait - and a New Mystery!

Oils - Deborah's kids

A fun portrait of Deborah's kids. Aren't they so cute? I was inspired by their pose, and by the square shape of the canvas (16" x 16") to arrange them at the bottom of the frame, echoing a little bit those ubiquitous Raphael cherubs, a detail from a portrait of the Madonna in the Sistine Chapel.


In other news, it's time once again for everybody's favorite game - Guess That Vegetable! Brought to you by the wonderful farmers from Highland Orchards who provide us with a box of delicious nutrition every week. Today mystery veggie is:

mystery veggies

What on earth are these? From their earthy smell, I'm guessing roots of some sort. That's as far as my horticultural skills will take me, however.

December 11, 2008

First Holiday Party of the Season

There was the new party dress...

and a tower of cupcakes...

elf hats for all the kids...

and a very happy family...

December 10, 2008

Flowers for me...

...from me.

White peonies at night

Peonies are my favorite flowers, and as soon as I saw these today they were calling my name. It's lovely to get flowers from others, of course, but also quite important to sometimes just give them to yourself. "You've been doing a lot of hard work, Self. Don't think I haven't noticed the effort."

Family flowers perch on the kitchen counter, jostling for space with incoming mail, in progress kitchen prep, and the steady flow of things through daily life. But these flowers are my own private decoration, lightly dusting my immediate space with their softly sweet aroma, sitting on my emptied desk in full view of just me, (the only way that I could notice, for instance, how perfectly they contrast with the starless nighttime behind them).

December 8, 2008

Afternoon at Art Star

Over the weekend, we went to the always delightful Art Star shop to check out the holiday goods. Lara was totally delighted by most things there, and honestly if money were no object, I think we would have left with half the store...

Like this totally adorable hat, made by a local person whose name escapes me (and probably some of those ornaments too, in which case we would instantly have had to get a tree to decorate... so tempting...):

Or perhaps this felted wool coin purse:

And of course, no shopping spree would have been complete without one of these wooden mustaches on a stick from something hiding in here:

As it is, we did end up buying the cutest party dress ever... but you'll have to wait till there's a party for the pictures.

December 7, 2008

Recent Yums

Yet more from the simple-yet-delicious cooking policy:

dinner - chicken with tomatoes and olives

A dark chicken meat recipe adapted from my favorite cookbook, How to Cook Everything. I'm pretty sure that the title doesn't mean "here is a recipe for every kind of food on earth," which would be silly, but instead quite accurately refers to the fact that book has at least one recipe for any ingredient that you could have on hand. In any case, this is chicken stewed with tomatoes, olives, onions, thyme, garlic, and some salt and pepper. Fun to make, more fun to eat.

dessert - baked apples with honey

And this is a dessert experiment that worked out quite well - apples baked with honey instead of sugar. Again, really simple. First, core the apples without actually making a hole all the way through them (I think a mellon baller or similar implement would be best, but I just poked carefully with a knife). You will left basically with apple shot glasses. Fill each "shot" three quarters of the way with honey and pop into a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or so. Serve cool.

December 5, 2008

Big Shirt to Frilly Shirt

Grey shirt with white frill collar

Yesterday I resized one of Misha's shirts to fit me, and added a few girlifying touches as well. I love this shirt - it's made out of this very heavy, soft, almost velvety jersey and feels great on a cold day. I am in fact wearing it right now and am enjoying the long sleeves - I left them a little extra long on purpose, so they drape all the way over my palms.

Also? I think those buttons at the collar make me a Star Fleet Lieutenant. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

December 4, 2008

Thank you!

I'm popping in quickly to say an enormous thank you, everyone, for your lovely comments about the Little Washer and Dryer!

In answer to your questions - yes, the instructions are now available on my Etsy site, the forty-two roads shop. Just in time for the holidays!

December 2, 2008

Little Washer and Dryer is done!

Toy Cardboard Washer and Dryer

Phew! The newest cardboard adventure is finally finished. This was really fun to make and plan out - thought it took quite a bit longer to complete than I thought it would - and it really came out just how I envisioned it. The windows in the washer and dryer are actually see-through (no worries, plexi-glass, nothing dangerous).

This is of course Lara's slightly early Hanukkah present, and we'll see what happens when she comes home today and sees it. She's been playing with it on and off as I've been constructing, but she hasn't seen the whole thing assembled yet. Well, on to more presents!