Friday, December 30, 2011

The Family Tree 2011

So I had this great idea to share one of our family Christmas traditions with you all, my loyal readers (most of whom are actually in the family and already know of the tradition). And then I got a sneaking suspicion... So I looked back a year and yup... I already blogged about this here. But guess what, I'm going to blog about it a little more because I love this tradition and because it's very timely at the moment.

About 16 years ago when I was in high school (yeah... that's how old I am), I got this idea to make a new family tradition. The truth of the matter is that though I had a lovely childhood, we sadly lost a lot of family members during my preteen and teenage years and my cousins and I often felt that our family was ever shrinking instead of expanding -- not a very joyful Christmas concept. I wanted to do something that would honor each member of our family and find a way to keep them with us even when they couldn't always be there. Truthfully, I wish I had done it long before we had lost so many of those family members.

That first Christmas I spent weeks and weeks up in my room in the attic, painstakingly (but truthfully clumsily) crafting one ornament for each member of the family using glass ornaments, paints, glitter and an oh-so-difficult-to-use-without-burning-yourself glue gun. I tried to make each ornament reflect an aspect of that family member. Seashells for my mother who loves Long Island and the beach, western theme for my cousin who rides horses, music notes for my brother and sister-in-law who play piano, etc... I cried tears of frustration trying to get things to stay glued and get the letters of names to look just right (as I said, I am never too neat with crafts though I wish I could be).

Some of those ornaments have seen better days, and periodically I need to make an update or too (One of my most loyal blog readers gets an upgrade next year!) I've also joyfully had to make a few additions. My sister-in-laws parents, my new cousin Tom, and of course three new ones for our newest little ones: Maddie, my niece and my nephew.
Here's my aunt Luann's which I talked about recrafting last year, designed to look like a patchwork quilt -- go ahead and name that pattern.

Each year that Christmas is at my Mom's house, she graciously allows us to hang the ornaments on the tree. I get the joy of handing an ornament to each person and watching them put it on their branch. (Yes, Rob and I are the only ones I think who follow the true Days of Our Lives tradition and put ours in a cluster. Mine's the clear glass with a little hippie-ish beading for my PP&M-loving soul. Rob's is decoupaged newspapers for as Rob says "Remember when I used to read newspapers?" and Maddie's is ducky-themed since she never appeared without a duck until she was 2. I'm sure she'll love that as a teenager.)

For those who couldn't make it to our Christmas or who are no longer with us, we still hang their ornament on our tree -- a way for them to be present even when they aren't physically there. My aunt who lives in Africa every year has an ornament hung on the tree by her sister -- and next year, she'll be home to hang her own.

My mom likes a simple tree, nicely flocked with very few ornaments and I know this tradition makes her a little edgy to see such a cluttered tree. Plus the whole effort of getting people to climb over people to get to the tree can be a little crazy. This year we had 16 plus three little ones so it was indeed a bit chaotic. It may be selfish of me, but I love it. Because every time I see all those ornaments, I think about how we started with 11.


Now here's the part where nice, sentimental Christmas turns into expose your inner crazy soap geek, Alex. Yes, this tradition originated with Days of Our Lives -- and believe me, I have taken no small amount of teasing for this fact. Since it certainly seems to me that we may be nearing the end of the soap opera genre with all the recent cancellations, I'd like to take a moment here and tell you why I frown at all you who poo-poo the Days of Our Lives ornaments! [Of course, if my explanation of the tradition left you cold, you can just skip this part altogether, because you are not the sentimental type!]

I grew up watching DOOL, and occasionally still watch it today. From the time I was three years old, I watched Days: since I wouldn't nap, my mom would let me sit quietly next to her while she watched her soap. Some of you sceptics may not like to hear this, but I think watching soaps made me more creative, better at multitasking, more able to focus (come on how many conversations can you pay attention to at one time? I'm known to follow three or four), and analytical (you have to be able to think through how Stefano could have died seven times).

But at this time of year, I always love to watch soaps and I usually watch a few more shows than usual. There's something magical about a soap opera Christmas episode that always puts me in the mood for the holidays. Watching the Days' Horton family hang their ornaments, or the GH Twas the Night Before Christmas reading (which I think they skipped this year!) is just like watching those old Christmas classics on television. I still remember seeing the Cory family celebrate around their tree (in their mansion) on Another World and thinking someday I want that. And it's nice to know that as this stage of my life, I have my own little soap opera Christmas moment (still no mansion, though). So Viva La Soap -- seriously, do something right for your brain and indulge in a little romantical education daytime television today.

If you're not familiar with the Days Christmas tradition, here it is. I cannot believe they have this one on YouTube. Hello, 1976!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Darned if this doesn't happen to me every year... I really had a tough time feeling like it was Christmas this year. That's what happens when you live in Buffalo and have a green Christmas.

Plus, this year I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas night on my lonesome (after Maddie went to bed that is.) That didn't really help with the post-Christmas letdown.

But guess what! It's snowing!
And guess what! I'm in the mood for Christmas.

So here are a few last Christmas wrap-up photos to enjoy.

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Maddie's Christmas book that has a working street lamp and plays We Wish You A Merry Christmas; Maddie shows her new Cinderella doll (and box of art supplies) the new fallen snow; Mommy's boots, Baby's boots, Lalaloopsy's boots; Our tree all aglow with Santa's Little Helper wearing her awesome Christmas jammies.

Plus, Santa came to visit me. I found $50 in my sock drawer which apparently I was saving towards Christmas gifts... to myself. So Merry three-days-after Christmas, everyone!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas 2011

Once again, we were lucky enough to have a wonderful Christmas, filled with lots of family time.

(From left to right): Row 1: A blurry picture of Maddie's first view at her Christmas stocking; Every item was the most exciting thing in the world; Maddie shows off her new stickers, the greatest gift a toddler can get apparently. Row 2: Rob enjoys his new Chemex; My sister-in-law, Jeannie, shows Baby Ian his new book, Hug; Maddie and her cousin, Annie, play house under the dining room table. Row 3: One of the greatest gifts we all got -- my 96-year-old grandmother with her grandchildren; The grandchildren on the stairs, note Maddie has inherited her mother's ability to do the Days of Our Lives pose (though Annie's pretty dramatic too!) Row 4: Maddie "helps" Grandma with Baby Ian; Rob and I get a moment of Christmas cheer. Row 5: Santa; My poor brother, Jim, who had a cold, but still this photo is just him, and his son, Ian. Row 6: The hit gift of the season, a microphone from Grandma, allows Maddie to be a little more dramatic than she usually is; Grandma and Maddie enjoy Christmas party #2; Baby Ian peeks over Aunt Dode's shoulder.

And God bless us, every one.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The True Meaning of Christmas

"and the angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, 'Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy.'" I admit I'm picturing little Linus and his blanket in the spotlight right now.

This is quickly becoming my favorite annual post -- the Christmas crèche post.

Here's this year's:

I like to let Maddie play with the crèche and as she plays I try to tell her what it is. This year we really got it.

"It's a barn." "Oh, a barn." "And this is Mary." "Oh, Mary." "And Mary had a baby named Jesus." "Oh, cheeses."

That's Maddie's 'paying attention' response. She's very good at repeating and saying "oh" like you've just said the most fascinating thing in the world.

This year, Maddie decided everyone needed to be in the barn -- (apparently lots of people were inconvenienced by that overbooked in) shepherds, kings, sheep, angels, et al.

She also really upped the joy factor by adding a bunch of jingle bells to the manger. Apparently, Baby Cheeses, there's no room for you in the manger either.

But my favorite thing that Maddie does is show how rambunctious those barn residents were. They seem to be climbing the walls to get some space of their own.

Hope this little reflection helps you find the true meaning of Christmas!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Kissmas!

We had a Kisstastic day this weekend. Maddie and I made peanut butter kiss cookies:

I'm not above using child labor.

Maddie unwrapped all the kisses and helped me measure and stir the cookies.

This is when she said, "This is hard work!"

She also kissed all the cookies:

We also did a little Christmas decoration project. Seven years ago, Rob proposed to me under the mistletoe. I saved the mistletoe but never hang it up because I'm always afraid it will crumble and it's poisonous to cats (and probably little people, too!)

This year, my mom had this great idea:

So there it is perfectly preserved and contained, safe for all.

And it still works after all these years.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Wreath

Warning: this is the easiest Christmas project ever.

I wanted to do a few little Christmas decorations for Maddie's room, but then realized that things taped on walls can seem awfully weird in the middle of the night to a toddler with night terror issues. So I decided to keep it simple and make a wreath for her door. Voila:

I was inspired by a wreath I saw in the December issue of Better Homes and Gardens. (I searched their site to find something to link to, but nada so just buy the magazine... Or do this.)

I used a giant spool of gift wrap ribbon in white and started tying 6 inch strips (a little Elf humor for you!) to my embroidery hoop, clustering them along the way. I curled them in small groups to avoid confusion with all those ribbons.

This was the part where I had lots of helpers. See?

In the end Maddie approved.

How about a close-up of that cute face:

Ho! Ho! Ho!

I added a little red bow at the bottom and hung it with red ribbon on the back of her door (nicely out-of-sight from her crib. Phew!)

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

New Orleans Part Deux

Here are some more pictures of our trip to New Orleans -- and I may actually be in most of them (shocking, I know! It turns out my husband takes lots of pictures of me.)

Maddie and I in front of Jackson Square. Maddie's pointing out a Christmas tree that's behind Rob.

Maddie hopped a ride aboard the Carousel at City Park during Christmas under the Oaks.

Maddie and I pose in front of the St. Charles streetcar at Riverbend. I'm pretty sure that yellow sign says don't stand here.

On the streetcar.

Somebody loves Strawberries Romanov at La Madeleine's.

She made a few new friends-- like her cousins.

And of course, Woofster (whose really name is Clyde S. Dale, but Maddie made the good choice to rename him.)

All in all, a good trip!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

AaBbCc - Come Sing With Me!

As promised, here's another craft project made of felt! I decided to do this simple alphabet game to help Maddie learn her lower case letters. She knows all of her upper cases, but is just starting to learn the little ones.

I took a large piece of white felt (they come prepackaged at about 40cmx60cm, and I halved it) and sewed on 26 pockets of brightly colored felt.

Each pocket has a lower case letter on it. I took the small (20cmx20cm) precut squares and folding them into sixths, and cut them into squares. Half of my sixths went to pockets and the others went to making letters.

And I made upper case letters by
Taking a sixth of the felt, folding it in half and then sewing the letter in the center to take up as much of the fabric as possible. Then I trimmed around the edges.

I did free hand this because I'm gutsy, and admittedly a few of my letters are a little wonky. (Huh, autocorrect wants to make wonky into robot. Intriguing choice!) my S is pretty sad actually. If you want to give yourself a guide, you could use soap to draw your letters.

I trimmed all my pockets to match size-wise and sewed a small case letter with embroidery thread that matched the color of the upper case letter. Then I laid them out to make sure the fit, and sewed them onto my white felt with a sewing machine.

Really this project was nothing fancy. I sewed the letters during nap time each day for about four days. Maddie would tell me, "Make my letters, Mommy" before going to snooze. The pockets went really fast-- I think I finished them in two days. And then sewing them to the backing took a few hours because someone wanted to sit on my lap -- which just makes me nervous around a sewing machine.

End result -- Maddie loves it. Though she seems to enjoy matching by color rather than letter.

As you can see, she's shoving all the orange letters in the orange pocket.

The plan is to hang this on Maddie's closet door but I haven't quite gotten around to it. Maybe after Christmas. Until then Maddie enjoys laying it out on the floor to play with.

See? It apparently makes a great mat, too.

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