Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Presents

For the past few years, I have tried to make most of my Christmas gifts. This presents a problem after a while. For the first year it is fairly easy to come up with something. But after a while what can you make that friends and family will really enjoy without saying "Oh, thanks. You must have made this," with that half smile/grimace? Also, I would love to include handmade gifts for the kids in my life...any ideas?

The first year I made beeswax candles and bath salts. (I admit, very Martha-ish. But I was using one of her books.) That was many years ago when I was a poor, barely graduated professional. Two years ago, I used left over fabric from my baby bedding business and made fabulous furry blankets. I had swirled furry, fluffy fabric on one side and cool designer fabric on the other. I still get requests to make these blankets.

These are the baby versions:

Last year, I made sets of re-usable grocery bags, again from left over fabric. This was also a big hit and of course very fashionable and environmentally friendly.

So far this year I have made Kahlua. Lots and lots of Kahlua. If you have never had handmade Kahlua - this is the bomb! I have people who will never drink the real stuff and beg for more of mine...namely Darrin, who said that Kahlua was a sissy, girl drink. I have saved wine bottles from the year to fill up and bought wood topped corks to seal them. I have yet to make my labels, but that should be easy.

I have finally tried my hand at soap making. I love handmade soap and buy it at every craft show I go to. Soap from the store is not actually soap, but a detergent that dries out your skin and is made with lots of yucky stuff. Making soap yourself can be a little tricky and I'm not sure yet if it all turned out, since it has to cure for at least three weeks before it can be used. There are some wonderful
instructions on line for soap making.

And finally, I upgraded my grocery bags. I bought beautiful brocade on sale and made happy bags for all those people in my life who steal my grocery bags for overnight bags, school bags and anything else that needs carrying! These are reversible and very strong. I designed the pattern to fit my life. They fit a lot of groceries, the handles are long enough to be carried over your shoulder, but short enough to carry like a regular grocery bag without dragging on the ground.

And if I have any time left over, I would like to try to make bags out of
up-cycled plastic bags. You can iron several layers of regular plastic bags together to make a hardy plastic fabric and then make whatever you want out of it. I have already tried the melting part with varying degrees of success - although I will say it is pretty easy. And it looks really cool!

This I made for me! It is an up-cycled poultry feed bag lined in a very cool, coordinating cotton fabric...

2.5 cups sugar
3 cups water
10 teaspoons instant coffee
1 vanilla bean
3-4 cups vodka

Split vanilla bean and scrape out seeds. To a large heavy pot add all ingredients including bean and seeds. Slowly bring to a boil, stir until sugar is dissolved and then stir occasionally. Boil for 15 minutes. After it cools, measure liquid, if it has reduced to less than 3 cups, add water to equal 3 cups. If you have more than 3 cups, don't worry. You want to add the same amount of vodka as coffee/sugar liquid. Mix and bottle. This gets better with age!

I will post my pattern for bags later, because I think you really need pictures to understand sewing directions!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The last few weeks...

I have already fallen behind in my blogging aspirations...and only a month in! I have been trying to give myself grace in that this is not another thing that I MUST do, but something that helps keep in touch with my friends and a virtual scrapbook for my children. So, here goes...

The last few weeks have been a blur of activity around here. Not only have been I been furiously trying to get my papers and school work done for the semester, I am trying to start my thesis. The problem is that I am so burned out of school and feel like my brain has been deep fried. My placements have been more draining than I expected and I really hate having to have the boys in day care. I also have been trying to get started on my Christmas presents for the year. Although I think the Christmas presents are just one more way for me to procrastinate!

In children news, my baby, who is 4 and a half (and will constantly remind you if you left off the half) has requested that I take off his training wheels and he is now riding his bicycle. It's hard for me to admit that they are growing up so fast!

Although he did get a little scared when he finally realized that I had let him go for about the 50th time.

One of my chickens has started laying eggs!! Strange how the little things can you make me so happy. I love going out and finding a green egg in the nest. Now if I could just find where the other chickens are laying their eggs...they either have a very well hidden nest or one of them is an egg eater. After finding the last nest, they have stopped laying? And we have finally named the chickens. I decided that we could no longer try to describe them every time we were trying to talk about them - the big black one; the brown, eagle looking one; the tan, fluffy one. Their names are now (respectively) Mia (as she always disappears), Harriet, and Izzy.

We had a very fun pumpkin carving day where Ryan actually cut up his first pumpkin and did a fabulous job almost all by himself. Max drew out his design and insisted that it be cut out exactly as he drew.

He did take the pumpkin carver and make a few adjustments on his own as well!

I said earlier that I would write about a recent park trip. Well, while pushing Max on the swings, Ryan said, "Mom, it's like I'm flying!"

To which Max replied in song, "I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky..." In the proper tune.

The thing is, where did he learn this song? And how does he constantly just crack me up?