Monday, December 29, 2014

The 2014 Christmas Crafting Round Up

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!  We had a fantastic Christmas.  All of the kids, plus their partners were able to join us Christmas morning.  Nothing is better than having everyone under one roof together!  We opened presents, then the little boys played with their new toys, the big kids played cards and I made brunch.  It was merry and festive.

Now that Christmas has come and gone once again and all of the crafts have been given and received, I can take a few minutes to show you what I've been up to over the last month and a half!

First up, along the left here are two of my new and very favourite holiday decor items!  At the beginning of December the little boys and I picked up some paints and blank canvasses at the Dollar Store.  I painted up their hands and they made their masterpieces together!  We've got new ones already planned for next year!  I know that years from now as they hang them on the wall I'll look back and think that I can't believe they were once so small!

Before I get to the more recent Christmas giving, it occurred to me that I never posted about the Christmas in July swap that I hosted over on Ravelry in the 2009 Summer Mother's group.  We had a huge sign up for participants, so I divided the names up into three groups, then each person was responsible for making an ornament for each member of their group so that each participant would end up with a collection of ornaments for their tree.  The group I was in was the largest with seven participants.   I want to share the collection of beautiful hand crafted ornaments that I received. I love that each one of them is so unique!  Betz White's Peace Dove is the ornament I chose to make for the swap.  It was a fun, but somewhat daunting undertaking as embroidery makes me feel somewhat less than competent having not really done much of it at all since I was about eight and Mom helped me make a sampler the year I got my sewing box and embroidery hoop for  Christmas.  I was really happy with how they turned out, but have yet to make one for myself.  Maybe now that all the hustle bustle has calmed down, I'll pull out the wool felt, the embroidery thread and set to work on one for us.

 Now that the house and the tree are covered, let's move on to the gifts that I made.  I started late this year so not everything I hoped to make actually got done and at the 11th hour (December 21st to be precise) I had to get a grip on reality (more of a choke hold, truth be told, than a grip) because it was way out there in left field.  Stringing me along like I had all the time in the world.  As soon as I realized I didn't, adjusted my list, swapped out this pattern for that etc. I felt a whole lot better and a whole lot less panicked.  I actually got back to enjoying making gifts instead of heading down that slippery slope of OBLIGATION.  Eeewwwww!  Nothing takes the fun out of crafting faster than a perceived sense of obligation.

Anyways - I was quite happy with my efforts in the end and the reactions to the gifts made every single minute spent doing them more than worth it!

Pajama Party

As per usual there were some pjs made for Christmas!  We'll start at the top and move left to right.  First up is our nephew, Ethan, modelling his brand new footie jammies that he specifically requested with "feet, a hood and pockets".  I was a little worried, come Christmas he'd be a bit disappointed to open pjs instead of a toy like the rest of the cousins were getting, but I needn't have worried.  He dropped everything to go put them on before he opened anything else.  His mom told me that they rate right up there in his favourite gifts, so I'm, of course, absolutely tickled!

Next we have Little Man and Baby Boy in their new Christmas Eve pjs!  Flannel and fleece kept them cozy in the truck on the way home from the city that night.  We always take pjs to change them into before heading home if it's going to be late and they certainly were surprised when I pulled Angry Bird pjs out of the extra clothes bag!  (BF)G was also pretty surprised when he went to get ready for bed later that night and couldn't find his pj pants he was sure he'd left on our bed (ha ha! I'm so sneaky - I'd hid them before we headed out for the evening) so reached into his dresser drawer to find a matching pair for himself too!

G had be moaning the last time that she was out that she needed new pjs because her's were all so old and tattered.  I knew as soon as I spied the glittery leopard print flannel at Fabricland that it was meant to be PJ pants and a sleep mask for her!

Holders and Such

I love making little wallets and holders for stocking stuffers and small gifts! They're fun, quick and I get to use awesome bits of fabric!  From top left to bottom again, we've got Superhero notebook holders for the little boys, who love to take notebooks everywhere they go!  A funny story about those - when I was buying the fabric the clerk cutting it asked me what I was planning to make, and I said that I would be making notebook holders for my four and five year old.  She looked at me rather oddly when she asked what kind of notebook and I told her just the cheap ones that come three to a pack for a dollar at Dollarama.  It took me a moment of confusion at her confusion to realize that in a sign of the times, she was picturing the computer type of notebook, not the old fashion use a pen or pencil with, stash in your pocket kind.  We had quite a chuckle over "how times have changed"!

Next up for our university student/waitress G,  I found a great little tutorial online for an organizer wallet that I thought would be perfect for either when she's at work, or for throwing in her bag for going to classes.  I was really excited to find leopard print notebooks for her too!

On the bottom right we have a tea wallet for M, who is studying like a mad fiend working on her master's plus works approximately a million different jobs.  I don't know how that girl does it!  I went back to my very favourite pattern - I always think it's the perfect size to toss in a pocket or a purse when you're busy and on the go!

Last but not least is A's make up brush roll.  I thought it would be handy for when she travels or just throwing in her bag for freshening up after a long day in the classroom if she's got somewhere to go after work.  I used the same tutorial I've used in the past for it as well (which, like the organizer wallet, comes from {lbg studio})

Odds and Ends

Here we have a flax seed heat pad - I absolutely love mine and think everyone should own one.  This one was for M.  Then whenever G gets overly stressed out about school I tell her she should take a break and have tea and chocolate.  I decided a great gift for her would be a mug that I wrote out the recipe for chocolate mug cake on (I used Sharpie Oil Paint pens, then baked in the oven at 425F - start out with a cold oven and don't remove item until it is cold again!) along with the pre-mixed packages of the dry ingredients needed.  On the other side of the mug it says, "Need a Break? Have Some Cake!" and the handle says "Love Mom" I hope she enjoys it and it reduces her stress at least for a moment!

The next thing is a modified Working Girl Laptop bag.  I made this one quite some time ago, but have been holding onto it specially!  I paired it with some charcoal pencils and a sketch pad for Mom.  I envision her sitting at the park on a warm spring day sketching in the sunshine.  I hope that this bag will help her to just pick up and go when the whim hits her!

Last in the odds and ends is this year's ornament.  Every year since J was a newborn baby I have included a new Christmas ornament in the kids' stockings.  I used to buy a new one each year and tried to keep it a theme.  It was easy to do when there was only three kids, not quite as easy to do when there were five kids and last year when I had seven kids to get an ornament for I gave up looking in the store and decided to make them instead.  I was very glad to have made that decision given now there are eight "kids" needing ornaments! Because I'd left things a bit late in the game, I decided to do something fairly simple.  I thought these little trees from Life after Laundry were quite cute!  Although I didn't get them done quite in time for stockings - I hit the wall at 3:30am sewing the last two, so went to bed and then ended up sewing the strings on and gave them to them after brunch Christmas morning.

Keeping Cozy!

In this grouping I've put some of the "cozy" knitted gifts!  At the top is (BF)G's Fox Point hat that I finished within a half hour of him walking in the door for his Christmas holidays and G's slippers that she actually sent me a link to on Facebook as a hint.  The second row has two "Beer Mitts" (the black and grey one was actually (BF)G's birthday present on the 27th!) and a White Leaf cowl for A. And on the bottom a Sweet Memories cowl for Baby Boy's preschool teacher!

Teacher Gifts

This year I decided to once again let the boys pick out the patterns and yarns for their teacher's gifts.  All the teacher's received fingerless gloves except for the preschool teacher that received gloves last year from Little Man - so this year Baby Boy decided I could knit the cowl above to go with her gloves.  From top again we have Give em the Slip, Staghorn Mittens (a super fun, quick knit in bulky yarn!) and at the bottom, two pairs of Farm to Market designed by the very talented Aimee Alexander - one of my "Octo-mama" friends on Ravelry.


Last but not least are three of my favourite projects for this holiday season!  I really do love everything about colourwork and it's so addictive making these projects really fun to do!!  First are J's War of the World inspired Robots vs. Downtown mittens, and beneath them are N's Zombie Mittens - I love that the palm and thumb have depict the bones - and to the side are M's Fireweeds! I've never met a Rose Hiver pattern that I didn't love!

So that's it! Phew! Are you still with me?  Give yourself a big ol' pat on the back if you've made it this far! Ha ha! It was a lot of work, but as I said, worth every minute of it given the appreciation.

For now I'm going to focus on doing a few things for myself and some other projects that I put on the back burner for the Christmas crafting marathon, but I already have some plans up my sleeve for next year and think I'll get a jump on them throughout the year rather than trying to do it all in the last month and a half before the holidays - because that kind of procrastination can drive a person a bit crazy if they're not careful! ;)

I hope that the coming new year finds everyone happy, healthy and enjoying life to the fullest!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Hello Pumpkin Dip! Where Have You Been All My Life??

So, I realize that I am probably, if Pinterest is any indication, just about the last person on earth to discover the joy that is cookie dip, but I'm going to go ahead and just be ok with that.  Better late than never and all that jazz.

I needed to bring some sort of treat to a meeting last night and for some reason was completely fixated on cookies and dip.  Now, in retrospect, cookie dip is kind of like chip dip in the manner that you can't just stop with one.  Which is all good except you don't necessarily want to be eating cookies with wild abandon like you would say a potato or taco chip. It gets a bit filling (and just a teensy bit fattening) after a while.  I would highly suggest maybe serving not only cookies, but perhaps apple slices for dipping as well for those who don't want to have to put their regular clothes away in favour of sweat pants for the rest of the holiday season.

Further more, I would just like to state for the record, right here and right now, that I have been a life long fan of all things pumpkin. Loaf, cake, muffins, cookies, pie, roasted, stuffed, cooked and pureed by the spoonful - it really doesn't matter.  I wholeheartedly love the stuff.   I just feel I need people to know I'm not just hopping on the Pumpkin Spice bandwagon because it's the in thing to do.

But, before I get totally off track lets get back to cookie dip (mental note to self:  remember healthy options here... it could be fruit dip too. Really. It could.).  This is so easy and quick to make, which possibly makes it a very dangerous recipe to have in your possession depending on your love of pumpkin and the level of your snacking will power.  You decide for yourself.

Without further ado I'd like to present Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip and Gingersnap Cookies:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip

1/2 of 250g pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp of nutmeg 

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into a bowl and garnish if desired with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon.  Serve with cookies or fruit. 


2 cups flour
1 TBSP ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup sugar, reserved for later
1 tsp cinnamon, reserved for later

Preheat oven to 350F/175C

Sift together flour, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl, set aside.  In a separate large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (except reserved sugar and cinnamon) and cream together until smooth.  Slowly mix sifted flour mixture into the large bowl, mix well using your hands if necessary until completely combined.  In a small bowl combine reserved sugar and cinnamon and then shape dough into 1" balls.  Roll balls in the cinnamon and sugar then bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.  Note: cookies will still be quite soft when being removed from the pan, but harden up nicely as they cool. Store in an airtight container.