Now in an Odd Dotty Dollymaker shop near you!
Now in an Odd Dotty Dollymaker shop near you!
This is by far one of my most favorite times of the year. I love Christmas. I love everything it stands for. Hope. Joy. Light. Thinking of and serving others, and spending time with those you love. This is what Christmas is to me. And this is what I want Christmas to be for my children. It is so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of the season. I know it's hard for me to keep focus sometimes, if I'm being honest. But one thing that I have found to combat the superficiality of the Holiday season, that is spreading like a cancer throughout our culture, is traditions. Traditions keep us, as a family, grounded and give us a sense of stability...which is something I think a whole lot of us could use right about now. So, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite traditions that we keep each year. It's the Advent Activity Calendar.
We started doing this about four years ago, after I read someone's blog post about their advent activity calendar. I wish I could remember where I read it so I could give some credit, but as with any really good idea, the point is to share it regardless of who started it, right? It's such a simple idea that adds so much to our enjoyment of the season, that I think everyone who celebrates Christmas should try it at least one year!
Here's what you do. Find or make an Advent Calendar. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, even a paper chain countdown could work. Starting with December 1st, come up with an activity to do each day until Christmas. Some ideas could be as simple as watching your favorite Christmas movie or as complex and involved as signing up as a family to donate and volunteer for a toy drive. The sky's the limit! The point is to do things together. One favorite of ours that makes in there every year is to have a night where we paint each other's toe nails...boys and all. Other ideas that we have done or will do are: bake cookies, drive around to see all the Christmas lights, play charades, have a tea party, give each other crazy hair make-overs and making a craft together. Whatever it is, have fun and don't take it too seriously. There have been several days where the activity didn't pan out, but we made sure to still do something together. A word of caution, however. We made the mistake of trying to fit every single Christmas movie we own in the calendar last year, by the fourth movie night the kids were bored and not really excited to open the next day's activity for fear it was another of the same kind. So don't be like us. Remember, variety is the spice of life!
I would love to know if you try this, and what some of the activities that you do are! So, please let me know!! I would also love to hear about your traditions! Send me an e-mail or leave a comment!
It is a slow but sure thing in our home, progress is, these days. And, for that I am truly grateful. For the past year, I have hidden an awful secret. Well, actually it wasn't hidden that well as you will soon see. But, I have been suffering from creative malaise. Yes, I have had ideas, and have had sudden bursts of craftiness. But, the truth is that I was drowning. Drowning in a sea of oppression.
You see, we had a room in our home that we deemed "The Fun Zone". This was where the other TV, the computers and my sewing machines were all located. From where, we had hoped, new inspirations would be birthed. Fun ideas. Ideas that would fill our home with laughter and good times. Good times spent with one another enjoying the many blessings poured out, undeservedly, upon us. Times for bonding, and learning. Learning about each other and the world around us. High, high hopes were held for this room.
Unfortunately, it soon became the room no one really wanted to be in. Well, except my dad. He was always in there watching the TV. Which, we realized, was the problem. That stinkin' TV. Right in the corner of the room, blocking one of the windows. That mammoth of mind-numbing noises was constantly droning on and on, sucking the life out of every attempt of creating that either the husband or I made. And sucking the life out of my dad, although he would never admit to that. So, we decided that while he stayed with my sister for a week, we needed to make some changes.
For a long time, I have been taking my sewing machine out of the room and into the kitchen so I didn't have to be in the same room with that thing. But, that was no longer working. As you can see here, in this horridly embarrassing before shot, this is what had become of my little creative nook.
Who wouldn't want to sit down and crank out some major crafty goodness in those conditions, huh? I mean, right? Nothing breeds creativity more than a square inch of work space surrounded with every left over scrap of every project ever worked on ever, a non-working sewing machine at your feet, a cardboard moving box filled with who only knows what anymore, staring at you, mocking you with it's cluttery undoneness, and fabric literally spilling out over onto you hindering any type of movement whatsoever. Add to that? The constant buzzing of the television you so fondly hate seeping into your brain, taking every happy thought and stomping on it until it turns to pulp and oozes out of your head in the form of tears of frustration that make you run screaming from the very thing that used to bring so much joy. And so now you see why my poor little shophas lain bare for, lo, these many months. I just couldn't do it. I just couldn't produce at the rate at which I wanted. I needed it to change, or I was afeared that my desire to sew anything ever again would curl up and die. And with it? So would a very big part of me. And I was not about to let that happen. So, when the husband voiced his equal disdain for what the room had become, we decided to take the plunge and start the change.
Now, I have to say, as much as I hated the room and that monster that was eating it alive, I was hesitant at first to let it go. Why you might ask? Because, you see, as I said my father had grown accustomed to it. And with Alzheimer's, change can be tricky. This was a big change. This was literally his lifeline every day. He would choose that thing over any interaction with us. And so we had to weigh the repercussions very very carefully. But we decided it was doing way more damage to keep it than to let it go. Yes, we knew he would take it personal, and yes we knew he would be extremely confused by it for a couple of days. But in the end, it was what needed to happen. So out it went. I didn't get a picture of the room with it in it, but here is the wall and window it was blocking.
It was in the corner where the dress form and the trunk are now. This shot was taken mid reorganization, and so had already been partially cleaned up. So what you didn't get to see is exactly how awful this room looked. The computer desk became a dumping ground for whatever happened to land there. And the books were usually just thrown back in any which way. Literally thrown in, the husband had to nail the back back onto it because it had given way to the force and the haphazard way in which they were flung in there.
It's amazing how much clutter can muddy up the mind. Just by tackling that side of the room, we felt like we could breathe again. And so, our attention turned to the other side. The other big black mass. That tower that you saw holding my fabrics. That was originally built to hold scrapbooks when I was selling Creative Memories, and so wasn't real conducive to fabric storage. But it was what we had. So it was used for years. But I hated it. I hated the way the fabric fell out of it, and the way that no matter how neatly I folded it, I would always lose sight of some and forget what I had, or knew that I had it but couldn't find it and had to pull out everything to hunt for it. So, a new fabric storage solution was a must. An online search for such brought me to Polar Notions. I knew I had finally found what I was looking for! Here is my fabric now.
Finally! Finally! I can see what I have at all times! And it was moved to the other side of the room out of the direct sunlight that is now able to actually come in through the window! And here is the sewing station;
I love it! Look at all that room!! I know it's not perfect, and it's not where I ultimately want it to be, but as I said, the progress is slow but sure! I can breathe again, I can create again, and my kids can actually play on the computers again! Everything has a place, and I know where they all are. And my dad? He actually spends time with us now. Yes, sometimes he retreats to his bedroom to watch his television in there, which was a fear we had, but not nearly as much as I thought he would. And he makes it a point to hang out with us every night. To play the games we are playing, to try to engage in our family. It's so much more peaceful than I thought it would be.
And, just to show you that I am reaping the benefits of this space...which, by the way, we have renamed "The Creative Corner"...here is a peak at the new dolly design I have been working on. You may have been keen enough to have espied her on the bookshelf up there. I was going to wait until she was completely finished before letting her make her debut, but I am too excited about the way she is turning out. So,here she is close up. I love love LOVE her! It is the first ever design that I have done that has been a success on the first attempt at each step.
I would love to know what you think of her! Please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. I adore feedback!
I have finally put the finishing touches on one of four dollies that I plan to put on the shelves of my shop. I apologize for the emptiness of it at the moment. But, I am working on it!
Here is a sneak peak. I call her Polly.
I don't think I have ever posted about a food item before. At least not here. I have, however, made references to what I eat or when I eat on my facebook. Because, you know, the people. They want to know! I'm pretty exciting that way. Anyway, I made such a reference last night and my good friend, Molly, asked me to post the recipe here. Which I am about to attempt to do. It's not going to be a real specific recipe just a generalization because it was something that I literally pulled out of nowhere. I just pretty much used what I had on hand, which I have to say is quite a feat for me! Seriously. Because I am still fairly new to this whole art of cooking thing.
Let me give you a little background before moving on. It all started in the kitchen of my childhood home. Ahhh, I remember those days. My mom would get ready to prepare a feast, and I would eagerly enter the kitchen and ask to help. "Of course" she would respond, "you can help by getting out of the kitchen!" I'm sure she meant this lovingly. Fast forward to my early days of marriage. Tired of pasta, and frozen meals, I actually went out on a limb and made tacos one night! I used the seasoning packet and everything all by myself! I was so proud, and the husband and I felt so gourmet. And it pretty much stayed as gourmet as that for awhile. Every once in a while I would pull out a cookbook and actually try a real meal, but the whole cooking thing still wasn't clicking. It didn't help that when I would ask about a recipe from my mom's kitchen she would say things like, "add some flour."
"How much flour?" I would probe.
"Some" was her reply.
"Ooookay. So how long do I cook it for?"
"Until it's done."
See, now I understand that. Now I understand that cooking is an art, and that after a while you just get the feel for things like "some flour" and cooking "until it's done". But then? It just threw me deeper into the pit of eating unhealthy, already prepared, frozen meals. And then I had the audacity to wonder how on earth I was starting to gain weight after turning 30 and having two kids, and why it wasn't coming off from running half a mile every day like it used to. We're talking years and years of eating mainly carbs here. Almost no protein and hardly any fruits or veggies. It all sounds so simple now, but I was really that clueless. And I know I am not alone! Then, a couple of years ago I was introduced to the Eat Clean Diet by Tosca Reno. Have you heard of clean eating? I hadn't! But, seriously, it completely changed the way I looked at food. I slowly, and I do really mean slowly, started to understand the way foods work together, and how important things like lean proteins and fruits and veggies are. Why am I telling you all of this? Because all of this really does lead up to last night!
I have secretly always wanted to be able to just throw things together and make yummy healthy meals...but I always felt stuck. And food still holds an intimidation factor over me. So, if I'm not following a recipe I still feel like I can't make a meal most of the time, even if I know we have ingredients in the cupboard and fridge or freezer that somebody else would be able to make something with. And, last night wasn't looking that great as I didn't have anything set on the menu and, in my desperation, was beginning to think that maybe cereal was a good option for dinner. But! Then I remembered we had frozen chicken breasts, and at that point the husband was still in Canada, which meant I could actually use them. (He's allergic to chicken, so I don't get a chance to eat it very often) I found that actually getting off my butt and going through my kitchen to see what I had made a huge difference in determining what to make. You know, instead of chatting with my friends on facebook about how I don't have anything to make for dinner. And, now, having a couple of years under my belt of following some really yummy and clean recipes, I had an idea of what and what not to do. What combinations of flavors I like and what my family likes. This is what I came up with. It is what I would describe as a Chicken Bruschetta;
Sorry it's not the best picture, but I think you get the idea. Here is the gist of what the recipe is...please forgive the vague measurements, I was literally throwing this together last night and hoping for the best.
First I preheated the oven to 400F, then I threw three huge...they really were huge, like unnaturally huge, freakish almost, but yours don't have to be...boneless, skinless chicken breasts into a casserole dish. Chop up several cloves of garlic...the more the better in my opinion, and spread over chicken. Add about a tsp. of dried basil and oregano. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Add a 14oz. can of diced tomatoes, juice and all. Top with a handful of pitted kalamata olives. Pop into the oven, uncovered and turn the heat down to 350F (I'm not sure why I did this, but I'm just telling you exactly what my process was), and bake for 30-45 minutes...until it's done.
Serve with a yummy salad, and enjoy!!
I was so proud of myself for this one, and I am excited to eat the leftovers for lunch today! This was a pretty big milestone for me. So, there you go, Molly! There's the "recipe" you asked for, and then some. If you try this, (and when I say you, I don't just mean Molly, I mean everyone who reads this) I would love to know what your results are!
Yes. Well, that was an unexpected absence, huh? I had big plans for this blog, big plans I tell you! And then? Then? Well, one my New Year's goals...because I don't make resolutions, I make goals...they're easier to reach, is to be more generous with my time. Especially when it comes to my family. So, I was/am doing just that and guess what? I suddenly realized how easily my blog and my business get pushed aside. And so? I have had to actually schedule in time each day for both. It sounds so strange to me to have to schedule in time for blogging, but if I don't then I will never post again. And I don't want that, I like this blog and all my blogging friends. I am not ready to give it up just yet. Now let's just pretend that this little gap in my posting never happened shall we? Great! Because I have some things to show you!
Sometime last Fall the husband and I garbage picked a dresser from down the street. We had intentions of refinishing it and putting it in the boy's room. We were going to make it all Rock 'n Roll like. But, at the beginning of this year we decided the shape of it better suited the girl's room and her Asian theme. So, we promptly went to work. I, of course, forgot to take a before picture in all the excitement. This is what it looked like after the husband took the power sander to it.
Here is a better idea of the before color. Now, anyone that really knows me knows that I am not that big on blue in general. But this blue? It was somewhere between a cadet blue and an aquamarine. It made no sense to me. The color really didn't photograph well, but I guess it gives you the gist of it. What you can't see is that there was this strange green color washed over it in random places.
And just for kicks here is a picture of the handles that were on it.
And here she is now, all painted up;
And with new hardware.
We were originally planning on painting a dragon or some cherry blossoms along the front of the drawers. But, once the handles were on we decided it was perfect the way it was. The girl loves it and it is the beginning of her new grown up room redo. The dresser that was in her room is now in the basement ready to be refinished in that Rock 'n Roll theme for the boy. This is our inspiration. I hope to have that done soon. We are just trying to decide what the outer color should be.
In other news, another one of my goals is to keep my shop stocked. Well? Baby steps. Baby steps. I did manage to make a dolly for it, and it already sold. Which is really fantastic and encouraging! This is she, Lucy the Elf:
Many more like her are on the way. So, if you missed her check back soon. No really. I mean it. They are already cut out, and ready to be sewn together! And now? I am off to my next regularly scheduled event. Reading time! Thanks for stopping by, and I do hope to see you back here real soon!
I made a little elf stuffie for the Christmas toy drop over at The Toy Society, and have successfully dropped him for someone to find and give him a nice new warm home. Here he is all ready to be wrapped.
And then he practiced making snow angels on some white fabric, you know just in case whoever adopts him likes to play in the snow as much as he does.
And here is where we parted ways. On a bench on Main St. near the Oswego Public Library in downtown Oswego.
So, if you live in the area, and really want to give this happy little guy a good home he is free for the taking. First come first served. And, please, come take him soon...because even though he is a snow elf, the boy was very worried about leaving him all alone on that cold, cold bench and really wanted him to find his new family soon!
And I am going to take this opportunity to say Merry Christmas to you all now, as I doubt I will be able to post again until after the Holiday. So, Merry Christmas!!!
One of my favorite things about homeschooling is definitely that I get to learn or re-learn right alongside my children. This year, our homeschool group is putting together a Thanksgiving show. In which, my daughter plays the part of a Wampanoag woman. She has long been fascinated by Native American culture, and had a really good time learning more about this specific Native People group, as did I.
I whipped up her garb yesterday in between doing the mommy-with-sick-child thing throughout the day. Today we went out and did a photo shoot. It's pretty cold out right now, but she was a good sport and a good model.
That is the sound of me slowly pulling out of the Depot of Crafty Defunctedness. It is no secret that I have been in a major crafting funk as of late. And, try as I might, I just couldn't pull myself out of it. Nothing inspired enough to get some crafting done. I have been trolling my crafty blogs and pouring over all the amazing creations on Craftster.organd yet instead of filling me with the need to create, it left me feeling discouraged as I clearly was not as talented as any of these people. Am I the only one that goes through this? I hope not, but even iffen I am, I think I may have found my St. John's Wort of crafty depression. It's really quite simple, and I don't know why I didn't figure it out sooner. But, now I know that if I ever fall into such a pit again, getting out if it is as simple as just making something from a pattern some other crafter has created. It works on so many levels! First, it gets me off of my butt and at my sewing machine, and then it teaches me new techniques in creating my own patterns, and more than likely it forces me to try a new skill or two.
The blanket stitch. I have always wanted to learn this technique. And now I have, and I love it!
The pom pom. I made it myself. And I am very proud of it, and plan to use it in a pattern for a new dolly that I am drafting a pattern for.
And, finally, Exhibit C;
Molly Monkey by mmmcrafts. I have been wanting to make this doll for several months now. When first espied by my little eyes, I knew I had to make one for the daughter of a good friend of mine. Her birthday was this past Monday, so now I had the excuse to actually get 'er done. She came together so beautifully, and was so fun to make!! The best part is that I had most of the fabrics already, this being important as we are on a pretty tight budget. I love this pattern and am now trying to rack my brain to figure out who else needs one!
Thank you, thank you mmmcrafts for getting me out of my funk, and for being so talented and generous enough to share Molly Monkey with the world!