Sunday, December 26, 2010

Even Steven: Why I Got a Bike for my Sister's Birthday

Anyone with kids close in age, especially of the female persuasion, knows that you can't get a present for one without getting one for the other too. Preferably the exact same gift but maybe in a different color.

Because if one of the children gets a gift and the other one doesn't, a melt-down will happen approximately 98% of the time. (The other 2% of the time,  you might be able to distract the kid with candy or ice cream or something, but this is only if you are a very lucky type of person).

I knew this before I even became a parent because I was a child who had a melt-down on my sister's 9th birthday. Because she was getting a bike and I was getting nothing. Because it was her birthday, not mine. I remember being in the bicycle store with my family. I watched my sister pick out a shiny white 10 speed with an innocent and joyful smile. Hooray for the birthday girl! 

Covetousness filled my veins, encompassing my body, filling my entire being with the desire, no, the absolute NECESSITY to have my own bike too. As my sister chose her rightful present, I spotted a peach, Huffy dirt bike (it was the 80s). It beckoned coyly to me from the corner of the store, the fluorescent lights overhead reflecting off the mesmerizing, polished metal. Plastic streamers dangled alluringly from the gleaming handlebars. I had never seen anything so beautiful. I had never wanted anything like I wanted this bike.

I immediately burst into tears and tried to negotiate with my father. It could be my birthday present--an early birthday present--I slobbered with snot running down my face. Looking back, I know I was being completely sincere. I truly felt that I could just have a birthday present 6 months in advance and then not need anything else when my birthday finally rolled around. Maybe I could get advanced all my future birthday presents?

I must have been pathetic enough for my parents to take pity on me (or else I'm just a spoiled brat) because I  did get that perfect, wonderful, beautiful bike. Even though it was my sister's big day and not mine. Of course I got a birthday present later in the year as well. I'm sure I forgot all about my gift-advance by the time my birthday arrived.

Because of this experience I have always tried to be very even with siblings when giving gifts. Maybe it's because I have a deep sensitivity to how the children feel, or it could be a way to atone for my past childhood sins. Whatever the reason, I knitted my nieces nearly identical sweaters for Christmas.

 I loved knitting these, although the lace pattern was a challenge for me at first; I had to rip it out three times (that was a lot of wasted time!!!) before I got it right. The pattern is called Pink Orchard. I followed the pattern's colors for the first sweater and then changed them to raspberry and electric blue for my younger niece. It was fun to knit something girly for once. There are so many pretty patterns for girls. Boy clothing can sometimes be a little boring. I hope the girls like them, and I hope the sweaters fit ok.

The fit is not the important part though.  The important part is that they both have the same gift! Melt-down averted. Although I'd like to think that my nieces are above the sibling jealousy that plagued their aunt.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Odds and Ends

So I think I finally got my Christmas mojo back after our annual Cookie Swap this week. The girls all made their favorites: K made chocolate dipped macaroons, and her famous tri-color Italian cookies. P made yummy spritz and delectable chocolate chip,as well as her coconut macaroons. I made snowballs, peanut butter, and snickerdoodles. K was a wonderful hostess and it was a great way to begin Christmas week.

Most of my cookies are bagged or boxed and ready to be handed out as treats to some neighbors, etc. I still have a little baking magic left in me and plan on making some more chocolate chip cookies and a childhood favorite of my husband's: kipfels. I get such a cookie-baking sickness at this time of year. I don't know what it is, but I have this insane compulsion to BAKE, BAKE, BAKE. And the more variety the better.

Besides cookies, I've made some other little food items to give as gifts. Hope this Country Soup warms the gift recipient. The ingredients look pretty all layered together too.

I also made some "Mommy and Me" cookies for K and my sister-in-law. I know their children are into baking right now; this could be a good activity if it's snowy or rainy and the kids can't go outside to play. Although, um, it might be more of an activity for the mommies than the kids. Sorry, Moms!

Well, it's pretty enough to use as a decoration if they don't want to make the cookies.

This idea is from Bakerella. These are her Cowboy Cookies. I loved the idea so much when I first saw it. And guess what? So did K. She also reads Bakerella's blog, and she made me a gift jar for Christmas too! Very funny. Great minds think alike. It is such a cute idea; I guarantee there are thousands of these jars floating around this year!

My final Christmas treat is Snowman Poop. I saw the idea on the web a couple months ago and knew I had to make them for gift toppers--I am really immature. Last year I crocheted pretty snowflakes for gift toppers. This year? Poop. Unfortunately my printer ran out of blue ink, but here's how the label was supposed to look:

And on that scatological note, I hope you have a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Feeling Scroogey

I love the holidays. I really do.  Each year I get really excited about all of the Christmas activities I want to participate in: the holiday events, light shows, Christmas villages, decorations, cookie swaps...all while listening to songs by Andy Williams and Bing Crosby and smelling cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through my kitchen.

Somehow, this year Christmas has snuck up on me though, and I'm suddenly realizing that I have probably missed my chance to attend the majority of these extravaganzas. Note to self for next year: the second weekend in Dec. is the best time to take advantage of the above. It's probably not a huge loss because Little C. isn't really big enough to know what's going on this year. However, I definitely have to be more organized about it for next Christmas.

Even though I've been thinking about Christmas since July and doing my Christmas knitting/ crocheting since then, I have been pretty lethargic about holiday decorations this year as well. I was unable to put out my usual decor because Little C. would have pulled everything down like a rabid monkey. Due to my husband's prodding we did put up a tree, but it is surrounded by a plastic, circular gate (courtesy of my sister-in-law). It does a fantastic job of keeping Little C. from rappelling off this evergreen wonder, but it does sort of kill the holiday mood to have such an eyesore sitting in the middle of the living room. It's kind of reminiscent of a dog kennel but without the accompanying pee-smell.

Anyway, I have been trying to get out of this miniature pre-holiday funk by getting my cookie-making supplies ready (I have a cookie swap next week), wrapping the gifts, blasting a little Bing on Grooveshark, and by making this beaded crochet star for the top of my tree. I used to use a big pink and gold bow as a tree topper but I can't find it anywhere in the bins of decorations, and now that I have a son, I've been rethinking my gold and pink color scheme. I thought I'd change it up this year by making a new topper. Nothing says "manly" like crochet beads, right?

This technique is the same used for the crochet necklaces I was obsessed with this summer. First, take embroidery floss (preferably the kind on a spool so you'll have enough length) and string a ton of beads onto it. You can always take them off at the end if you have too many, but if you run out of floss or beads while crocheting, you're basically out of luck. 

Then crochet whatever design you want. I started off with chaining 10 and joining in a circle, then double crocheting 20 sts into the circle. From there I chained off the center, and then came back using double crochets into the center. Then I started off another spoke, alternating long and short lengths. The final step was crocheting the border around the edge.

I just eyeballed it (which is why it's not very symmetrical). I didn't know if this would even work out so I didn't really bother with figuring out how to make it work mathematically. Also, I'm feeling lethargic! And, I'm not a very mathematical person anyway.

I starched it and pinned it like I did with my crochet snowflakes last year. Even though it was stiff, it was a little floppy still when it dried; it wasn't working out so well as a tree topper.

So I decided to reinforce the back, just using those "gold thingies" sticking out of the tree. That is their official name, you know.

I just cut them to support the long spokes going to the center and used a glue gun to attach. It's one of the first times in my life I've used a glue gun and have not burned myself. Hooray!

The supports were definitely necessary. Even though the topper is only one dimensional, it works with the tree for now. Maybe I'll think about switching it up next year. I'll add it to my list of things I'd like to accomplish for next year's Christmas.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Girls Night Longterm Project

So, remember how I mentioned that instead of working on small crafts for each Girls Night, we decided to individually pick a long project to work on each time we meet instead? Well, this is it.

This is the beginning of a throw blanket, crocheted in a basket weave pattern. The basket weave effect is produced by using front and back post double crochets. The pattern can be found on, but you have to register to view it, I think.  I'm using 3 double crochets; the pattern calls for 4.

Recognize the yarn? It's the yarn that I've attempted to use for a couple different projects over the last 10 years. First for a lacy throw (undocumented) and then for crochet pillows . This time, I know it's the right project; the pattern calls for this yarn (Lion Brand Homespun), and I've been wanting to make a cozy throw for myself for awhile. Something warm to throw on (ha, get it? puns are fun) while watching TV at night. This will be perfect.

The yarn texture, as well as the pattern, makes for a very thick and warm result. At this time of year when it's rainy, windy, cold, and possibly snowing, crocheting this blanket is a welcome refuge. I kind of get to snuggle under it while I'm making it! Get me a steaming cup of hot cocoa and a good movie and I'm good to go.

The are a couple drawbacks to this project, however:
  • I must finish my Christmas knitting/ crocheting ASAP and this is making me procrastinate
  • This is supposed to be a long term project, but I'm probably going to finish it really fast and not during Girls Night
Maybe I'll have to come up with a different idea to work on this year with the girls. Maybe hand stitching something? I'm definitely not likely to ever hand stitch something on my own. And the meetings with the girls would force me to do it. Hmmm...I'll have to do some research.
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