Monday, December 19, 2011

The Fire is so Delightful

Our apartment has a cute little fireplace, a great place to hang stockings and a great mantel to decorate, but it's not super practical for actual fire. For one thing, it'd be way too warm in here, for another it'd be way to tempting for little fingers. Yesterday our advent activity was to make a cozy replica.

The logs are cardboard tubes, colored by an enthusiastic almost 5yo. We tore the edges to make them look more log-y, and because tearing things on purpose is fun. The fire is metallic origami paper and vellum, both in reds and yellows, cut into flame shapes, crumpled a bit and layered. We backed it with christmas lights, but I'm going to get some flameless candles so it'll flicker. It looks fantastic, and not just in the cheesy gag way I'd expected. It really feels cozier in here with it's warm glow. Of all the cookies, gnomes, ornaments and decorations we've made, this was the thing that B was the most giddy over. You could even say it lit a fire under him. Har de har.

Today we'll be making Santa's mustache pops. Like the ones from B's birthday, but with white chocolate and sprinkled with candy cane bits!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Very Playmobil Christmas

I suppose it was inevitable, but this is the first year that my lifelong love of Playmobil extended into our holiday decorating.B and I had settled in for a cozy night and I thought we'd make some elves or little houses to fill the mantel. I had some glittery snow blanket that I'd been using with the diorama ornaments, and a few bottle brush trees so that became our blank slate.B brainstormed about who and what should live in this snowy woods, he tossed out lots of great ideas, but at the end of the night he was gung ho! for using Playmobil. He's his mother's son, what can I say?I am a little disappointed that there aren't little boy-made bits of brilliance up there, but he's so proud. Isn't that what it's all about? Besides, the rest of our house is teeming with his handiwork. And I may still get my little glittery houses...

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I've had dioramas on the brain for weeks. Months, maybe. Who doesn't love self contained miniature worlds? As a kid I would get absolutely lost in them and as it turns out my adult self isn't much different. I'm a sucker through and through. Anyway, my sister (who has also had dioramas on the brain - go figure) and I brainstormed on how we could turn our diorama fever into a force of holiday joy spreading good. Here's one of our ideas.The beginnings of it anyway. I'm still up to my elbows in bottle brush trees and deer cake toppers and I have 6 more ornaments painted, glittered and ready for inhabitants. Not to mention the glitter that has bedazzled our entire apartment. And our persons. How do you combat that? I'm a novice, a glitter virgin really, so I have no idea how to contain the outbreak. Any sage advice out there?Now for the how. I got plain, brown craft ball ornaments from Micheal's and cut windows in them with a small hacksaw, or lady-saw as Beckett calls it. The insides were not paper, much to my dismay, but hard dark plastic. It took a few coats to cover it, but it accepted the paint fairly well. I found some pre-made all paper balls online here and here, but I didn't want to wait for shipping, so I made do.

Then I painted the insides and outs. I added metallic pipe cleaners or glitter to the openings, mostly to hide my shoddy saw skills, but also because it makes them look super vintage.I found bottle trees, mini wreaths, mini snowmen, glittery foliage and other bits at Micheal's. I scored some spun cotton mushrooms, those little German birds and I made a huge haul of vintage cake toppers at a wonderful, cluttered hole in the wall called Home Cake. If you're in Seattle, check it out. If not, etsy has all kinds of great deer, mushrooms and elves. The Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs set is definitely worth a look!We're in full scale holiday mode around here. The house looks, smells and feels great and our advent calendar (a mischievous gnome who hides each morning with our activity or adventure for the day in his pocket) has filled our days with fun. I just love December.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Birds

You know those sweet little painted wood birds that perch on Nutcrackers and wonderful German ornaments? I have a few beat up ones that broke off of thrift store finds, and despite their chipped paint, I adore them. The other night I decided that I needed more. Lots more. To use in ornament making, and for who knows what other uses might pop up. What project wouldn't be improved by bright little wooden birds? So I scoured the internet and came up empty.

Yesterday, Calder and I were killing time while B was in school and we popped in to the Alpenland Delicatessen on Mercer Island for a pastry. It's a great little mom and pop deli with such delicious, tradition Swiss fare, and loads of imported chocolates and mustards etc. This time of year, they also have fantastic ornaments and every year I pick up a few. Never before, though, have they had these! The exact little birds I'd been searching for.I couldn't believe it. Still can't, but I can say I'm a very happy camper. They sold the small ones in little packages of 12 for $3.40. The larger birds were $3.80 for a package of 6. Amazing. Look for these to be showing up in much of my holiday playing this year. I'm sure they'll be showing up all over the house too.Man, it feels good to be blogging. I miss this, and I'm sorry that so many of our Fall adventures and projects went un-posted. It's a rich life, and it's easy to get swept up, especially with the amazing, but calendar filling, involvement with a coop preschool. But I love this, and I'd feel more fulfilled if I gave it more time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gnomes at Home

At last, Calder's costume. Mine too, actually, but the pictures of him are (obviously) way cuter, so he'll get the bulk of the layout. The whole inspiration behind this was Beckett insisting that his baby brother wear some sort of facial hair for Halloween. Beards on babies are hilarious. Especially to 4 year olds.I made a basic cone hat from red felt, and then the beard from gray felt. I attached the beard directly to the hat, which was definitely a gamble. On the one hand, there was a slightly better chance that the beard would stay on at all. On the other, if he hated the beard, he'd pull off the hat too and be costumeless. Turns out, he liked it just fine. In fact he still wears it regularly (he loves hats) and runs laps around the kitchen island. Go figure. I've been hugely inspired by the brilliant beards by Erin of I Made You a Beard. I ordered some awesome stickers from her for B's mustache party favors. I LOVE her yarn beards and maybe someday I'll try my hand at one. But her felt beards are also fantastic and definitely informed my own. I hadn't planned on making myself a beard, I figured a gnome hat or maybe a toadstool hat would suffice, but Calder's was so quick and so awesome I couldn't help myself. I started to think of them as my "gingerbread beards." The scalloped edges and white contrasting stitching makes them look like they belong on gingerbread men. I'm in love. And as an added bonus, never before has a Halloween project left me so excited for Christmas. The rest of our costumes was farmed from our own woodsy closets. Turns out it's pretty easy to find gnome clothes around here. Frighteningly easy. Here I've been thinking I'm at least a little stylish, but all along I've just been dressing like a Scandinavian folktale. You know? I'm really ok with that. Maybe I'll even pass it along to the next generation.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cotumes, Finally - The Robot Edition

I've been sitting on this post, hoping that the Grandparent Paparazzi would come through with some better full costume pics of the boys. No luck, though, so you'll have to use your imagination to fill in the blanks.Beckett wanted to be a robot, actually a space police robot, so I had the chance to make a classic hardware store costume. Dryer duct arms, metallic duct tape striping down his sweat pants, baking sheet panels in front and back and reflectors everywhere. Unfortunately all of that metallic, reflective robot-y goodness made for difficult photography, especially at night. Exhibit A:And exhibit B:Actually, despite the blur, I love the one above. Look at all that reflection!
Zion got a robot head too, made from a utility lamp, and a duct taped sweatshirt with knobs and planets and other spacebot effects. They looked great together. My awesome big boys. Stay tuned for part 2: The Gnome Edition coming soon.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

My parent's yard looks fantastic and we're ready for the trick or treaters to come-a-knocking.My dad and I usually come up with something(s) new each year. Sometimes it's big, over the top scares and sometimes it's the small, details that creep out the older kids. This year my dad had the idea to have a bowl full of human teeth. Gross. I made them from translucent sculpy and bloodied them with red food coloring. We put them, in all their horrible grossness, on the tray of our antique high chair. It's officially the worst things we've ever done. They're just awful. Ew.I'll post our costumes in the next few days, but for now I'm off to enjoy some hot cider and snickers bars with my boys. Happy Halloween everyone!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Another Kind of Pumpkin Head

I picked up this wonderful, handmade squash hat at the produce stand at Fall City Farms a few days. Isn't is darling? I couldn't help myself, it was too sweet. The knitter herself wasn't there, but her son was there helping us load pumpkins, pick out local honey sticks and selling us fresh pressed cider. The whole place - the donkeys and friendly cows, the pumpkin patch and sunflowers, and especially the friendly people and their hand knit goods were just charming. I think it's my favorite pumpkin patch experience to date.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Has Gone to Our Heads

Sorry about that post title. Sometimes I can't help myself. Anyway, as you can see, Old Helen, for the first time has a head. I thought she'd be happy about it, but she seems more indignant than ever. Silly old girl. No sense of humor. Here's a bit more Halloween fun from Chez Brewer.
On the mantel.
And in the entryway.
Beckett's drawings have become so refined in the last 12 months. I love looking back at these from years past, remembering a younger version of my boy, and celebrating how he's grown. Blah, blah blah. Sorry for gushing, but it's a sweet life I lead.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grim, Grinning Ghosts

Last year at this time, B was really into ghosts. Actually "ghosties" have been his Halloween spook of choice for a few years. Spiders had a good run, and bats were in there too. This year, though, it's all about the haunted house. He's obsessed. We couldn't enter any retail space without him spying (and then begging for) some cheaply made (often badly designed) haunted house. I was tempted too, after all I'm a pretty big fan myself. Instead I told him (and told him... and told him again) that we'd make our own.
So we did. His dad was out for the evening, and his little brother was in bed, so I had my big boy all to myself. He got to work making ghosts, monsters and "mean faced pumpkins". I worked on the house itself, under his direction. He wanted tall, skinny windows downstairs, round windows upstairs and a rickety fence. And, of course, a door that actually opens. Done and done. I meant to make a quick, simple home for B's creatures, but I got sucked in. It's a great way to spend an evening, lemme tell ya. The house is black cardstock, cut with an x-acto. I used small amounts of black electrical tape too, to attach the rickety fence and the base. Then B attached the haunters-in-residence with scotch tape. I love this thing so much. I hope it holds up as well as his original Halloween masterworks from previous years which are all up in the apartment and have been since October 1st. Yeah, we're those people. But only for Halloween.
I'll post more of our decorations tomorrow. It's a lot you've all seen before, but dear Old Helen, who has been so sorely neglected by my utter lack of grown up lady-sewing, is sporting a new festive holiday look. I think you'll like it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

KCWC Day 4,5,6,7 and Beyond

I know I warned that I had a busy few days at the end of this KCWC, but things got ridiculous. Spontaneous house guest, gastric upset baby, a sickly pooch, a pumpkin patch trip, zoo trip, multiple classroom work shifts at B's school, etc etc etc. It's been nuts. I kept plugging away at my sewing list and I squeezed in my one hour a day, but I'll admit to being less than stellar during said hour. But hell, I kept at it and I proud of that. B, on the other hand is completely over it - to the point where he's compelled to interfere with anything sewing related, even photo taking.In addition to the finished things I posted last week, I have 3 pairs of pants and 3 tee shirts that are in various states of completion. I also spent a few of my hours working on this one exciting idea, only to have it all fall apart on me. It's still on my mind. Even as I was working on the above mentioned unfinished cords and tees, I was half pondering the one that got away. Maybe I'll get back to it after Halloween.
I could have cranked out a lot more had I focused on things for Calder, but I was really pulled toward clothes for Becks. I can find commercially made, stylish, age appropriate bits of cuteness in Calder's size. I find loads of them, even when I'm not looking. But B is so tall that at the ripe old age of 4, he's really limited to what much older boys are into. It's just so lame to put my vibrant kid in heather gray and khaki every day. So this week was really about him.

All in all, I had a phenomenal time, KCWC got me off the couch and back into myself, I love the things I did complete, and I'm happy to say that my unfinished pile is motivation in itself. I haven't taken a full hour a day, but I also haven't retreated to the couch. Thank you all for your kind words here and on flickr! It means the world to be complemented by such talented folks! And HUGE thanks to Meg at elsiemarley for hosting KCWC again. It's the best. I can't wait til next time!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

KCWC Day 3 - Woodland Loungewear

... You know, for all the woodland lounging we do. I'm a little short on words tonight. Too much sewing to think in verbal terms? Maybe. Too much Twin Peaks on Netflix calling me away from the computer? Definitely. But even with my vocabulary failing me I can tell you that I'm crazy happy with today's sewing. I spent a few hours more than the requisite one today, knowing that the back half of my week is a little full. I wanted to make the boys some matching around the house clothes. Cute enough to be worn in public, but cozy enough to sleep in. I had this wonderfully soft brown and cream stripe cotton knit, green interlock knit and matching ribbing.
I made Jonesie legging pants, which are surprisingly hard to find in his size in quality fall/winter weight fabric. And I made him a 3/4 sleeve tee with a little toadstool pocket. I'm a fan. Stripes, mushrooms, what else do you need?
For Becks I toned down the woodsy-ness a little. He didn't complain, in fact he loves what I made and wants to wear it to school pronto. Though there were some side remarks about foxes or acorns, in lieu of mushrooms. We'll see, kiddo.
His pants are wide leg trouser sweats. Is that a thing? Trouser sweats? I'm pretty sure I could live in trouser sweats. I'm pretty sure B could too. The waist is cinched pretty tight. He's a long, but pretty lean guy these days. It makes for a funny shape in the photo, but these pants fit him really nicely. Too bad my kids are such awful models. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it.
Finally, B's shirt. It's a slim fitting long sleeve tee with ribbing cuffs. Nothing too fussy, but it's cute and comfy. It's edges are all finished with ribbing or hemming. The edges of Jonesie's tee are mostly just serged. All of these are made from my own, homemade patterns. Don't let that fool you, though. There's nothing tricky about making this kind of homemade pattern. Particularly when working with oh so forgiving knits, and when drafting for kids - they're essentially just rectangles with limbs.

Please head on over to the flickr group and check out what everyone else has been making. There are some incredible things. I'm coveting much of the fabrics used and the pattern following skills displayed. Man, there are some awesome patterns out there. I really need to get over that hurdle and join the party!