A new quilt for a friend

I gave away one of my recent hand-made Christmas gifts, so now I can post about it- don't you feel lucky!

I have a friend who has been asking nearly every time I have seen her, "so When are you making me a quilt?" in a half joking manner. Deep down, I know she has wanted one for quite some time so I asked her what colors would look good in her home. She gave me a whole list and I selected yellow, plum and gray (she has a very modern looking style, so that color scheme works well). I also selected a fun, yet classic pattern to hopefully keep the quilt stylish longer. The fabric I used is kind of fun. The Plum were nearly solid color with light plum polka-dots. The yellow is nearly solid with swirls of white, the gray is gray with a white decorative print and the dark gray is actually black and yellow flowers.

I made a fairly small quilt- just 9 blocks, so definitely a throw size, but I took into consideration that my friend has a dog, so I made sure to select machine washable materials and backing. This quilt actually doesn't have any batting, I used only the top and a fleece backing so it is both soft and warm. In addition, I didn't do typical quilting either- it is just sewn on to the backing like you would do a tie quilt (but with thread and no bows) so that I wouldn't mess too much with the soft backing.

So there you have it. I've been a busy elf. (Don't you just love my little model? I know I do- such a big help!)



Just finished up my 6th annual Cookie Exchange. In my opinion it was a great success. I have a ton of delicious cookies from the 11 guests who attended, but I also made a lot of cookies this week.

This plate in the picture contains the cookies that were made at my house- it has spritz cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, cut-out cookies and Nighty-nights.

The cookies that were brought look amazing so I can't wait to try them all. We had some spirited discussion, great food and exquisite conversation/company.

This is the event I host each year that makes me feel like it's Christmas- so note to self- hold it earlier in the season next time so I can feel Christmas-y earlier :D


Preparing for winter

Can you say time to cash in on energy credits! So we have had some single pane large windows in our house-  huge picture window in front and a broken sliding door in back (it not only wasn't hung straight it didn't lock - so you can probably guess why I never mentioned it before). So Our house was freezing in these two areas in the winter. As I work from home that gets kind of...difficult because I want to be comfortable, but don't want the heat constantly running and these are the two rooms that are the most family friendly for working in. So we always had large, thick curtains on the front window to prevent drafts as well as the plastic on the window (which I'm sure my neighbors were thrilled about). But no more! My hubby and I decided we would give each other the gift of a happy furnace and warm rooms.
So the old windows and doors- (seen over on the side here) had to go. That bar in the upper left side of the patio door was pretty close to all that was keeping the thing shut. That white spot on the right side was tape covering a finger sized hole in the screen. The door opened on the right side and when it was fully closed you could still see a sliver of light between the door and the frame. Major obstacle here was that the door is actually ONE INCH smaller than standard patio doors...so yes. That meant custom door. Then there was the picture window. Single pane, multi-frame aluminum windows with no ventilation in the summer (they had caulked the portions that were supposed to open) and there were no storm windows with these things so it was freezing in the winter. (We had removed the curtains here so when the window people came we would be ready). Because of the size (over 6 sq ft glass space these would have to be replaced with tempered glass) and we didn't just want to replace these with a boring picture window. I wanted to be able to open them and such...
 At about 10:00am this December morning, this is what my house looked like. The window was gone. That made the house pretty chilly- even though it was unseasonably warm today. It got even colder when the patio door left. (see below) and we got a really good breeze going inside! My daughter surprisingly napped through a good portion of the removal, which was good as they had to break quite a bit of the old window to get it out so there were little glass shards around to be vacuumed and swept and wet swiffered up, but it came out remarkably easier than I would have hoped.

After they got it out, there was a bit of waiting because they needed more man strength to get my new window in and it seemed crazy seeing more and more trucks with guys showing up. They also seemed to be consulting about a few issues with the brackets they had- and after they had placed the window in the hole another man showed up with new brackets. Then the original two went to work on securing it and placing the patio door. Then there was a furry of nailing, screwing, cutting, insulating and such going on at both spots resulting in a pretty impressive amount of noise. (The cat was still hiding, but my daughter gave up on the nap attempt and came to see what was going on).

 By noon, this is what my house looked like inside. The patio door now opens from the left (which works much better) and it locks (which is much better too) AND it also seals (much, much better) so the dining room is warm. It looks pretty nice from inside. And this is what the living room looked like! It is a gorgeous, custom bow window with two double hung and three center picture windows. It also has a gorgeous oak window seat and casement - with lovely trim! This thing looks wonderful inside and makes the room look huge. We still need to finish the window seat as it is raw wood, so we will be tackling that soon enough as I don't want to risk having something happen to the wood in the meantime.
 And here is the door from the outside (hey this has a screen that not only doesn't have a hole with tape on it, but the screen locks too so I can have a breeze without potential bugs (also the door has a venting feature like double hung windows do so it will be really nice). I like custom doors I think. And here is the bow window from outside. (see my little girl enjoying the picture). It's gorgeous and it's high enough over the garden where I don't think I need to worry about insects/animals building a home under it (yes these are things I worry about).

I think we are all pretty pleased with the new warmth and windows too. She's already got her pillow and book ready for the seat. Good job little one!

The company did a fantastic job making our custom window and door. They are exactly what I wanted!


The holidays- formal dress conversion

I'm not a huge socialite- I know you are shocked (probably not, I mean how else could I get all this crafting done). But one of the things I look forward to every year is my friend's semi-formal Christmas Soiree. It's the chance to dress up, really fancy, that I enjoy to do every now and then. Well, way back when- I bought a dress that was a long chocolate colored formal with a top similar to the one over here to the right. (This is not the dress I bought- mine is full-length). The reason I'm showing you the top is this dress I had didn't fit anymore...just in the chest area (you see I have since had a kid/nursed a kid so the top was a bit...snug to the point of my not being able to zip it up. The bottom still fit wonderfully.

So out came the scissors and I converted the formal from a full length to a formal skirt. First, I tried it on and zipped it up to waist level and then pinned along my middle where I thought it should sit (I know this is very technical...you see the bottom of the dress has a train, so as long as I didn't go overboard with the cutting it wasn't super critical that the hem be even, because it didn't start off that way). Then I took it off, cut off the top and started to take apart the straps so I could use the sequins for a fancy waistband.

Then I hand-sewed the waistband to the bottom of the formal and trimmed the zipper. This is where I made an error. I had cut the zipper on one side at the correct length and then measured from the bottom of the pull to the top of the zipper, but on the other side of the zipper I measured from the bottom of the zipper, resulting in about 1/2 an inch difference in length on the zipper...probably should have just closed it and hoped that I didn't inadvertently zip the pull off the top, but this works fine because it is still covered by the waistband. So here is the finished skirt- ready to be taken out on the town.

Here's the front...I know my spanx will come in handy when wearing this and I'm going to have to figure out a shirt to wear with it... but you get the idea.  Here's the back. It has a button which holds up more train so it is really interesting and fun and flowy. Please note- I'm wearing high heels too, so the length is pretty near perfect. I do like the satin-y pink shirt with it, but what are your thoughts? What would this skirt look good with - perhaps a nice fancy sweater... I have until Saturday to figure it out.


Decorating for Christmas- the garland

Have you ever seen that really expensive garland that has the stuff already in it- you know: pinecones, various pine branches, leaves, berries, poinsettias, etc? I happen to love the stuff- it's so festive looking and requires very little work in the long run (I had been stringing ribbons, and ornaments through my garland to make it festive)

But I wasn't ready to fork over a ton for this pre-made garland. First I found one I really liked online that was on a super cyber monday sale and bought a few UNLIT sections of it so I could have some really nice stuff to mimic. I knew I could buy strings of LED lights cheaper than the lit versions cost and then they would last longer and take less energy anyway- also, I was going to replace some of my garland with the fancy stuff (it is thicker and the artificial parts are nicer than what I can find to spruce up mine) to make areas look better that would be the most noticed. I then went out and bought items that matched this fancy garland and fixed up all the rest of my garland to be a closer match to this fancy stuff. Let me tell you- the 40% off Michaels coupons and Hobby Lobby 50% off floral stems sales were really well timed for me. So now my halls are decked with garland and I am loving the simplicity of putting it up- it is lit now with LEDs, and that's all I need to do with it. Yay! (Also, if you're wondering both the garland you see in the pictures with the topiary trees and this one above are my garland I made...or are they :) )


Decorating for Christmas- the beaded topiary trees

You know why I love Christmas decorations so much? It because they are festive, brighten up a rather gloomy month of weather and allow you to hide all the dust that could be lingering around :)

I didn't always like Christmas- in fact, I rather disliked it as a child. I had a very large family (I have 9 siblings) so there wasn't room for Christmas decorations and everyone to sit in the living room, so the tree/decorations were very short lived. Also, as you can imagine, that number of children and the expectation for gift-giving was stressful for my parents as well as the requirements on the schedule at this time of year - school concerts, special church events, bake-sales. (Really, I kind of wish they did this stuff when the weather is more cooperative with traveling back and forth) and then - do you know how long it takes to get a kid in a coat! No wonder the holidays were just a time to get past! Regardless- I have some very fond memories from my youth of that time which I have carried forward as well as some others I picked up in my adult life. I loved going into town to look at all the Christmas decorations so being able to put them up in my house is particularly fun.

I've already talked about our new Christmas tree which resides in the basement now (the old one has even been claimed by a sibling to grace their house, so that's extra exciting- yay for being green!) leaving the upstairs a bit less decorated than normal. So I decided that I would do some craft projects to spice up my upstairs decorations as well as have something to post. This not being able to post gift projects is hampering my documentation in order of completion- let me tell you!

So I thought of something I have always liked...cone shaped topiary trees. I have seen them around, but they aren't cheap and rarely go with my Christmas decor...definitely a downside of the white, blue and silver, motif we have going here. So I decided I would try my hand at making my own...In addition, I thought this would be a great excuse to use some very nice silver I was given by my mother and grandma-in-law. (I'll explain, don't worry).

First the silver- I was given some silver platters and bowls by my mom and my grandma-in-law because I like to have parties (I've mentioned my potlucks before I'm sure) and they never used them. There are several lovely decorative trays and two bowls (all of which are the typical silver that require polishing). I am fine with using the trays for food as I can lay a sheet of parchment paper on the tray between the food and the tray with no one noticing, but the bowls- let's just say I'm not comfortable having food that close to silver polish- ever. These lovely bowls therefore have remained in my china cabinet, never being used, but look nice- which is fine. But here I can make something to use them! Joy!

First, I went out and bought all the supplies I wanted- two cones (varying heights), and tons of beads in silver, white and blue that are different colors and textures. I tried to buy everything on sale, but initially the grand total for the stuff was $49.45...far too much. So I hunted through three additional craft stores to find less expensive items to make this work (the first store only had the floral cones and I just needed plain Styrofoam (see) for this so that was a large expense). After buying all the beads, some white and silver glittery netting, and the two large foam cones, the total was $40. This is divided by two since there are two cones, so $20 each, plus time/driving, so these are not cheap items (especially since every single item I bought was on sale for 50% off). But they do look fantastic and match my decor, so I *guess* it is worth it (you can bet if I were to decide I was tired of these next year my husband would be less than pleased, but as he likes them too, it is worth it to him too).

First I took the cones above (these were 18" and 24" tall cones to accommodate the size of the silver bowls) and covered them with a glitter netting (white on one, silver on the other) which gave it a bit of depth, but still let the white from the cone show through (it goes with my color scheme so it didn't bother me, but you could paint them first with craft paint if you want). Then I used the beads with straight pins and the stems of beaded branches (on wires) and lots of hot gluing to secure the netting to the cones as well as decorate them. Please note- it is absolutely mandatory to use a cool temp hot glue gun for this project- a hot temp would melt the styrofoam as well as burn your fingers many, many times. I went with pearlized beads over the whole thing, but the taller tree has more silver, and the smaller has more white. The beads were randomly placed and I know there are over 1200 on these- so it took a long time. Also, it's rather hard to photograph these...you see they reflect light where if I used a flash you couldn't see the beads- but here they are with just the light from the window and the lights in the garland on them (I'll do a post about the garland later). I think this is a great use for heirloom silver bowls and makes a fun decoration overall!

Decorating for Christmas- the new tree

I'm a sucker for Christmas decorations, even though, I'm not really thrilled with the cost of most of them, however we decided to 'splurge' a bit this year and get a new Christmas tree. Our old one still works, however it is too tall for the basement room and we didn't feel comfortable setting up the tree upstairs with my daughter able to pull items off. I haven't quite mastered figuring out the going to the bathroom while the kid is playing and I certainly don't want a 7.5 foot tree toppling on her- nor all our fragile ornaments being broken.

First I guess I should explain about the ornaments- my husband and I collect ornaments. For every big trip/occasion we get a beautiful ornament to commemorate the memory so our Christmas tree is a bit of a time capsule. Pulling out all those funky ornaments and remembering what they were from is one of the experiences I look forward to the most. Our engagement- yup, ornament. Wedding- a given. My golden birthday trip to the Smokey Mountains- it's in there. Juliette's first birthday trip to see the "make way for ducklings" ducks- oh yes. Our first apartment, house, pet, our first pet's passing away- yes they are in there- even some heartbreaking ones. So I can't leave them off- it's what gives our tree character. Also, it's what keeps my house clean- as you know ornaments are small- so collecting them doesn't take up a lot of room and they only come out for 1 month so no dusting!

So it was time to get a new tree. We wanted something 6.5ft tall (so we could still do our star) and fairly realistic with the requirement of LED lights. Let me tell you- this was harder to find than I thought it would be! No local retailers carried a 6.5 ft LED tree. The 7 ft trees were REALLy expensive too, so we hit the online black Friday sales. I try so hard to avoid black Friday as it goes against all Christmas spirit in my opinion, but online wasn't so bad- I knew they wouldn't fill my order until Monday so no poor employees were being forced to work on my account. (I refuse to shop on Thanksgiving for the same reason and have decided that I will not frequent stores that felt the money was worth more than letting their employees have the holiday that focuses on family off- ok enough of that rant...). I found two very nice artificial tree sites and one of them had a really reasonable price on what I was looking for so we got it at TreeClassics.com. I must admit I was apprehensive - we bought a clearance tree and it still wasn't cheap. I was hoping for a really realistic looking tree as well for this reason as I don't intend to replace this tree for a very, very long time if ever. We got it and put it up -which was rather challenging (it actually is harder to put together than our old tree and I am not looking forward to trying to take it down for the same reason). The tree itself is nice and full and the branches definitely look more realistic than any other artificial tree I've seen- so I am pleased with it. In addition, all the trees on the site were nice because they resist the straight triangle look that some trees have (you know what I am talking about? Go to a store and look at the trees- how many have a branch that is longer above a branch that is shorter? I'm going to guess you won't find many, but real trees don't grow that way- they have some variety). It doesn't have as many lights on it as I would expect for a tree it's size and no lights are even partially inside the tree, so our long ornaments don't have the light on them at all (because they have to hang through branches. However it looks spectacular decorated (of our non-memory ornaments we have a winter theme so it is silver, white and blues instead of reds and greens of which we ended up going out and getting a bit more blue ornaments because this thing is significantly bigger than our last tree so they got a bit lost in there) and looks spectacular with a fire. I am pleased.
doesn't that just make you want to watch a Holiday movie? On to the next decorations...


Friend Thanksgiving- sorry for the delay

 Here I promised you could see what I did with the friend thanksgiving table, and then I withhold- so sorry! So here's the table- please note- I don't have overhead lights and with 16 people I was a bit concerned about having enough candles on the table to cover the "I want to see my food" urge that people get...crazy people. So my hubby solved the problem by hanging some LED twinkle icicle lights. Tada! This gave more of a blue glow than I was hoping, but it still worked. I did use a few lanterns on the table as well for some additional ambiance. (Please note- that burgundy wall will be replaced someday with a real wall- you see it's just the block painted- so I didn't do anything crazy to the walls here.

 Here is a view showing what our guests saw- ah the fun of it all.
Amazingly I have enough place setting and burgundy napkins for 16 so we had a pretty easy table setting.
See everyone having a lovely time :)

And just for good measure- here's a picture of my daughter looking far too grown-up. She is actually wearing items I wore as a kid, but she just looked too cute walking around for me not to post a picture of her happy little self as she got ready to enjoy her first thanksgiving meal (this is her second thanksgiving, but the first one where she got to enjoy the solid foods).

Now, to explain my absence- you see I just realized I have a lot of gifts I am working on and I have no idea which of my friends will read the blog and I certainly don't want to spoil any surprises, so I am hesitant to post gift pictures pre-Christmas. So I have decided to only post pictures of items that are not gifts or that I am sure the individual has no chance of seeing. I have something brewing and certainly want to show you my lovely tree, but I had to post about thanksgiving first. (By the way- it was a huge success again and no one left crying (not even the babies in attendance)!