December 27, 2008

Somebody stop me....please!

Well, I didn't think it was possible, but I've actually burned myself out on sewing!! For most of the last year I have constantly had several projects going all at once at all times. Then, to top the year off, I decided to make most of my Christmas gifts.....

This is what I've spent the last 3 weeks working on:

Wine bottle cozies; perfect for using up scraps of fabric and ribbon

4 San Diego Chargers Aprons

"Joseph" costume for a pre-school program

9 tote bags with exactly the right fabric for each person

3 necklaces for the 3 oldest granddaughters using charms from this ETSY shop (not sewing, I know, but I did put them together myself)

A photo apron for the other Grandma of my two youngest grandkids, their "Nana", with their pictures on the pockets.

12 scarves........4 made of fleece and 8 made from a soft, furry fabric (??) that makes a huge mess when you cut it but makes the most fabulous, silky scarf when you sew a tube and then turn it inside out. (This is going to be what I'll make in the future when I need a quick last minute gift from now on....I LOVE THESE!!! They only take 10 inches of fabric and 5 minutes to sew up!)

3 totes made from 99 cent re-usable bags from Wal-Mart. I printed photos on fabric and appliqued them over the store logo. I tried using different colored bags from different stores ( red from Target and light blue from the 99cent store) but they melted when I tried to iron the photos on.....only these black Wal-Mart bags worked for some reason, and I like the black best anyway....I will definitely be making more of these.

and........last but not least (finished late on Christmas Eve) 5 "reading pillows" for 3 granddaughters and 2 nieces, all avid readers. This pillow holds your book open on your lap with ribbons and has pockets for your glasses and pencils/notepad. I bought the pattern here. They were really easy to make and it taught me how to make bias tape and piping, which was very easy, much to my surprise!

and in between all of this there were 3 custom apron orders to make and one apron swap to finish.

WHEW!! No wonder I'm burned out! That wore me out just listing all of it!

This week I have 3 projects to finish for other people and then on January 1st I'm closing up the "studio" and putting all my sewing stuff away for a while.....and I really mean putting it away! I'm folding up the ironing board, putting the sewing machine in it's rarely seen case and making room for it in the closet.

I'm going on sewing hiatus at least until the end of January when I receive my next Apron Swap partner assignment....I know my creative battery will be recharged, the creative juices will be flowing, and I'll be ready for some FABRIC SHOPPING (YAY!!)

December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas to all..........

This year I decided to give mostly handmade gifts. I've been sewing and crafting every day for the last 3 weeks, often staying up until 2:00 a.m. With 2 days to go, I have 2 more items to complete, but I'm tearing myself away from the sewing machine long enough to share a few random Holiday photos with you and wish you all a lovely Christmas, hopefully filled with family and friends, good food and new memories.....

Mary and Joseph ("Jo-fess") in their pre-school program

singing "Away in the Manger" with their musical Nativity Set

eighth grade Winter Formal

cousins in matching Christmas p.j.'s (made by Mimi of course!)

A rare photo of me, at my company's Christmas Dinner at the Boss's Country Club

my Daughter's girls.......

Oldest Son and Family.......

We're all missing youngest son, living far, far, away from Southern California on Martha's Vineyard, braving his first winter temperatures (7 degrees today!)...WE MISS YOU JORDY! HOPE YOU'RE HAVING A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY SEASON.... PLEASE STAY WARM!!........

Merry Christmas from my family to yours...........

December 17, 2008

Cute? or just wrong???

The grandson (3 1/2) brought this home from his pre-school Christmas party today:

Yes...that is a manger and Baby Jesus made out of snacks......that's chocolate pudding on the bottom, topped with shredded wheat "hay" and a pretzel/mini-marshmallow Baby Jesus.

My initial thought was " What a cute idea!"....followed quickly by " it just me or is there something creepy and wrong about eating Baby Jesus with a spoon?"

December 16, 2008

Christmas Candy 2008

Every year I save 2 vacation days to use for my Christmas candy-making marathon (see here). It usually takes me 3 days, working in 3-4 hour increments (or as long as my feet and back can stand it) to get it finished and packaged. Every year I look forward to this tradition and by the time I'm finished I always say " I'm NOT doing this again next year!".....but I always do......


clockwise from the top:

Peanut Butter Bonbons
Almond Roca Truffles
Black & White Coconut Bonbons
Sugar & Spice Pecans
White Apricot Walnut Fudge

English Toffee
Oreo Peppermint Patties
center: Potato Chip Haystacks

I tuck a little menu in the package (I always wish SEE'S would do that!)

15 plates of candy ready to deliver to co-workers and friends. (and plenty of everything left over for my household to munch on and any holiday guests throughout the rest of the holiday season)

And I'm NOT doing this again next year!!!

oh, of course I will.......

December 12, 2008

What would Martha do?

I have been making english toffee every year at Christmastime for the last 28 years. I've given away the recipe many times and many times had people tell me that their toffee didn't come out right. Well, I've always assumed they did something wrong because mine always comes out great.....until last year! I don't know why but it was soft and grainy, even though it still tasted like toffee should taste. We ended up eating some of it with a spoon and I think I threw the rest away.

Well, today was day 2 of my annual Christmas candy-making marathon and guess what? The toffee didn't come out right!#%!&!!

same recipe!
same ingredients!
same pan!
same spoon!
new candy thermometer!

What the heck!!! It was soft and grainy but smelled and tasted really great, with it's chocolatey top layer and buttery bottom. BUT IT WASN'T CRUNCHY TOFFEE!!

So I ignored it while I made some Sugar & Spice Pecans, hoping it would somehow fix itself while I wasn't looking.....and then this idea popped into my head..... TRUFFLES!! .....why not? it was worth a try. How bad could it be since it still tasted good. And I WAS NOT going to throw away a pound of butter and 2 1/2 cups of sugar!

Soooooo.......I cut it all into squares

and rolled each square into a ball

and rolled each ball in finely chopped nuts....... new invention: "Almond Roca Truffles"!!!

All my taste-testers loved them and said to "forget the toffee, just make more of these!".

Oh great! Now watch....I'll never be able to replicate my mistake again!

Honestly, these things just might be the best things I've ever eaten.

Now what? I guess I just have to hope that my toffee turns out wrong again tomorrow when I make another batch.........
next day: Of course batch #2 came out fact, it just might be the most perfect batch of toffee I've made in 28 years! DARN IT!!!!

December 10, 2008

tell me about your Traditions....

It's that time of year once again, the time of year overflowing with traditions. I do so love hearing and reading about the traditions of other families. Like snowflakes, no two family's traditions are the same. Even within a larger family group, the smaller family units tend to take the traditions they grew up with and tweak them to make their own version.
Now that I've discovered the world of Blogging, I've found an endless source of so many variations of every kind of Family Holiday Tradition that it boggles my mind!

Let me share a few of my own favorites with you.......

Parker Family Christmas Traditions

Every Christmas for the last 28 years I've made plates of candy to give as gifts to friends, neighbors, and co-workers. I now also send them along to my adult children's co-workers and in-laws. I usually make 7-10 different kinds, arrange them on a sturdy holiday paper plate, wrap in colored plastic wrap and tie it all up with ribbon.
I always make peanut butter bonbons, coconut bonbons, apricot truffles, english toffee, sugared pecans and fudge of some kind, and then add a few new recipes, too. Last year I tried cookies-n-cream fudge. I have made in the past: pralines, cashew brittle, mint fudge, mocha truffles, butterscotch fudge, peppermint truffles.

One year I decided to not do this (for some reason I don't remember) and my family almost disowned me!!

During the week between Christmas and New Year, my household invites family and friends for a day of tamale making. Both of my sons, my daughter, and I each make a different filling. We have the masa dough already prepared and everyone rolls up their sleeves and helps shape the tamales.
Because this can be a day-long affair, we have a table laid out with all kinds of munchies: soups, homemade pizza, dips and spreads, and cookies. When the day is over and the tamales are finished, everyone gets to take home an assortment of different kind of tamales.

We've made BBQ pork, spicy beef, artichoke/red pepper, shrimp/sweet corn, chicken/chile/cheese, and even apricot pineapple!

Now that all my grandchildren live nearby, I've started a new tradition. This year will be the second annual MIMI'S CHRISTMAS SLEEPOVER.
The weekend before Christmas, all 5 grandkids come over (while their parents go out together for a fun evening by themselves!) Each child puts on the matching p.j.s that I've made them and we take a group photo that I will use for my (late!)Christmas card. I give each of them their gifts from me. I get to enjoy them opening the gifts away from all the chaos of Christmas morning!

We have dinner, usually everyone's favorite, Tostadas!
We play Christmas Bingo, taking turns being the caller.
We make snacks: Jello popcorn, chocolate dipped pretzels, english muffin pizzas.
Sleeping bags are spread out over the family room and we watch a Holiday movie while eating our snacks. Last year we watched 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas". This year I think it's going to be "Eloise at Christmastime".

If you've blogged about any of your traditions, tell me in a comment so I can visit your blog. I'd love to read about yours....or if not, just tell me about yours in a comment.

After all, Traditions are what family is all about, don't you think?

December 6, 2008

Winter Sassy Apron Swap (received)

My Sassy Winter Apron package has arrived all the way from Hickory, NC.!

Patty D. got my name for the swap. (swap details are here).
Look what Patty made for me!!.......
The Snowman print is so cute and it's lined with a pretty snowflake fabric.
It has 2 nice big pockets and I love the wide waistband that makes a really great bow in back.......
Patty grew up in San Diego and knows how rare snow is here, so everything has a snow theme, right down to the tissue she used to wrap the items!
The cookie cutter is a giant snowflake that will make perfect cookies for my annual Christmas sleepover with the grandkids. Patty sent along her Mother's special sugar cookie recipe and a holiday cookie cookbook.
I was trying to find time to make myself a Christmas apron, but didn't think I could squeeze in one more sewing project and now I don't need to!
Patty, I love this whole fun, snowy package and I can't wait to get busy baking! Thank you so much from snow-less Southern've really added to the festivities around my house!!

December 4, 2008

We interrupt this blog for a commercial message.....

O.K. I'm thinking this might be a weird thing to post about, but I have 2 new items (new to me at least) that I am currently obsessing over and I'm going to tell you about them, even though they are actually small and insignificant ....but right now I'M LOVING THESE TWO SILLY LITTLE THINGS!!

#1. 2.5 gallon zip-loc bags

How have I never seen this size before? These things are GREAT! They're huge! I can put entire sewing projects-in-progress in one of these: many yards of fabric, notions, pattern, etc. all in one bag! Then I line up all these "bags of projects" in a laundry basket...VOILA! instant organization!
These are going to work great for organizing some of the grandkids toys that have a thousand pieces and for storing sweaters in the off-season. I'm actually looking around the house to see what else I can use them for......
Oh! and in the kitchen I fit 2 entire racks of ribs in one bag for marinating!!!
#2. 5x7 spiral notebooks I've confessed my need make lists in a previous post (here) and these things have saved my life! (well, o.k....I guess I'm being a little over dramatic?) Lets just say they definitely make my life run smoother.
I keep one of these in my purse at all times to write down stuff: important dates to transfer to my calendar at home, movies I want to rent, blog ideas, songs I want to download from itunes (you know, you're in a store and hear a song playing and think "I need to put that song in my ipod" and by the time you get home you can't remember what the song was? NOT ME! I WROTE IT DOWN IMMEDIATELY IN MY LITTLE FRIEND!)
I have a constant grocery list going on the inside cover and things I need to get done over an upcoming weekend.
I keep my list of sewing projects in here, too, in case I see some good fabric somewhere and I need a good reason to buy it......
The obsessive part is I only can use one of these at time but I keep buying more when I see a color or pattern I like. But eventually I'll use each one up and need a fresh one, right???
Well I hope that didn't make me seem too ridiculous.......come on.....I know you must have something silly you really love like this, too, don't you?
Tell me what little things you can't live without. I'd really like to know! (and then I won't feel so silly....)