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Monday, December 31, 2007

End of 2007

It's the last day of the year. What do you do at the end of the year? I tend to reflect on the things/projects I accomplished throughout the year. I don't necessarily write down New Year's resolutions, but sometimes I write down goals or things I would like to accomplish.

At the beginning of 2007, one of the things I had as a goal was to try not to buy new fabric/craft supplies too much. I wanted to try to use up what I already had. In review, I think I have done fairly well this year with that. I have purchased new fabric and supplies, but there were many times I was in the store and told myself to just use something I already had (which pushes your creativity sometimes as well). I think I will continue to do that even more this year and continue utilizing recycled items.

Another goal I accomplished this year was completing a graduate application for the MFA program at BSU. I found a page where I had written this goal down, for 2005. Better late than never! I didn't finish some of my unfinished projects which I was hoping to do. But that is always on the goal list.

I haven't thought much yet about what I want to accomplish next year, but some simplification is in order I think. No specifics yet. A bathroom remodel and completion of the sewing/guest remodel is also in order. What are your goals?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Joy of Snow



Yesterday we had a little bit more snow. Not enough to sled down the street, though, as it was too fluffy and we scraped bottom right away. However, the driveway was smooth enough that Anna could get the snow packed down and sled on the slight hill that it is. Here she attempts to snowboard on the sled.

video

We are suppose to get more snow today. Yea! Frank went off to ski hard without us. We have to stay home and get ready for Anna's friend to come over to spend the night.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Day After Christmas

We had a wonderfully relaxing Christmas (except for the part when Anna came in our bedroom to wake us up at 5:15 a.m.). We opened presents, played our games, ate leftovers and hung out by the fire.

This year all our presents fit under the tree and we even had extra room. (I think) it was nice for Anna not to be overwhelmed with tons of gifts and for us not to be overrun with stuff, boxes and wrapping paper all over the floor. There was enough and Anna was quite happy with what she received (plus she has extra cash to get some other things). Anna played her new video games most of the day.

Frank and I have been doing puzzles since Thanksgiving. We love doing them but usually only do them around this time of year when Frank takes some time off work and we don't travel anywhere. I don't know how many we've done, but I know we've finished four new ones and have gone back and done several old ones again. Frank was ready to start another one. I told him that we have one in the closet that we have never done and we should have gotten that out first.

It has been in the closet for years and someone gave it to us. I think they had received it as a gift but were frightened and passed it on to us. It was not open. It is called The World's Most Difficult Puzzle. It is two-sided and has the same picture on both sides except it is rotated 90 degrees on the other side. And you will see that the picture is also not the easiest to work with. That is why it has been sitting in the closet untouched for years.


We decided to be brave and try it. Well, it wasn't as bad as I have been imagining it to be all these years. We finished it in one afternoon/evening. I guess we just figure out a good way to work it. Here is what we did:

Since most of the pieces have two pieces that look the same, we tried to match up any of the doubles we saw. If we attached one piece to the puzzle we made sure we had the other matching piece because then we knew we could flip it to the other side and turn it 90 degrees and attach it in another place on the puzzle. If we were working on one section, i.e. a skier, we would find the double pieces and build it in double (because the picture was slightly off compared to the other side so you could see which one was the right one if you had both pieces). When we had both sections built, we figured out which one attached in the right place, then we knew we could flip the double over turn it 90 degrees and put it in the other section of the puzzle where it belonged. The pieces on the diagonal lines from corner to corner were basically the same piece on both sides so we didn't have to find a matching pieces. It sounds pretty confusing but we did it! And will probably never do it again.


Today we got a little bit of snow. Not much but Anna and I tried to make the best of it by sledding down the street. We had to smooth out a path first to make it work and after a while we had to stop as there were bare spots on the street and things were warming up. You can just see some grass peeking up from behind Anna.



Then we also played more video games, trying out the Guitar Hero III (with two guitars. This is the only video game I will play that we have). Anna and Frank rock on.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Santa rides tonight! My wish for you is a safe, happy, healthy, peaceful time with family and friends.

Here is one of the pictures from the Idaho Botanical Gardens Winter Garden Aglow. You can see more here.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ah, Skiing?

A storm finally came through to bless the mountains with snow (none in the valley here). Bogus Basin ski area opened this past Thursday. Yesterday was the first day they opened the entire mountain. Being like everyone else, we wanted to go skiing. Being not quite like everyone else, we didn't want to be in crowds. So instead of driving up to Bogus, we headed for different mountains.
The list of players:
Frank - the avid skier, owns 3-5 pairs of skis.

Lisa - the recreational skier and photographer whom you don't see much in the pictures, owns two pairs of skis (one for down hill and one for nordic).

Anna - the reluctant skier, owns one pair of skis (she has given up on downhill skiing).

It didn't start off too well. Anna didn't really want to go skiing. When we tried her boots on, she said they were too small and hurt her feet. I thought I had asked Frank in November about if the boots fit and he said they should be fine. I should have made sure by asking if they had tried them on. Anna's feet are about the same size as mine. I tried them on and they were tight in the toes, but thought they would be o.k. for the day. We also told Anna as she skied, they should loosen up some.

Before we even got going she was not in a happy mood. Then halfway through the drive, she noticed we weren't going to Bogus Basin. (We went to a Park-n-Ski area outside Idaho city which I haven't been to in about 7 years.) Anna likes routine and familiarity so this did not enhance her mood any.

When we arrived it was very cold in the parking area and the trail that was supposed to be groomed had not been groomed yet. It looked like the groomer had made one round to break up the snow, but Frank said he would have two more rounds to go. Anna was not happy about that. Through much trial and frustration on Anna and Frank's part. We got going.

Frank was so frustrated with Anna's complaints that he eventually went skiing ahead and played around off trail. That worked for us, because if he was going to be grumpy, I rather he not be around. Anna went very slowly and I was behind her the entire way. She really doesn't know how to nordic ski that well and putting her in that situation was a bit of a challenge. Of course, we believe she can do it and she does need a little pushing lots of times. But there is a point when you know you don't want to push too far. I know at some points she was enjoying the scenery of the snow and was playing around with her poles in the fresh snow on the side. So it couldn't have been all that bad.

We didn't make it around the loop and turned back the way we came. We probably did about two and a half miles. Despite the grumpiness and slow pace, I enjoyed it. That's the difference between Frank and me. He wants to go out and ski hard, play off-trail and he goes fairly quickly (my whole life, I'm always trying to catch up to him). I just like being outside in nature and noticing the details of what I'm skiing past and it doesn't matter to me how fast I go or how far I go. In the end, we joked about torturing Anna and returned home happy.

Since Christmas is almost here, this might be the last advent tip. When I open my presents, I try to open them very carefully because I like to save the wrapping paper to use again. Over the years, I have done this and had had to buy very little wrapping paper. You can also cut out motifs on the papers to make cards or tags. I also save the tissue papers and boxes. Hopefully, it cuts down on some of the after-Christmas trash.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Baking has begun

Today was the last day of school with early release. Time to start getting ready for Santa. We got the cookies baked but the decorating will have to wait until tomorrow. I wonder if Santa would like a little mojito with his cookies instead of milk?


My Christmas card tree is filling up. I enjoy getting the yearly letters and cards. It seems such a shame to throw them away after Christmas. I like to see what parts of the cards I can use again. Usually the front can be cut off and used to make another card or Christmas tags, maybe to decorate a box or even make ornaments for next year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Never-ending Christmas Project

I believe those were the exact words Anna's teacher said to me at one point this morning. Today I did the last art lesson for 2007 for Anna's class. They needed to finish the fabric weaving project we started last time and get it sewn together (hand sewed with whip stitch). As I knew they would all be at different places in the project and I didn't have enough needles for many to be sewing at the same time (and I knew they would need lots of help showing how to do the sewing), I had two simple ornament projects they could work on if they weren't doing the other. Well, I thought they were simple enough to do on their own. I spent lots of time getting paper and wires cut and beads and brads gathered with instructions written and photocopied beforehand. But it just didn't work out.

Some kids were getting frustrated with the sewing and I had to keep helping them and then the other kids needed help with the ornaments or couldn't get the paper punch through all their papers, needed help with the wires, and so on and so on. I can only help one person at a time and I try to get to them in the order they approach me, but sometimes its hard to keep track because there are so many. So I was there from the beginning of school until lunch time around noon. I offered to sew a couple of the boys projects together since it was late and they didn't want to do it anyway. I finished a few others who were getting frustrated or too distracted to concentrate. The teacher was great and said we could have the extra time and it was fine with her. In the end, everyone's project was sewn. I have no idea how the ornaments turned out because I was too busy to notice. I hope some of them made something they liked.

Then I came home exhausted and down because I see it as a failure on my part. I think either I under/over-estimated their ability to accomplish the project or I didn't do a good enough job explaining/demonstrating so they could get it. So I try to tell myself that I put a lot of prep time into these projects to have something fun for the kids to do that they might be able to give as a gift and my heart was in the right place even if the execution wasn't so great. (I don't know if that really makes me feel better).

Anyway, on a brighter note, it was nice to come home from the busy morning to find this lovely fabric postcard from Beate in Germany in my mailbox. I guess I need a little peace, love and joy today.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Anticipation

The day draws nearer! One day I walked into the living room to find a semi-circle of animals around the base of the tree. They all seem to be staring at the presents. The excitement builds.



This Monday I made fudge to take to the art museum. Several weeks ago, the associate curator said she had lots of extra mailing cards leftover from our Idaho Triennial exhibit. I could have some if I wanted. I took a couple and while on my lunch break, I made a little box out of two of the cards (one for top, one for the bottom of the box). I then took a lot more home with me and made a bunch to put the fudge in. Recycled packaging and it was something a little more personal for the museum staff.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

And the Winner is...

... all three of you that commented! Since there was only three, I will send you each a fabric postcard and cancel the other drawing on the 18th. Thanks for reading my blog during this busy season. Please email me your mailing address (llfross@big-cat.us) and I will get them mailed as soon as I can.

We are longing for more of the white stuff, but I guess we will have to settle for looking at the picture.


In the past, we have put the icicle lights up on our roof line for Christmas. This year my husband wanted to get LED lights. We found some around Thanksgiving time on sale at 50% off. They are more expensive than regular lights. But they use way less energy to light them. You might look for them on sale after Christmas and think about using them for next year (or this year).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Forest for the Trees

I finally got around to making some of these trees which I saw here. Of course, I can't make things easy on myself. I had to make some modifications. While zigzaging the edges, I used my couching foot on my machine and added the funky yarns around the edge. I didn't do the zigzag stitch on the straight edge. I used fray check instead.


Then, instead of gluing the cones together, I used a pipe cleaner. I put a loop at one end of the pipe cleaner. Threaded that through the bottom cone. Then since I wanted more space between the sections, I wrapped the pipe cleaner around a pencil to give it a spiral shape. Next, I put on the second section and continued in the same manner until I reached the top. I had some star paper clips. So I folded the remaining pipe cleaner around the star to keep it on top. They look a bit Suessian and they kind of boing around when you move them. Now I just have to make the placemats to go with them and then I can line them up down the middle of my dining room table. I love this fabric. It is by Moda and the green is more like chartreuse.


Here I had to include another picture of Anna. Since she was requested to open some presents earlier (by someone who shall remain nameless), I wanted you to see the result. One of the presents was a gift card to Build-a-Bear Workshop. Of course there was no waiting until after Christmas to use it! So we went one day after school. She purchased the polar bear and pink leopard and the Santa dress.

Advent calendar tip: Use a timer for your outside lights so they aren't lit all night and you can save energy and money.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Have a little Holly Jolly



This little holly jolly guy was something I drew while I was taking my lunch break at the museum. I scanned him and used Photoshop to color it in. I was thinking of him as a fabric postcard, but he may not make it this year.

However, I do have some other fabric postcards I'm working on. And as my gift to you, I will send out postcards to two randomly selected persons. Leave a comment here between now and Dec. 15 for the first drawing. On Dec. 16 I will put the names in a hat and draw one. Check back to see if you won. If not, try again by leaving a comment from Dec. 16 to Dec. 17. On the morning of Dec. 18 I will draw another name. Check back to see if it is you. (I will send them out as soon as possible after a name has been drawn, but no guarantees they will arrive before Christmas).


And the advent calendar tip for today is look for decorations in your yard. I have a collection of Santas I like to set up every year. I also like to put branches around them to give them a natural setting. If we cut any branches off the bottom of our Christmas tree (to make it fit in the stand), I will use those. In the past when Frank has trimmed some of our pine trees outside, I've saved some of the branches to use. This year I wanted a little more and snipped a few off the spruce tree. We also have a bazillion pine cones in our yard that can be used as decorations as well. I'm hoping to make some large pine cones I gathered from the field into "trees" and will show you pictures if I get to it.

This is my newest Santa I added to my collection this year. I purchased it while in Holland (it is Delft-ware).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Homemade ornaments

We purchased our live cut tree this past weekend from a non-profit organization and it is now all decorated. If you have some bare spots on your tree, think about making your own ornaments.

After I graduated from college, I made ornaments for my college housemates every year for about 5- 10 years. After that, I figured they had enough to get them started. When Anna was born, I tried to make an ornament every year for her. As she got old enough we made ornaments together. I think we missed last year. But it is fun and she loves to remember when we get them out. Below are some of our homemade ornaments.

Here is a link for some cool looking paper ornaments. I also just found this link to make ornaments from photos (or you could use fancy paper). Go here to see some really cute denim tree ornaments. Other ideas include origami ornaments.




I love these button ornaments. It's just buttons and beads threaded on wire. So easy and I love the way they look on the tree. And you can do lots of different combinations. We also did some in silver and blue.

These pinwheels are easy to make using scrap fabrics fused together.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sounds of the Season

Last week was a busy one around here. I worked at the museum all week. Thursday was first Thursday where some stores and art galleries downtown stay open late. To make the atmosphere festive for the shoppers, musicians and groups were scheduled to play music downtown. Anna's school choir was scheduled to sing on one street corner for half an hour and then go to another corner and sing for another half hour. Fortunately, the weather was bearable. I was cold after standing outside for an hour, but not frozen.


Friday morning she had to go to school early to have a rehearsal for the school concert which was that afternoon. She had her first opportunity to play her violin in a recital and the choir also sang. (I tried to upload the violin video, but it just was taking forever.)




I've just read somewhere else a good idea for environmentally friendly gifts. The gift of theatre tickets, show tickets, museum membership, massage certificate, etc. The recipient still gets something fun and not just stuff that consumes resources.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

This morning we woke up to this.

Anna was very excited and had to go outside before she even had breakfast. As you can see behind Anna, there wasn't any snow on the roads (or sidewalks). So not enough for sledding.


Anna wanted to walk down to the pond to see if it was frozen. We walked down, but it was not frozen yet.

We continued our walk through the field which was also not frozen yet. Hence, it was squishy mud. We saw a hawk, falcon or eagle. We couldn't get close enough to determine. It was a good thing we enjoyed our morning walk as the snow was pretty much melted by the afternoon.


I missed another day on the advent calendar. What's a girl to do? Today we went to get our Christmas tree. What is the most environmentally friendly Christmas tree? Probably not having any. But it is a tradition so....

There are arguments that an artificial tree is best because it will last for years and you are not cutting any live trees down. That may be but it will eventually get thrown away and who knows how long it will take to decompose! And it just doesn't have that lovely pine smell.

There are arguments that cut Christmas trees take a lot of resources to grow (i.e. land and water). I think that the tree farms are o.k. because they are growing trees and those trees help clean the air as they grow. It is sad that they have to be cut down, but more will be planted. They smell lovely and our city recycles the trees after Christmas to use as mulch. Then, you don't have to store anything.

I don't really like the idea of going into the forest and cutting down a tree (which they sell permits to do here). I would rather leave the wild in its natural state. Plus, my husband told me a story where someone he works with went and cut a tree down. When they went back in the summer, they realized the snow was deep and they really didn't cut the whole thing down. There was still tree on the bottom.

One year when we were in our first house, we got a live tree. The kind you plant in your yard afterward in the spring. The only problem with that is that you have to keep them outside and can only have it in the house for a few days otherwise the tree comes out of dormancy and you would have to keep it in the house until the spring when it would be warm enough outside to plant. We kept ours on the porch and could see it from inside through the window. We did plant it in the yard and I think it is still there. Last time we went by, it looked pretty big.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

More Environmentally Friendly Gifts

Another idea for gifts is to buy from your small, local independent store and/or your local merchant/farmer/producer. If you live somewhere where there is a special local product, consider giving that as a gift. For example if you live in Vermont, maple syrup would make a nice gift.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Buy Handmade

Oops, I've already missed a day on the advent calendar. Oh well. Here's another idea for gift giving. Instead of buying something made in China, you could buy something from an artist or crafter! There is a pledge going around on the internet to buy handmade gifts for the holidays this year. You can see all the good reasons for doing this on the Buy Handmade site and make the pledge if you want.

Below is a picture of one of the angel's I bought from Etsy. It's an online shop of artists and crafters. This angel was made by Sara Lechner (this is also her picture). I bought two, but I must confess. I bought them for myself to decorate for the holidays. But they would have made a great gift (she is already sold out of these. I missed the first batch but she told me when she was putting more up on her etsy shop so I could have chance to get one or two). There are lots of things to look at on Etsy. Or you could support your local artists.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Environmental Blog Advent Calendar Day 3

Some more thoughts on Christmas gifts. Instead of buying something new, maybe you could have a "white elephant" gift exchange with family or friends. Wikipedia calls this a party game. It is fun.

Last year at the Boise Art Museum, someone planned to do this at the Christmas luncheon. Somehow I missed the memo and didn't know about it. But they let me play anyway. Everyone brought something they already had or didn't want from home (except for me who didn't know). I had one of the last numbers. One of the women before me had picked out a wind chime?, tacky type thing made with shells. Everyone could tell she would never use it for anything. So, when my number came up, I decided to relieve her of the burden instead of picking a wrapped present. She seemed really relieved and ended up with something else that she could use.

I took the "chime" home and took it all apart and saved all the shells. Now I have them to use for art lessons. Recycled gifts can be useful.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

What to do on a cold, windy day?

Stay inside and build a fire then,

1) Get some popcorn and a good book and read by the fire. Or...



2) Get some popcorn and work on a puzzle. Or...


3) Get some popcorn and a diet Coke and do the hand stitching on your projects while watching football! Now that's what I'm talking about.


Environmental Blog Advent Calendar - Day 2:

Still aren't done with your shopping? O.k. yesterday I suggested making something to give. On a side note, this Thursday I am doing the art lesson for Anna's class. It will be more crafty than arty as I wanted the kids to work on something they might give as a gift. I was planning on having them do a box with the technique in the picture below. But today I asked Anna to help me make the example. She got bored doing one side of the five sided box. So, I had to rethink and come up with another option. Below is a picture frame that requires weaving on only two sides. I will let the kids decide which they want to do.

By the way, that's my cute nephew in the picture. This idea came from this book:

It has ideas for using your small leftover fabric scraps. I bought it because it had some good ideas to use with the kids.

Let's get back on track. If you have to ship all your gifts like me, I suggest thinking about finding a small gift that would be easy to ship, saving you money and hopefully saving gas and pollution as the shipping companies could get more on their planes and trucks and not have to make as many trips. Better yet, mail a gift card or gift certificate. Now I know many people think this is not a very personal gift, but personally, I would love to get a gift card to one of my favorite places to shop. It could be JoAnn's, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or even Dharma Trading Co. I could pick something I really wanted or some of those weird things or odd books I like that some people have a hard time finding. You could make it personal by chosing a special place the person really likes. Or if it's a teenager, you get get one from somewhere really hip like Abercrombie & Finch or Itunes.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Environmental Blog Advent Calendar Day 1

Today is the first day of December and time to start my environmentally friendly blog advent calendar here on the blog. I will add my disclaimer that I am not an environmental expert and any ideas or suggestions I put here are just my thoughts or opinions. I may or may not follow all these suggestions. I try to live my life with the environment in mind, but I am sure there are many things I could do better. That said, let's move on.

The idea of Christmas giving is a tradition. I enjoy giving gifts, especially ones that I make, or ones that I find that I think is just perfect for someone. In other words, I like giving thoughtful gifts. I don't really like giving gifts just because I'm suppose to or am under a deadline (yes, I realize this is life and it happens). I think this really won't mean much to the recipient. I don't like receiving those kinds of gifts either. To me, this is where the marketing of Christmas has become too much.

I am very fortunate that I don't really need anything. My wants aren't too much as I'm not really into clothes, or jewelry or the latest electronics (that's Frank and Anna's area). Therefore when someone asks me what I want, I often times don't know what to say because I think about it and realize I don't need anything. Also, for those not as fortunate as me, I would rather they save their money because they do need it.

One year I asked my family to donate to a list of organizations that I cared about instead of giving me something for Christmas. I still received gifts I didn't really need and I don't think anybody made a donation. That's fine, it is their decision. But if you don't know what to get someone, ask if you can donate to one of their favorite organizations.

O.k. I'm going on and on and here is my environmentally friendly suggestion for today. If you are giving gifts, why not give something you made yourself (it might be too late this year, I know. But maybe not.). Even better, make something with recycled materials. Here are some sites with ideas:

For a tote made from recycled sweaters, check out Canadian Living
Sew, Mama, Sew has directions for a rice heat therapy bag
Betz White shows how to make a wreath from old sweaters
Or you could always make a quilt using up old fabrics or recycled clothes.

These are just a few ideas. You can search the internet for more or also check out the Craftzine blog. They put links up everyday.