Slacking Off

In an effort to hang onto the Christmas spirit just a bit longer, we are spending some days with my side of the family. One round of present opening done, another yet to go and Addie is having the time of her life.

I'm going to take some time to fully dive into my family and rest my mommy soul. Enjoy your week--I'm looking forward to coming back to this space on the 4th!
Happy Happy New Year!

It's here

The Nativity.

A tree that smells oh so good.

A little girl ready to open presents.

A brand new dress for her to wear to Christmas Mass.

It's here... Christmas is finally here.

After all of those weeks of hard work, I managed to finish my knitting this morning. If that isn't a Christmas miracle, I don't know what is! Really, I think the happiest person of all is my husband, who jumped up and down with me when I told him I was done.

This day, Christmas Eve Day, may be my favorite day of the year. So much togetherness, tradition, warmth and love. The food tastes better, the Mass somehow feels more holy (even though it's much more crowded), the hot chocolate is smoother, the laughter is louder and more genuine, anticipation is wildly contageous. All of the work and thought put into these days will be felt and realized. Magic.

I wish you all the most joyous of days today and tomorrow. Let's all remember the true reason for this day and rejoice in the blessings we have in the ones we love. Have yourselves a merry little Christmas! 

Christmas music

My family has always been really into ambiance around the holidays. Candles, music, fire in the fireplace... It's so funny how those things have stuck with me, the greatest of which is definitely the music. Growing up, my parents always seemed to have a soundtrack for every occasion. At Easter it's Handel's Young Massiah, on a cool summer evening it's Gordon Lightfoot, and whenever I need to feel the Christmas spirit, all I need is some Winter Solstice and baby I'm there!

I think because of my parents' influence, I hate listening to the Christmas stations on the radio. They always start the holiday rotation way too early and they play the obnoxious stuff far too frequently. I mean, how many times can one really stand to hear Gloria Estefan wail on about how special this Christmas will be? Once is too many.

This year, however, I just may have found my saving grace: The SIRIUS Holiday Pops channel. All classical music all the time, with an occasional choir thrown into the background. Beautiful renditions of all the songs I love, and even the ones I don't somehow sound amazing. How many times can I listen to the LA Guitar Quartet's version of The Nutcracker Suite before I tire of it? If I ever get there, I'll let you know.

As we develop our own family traditions with Addie, this is one I definitely plan to keep. I want her to associate the magical feeling that music can give with the beauty of Christmas. Just like me, at some point she will probably find the "soundtracks" annoying. But then, when she's grown and needs a little pick-me-up those days before the 25th, I hope she will turn to the same pieces I do to give her comfort, calm her soul and put her heart where it should be this time of year: at peace.

Then why don't you marry it?

I Sara,
Take you,
Cuisinart Prep 9--9 cup food processor...

For better or worse...

In sickness and in health...

As long as we both shall live!

OK, that was a bit dramatic. But really, in my excitement of finally having a food processor during the holidays and thus finally being able to make the butter cookies I have been dying to try, I danced around the kitchen like a mad woman when that dough came together. Now if only the rest of the process were that easy!

Yesterday was holiday baking day and I was able to make 3 delicious treats--bite sized butter cookies, candy cane bark and ritz peanut butter sandwich crackers dipped in dark chocolate (why am I the last person on earth to learn about that one?).

I am coming to the end of my to-do list and it feels oh so good, but kind of sad. I keep wondering how much could I get done all year if I worked with this level of intensity? I would probably be husbandless and childless, but man I would have a ton of baked goods, blankets and knitted stuff all around!

My Christmas presents

A few weeks ago, Curt asked me what I wanted for Christmas. He had seen my wish list and still wanted to know more, so I decided to spend some time searching Etsy and see what I could come up with. Oh mercy, that place is dangerous. I found and fell in love with way too much, but I managed to narrow it down to two shops and a few items.

Yesterday he came home with a piece of mail that had stamps from Greece all over it and I just about hit the ceiling. The pieces came beautifully wrapped (this was not indicated in the shop, so an extra bonus there) and are so adorable, I almost want to leave them in their tiny boxes... Almost.

In case you can't see it, that's Thalassa Jewelry and I love their pieces, especially the flower cups. So simple, yet so lovely. And the fact that the jewelry comes all the way from Greece makes it seem extra special and unique. I feel like a kid itching for that magical day to get here already--a bowl of hot soup, evening Mass, time with friends, opening presents, then Christmas Morning. Only one week away!

Santa's workshop

Now that I've finally been able to give a few of the gifts I've been working on, I can share the finished products with you! These are some of the hats I created in the last month or so. Still, I have a few more to go, but I'm in the home stretch for sure.

I didn't use a pattern for any of them, but took some notes before I shipped them off. Hopefully in the coming weeks, I will be able to edit those notes into something that will make sense so you can recreate them if you like. I purchased all of my yarn from Rebelle and used Blue Sky Alpacas worsted 100% organic cotton for everything--it is quite soft and feels so amazing to my fingertips, I love working with this yarn! 

These are sister hats--the light pink one for an infant and the dark pink for the older sibling. Matchy, but not too much.

In the same striped pattern, but with a ribbed headband, I also did some brother hats. The colors look a bit off in this photo, as what seems a bit orange here is actually a beautiful red. When I was making it, I began to dream of a hat for me in that same color. We shall see.

Then for the hipster cousins in the family, I had to do something a little bit different. I used five different colors to create all the stripes. A little more funky than the two toned hats.

Last but not least, with the help of my hubby, I created this hat with a bit more fancy. (It was Curt's idea to leave the holes for lacing in some ribbon. Good one, babe!) After it was finished, I fell head over heels!
Love it and can't wait to make more!

Also, here are a few of the fleece blankets I did over the weekend. A huge "Thank You!" to Kim who tutored me in her masterful ways of creating these fantastic cozy blankets. I'm a little sad I'm done with them, actually. I can definitely see many more of these in our future. And I can't wait to see Addie's face when she opens hers on Christmas Eve!

Plan B

Over the weekend, as I worked like a crazy woman to sew 7 fleece blankets, I thought to myself: I'm right on schedule--the only thing that could throw a wrench in my plans is if someone gets sick. Way to go thoughts. As it turns out, that someone was me.

Sunday Curt wasn't feeling too well and whatever it was came my way yesterday. It felt like a bazarre mixture of food poisoning and the flu. I kept telling myself that since this seemed very similar to what my hubby had, at least this would likely only last one day, even if it was the one day he had to work late. Addie and I managed to make it through, and I got next to nothing else accomplished.

The funny thing about being a SAHM when you're sick, is that there's no one there to bail you out or help when you most need it. No one was there to pull my child off of me when she used my body as a human jungle gym and every touch on my achy limbs produced throbs of pain. No one was there when she was done napping but I wasn't. And no one was there to make me chicken and dumplings that I knew would warm me up and make me feel better.

Truth be told, it sucked. During Addie's nap, I hobbled my sorry sick butt into the kitchen and put together a subpar version of the chidken and dumplings I craved. I crawled into bed and found my saving grace--the Turner Classic Movie channel, which aired Swiss Family Robinson the first half of nap time and Gone With the Wind after my babe went to bed. Two big doses of comfort! Ah the power of old movies. Love.

I hated to think that all of my hard and endless work over the past few weeks may have contributed to my illness. But in the spirit of swift healing, I decided that I would not work on Christmas stuff yesterday--not even knitting. I took a break, rested fully and woke up this morning feeling much better. Huge sigh of relief.

Now it's back to business. I lost a day. One whole day. Must reassess, rearrange and regroup. Knit, bake, paint, knit, cut, paste, knit!!! 

You two are driving me crazy!!!

I have had my cat, Regan for almost nine years now. This boy is a beast. He has been on weight control cat food since he was a year old and has clocked in at a whopping 20+ lbs for as long as I can remember. We have tried many diets, none of which have worked, and he is about as crabby as he is fat.

We were always nervous about how he would be with Addie and much to our surprise, he has been amazing. She loves on him rather violently and he takes it with little to no protesting. However, as Ms. Sassy Pants has gotten bigger and only recently surpassed Regan in size, she has become more and more interested in him and their relationship has grown to become more complicated.

The other day Curt asked her what her name was and she confidently replied, "Addie!" We pointed to Regan and asked if she knew what his name was and she nodded with, "Meow." Yes, she has lovingly renamed our only pet and it is hilarious. Whenever she sees him it's always, "Hi, Meow!" or, "No, no, Meow!" She even tells him night-night almost every evening.

They are two peas in a pod--adorable, snuggly, mischevous and a touch of crazy. The other day I was trying to make dinner and they were playing, i.e. Addie was aggravating Regan, he was crying out in protest and they both kept coming back for more. I told her to leave him alone. I told him to go away where she coudln't bother him. Neither of them chose to listen to me and the banter continued.

After about five minutes, I sort of lost it and yelled that the cat was about to be banished to the garage and Addie was about to sit in her high chair alone if they didn't quit--and I mean it!!! They turned and looked at me as if to say, "Geez Mom, we were just playing. Calm down!" and a few minutes later they grew bored with each other and moved on to other less obnoxious activities.

Lately this has been a daily occurance. She annoys him, he just lays there and annoys the rest of us by crying and I come closer and closer to losing my mind. It's a good thing they are so darn cute.

Daddy's girl

I don't know if it's because I'm now home with Addie all day every day, or if it's just a phase, but this girl is head over heels in love with her Daddy. All day long she pretends to call Daddy on the phone and at least once we will call him for real. She looks up at me and says, "Gaggy?" at least 20 times and each time I reply with, "Daddy is at work." Then she nods as if to say, "Yes Mommy, I know."

If she even thinks she hears the garage door opening, she runs over to the door in our kitchen and waits for him to burst through--upon which I hear squeals of delight and, "Gaggy!!! Hold me, hold me!!!" Curt responds with an enthusiastic, "Hi, bug!" and he carries her back into the living room where I am waiting for them both. He is holding our girl close and up high, and she has the biggest smile on her face. Yes, my loves, Daddy is home.

At first, it kind of hurt my feelings. Where is the excitement to see Mommy? Why do I only seem to hear desperate calls for Mommyyyy!!! in the middle of the night, when there is something wrong or when there is an injury of some kind? It's nice to be the nurturer, but secretly, just once I'd like to make an entrance as the hero of the day.

I know, I know... I suppose I am a hero, just of another sort. I kiss the owies, refill the juice, change the sheets, prepare the meals, clean the messes, etc. etc. I tickle, I play, I scold, I laugh... But still, I am not as cool as Daddy.

After all, who else would give her cookies for breakfast? Who else would toast her with apple slices and a resounding, "Cheers!"?

Who else would teach her to hit her golf ball in the house? Or, that when she hits it into a stack of toys she should throw up her hands and yell, "GOAL!!!"? That's right, none other than her "Gaggy".

All jealousy and other things aside, I actually love the relationship that Addie and Curt have. It is so amazing to see their incredible connection, and he is a really good Dad. They are pals, they are father and daughter, they are the loves of my life. One of these days I'm sure I'll have my moment in the sun. Until then, I will bask in the shade, grab the camera, and watch their magic.

Fountain Coke, miracle cure

This morning I woke up feeling... Well... Not so great. It seems that I might have gone a little overboard in celebration of the big victory for UK at Madison Square Gardens last night. Who do I call in sick to? Oh yes, that's right, no one.

I trudged around, ate some cold leftover homemade pizza, drank some strong coffee and faked it with the babe. Still, I felt like Crappy Craptastigan. It's been a while since I've enjoyed the feeling of the morning after polishing off a bottle of wine. What would be my cure? Then it hit me: I was jonesing for a Big Mac and a Coke.

As soon as Elmo's World (Addie's only regularly scheduled and allowed TV program) was over, I bundled her up and we were on our way for Mommy's fix. Fifteen minutes later, we were back home enjoying lunch. Now Addie only gets fast food on rare occasions--it doesn't happen often and it's usually when we're traveling or out for the day. I'm sure she was wondering what was so special about today. I'll never tell.

Addie ate her nuggets and I devoured my high fat and calorie lunch. And I drank my Coke. I can't tell you the last time I had a regular Coke--it's been at least a year. I had forgotten how fabulous they are. Addie must have noticed my excitement because she was begging for a sip. I held her off for a while, but finally I caved.

Honestly, she never gets soft drinks. I mean, never. But the look on her face when this beverage crossed her lips was priceless and worth my guilt. She looked so confused feeling the carbonation in her mouth... Then that look turned into one of pure joy. She smiled, looked up at me and said, "More!" Great, another addict is born.

I let her have a few more sips and when she once again asked for more, I told her she had enough and that it was just a special treat. No kidding. I will confess, I am not proud of how our morning and lunch went. There were no exciting activities and there was minimal nutrition involved. But really, how often do The Cats play at The Garden? Almost never.

After my calorie fest and delicious Coke, I feel much better, so our afternoon is looking up. I will just have to cross this morning off as a big time Mommy blunder and do my best to move on. Now, while I wait for my angel to wake up from her slumber, I think I'll go catch a few moments of the DVRed finale of The Biggest Loser.

Progress is progress

After last week's meltdown, I've had a few moments to breathe and map out a plan. Sixteen days until Christmas and still there is much to do. But I have decided to embrace the fun of all the creativity I get to channel and reject the stress of being busy. If the old, "Idle hands are the devil's playthings" saying rings true, then have no fear, there are no devils here!

The other night Curt asked when he was going to get his wife back, meaning: when will we just sit and watch TV or a movie together without the clicking of my knitting needles in the background? Sadly, the answer to that may be never. I love that I can be productive and create while relaxing and unwinding. Of course, there are those projects that need undivided attention and can't share my brain with the drama or comedy of the evening.

The list of programs I watch with no yarn in hand is growing shorter and shorter. So is the list of kiddo's that need their heads warm for the winter. I'd say it's a pretty good trade off.

Frustration station

This morning I attempted to do what turned out to be the impossible: take a picture of Addie for our Christmas card. I had the lighting set perfectly, the camera on the tripod, Addie dressed in an understated wintery outfit and props galore. All I needed was a little cooperation. Did I get it? Of course not.

What I did get was a series of outtakes. I am sure that somewhere down the road I will look at these and laugh. But not today. (Brace yourself, there are many photos to follow.)

This was before the photo shoot even began. God help us,
she's already into heels!

Then it was onto the set. We started out with a book that Addie was so into, she couldn't be bothered to look up.


OK, maybe Santa will help. I tried everything to work a smile out of this girl... Dancing, singing, even making fart noises. Nothing.

New book. I put a Lamaze Octopus on my head and played a song on its tentacles... Nothing.

Then doing the exact opposite of what I wanted her to do became a game. Make me, Mommy! Oh, how I tried!

By this point I was so furiously frustrated and ready to throw a tantrum that could rival even one of Addie's worst. Just. Walk. Away.

We took a yogurt break and then tried again, this time with different props: The Nativity. She loved Joseph just a little too much...

I hit the shutter at the exact wrong time...

And then, little Ms. looked at me as if to say, "Can I help you?"

If the true spirit of this event were captured in a card from the Clayton's, it would be a picture of me beating my head against a wall. Not exactly tidings of comfort and joy. Finally I took the hint and put my pride away with the camera. Today would not be the day to take this photo, at least not when I'm the only one home.

Tree trimming

Last Christmas I remember telling my mom and my sister how much I was looking forward to celebrating with Addie this year. I had all of these fantasies about putting ornaments on the tree with her and baking and decorating cookies together. The two early childhood development experts in the family exchanged are you kidding me looks and then proceeded to tell me that I might be getting ahead of myself. "Maybe in a few more years," they said.

I have always been horrible at guessing kids' ages and I'm apparently even worse at knowing what is age-appropriate developmentally. Of course, Addie is teaching me every day what she is able to do and where I might be expecting a bit much out of her.  We haven't gotten around to the cookies yet, but in decorating the tree I was in for a huge awakening. For instance, instead of happily handing her an ornament and watching her find the perfect bough on which to place it, I stood with my hands inches away from anything I let her touch praying she wouldn't throw it down, try to eat it or smash it beneath her shockingly strong baby fingers.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to find our stuffed nativity that I had forgotten all about nestled in the ornaments box.

I was able to spend some time decorating our tree while Addie found the perfect place for Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. When I turned around and saw where she thought the Holy Family would find peace, comfort and safety, I burst out laughing and grabbed the camera.

My 2008 fantasy wasn't exactly realized this year, but Addie and I were able to enjoy the time spent ornamenting the tree together, if each in our own way. Happy Advent!


Every year at Christmas I say I'm not going to overwhelm myself with a handmade gift list and guess what? Every year it's the same. In fact, I think it's getting worse. I've added canning, knitting and sewing to my craft repertoire and to reflect that, I planned to make all of these wonderful things for our loved ones. The only problem is that it's December 4th. I have 20 days to finish everything. And I have a 20-month-old. No excuses, just facts.

My fabric order hasn't come in yet... issue.

I still can't figure out how to "safely eject" the SD card from our computer so I can take some freakin' photos... issue.

Addie only sleeps 13 hours a day... issue.

Must shower... issue.

Eight or so hats left to knit, not counting my husband's... issue.

I only have two hands... issue.

Oh yeah, and have I mentioned we're thinking about having another baby? (Insert howls of laughter.) I don't even know if that could be called an issue--it's probably something much worse--like something diagnosable.

If I wanted to speak the way the media thinks one from Kentucky should, I would say I overdone did it. But, I know I'm not alone. I think most crafters end up in this same predicament during that magical period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If only we weren't so ambitious. Not to mention all of the fabulous new ideas that are thrown out at the last minute that surely we could squeeze into our schedules. Curse you, Martha Stewart! CURSE YOU!!!

Speaking of the golden goddess of crafting, yesterday I caught a brief segment of the MS Show detailing how to make glittery golden christmas trees out of old magazines. They were lovely and looked like something one would pay at least $25 for at Target. My eyes lit up and I grabbed an old issue of Fitness because, lets face it, nothing interesting is happening there. I made about three folds before Addie put her hand on my hand, looked up at me and said, "No, Mommy."

Thank heavens someone in this outfit has a little bit of sense. You are right, my love. No, Mommy. My list is abundantly full and will suffice, sans golden glittery christmas tree. Besides, there's always next year.

Can I get a "UH!"

It's funny how what seems totally normal to me in our day-to-day lives can become, once shared with someone else, a little strange. Last weekend when visiting with family we told story after story of life with Addie. Most of these anecdotes were met with chuckles and an, "Oh that's so cute." But a few elicited surprised laughter, wide eyes and a sort of, "I can't believe you said/did that" kind of expression. Those are the best.

One such instance was when I talked about how I deal with Addie if she's attempting a particularly dangerous stunt. Standing up on her rocking chair without holding onto anything, trying to grab sharp silverware out of the dishwasher... If it could potentially lead to injury, then I usually react with the question, "Do you want to go to the ER today?" Usually, she nodds yes. I either reply with, "Well Mommy doesn't want to go, so stop it!" or, "Well if you keep that up, you're on your way." It never occured to me that this exchange might be inappropriate. I just thought it was simply accurate.

My favorite, however, is a little something I came up with one day when I was in the shower. Addie was playing just outside the bathroom door and she hadn't come in to bother (ahem, excuse me), I mean check on me while I washed up. I figured she wasn't crying so she was probably OK. But what if she got ahold of something and was choking and couldn't cry? I then shouted out, "Addie, if you're OK, say 'UH!'" Almost immediately, I heard a tiny little, "uh" come from my bedroom. Sigh of relief. My baby was alive.

Since then, this has become our favorite check-in phrase. If Addie is reading in the other room alone and has made it clear she would prefer to be undisturbed, that's fine. Every few minutes, I yell out my check-in, she gives me an "Uh" and all is well. If she doesn't respond, I'm there in a flash, dripping wet if need be. I will admit, just because she replies and I know she isn't in immediate danger, doesn't mean she's not up to no good. And so far, when she has chosen to remain silent, it seems to be that she just thinks it's funny to see me running towards her with that, "Are you OK?" look on my face. But at least, for the most part, this allows us a little bit of space from one another and gives her the opportunity to stretch her independence.

Although they may be a little strange, I love the blurbs we have developed over Addie's first 20 months. They are what bond us to each other as a family and make us unique. Most often, I don't realize that we've developed a quirk until it comes out in general conversation with someone else. Then, based on their reaciton, I get to feel that slight rise in temperature along with a moment of embarassment--Oh, I thought everyone did that. Maybe someday Addie will tell her friends and children how her crazy mommy said such silly things to her when she was a girl. I sure hope so.

Meaningful gift giving

Growing up, my family has always had a long list of Christmas traditions. Starting on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and moving all throughout the day on the 25th, our time is filled with meaningful activities that we have come to expect each year. As adults we have shifted things around a bit, but whenever we are able to all get together at Mom & Dad's, it's always the same. Lots of presents and lots of food--comfort at its finest.

A few years ago, after Curt and I got married, we were feeling somewhat overwhelmed with material things. We were married at the end of October and I was still trying to get out my thank you notes by the time Christmas rolled around. That year we decided that instead of giving traditional gifts we would make some sort of donation in honor of each person in our family. We chose charities that were meaningful to every individual and gave tokens of that donation during our gift exchange. Thinking back, it was one of my favorite Christmases, and since then we have made an effort to continue to include donations as a part of our traditions.

It is so important to me for Addie to understand how fortunate we are and that our focus this time of year should not be on the list of things we want, but on what we are able to give. I know it sounds so trite, but in the excitement of planning for the look on Addie's face Christmas morning, I feel like I have fallen away from that goal. I have talked with both sides of the family about what we are getting Addie and what she "needs" but I haven't made any suggestions to donate money in her name. I have gone onto and made my wish list, but have I made any significant donations or charities a part of that list? Not yet.

Yesterday I watched an episode of Oprah that focused on women survivors of war and ways we can all help. It served as a much needed wake up call to put my priorities back in check. I was also reminded once again how personal making a donation can be. It seems like a completely different feeling to know exactly where my money is going and how it will be used, which translates so easily into thoughtful gift giving.

I have had several friends tell me about how hard it is to buy for certain people in their families because they already seem to have everything. Maybe they do. Until a few years ago, I didn't know that you can buy a goat for a family in Africa for around $75, which will not only give that family needed nutrition, but substantially boost their income as well. How cool would it be to tell your grandma that instead of buying her another pair of slippers or a Snuggie, you sent a girl in Rwanda to school for a year in her name? The Christmas I was pregnant with Addie, my parents gave a New Mother and Baby Kit in my name and I cannot tell you how much that meant to me.

Maybe you are already aware of these programs or you already have a charity you like to support. I know there are many organizations out there to choose from, but if you are looking for one to go through, World Vision is one we have used and liked. Women for Women International is one that Oprah is promoting and they seem to have some amazing opportunities as well.

After browsing through some of those cataloges, I think I found the perfect thing to add to Addie's list. Then every time she makes that sweet "peep, peep, peep" sound, I can squeeze her just a little bit tighter and know my baby girl, as small as she is, has made a big difference. I can't get that at Wal-Mart.

Ode to a crafty lady

I've been hanging onto these photos for almost three weeks and I can't take it anymore!!! As I have recently shared, I think an awful lot of my mom. She is an amazing woman for so many reasons, one of which happens to be her extreme craftiness. The funny thing is, she has never been the kind of person who picks her medium and sticks with it. In fact, it may be quite the opposite.

Why sew with a machine when you can do it by hand? Why use pre-made fabric when you can weave some yourself? Why just weave when you can spin your own yarn? She paints, she does stained glass, I could go on and on.

I have to say, writing that makes me laugh because as I sit here processing, it's all starting to sound strangely familiar... I can't just crochet, I have to knit too. I can't use an apple peeler, I should try doing it by hand first. If I'm going to write a book, I need to illustrate it as well. Oh, mercy. At least I come by it honestly. I don't know if this realization would give my husband comfort or make him shudder in fear!

Alas, how can we complain when as a result, we are blessed with all of these beautiful treasures that Addie will hold so dear forever.

At our baby shower, Mom gave Addie this blanket that she wove on her loom. It mostly adorns the glider in Addie's nursery and warms us during late night rocking sessions.

But it is also the perfect size for snuggling just about anywhere, including on Mommy and Daddy's bed.

There are two cross stitched bibs that I couldn't bear exposing to potential spit-up stains. I strategically placed them at her changing table and in her bathroom--the places we would see them most.

And last but not least, the piece de resistance... My mom took the bottom half of this dress (the one in the middle, of course)....

And turned it into a christening gown...

Handsewn from 100% silk that I wore on my wedding day, this new family heirloom is priceless.

Thank you again, Mom for these incredible handmade gifts and for the eclectic crafting gene that I hope has extended down at least one generation more!