another year over...

well, i can't say i'm to sorry to see 2009 go... it's been a wild and crazy year in many ways! but i am very excited, as always, about a new year and the fresh feeling of a new realm of possibilities that it brings. so, just as i did in 2008, here's a little wrap-up/look back of some happy things throughout the year that is ending:
::: a cupcake extravaganza :::

::: a baby party :::

::: lots of new projects :::

::: a few not-so-great and one great craft show :::

::: a couple of handmade gifts :::

::: my whole first year of mothering :::

and of course, a lot of inspiration and ideas from my little blog village of a very wide world web, that is maybe not so huge after all.

i'll be greeting the new year with my amazing husband of five years, my sweet baby girl who is admittedly suddenly not-so-baby anymore, and my best childhood girlfriend. with a sweet pup of course, and lots of good movies and munchies. it is a good life.

happy new year!


merry christmas!

i hope your christmas was full of all the things that make this time of year so magical: family, friends, twinkly christmas lights, cookies, favorite foods, and the little [or big!] gift you can't wait to open!
mine was this, a pair of beautiful handmade silver hoop earrings, that santa [thank you, baby!] somehow found on my list and ordered just in time! also, the packaging was just too beautiful not to share.
but most of all, i hope that you have opened and claimed as your own the best gift there is- the gift of eternal life through the savior, Jesus Christ! i am so thankful for the family and the life he's given me- in no way perfect, but in every way a gift.

merry christmas!


epic sewing, the stocking saga.

if there's one thing that really intimidates me, it's heirloom sewing, or real sewing as i like to call it. i mean that in the sense of those kind of projects that you want to make once and use the rest of your life. you want them to be perfect, with the details especially chosen just so, and of course you want them to turn out beautifully so that you can beam with pride when you tell someone, i made it.

pretty much since we got married, i have wanted to make my husband and i our own christmas stockings. our first married christmas, i had not yet inherited my mom's sewing machine or her ginormous fabric stash, so we picked up two perfectly lovely target numbers that we've been using each year since then. nice, heavy, soft velvety stuff, a girly little snowflake for me, and nice manly moose for M [though, really, he prefers bears]. coordinated, but not exactly matching, and i've always loved the colors.
[this picture is from our first house we owned, and the first place we lived together... i get little warm snugglies seeing it in one of it's first-few-christmases-together glory, circa 2007].

but now that little K is here [i don't think we even used stockings in the chaos that was her first 4 week old christmas last year] she obviously needs one, and i love the idea of her having the same one every year as she grows up, one that i've made especially for her.

this is a big, intimidating project for a novice sewer like myself who never learned the official ins and outs of "the rules" of sewing/quilting/finished seams, etc. and as much as i would love to be my mom, who could sit down at the sewing machine and whip out something that would make you think martha stewart started designing for pottery barn [she was that good] for all three of us in under an hour, sadly, i definitely am not. so, even though i have a general idea of what each family member's should look like- i am still intimidated and very creatively procrastinating myself away from this project. [speaking of, i'm pretty sure i needed to go organize my sock drawer...]

the problem is, i knew all this even as i started this needs-to-be-finished-by-christmas-eve project on the 23rd. not a good plan. i spent lots of time gathering ideas and tutorials, getting a good strong idea of what they would look like, and even made a little inspiration board action of sorts.

for M:
[left: 9 patch cabin pillow by stbrendans, right: normandy stocking by garnet hill]

for K:
[left: heirloom quilted stocking by jordanandco, right: christmas stocking by noodlehead].

for mine, i saw one in target that i absolutely loved but knew i could make more personalized if i did it myself. luckily i used to work there, so they are totally accustomed to me taking cell phone pictures of inspiring things and have yet to throw me out.
i was totally determined to finish these this year because otherwise, i knew i'd end up running out to target to buy one for K at 9:50pm on christmas eve where the only ones left are tweety bird monstrosities or covered in major league baseball player's faces. so i had to force myself to quit procrastinating and do. so i chose my fabrics and cut out the shapes of the stockings. check. i decided what kinds of little appliques to do and how to perfectly place them. check. i even started blanket stitching things all together [had to google 'how to blanket stitch' at midnight while watching julie and julia to remember how to get it started]... more hand stitching than i've done in a long while. it was super sweet and peaceful to be handstitching by the light of the twinkly christmas tree.
but at 2 am on christmas eve-eve i was not finished yet. so i set them aside knowing i'd have a little window of time between get-togethers with our respective families the next day [ahem... christmas eve day]. except that when we got home from the first one, and my first instinct was to go running down to our freezing cold basement where my sewing machine and craft supplies live, i realized i was missing it. it was christmas eve, and the last place i wanted to be was down in a cold basement, working frantically to make something special for my family that i wanted to have had done weeks ago.

so i came back upstairs and snuggled on the couch with my husband and puppy keeping my feet warm, the baby upstairs for a nap, and just enjoyed being with him. we smootched, we opened each other's presents, we talked about how happy we were to just be together, saying all the things you want to tell the one you love on christmas, but somehow haven't found the time yet in all the hustle bustle.

i think we all in our hearts want a more simple, more meaningful, more heartfelt christmas. but we get so busy [ususally with good things!] that we end up with more frustration, more stress, and just more busy. and though i want to be the perfect mom for my family, the perfect wife to my husband, and the kind of woman who can have dinners on the table on time in a perfectly cleaned house with time to finish perfectly handmade heirloom memories for my children, which would then be perfectly photographed and perfectly written about on my blog, i'm just not perfect. and christmas is a great time, probably the best time, to remember that i'm not perfect, and how deeply i needed that savior to be born all those thousands of christmases ago, so that i can live in his merciful grace, even a sinner like me.

and so, on christmas morning, there were lovely little red and kraft paper gift bags holding our stocking contents. we opened, we enjoyed, and we didn't notice the difference. and i know sometime later in january, when i can stop stressing and just enjoy making them, the lovely heirloom handstitched personalized stockings will get finished.
and next christmas our stockings will be awesome. merry christmas!
:::edited to add::: oh so comforting to know that other much more experienced crafters/mommas are experiencing this same little battle between in the moment and creating!


on the cheap: ornaments!

i really love ornaments, and i really love making them! i had been filing away some ornament ideas, so much so that now it is christmas eve and i didn't really make any of them! i ended up only making one kind, since i had intended it as a family gift.

all you need is a flat glass ornaments ($1), some letter stickers (had these in my stash), and some glass etchant, which is a little on the pricey side, but when you consider how many things one little jar will etch, i still consider it cheap, especially if i remember to use a coupon when i buy it in the first place.
the etching process is really, really easy too. a little red ribbon, and done! a beautiful, chic, and personalized ornament on the cheap:
and it may be a little late for this year, but here are some others i am definitely planning to try in the future, all on the cheap!

glittered yarn balls

cork mini trees

foil snowflake balls

to-go lid wreath

and a great one that could double as a gift: mocha mix ornament balls! also, if you're ever in need of a quick crafty idea plus tutorial on how to pull it off, one pretty thing is amazing! have you seen this site? what an awesome resource.

:::edited to add:::
speaking of resources, have you seen this list? 100 holiday crafts by the long thread... ornaments, trees, advent calendars, wreaths, garlands... this could last me all year until next christmas!


brown paper packages tied up with string.

each year, i think about wrapping all of my packages very specially to all match each other. in fact, my very first post in this blog, three christmases ago, was about that very idea! [the pictures in most of my older posts are having some technical difficulties- that will be fixed soon. it will entail lots of downloading and re-uploading all the pictures]. it's one of those things that just never seems to pan out though, because it's much more realistic and frugal to use and re-use all the wrapping that accumulates from random places throughout the year rather than buying all new wrapping each year. but i do love that coordinated, put-together look!

i'm finding that december is a great month to write a blog. there is just so much inspiration everywhere, and that seems to be especially true with gifty packages this year. i love how sarah at create studio coordinated her gift wrapping to the red, white and silver on her tree!

design*sponge knows you can't go wrong with a little simple twine and buttons.
and some gift wrapping is just plain eye candy for me, especially if it's red and white at christmas- like this color me pretty for decor8 post. i can't get over those big red felt snowflakes:
alicia at posy gets cozy did something similar with the doilies, except in blue. i love seeing her scandinavian heritage show in her simple and folksy designs! [and monograms. always love.]
i ran across an 'on the cheap' version too- the patchwork dress proves that loveliness can come from super cheap materials. have you ever seen some plain old newsprint look this good? all it needed was a little velvet ribbon and some snowflake-y details:
and to be sure, martha and her fabulous team always have some lovely and beautiful idea to share, whether it's reusing your kid's artwork and old calendar pages:
or literally, the classic proverbial brown paper packages tied up with string:
i absolutely love that with the little sprigs of holly- i think next year is the year for matching gift wrap! [photos are thanks to each individual source!]


mail that doesn't start with an e.

tonight i worked on one of my absolute favorite christmas traditions...
christmas cards!

i love pulling out my little address book, and some stamps and pretty pens to personalize them. and that big stack of blank envelopes? i just can't resist. gets me excited every time! there's something so great about getting real mail. not a bill, not a credit card ad, not something begging you to buy something else. just a note, to say hello, with a picture of a loved one on it. something someone took the time to write your name on and maybe stamp it a little to make it pretty and christmas-y.

maybe not everything in life should be electronic.

[ps- i've been stalking this new address book. i like the removable cards, since i have so many addresses crossed out & rewritten in mine- we're just coming off the moving-every-year-or-two college days! ooh, and maybe its matching friend the recipe book. santa, can you hear me?]


on the cheap: sunburst mirror.

i think it was in reading this young house, a home decor blog written my a young 20something couple about renovating their house, that i first discovered the ubiquitous sunburst mirror. i've noticed them in lots of different places now, ranging from gold-leafed to made of driftwood, and I can't really think of any good reason why i like them so much, i just do!

this mirror from ballard designs is what i had in mind when i started looking for a do-it-myself-on-the-cheap version:
or this one from ethan allen. i found several different diy versions made of everything from simple, weathered driftwood to one very unexpected in plastic utensil spoons!
[courtesy of marie claire idees- LOVE that one, but despite my intensely genuine excitement over it, somehow couldn't get my hubby on board. maybe it was the pink].

i've seen several beautiful driftwood ones, which i also love, and thought about making this wooden plant stake one until i stumbled across a little tutorial for a rolled paper one... originally a wreath... but i thought, if i make it a little flatter and stick a round mirror in the middle? presto. sunburst mirror.

so that is what i did. here is my new little cheapo creation hanging in a little mudroom-ish spot by our front door:
i started with an oval wooden base [less than $2] a 10 inch round mirror base [around $1, both from ac moore] and a book that i got for $1 from a used book store about gardening [even though i'm a serial plant killer] because the font was printed in a cool green color, and the pages were aged just right, and it had such unique little illustrations [don't worry, i saved those for another project someday!]
[chapter 8: love will find a way. how can you not love that?]

basically, i just tore out each sheet and gently rolled it into a tube, squishing some hot glue to "close" the tube into a flat part on one end. once it was flat, then i hot glued it to the back of the wooden base. out of all the pictures i took as i went, this is the one step i did not take a picture of and obviously should have! if you make this project yourself, i'm hoping you'll know what i mean with the highly technical terms of rolling, squishing, and flattening [hah!]. hopefully you can see what i mean:
i rolled and glued, rolled and glued, all the way around the back of the wooden base until it looked like this:then i rolled and glued the paper tubes all the way around the back of the mirror separately from the base.
i did a second layer on the mirror, gluing another tube in between each of the first tubes, until it looked like this:
then i covered the back of the mirror in a lot of hot glue and pressed it down really hard onto the front of the wooden base to make it stick. i had wanted to do a second row on the wooden base as well, but honestly, by that point i had run out of pages in my book. and the little space in between doesn't really bother me since the unfinished wood is almost the exact same color as the aged book pages. it blends together well, and now that it is all glued together, i think the last layer i wanted to do probably would have made it a little too "fluffy."
i really love how it looks, filling that little empty space so evenly! and it's great for that last second hair/teeth/makeup check right before you walk out the door.
AND not too bad for a $3 job! [ps- i thought it was worth mentioning that the whole thing is light as a feather. we hung ours with one of those little brass bars that nails into the back and then "self-levels" on the nail in the wall. perfect!]


on the cheap: card clip wreath

although martha is usually on my hit-list for great crafty ideas, she's also kinda hit-or-miss as to whether her ideas will be cheap or not. sometimes they are brilliantly simple and can be done very cheaply, and sometimes they are purely ridiculous in nature and need some sort of strange, difficult to find, expensive element [usually that one little part that is random, but the project isn't quite the same without it- almost always quite true when it comes to her recipes].

but she didn't let me down when i came across her pinup wreath. easy, cheap, and CUTE... the crafty trifecta! in fact, even though i'm not typically a wreath person [especially martha's since they tend to be pretty extravagant] i had everything i needed right in my little craft room for this one: hot glue, a wooden embroidery hoop, a little package of wooden clippy clothespins, and a bit of ribbon. [i used a 14" hoop because it was what i had on hand, but if you want to put lots and lots of cards on it, you may want to use at least a 16" one].
i eyeballed the martha one enough to figure out which way the clips were pointing, and then made it easy for you in a little chart!
hot glue, rinse, repeat.
i call it the clippy wreath, and it was exactly what i was looking for to display my daughter's 1st birthday cards. my mom and dad used to put our birthday cards on top of the piano as they arrived in the mail and leave them there all week. it was such a simple way to feel so celebrated.
add a big ribbon loop and bow, and hang! [i used a suction cup with hook on my porch door]. it was looking a little thin before the actual party, so i printed out a few photos of her throughout her first year and clipped those on as well, here and there between the cards.
my little birthday bear!
and it technically counts as a christmas craft, because although i made it in november, i took the birthday cards down and it became a perfect place for the christmas cards that are starting to come in! you could even change out the ribbon for different holidays if you felt so inspired.


just a few more.

as requested, here are just a few more pictures of my on the cheap christmas decor!

the full mantle:
[stockings soon to come!]

and the full living room shelf above the couch:
normally, that big empty frame would drive me crazy [and i did play around with a few giant ornament ideas], but i kind of like the sparse, wintery feel it gives, especially with the creamy distressed frame against the tan walls with the whitewhitewhite felt snowflake garland all together. the little red trees are gift bag toppers that i bought on clearance two years ago after christmas at target when i worked there. can't remember if i ever used the bags or not, i just loved those little felt star-topped trees and the little twine they hung on!
this is the first year i've used the snowflake garland [originally from crate & barrel, and if i could find it again i'd buy about 20 of them!]. i love how it looks just slightly like piped icing along the shelf until you look closely enough to realize it is snowflakes. gives the house a gingerbread feel, and what is more christmas-y than gingerbread houses? [those are on my to-make list too!]
in keeping with the mostly-accidental red and white snowflake theme, i made a cheap winter front door wreath re-using my grapevine wreath from fall. the wreath runs $3-$4 at my local craft store, and i added some little faux winterberries and a big styrofoam snowflake hanging in the middle. styrofoam sounds so cheap, but it's sprayed with this little white ball stuff [descriptive, right?] that makes it look very cute and wintery, almost like a cartoon snowflake.
the very thick 3D-ness of it makes it just perfect for the middle of a wreath, and i added a few clear acrylic snowflakes to the little panes on each side of the door for some sparkle and some more snowflakes!


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