Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

We're relaxing at home this evening. Alton's helping me learn how to download songs onto my new MP3 player, and we're going to break in his new popcorn popper and watch a movie as we wait for the new year to arrive. I hope everyone else has a lovely, and safe, evening as well.

Tomorrow morning, I will start the new year off with a brand new stitching project. Here's a rather poorly lit photo of my supplies (minus one thread, which is on order):

I picked this pattern because it reminds me of the exceptionally snowy weather we've had this year, and because it has my name in it! Anybody else starting a new project for the new year?
Alton is also planning to take me shooting tomorrow afternoon, weather permitting. I have never fired a gun before, and I am looking forward to the experience. No one in my family has ever been willing to teach me, for some reason...
My first scrapbooking of the year will have to wait til I get back to my house. I did get some new black writing markers today, which I'm very happy about, since all of my old ones had completely dried up. Try journaling without a printer or a pen; it's not easy!
Til next time, stay safe and have fun!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Elf Duties and the Big Snow

It's been a busy December for me. How about for the rest of you? I love this time of year, but sometimes it just goes by so quickly there hardly seems to be time to take it all in! I want to devote this post to sharing a little bit about this big charity event we do at the courthouse every December called the Giving Tree. Every November we get lists of underprivileged children from various sources in the county. Some come from school social workers, some from the Guardian ad Litem program, and some from the drug court program. We place each child's name, clothing size, and wishlist on a Christmas tree at the courthouse and local attorneys and courthouse staff take names from the tree and buy gifts for the children.

And then comes the madness. The presents pour in over the space of about 4 days, and we (myself and 3 other women) check, double check, and triple check that everything has come in. There are several shopping trips made as we use cash donations to buy for any kids whose names didn't get taken off the tree, or, if we're really lucky, to buy additional gifts for kids who were given one gift. Poor Alton made two trips to Wal-Mart with me to pick out bikes for kids, and he even delivered the bikes to Lumberton for me.

When the big day finally arrives, it's like a little bit of chaotic magic. One of the big courtrooms is all decked out in holiday goodness:

The presents are carefully arranged in order... for all 130 kids:

And once the children start to arrive, the mad scramble begins. I don't do the decoration; I don't get the food and cash donations; I help get the presents to the kids. As each family checks in, I start to build a list; one copy for me and one for Santa:

This list is double checked against my master list to locate the presents inside the gift room, and to remind me of which kids are getting bikes. And then I line the gifts up in the order that the kids will receive them:

After eating lunch in one of the other courtrooms, the families start to file into the courtroom:

Finally, the big guy arrives and calls the children up one by one to receive their gifts:

It's an incredible event to watch. The smiles on those little kids faces are just so wonderful. Of course, I always end the day physically and emotionally exhausted, and there are always one or two grinches trying to sour the day. But, like I said, those excited, happy little faces are worth having to deal with a few minutes of unpleasantness.
I also wanted to share a couple of photos from our White Christmas. I spent my holiday weekend in Greensboro with my parents. THe snow didn't start there until mid-afternoon Christmas day. Still, it was an exciting thing to see, since, to the best of my recollection, this is only the third time in my life that I have experienced snow on Christmas (day or eve, I'm counting both). Here's a shot looking up Mom and Dad's driveway:

And here's a pathway at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, which is about a mile from their house:

And then on Monday, when the sun finally came out:

Finally, here's Spike, getting in on the holiday action. I didn't put her out in the snow this time, but I did catch her tromping through Mom's Christmas Village, doing her 'Catzilla' impression:

Well, that's it for the photos. I'm looking forward to a pretty low-key New Year's weekend with my boyfriend. And, now that the holiday madness is over, I'm looking forward to getting my scrapmojo and stitchmojo back on. Stay safe over the weekend, y'all, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Wonderland Recipe Box

Somehow, in all the work craziness this week, I found the time to get a little scrappy fun in. They've been having a Christmas celebration over at the Webster's Pages forum. Every day this week they've been posting different holiday projects and encouraging their followers to create their own versions of the projects. When I saw Audrey and Jaz's projects, I knew I wanted a holiday recipe box too. I wanted to insert a link to their projects, but as usual, my computer does NOT want to cooperate. But you can copy and paste this link:

A few years back, Mom had gathered up all the recipes that she (and sometimes I) use to make our family's traditional holiday treats, like rum cake and fudge and chex mix. She had them all bound together and gave my sister and I each a copy. Well, my version is already stained with the chaos of my baking experiences. When I saw the adorable recipe box Jaz had made, I realized that it would be great to have a box like that to store a sturdier, more permanent version of each of the recipes. So that's exactly what I did.
Jaz used a metal fork on her box. I didn't have any forks to spare, but I liked the idea, so I took a plastic fork from one of my many takeout expeditions and painted it with white acrylic paint:

I inked up the jewels on a Prima branch to make them red enough to match the colors on the box (originally, they were a shade of pink that appears nowhere on the papers I used), and attached it to the fork with a bit of Webster's netting and attached a couple of crystals to the knot:

I also made this little chipboard gingerbread man. He's covered with WP paper that matches the paper I used on the sides of the box, and the title is from some WP alpha stickers that I inked with red to make them match the piece:

I loved the little window on Jaz's box, so I created one for myself, using some packaging from some Jenni Bowlin buttons. I just pulled the plastic capsule off the backing and then glued some WP paper around it to make the frame. I added glitter of different kinds to the edges, and then put it over top of a quote I cut out of a sheet of WP paper. The edges of the quote are darkened with ink to make it stand out more, and I covered the quote and a couple of other elements I'd cut out of WP paper with Stickles to give the project a bit of sparkle. It was at this point that I realized that my cats like Stickles even more than I do. There are about 6 bottles of Stickles that have been relocated. At least they left me one bottle of the Rock Candy color, although it's a mostly empty bottle. Stupid cats.

And here's a side view of the box where you can see the paper and trim I used to cover the sides of the box. You can also get a better idea of how the window was constructed:

I then proceeded to make my recipe cards. They're nothing fancy, just two layers of cardstock to make each one sturdy. I used my brand new WP stamps to add a little element to each of the cards, and then copied down one of Mom's recipes onto each one. Here's a few of them:

Now I'm off to continue working on some Christmas ornaments that I want to give as gifts, and maybe on some fancy gift tags (a la Webster's Pages). Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for looking at my little recipe box.

Vatican City

I thought I'd start out with this layout that I created about our dining experiences while in Rome. We had some excellent meals, at least in my opinion. But the best by far was the gelato we got from San Crispin's. I had cinnamon ginger, yum!
When we left the Vatican Museum, we headed straight into St Peter's Basilica. On the way in we saw a wedding party heading into the basement. I didn't even know you could have a wedding here!

I had visited the interior of the basilica as a little girl. But I guess my memories of the space were affected by the photographs that I had taken. My camera was a good camera, but still, a little girl's point and shoot (as compared to my 'big girl's' digital point and shoot of this trip) and the images were all very, very dark. How brilliant the interior of the basilica looked to me this time around!
From the beautiful marble fonts at the entrance,

to the gorgeous canopy in the middle,

to the entire, beautiful space itself, there was so much for the eyes to drink in!

I told Alton that when I was finally crowned Queen of the World, I would have a massive bed and place it under a giant canopy much like the one we were admiring there in the basilica. That thing was several stories tall. And you could spend hours just looking at the marvelous ceilings inside the place. Brilliant blues

elaborate detail work,

and a view that seems to stretch up and up and on and on.

As we were leaving the basilica, we paused to watch a procession enter. They were chanting/singing and entered one of the side chapels. I don't know what the service was, but it was cool to get to see it. We don't have anything like this in our Baptist churches here at home!

Check out these Swiss Guards standing watch to the side of the basilica:

The piazza itself is huge. And about half of it was filled with a stage and chairs and big screens. I don't know if they were something extra special, or if they leave those things up year round for the Pope's regular services.

We wandered around the area for a bit, drinking in the beautiful statuary and fountains, and even a little art on the cobblestones themselves.

As we left, we turned around to admire basilica from a distance, before heading off on a very loooong walk across the city towards our hotel.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The tree is up, and a surprise from the mailman

Today, we decorated for Christmas. We headed out early to pick our tree, a 6 foot Fraser Fir. I wanted to get the tree inside the house early, because the forecast here in NC was/is for rain/snow. Sure enough, as we were putting the tree into the tree stand, it started sleeting on us. Fortunately, the sleet did not last very long, and it wasn't heavy enough to interfere with our plans. I love my tree. I've collected quite a few ornaments over the years. I try to get one from just about everywhere I visit on vacation, and I always add a few others over the year that catch my eye. Here's this year's tree in all her eclectic glory:

Some of my current favorite ornaments include this handblown glass ornament Alton bought for me from MOMA 2 years ago:

You can't tell so much from this photo, but it really shines as it hangs from the tree. THe top of the tree is adorned with a huge star straw I bought on a visit to the NC Mountains. Does it look at all familiar? There were stars of a very similar nature decorating the White House Christmas tree a few years back, by the same artist.

And then there are the annual, park exclusive Disney ornaments I've been collecting since 1995. Here's the one from last year. I'm just crazy for these things, and I have all of them from 1995 to today except for 2005. I was at Disney in 2005, but it was too early in the year to get the annual ornament. Sigh!

No one in the family made it to Disney this year, so I've looked up the number for one of the holiday themed shops at DisneyWorld. Tomorrow, I am going to attempt to purchase and have delivered the 2010 ornament. Wish me luck, it might be hard to describe well enough for the clerk to figure out!
Of course, there's some stitchy action going on too. These ornaments live on their own little tree, a metal one, free from the corrosive action of tree sap.

And after we finished putting the tree up, I sat down and finished another little Christmas ornament!

Isn't the fat little cardinal cute? I got this pattern all kitted up from my friend Chris a while book. Look, Chris, I finally finished it! I also finished this little guy:

This is the second time I've finished it up. I know it's a little out of season, but I've been waiting to get my hands on some more stuffing. As you can see from what I stitched on the back of the ornament, I stitched the original version of this piece for the Fall Fling at Myrtle Beach this year. I wanted my own copy, and I wanted to remember what I'd stitched it for, hence, the labelling on the back.
About halfway through our decorating bonanza, the mailwoman knocked on the door. She had two packages in her hands, all for me! I recognized one package as a gift I had ordered for my mom. But the other box was really big, and I had no clue what it was. Heh heh, it was an early Christmas gift to... MYSELF! I had completely forgotten about ordering a Swan Sampler Guild exclusive produced by In the Company of Friends. Each gorgeous piece inside the box was individually wrapped. I was so excited opening toy after toy, I was literally bouncing up and down. I made Alton admire every single one of them. I don't think he was all that impressed. I hope some of you are wise enough to be more appreciative. ; ) The hornbook came with a little pattern of a seated stag to stitch and attach to the back. I'm gonna pick out some fabric and thread to stitch it up soon, very soon.

Til next time, happy creating, and Merry Christmas!