advent: part three

Are you tired of seeing this yet? I promise this will be the last advent related post, but I did want you to see what it looks like when finished. I have loved watching the kids carefully figure out where each ornament should go, and they are so excited to put the star on top. Here are the last of the ornaments:

Merry Christmas to all!


fa la la #4

I love the idea of kids growing up on a farm (maybe even my own kids someday... there's still time!). Having to get up early and milk the cows, seeing the vegetables grow and ripen, the whole family having to pitch in together to make it all work.

So that could be why I fell in love with this book, Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl Buck (and oh so beautifully illustrated by Mark Buehner.) 

A teenage son overhears his parents talking, and realizes for the first time, that his father loves him. "Neither his father nor his mother talked about loving their children—they had no time for such things. There was always so much to do on a farm."

He wants to get his father a special gift for Christmas. He has little money, but he needs to show his father that he loves him... so he comes up with a plan. "He could get up early, earlier than four o'clock, and he could creep into the barn and get all the milking done. He'd do it alone.. and then when his father went in to start the milking, he'd see it all done. And he would know who had done it."

(I have high hopes that if I read this story to my children enough times, I will one day come downstairs Christmas morning to see the house spotless and all the laundry washed and folded.)


last-minute christmas tags

I know everyone is busy wrapping (or perhaps still finishing) a few gifts. I'm here to help! These gift tags are a great way to use leftover fabric scraps. First, download this template and print it on some white cardstock.

Here's what you need: your printed template, a ruler and an x-acto knife, a bone folder (in order to get nice crisp folds), a cutting mat, glue (spray adhesive or glue stick), 1.5” circle punch (or you can cut the circles with your x-acto knife.. be careful!), a few cute fabric swatches (cut to roughly 1.75” squares), and a hole punch.

STEP 1: Cut out your tags (each template makes four tags) with a ruler and an x-acto knife, using the guides on the template. I cut the top and bottom horizontal lines first, and then the vertical lines.. do not cut through the paper top to bottom, you want to stop shy of the edge of the paper so you keep the border and your guide marks intact.

STEP 2: Take the four cards and punch out the 1.5” circle, as marked on the template (your circle punch will be slightly larger than the circle on the template). Line it up as closely as you can.

STEP 3: Apply glue to the entire wrong side (or back of the card) especially the edges. Pick your fabric swatch and affix it to the back of the card, wrong side up, making sure it covers the entire punched circle. (The right side of the fabric should be face down). 

Fold the card in half to sandwich the fabric, use a bone folder to get a nice tight fold (or your fingernail). Rub the card all over, making sure the glue is spread evenly over the entire card. Punch holes where indicated. Add string or ribbon and enjoy!

NOTE: Last summer I got to help plan a beautiful wedding for a dear friend that will be featured in Martha Stewart Weddings Winter issue (which comes out next week). We used this same technique for her escort cards, and they looked so beautiful all pinned to a board, I'll let you know when they are up on Martha's website.


fa la la #3

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry tells the story of a big, grand tree delivered to Mr. Willowby, by special delivery. But the tree is just a bit too tall, so they trim off a few feet. The top is perfect for Miss Adelaide, the upstairs maid, but she also must trim the top of her tree.

The little tree is then passed on to the gardener, who trims a bit (snatched by the Bear family), and on and on to the Fox family, the Rabbits, and even to the little mice who live in Mr. Willowby's house.

"Oh isn't it grand to have a tree - exactly like Mr. Willowby!"


packages tied up with string

Oh Heather.. thank you, thank you.

It is so fun to open your mailbox and pull out a little package that you can see has been made with love and wrapped with such care. 

It's almost too pretty to eat.. but that hasn't stopped me!


fa la la #2

I sometimes have a hard time knowing if a book is truly great.. or if I just remember loving it as a little girl, and so it has become wonderful only to me. The Night Before Christmas (illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa) is one of those books I can recall vividly from my childhood... page by page. 

Whenever I hear Clement Moore's poem, it is always these images I see in my head. I love everything about it. The title page with the wooden stick letters and the cutaway view of the house as everyone gets ready for bed.

And the amazing sugarplum dreams of the sleeping children.. (which I especially loved because we had six children in our family.. three boys, three girls)

And I love the little jolly Santa, a bit on the petite side. Oh, I adore this book.. but my son has had a few questions: "Where's Rudolph, mom?" "And are these the mean reindeer that were calling him names?"


fa la la #1

Each year I try to pick up a few additions to our Christmas library, special books that are tucked away in the Christmas box with the ornaments and the lights and only read in December. This week I'll be sharing some of our favorites.

I have a soft spot for The Nutcracker. I remember seeing it with my mother as a child, how I dreamed of taking ballet class and dancing as one of the little mice. I've seen it in San Francisco, I've seen it in New York City. And I love it, each and every time.

There are several book versions of the Nutcracker story, but I love this one by Susan Jeffers, because it stays true to the story as you see it unfold in the ballet.

And did I mention the illustrations are magical? Perfect with a mug of hot cocoa.


homemade photobooth

I adore old black and white photobooths. I love the awkward, dirty, grainy loveliness of each little square. I love that no two strips are ever the same. I love feeding the quarters into the slot and wheeling the little stool around to just the right height. I think they are the best two dollars ever spent (or three, or four, or five). Every year for my birthday I ask my husband for a photobooth of my own. I am still waiting.

Years ago I fell in love with one photobooth. It was in the back of a restaurant, and even though it was a bit of a hike from our place in Brooklyn, I made sure we got there a few times each year. "Why don't we grab brunch at Bubby's?" I would say. My husband would give me a look.. he knew we were only going for the booth. 

Since our move to California, I am on the search for a new booth to love. This site helped me find a few at our local county fair, but it only comes to town for a few weeks each summer. So what's a girl to do? Make your own!

We spent the morning yesterday rigging up a photobooth in our living room. I hung a little curtain from a couple of chairs, added a stool to sit on, and set up the camera on the tripod. We grabbed a few props (winter hats, paper chains...) and clicked away.

The finishing touch: Convert the new pics to black and white, up the contrast, and use photoshop to drop the new pictures onto some old filmstrips I scanned in. It's not quite as good as the real thing, but it's making me pretty happy today. 

Note: I wish I could show you more, but I made a decision when I started this blog to keep my children anonymous, and though I sometimes wish I could show you the adorable faces my two year old is making these days.. I'm sticking with my promise.


advent: part two

I love seeing the advent calendar as it starts to fill with ornaments. The kids are being surprisingly patient, taking turns, putting one ornament up each morning... though I have seen C peeking into future pockets and switching around the order of the coming days. Here are this week's ornaments:


when husbands shop online

The doorbell rang yesterday, it was a delivery man dropping off a package. I looked for a box.. he said it was out in the truck.

The "package" was a wooden crate, about 8 feet long, about 600 pounds. (I'm guessing it is not a fishnet stocking leg lamp.)

It's now sitting in our garage, and my husband has a huge smile on his face. Now he just needs about 5 of his friends to come over so they can lift it up.

Anyone want to guess what it is? Here's a hint:

UPDATE: Yes, a garage can be a dangerous thing. Especially if your husband likes tools. The mystery package was a band saw... one made in Italy, because apparently all the ones made in the US are just for amateurs.