Friday, February 24, 2017

2016 Christmas Debriefing

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I always like to look back on the Christmas just past and see how well everything worked, or where improvement is needed.  I use the questions from a simple form available at Organized Christmas.

1.  What worked this holiday season?  What changes did you make to create simpler, less stressful holidays?  

One of the biggest changes I made was the decision to have all handmade gifts finished by December 1,  There were a couple of exceptions -- things I needed to print out that were not available until after that date -- but in general, I finished the gifts by then.  It made a big difference in being able to enjoy all the fun and meaningful December activities.

Christmas being on a Sunday this year meant a change in the way we celebrated, and my dad being in a nursing home made a difference too.  We kept Christmas dinner (actually supper) very simple and low-key, but it was still festive.  Another thing done differently was that our ladies' Christmas fellowship at church was a Saturday brunch rather than an evening or afternoon event.  This actually worked out much better for many of us.
2.  What was the worst aspect of preparing for the holidays this year?  How can you avoid this problem in the future?

I found that wrapping gifts,  shipping gifts, and writing cards were the most stressful aspects of Christmas for me this year.  I had many Amazon and Thriftbooks gifts shipped directly to our Nevada family and will plan to do that even more, hopefully earlier, next year.  I need to check the grandkids' wish lists much earlier next year, too.

With cards, I have a system where I send a card upon receiving one, but I wanted to get the cards out of the way sooner, so that left me doing more of them at once.  It felt like a chore.

With wrapping, I tried to wait until we had our tree up so there would be a good place to stack the wrapped gifts.  That didn't work out very well since we were very late getting our tree up this year.  I need to plan another place to stash the completed gifts in case that happens again next year.

3.  Were you satisfied with your family's level of giving and/or spiritual observances?  How could next year's holidays more closely reflect your family's values?

I was quite satisfied with our family's level of giving, and satisfied too with the spiritual aspect of our Christmas celebrating.

4.  How well did your household function this year?  Were you calm and cozy, or stressed and strung out?  What improvements could be made next year?

Our household functioned well, but I did still have some stress.  Next year I would hope to have my homemaking routines more firmly in place, and to use the slow cooker even more for meals.

5.  Honesty time: how did your holidays go?  Did you experience the magic, the expectancy, and the sparkle of the season?  If not, what changes could you make to recapture the joy?

In general, our holiday went very well.  There were magical moments here and there throughout the month.  Next year I would love to do an Advent Bible study again, and would like to take the grandkids to a Living Nativity I learned about too late this year.

So ... there you have it:  my debriefing for Christmas 2016.  Have you done an exercise like this?  It can only help with planning for next year!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A belated report on January's Christmas Club meeting

I'm behind the times!  Our local Christmas Club, headed up by my friend Susan, a local librarian,  is meeting tonight.  I'm not going to get there; Mr. T's work hours dictate a very early bedtime and I'm already exhausted, so will have to miss this meeting.  But at the very least I can report on last month's club meeting.

We began our meeting by talking about the Christmas just past and what some of our most memorable moments were.  We talked about traditions old and new that we might have.  We also  talked about what worked out well and what didn't.  For me, the decision to have all handcrafted gifts finished by December 1 was a game-changer.  It really helped me to enjoy December.

We next talked about setting up a gift closet.  Of course it need not be a closet; it can even be an under bed storage tote.  I personally have gifts stashed in several different areas and would really like to streamline that storage.

Organized Christmas even has a great inventory form for your Christmas notebook to keep track of what you have on hand in the gift closet.

Susan had a great idea to make Rudy Day totes ... special tote bags or containers to keep our special Rudy Day items in ... Christmas CDs, tea and coffee, and so on. 

She thought it would be nice if we made them matching, so each club member would have the same.  We could also use them to bring items to Christmas Club meetings.  As far as I know, nothing has been decided about this yet, but it's a fun idea for sure.  Lots of possibilities out there!

Lastly, we talked about recycling our Christmas cards.  Susan showed us a photo collage she had made for her Christmas notebook.  The collage was made with photos and wording from the various Christmas photo cards she and her husband had received.  It was great!

We finished up our meeting by sipping tea and making gift tags out of our old Christmas cards.  We all brought cards, and I had brought tag templates, hole punches, silver cord, and bakers twine. 

A most enjoyable evening was had by all!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Quick cookie mix -- a recipe to try for next Christmas!

Photo from Taste of Home
I was browsing through a Country Woman Christmas issue from a couple of years ago and came upon this Quick Cookie Mix to keep in the fridge for Christmas baking.  Four different cookies can be made from one mix: Peanut Blossoms, Toffee Triangles, Apricot Thumbprints, and Butter Almond cookies.  Such mixes seldom tempt me, but I am seriously thinking of trying this one soon, for a couple of reasons.

 For one, these cookies are all somewhat distinctive.  You could never tell they all came from the same basic mix.  For another thing, other than the red and green sugar on the peanut blossom variation, these cookies are not overly Christmasy at all, but merely festive.  They would be good anytime one had to make a lot of pretty cookies rather quickly.  For yet another, the mix does not use shortening as many cookie mixes do, but uses real butter.  Much nicer, more flavorful, and better for you.  I think that the next time I need cookies for an occasion, I'll give this mix a try!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Two Christmas-themed crochet projects

Here are two recently completed projects.  One is out-and-out Christmasy; the other could be used all winter as well as at Christmas time.  The project above is a vintage-style scalloped hot pad from this pattern: Scalloped Potholder.  (Although the pattern calls it a pot holder, I feel that this is too thick for a pot holder, so I always leave off the hanging loop.)  What these work perfectly for is just as a hot mat or trivet to use on your table for placing a hot dish on.

I made stacks of these in many different colors over last spring, summer, and fall.  The pattern is easily memorized and the project is small enough to be very portable.  I worked on these while overseeing my dad's home health care last spring, as well as countless hours in waiting rooms, hospital and nursing home rooms.
I ended up with many, many hot pads and so, this past Christmas, I took a bag full of them in so the members of my ladies' Sunday School class could each choose one as a gift from me.

The Christmas variegated yarn in the top photo is some that I acquired for free.  I had used it to make a Christmas doily

and thought it might also look nice in a hot pad.  You can't see it too well in the photo, but there is a metallic gold thread running through the red, white and green cotton yarn.  I was pleased with how the hot pad turned out and will make another one or two at some point, as I still have more of the yarn.

Then the second project is this snowflake hot mat:
I've made this one before, a couple of times, in blue.

It's a vintage pattern and relatively easy.  It does use a LOT of triple crochet, however, so if you don't enjoy doing that stitch (I don't; it just feels too floppy and unwieldy to me), you probably wouldn't care for this pattern.  I have sort of a love/hate relationship with these hot mats.  I love the way they look when finished, but they are a lot larger than I really like in a hot mat.  I may give the pattern one more chance using smaller hook sizes.

If anyone is interested in this pattern, it is from Annie's Pattern Club, December 1980.  I did locate a few copies of the magazine online, although I can't be sure they are still available at this time.  Here are the links:
Snowflake Hot Pad pattern on eBay or
Treasured Heirlooms Crochet.  You could probably find even more by doing an online search for Annie's Pattern Club, December 1980.

I've just started another of the scalloped hot pads in a combination of blue yarns to have as another portable crochet project in my needlework bag.  My gift stash is depleted, only four left in it, so I'll begin making more in free moments of waiting time.  I hate for my hands and brain to be idle!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Yo-yo ornaments for Mary

Recently, a reader named Mary asked if I had a pattern for the yo-yo ornaments I had mentioned in this post: Christmas Fabric Source and Ideas.   The answer is yes ... and no.  I detailed a bit how my granddaughters and I made these ornaments in this 2009 post.  You can read it here:  Yo-yo Christmas Ornaments.    In case others might like to know more about these ornaments,  I thought I would write a brief post explaining how to make them.

At one time I did have a pattern for these.  I spent quite a bit of time this morning going through my magazines and file of Christmas crafts, but to no avail.  I wouldn't copy the pattern, but if I could find it, I would definitely share the name and issue of the magazine so others could locate a copy.  Etsy and eBay are great sources for such things.  But I just can't find the pattern.  I had thought it was in a Country Handcrafts magazine, or Crafting Traditions, and it may be, but my search came up empty.

So, if you are familiar with how to make yo-yos, you should have no trouble with these rather sketchy directions from my 2009 post.  (If you've never made a yo-yo, I'm sure you could do a search for "fabric yo-yo tutorial" and come up with some good instructions.)

  Basically, you make yo-yos starting with 3 1/4-inch circles of fabric, and just before pulling the gathering threads, you center a 1 1/2-inch poster board circle in each one. This stiffens the yo-yos and makes them suitable to work as ornaments. (Without the cardboard, they would be too floppy.)  In the candy cane, there are 4 red and 4 white print yo-yos. You hot-glue them together to form the ornament, then hot-glue a loop of ribbon or cord to the back to serve as a hanger.

If you wish to add buttons, ribbon bows, or other embellishments to the center of the yo-yos, you will probably prefer to do that after assembling the ornament, just to make it easier.

The other ornament possibilities suggested in the pattern are wreaths 

and Christmas trees. From the photo of the wreath my granddaughter made, it looks as if there are 8 yo-yos of various green Christmas prints.  We only made candy canes and wreaths, but I'm sure there might be other possibilities as well.  

Hope this helps!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

A little bit of crafting

Tags from 2010
I've shared before how I enjoy making gift tags from our old Christmas cards.  That little project is just completed for this year, and I had so much fun doing it.  The ones I just finished would be from the cards we received in December 2015.  I like to keep the cards in a wooden holder for a year, so I can reread messages, pray for those who sent the cards, and so on. After a year,  I take them out, make tags from most of them, and place the current year's cards in the wooden pine cone holder.

As I'm sure I've said too many times to count, one of the times that I am happiest and feel most peaceful and content is when I can take time to work at my little glass-topped crafting desk.
An older picture.  It has been a long, long time since my crafting desk had this much clear space on it.
If I can have a mug of tea at hand, and if it happens to be snowing out, my contentment level is through the roof.  This almost never happens, but today it did.

On Tuesday evening,  I was able to attend our local Christmas Club at a friend's home.  One of the things we did at the meeting was to make tags out of our Christmas cards.  I brought along my templates and a couple of paper punches,  plus some silver cord and bakers twine.  Crochet cotton in red or green works well too.  I was able to make tags from about 2/3 of the cards I'd brought, at the meeting.
Also from 2010.  Many of these have been used by now.
I ran out of time so planned on finishing the rest of the tags at home.  Yesterday I was able to carve out a little space of time to do that.  My desk -- I mentioned in the caption above that it has little clear space.  The sad fact of the matter is, it has none.  Stacked high with file folders (most having to do with my dad's concerns and care) that I have no other place to put, it depresses me every time I look at it.  In order to craft, I can remove a stack of folders to give myself some space.

What I really need to do, of course, is clear out space in our own filing cabinet to make those folders fit in there.  And I should begin the project this very day!  We will see.

But back to yesterday.  I removed some folders and found space to measure and cut the tags, then punch holes at the top and string through a length of cord.  There was even room on the desk for a mug of tea, and as I worked, big snowflakes were drifting lazily down.  Ah!  Thirty minutes or so of wonderful mental health therapy.  I need to make time to do something like this more often!  Here is some of the result:

Do you make tags from your used Christmas cards, or utilize them in crafting some other way?