Dec 27, 2010

the Christmas post (complete with pictures, videos, and yes, even words)

my sweet girl
What a whirlwind Christmas this was!  As much as I truly enjoyed it all, I am glad to be back to my own house in my own mess. 

Operation Handmade Christmas almost caused me to lose my mind on Christmas Eve eve.  My sewing machine got all fussy on me, and I had to coax it back to sanity with a new needle.  It sounds so simple, but I am a terrible troubleshooter.  I made these for the ladies in my family, and I was so done by the time they were finished that I didn't even take any pictures of them.  I also made some dresses for my nieces; I finished these pretty early, so there is photographic evidence:

Cara had a big time.  Her grandmamas, aunts, uncles, and cousins were so good to her, and of course Mommy and Daddy (or Santa?  I'm still not sure!!) attempted to give her everything she ever wanted.  I say "attempted" because we left her stocking (filled with pots, pans, and utensils) and her tunnel at our house.  I guess Cara got to wake up on Christmas morning twice! :-)

opening her first Christmas present from Grandaddy and Kaz on Christmas Eve eve

We also forgot to take pictures on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, so I guess these will have to do:

playing with her new toys

Fortunately, we did not forget the video camera!

And just to make this Christmas a little more awesome, it snowed!  This is most amazing because HELLO! this is SOUTH CAROLINA.

And, because I promised not only pictures and videos, but also words, I will close with this.  Remember how I have been trying to figure out what we should do about Santa?  I had a few minutes to talk to PJ's sister and brother-in-law about why they don't do the Santa thing with their kids (ages 5 and 10).  They said that no magic of Christmas is lost without Santa; they focus on the magic of the Word become flesh.  PJ's brother-in-law told me something that is still sort of swirling around in my thoughts.  His five year old daughter was asked in a check out line if she was excited about Santa.  She said that she doesn't believe in Santa.  Her dad asked her "What do you believe in?" and her response was "We believe in Jesus."  The rhetorical question I keep coming back to here is this:  would her response have been different if her parents played along with the Santa thing? 

Dec 16, 2010

Cara's Christmas dress

I had not thought a whole lot about Cara's Christmas dress until I saw this one on Zulily

I thought it was pretty cute, not Christmas-y, but still very cute.  And then I realized that this dress was ON SALE for $, no, thank you.  But the more I looked at it, the more I decided that I could make it.  So I tried to figure it out.
And I realized it wasn't so difficult to sew without a pattern after all.

Dec 14, 2010

to santa or not to santa?

Last week, my Sunday School class tackled the question of whether or not Christians should participate in the Santa thing.  Of course, we reached no conclusive answer as the Bible does not specifically condemn the big man in red, so I have posed this question to almost everyone I know.  I have asked my students, other teachers, my friends, anyone who will listen to me.  To be honest, this is not a question to which I had given much thought before Sunday.  Santa seemed like just a fun, harmless American tradition.  But, we ARE lying to our children.  Consider the ethical and moral implications of that one.  I said that to someone today and her response was "wow, that's harsh."

I can think of almost as many arguments for Santa as against him.  Santa does seem to put the birth of Christ on the back burner, at least for the younguns.  We are definitely actively lying to our children, and we are encouraging consumerism and greed.  How do those younguns decide what to ask Santa for?  They watch commercials on TV!  Advertising has a powerful pull on American culture in general, and I hate to think that I would willing push Cara in that direction.  Right now, we stick to Veggie Tales and Sesame Street videos, but I am very much aware that I cannot shelter her from advertising forever.  And then there's the whole traumatizing experience of discovering the truth about Santa.  One of my students said (and I had never heard this before) that she felt GUILTY when she realized that her parents were giving her all of the "Santa" gifts because she hadn't done anything to deserve them.  Wow.  Very few of them reported feeling angry or betrayed by the lie, but several said that they kept up the guise of belief because they thought it made their parents happy. good lie deserves another...

HOWEVER, Santa cultivates magic and imagination in childhood.  It's almost like playing a special game with children.  They are so in awe of the magic and anticipate the big event with such joy.  Who really wants to take that away from a child?  Doesn't Santa encourage childhood innocence in a way?  Anything is possible...the American dream...or something?  All of my students adamantly protested when I said that I was considering not playing along with the Santa thing.  They seemed to think that it was a right of childhood almost, something with few to no harmful effects.  And then there's the tradition of sitting on Santa's lap every year.  My mom has a hilarious picture of my sister when she was maybe four years old.  As the big sister, I sat on Santa's lap first, and he asked me what my sister's name was, and so I told him.  When it was Allison's turn, he said "hello there, Allison," and she turned to the camera with an adorably shocked face and said, "he knew my name?!?!?!"
this moment of cuteness would not have been possible without the big fat Santa lie
I have to admit that I love the idea of seeing Cara run down the hall on Christmas morning to a dazzling display of everything she ever wanted.  I want to give that to her, and I want her to feel the magic, in a way.  There is also a part of me that wants to step back from popular American culture a little and teach her that baby Jesus is the most important part of Christmas.  That giving to others, especially the less fortunate, brings the true joy of Christmas.  And does it diminish any of the joy on Christmas morning for her to know that Mommy and Daddy gave her all of those presents because we love her so much?

In the grand scheme of things, I don't think it matters.  Santa belief is really only possible when children are too young to remember a whole lot, and at that age, they can't fully process the meaning of the birth of a Savior anyway (not that the groundwork shouldn't be laid).  When I think about my most memorable Christmas, it was well after the Santa myth had faded for me.  I was in the 8th grade, and my school's junior BETA club was sponsoring a trip to New York City.  Who is crazy enough to take 50 middle schoolers on a bus to New York?  Really?  Anyway, I really, really, really wanted to go.  All my friends were going.  My parents told me that they couldn't afford it, and I understood.  I never went without a need met, but I knew we didn't have extra money to throw around, so I accepted this explanation.  On Christmas day, I got up earlier than my brother and sister and went downstairs to check out my stash.  In my stocking was an envelope and in that envelope was a plane ticket that my mom had made.  "Trip to New York" it said.  And I cried.  I actually went into my parents' room and woke them up crying.  I had never been so surprised and never felt so loved.  I'm not sure a future Christmas will ever be able to top that moment for me.  And none of that was Santa.

Dec 13, 2010

on IKEA and the toddler room

We spent a chunk of our Saturday this past weekend at the most awesome retailer ever:  IKEA!  I love IKEA so much that we are only allowed to go a few times a year because we always fill a cart.  We went this time for Cara's Christmas present, ONE THING, and we still filled a cart.  Everything at IKEA is so clean and crisp, selling the clean and crisp lifestyle.  Everything just looks so easy.  What I wouldn't give for everything to just be easy...

We bought a new set of everyday dishes.  The old Walmart set (and you know how I feel about Walmart) only had two dinner plates, three bowls, and a few little plates left, so we splurged on a new set.  "Splurged" as in we spent $25 on six place settings.  I know, right!  $25??  And those were the expensive ones!  But those shiny, clean, crisp white bowls hold my oatmeal so much better than those old bowls did.  In all seriousness, I like having a matching set of dishes.  I don't know why.  The old incomplete set went to Goodwill along with Cara's changing table.

What?  Why did we get rid of an essential baby item?  What about all the future babies?  Won't they also need a changing table? 

The changing table that we had was a rickety because there was a wrong part in the box.  PJ made do with what was there, but the table was never really sturdy.  And it had shelves underneath, so I put baskets of stuff on them, thinking that I had chosen the perfect piece of baby furniture.  Until the toddler found the baskets and emptied them.  And hid things.  And ate things., no, not the perfect piece of baby furniture.

Getting rid of that changing table transformed Cara's room though.  I had sort of planned to move it out anyway to make room for Cara's Christmas present:
DUKTIG Mini-kitchen white Width: 28 3/8 " Depth: 15 3/4 " Height: 42 1/2 "  Width: 72 cm Depth: 40 cm Height: 108 cm
(Isn't this the most adorable little kid kitchen?  Of course, the top part with the microwave was out of stock, but I guess that just means that I get to go back to IKEA to get it very soon!)  We moved around some other furniture too, so that now Cara has a ton of space in her room to just play.  It looks like a little girl room now, not a baby nursery.  We found the perfect playtime rug at IKEA as well,
FABLER PRICKAR Rug pink Length: 1 ½ yard Width: 52 "  Length: 133 cm Width: 133 cm
and Cara stomped all over it, saying "gurgle, gurgle" which means "circle, circle" in toddlerspeak. 

Cara's room looks so much like a little girl room to me that I am considering putting her in a toddler bed while I am out for Christmas break.  (The room isn't the only thing prompting me to consider this, I'm not that silly!)  She's really good about bedtime now, so I don't want to create a problem where there isn't one, but it will have to happen sometime.  Any advice or suggestions about toddler beds?  Timing, strategies, anything? 

Dec 9, 2010

vegetarian review

Sometime last week, I decided to go vegetarian until Christmas.  I don't have any real reason other than I just want to see how I like it.  PJ agreed to join me, which surprised me a little, but he's been a good sport about the new diet in general, so I guess I shouldn't have been that surprised.  Anyway, I thought I would share some of recipes we have tried with reviews from me (as the food preparer) and from PJ (as the food eater) as well as the approximate cost of the meal.  I ate the food too, but PJ will be more honest in his opinion.  I try really hard to like everything I cook.  The cost is VERY approximate since I will never know exactly how much a 1/4 cup of olive oil costs.  I just estimated. 

Meal #1:  Tuscan Minestrone with cornbread ($13.72)

from Jessica:  Anyone who wants to cook a delicious pot of soup has no intentions of doing it quickly.  This soup is no exception; it took me a solid two hours.  However, it was a fantastic two hours of Sufjan Stevens Christmas music, hot chocolate, and chopping.  No, I wasn't chopping for the entire two hours; I fed Cara her dinner while my beans were boiling away.  But there was a good bit of chopping.  My kitchen was a disaster afterwards, but it was worth it.  I omitted the pancetta and cabbage from this recipe, and I don't think we missed it.  Next time, I probably won't drain the tomatoes because I wanted just a little more broth.  I made this soup on Sunday evening with the idea that I would put the leftovers into containers for lunch this week.  After we had both eaten it for dinner, I still had enough leftover for five lunch portions.  That's a lot of soup.  The price may seem a little steep, but this is huge nutritional bang for your buck (kale and red chard!!) in addition to spreading over several days of lunch.

from PJ:   This is a hearty and flavorful soup, as vegetable soups go.  The white beans were mild, they didn't have that 'lima bean' taste that white beans sometimes have.  I just read here that the beans were supposed to be cooked with pancetta, that sounds pretty good to me, but we are vegetarians until Christmas.  It went great with the corn muffins that Jessica also made; it was just the right meal after the cold afternoon outside we had today.

Meal #2:  Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Casserole  ($8.54)

from Jessica:  I prepared the casserole on Sunday night after I made the soup.  The tomato sauce is simmering away as we speak, and it smells fantastic!  I used dried chickpeas that I soaked overnight and boiled for 30ish minutes because that is what I had in the pantry.  Plus, dried beans from the bulk bins are much cheaper than canned.  I have never cooked with eggplant before, and I think I burned it just a little in the oven!  Hopefully, it will still turn out okay.  All I have to do tomorrow is bake my casserole.  *sigh of relief*

from PJ:  This casserole is more of a stew than a casserole.  The chickpeas and cinnamon give it a Middle Eastern/Indian flavor.  It is super tasty and has a good balance of sweet and savory.

Meal #3:  Baked Limas with Spinach and Feta ($10.02)

from Jessica:  Tuesday night was a good time for leftovers.  Since I didn't actually cook dinner, I cooked the limas to prep for Wednesday's Thursday's meal.  When I planned this week's menu, I didn't know that PJ doesn't like limas...I hope that the feta will cancel out the "lima bean taste."  PJ even asked me what we were going to do for dinner after we taste this dish!  In an effort to make this recipe more pleasing to my husband's palate, I added dried Greek seasoning to the beans, an extra garlic clove and some red pepper flakes to the spinach, and a lot of feta on the top.  Earth Fare didn't have fresh dill or chives when I went last weekend, so I had to omit those ingredients.  I had my doubts, but I started to think this one might turn out okay as I was assembling it.  We'll see...

from PJ:  This meal has been the biggest suprise so far.  It was really good; I even ate all of Cara's and Jessica's when they got done.  The lima beans were very well seasoned (if you didn't notice from earlier posts, I don't like lima beans) and the feta cheese is amazing on top of the beans and spinach.  It was filling, healthy tasting and just salty/cheesy enough to satisfy us meat-eaters.

Are we converting to vegetarians?  Are we really going to keep this up until Christmas?  Um, no, we've definitely already cheated...Chic-Fil-A was calling my name Wednesday night.  I have so little willpower.  But, I think we can probably make it until Christmas.  And then it will be turkey time for real.

Dec 5, 2010

been sew busy

(hehehe...I'm such a huge dork.)

I have been busy lately with lots of sewing projects, and I love it!  I have made gifts for three baby showers last week, Christmas t-shirts for my nieces, and I even had my first official paid order!  WooHoo! 

I made burp cloths, onesies, and bibs for the baby shower gifts, and I think I might have been more excited about them than the mothers-to-be were.  Not that they didn't like them, but I was really about to burst. 

Those bibs were super easy (I followed this tutorial), and I was really pleased with the way they turned out.  I did need one practice run before I made one I was satisfied with, but I am like that with everything I make.  My old habit of perfectionism...

Here are the t-shirts I am sending to my nieces in the mail tomorrow:

I can't believe I haven't made one of these for Cara yet.   These were so quick and easy that I'm sure I could make hers a weeknight project.

And finally, I was super excited that someone actually wanted to BUY t-shirts.  Like place an order and purchase them.  I was beyond flattered.  Here's what I ended up making to go on the shirts:

And so now that I have those projects finished, maybe I should start on Christmas presents because I am not planning to buy any presents; Operation Handmade Christmas is on.  Maybe I should have started a little earlier...
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