Friday, December 31, 2010

Gifts, revealed: alphabet rocks

For those girls in my life who are learning to write, I made these little treasure boxes:

Filled with rocks I'd gathered this summer in Maine,


I loved this idea.

(Full disclosure: one recipient did say that "this is not a cute present," but she was seen playing with them later. Those are the kinds of gifts I tend to give kids: boring in the throws of unwrapping a zillion things, but appealing later.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gifts, revealed: cousins' capelets

I've been busy with family this week, so no time for posting. But I'd still like to share some of the last-minute (or secret) Christmas gifts I made this year. First--I'm happy to report that I did, in fact, finish all three capelets for Lucy and her cousins!

I ran out of white yarn for the second capelet (yes, running out of yarn seems to be a theme for this Christmas!), so I switched to green and stopped when it, too, ran out. In the end, I like the look, but the yarn I used was far too limp and floppy for this project. Shoot.

Lucy's capelet, on the other hand, came out beautifully! Her cousins won't wear wool, but Lucy doesn't mind, so her capelet has much more structure than theirs. I am in love with the yarn I used (a gift from a friend). So soft and beautiful! Working with it was a pleasure, and was really my first understanding of why people rave about yarn! (Sorry for the hideous photos, but when you finish gifts in the wee hours of Christmas Eve, you have to click it quick and wrap it up!)

I never did get the three-cousins photo I envisioned, with each in her capelet (and, in fact, I'll need to move buttons for the older girls before theirs really fit), but I do think they're awfully cute.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yarn Along 7

I'm working on the second of three capelets for Christmas--I doubt I'll make it at this point. (I haven't given up yet, though!)

Among many other things, we've been reading variations on the Gingerbread Man story. In this last week before vacation, the kids and I are making our annual batch of gingerbread cookies--quite an undertaking with 6 little ones!

See what other people are making and reading over at Ginny's Yarn Along.

Monday, December 20, 2010

An oasis of calm in the midst of the bustle

Our winter table:
two fake-but-I-still-like-them little trees,
a new nativity picked up at the thrift store this weekend so Lucy could have a set to play with,
a favorite book,
a new doily bowl I love, love, love,
and some of those horrible-but-I-can't-resist-'em craft-store cinnamon pinecones.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Making, making, making...

I'm in the throws of last-minute gift-making here; been working like mad all weekend. Here's what I made in the wee hours of the morning. I thought my childhood doll bed would be a perfect gift for Lucy this year; she's a devoted mama, taking care of babies all day every day. But it was in need of some new bedding. Its adorable cat-patterned flannel was ruined. So I made a new mattress and pillow:

And a new quilt (which matches the larger quilt I was making for her birth...uh, 1st birthday...uh, maybe 3rd birthday??):

Here it is all together, ready for "baby":

Back to making! I have a long way to go...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sea urchin newsboy cap

I finished it. And there was (just barely) enough yarn. I cut a few corners to finish it off, but it's plenty big enough.

If I'd known I was cutting it so close, I'd have made the brim a bit smaller--I'm not thrilled with how big it is.

But otherwise, I love this pattern. The hat is soft and cozy and super warm. (And the large brim will be just right for keeping rain off glasses.) Rosina commented on my last yarn-along post that it looked like a sea urchin. Exactly! I hadn't thought of it, but it's the perfect description.

One more gift down. Many more to go!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Yarn Along 6

I'm joining Ginny again for her yarn along. Not much time for reading for myself this week, so here are the most-requested books by the kids lately.

First is Alfie Gets in First by Shirley Hughes. We've been reading lots of books about Alfie. They are perfectly written for young children--stories about the little details of real life. Here, Alfie gets into the house first--with mom's keys--and shuts the door. He's locked in, and can't reach the lock! The whole neighborhood gathers to help, but in the end, it's Alfie who solves the problem himself. Suspenseful and satisfying; we love it.

Next is In the Snow by Sharon Phillips Denslow and Nancy Tafuri (yup, her again!). I pulled this one out when we set up Lucy's bird-watching station. Again, a simple moment from daily life--a child puts out seeds, and backyard animals gather to eat them. Simple and perfect, with those gorgeous Tafuri animals.

And, of course, with Lucy, we're reading our Christmas favorites over and over.

Meanwhile, I finished the necklet I was working on last week, and I've started another crocheted gift. This time, it's a hat. (Picture me standing out in the drizzling rain with a ball of yarn in my raincoat pocket, crocheting while the children play.) I'm loving how it's coming out. But the once-giant ball of mystery yarn from a tag sale is getting smaller and smaller. Will I make it? Cross your fingers for me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Made by buttons

Here's the pink necklet I was working on last week.

Partway through, I realized I was doing something wrong--I'd had 9 bobbles, then 8, then in "correcting" it, I worked my way up to 13. In frustration, I stopped for a while, and moved on to a greenish-blue one.

That one was wrong, too. Correct number of bobbles, but see that scalloped edge? Not supposed to be there. (That's ok. I like how it looks.) When I returned to the pink one, I had apparently figured it out. From halfway through, it finally started to look just right.

I was disappointed. But then I went to the store and found some gorgeous buttons.

Thank goodness for great buttons. I think they made these necklets.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Great Christmas Books for Toddlers

The Christmas book basket has been out for a while now, and we've been reading one book at dinner each night (as well as other times). It's crammed full of books, but these are our favorites right now, perfect for Lucy at 21 months.

The First Christmas by Robbie Trent, illustrated by Marc Simont
This was my first Christmas book, and the one I remember reading over and over as a child. It is the absolute perfect introduction to the Biblical Christmas story for toddlers: "This is Mary. This is the donkey Mary rode..." Simple and sweet with fabulous illustrations (though very "white.") I was devastated that I couldn't find my copy to read to Lucy this year, so I bought her a new board book. A must have, I think.  (edited to add: I found my original, and discovered that the board-book version is abridged and is missing one of my favorite illustrations of the baby Jesus, as well as other pages.  What a shame!  Get the original if you possibly can.)

The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats
This, too, is an absolute must. It's the other Christmas book I had as a child, and really, these two were enough. Keats' illustrations are wonderful, as always (and more ethnically appropriate than the first). Of course, we sing it, and Lucy loves the song (doesn't every child?). She sings favorite phrases ("baby Jesus," "Mary nodded," "me and my drum") to ask for this book.

Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff
This is relatively new to me. I first read about it in Under the Chinaberry Tree (a wonderful resource!) and so was thrilled to find it on a sale table one year after Christmas. It's not appropriate for a public-school teacher's reading list, so it has sat waiting for a few years, and I'm only now getting to share it with Lucy. She loves the anticipation of the animals preparing for an arrival, knowing herself who's coming before the animals do. At first glance, I hadn't thought it would hold a toddler's attention, but it definitely does, with many requests for more.

A Child is Born by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
This is our newest book, bought for Lucy just this weekend because of her many requests to hear more about "baby Jesus." I knew she'd love the cover illustration of the baby, and I loved balancing some of the other books with this view of a dark-skinned Jesus.

The First Night by B.G. Hennessy, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Another very simple and lovely introduction to the Biblical story, written for toddlers. This one, along with The First Christmas, are the reason Lucy can tell the whole story herself. ("Mary and Joseph. Mary rode on donkey. Bethlehem. No room. Keepers said. Manger. Baby Jesus!")

The Donkey's Christmas Song by Nancy Tafuri
If you've read my other book lists, you know I'm a sucker for the animals in Nancy Tafuri's books. They are just so sweet, I want to hug them! Here, the donkey doesn't want to frighten the baby, so he hesitates to sing his song. So all the other animals sing their songs first. When the donkey finally he-haws, "Jesus laughed" (Lucy's favorite line). We grownups pretend we aren't getting teary-eyed when we read this one.

Counting to Christmas by Nancy Tafuri
This is a lovely introduction to the Advent season, because it depicts a young girl getting ready for Christmas in simple, non-commercial ways: opening an Advent calendar, making gifts, sending cards, decorating cookies, playing music, making bird feeders, decorating a tree for the animals. I love it. And though I don't think Tafuri's people are quite as perfect as her animals, Lucy loves the wide-eyed, open-mouthed surprise when the girl awakes on Christmas morning.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shadow dancing

With the changing light, the children have been noticing, exploring, and talking about shadows. Yesterday, Lucy danced with her shadow outside.




With a friend.

Like an airplane.

With another friend.

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, And what can be the use of him is more than I can see. He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head; And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Yarn Along 5

I'm trying a different style scarf so I can continue on with this yarn. We'll see.

I'm reading Another Place at the Table. I'd read its sequel, One Small Boat, which I loved (though "loved" sounds like an odd way to describe something so devastating). So I was thrilled when this one finally came up through paperbackswap. It's just as compelling as the last, though possibly even more upsetting. (We're planning to adopt through fostering at some point in the near future, and I tend to prepare for things by reading, reading, reading.)

(I'm playing along with Ginny at Small Things, where you can find other "Yarn Along" contributions.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Play keys

Lacking the piano I grew up with and crave at Christmas, Andi decided to dust off her high school flute and learn some carols. She began with "What Child is This?" Of course, Lucy wanted to "play keys!", so she got to join in awhile. No carol ever sounded sweeter.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sinterklaas, Kapoentje

Oops. I was feeling so sick Saturday night, I mixed up the dates and thought it was time to put out our wooden shoes for Sinterklaas. I was desperate to get into bed, and sad to think that this first Sinterklaas celebration that Lucy would remember would be so lacking. I had managed to get to the store for some once-a-year non-local citrus and a few tiny other treats, but had made no other preparations. But...

Over dinner, I told Lucy about Sinterklaas. She knew our wooden shoes well (my Dutch-descent family decorates with them), and I told her we'd put them by the door before bed. As soon as she got down from the table, she got her shoes and ran to set them right by the front door. We followed with ours, singing. In the tiny front hall, we held hands in a circle and sang "Sinterklaas, Kapoentje" again and again, dancing in that funny lifting-feet-high way of toddlers. It was glorious. I couldn't have wished for more.

In the morning, Lucy was thrilled to find an orange, a special candle, and raisins in her shoes. Thank goodness for the infectious joy of toddlers!

Happy St. Nicholas' day (even if the rest of you are all celebrating a day "late"!).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A crochet success!

Hooray! I finally made something that came out just as I'd hoped!

It's the first of what I hope will be three capelets for Christmas. (Ravelry details here.) I love it! Oh, I hope it'll look as cute on as I'm imagining it will (I'm kind of guessing at the size, but the style is very forgiving).

Horrible photo of cool vintage buttons (must learn how to use my camera!):

Yay! Two gifts down, only a million or so more to go...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yarn Along 4

Yep, I've been "reading" the same book for 3 weeks now. No reflection on the book, which is a good read--I've just been the kind of busy and exhausted that allows for only a page or two at a time.

I'm trying again with the cowl with bigger yarn, and again, it's coming out too small. I mean, seriously, this is half the scarf--look how skinny it is! Nothing like the picture I'd seen. Argh!! At this rate, I may never make a satisfactory Christmas present. I probably should have bought the exact same yarn she mentioned until I know more about what I'm doing. It's too bad, because I really love the color of this yarn, and think the person I'm making it for would, too. I've actually quit working on this scarf and started the matching hat to see if that'll convince me to keep going with this idea.

I'd think I was a big fat crochet failure if it weren't for my capelet, which came out pretty darn cute. I just have to weave in the ends and sew on the buttons, and then I'll show you.

Check out what other people are reading and making at Ginny's yarn along.