Friday, December 25, 2015

Nutcrackers

Exactly one week before Christmas I had an idea for something I wanted to make for my grandsons.  Nothing like a rapidly approaching deadline to get the creative wheels turning.

It started when my youngest g'son (3 1/2) mentioned he had asked Santa for a nutcracker.  Go figure?

 I checked Google Images to get some ideas and confirm this was something I was willing to take on with only seven days until Christmas.  What was there to lose?  So, yes, I committed.

Hats were the first thing on the agenda.  No time to order those on line, but then I remembered...


I had some New Year's party hats in my storage closet from several years ago.  (There are some things I don't get rid of on the off chance they might come in handy some day.....no, I don't have balls of salvaged twine in my basement, but I do have my share of plastic bags.)  For those who don't understand the twine reference, try asking someone who is seventy or older.  They can probably explain it.


Spray paint took away the theme and I had a neutral ground.

With a few pieces of trim, an upside down ornament, and a gold medallion I had some passable nutcracker hats.


The boys already had jogging pants that would work .  I just needed long sleeve shirts that would coordinate with the pants.  By a stroke of luck, the first store I tried had what I needed on clearance.  The force was with me.
That bright blue stripe is a piece of felt I attached to the black pair before I remembered I was going to need some before photos.

I used a wide striped ribbon on the blue pants.  Any stitching on regular clothing was done with VERY long stitches so it would be easy to remove when the novelty of the costume wore off.

I made a stop at Party City thinking I would find some inexpensive rubber or plastic swords.  They did have a wide assortment, but the inexpensive ones were more like pirate swords and I knew my daughter would not appreciate the toy weapon.

 I decided to use a yardstick for one and a cardboard wrapping paper tube for the other one.


 JoAnn's had felt in bright colors on sale.   Yay! I have a pretty good stash of trim so I planned to make do with what I had.  It was too early in the process to even know what I would need and if I got in a jam, I still had a few days to hit the fabric store again.


From there it was a 'figure-it-out-as-you-go' process.  A little machine sewing, a little hand stitching and lots of hot glue.


I made these cuffs for one of the shirts.

The other one got a gray band with some white and gold trim.

This is the yardstick covered in silver wrapping paper with black rick rack glued along the 'sharp' edge.  The handle is a short piece of cardboard tubing.  I covered it in gift wrap and added the black electrical tape on the ends.

The younger one gets the bejeweled scepter.

The white cap is the roll from a tape dispenser. I needed something substantial to hold the wooden furniture leg.  It's all about using what you have on hand.

The tops were loose fitting and open on the sides.  A belt cinched them into place at the waist.

In theory the belt should have done the trick, but on squirmy little boys connecting it under the arms would have been helpful.

Belts, gloves and mustaches completed the outfits.

There was a very short lesson in marching but the boys were quick to get that righ



Getting pictures was a little tough.  It's hard for a boy not to swing or wave a sword.  Then there hats that tipped and mustaches that dipped.  All in all they did very well and what we didn't capture in pictures, we will hold in our memories.
Various family members took pictures with a variety of  cameras and phones.  Each has it's own quirks when trying to forward and copy.  Enlarging the above photo ruins the image.  Granted I'm not the best at problem solving when it comes to technical aspects so this one remains this size.





Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bringing Out The Bulbs

As you know from my last post, my camera bit the dust and I had to rely on others for Thanksgiving pictures.  However, Santa came a little early and...

I now have a new refurbished Canon SX600HS, thanks to my son-in-law who researched the best deals for me.

My intention for holiday decorating was to put up a tree and hang a wreath on the door. Day by day that turned into a little more, and then a little more until I had hauled way too many decorations down from the third floor. I forged ahead with a bauble here and some shiny beads there until the place started closing in on me.  Some of what you see was dialed back later when I regained my senses.  



This is one of those places.  I started with the bowl of pink ornaments and then added the silver trees and candles.  Next came the white beads and after taking this picture, I added white pine cones. Maybe it was my mood and not the decorations.  Who knows for sure, but I removed everything on the buffet but the bowl of glass ornaments.  What can I say?  When I start second guessing myself, it's time to take a break.  I slept on it and now I'm trying to figure out a way to keep the string of white beads.  Not there yet, but taller candles sticks and white tapers seem to be helping. I'm not holding my breath or this post for a satisfactory picture.

On the opposite wall is a mantel with two overlapping mirrors.  I kept it simple here.  The mirrors reflect the tree from the living room so there was no need to add a lot more.

 I did add a white poinsettia and removed a piece of art work.

Sorry about the yellow light.  It's very rainy today and I have not used this camera enough to know how to compensate for the lighting.

The automatic setting took care of it with this closeup.


Last year I did this same silver tree in teal and black which you can see in this post.  This year I decided to play up the pink accents in the house.

 I have a thing for pretty wrapping paper and ribbon, so every year I add a few more rolls during those 50-75% off sales.  Note the Designers Guild tree skirt. (actually a 1/2 yard remnant from a job I did about six years ago) It's nice to finally be able to use it for something.


 Just trying out some picmonkey special effects here.


 I do like the smaller packages, so I'm noting that for next year.

Notice the pillow in the chair.  I bought two of these pillows in the early stages of remodeling.  Then I found the rug.  The rug trumped the pillows.

 I compromised by buying fabric and making new covers for the pillows. That beautiful fuchsia and silver was relegated to a shelf in the storage closet.

Hallelujah! This was the perfect opportunity to bring back the original shams.

 I have been giving my new camera a workout but I will resist showing you all the shots.

This wire wreath has had many incarnations.  This year it takes on a pinkish tone and hangs on the front door.

I checked back to 2013.  Looks like I used this wreath on the front door that year too.


The backdoor gets a greeting in metal with a dotted black tulle background and bow.  I had used this before in gold but a little squirt of spray paint turned it silver for a fresh look.

I added a few very simple touches throughout the house.

 The tree in this photo was purchased a few years ago at St. Vincent de Paul for $3.  It has a raised platform on the back for a large candle.

 Now for the exterior. I love outdoor lights but I really don't like putting them up, and I really dislike the extension cord trail.  I think about it each year but the answer is always the same.  "Forget it."  My tree is visible through the front window so that counts, right?


This is a little outdoor display using more traditional colors.  It seemed a little odd to be setting up this display in seventy degree weather on December 12th.


The flocked garland helped create the mood,  but not quite enough.

So I used picmonkey to give it a more realistic atmosphere.  If the truth be known, that's how I prefer my snow these days.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner Cellar Style

Disclaimer:  None of the photographs in this blog post were taken by me.  When I tried taking pictures a few days before Thanksgiving, I realized no matter how many times I pressed the ON button it was not going to cooperate.  Consequently, I had to wait for my sister to arrive with her i-Phone.  I added a few shots taken by Jodie as well as a few from my niece, Stephanie.  These are my lifesaving photographers.

My daughter, Jodie
My niece, Stephanie
and my sister, Margaret.


If you follow this blog you know that my dining room table that seats twelve was replaced by one that barely seats six. I made a few attempts to sell the large table and chairs but it still remains in my basement.



Somewhere in late October I started thinking "family Thanksgiving" and decided it was probably going to be at my house this year.  Although having guests balance their loaded plates on their laps might have been a good you tube video, I decided my rugs might not recover.

The idea came to me to create some atmosphere in the basement where I could use the large table and easily fit in a couple smaller tables and even have a short one with child chairs for the kids.

I hung a candlelier from the rafters over the big table.

I scrounged up six extra chairs to make seating for twelve.

With this table and...

a round table for four, I could accommodate 16 adults.



 I scattered many more candles of various sizes around the area and added pine cones,

fall leaves and dried hydrangeas.

I knew preparing the food in my new kitchen would be a dream.  Guess I blocked out the fact that most of my seldom used pans and serving bowls are now stored in the basement.  So there were more than a few trips up and down the stairs.
 The pumpkin cheesecake pie went into the oven at 9 o'clock the night before.  Needless to say both Marg and I were pretty tired and incapable of converting ounces to cups by that time, so a little more pumpkin went into the mix than should have. We caught ourselves before we had to call it a total loss.

The cranberry part of the cranberry upside down cake.

Baked, covered and waiting for the ginger whipped cream topping.

You know the cook's worst fear:  running out of food.  Turns out one turkey would have been enough  but we avoided the other biggest fear:  NO LEFTOVERS!

The island from the old kitchen made a nice buffet table. Stephanie mixed up a great salad that contained sweet potatoes.  It's quite delicious so if you want the recipe  you will find it here.

The dessert table without the pie that was upstairs waiting for the meringue.

Jodie prepared our traditional cranberry salad as well as the gravy.


Therese made her great raisin stuffing, and Marg whipped up the corn casserole which had been tested and approved long ago.

Once all the food was carried down the stairs, the guests were led to the feast.

Gabriel brought his own straw just in case Grandma didn't have one.

The boys seemed to think eating in the cellar was a fine idea.  They had the run of the place and they took advantage of that.

Somewhere during dinner they both ended up at the big table.

Scott and Andy were content to have their own table.

The appetizers of goat cheese and roasted cranberries were pretty but they won't be a repeat recipe.


Since my red toile dishes didn't sell at my last garage sale, I decided to use them one more time before I put them on Craig's list.  Margaret was helping by making sure the table looked just so.  She noticed the price stickers on the bottom of the cups and thought I would be happy to have those removed.  Before she got too far removing stickers she mentioned it to me at which point I explained that I had researched each plate, cup and saucer to get the going price and those stickers were my only reference.
That got a good laugh when we retold the story during dinner.

PS: Somehow everyone missed getting a picture of John carving the turkey.  And by the end of the evening when he was lugging piles of dishes up the stairs, everyone had put their cameras aside for the night.  Thanks for your help, John.