Thursday, December 24, 2015

Extra Special Homemade Paper Dolls!

 Gwen and Caroline have paper dolls that they rarely play with. I thought paper dolls just weren't their thing. But we visited with Grandma and Grandpa in Idaho in early November and they discovered a set there that they played with for hours at a time! It was kind of miraculous! In trying to determine what made Grandma's paper dolls so much better than ours at home (besides the obvious fact that they are GRANDMA's and therefore AWESOME), Gwen indicated 3 things:
1- she liked that these dolls could share each others' clothes. They were all the exact same size and pose, so everyone could wear everything. 
2- she liked the fun backgrounds included in the set. 
3- she liked the pages for designing your own dolls and clothes, letting your imagination guide you.

Armed with this information, I determined to make her a set of awesome paper dolls for Christmas! I started with these free printable dolls from Babalisme that I'd been saving on Pinterest for years until just the right occasion. So cute and did I mention absolutely free?
I knew they would be perfect because she's designed all her dolls (boys included!) with the same size and pose, so all clothing would be mutually interchangeable! Plus, her designs are just adorable, the perfect small size that my girls obsess over!

I printed out each set from Babalisme, but wanted to expand her Elsa and Anna dolls to include Frozen Fever outfits. And I wanted a mermaid. And Sophia the First. and more princess clothes. and, HONEY, I wanted cool hair styles! Time to design my own!
I used tracing paper of Babalisme's dolls to make sure I got the shape just right, then used images I found on Google to get ideas for dress designs. I transferred my tracing paper designs to card stock using carbon paper. Time to add color!
I love how they turned out! I think the girls are going to love them too! I think my 3 favorites are Elsa's Frozen Fever dress, the blue princess inspired by a Ruth Sanderson illustration, and the blue butterfly gown! Do you have a favorite?

Next was cutting out, laminating, then cutting out again. We're going to try using sticky gluey-strips (the ones that attach credit cards to paper when they come in the mail?) to hold on clothes and accessories. 

and just to make sure I covered all the bases, I prepared backgrounds for them, a little box for storing everybody and their clothes, and 2 sheets of uncolored dresses and hair styles for the girls to color to their exact desires! We are going to have fun coloring together! (I think I'll be nice and let them use my set of colored pencils. :)

So excited for the grand unveiling tomorrow for Christmas! You'd think I was getting them myself, I'm that stoked!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Nutcracker: An Amazing First!

Since Gwen has taken ballet for going on 2 years now and has shown a love for expanding her abilities in dance, AND since she gets an ever-so-slight discount for being a Balletmet student (meaning, she takes her lessons in a school staffed by the same professional ballet company that astounds all of Columbus with their amazing performances year after year!), we decided she should see her first live ballet performance!
And what better first ballet than that of The Nutcracker?
We surprised her with our plans just a few days before the event, mostly so she could become very absorbed in our copy of the story, memorize all the various dances, and be prepared to inform me that they switched up the order on a couple things or whisper anxiously "that wasn't in the book!" when a character like Grandma was introduced or when Mother Ginger was played by a man!
So excited! The rest of these photos are courtesy of my friend, Wendy, who can be credited for suggesting the outing for our daughters, driving our party downtown, bringing chocolate graham crackers to share, and just being excellent company for the production. She also had a camera where I did not. :)
The Grand Theatre downtown is VERY late Baroque, very ornate, and even had people taking photos in the bathrooms because of the fancy tapestry and chandelier! Gwen was duly impressed with all of it. A little too much gold and brocade for my personal tastes, but it contributed to the 'specialness' of the occasion for Gwen. She really thought she was at a pretty fancy princess event!
She got to have her picture taken with the Mouse King and the Sugar Plum Fairy! 
Actually, OUR Sugar Plum Fairy was Asian, but I didn't point out this fact to Gwen, who didn't notice the discrepancy.
I loved Herr Drosselmeier's mechanical doll (the interpretation of dance as a mechanized toy was really fabulous!), the snowflakes with their handfuls of glittery snow, and the brilliant use of a huge silk sheet during the Arabian dance that created such interesting compositions!
But for the record, I have to say our Sugar Plum Fairy performed the most stunning solo dance I've ever seen! I get the impression that matinees are usually the less-prominent dancers and that the big stars are saved for the evening performances (which would make sense), but I honestly can't imagine a more artfully done performance than the one that our SPF gave us! Well done, bravo! I'm incredibly glad I got to see this lovely ballet! (Let's be honest, taking Gwen was really just a cover so I had an excuse to go! lol!)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sweet Sugary Christmas Goodness!

I LOVE gingerbread houses! They are quaint, lovely, cute yet beautiful... and they remind me of all that is delicious at Christmas time!
 I did not grow up making them with my family as a child; my mom was all about the sugar cookie decorating! She'd have bowls and bowls of toppings, bags and bags of perfectly flavored buttercream icing in all different hues, and we'd just go to town on those cookies! Confession: I would load up those cookies with so many candies, you couldn't see ANY cookie, the icing was nearly a half inch thick contributing to a full inch of sugary goodness on TOP of the sugar cookie itself, and a single bite could induce a sugar coma! I never could quite understand why Santa didn't eat all of my cookie, if he ate any at all. Sometimes my 'gorgeous monstrosities' were the only cookie NOT consumed, and I thought it was because I didn't put on enough decoration! 

Well. Now I understand. I was meant to use my decoration desires on GINGERBREAD HOUSES rather than sugar cookies because I needn't feel compelled to consume the house! 
Caroline's designs tend to be minimalist. She goes for silly stories like putting a tree and a bear inside because he's hiding behind the Christmas tree, a bear upside down because he fell off the roof, or a bear standing on another bear's head because he is trying to reach the chimney!
Gwen, on the other hand, clearly has the same tendency towards excessive candy use that I had as a child! Check out her work of art! She spent a couple of hours on hers, perfecting each detail! Long after all the rest of us had moved on to other activities, she was still sitting at the kitchen table, content with her icing and goodies! I'm going to call it the "Rococo" house!

She would call it the "dragon" house, because she put little dragons all over the exterior. The green one there nestled between the white spice drops has his smarties wings folded behind him. The orange one in the photo above has landed clinging to the wall with his(?) wings spread out to the sides. Gwen used every color of gummy bear for her collection of dragon specimens. 

She was very proud of her heavy-laden house!

Emmett was just happy to sit at the table with us and chow down on smarties, jelly beans, chocolate balls, and raisins! 

and on a side note to self: making the houses for the first time this year wasn't as challenging as everyone makes it sound. What was troublesome was the way the dough curled up at the edges where they lay on the slight curl of the parchment paper during baking. It made for less-than-ideal right angle alignment when constructing the houses. Nothing that a good royal icing couldn't solve, but I think next year we'll just go back to the reliability of graham crackers. They look just as lovely under the adornment of candies!

Isn't Christmas delicious? :)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Here's to Gettin Things DONE!!! (sewing projects and such)

And yes, I'm aware that is poor grammar. Mrs. Flint would remind me that turkeys are done and people are finished. True true. But whatever. Sometimes I holler "I am DONE" with a hearty red neck inflection and it feels really good! But I digress. :)

I've managed to finish up a number of projects around here. Most of which I can't show you because they are Christmas presents to various peoples and I would hate for anyone to catch a glimpse early! But here's what I CAN share:

I got this gorgeous dress for my birthday! Wouldn't you know it was 6 inches too long (sheesh, am I THAT short?) but I couldn't just do a regular hem because the print design on the bottom would all be lost. I needed to take it up at the waist. Which got a little bit tricky because of the surplice cut of the bodice and the A-line cut for the skirt portion of the dress. Blah blah blah you don't want the gritty details, but suffice it to say after 2 rocky attempts I got it taken care of and now have a truly fabulous dress (and I used the fabric I removed to make the headband)! Very flattering too!

I also finished our family Christmas stockings! 
You'll recall (perhaps?) that I began this project last January after being inspired by these stockings, but wanting to eliminate Santa and snowman and just have animals. I needed more critters for my whole family to match. I decided that would be easiest to accomplish if I designed them myself, so that is what I did.

It was fun!... and lengthy... I worked on them all. year. long. Just ask my book club friends (shout out ladies! I know you read my blog, L.R!). I was embroidering stockings all summer!

There are definitely tons of flaws (don't look too closely!), but a sewing friend once told me if a guy in a semi driving past at 80 mph wouldn't notice the flaws, they aren't important. Do I believe that?...not really... but it is a nice sentiment I try to convince myself of for the less-glaring imperfections. That lopsided Quasimodo beak on the penguin is what gives her character, right? That's the charm of home made! 

Anyway, I'm pleased with how everything came together and I think the designs turned out really cute. I'm also happy to be FINISHED so that I can move on to other projects without feeling guilty. 

I've got a bunny all cut out for our next family member (we're not expecting, just to dispel that rumor before it gets started) and enough stocking material to do 4 more (I'm not making any promises about family size or offspring quotas, I just bought more red fabric than I need!) 
Which little guy/gal is your favorite? Personally, I'm rather fond of the elk with the ornament hanging off his tines. That's Eric. 

Oh, and I completed 2 years of family photo books, with another year almost finished. Hopefully by February. 
The best part about this project is walking down memory lane!
Remember the nearly-naked fairy wing day?
And who could forget the horny toad in Grandma's baby grand piano incident?
and this Duck Dynasty Christmas picture (for a collection of our favorite Duck recipes) still cracks me up!

Eric has had some projects too: our lemon tree is perking back up thanks to Eric's light set up. It gets dismally gray around here in winter and we have no south-facing window, so our tree just wasn't getting enough sun shine. Thank you, Eric, for saving our tree! Our lemon is turning yellow!

Doesn't if feel wonderful to be able to say, "I am Duuuuuu-uuuuuuhn!" lol

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Perfect Imperfections-- the REAL story is so much more intriguing than the ideal!

So many 'perfect' expectations develop based on seemingly perfect Pinterest ideas or lovely blog photography. I find I love the real stories so much more than the Potemkin village ideals we feel like we have to live up to. I think the lyrics "love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections" pretty much sums up how I feel about the photo shoot  for family pics we had up at the cabin. My MIL is so talented and I look forward to photo time with her every year... confession, I may have been planning and scheming on our clothing selections for about 3 weeks. Maybe... I was a little anxious when the snow obscured the rust and golden colors from the landscape. What if our color scheme was affected? I needn't have worried. Plenty of golden colors around the cabin and the snow made the lighting perfect! 
Gwen is old enough now to actually follow photographer instructions, so hers turned out really pretty. The only 'perfect imperfection' is the hint of black eye that you can see in some shots--- she had a run-in with cousin F just a couple days prior to our photo session and got a good shiner for it!
But most shots you can't even see it, right? At least, I can't. And I know it is there. So I'm betting you didn't notice.
Wow. Such a boring story she fell asleep. Standing up. Outside in the cold. 
It was a comedic experience with Caroline! She was cold, so we'd take a few pics, slip on her coat and move locations, whip it off and take a few more... You'd think from the bizarre photos that we were demanding she sit perfectly still for a long time rather than asking for her attention for such brief moments! But I LOVE the collection of totally random photos, goofy faces, strange poses, and tongue shots we got when she was instructed to smile! 
There was no hiding this boy's goose egg. Right there on his forehead from a tumble on the stairs THE DAY BEFORE the photos! He was less enthusiastic about his personal photo shoot, mostly because he just woke up and is a rather snuggle-y boy for about 40 minutes or so after waking up and getting pictures taken meant he got set down. Tragedy. 
Getting ALL the faces to look at the camera and smile at the same time is honestly a Herculean feat! Goofy hooting face for Gwen and unimpressed Emmett. 
Emmett has had enough. 
Change of location? Silly smug faces...
or back of the head?...
Does ANYONE look good in this one? Is anyone even aware of the camera?
Seriously. Please tell me your photo sessions go like this too!
But we did manage to get quite a few successful shots! We have Grandpa's face-making skills to thank for this beauty!
But I have to say, I think this one seems so natural and fun, Caroline's arms so silly and Emmett's smile so genuine with that ever-present-teething-finger in his mouth... 
I love the perfect imperfection of it!
We got some really beautiful ones of the kids, too. My favorite of Gwen. 
And, miracle of miracles, despite all those crazy poses, we managed a beautiful one of Caroline too!
And this cute one of the girls together.
My absolute favorite of the whole shoot: Emmett's fluffy pokey-up hair, the little curls over his ears, his sparkly eyes... and that wonderful bluish knot on his forehead! Definitely perfect imperfection!

All photo creds to Mama Allan! Thank you!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Having Fun While Making Do!

I recently finished reading a thoroughly researched, interesting, and expectedly disheartening documentary about the Donner Party. I was struck by many things while reading, not the least of which was how deeply grateful I am for the health and well-being of my beloved family. As Thanksgiving approaches, I know lots of folks have gratitude on the mind. Me too. I think a large part of gratitude is being content with what we have. I tell my kids 
"you get what you get and you're grateful for it," 
which is a slightly elevated spiritual version of the more behaviorally-motivated "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit". Though to be honest, I'd settle for the lesser law most days and consider it a win! But I digress. My point is, I think if we are grateful for what we HAVE rather than dwelling on what we are lacking, we can truly be happy. 

A recent experience newly validated this idea for me.
We went out to visit Eric's family last week. Took a jaunt out to the family cabin...and woke to more weather than we were anticipating! 
The view off the deck in the morning. 
These big, huge, powdery flakes came down all morning and into the afternoon. 
A very small percentage never made it to the ground, finding a melting point on warm skin and hair and--- very occasionally--- inside a gaping mouth. 
The girls' warmest clothing was their footie pjs. 
PJ exploration during the snow.
 After dinner, Eric went out with Papa to see about filling our freezer with elk steaks. Unbelievably, they spotted a herd just a hillside away from the cabin. Eric says it was the longest shot he's ever made--- we heard it while getting dessert for the kids! The early sighting and close proximity to the cabin meant the boys could get home to the comfort of the cabin relatively early. They couldn't haul all the meat in one trip, though, so they hung what they couldn't carry in a tree and informed all of us their plan to retrieve it in the morning. 
 No snow pants. No snow shoes. No water-proof gloves. Gwen didn't even have a hat (she borrowed mine). But we were all eager to make do with what we had and hike out with the boys in the morning to witness their creative attempt at floating the elk meat across the river rather than hauling it around the long way. 
 We rode part of the way in the Rhino. 
Emmett got passed around a bit.

Then we hiked.

The girls thought they needed to poke their walking poles into every ice-crusted puddle. 

 Caroline's garbage bag gaiters billowed out around her when she sat down to make some snowballs.

This should have been a video! Eric high-stepped it across the icy cold river like a 'zephyr set free' (name that movie?), motivated by the fact that his pants were not INTENDED to be waterproof or warm when submerged in a mountain stream. 
 Repeat the action, with a little less agility, dragging a heavy elk quarter (sort of floating).

We laughed safely from the bank and had a great time watching the men struggle--- perhaps because we were glad it was them, not us?
 Emmett wouldn't keep his too-large mittens on. But he seemed happy to be outside as long as no one set him down in the cold stuff. :)
 Heading back. 
My awesome attire: trashbag gaiters, sweatshirt with no coat, and my infinity scarf serving as my hat since Gwen was wearing the real one. blue Babushka meets trash space ranger!
  Of course, reading about the Donner party gave me some pretty good perspective. Hard to complain when I had clothes, shoes, a warm cabin to head back to, and plenty of nutritious food to eat. Isn't it amazing how much we take for granted?
 It was a lovely jaunt with beauty all around us. 
  Everyone had a great time!
 There was also a makeshift sledding excursion. 
 Daddy Manpower was required. 
 Then we switched to Rhino power!
 Caroline was absolutely thrilled!... and then equally devastated when the cable tore through the plastic sled and the fun slid to a halt. 
 Snow angels instead?
 Of course, Gramma was prepared with some fun indoor activities when the girls wanted to thaw out and let their wet mittens dry by the fire. 

All in all, I'd say the few days we enjoyed up at the snowy cabin were unhampered by our lack of fancy gear or even simple gear (like a hat). In fact, I think perhaps the absence of stuff got us to be creative, think outside the box, and create really awesome memories along the way (who could forget the trash bag gaiters?!?)! Just reaffirms for me: 

You can have a GREAT time while "making do"!