22 December 2006

Almost to the Finish Line

The Advent Candle is down to 22, 23, and 24.

There is only one more homemade Christmas card left to send.

The chocolate advent calendars from Windel Candy have just a few doors left to open (Grandma and Grandpa picked those up in Europe this fall; I'm sure the kids wish this could become an annual tradition at our house).

Only 7 thrums to go! I'm sick of thrummed mittens. They're so un-portable, what with all the little bits of wool (the thrums-to-be) to carry around. Plus the temperatures have been steadily in the 50s for the past couple of weeks, which isn't exactly thrum weather. Having said that, I'm alread considering my next thrum project, possibly thrum socks by Fleece Artist for my mom, who was quite impressed with the thrum concept and has perpetually cold feet (plus, bonus, if I'm ordering a kit from Fleece Artist anyway I'd have a pretty good excuse to get a Goldilocks shawl kit for myself).

Waldorf doll to finish. Kid1 decided she wanted a Waldorf doll for Christmas, but she wanted to make it herself. This is all her work so far. I'm going to crochet the wig cap using the mohair yarn the doll is propped up against, but that's the extent of my involvement (well, except answering questions -- I've done plenty of that, too).

And today features baking coffee cakes for neighbors. Also, joyously receiving package ordered from Magic Cabin OR driving to their order center (Ohio? Wisconsin?) and throttling the person who said I should select standard shipping to receive it in time for Christmas (it will be late afternoon before the UPS truck hits the neighborhood and I know which I'll be doing).

Merry Christmas, everyone! I'll not be back until sometime in the new year!

21 December 2006

Butter Cookies! (or, Why Santa Likes to Visit Our House)

This is the standard Santa-fare at our house, left out on Christmas Eve.

Quality of ingredients makes a huge difference! I tend towards white spelt flour and unsalted butter, mostly because those are a little fresher in our local stores.

2.5 c. white flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tblsp orange juice
1 Tblsp vanilla

In a 3qt mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, butter, egg, baking powder, orange juice and vanilla with an electric mixer. Beat at low speed, scraping sides of bowl often, until well mixed. Cover, chill 2-3 hours or until firm enough to be rolled. Roll out dough 1/3 at a time on a well floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with 3 inch cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake near center of 400F oven for 6-10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before decorating. (Sprinkle colored sugar on before baking; add food colouring to dough before refrigerating.)

Frosting (enough to cover gobs of cookies, possibly 2 batches):

4 c. confectioners sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
3-4 Tblsp milk
2 tsp vanilla

In a 1.5 qt. mixer bowl combine all ingredients. With an electric mixer beat at low speed, scraping sides of bowl often until frosting is fluffy. May be spread or used with decorator. Add food coloring as desired.

Two things that occur to me as I type this up: first, I still haven't found my good marble rolling pin a year after moving; second, I wonder if Santa has gone all gluten-free on us. I guess we can cover the GF issues by setting out some meringues, too, bearing in mind that if Santa chooses the meringues that leaves more butter cookies for me.

20 December 2006

Tuesday Teatime

To eat: Trader Joe's Patisserie Twists in cinnamon flavor. These are so sweet and sugary they were overwhelming. Kid1 said they reminded her of the little cinnamon twists from Taco Bell, but higher quality. Whatever. Not something I would purchase again.

To drink: Choice of tea. Kid1 chose Black Cherry Berry, while Kid2 opted for Rasberry Zinger, both by Celestial Seasonings.

To read: The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson (the book, not the website; unfortunately I didn't find the website until just now while looking for a link for the book; it looks pretty cool, doesn't it?).

When I got to the pages about sticking toothpicks in an orange to show how the earth rotates towards and away from the sun Kid2 commented, "I read those pages and didn't understand them." So we decided to skip reading over them again, and come back to it later when we had some citrus fruit around to work with, having eaten all of the grapefruit and clementines in the house.

19 December 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 84 Rotating

The lesson explains what rotation means in a mathematical sense, then has the student draw various rotations.

On one hand, the directions say to “measure only the 2.5 cm line,” deriving the rest of the lines and angles from your knowledge of how to draw geometric figures. On the other hand, the directions say to “construct every line accurately. Don’t guess.” Well. Tears of frustration ensue during the final rotation, which for some reason is wonky. I know the feeling from various projects I’ve done.

I am not allowed to help. I think she’s caught on that it takes me awhile to get up to speed on these lessons, as she’s journeying to places I either haven’t been for a long time, or perhaps never visited before. It occurs to me that it would’ve been a good idea to go through all the lessons myself a bit ahead of her.

18 December 2006

In Sickness and in Health

Saturday night we went to see The Big Guy. The line was and hour and a half long.

Santa chatted with every child for 3-5 minutes. He had a wonderful, deep voice -- as soothing as Jim Weiss, but lower. He exuded calm.

He's telling Kid1 that she has a very important role in the family, that of big sister, with a little sister who looks up to her. And then he discussed the true meaning of Christmas with the kids.

Kid2 put it all together -- the Old World look, his demeanor, the attitude he radiated, the way her feet and legs (which hurt from standing on bricks for an hour and a half) stopped hurting as soon as she stood next to him, possibly the way the elves were still cheerful after hours of dealing with the public. She whispered to me, "This is really St. Nicholas! That guy back in Ohio was just dressing up as Santa Claus to help him out. This is the real thing."


Sunday morning the red velour Christmas dresses debuted in all their glory. Except I forgot to take pictures.

Sunday night Kid2 put hers back on, Kid1 dressed in white on top/black on bottom, and we went to the Christmas Concert at our church (Kid1 was in it; her choir sang with the adult choir and orchestra, who were all in Black Tie). It was startlingly good. Really.

Afterwards was a cookie reception. My contribution was Peppermint-Chocolate Chip Meringues (naturally gluten-free!):

4 large egg whites (if they have any yolk at all they won't whip well; just sayin')
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt (I used coarse)
1 cup granulated sugar
6 candy canes
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 225F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Unwrap candy canes and place in large ziploc bag. Beat with pan until they're crushed into small pieces (ideally, assign this task to children and insert earplugs).

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt with a mixer until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes). Reduce speed to low and add sugar 1 tblsp at a time, beating a few seconds after every addition. Increase beater speed to high, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold in crushed candy canes and chocolate chips.

Drop by well rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, about an inch apart (these don't spread while baking). Bake both sheets for 1 hour, then switch positions in the oven (top rack to bottom rack) and bake 1 more hour. Turn off oven; allow oven to cool completely before removing (I left them until the next morning since I was busy and didn't need the oven). Store airtight. Makes about 32-36 crunchy, sticky mouthfuls of peppermint and chocolate.

And this morning? Small child with sore throat and 102F temperature. I think the late nights and sugar intake might've had something to do with that. So today's agenda includes lots of chamomile tea, snuggling up for stories, and watching Miracle on 34th Street.

14 December 2006

Drowning in a Sea of Red

In the lower right corner: a card from my Secret Pal, which also had a sweet little charm inscribed with the word "Inspire" (perfect sentiment for a mom). (And, yes, I finally figured it out after she pretty much said, "Yoohoo, it's me!" while waving wildly.)

Then, of course, are the mittens. Mitten number 4 is on the needles. Fourth mitten syndrome has set in. I only work on this when I'm away from home. Because when I'm away from home I can't sew....

Yes, the main pile of red is 2 velour dresses which should have been completed 2 weeks ago. Since taking the photo I have wrestled them down to the handwork of hemming (sorry, no machine hemming on bias-cut velour in this house -- I'm not that crazy). I've alternated between loving and hating this velour. I'll be sewing along thinking, "Ooooh, so soft! Pretty, pretty softness! I must making myself something out of this," and vowing to never put another zipper in velour again in my life (I have done at least 5 zipper insertions between the 2 dresses; mind you, each dress only has one zipper, but the velour kept squirming away from it's designated spot in spite of massive amounts of hand basting).

Company coming for the weekend tomorrow. I am up to my ankles in little velour fluffs. Think it can pass as Christmas decor?

13 December 2006

Happy St. Lucia Day!

Cool link with more info about St. Lucia here.

And, check it out, at the bottom of that page is a link to this crown of candles. Let me tell you, Kid1 would adore having one of those crowns. Of course, the whole idea is that the daughter rises early in the morning before it's light out, puts on the crown and serves her parents coffee and lussekatter. Problem with scenario (other than the fact that I can't stand coffee and have no interest in whipping up a batch of lussekatter due to lack of time and saffron): Kid1 never ever gets up that early; Kid2 is erratic about early morning. It is currently 7:45a.m., the sky is light and bright, and not a daughter is stirring.

So. I think our St. Lucia festivities will occur at tea time. We will have hot chocolate and cookies (something from Trader Joe's). We will read about St. Lucia/St. Lucy. The girls will probably dress in white, but we will not put candles on our heads.

12 December 2006


The Cap That Is Not a Chemo Cap is on its way to Mexico now. It's flying on a private jet, which is a pretty nice way to travel. I'm not sure what mail service is like between here and Mexico.

I can tell you this, though: mail service between here and Canada is certainly interesting. I can send a Secret Pal package to New Zealand in less time than it takes to get a package to Canada.

For example, this ornament just went out yesterday:

for the Secret Pal swap over at TheDenimJumper. Who knows when it will get there -- one week? two weeks?

Obviously, this is blowing my Secret Pal cover (if my Secret Pal reads this blog, which who knows; the SiteMeter stopped working when I switched to BloggerBeta and I've not worked up enough of a caring attitude to change it), but what the heck. The official end of the swap was yesterday. Plus, I have this uneasy feeling it will be mashed to perfect flatness somewhere between here and there.

My kids were so excited when I started working on this. "Hey, are you making another fairy?" It's been years since I got out the painted beads, the pipe cleaners, the wool felt and roving and embroidery floss. These days I also need to pull out the magnifying eyeglasses and a strong light. Sigh.

The basic idea comes from Sally Mavor's Felt Wee Folk , except without an acorn cap. Instead, she has a halo of crocheted metallic floss, and a metallic thread loop going up through her head for hanging on the tree. Also, in a bold move (for me) I didn't wrap her legs in floss. I used strips of white roving. Not that you can see it under her skirt, but it's there, and it looks all hazy and angelic.

So, if you receive a package that contains this little angel, or something that looks like maybe it used to be this little angel, then ta-da it's from me.

11 December 2006

Road Trip

This past weekend we went to visit MrV's family, who live about this far away:

Cap of Rowan Calmer in black, knit on size 5 double points. Actually, the ribbing and a few inches of the body were done; I just finished the body and did the decreases on the trip. The cap is for a friend on MrV's in Mexico who has cancer and has shaved his head, hence the cotton yarn. (For the record, it isn't a chemocap. MrV was very specific about that. Not A Chemocap, got it?)

We stayed and visited for about half a thrummed mitten:

plus time spent eating, going to a Christmas show , eating, opening gifts, snacking, playing games, grazing, etc.

Then we came home, a trip that took the rest of the mitten and on into the next one.

Now it's time to set the needles aside and send out the cards, wrap more presents, mail more presents, finish some Christmas sewing, and make some cookies.

07 December 2006

Counting the Days

Just to give you insight into how things work here ...

When it's your turn to take the figure out of the pocket and put it on the picture, should you be allowed to put it anywhere. For example, should you be allowed to put a cow up in the air over the stable? Or does your freedom to do this intrude on your family's freedom to enjoy a somewhat normal-looking Christmas scene?

06 December 2006

O Christmas Tree!

The lady behind me commented, " 'Tannenbaum' is Latin for 'Christmas tree'. So now he knows another language -- Latin!"

I couldn't help it. I just HAD to turn around and correct her. "No, it isn't Latin. 'Tannenbaum' is German."

Because I might be bad at Latin and clueless at German, but I know my Christmas carols.

Kid2 is in the middle of the photo in the red outfit.

05 December 2006

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

On Tuesdays I upload an update of what we did in math for the week.

RightStart Geometry:

Lesson 83 Reflecting

This lesson zips by quickly and painlessly. We do not have the optional Reflecta or Mira or GeoReflector. I suspect that Kid1 was able to visualize what would happen if she had used them.

Frankly, my only contact with the material is hearing Kid1 tell Kid2 that it’s an easy lesson. The drawing portion is much quicker than the tangrams of earlier lessons.

01 December 2006

December! Snow! Advent!

We've had about a week of sunny days with highs around 70F (21C). We were out playing softball and running around in Tshirts. No holiday mood at all, not even a little. But now that it's December, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! High of about 25F (around -12.7C, I think). Snow! Time to get out Christmas stuff!

We got out the Advent candle (half way down the page if you follow the link), ready to burn down another number each day. We got out our copy of A Light in the Lantern (second book on linked page), ready to read.

And, I'm still knitting frantically on the thrummed mittens. They were to be a Christmas gift, but with the current weather, well, they're needed now. We've already been sledding twice today (yes, my kids that can't get up before about 9am, who sit around in their jammies half the morning, they were over at The Big Hill by 8:30 this morning, making the first runs down the hill).

We have worked on Christmas cards. We have Christmas CDs playing. We've been watching ... umm, well, we've been watching Star Trek Next Generation and Deep Space 9, but we have gotten out the Christmas DVDs and videos, so, you know, we could maybe watch one if they play an episode we don't like.

Must go shovel snow.