Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Back Up a Bit

Angels We Have Heard on High

My friend, Gardner E., volunteers in my classroom on Thursday mornings. She does a variety of art projects with my children. What you see here is a few of the Christmas stitcheries they made for their parents.
First she teaches them basic stitches, then they can choose from an assortment of angels, each holding a different instrument. For the dress, the students decide on color and stitch type.
These projects we do are, have mercy, of the hair pulling kind I'm telling you. Most of my fourth graders have no experience with textiles/fibers, or needles.
"Mrs. E, this string got tangled."
"It is yarn dear, and it doesn't tangle itself."
"Mrs. Paris, I parked my needle like you said, but it's gone."
"Sweetie, if it was parked in your fabric, it would be there."
"Mrs. Whoever is handy (cuz you know Mr. E goes and home and leaves me with the little tailors/seamstresses) how do you make a knot in the back again?"
"Darling, remember, you don't make a knot, you pull the yarn under several stitches on the back side."
"Uh, how can I do that, there isn't enough string."
"Well, that's why we've been saying since September that you always, always leave a couple needle lengths of yarn."
It is a lovely picture though, when 24 wee heads are bowed over their canvas, so intent, working like the shoemaker's elves.
The problem, one finishes in 3 sessions, while three are still stitching at the very last minute on the day we dismiss. Praise be, 24 beautiful angels were completed and wrapped by the bell that day. Now, one or two had no additional stars adorning the background and one had no instrument (no arms either actually, but since there was no instrument to play....), but all were perfectly adorable.
This kiddo worked so hard and was determined to see it through, even though he had picked a tough instrument to create.
The fellow who created this little masterpiece was absent on the first day of instruction, due to a broken elbow. I was worried that there was no way he could manage this, but he worked and worked at it. When he made her horn, he could see that it was too big and didn't look right. He shared with me his disappointment. I told him he had the option of just having the gold be part of her dress, but I thought if just took out the outline he'd made, it would be okay. He wanted her to have an instrument, so he opted for carefully pulling out those stitches that took him so much time in the first place, bless his heart. He said he was okay if she didn't have stars, but he wanted her to have arms. I asked if he wanted help, but he wanted it to all be his own work. Kudos to such a hardworking young man. I think his angel is divine.
I wrap them around mat board, so no rough edges show. Gardner E. brings wooden stamps from a trip to India and they stamp their own wrapping paper. So, their gift in it's entirety is a work of their heart and hands. I love it.
Thanks Gardner E. -how much for hair replacement? A tad premature perhaps since knitting starts in one week. Yee Haw!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

We are Santa's Elves

It's the wee hours of Christmas morning. Tah dah, we all survived Christmas Eve.
I have to say, it seemed to be a big black cloud hanging over me, and I feel a weight lifted off this morning.
Seeing as how I switched my little (well, not so little anymore with grandbaby 6 on the way) immediate family circle to the week before Christmas, I had been in the habit of spending the day at Kaye's and the afternoon and evening with my Mom on the eve of Christmas.
Mom and Auntie G-Lou weren't able to do as much food wise, so on Friday I made some yummy homemade sauce and put together a couple of huge pasta dishes, some garlic rolls and cinnamon rolls for the party yesterday.
Jake the Baker made multiple cakes and donuty goodness.
Ol' Mother Hubbard brought a poinsettia and had our favorite cookie maker prepare honorary Kaye cookies, "K's" and teapots decorated with more poinsettias - too adorable. She had an ornament made with Kaye's name and the date for us. Then Tish had each of us sisters a piece of jewelry made with five peas in a pod (one of each of the sister's birthstones being a tiniest pea), with a little disc stamped "Kaye" and our initials. So very sweet.
Mom hung in there pretty well.
Drummer Boy and his wifey and little Blue-eyed Boy looking handsome before being so silly.
Silliness does help, doesn't it?
In an interesting turn of events, I was blessed to spend Christmas Eve preparing someone's Christmas dinner after all. I always hated it that Kaye couldn't tend to her own Christmas preparing, but I loved helping them prepare and spending those Christmas Eve days with her. I will long treasure those memories in my heart.
She was so happy on this particular Christmas Eve, helping peel potatoes for their traditional supper of Honey Baked Ham and potato salad.
Well, a dear friend broke her foot on Friday, so again, I was blessed to head out to her place after Mom's party and throw her Christmas fixings together. I surely am sorry that she is laid up, and wished she wasn't, but I was glad I was available to help out. It felt so very Christmasy, with the tree lit, the music on, other friendly elves furiously wrapping her presents, eating Christmas fudge, all the good smells of Christmas, laughing, talking, tearing up, loving each other like Jesus loves us- Christmas.
Well, I best sign-off and get on the road. I'm headed to my Aunt Lois's this morning.
One last wish for a very merry Christmas to you and yours, and one last bit of elving to bring you a smile!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Weeeeeee, Presents

What is it Pappy?

Look Gramerly, I love it. Pappy did a good job.

As I commented yesterday, the Bugg and Bean were here elving. Bean was busy twisting up a beautiful holly wreath with berries.
Bugg, complete with tiara and fancy jewels from Ol' Betsey, worked on a Christmas tree with red ornaments.

Ahhh, this fancy frame and artistic rendering of the first Christmas by Mr. Bean almost got "accidently" left at Gramerly's-forever. Baby Jesus, the big star and a wee lambie. Oh, squeeze my heart.

My friends and family will waste no time in telling you, usually in somewhat of a disgusted tone, that I am hard to buy for. I don't mean to be hard to buy for, it's just, well, I don't know. I wear pins, that's about it. Never will a fine jewel be on my Christmas list. Now, I'd like a cow, really. But then that would necessitate someone to take care of it, a shed to put her in, a fence. I love books, and Handy Man is ever thankful for the library as he claims there is no way he could ever keep me in books as fast as I read. I don't wear much make-up. I had a massage once and hated it. I don't watch TV. Cleaning chicken and bunny coops, along with all the glue, glitter, and paint, don't mix well with manicures. So again, I don't mean to be difficult.

Well, my girls nailed it this year. Below is a pin I received from Rae-rae and Gwen. I love it. It is as me as there ever will be in the form of jewelry.

And then Ceece found a way to give me something I so needed- knowledge of Kaye's value to me and the yearning that my Christmas would include her somehow. This little remembrance has brought me some much needed comfort.
In Kaye's eulogy, I mentioned that she was the person who took me to my first theatre experience to see The Jungle Book. It remains my favorite Disney flick.
Ceece also gave me the hard back copy of The Jungle Book with this picture inside, taken on Christmas Eve.
So, tomorrow is the day to fill with busyness. It would have been a day to spend with Kaye getting ready for her traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Pete and Ol' Mother Hubbard have rented a cabin to put a little distance and scenery change on Christmases Past. I hope it helps.
Hope your elving is nearly complete.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ahhh, No Creatures Yet

Sunday afternoon calm.
I fixed the Handy Man and I a big bowl of the French Onion Soup and sat in front of the tree and enjoyed it.

The best thing about the stove was having a big stove box. It was a big hit at the party with the wee folk.
We strung lights inside and left out crayons, stickers, etc.

The school calendar interfered with Bean and Bugg spending the night. So, they came last night and we've been crafting the day away. They are now making themselves into Santa and Elf. My house is a pile of glue, glitter, crayons and tissue paper- you know, Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not a Creature was Stirring

Friday evening, all day Saturday and most of Sunday was a blizzard of wrapping and cooking and decorating in preparation for my children and grandchildren's Christmas. If you recall, I moved our Christmas to the Sunday before the actual day when my youngest started her family. I'm still not really used to it. It seems weird.
I really start preparing for Christmas a least a year ahead of time. I'm ever torn by warring sentiments. How to keep a spiritual aspect to the day, how to create something magical for the gramerlings, how to please my next to impossible to please sons, how to give good gifts, not just something for the sake of having a present to unwrap, etc., etc.
Handy Man fried a turkey, which was delicious. To accompany the turkey, was the soups I mentioned yesterday, candied carrots, cheesy potatoes, green beans, homemade pumpernickel bread, pecan pie, cheesecake and piles of fudge. Gwen brought a delicious spinach salad, and Rae-rae brought vegies and dip, Ceece contributed brownies. I also made spinach/artichoke dip, brie w/apples,pears and some shrimp.
We opened gifts at 4, ate at 5, and then had dessert and opened stockings.
It is here I wished to entertain with pictures of the calm before the storm. Alas, the pictures I downloaded two days ago to IPhoto are still no where to be found when I browse to download them here. So, instead I'll show pictures of a couple of gifts we gave.
I received the sweetest gifts from my girls this year, but that will have to wait.
Do you know what these are? If you guessed salt cellars, you are correct. Ol' Mother Hubbard says I'm a salt snob and I fear it is true. I saw a picture of these on a spice website, but they were sold out. I asked Handy Man if he thought he could make them. Well, make them he did. I think they are so beautiful. Salt of the earth kind of gift-ha, so funny.
Several people on our list received his lovely handiwork, in addition to some snobby salt.

Rae-rae wished for wood blocks for baby Giddy-up. Again I dug around for an appropriate place to put the blocks, shared it with the Mister, and here it is. So lovely. Giddy-up loved it too and I'll show you when I can find my pictures. ArrrrGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH.
On an endnote, when I'm sad, Handy Man knows to get out the Lord of the Rings movies. Don't ask, I don't know why, it's just all I can think of to do. We just finished them night before last(extended versions, of course), and yesterday the trailer comes out for the Hobbit movie. I am so excited.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Kitchen Treachery

Notice anything interesting here? First, the stove is off, secondly, it is on my side porch, further adding to "Welome to the Squatly's" persona of my side porch.
My stove blew-up, with my meatloaf supper inside it's bowels. "Well duh," you might way, just get it out. Oh no, it couldn't completely explode, just explode enough to scare me half to death whilst I was stirring the sauce. Just enough to do that and cause it's little stovie brain to be temporarily recircuited, believing me to have wished it to clean itself and thereby locking the oven door!
"Give me my meatloaf!" Rude.
Well, Handy Man eventually wrangled it free. Thankfully, it was already nearly done.
Why, why do my appliances insist on going out at the holidays? Why can't the oven blow-up in the dead of August when I don't want to cook anyway. Why can't the frig bid us a farewell in February, when all food can be safely stored on the back porch? Oh no. It has to be Thanksgiving or Easter, and now Christmas.
My Christmas dinner with my kids is tomorrow. Though my sad sack self wasn't too zealous at doing anything big, I was hoping for something a bit more than carry out pizza.
Such times cause people to make hasty decisions, like sending their husbands to check out stoves. He didn't just check them out, he brought one home. It only has one big burner. Umm, what is up with that? What is the purpose of all those little burners? I use one for tea or to melt butter, that's it. I'm a big burner kinda of cook. Oh, and no clock, forget a timer. Honey, we're only one step above his coal cookstove.
Yes, I suppose I'm being ungrateful, but I spend a lot of time with my stove. Oh well.

It works thankfully. I still had a batch of fudge and caramel to make last night. I wondered to Phil if I hold some sort of record for repeated years of mailing candy to a friend.
Marie was my maid -of-honor. She always came over for Christmas dinner and I always made her fudge and caramels. She has long since moved to far off New Jersey, but I send them each year just the same. Likewise, every year I get a note that quotes her oldest, "It's not Christmas until the caramels get here." So, the Christmas candy will soon be on it's way. Same recipes I've used for over thirty years. Only now I add the tiniest bit of flaked sea salt in the caramel pan. It gives such a big burst of caramel flavor.
We get our beef from a local farmer. I ask for the soup bones and cook them up for the chickie girls and pooch, as well as for soup. I have wanted to make French Onion Soup for a very long time. Well, today was the day. Wow, it takes hours to carmelize all those onions.
I'm still reducing the beef broth and then it will be all done and ready to top with a toasted baguette and cheese for our Christmas dinner tomorrow. I'll also be making cream of mushroom. Good thing I made the onion today, since, you know, only one big burner.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Tea

Each year in my fourth grade, I divide my students into small groups. Each group is responsible to host the other students for an Advent Tea.
When I do Guided Reading, my students rotate through centers. Since they are big intermediate kids now, I call them Learning Zones. One of their Learning Zones each day is for planning their tea. I provide china cups, tea and sugar cubes, and an Advent candle ring for the actual event.
During Learning Zones, they peruse my ton of Christmas/Advent books with a planning sheet and decide on a song, scripture, prayer, snack and a craft. Each person on the team must play a part. I start this the week before Thanksgiving. I have a big class for my school- twenty-four this year, so they were in four groups of six each. Each afternoon, Monday through Thursday this week, we've enjoyed or will enjoy, an Advent Tea.
I am so very surprised by what nine year olds come up with. The three teas we've had so far have been completely different. These finger puppets pictured above cracked me up. They had a little puppet stage complete with manger. They had a light man spotlighting (flashlight) the action. So cute. We have enjoyed King cupcakes, Cross sugar cookies and Cloud desserts. We've made a star pencil topper, a glittery ornament and toilet paper roll shepherds and angels. The Candy Cane story has been told, as well as a reenactment of Gabriel with Mary, then Joseph. A piano solo of Little Drummer Boy and lots of carols have been sung. We've even played Pin the Halo on the Angel. Precious really.
Some come armed with tablecloths, holiday paper goods, bows, etc. Others are a bit more simple, but enjoyed all the same.
I do this for several reasons.
One- I'm allowed, and I'm going to seize the opportunity to celebrate my faith together with my students.
Two- It is a great opportunity for children to serve one another.
Three- It is a great opportunity for it to dawn on children how much effort goes into something that lasts less than an hour.
Four- It is a very nice way for us to spend our afternoons during a very hectic time of year.
Five- Children gain a great deal of confidence through these activities. It is no small thing to get up in front of your peers and sing, tell stories, instruct a craft, etc.
Six- Well, I'm not sure how great this is, but I sure end up with a lot of tea drinkers where previously there were none.
These kiddos have really impressed me this year.
The final piece of the project is to write a reflection on what they enjoyed, what went well and what they learned. I always feel much was learned, especially in life skills. It is a rewarding activity.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Change in the Air

Today was our sibling dinner for Christmas. This has for years been hosted by my sister SuZQ. I've posted some piks from those fancy dinners in time's past. Her house breathes Christmas cheer and the meal is always four star. Well this year, when talk of Christmas rolled round, I confessed to her that I just didn't think I could manage it this year. One sibling wouldn't be coming to any more Christmas dinners because she can't, and one won't, well because he chooses not to do so.
It seemed a little lopsided on the heartbreak side. She wasn't willing to abandon it entirely.
She found a B&B in a town nearby and we met today for brunch. I didn't really know how it would go.
After a fabulous show by my school kids last Wednesday, I fell ill with something foul. Debilitating headache for twelve hours, followed by twelve hours of raging fever and rolling stomach and believing my bone were being pulled out. Then, just weak and goopy.
So, today I was just so very grateful to feel better, and I headed to the brunch in an okay frame of mind.
The house was lovely and the brunch was very tasty. Well, it did not compare to SuZQ's fare by any means, but was very fine.
We again lit a candle in memory of Kaye and shared funny stories and sweet ones. Usually we have a few gifts. Handy Man was busy all fall on special gifts, but I can't show you a picture, because a couple of folk have yet to receive theirs. A little bit of Christmassy goodness wrapped in pretty bags, boxes and bows was passed about.
No one was expecting gifts from Pete. We know that Pete has had all he could manage the last three years without adding doodad buying to the list. We were just glad he had the wherewithal to show, forget gifts.
When it was all said and done, he pulled out this little Walmart bag and said he had a gift for us. He reminded us that Kaye always loved coats and enjoyed having a nice pin for her coat. He then laid out all of her coat pins and invited us to choose one we'd enjoy wearing on our coat, or for my brother, to hang on his Christmas tree. Oh, so sweet. The picture above is the one I picked.
This grief thing, so strange. Such sadness over who is missing, such an increased awareness and appreciation of who is there.
Thanks SuZQ for the gift of sweet fellowship, laughs, memories and tears. Thanks too, to each of you who brought your smiles, hugs and mostly for your presence.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Just a Spoon Full of Sugar

Aunt Tish blessed us with the most glittery sprinkles we've ever enjoyed at a Gingerbread House Party. Aren't they so lovely?
Though his mama made a valiant effort in trying to entice Blue Eyes into putting the candy on the house, his only interest was putting it in his mouth.
His sister, Buttercup, just wanted lots and lots of icing.
Ah, yeah, that's how it's done. This was about a four story gingerbread house by the time she finished.
Nick was too busy drinking homemade hot cocoa.
In addition to gingerbread houses you could make a candy necklace, a Christmas necklace, a nativity bracelet, or a scratch ornament.
Wow, Baby Boy is intrigued with the necklace making. This picture cracked me up. Ol' Mother Hubbard was patient though and persevered until the end when she spilled the whole thing. It was kind of funny. Well, I thought so anyway. I don't recall her finding the same humor in the spill.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Let's See, was this Twenty Five?

I was trying to think this morning which Gingerbread Party this might have been. I believe it's twenty five years. Don't you think that should qualify me for some sort of prize?
It always seems hard to pull it off on the heels of Thanksgiving and when I'm up to eyeballs in the Christmas musical at school, as well, as you know, trying to teach and stuff. Add to that my lack of clear headedness during this particular season of life. Anyway, it was a fun day. In addition to all the beautiful houses, it was warm enough for outdoor play and swinging.
Baby Giddy-up wondering what kind of interesting object this might be. Okay, let's decorate the roof with the very cool snowflakes from Aunt SuZQ. That should do it. Now for a taste.
Hey, where have I been, this is dee-wish-us.
Well, we now know how to light this little guy up.
And there are a couple more cutest pictures I must share, but I seldom upload and immediately try to post without losing pictures somewhere in cyber space. One time I do it and when I browse the latest entry they pop right up, next time I'll have picture I can't access anywhere- arghhhhhhh.
It was a sugary sweet day.