Wednesday, December 8, 2010

...And We're Off to the Races: 17 Days Until Christmas!

I am so unbelievably overcommitted and overextended right now, so this will be shorter and sweeter than most of my posts. I've got my Christmas decorations up, the Salvation Army Christmas stockings were filled with goodies and dropped off at church on Sunday, and I have gathered up almost all of the gifts for the family of homeless children that we're sponsoring this year through A Child's Place.
Our family has decided to scale back on the slightly overboard gift-giving we've indulged in in the past, and instead take on more tangible hands-on charitable giving this year in addition to just writing checks to our favorite charities. Although it's been hard to find the time in the midst of pageant and choir rehearsals and goings on at the schools, it has turned out to be so worthwhile to incorporate service projects into our holiday traditions. There has never been a better antidote to the gimmee-gimmee-gimmee epidemic that comes over the kids at this time of year than our family shopping trip to Target with our sponsored children's wish lists in hand. We chose Salvation Army stockings tagged for boys the same ages as ours, so Lars and Anders were really able to think about what would be the best small toy to put in each stocking along with the hat, gloves, markers and toothbrush, for little boys who might not get any other toys this Christmas. We were assigned a family of girls for the A Child's Place Christmas sponsorship, and although the minimum commitment we agreed to was to provide a grocery store gift card, one article of clothing, and one new toy for each child, we were able to come up with almost everything on our kids' wish lists thanks in part to the generosity of an old high school friend of mine who is actually mailing me a tricycle from a U.S. military base in Germany (thanks, Jennifer!!). With the economy still limping along feebly and so many people still looking for work, there are more families in need than ever. Does your family's holiday tradition include service projects, or did you add any new service projects this year? If so, please tell me about it in the Comments section!

Now, for the photographic meat and potatoes: Christmas Decorations! Woo-hoo!

This is my favorite of our three Christmas trees this year (yeah, that's right -- I said three trees. We all have our weaknesses!). This tree is next to the fireplace in the sitting room area of my kitchen. We refer to it fondly as "the kids' tree" because of the toy and candy themed decorations. This works great along with all of the handmade ornaments they have made over the years.

Christmas Tree ornament in paper, Elmer's Glue, crayon & glitter, made by Anders in preschool

Another fave, this is a varnished and glitter-painted cookie Lars did in preschool

I'm sure my sisters remember these Raggedy Ann & Andy clothespin ornaments from our childhood Christmas tree. One of the orange pom pom "hair" pieces came loose on Raggedy Ann, but after a few drops of Elmer's Glue she was as good as new. Note to self: Assemble an ornament repair kit and pack it away with the Christmas ornaments for next year!

Can you believe my mother didn't want this beautiful fish ornament anymore, either? It's another one that was on our childhood tree for as long as I can remember. It looks handmade, and I think she might have gotten it from some trip to a Scandinavian country before I was born. Mom, feel free to enlighten us all as to the origins of the fish in the Comments. I'm "fishing for comments" today, can you tell? ;-)

Now, last year about this time, I was knee deep in piano research, feeling very discouraged about how expensive pianos were. So every time Bernie asked the kids "What should we get Mom for Christmas?" Anders stubbornly replied, "I'm getting her a piano! I have $25 in my piggy bank! She only wants a piano!"

So, this is the little red sparkly piano that Anders got me for Christmas last year:

I added this blown glass golf clubs ornament for my Lars this year, who loves any color as long as it's orange, and who has been taking golf lessons after school:

...And I couldn't resist this blown glass pair of green Converse sneakers for Anders. He wears those green Chuck Taylors almost everywhere he goes:

At the bottom of this tree, soon to be completely obscured by wrapped packages (if I ever get around to wrapping them, that is), my tree is wearing a crazy-quilted Christmas tree skirt that I worked on off-and-on for about two years, more off than on. It was a fun way to use a variety of Christmas-themed quilting cottons, and I used the project as a sampler to try out lots of decorative stitches on my Bernina Artista sewing machine. I experimented with bobbinwork techniques (wrapping threads that are too big for the sewing machine needle around the bobbin instead, and sewing upside down on the project so the bobbin thread shows on top -- LOTS of fun), hand embroidery, and hand beading.

I love how the heavy bobbin threads give the machine embroidered stitches a "handmade" look, and it was fun and relaxing to play around with bead embellishments. I used Nymo thread to hold the beads securely.
THIS is why you want to step up to the next level sewing machine that has a couple hundred decorative stitches that you're sure you're never going to use! This project reminded me of a collage of Christmas cards while I was working on it.

The feather stitch and blanket stitch were embroidered by hand, the floral stitch is preprogrammed into my sewing machine, and I stitched the line of beads and the floral seed bead embellishments by hand.

I've got little sequins, paillettes, and seed beeds stitched on in this picture, too, and I hand-stitched a little jingle bell to the points on the outer edge of the tree skirt.

Project Notes:
This was a relaxing project, but it took forever to complete and you really can only see the fruits of my labors around the outer edge of the skirt.  Even crawling up under the Christmas tree with my camera, I still couldn't get a picture of all the embroidery and beading at the center of the pole.  Uh, duh!  Poor planning strikes again.  If you're reading this thinking that you might like to try making something similar, I definitely suggest concentrating on the outer edges of the skirt when you embelllish the patchwork seamlines.  In hindsight, I wish I'd made a table runner instead of a tree skirt.  Then it would have taken me way less time, required a lot less trial and error geometry to figure out how to make a pattern for each "slice" of the skirt so that I'd end up with a circle, and best of all, no one would have to crawl underneath my Christmas tree to see the embroidery! 

Happy Advent, Folks!


Stacey said...

I love that Anders bought you a piano, and I am also glad to hear about your charitable projects. I still can't even sew a button, but I'll work on it this year. . . Merry Christmas, Rebecca.

Janice the Manice said...

Are you kidding me? Three trees decorated and looking lovely already? I've been staring at all the giant tupperware boxes of Christmas decorations for a little over a week without touching them. All I managed to do on my day off was to put the five laundry baskets full of clothes away...
You're trees are lovely, beautiful, as is everything in your house. I'm feeling inspired to do a little decorating now. Looks like it's time for that trip to pick out the perfect "live" tree for out living room. Yes, we're doing the "live" thing again. I love the smell of fresh pine and there really wasn't that much to do other than dump a pitcher of water into the base every day to keep it fresh.
Ho Ho Ho!
Oh, and if you're looking for a needy family to sponsor this year, we are available.