What a year…

Honestly? I don’t know if I could live through this year over again. I’m not quite sure how I did it this time. Come to think of it, I nearly didn’t get to.

I don’t know that I’ve ever truly delved into how close I came to death during Atti’s birth, but it was as close as you could get and still have a happy ending. I was strapped down to the table because they were sure I was going to have a stroke or seizure at any moment, and things started to get very dim. I remember the room turning black and starting to drift off when I had to force myself to straighten up. I was like one of those people you see on ER where the nurses are shouting, “Stay with me!”

That experience rattled me in a way that I haven’t quite been able to let go of. That knowledge of my mortality comes to me in unguarded moments and knocks me flat all over again. Just now I put Atti in his crib for his nap and saw the quilt and bumper I made for him after he was born and thought about what his life would be like if I didn’t make it off that operating table. It’s quite a weight to walk around with, and one I’m striving to use productively.

I’m trying to let go of the fear and cherish the awareness that experience has brought me. I’m appreciating the minutia of life in new ways, food tastes better, colors are brighter, and all the other cliches of close calls, but I think more valuable to me is the appreciation it has given me for myself. For my contributions to my family and my world. Maybe this sounds brazenly selfish, but in my fearful moments I don’t think about what I would be missing, I think about the people I’d be leaving behind. Atti without his mom. Bear without his partner in crime. Maybe because of my LDS faith and my view of the afterlife I’m not worried about what would happen to me, but I’m aware of my influence no longer being in the lives of the people I love.

Now I look around my house and I see all of my little nourishing touches. I see the nest I’ve made and the plants that spring up under my care, I watch my little guy grow and reach milestones and feel loved and I get a little thrill that I did all that.

Nearly losing my life made me appreciate life, but it made me appreciate myself, the talents I have to share, the contributions I have to make, the work I put out into the world, the love I have to give, more. I don’t mean to say that it made me appreciate how great I am. I just mean that it made me appreciate that *I* *am*.

I am here, I won’t always be here, no one out there is exactly the same mix of creativity and neuroses and humor and fear and ambition and heart and stubbornness and smarts that I am, so I have to stop apologizing for myself, I have to stop being so worried about what people think of me, I have to stop downplaying my efforts and I have to get to work.

Atti’s first year wasn’t exactly a cakewalk either.
P1013159

But he’s come so very far.

baby sleeping

I am so grateful to be here at the end of another year with my family. It’s all been worth it.

mama and baby

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Christmas Debriefing

Ahhhhhhhhh.

I love the feeling of sacking out and doing nothing that comes after a busy time. I’ve only left my pajamas long enough to teach my lesson at church, dishes haven’t been done in days, I’ve even managed to watch a whole movie without working on something, and I didn’t even have a freak out! (mostly.)

I think a long weekend was just right for hibernation. Now the house is starting to stink, I’m starting to stink, and I’m ready to get back to some sense of order. Atti even managed to catch a cold* over the holiday, so I’m able to do chores while he sleeps the day away in a cough syrup haze.

*How perfect is that? All flu season long we are fanatical about keeping him inside since he’s in the super high risk group for RSV, and the one day *literally one day* we break him out of his quarantine he gets sick. Mommy Paranoia justified!

Family cuddles
On Christmas Eve I cooked up a fancy dinner for Bear and me and then we all snuggled into the couch to watch cheesy Christmas movies.

Visions of Sugarplums
When Atti went to sleep we had a present wrapping party. I wish I thought to take pictures because this years gift tags looked adorable with the packages all wrapped up. But not as adorable as this sweet little guy. Isn’t his face just perfect? *Sigh*

Christmas morning we woke up and exchanged presents, but there wasn’t much of a surprise since Bear already knew what his present was. I was so excited to finally pull off a big Christmas for him. Every year he blows the budget on something big for me, usually sacrificing his Christmas and birthday money to pay for it. He just can’t resist overdoing. This year he’s been so busy at work I knew he’d be too distracted to plan something like that, so it was finally my turn. I bought him a PS3 and put it on a credit card we hadn’t used in months so that he wouldn’t discover it, and then two days later he comes to me in a panic that our credit card was stolen because there is a huge random purchase on it all of a sudden.

I could have killed him! There was nothing I could possibly say to cover it. I just ended up yelling, “BEAR! It’s Christmas! You’re not supposed to scrutinize the accounts!” As soon as he realized it was me, he knew what his present was. There’s nothing else that crazy expensive he would have any interest in.

What do you guys do at Christmas to keep your presents secret? With both of us being involved in the finances and being pretty responsible about them, we both know where all the money goes which means that big surprises like this don’t stay surprises for very long. But at least I have the sense to ignore the credit card purchases in December and only look at the total. Sheesh Bear!

This ended up being the real surprise:
Father son aprons
Bear’s turning into such a good baker, he had to have an apron. So I bought some lightweight suiting material and whipped him up one. I even had enough fabric to make a matching one for Atti. I made sure to make it super big so it would fit when he was actually old enough to help.

Bear felt so guilty after blowing my present for him, that he went out and overspent on me, so I ended up with speakers for my ipod so I don’t have to keep headphones balanced on my head as I’m digging through fabric stacks and looking for the right color paint, and then he bought me Guitar Hero World Tour, complete with drum set, guitar and microphone. It was a little bit like the time Homer bought Marge a bowling ball with his name on it, but I don’t mind. It’s been so much fun, we’ve already beaten the game on the easy level and now we’re trying to keep up with the Medium difficulty.

{{{{{picture unavailable. Too busy rocking out.}}}}}

We finished our present exchange super super early and raced up to the grandparents house for a little family time.
grandma's boy

Grandpa

Sacked out on Christmas
All the excitement just tuckered our little guy out. He gets stressed when it’s noisy or crowded, and with all the cousins around, he got stressed.

Family time
Since then we’ve been lazing around the house, playing Guitar Hero when Atti would let us, snuggling up against the chilly weather that cuts right through our house, watching movie after movie and eating a huge ham all by ourselves.

Atti’s calling me from his swing, I’m sure it’s time to wipe his sore little nose again. And then I have to dig my kitchen out from a nest of funky dishes. Sigh. I guess the fun can’t last forever. I hope your holidays were happy and that Santa brought you everything you wanted!

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Merry Christmas

The ever looming deadline finally did me in. I just flat ran out of time to finish everything on my list. Next year, I think scrapbooks are off the list of handmade gifts. I ended up making three, and normally I really love making them, but the problem is that I always get the pictures late in the month because you have to have some recent pictures in there, and then I end up doing 18 hour long scrapbook marathon sessions.

Yesterday at about 11 at night, my back screaming in agony and papercuts on every finger, I finally said I wouldn’t do this anymore. And then I woke up this morning and scrapbooked for about ten more hours. It was a little late for Plan B.

On the plus side, one of those scrapbooks is one I’ve had in the works for a year and a half and kept putting it off until the next holiday. So hooray for me for finally finishing that one.

All in all I did pretty great. I think if my computer hadn’t crashed taking all our addresses and photos with it, I could have actually finished everything I wanted to do. Instead I had to cut back a little on the size of two of the scrapbooks and put off a present I wanted to make for Atti to make up for the days and days I spent reclaiming photos from around the internet and sending email after email to gather addresses again.

We didn’t get much baking done either. Aside from our Hot Fudge and Lemon Curd sessions, we made nary a cookie. And Bear really wanted to try his hand at a gingerbread house too. That’s probably for the best. Over the month Bear brought home four pounds of See’s chocolate, a five pound tin of Danish Butter Cookies, bags and bags of movie candy, Lindor chocolates, cookie plates, homemade fudge, vanilla chews, chocolate mint cookies and gift baskets full of more goodies. Junk food flows abundantly through a retirement community at Christmastime. We both teach teenagers at church and every week we’d bring bowls full of candy to pawn off on them and we still ate more than we needed or even wanted to.

We plan on waking up early tomorrow morning, taking some picture with Atti gumming on a present, and then heading up to the in-laws for a quick Christmas visit before heading back home for ham, scalloped potatoes, and lots of knitting with no deadline attached. I don’t think I’ll be moving from the couch for a few days, but I’ll still be popping in here amidst my gluttony.

While part of me is overjoyed at the thought of the day being upon us so I can finally slow down my scramble and just melt into the coziness around me, I’m also a little disappointed it’s already here. I’ve so enjoyed having you all visit me during my favorite time of year. I love this crafty blogging community, and I look forward to a 2009 full of great ideas and lots of inspiration from all of you.

Merry Christmas from Tresa, Jared, and baby Atticus.
Santa Baby

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Christmas card 2008

I think that most of my cards have arrived at their destination by now, so I think it’s safe to unveil it. Plus I keep trying to shoot a video tutorial of how to tie a bow and the only time Bear is home to help me is well after dark when the lighting is so terrible you can’t tell that I have eyes, so this is all I’ve got for today.

The tutorial for this card is way back here. Long time readers may remember that I always make my cards in January and then pack them away with the Christmas decorations. This is seriously one of my best ideas ever. I get all the Christmas paper goods on sale, and then it’s one less thing to do when I’m racing around with more things to do in December than are possible.

Christmas Card 2008

I chose my favorite photos that best represented our lives, and then instead of a traditional newsletter, I just added a sentence on the bottom of each photo that explained the latest news.
Christmas Card 2008

I couldn’t get the kitties to hold still all together, but they still had to be represented somehow.
Christmas Card 2008

This is probably the best picture I’ve ever taken. I love how you can see his Physical Therapist “Miss Jan” all fuzzy in the background.
Christmas Card 2008

For our family photo we used the same photo as our Christmas tree topper. It’s very us. Whenever I pass my camera off to someone else I always tell them to get ‘action shots.’ I hate posed photos.
Christmas Card 2008

And there in the back is our Christmas greeting.
Christmas Card 2008

I keep forgetting to announce the prize winners! Congratulations to Leigh and Nicole who won the snowflake, and the polymer clay ornaments respectively. Your presents went out in the mail last week, hope you enjoy them!

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Christmas treats for friends and neighbors

For years now, we’ve been looking for our Christmas gift niche. The one thing we could make that would be signature and have people angling to be added to our list to get their hands on our special family [fill in the blank]. We know one family who makes a highly coveted salsa, another that makes tamales, another makes homemade toffee, and my mother-in-law Sally compiles cookie plates on a different fancy Christmas plate every year. Her neighbors now have quite a collection of Christmas dishes.

I make a really good tomato chutney, but that didn’t seem to be universally appealing. If you like tomatoes, you’d definitely be hunting for it, but if they’re not your thing then there’s not much else to recommend it. We’ve also experimented with bread, but that took way too long. We needed something that could be made in bulk. I think we’ve finally hit upon it this year.

Christmas Treats

Bear did most of the work on this duo of sauces. We got both the recipes out of this book (which is freaking amazing. Best money I ever spent. EVER. Buy the book and a kitchen scale and amaze all your friends at your virtuosity in the kitchen.) and then toyed with the proportions a little bit to get the right balance between sweet and either tart or bitter.

Christmas Treats
They maybe don’t look super appetizing here (my kitchen briefly looked like a very unfortunate CSI lab tech worked there) but they are crazy delicious. Blow your mind and lick the bottle clean fantastic.

Christmas Treats
While Bear was whisking the night away, I was clicking around between Word and Photoshop making these cute little tags and labels. Pretty labels just make me inordinately happy.

We were both working away with the baby napping upstairs and Christmas music playing over the internet, Christmas lights on and the whole house smelling like cocoa powder. What a perfect way to spend a Christmas weekend.

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Family Traditions Tree Skirt

This has been one of those projects that lingers around for years. Much like most of the projects in my sidebar. I’ve got all kinds of new year’s goals for those, but we’ll get to that after the holidays. Anyhoo, I’ve been working on this tree skirt for about six years now.

Family Traditions Tree Skirt

I bought about a million miles of red wool back in like 2000 or so because I decided I was going to get into rughooking and make a rug for our living room that was red and black and white. But then I realized that it was going to be a lot of work for little pay off (based on the design I was working on, not the craft of rughooking itself, which I still want to take up) and I’ve been dragging around yards and yards of red and black wool ever since.

In looking for ways to use up all this fabric, I knew a tree skirt would be a perfect application.

I did all the beading over the years of my illness. Prolonged bedrest is great for long, involved, excessively detailed projects. It took years, but eventually I finished hand beading the trees and little showdrift.
Family Traditions Tree Skirt

At this stage of progression it stalled for years and years. I had plans of backing it and doing some kind of a trim, but there was always some other thing that needed to get finished so I put it off and off and off.

When I put Christmas away last year I took all the unfinished Christmas projects, gathered them together, and put them in a big tupperware in my studio. Having this enormous box of projects in my way all the time really forced me to get on with it and finish things already.

I picked up some white corduroy at my favorite fabric store, and then a few weeks ago I got this great Moda ribbon candy fabric at my favorite local quilt store. For all the time I put this off, it really took no time at all to whip up.
Family Traditions Tree Skirt

Of course, I still need to finish the handbinding, but if I wasn’t putting something off, it just wouldn’t be me.

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Family Goal Ornaments

There are so many pieces of our past on this tree, photos throughout the years, ornaments I made during our first year together, Atti’s little footprints, but it was missing a piece of our future. Remember this project I promised would come back around? Now’s the time.

Family Goal Christmas Ball

Here’s what you’ll need:
Family Goal Christmas Ball

Some plain ornaments
alphabet stamps (a variety of sizes and styles works great)
Pigment ink
Embossing powder (a variety of colors really looks good)
a heat gun
your list of words

This is just regular old embossing, but here’s the rundown if you’ve never tried it before.

Stamp your highest priority word on the center of the ball with your largest stamps and pigment ink. The ink can be pretty slippery, so I’d suggest buying a few extra ornaments to practice on. I’d also suggest balancing as much of your hand as you can on the ball so that the only thing moving are your thumb and forefinger. This will make a really stable surface.
Family Goal Christmas Ball

Pour embossing powder over the inked letters and shake the excess off inside something you can use to pour the powder back into the jar. A plain sheet of paper works just fine, but I love my fancy little tray with built in funnel I got in the beading aisle.
Family Goal Christmas Ball

Heat the powder with the heat gun until it melts. Don’t hold the gun too close or else it could discolor the ball.
Family Goal Christmas Ball

Keep going with your other goals, adding different colors of embossing powder. Since I was inspired by the wordle design, I used smaller stamp alphabets for the lower priority goals. This also helps to fit in some of those really long words.
Family Goal Christmas Ball

Family Goal Christmas Ball

I think this could be a really great way of capturing the changes in your family from year to year. As Atti grows up I might add balls that commemorate his favorite thing about that year, or a new years resolution.

Family Goal Christmas Ball

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The remnants of where this tree started.

As I’ve mentioned once or twice, I really only kept a few of the original ornaments for this tree. I have a big bag in my garage full of all kinds of messy purple stars and frayed hot pink temari knockoff balls I made after a particularly inspiring episode of Carol Duvall. I don’t really know what I’m going to do with those. It seems sad to just throw them out, but would someone at Goodwill really put them out on a shelf?

Anyway, today is Bear’s big fat fancy work party where I have to get dressed up and go on a boat with all his bosses while Atti goes off to play with Grandma and Aunt Mari, and before that I have to take my written final exam for Culinary school, so I’m going easy on myself and I’ll just show you these last two leftover ornaments that were deemed worthy of making the cut.

Beaded Ball Ornament
This ornament looks sporty to me, while still being all glam and blingy. I just took a styrofoam ball, poked a hole all the way through wide enough to thread a ribbon loop through, and then glued on row after row of bugle beads. To make this easier on myself, I threaded each and every one of those tiny beads onto a length of thread. Of course, I shudder to think about the time I spend doing this now that I know you can buy beads already threaded on a hank.

Ribbon Sunburst Ornament
I love the big burst of color that these ornaments provide. Plus they’re super lightweight, so they’re great for a real tree where the branches are so flexible they droop with the big heavy ornaments.

All they are is a thin wire-edged ribbon, maybe 1/2″ or 3/4″ cut to 6″ lengths. Stack 12 of them up together and wire them together in the middle.
Ribbon Sunburst Ornament

I cut the edges all fancy, and then I lined it with a little fabric paint. Both to add a little bling and to prevent things from fraying.

I hope you like all these simple little ornaments. I’m thrilled and kind of taken back by all the attention this little blog of mine is getting lately, and I hope you all stick around. It’s been tremendous fun to hear from all of you. It’s been so rewarding to put all this work into what I’m sharing and have you respond.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my favorite ornament creation of the year. Hopefully I can make it through this party in one piece and get back to work quickly.

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Family Photos in our Traditions Tree

The ideas behind this Family Traditions tree are pretty common sense. What are some objects that say family? Hearts, monograms, and of course, family photos. Bear also suggested links in a chain, so I think I’m going to incorporate that for next year. I’m still debating if I should do a full on chain garland, or individual lengths of chain and hang them just like all the other ornaments. But I’ll start thinking about that in January.

We added a whole bunch of new family photos this year to reflect the change in our family. I’ve shown you a couple of those already, so here’s the rest.

Family photos in our Traditions tree
Lobo the cat and his boy caught in a tender moment.

Family photos in our Traditions tree
It’s hard to tell because the tree branch is in the way and Atti’s head was so very very tiny, but this picture is a blown up copy of this picture.

Family photos in our Traditions tree
Atti rocking out to his ipod.

These photos really continue a trend that I had started in the very beginning with these little frame ornaments.
Picture Frame Ornament

If you look closely you can see all my hot glue threads and messy fabric bunches testifying to how far I’ve come in the past ten years. Bleck.

To make these I just took two 3″ square pieces of chipboard or super thin cardboard. My favorite place to get this is at Michael’s, Joann’s or some other big box craft store. You can find them underneath every stack of scrapbooking paper, and these stores never do anything with them. You can almost always walk away with a stack for free.

I cut a hole in the center of one piece large enough for a picture to show through, and then I covered both pieces with fabric using hot glue to secure it on the back.

I glued a piece of clear plastic to the backside. I used a piece of a page protector back then, now I think I might be tempted to skip this step. I glued my photo down behind this, and then I sandwiched both square pieces together with more hot glue, making sure to slide some ribbon in the middle for a hanger.

I was figuring this out as I went and right about here in the process I discovered that my creation looked like an unholy mess. Glue was dripping out the sides, there was a big gap made by bulky fabric corners, it was an eyesore. So I glued down a piece of ribbon all along that seam to hide all my mistakes.
Picture Frame Ornament Detail

Then of course I wanted to decorate the front, so I just hot glued those flat backed marbles to it.

Back when I made these the crafty world was in a very different place. Now there are so many gorgeous fabrics and paper and other assorted doodads on the market, this simple idea could really be turned into something fabulous with the right supplies.

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Paper Ornaments for the Family Traditions Tree

In the back of my mind I’ve been wanting to redo this tree for years. But the first batch of ornaments took me so dang long, and I always had some other goal that needed attention, so year after year it went neglected.

This year I knew it was time to address this, so I had to come up with some extra extra cheap and quick ornaments. I bought a pack of scrapbook paper made by American Crafts (Who I LOVE. They’re a great company with gorgeous designs.) and searched the internet for every kind of paper ornament I could find.

These are all crazy easy. And you can’t get cheaper than paper, so they’re perfect for a “disposable” application like changing a color scheme year to year, or, like my friend who’s getting married on December 20th, decorating a winter wedding tree.

Family Traditions Tree - Paper Ornaments

The globe ornament is an oldy but goody that I’ve seen everywhere from Carol Duvall to Martha Stewart and at a million different websites across the internet. Here’s Martha’s latest iteration.

The ornament made out of paper strips is pretty much instinctual. In fact, as I’ve been checking out the blogs of some of you commenters, I came across these exact ornaments, in the exact same American Craft paper pack. Sorry I can’t remember who’s it was, but I got quite a kick out of seeing it. I just cut a ton of paper strips to some random size that looked good to me, punched holes in both ends, and secured them with brads. I made sure to make the inside look pretty too, so I lined up the paper strips wrong sides together before I put the brads in.

The heart is the only paper ornament that can claim any originality.
Paper Heart Ornament

Cut four strips of paper to 12″ by 1 1/2″, and four strips of paper 8″ by 1 1/2″. I think this looks best when you use four different papers so that you end up with different patterns on each surface of the heart. But for today we’ll just go with two.
Paper Heart Ornament

Glue two 12″ strips back to back, the other two 12″ strips back to back and then both sets of 8″ strips back to back so that you’re left with four double sided strips with different patterns on both sides.
Paper Heart Ornament

Line up all four strips to be even on one side. You have to arrange them so that when you bend them over in the next step, the patterns will all be in the right place. Put the 12″ strips right sides together (and by right sides I mean the side you want facing outside of the heart), then put one 8″ strip on each side with the right side of the 8″ strip facing the wrong side of the 12″ strip. This is one of those things that’s kind of hard to explain, but ridiculously easy in practice. You’ll see what I’m talking about as soon as you have the strips in your hands.
Paper Heart Ornament

Bend the top end of each strip over to meet the bottom end where you’ve got everything all lined up together. See? There’s your heart. If you got any of your strips facing the wrong way, now’s your chance to fix them.
Paper Heart Ornament

Secure the end with a couple staples. I covered the staple with another little paper strip, but you could also use ribbon, or just a pretty staple and leave it exposed.
Paper Heart Ornament

I used a little glue to stick a hanger between the curves of the heart. This also had the added benefit of making the heart a little more sturdy.

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