Christmas Card 2009

2009 Christmas Card

So I’m cheating a little bit on this one. These actually aren’t finished yet. I’ve still got piles of paper pieces strewn all around my desk. I just couldn’t wait any longer! February will be here before I know it, and then there go all my big organizational plans.

For this year I’m making 120 cards, so it had to be made out of nothing but paper. Even adding one little brad starts adding up in a hurry when we’re talking about that many of them. This last Christmas I actually ran out. I didn’t count on making new friends throughout the year, so I found myself trying to choose between friends – who wouldn’t care that much, who keeps up with me on the blog, who would never forgive me for leaving them out? That’s the one downside with making your cards so far ahead of time – who knows what’s going to happen by the time Christmas rolls around again.

Without any further ado, Here’s What You’ll Need:
2009 Christmas Card
1 card exterior piece @ 6″ x 12″
1 card interior piece @ 6″ x 11 7/8″
3 pocket pieces
{ 1 @ 3 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ }
{ 2 @ 2 3/4″ x 2 1/2″ }
3 Tag pieces
{ 1 @ 3″ x 4″ }
{ 2 @ 2 1/4″ x 4″ }
2 Embellishment strips @ 4″ x 1″
1 Greeting Block @ 2 3/4″ x 2″
1 Cover Embellishment
3 Pocket Embellishments

Start by scoring the exterior piece just shy of 4″ from each edge. Then score the interior piece 3 15/16″ from each edge. These measurements try to take into account the fact that some space is taken up by the score fold itself, and it can be a little bit fiddly to line these two pieces up.

2009 Christmas Card
With your score lines complete, it’s time to sew the pockets on to the interior of the card. Sew one pocket centered inside each segment of the card, lined up close to the bottom. Make sure the wider card goes in the center segment. The pockets should all line up together, and all be the same 2 1/2″ height.

2009 Christmas Card
Fold both the interior and the exteriors on the fold lines, then line up the edges and staple together in the corner. Don’t waste your time trying to make the folds line up exactly right, it’s just not going to. There needs to be quite a bit of give between the inner and outer pieces so the card can both fold and open. Only put one staple in each corner. It will be plenty to hold it together, and anymore would restrict it too much.

2009 Christmas Card
If you’re making this card right before using it, you can decorate the tags here. Since I’ll be putting next year’s family pictures in here, I just stuck my naked tags inside the pockets to keep everything together.

If you haven’t done it yet, you can also decorate the pockets now. This was a stamp I carved out of a pink eraser after every other plan failed. I bought this green paper that turned out to be too thick to go through the printer, and I couldn’t find another stamp I liked, so I finally just grabbed the new pink eraser I bought in my attempts towards drawing and hacked into it. I stamped this little tree and cut it out by hand 360 times.

2009 Christmas Card
Glue on your Embellishment Strips, one on the inside flap of the card, and one on the cover.

2009 Christmas Card
Glue on your last remaining embellishments. I made the greeting block on the computer, and the tree was a cutout from the same paper I used for the interior of the card.

Just to make your life easier, here’s the greeting block card I made. Feel free to download and use for all your cards, but no other uses without emailing me first please.
2009 Christmas Cards

So this may not be the least labor intensive card I ever came up with. It just might, in fact, be the very most amount of work I ever put into a greeting card. But I often find that in card making you have to make a choice between cost in labor and cost in materials, and with so very many cards to make, materials had to lose. You could make this card a whole lot easier just by using a sticker or other embellishment on the pockets and cover, but as it is I’ve designed a fancy card without using anything but paper, glue, and four staples. This year, a cheap but pretty card is worth all the fiddly cutting.

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2009 Year of Pleasures #4

Mohawk

This haircut is completely natural. We get asked all the time if we shave his head this way, but nope. I keep expecting the rest of his hair to fill in, but nothing. He doesn’t rub it off, he doesn’t have bald spots, it’s just growing way faster in the mohawk region, and it’s been that way for months and months.

mohawk

I always say that he just came out ready to stick it to the man.

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Food Nanny Notebooks

A few months ago I introduced you all to my Aunt Liz and recommended her fabulous, downhome, country cookbook.

I’ve been cooking at least one meal a week from that cookbook ever since. It’s not exactly fat free food, but it is wonderful homey comfort food like some lucky people’s grandmas used to make.

As much as I love the recipes, what’s really been a lifesaver for me is the philosophy behind it. Liz is on a mission to get families back to the table together, and she created a method of making that job easier that is super common sense, like all the best ideas. Liz has theme nights she uses to narrow down her choices when she’s planning a menu. So instead of choosing from all the recipes ever created, she just picks one for “Mexican Night.”

I’ve totally adopted her theme night philosophy. Meal planning was always my least favorite chore because I’d spend hours sorting through a whole library of recipes. It just makes so much sense to create categories to choose from to make my life simpler.

Liz has theme nights that she recommends to get you started, but she also recommends customizing them to fit the needs of your family, so we do:

Monday: Comfort Food (because everybody hates Mondays and needs something to feel good about)
Tuesday: Ethnic Food (because we couldn’t pick just one or two favorite cuisines)
Wednesday: Fish and Meatless (Bear’s least favorite night of the week)
Thursday: WILD CARD! (For special family favorites or to try out new recipes)
Friday: Pizza Night (homemade of course)
Saturday: Grill Night (Here’s where living in San Diego comes in handy)
Sunday: Company Food (you know – the fancier, fussier meals)

Food Nanny Notebooks

To make my job even easier I got myself a bunch of notebooks (and of course they had to be color coded since I’m OCD like that) so that I could just flip to the one book I need to plan each nights meals.

Food Nanny Notebooks

Now that the notebooks are made, I have to get the recipes all in one place to put them inside. That’s a little daunting when you have a bookshelf full of cookbooks. But this is why it’s on my year long goal list. I figure that once I get a meal just the way we like it, if I spend a few minutes while feeding the baby or on the phone typing that recipe up, it won’t take terribly long before I’ll be all organized. AND, doing it that way will force me to actually decide if I like the recipe before just adding it to the collection. My first cookbook I compiled right after marriage…well, I don’t know if I’ve even tried half the things in there. And yet I’ve carted it around for ten years. It’s time to streamline.

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Coolest Video Ever

Architecture in Helsinki – Like it or Not

Architecture in Helsinki – Like It Or Not from helsinkids on Vimeo.

Found on Best Week Ever.

Is this the coolest thing you’ve ever seen or what?

We just got back from another visit with the eye doctor, and Atti now has to get his eye patched for four hours every day. Which basically means I have to hold the eye patch over his eye for four hours every day. *whimper*

I think I need to watch the video again to cheer myself up.

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2009 Year of Pleasures #3

Inauguration Day

What a great day.

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Ideas that are nice in theory

I’ve described myself in the past as being about equal parts hippy dippy flower child and hard boiled cynic, and that really fits in most aspects of my life. I think I’d describe my taste as equal parts modern designer and Handmade antique. I can’t fully commit to the handmade aesthetic, and I can’t fully commit to the sterile modern design either. Luckily my wishy-washy-ness has been really helpful with how my particular journey into motherhood has transpired.

Oh I had goals. I had the loftiest of goals. Attachment parenting, cosleeping, cloth diapering, no plasticing, organic everything goals. And even though every single person around me thought I was out of my mind, including occasionally Bear, I stuck to my guns. California has a reputation as being full of the organic lovers, but it varies greatly by the region, and once you get south of LA it’s all a very conservative, frequently wealthy, “Ah, just buy it, it’s easier.” kind of mentality.

But I wouldn’t listen to the skepticism. I had my plans, including preparation for an unmedicated birth, and nothing was going to dissuade me from them.

Until Atti was actually born.

There went my unmedicated birth – it was far more important that we both make it out alive. There went my beautiful dreams of breastfeeding – no matter how many hours a day I attached myself to the pump my milk supply dried up before he even made it home. There went my ideas of attachment parenting – it’s a little hard to wear a baby and an oxygen tank. No cloth diapers – I spend hours every day doing physical therapy, I have to limit as many household chores as possible.

The one that really hurt my heart was giving up on the No Plastics rule. He still has the fancy bottles, so I suppose that’s what is most important, but I’ve scoured the internet and I’ve never found a toy made of wood or cloth that lights up and plays music when you hit it. And that’s what he needs to motivate him to do physical therapy.

I still try though. We coslept until he was too big to fit in the bed, I try to wear him as often as possible (he’s sitting on my lap as I type) and I make all his baby food from organic fruits and vegetables.

Baby Food

Really, I’ve been pretty surprised to discover just how ridiculously easy his baby food has been. It takes me maybe one afternoon every five months, and costs maybe $25. WAY cheaper than buying in a jar, and I know there’s no preservatives, no sugar, no salt, and all the vitamins haven’t been processed out.

And yet this was the parenting choice that people really went nuts about. This was what convinced people I was a total extremist. I don’t know exactly what people think is so complicated about making baby food, but just in case you’ve toyed around with the idea let me explain.

1. Chop food into chunks and either boil or steam. If it needs to be cooked at all. Most fruit doesn’t need it, avocados don’t need it.

2. Run the prepared food through a blender or food processor to make a nice puree. If it’s a little thick, thin it down with some of the cooking water.

3. Pour the puree into ice cube trays and freeze.

Done.

Early this week I sat down with a mess of apples, nectarines, squash, and carrots, and in about three hours from start to finish I have enough baby food to last him for months.

Pouring into the ice cube trays creates perfect 1oz serving sizes, so I just grab a couple of veggi cubes and defrost. Then I don’t have to worry about throwing out a ton of food if he isn’t cooperative. I also supplement in with fresh mashed bananas, fresh mashed avocado, a bunch of cereals, and yogurt.

The reason I wanted to adhere to all those parenting philosophies was because I was convinced they were better for a child. And I still am, but they weren’t better for *my* child. Or I should say, *this* child. If I get to have another one I’ll try all over again. But at least I can rest easy that I gave this baby what he needed, and that was the whole point.

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When you need a good weep.

I really don’t think of myself as an emotional girl. The only time you’ll ever catch me watching a movie on purpose that makes me cry is when it’s that time of the month. I don’t really like romantic comedies, and I hated Twilight. But in the past two days I’ve stumbled across things that have made me go into the ugly cry and be all morose for hours afterwards.

Masterpiece Classics is on a real roll, last year with all the Jane Austen adaptations (some better than others, but I’ll never pass up a movie from a good classic book) and then this year they’ve done Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Wuthering Heights starts on Sunday, and then it will be a bunch of books by Charles Dickens.

I’d actually never read Tess. It was one of those classics I knew I should get around to one of these days, but I’d never heard anything about it that made me want to move it to the top of my list. So I came in completely blind and got walloped by poor Tess’s plight. Holy Cow. After the first installment I was counting the days until I could find out how it ended. I saved it for when I could have a relatively uninterrupted chunk of time to read and knit and watch my show, only to find out that *spoiler* it does not have a happy ending. A gutwrenching ending that made me give thanks I was born here and now.

Today Atti slept in until 10:30. He then pounded down two bottles, projectile vomited, and fell back asleep. So he’s either doing some major growing today or I can expect to catch some wonderful little bug myself. Finding myself with a little unexpected time on my hands, but not knowing how long that was going to last, I actually allowed myself some reading time – which *TMI alert* I normally only get on the toilet.

I finished reading the book I’ve been working on: The Used World by Haven Kimmel. I’ve loved everything this author has ever written, but this book. Oh my. This book. It has a powerful moral about resiliency and friendship, and the last line of the book will probably stay with me for my life. I can’t really even give it a decent review because it’s too fresh and haunting. I loved it. It broke my heart and gave me strength at the same time.

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Developing a Social Life

It’s amazing what not having a child in the hospital can do for your social life. For the nearly two years that we’ve lived here, I’ve been fairly isolated. First by being new and in the middle of house renovations, then by scary personal problems, then by the intensive needs of my little guy. It’s pretty hard to meet someone under the most stressful conditions of your life and seem at all like a sane and fun person to hang out with. Honestly, without the gift of the internet I probably would have made myself a little Wilson by now.

Now I’m starting to settle into the groove of what my little guy requires. Bear even joked the other day that I’m so used to the constant stream of appointments that I don’t even bother to put them on the calendar anymore. And I’m finding the idea of getting out and making friends appealing again, instead of just one more thing to try to squeeze into my day.

On Monday I finally got together with my “new best friends” from church. We’ve known since early on that we’d all get along so great, but along with my own drama of the year, one friend had a daughter graduating and going off to college with all the work that comes with it, and the other friend’s husband was in a major car accident and has been recovering from serious injuries ever since. It was not exactly an opportune time for any of us. But we finally succeeded and it was so restorative to me. We had a great lunch, we passed around my teething fussy baby, we talked all about art and culture. I just got home and wanted to let out a big sigh. It was just what I needed.

The Saturday before that my sister Traci and her kids came into town, and I was just sad we couldn’t see them longer. But how can we compete with Disneyland? It’s not the first time we’ve had to steal a few hours away from the mouse, and it certainly won’t be the last.

But on the Friday before that, I got to see one of my very dearest friends for the first time in six years.
High 5

Jana is one of those friends that you’re lucky to find once in a lifetime. The kind of friend where months (or years) can go by and you can pick right back up where you left off. Where you may not get to talk as much as you like, but they make you feel so secure in your friendship, so truly loved and “gotten” that you feel buoyed up just knowing they exist in the world.

Baby love
Check out Jana’s death grip on Grant. These boys loved each other.

Jana’s in the middle of a big prolonged move back to Hawaii in preparation for her husband returning from serving in Iraq, so she stayed with me for a day before driving up to visit her brother and shipping her car off before flying to Hawaii, with her three year old son Grant, setting up house and getting her car about a month later.

Jana and grant feeding ducks

Oh, and she just finished running her first marathon. Can you believe her? She’s like a cartoon version of the ultimate capable woman. “Oh sure I can be a single parent while my husband is off creating roads and bridges and infrastructure to help the Iraqi’s, and I’ll handle a complicated move on my own while being a crazy great parent to my sweet little Grant. But how am I possibly going to fill in my free time? How about a marathon!”

Atti and me at the park
We’re more “indoor” types of people.

I’ve been so lucky to find the friends I have. The only problem is that they’re all scattered from one end of the country to the other. Jana is particularly gifted at making the distance not seem so far.

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2009 Year of Pleasures #2

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake

I had a ton of guests around last week, so I used the occasion as an excuse to make my favorite sinfully wonderful cake.

I invented this recipe myself and it all started because I don’t really like chocolate. I know, I know, it’s crazy, but it’s true. I like sour fruity desserts, chocolate doesn’t thrill me, unless it’s hot chocolate which I could drink in place of water. I am a connoisseur of hot chocolate, and my very favorite is Mexican Hot Chocolate because they add a ton of cinnamon to an otherwise somewhat bitter taste.

So I made a Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake. Here’s the recipe:

For Cake:
1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
3/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 Cup cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Cup sour cream
1/3 Cup water
2 tsp vanilla
1 Cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 Cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs

For Frosting:
3/4 Cup unsalted butter, softened
1 Cup cream cheese, whipped
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 Cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons cinnamon

Make Cake:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9″ round cake pans.

Into a bowl, sift together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, water, and vanilla.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in batches alternately with sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until batter is blended well.

Divide batter between pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Make frosting:
In a bowl with electric mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add all the other ingredients, and beat until combined well.

If you leave the melted chocolate out of the frosting and cut back on a little of the sugar, you’re left with a really yummy cinnamon buttercream frosting that I think would be delightful on a spice cake or a pumpkin cake.

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Atti update

I think I’m fairly overdue for an update on the progress of my miracle baby. Especially seeing as he somehow manages to turn one year old in less than a month. I have no idea how that happened.

The sad thing is that I’ve been so wrapped up in the day to day demands of meeting his needs as well as my own, that I’ve been horribly neglectful about documenting this kids life. Especially after the computer crash stole so many of his photos.

I had intended on privately writing monthly newsletters like Dooce does on her blog, but the best I’ve managed to do is a piece of notebook paper with an outline of his life scribbled down on it. I have to fix that. Maybe I’ll add “A Big Fat Scrapboook of Atti’s First year” onto my never ending crafty goal list.

therapy with Jan
This picture is already several weeks old, and it’s amazing to me how much he’s changed so quickly.

As of today he is 11 months old chronologically, which makes him eight months old adjusted age (based on when he *should* have been born), and his developmental age is all over the map. Speech and language he’s advanced. Hearing he’s nearly at adult levels. Eating he’s doing just great. Fine motor skills, he’s very weak. He can’t clap his toys together, he can’t hold his bottle, he won’t grasp small items. Gross motor skills he’s about three months behind even his adjusted age. He can’t sit up, he can’t crawl, he’s like an eighteen pound five month old.

When I just focus on the major milestones, it’s easy to let the news appear somewhat bleak. But I am surrounded by an amazing team of specialists who have trained me to notice all the many many many little milestones that come before the big ones. And those little milestones he’s slowly but surely checking off the list. He may not grasp toys and clap them together, but he’ll pick them up and bring them to his mouth, and when he wears his boots he’ll kick at the hardwood because he likes the sound it makes. He may not be able to sit quite yet, but he gets closer every day. He used to barely be able to hold up his head (in fairness, he does have a fairly gigantic melon), and now he can sit up with just a little support at his hips.

therapy

Every week he has visits from his Physical Therapist “Miss Jan,” the Occupational Therapist “Miss Alice,” and the Infant Stimulation Teacher “Miss Cathy,” and I can’t even begin to explain how I love these women. Because they love Atti. And they rejoice with me whenever he does a new trick. Whenever he gets infinitesimally closer to those big elusive goals we all celebrate because they understand how hard he has to work to get there and that the important thing is not how far he still has to go, but that he’s GOING.

So far we haven’t seen anything that we can nail down as being a sign of the dreaded CP. So far everything can be explained away by the fact of his prematurity, so we’re hopeful everything will stay OK.

He’s developed quite a bit of trouble with his eyes, which is really to be expected in a preemie of his age, so we’ve started having to patch his eye for two hours every day. It’s awful. He hates it and claws at his face whenever the patch is on, his sensitive little baby skin is all torn up from the sticky patches being ripped off of him every night. But we can already see improvement, so we swallow our instinct to grip him close and protect him from the awful thing and put on our drill sargeant personas.

We’ve made up elaborate backstories to try to make us feel better about the pain we’re subjecting our baby to for his own good. Bear calls him “Patches O’Hoolihan,” a barenuckle boxer from Boston circa 1890, blind in one eye from an unfair fight, but rumor has it it was really from an unsavory involvement with a local barmaid. Gosh we’re warped.

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