Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday

The calendar changed to December on the 1st and it was like somebody flipped the switch on the snow machine in the sky.  We got snow... ground-sticking, fluffy-white, sweet-etheral, beautiful snow.  It certainly isn't unheard of, or even unexpected, for snow to fall in December here in Michigan.  Because we had an unusually warm fall it seemed somehow, odd to have snow blanket our world.  I think that, for me at least, the time from Halloween to the first day of December, flew by in a nanosecond and I am sure that the shock I felt at seeing the first snowflake was, at least in part, related to this.  Of course, as often happens, we then had rain, which melted all of the snow in time to be hit with our first "lake-effect" snowfall of the season.

Ahhhh, lake-effect snow!  Living in southwestern Michigan, we are subject to the crazy weather systems created and fed by our very own "ocean" which we locals call "Lake Michigan".  When we were planning to move here, I told Rick that Portage, like my beloved Ann Arbor, is in SOUTHERN Michigan and thus we would not have to deal with much snow.  You see, it doesn't really snow in A2 as much as it "slushes".  I reasoned that Portage therefore, would be slushy and wet and we wouldn't have to deal with shovels let alone snowblowers.  Haha but the jokes is on me!!!!  Because of beautiful Lake Michigan and it's "lake effect snow" we receive significant accumulation.  Seventy inches of snow or more on average.  While that may not seem like much to those of you who live in snowy locals- like the U.P., or on a mountain, or at the North Pole- you have to remember that it IS a significant amount of snow for SOUTHwest Michigan.  

Ok, so we get snow.  Who cares right?  I love snow... it's pretty, I love skiing, and sledding is fun if go to Oakland Park, so where is the problem?  The problem is Rick isn't so keen on the white stuff that falls from the sky and somehow he manages to be at work- usually in Hawaii, Paris, Puerto Rico- when the big storms hit.  How does he do that?  

It is hard to believe, but it is Christmas time and Hanukkah is but a memory.  That means lots of decorating and crafts, cookies and carols, shopping and Christmas/Hanukkah cards, wrapping and shipping.  I had good intentions that this year it would be all that and fun and relaxing and inspiring as well.  I started earlier this year!  In fact, I think I started right after I peeled the jewels off Lady Gaga's cheek and washed the lightening bolt scar of Harry Potter's forehead.  I mean really, I was off to a great start and as an added bonus for playing the game, Ryann isn't having a big Birthday Extravaganza this year.  I didn't have to plan and execute a themed-out event consisting of some cool, interesting, and exciting, yet theme-appropriate craft projects that the kids never were able to do  without a lot of adult "guidance" (somehow, I never figured out how to match the guests talent and age appropriateness with my need for the craft to fit the theme),  2-3 games, and a swag bag of cool crap that also was completely themed-up, and let's not forget to mention the feast I always put on, again think "Theme" including cake, cookies, and candies, oh my.  This theme-centric event was always fun to plan and fun to host and I would have anticipated it as a highlight event of my year, if it was in July or September or March, but December... it pushed me over the edge, it really did.  So, while I did love it, I must admit that not having it, is one huge stress off my back.  

But I digress, I was talking about what I DID do this year....I made some beautiful Christmas ornaments, glittered everything in sight, and fired up the Cricut to cut gorgeous snowflakes.  I made my grandmother a gorgeous wreath for her door at the assisted living facility (more on that in a moment) and put together several banners with holiday messages like "joy" and "Merry Christmas" and added more glitter.  I whipped up some cards, painted some chipboard, and added more glitter.  This is fun but oh so messy.  The kitchen table became but a memory as it was overtaken with paper, paint, glitter, and glue, tools, and cardstock, glitter, and buttons.  I can no longer reach the cabinet that houses my candles or anything more than a foot back from my chair.  Maybe I need to clean up a little?  Who has time?  I'm busy with the glitter. 

Let's take a moment to see how I am doing with my holiday goals for 2010:   
*Decorating: well I waited a loooong time to put away Halloween but once I did get the decorations up- they look beautiful.  so...Decorating: Check (Pictures to come in another post)
*Crafting: I just old you I did a bunch of stuff- Check
*Cookies:  Oh, ummmm, well, here is my first snag, you see- my pancreas-which as been acting-up on the job for years, at times even threatening to "unionize" and to go on strike (like while I was pregnant).   I have been able to head off most talk of collective bargaining until recently.  Being a nurse practitioner, I love numbers- here's a secret: all medical personnel love numbers.  That is why we run so many tests; we need numbers, numbers, numbers, numbers.  With this in mind then you won't be surprised to know that I have been checking my blood sugar every so often and I've noticed the fasting blood sugar numbers creeping into the "pre-diabetic" territory.  Yikes, I say.  So now I have to watch what I eat (or more realistically-what I don't eat).  Now days the voice in my head sounds like "No cookies for you!".  Ryann is gluten free so "No cookies for you" (or at least none that taste anything like a cookie- she is allowed to eat the gluten-free powdery shit that is supposed to resemble a cookie but crumbles in your mouth in a way I can't even describe making it more like a sugar/butter flavored Pixie Stick and not in a good way).  Rick is essentially gone for the entire month of December leaving Chase to eat the cookies.  We could just bake and give them away but what fun is that? I don't have that kind of willpower.  
So Cookies:  Not check.....
*Carols: Have you heard us sing?  Not check.
*Shopping: Check, but really last minute on this one.
*Cards:  Seriously?  I haven't had holiday cards ready in December for years (see birthday extravaganza above).  I am going for "New Years" or "Valentine's Day" this year because let's face it- it is much more realistic.

Now, don't forget my 29th birthday and Ryann's 12th birthday also come in December.   So in summery:  Another year went to hell.  Maybe next year, right?  By the way, I spent my birthday holding Chase's hair while he puked.  The entire day.  And night.  And next day.   Ryann's birthday turned out better because she went low-key (see above) choosing to ski all day with her friend and then the two of them had a quiet sleep-over.  We really wanted to take her out for a nice dinner but she didn't want to go.  Not letting that stop us- my mom, Chase and I went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants while Ryann and her friend stayed home.  Seemed sort of stupid but I did't want to cook! 

So for some crafting:  I've decided to show some of my wreaths in this post.  I am planning on making a wreath tutorial in the near future so you can learn how easy it is to make your own wreaths.  Wreath making is really simple, requires only a few tools, minimal skills, and is soooo much cheaper than purchasing a pre-made wreath.  I promise your handmade wreath will look better than anything you can get at Michael's, Hobby Lobby, Target, or AC Moore and cost half as much!

My quest to keep my 94-year-old grandmother's door decorated with something each month continued this month.  I started in October with this "BOO" banner.  I made her a beautiful autumn wreath which I neglected to photograph.  Hopefully I can get a pictures and post it in the future.

For her holiday wreath I wanted to go a little glam with lots of glitter.  At first I thought old school red/green and maybe gold but then I saw these absolutely gorgeous purple-velvet hydrangeas. I am crazy about hydrangeas anyway and I love the texture of the velvet and the color variations which give the flower so much more character.  So I flipped my plan and went new school with purple and white-gold.
I always start a Christmas or winter-month wreathwith a base of faux pine rather than grapevine.  For this wreath, I found a faux-pine wreath at Michael's that was already decorated with 2 varieties of pine cones and a mixed variety of faux-pine needles.  I have never seen this type of wreath at the craft store before and when I went back for more, they were all sold out.  Usually the faux-wreaths available at the craft stores are meant to be embellished and are made of only one type of faux-pine needle.  

I wish I had taken the time to glitter the edges of the pine cones that came on the wreath.  They would have been spectacular tipped in white-gold.  But, as always, I was in too big of a hurry and once I had the flowers on the wreath it was just too big of a mess to even attempt so I left them plain.  Before I go any farther I must say that the wreath is much more beautiful in person than in the pictures.    Maybe it is all the glitter that just doesn't show up on camera?

I did hot glue all the embellishments into place on this wreath.  Sometimes, if I think I will want to change the wreath up, I will just stick the stems into the wreath, keeping them in place just by how I weave the flower stem into the base.  Obviously, you don't want to do this if you are in a high wind area or if it bothers you to have to pick flowers up off your front porch and stick them back into the wreath on a regular basis.  You could use wire to attach the embellishments onto the form; this is a happy medium between hot glue and my wing-and-a-prayer technique.  With the wire technique you just wind the wire around the stem and either the wreath form or the branches, then when you want to change the wreath you clip the wires and go on your merry way.

So what exactly did I use on this wreath?  3 stems of the purple hydrangea, several stems of the glittered eucalyptus, 5 glittered Christmas ball ornaments, and the little purple acorn and bead picks I found at Michaels.  The hydrangeas came with huge heads, one per stem, that I cut apart into little clusters of 5 or 6 blooms a piece.  The acorn picks are an example of one of my wreath secrets which I will cover in the upcoming tutorial.  I bought ribbon for a bow but decided against using it because it just added confusion to the wreath.  So, this is it- a gorgeous wreath for not a lot of money.  

I also bought some beautiful pale coral poinsettias that I just couldn't pass up because they were so pretty.  When I got home I decided to make a wreath for my mom out of the coral poinsettias and some faux "snow" covered greens, similar acorn picks-but green this time, and a glittered bow.  They only had 2 of the poinsettias and they had huge leaves, must too big for this small wreath, so I cut off the top leaves using this as a single bloom and then used the large leaves individually.  It is amazing how different the two wreaths look as I made them at the same time.  

Here are some other wreaths in my house that I made in years past:

Gorgeous White Gold Poinsettia Wreath
Christmas Ball Wreath
This wreath was made quickly by hot gluing a variety of sizes and colors of glass Christmas balls onto a faux-pine form.  It matches the colors in my bathroom exactly.   I am planning on giving this number a little make-over which I am planning on showing in the tutorial.  

This is probably one of my all-time favorite wreath and was made using a pre-made "stem" of flowers and greens that I took apart.  

I am posting this tonight, the evening of my daughter's 12 birthday and my grandmother's 94th.  Happy Birthday to both beloved women in my life. 

I will try to get the tutorial up soon but I do have another prolotherapy treatment tomorrow and that just poops me out so we will see.   I am excited about the prospect of starting tutorials and hope that you enjoy them.  If you have nice things to say please leave a comment.  For now, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and 
Laters Baby....