Advent, belated

At long last, here is the advent calendar, belatedly in January.  

As you can see, I hung it in a poorly lit place in my house so the photos aren't great, but whatever, the thing got done! Each ornament is double sided, except for the one blue name ornament, which was thicker felt. All the rest of them have the same thing, with slightly different embroidery on the reverse sides (save the owl and penguin, which have faces/bellies/wings only on one side).  Not only does it look nicer, but they're a bit more sturdy as well. Plus, I'm a stickler for nice looking embroidery backs and this way everything's hidden.   I'm pretty pleased with how it's come out! I have my favorites, and there are a few that I think I'll replace in the future as well. 

 The full thing, clearly taken on the 14th of december.

The full thing, clearly taken on the 14th of december.

 Holly, with individual berries on both sides.

Holly, with individual berries on both sides.

 Tree.  The garland was better in theory than in execution. I may redo this one in future years.

Tree.  The garland was better in theory than in execution. I may redo this one in future years.

 look at the penguin's lil belly! I love him.

look at the penguin's lil belly! I love him.

 candle.  The stripes are different on the reverse.

candle.  The stripes are different on the reverse.

 Present, no bow though, because it looked weird and i got tired of trying to make 1/4" pieces of felt bend to my will.

Present, no bow though, because it looked weird and i got tired of trying to make 1/4" pieces of felt bend to my will.

 french knots! I can finally finally finally do french knots! and went a little overboard with them here, on both sides.

french knots! I can finally finally finally do french knots! and went a little overboard with them here, on both sides.

 a bell.  It's a bell, it's fine. 

a bell.  It's a bell, it's fine. 

 The mitten is one of my absolute favorites. I love how the big chain stitching mimics knitting, and with it on both sides the ornament is super squishy!

The mitten is one of my absolute favorites. I love how the big chain stitching mimics knitting, and with it on both sides the ornament is super squishy!

 I'm kind of meh on the bird.  He got a bit mangled by the toddler this year, so I think he might be the first to be replaced next year (the bird, not the toddler).

I'm kind of meh on the bird.  He got a bit mangled by the toddler this year, so I think he might be the first to be replaced next year (the bird, not the toddler).

 I'm pretty pleased with the drum, all in all.

I'm pretty pleased with the drum, all in all.

 santa hat--i drew this shape freehand (along with all the others), but thankfully got the jaunty angle done the first time around!

santa hat--i drew this shape freehand (along with all the others), but thankfully got the jaunty angle done the first time around!

 The first one done! Pattern is the same on both sides.

The first one done! Pattern is the same on both sides.

 Sparkly names!

Sparkly names!

 Oh, look. A short name. How easy, how quick!

Oh, look. A short name. How easy, how quick!

 The only single sided ornament, because there is no way I am going to try to embroider 8 letters on a  1 1/4" x 1/4" piece of felt twice.

The only single sided ornament, because there is no way I am going to try to embroider 8 letters on a  1 1/4" x 1/4" piece of felt twice.

 candy cane.  I sewed the stripes on individually, but cut them longer and then trimmed to fit the white base after they were on.

candy cane.  I sewed the stripes on individually, but cut them longer and then trimmed to fit the white base after they were on.

 snowflake. This one is one of my favorites, and it was fun to embroider as well. 

snowflake. This one is one of my favorites, and it was fun to embroider as well. 

 owl! he's so cute.

owl! he's so cute.

 Snowman, no hat, because haven't i already tortured myself with fiddly pieces enough?

Snowman, no hat, because haven't i already tortured myself with fiddly pieces enough?

 Christmas tree light. 

Christmas tree light. 

 candy piece--super fiddly, but also kind of fun to make and figure out since the white swirls repeat on the reverse.

candy piece--super fiddly, but also kind of fun to make and figure out since the white swirls repeat on the reverse.

 A wee stocking, cute, but fiddly.

A wee stocking, cute, but fiddly.

 This one is the littlest little's favorite: "COOKIE MAN!"

This one is the littlest little's favorite: "COOKIE MAN!"

 the star--also the only one with a different hanger (all gold).  This is three layers, the darker layer was embroidered separately then sandwiched between the two yellow stars, and the whole shebang embroidered again.

the star--also the only one with a different hanger (all gold).  This is three layers, the darker layer was embroidered separately then sandwiched between the two yellow stars, and the whole shebang embroidered again.

behind the advent calendar

So JBB's family has a felt advent calendar, and I'd been thinking off and on about making one for us.  I kept seeing Purl Soho's advent calendar pattern and kit with wool felt last year and was like, YES I will do this.  Then promptly forgot about it for a solid year.

Til this November.  When I saw the Purl Soho one again, and was like, hmm.  And forgot about it again until right before Thanksgiving, when I realized it was full on crazy to kick this project off a week from December 1st, and yet... I had a FULL WEEK, yo.  That was AGES of time.

But I didn't love some of the ornament choices (I don't like repeating shapes in different colors, feels like a cheat) and felt color choices (that pink, whoah) of the Purl Soho one and I really did not love the attachment of the ornaments via straight pin, and did some online/Pinterest research.  I loved the idea of a slightly retro-modern wool felt calendar with ornaments hanging off of buttons (pretty ones), and lo and behold had a shit ton of wool felt stashed away. I even got so far as to save some icon images on which to base some of the designs, and pulled together a list of 24 ornaments and several extras for just in case the original ideas prove to be too much of a pain in the ass.

And then I scrapped the idea entirely because hi, ONE WEEK. 

And then the next day I had to kill time before an appointment and realized JoAnn's was open early and oh look they have some cream wool felt on sale...and some lovely green wool felt on sale...and check out these buttons that would totally work sewn onto the tree ...and WHAT HI METALLIC PERLE COTTON I LOVE YOU AND WANT TO MARRY YOU EVEN THOUGH YOU TANGLE LIKE A SONOFABITCH AND CUT MY HANDS.

So yeah. This happened:

why yes, that is a giant tinker toy arm it's hanging off of, so good of you to notice.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, just 6 hours before we packed our stuff up to go to the in-laws for the holiday, I decided to cut out the pieces.  The cream wool felt is thick and fluffy, and not nearly as stable as I'd like, so I knew it needed to be doubled for the backing, with some interfacing between to stabilize it.  But I laid it out, drew the tree freehand on the green felt (which is much thinner but more stable), and cut out that sucker--scissors for the tree, rotary cutter (god bless that thing) for the background.  And then 24 2.5" squares.  Pencil didn't transfer well to the cream felt, so I wrote out sample numbers about the right size on a sheet of paper, and packed the red perle cotton, 24 squares, 1 embroidery needle, and the swan embroidery scissors and winged those suckers.

 not pictured: the glass of wine.

not pictured: the glass of wine.

The embroidery was the easy part--done by the day after Thanksgiving.  The pain in the ass part was assembly, and I just didn't have the room. And so I carted it off to my mom's when we returned.  And thanks to her, and despite her being allergic to wool, we got that sucker sewed down (and reinforced with interfacing for the backing and a second thinner piece of felt for the squares) in an afternoon.  And by "we" I mean "my mom"--she did all the sewing, I did the placing. 

That night I cut out 24 itty bitty little ornaments from the wool felt and started sewing 6 of them. The next day--November 30th--I finished sewing the 6 itty bitty ornaments and crocheted 24 ornament hangers from yarn or crochet cotton held together with sparkly perle cotton.  And late that night I finished sewing all the damn buttons on.

The ornament hangers. Sparkle, Neely, sparkle! 

So as of this writing, I am 6 days ahead.  I just gotta be 1 day ahead and we're all good. 

 

secret sweaters

Not really secret secret, at least not now, because they are now in the hands of the recipients, but behold the last minute matching-but-not-matching-at-all fraternal sister sweaters...

So last week I realized that there were two little girls in my sphere who were sorely lacking in handknits.  And I had 4 skeins of Cascade 220 wool--a dark orangey pink and a lighter pink--that were just the right weight, yardage, and colors for two matching but not fully matching sweaters. Oh and I had under a week to make them because the little girls are not local, and I'd be seeing them around Thanksgiving. 

I'm awfully prone to this last minute OH SHIT LET ME MAKE SOMETHING gifting/crafting.  I very nearly decided last week to attempt to bust out a handmade felt advent calendar for the littlest little, but then after a few delirious hours of sketching 24 small Christmassy items, I finally gave up on it. 

But anyway. Because I am not crazy, I started with the baby version.  And because I am crazy, I decided to draft my own pattern.  So voila, the tiny sister of the duo, with a seven spoke yoke (in retrospect, a round yoke would have been better), and twisted 1x1 rib edging tipped in the contrasting color. 

please ignore the shadow of me taking the picture in the lower left corner. 

That was two nights work, if that.  God love baby sweaters in worsted weight yarn. And busting out the two sleeves at the same time on two circulars.   And so while that one sat on my heating vent drying after being washed, I started on her big sister.

This one is because I'm crazy.  I drafted my own pattern again, but this one was round yoke, colorwork (cribbed the chart for the yoke from the lovely Iðunn and tweaked the decreases a bit to suit the yoke depth)

And because it's colorwork, after the ribbing, I cast on a few stitches for a steek and worked in the round. For the non-knitters, steeking is where you knit the sweater in the round, then cut down the front and pick up bands afterwards.  All very easy to write.  A bit harder to man up for when you actually have scissors to fabric. 

pre cutting.  

I asked JBB to take a picture of me cutting, and instead he took a video. So now you can see me cutting the steek stitches from the inside of the sweater with the super sharp embroidery scissors while watching House Hunters on HGTV in my messy messy living room with super messy hair. 

I wound up tacking down the steek stitches/facing after picking up and working the buttonbands.  If it had been for a grown up, I probably would have just left them to felt into the body a bit, but since it's for a little kid, safer to tack that down.

tacked and just waiting on the buttons. 

All the numbers and other nerdy knitting details here, at Ravelry. 

 

Songs that my kids think are lullabies

AKA, songs I sing them at bedtime (mostly because I know all the words to them). Warning, some links are to youtube.

rock a bye baby--ok, this one is actually a lullaby. Creepy, yet still accepted by the rest of the world as a night-night song.

I've been working on the railroad--Trains. Always the trains.  Always. 

Dream a little dream--Arguably, yes, this one is a lullaby.  I still have a hard time remembering the modulations in the last (repeated) verse though, and the tiny stubborn audience wants to hear it THAT WAY EVERY TIME, GODDAMNIT, MAMA.

Rainbow connection--Sweet, then you listen to the lyrics.  Not quite as sweet as you think?  Still, it reminded me to watch Still Alive, the Paul Williams documentary which is on Netflix.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow--Another sweet yet surprisingly sad. I linked to the Iz version, but I wind up singing a very dramatic Judy Garland imitation. 

Yellow submarine--Slightly more rollicking that I'd prefer for a bedtime song, but I acquiesce to the demands of the tiny dictator.  Interestingly, this was for years the biggest little's absolute favorite song.  God help you if you skip the bridge. At least I no longer have to do the sound effects. 

Blackbird--Beatles version. Again, pretty but sad.  And featuring dismemberment and blinding of a bird!  Sweet dreams! (And yes I know it was inspired by the Civil Rights struggles of the 60s, and is meant to be inspiring.  It is, just also, sunken eyes.) 

Bye Bye Blackbird--Joe Cocker version. Sad song where no one loves you, Narrator. And a song that will never fail to remind me of Sleepless in Seattle. 

A Kiss At the End of the Rainbow--Let's all watch, this shall we? Ovbs, this is from the Christopher Guest movie A Mighty Wind!  Who doesn't love A Mighty Wind? Joyless people with no soul, that's who.  This is I adore this song, it's so lovely.  My favorite part is the bridge, where Catherine O'Hara sings solo. Sadly, neither kid took to Potato's in the Paddy Wagon.

Man, I could link to every damn song in that movie, I love it so.  

And now we come to what the littlest little calls "happy songs," which makes me think that he's a bit unclear on the meaning of "happy":

Leaving On a Jet Plane--Hey, I'm leaving, the taxi's waiting.  Sorry I cheated on you all those times, those girls meant nothing, I promise.  Maybe sometime soon I'll marry you and make you leave with me on the predawn flights! Oh hey, babe, who knew John Denver was such a jerky boyfriend? (I'm guessing his girlfriends, that's who.)

The Gambler--Learn to play cards then hang out on a train smokin' and drinkin', and die in the night! (but the video I linked to was when Kenny Rogers was on the Muppets!) Sweet dreams!  Reason I know all the words?  It was an unlikely party song at parties at Haverford in the 90s.  

Daydream Believer--It has the word sleepy in it, that counts, right? I love the Monkees, and also, NEIL DIAMOND!  Who doesn't love songs written and possibly also sung by Neil Diamond? People who are DEAD TO ME, that's who.  If I could have gotten either kid into it, I totally would be singing them Thank the Lord for the Night Time or Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show (that link with Johnny Cash!) in a sparkly shirt every night. 

You Are My Sunshine--I don't stop at the first verse, I sing all the stalker verses.  If you leave me to love another, you'll regret it all someday.  You've shattered all my dreams...  I'm coming for you.  You know, beloved heartwarming songs.  

Long Black Veil--Straight up murder ballad.  The Band's version was one of my paternal grandmother's favorite songs for my uncle to sing at family hymn sings (which, them's another set of stories). Oh my lord, there's a Springsteen version from the Seeger Sessions:  

 

Down in the Willow Garden--Another straight up murder ballad!  AKA the song Holly Hunter sings to the baby in Raising Arizona.  I linked to my favorite version, by Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses).  She has an album of all the murder ballads and creepy traditional songs her parents used to sing her as bedtime songs, called Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight, which is out of print but well worth finding. 

The Rose--Hey kid, know what's fun?  Stories of wildly talented blues rock singers who drink themselves to death!  WHOO!  That said, I love this song. First link was Bette.  This one is Amy Poehler and Jack Black.







It's September, ugh

How is it September anyway?  School's still not in session for us until the day after Labor Day, so there's one more week of freedom and chaos.  Soon to be replaced by an entirely different form of chaos, that is scheduling.

Biggest Little's King of the monsters, from his pottery camp this summer.  

Now, I don't think I'm an overscheduler, everyone must have 18 million zillion activities, but I realized this week that the biggest little has a ton of activities going on.  

On the sports side he is not big on the team sports, to say the least.  Which of course makes me want to get him into doing a team sport, because damnit, I had to do one.  Currently, he's doing taekwon do and tennis.  He's been doing taekwon do at a local school for a bit over a year and it's been awesome for him.  It's twice a week, though.  Each class is essentially a drop in so it is flexible, but it's something to account for.  Tennis is a once a week thing, and this session I think it'll be either Fridays or Sunday afternoons.  And then there's swim lessons, which I don't count as a sport but as a "required if you want to live" thing (also on Sunday).  He just took a try-it lesson for fencing, which I freaking LOVE the idea of.  He was the youngest in the studio by a number of a years, which to me isn't a bad thing.  

And then there's other stuff.  He did a two week pottery camp, and loved it, so I signed him up for an afterschool class for the fall.  Then he decided he wants to learn guitar, or drums, or guitar... the decision changes daily, or really, hourly.  The School of Rock near us offers a weekly class for kids his age group to try out a bunch of different things, so that's an option as well. 

And then once schools starts, there's an afterschool program through the PTA that offers classes, and I know he'll want to do one of those. 

All this adds up to a packed schedule.  So much for the "I won't overschedule my kid" thing.  Eh, he could still put off fencing or music til later. 

Thank god we didn't sign up for soccer, too. I have no idea how I'm going to keep track of this easily. Oh wait, sure I do: OFFICE SUPPLIES!  Yay!

Jazz hands!

This past spring I took the biggest little to go see a Broadway show--his first!  I thought he might be a bit wary, what with Matilda being very Roald Dahl-y and featuring a main character who, you know, tortures kindergartners.  But nope, kiddo LOVED IT.  In fact, his new favorite song is School Song, the dark song in which the older kids warn the little ones about the Trunchbull.  

And afterwards, he decided he really really really wanted to see more musicals.  JBB played him parts of Into the Woods, and a few other shows, but kiddo wanted more.

Which basically means that this program, where kids can go see musicals for free in January can't come at a better time!  Maybe Aladdin this time? Or Lion King?  Both are impressively staged, so I think he'd dig that...