It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

I've finally got a quiet day ahead of me today: I should be getting started on the last couple of Christmas presents that I plan to make (thank heavens that the shopping part is over).  Still, what's another 10 minutes of procrastination?
On one hand, I'm pretty prepared for the holidays: the decorations and tree are up; the Christmas cards are sent; even some of the gifts are wrapped.  On the other hand, the daughter's pig sty of a room is yet to be cleaned ready for visitors; a couple of gifts are still to be made; the Christmas cake awaits its icing; and I'm ill, which is most inconvenient.  My husband has made a smug comment about how I should have had a flu shot.  Is it wrong of me to kind of hope that he gets ill, too?  No, scrap that, he's awful to live with when he's feeling under the weather.

I don't have time for feeling ill.  Which is probably why yesterday I could still be found listlessly poking around the local park looking for pine cones for my wreath.  It's a bit sad looking, but it's only cost me $1.38 (cheap fake wreath for the wreath form, then covered with stray branches from the bottom of the tree, a clump of fake berries and the above-mentioned pine cones).  My husband (aka as Scrooge at this time of year) wouldn't let me ask them for the branches that they had trimmed off at the tree lot.  We keep having worryingly warm days, so it will probably just be a pile of needles on the doorstep come Christmas day...
Not all present-making was left to the last minute.  Things that could be made at soccer practices were even made back in November!  I think that I peaked too early.  My friends' kids (that live in a somewhat colder place) are getting these hats (made using my own tutorial). 
 
It took me a while to work out what the tutorial was saying - I'm not very good at crochet-speak, even when I'm the one that's written it, apparently - but once I worked it out, these hats don't half come together quickly.  

There's a little of the yarn left over, so I might make myself one.  Hmm, I really need to stop making myself hats and handwarmers and accept that, as long as I live in LA County, just a couple of warm things for trips will probably be sufficient...
Ok, I ought to get going.  Let's hope that the sewing angels are looking down upon me fondly, as I feel too weak to deal with the usual flying broken needles and knotted up threads today.

Translation of the Day:
UK English: Mince pie = a sweet pie served at Christmas that contains mincemeat. Way back when, it used to be a spiced meat pie, containing some fruit, hence the name. These days it's just dried fruit and suet. Not a ground meat pie, as I had to reassure an American the other day.  I'm even seeing them in some of the local supermarket these days AND crackers!  It's getting easier and easier to have a British-style Christmas over here.

Take care all,

It was a good summer

It's probably not a good sign when you glance over your last blog post, notice that it mentions a baby blanket in progress and you can not remember who has had a baby recently...  Has it been that long?  I know my summer plans got a little derailed when I came down with shingles for a couple of weeks.  It's supposed to be the over 50 crowd / cancer patients / stressed out individuals that get it - none of which applied to me this summer.  It was a pain (quite a bit of pain, but luckily I got it around the hip, so, could have been worse).  Might have been more pleasant during school time, mind...

Still, lots of day trips and the garage did eventually get mainly cleared out, which has been on the to-do list since we, um, last stuffed baby gear in there.  My youngest is 8.  Yeah, it's been a few years since we could cross the garage without having to follow a 'path'.

After that I had a spell of madness at the start of the school year / soccer season and went a little volunteer-crazy.  Luckily most of the tasks that I signed up for are now completed, leaving me with just my usual weekly stuff... and, um,  the 5th grade memory book...  I've made a mental note to stop putting my hand up when they're asking for dupes and to practice avoiding eye contact in future.

I'm feeling like I am getting back into the groove, though.  Churned out a couple of Halloween costumes AND I have a hand sewing project on the go for when I'm watching yet another soccer practice.  I feel like I'm spending about half of my awake hours at the local park at the moment.
So, Halloween costumes: bless my lovely children, for they picked easy costumes this year.  So nice to for once not have the 'I think a storm trooper costume will take more hours and care than I am willing to put into a costume for one night' conversation.  My daughter wanted to be a surgeon - YES!  Pretty much PJs, a mask, a hat and Bob's your uncle, you're done:
As for my son, he's Ricky Vaughn (aka Wild Thing from the 80s movie Major League).  I'm thinking that 95% of people won't get the movie reference, but he'll still look like a kid that's dressed up as a baseball player.  Plus, he was already on an Indians little league team, so we already had the cap.  All I had to do was mock up a baseball jersey.
When he picked out his glasses at the opticians, I might have told him that he ought to at least be Clark Kent or Wild Thing for Halloween, if those glasses were going to be his choice...
A little reluctance was shown about the haircut, mind.
I had a weird moment when drafting out the patterns for the costumes: it was a moment of calm.  I used to be measuring and re-measuring and pinning and draping when making things up as I went along.  This time it was a quick measurement, followed by a quiet confidence that what I was drafting would turn out the way I was hoping.  Ok, this was mainly because they were such easy costumes to draft and were not 'fitted', but it was still a nice moment.  The sewing was still littered with the odd flying broken needle and machine trying to eat the project, but the calm prevailed.  Well, a few choice words were uttered here and there, but, in the main, the calm prevailed.  Maybe I am starting to actually have a clue about how to do this sewing lark after all.
Oh, and I did eventually remember who had a baby: my husband's workmate's wife.  I didn't feel so bad for forgetting once I realised that it was a baby that I had never met (the blanket is a boring and practical navy, but the photo's colours look different in blogger: hmm).

I need to get around to planting some herbs in those pots

It's as though there's a RSS reader conspiracy.  They messed with Bloglines, then deleted Google Reader.  I wasn't too convinced by Feedly, then someone mentioned that The Old Reader was similar to Google Reader. Barely moments later The Old Reader are talking about going private only, so now I've found InoReader - but now The Old Reader might be continued in some way...  We'll see.
I don't know how many of the blogs that I've followed over the years have survived the numerous switches.  I've noticed that quite a few seem to have died out lately anyway.  Any recommendations for replacements?
Meanwhile, there's not been much to blog about here, either: I've had lots of visitors, but not much time for crafting.  A half-finished baby blanket and this wood bead trivet is about all I have to show for this summer, so far.  
So easy to make.  Depending on how well the trivet holds up, I'm thinking that this might be something for the kids to make as small gifts for some of the adults in their lives.  

Time to eat.  Hopefully I'll be back soon - or at least catching up on my blog reading.  Take care,

and the rest of the 5...

Luckily my challenge to myself to complete 5 projects in 5 weeks did not include the proviso that I blog about it.  You'll just have to take my word for it that I did complete the challenge in time.  I won't lie, it probably helped that the deadlines for the projects were all set by outside factors...
So, project #2: end of year gifts for 2 teachers.  The tote bag was just a little extra in addition to the class gift.  It seems to be a compulsion of mine to use apple fabrics when making these tote bags for teachers.  I do make them reversible, though, in case they need a break from all things apple:  
Hopefully they come in useful in a city with a plastic bag ban.
The other teacher had had the misfortune to have my other offspring in her class a couple of years ago, so for her I switched things up and made an Emmeline Apron to go with a bag of British food stuff etc.  I've made several of these aprons now, so I've had my money's worth out of this pattern.  She's a fan of Disney, so I went with the polka dots on the one side and this for the other:
Ok, project #3: a prop torch for the same class play that I made the masks for:
Next up, project #4: 3 witches hats also for the play (probably the most fiddly of the projects, as the interfacing was so stiff that I ended up just hand sewing them)
Finally, project #5: 3 small lace capes for the good witches.  I was a little nervous about sewing with lace, thinking my machine would probably chew it up, but it was a doddle.
The class did a great job.  Here's a couple of snaps of the witches in action:

In the background you can get a peek of my unofficial project #6: helping to paint the scenery backgrounds. Any dodgy looking bits were probably painted by me: I'm better at drawing than I am painting and large scale painting is a completely different kettle of fish.  I hadn't picked up an artist's brush for a couple of decades prior to this...  
It's been a busy few weeks, especially helping out with all the end of term stuff etc.  Still, summer has started now and the task of keeping my kids from being idle has begun.  Luckily my parents will be arriving tomorrow for a long visit.  I'm a little nervous, as our eldest dog has been having a lot of bad episodes lately, but hopefully having visitors that he knows well won't set him off.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed: I'm not ready to say goodbye to him just yet.

Hope you all have a lovely summer.  Hopefully I'll be back before the end of it, but I won't make any promises that I can't guarantee that I'll keep.  Take care all!

1 of 5

Ok, so I was a little tempted to consider my challenge completed: 5 masks = 5 projects.  I decided that that would be being a little too easy on myself, though, so these masks for my son's class play only count as project #1 of 5...

...even if all that hand sewing did take bloomin' ages...   
That one's for a Daisy fairy
that one an Iris fairy
for a Lilac fairy
a Gardenia fairy
and the grumpy & thorny fairy (apparently my daughter felt like getting into character, when modelling these for me...)

I think it helps to have a tight deadline.  Project #2: some small capes for the same play.  

I might regret this 5 masks counting as only one project.  Don't be surprised if by the end of the 5 weeks I'm drawing stick figures and calling them 'art projects'...

This probably won't surprise you, now that you've seen the masks, but I'm not very good at identifying flowers.  I hope that Google Images didn't lie to me...

5 / 5

I know, I know, it's been months.  I could lie and say that I've been off contemplating the role of blogging in my life or that I gave up technology in a bid to find my true basic self.  The reality is that I lost my mojo.  I'm not sure where I mislaid it.  I just know that I started 2013 knitting an ugly scarf and some finger-less mittens, then suddenly the weather warmed up and I just didn't feel the urge to make anything any more.

The ideas were still there, but the will was lacking.  I found myself picking up a crossword puzzle book instead of a needle and thread.  I wasn't reading any blogs, I hardly pinned a thing.
Then last week my friend's 39 year old husband suddenly died.  Fit, slim, healthy and one of the nicest blokes that you could ever meet.  Not just pleasant, but one of those genuinely nice people that make you feel at ease straight away.  One of those that you could not imagine ever having an unkind word to say about anyone.  His children are just 3 and 5 years old.    
I was upset.  I was also angry.  The nicest people that I know seem to always be the ones that get the bad breaks in life.  Oh, I was angry.
I also realised that I missed having a project at hand to work on.  Something to slow the hands and then the mind.  Something to reset my rhythm and calm the soul.
So, I have a plan to find my mojo: 5 projects in 5 weeks.  That's it.  Small or big.  Could even just be a doodle.  Most likely will end up involving some stuff for my son's class' play (I thought that I had been doing well at keeping a low profile at school, but somehow someone has noticed that I can draw and told the teacher.  Now painting sets has been mentioned and I'm scared - I haven't mixed paint since senior school...).  So, 5 projects, 5 weeks.  Join in if you'd like.

Translation of the Day:
UK English: bloke = guy in US English
UK English: jolly = very or extremely in US English

As in, he really was a jolly nice bloke.

PS.  Do they have to take away Google Reader??  I lost half of the blogs that I followed when switching from Bloglines, or whatever it was called.  Has anyone got any recommendations for a feed reader?  Also, drop me a comment if I used to pop in and say hello sometimes on your blog - it was probably one of those that got lost in the last shuffle...

Hmmm, can't think of a title right now

It's a rather belated Happy New Year to you all.  Not much has been going on around here, except for feeling poorly.  It's been weeks since I last saw the sewing machine.  The only crafting that I've been doing has been knitting.  Not these cushion covers - they were made in December for a Christmas present.  Nope, all that is on my needles at present is a scarf and it's taking me bloomin' ages.   
We've signed our offspring up for a local rugby team (well, my husband was the one that decided to also sign up my wee 7 year old baby girl onto a mostly male U10 team.  Most of the opposition are well over a foot taller than my sweet girl), so the knitting needles get dragged out at rugby practice time.  Practices start after sunset, though, so I'm blaming the cool weather for my slower than normal pace.  My finger joints get a little creaky one things get into the low 40sºF.  Still, you should hear the Californian locals complaining about the cooler than normal weather.  I think that most of them don't actually own a winter coat, mind.

Take care all.