First Married Christmas

This is going to be the first year that I have not slept at my parent’s house on Christmas Eve.

We decided that if we were ever going to come up with a holiday situation that didn’t involve stressful planning and then travelling all over the place, this year was the year to “take a stand”. So this year, we will be spending Christmas Eve and morning in our own home.

It will be a transition, but it will be a good one, I think.

What I don’t love is how stressful it is to be a full adult at Christmas. There is just so much to DO! You have to buy presents, plan meals, buy groceries, pre-make food, wrap presents, get a tree, decorate a tree, decorate the house, make sure you fit in seeing everyone, go to holiday parties…and it’s not like regular life really stops to fit all those things in.

I think the main difference between this year and previous years is that this is our first full-vegan Christmas. So we have to be in charge of finding and making dishes that we can eat. Because many people find the concept of vegan too intimidating to attempt on their own. I try to tell people it’s not that hard, it’s just a different set of ingredients, but that doesn’t seem to reassure them. (Does anyone have some good recipes / recipe books that are for the omnivore trying to feed a vegan?)

There’s also something missing when you celebrate Christmas with no kids around who are so excited with the magic of the season. It’s hard to generate that enthusiasm on my own.

Nonetheless, I am still pretty excited to eat breakfast and open a few gifts in our living room with the fire place turned on (assuming the downstairs neighbours don’t have theirs cranked up again!). And there are much worse things to do on Christmas morning than baking!

Happy holidays everyone!

What are your Christmas morning traditions?

My Get-In-The-Spirit Movie

…is Love Actually. Somehow, even after watching it around 10 times, I still love that movie. I’m not a watch-things-multiple-times kind of person. The more times I watch something, the more bored I am of it. Except Love Actually.

It has become an annual tradition to watch it in December as the holidays ramp up. I’m not sure why, but my partner puts up with this and has, for the past 3 Christmases, watched it with me. Who knows how long he will keep doing it, but I am certainly enjoying it while it lasts!

Image borrowed from the internet

We watched it last Saturday, in preparation for tree hunting the next day. What is tree hunting? Well, it’s where you take a rifle, and you go out, and hunt a tree to put inside…isn’t that how everyone does it? Okay, fine. We go to a tree farm and cut down our very own tree. It’s my family tradition that my partner and I have adopted into our family.

So we have a tree, we’ve watched the movie, and it’s definitely officially the holiday season. I can now listen to those holiday tunes without squirming. Bring on the rest of it–especially the decorations!

What’s your “get in the spirit” tradition?

Upcycling and Consumerism

In the past few months, I have discovered something about myself. I really love crafty magazines. This probably shouldn’t be surprising, but as someone whose only magazine subscription was 2 years of I-didn’t-read-it-at-all scientific american. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read it, there was just never enough time to read all that text. What there is time for is to look at pretty pictures and choose which text I want to read. Enter craft magazines.

First, I found one that mostly pulled items off of etsy, and while it had some instructions, it was too….well, something. I didn’t enjoy it enough to want to get another one. But then I found GreenCraft Magazine:

 

This is the second issue I bought, as I liked the first one enough to continue picking them up. There was something quite magical about all the different ways people had found to upcycle everyday materials. And unlike the other magazine, they weren’t just featuring the items without explaining–every item had a “how to” associated with it.

And then I found another upcycling magazine, so I figured I’d better pick that one up too.

This one is different than GreenCraft, it still has tons of cool ideas and tutorials, but it also features some products without instructions (but that is still made of upcycled materials). As well as having a guide to a useful skill related to crafting. I don’t know if this is how all of these magazines are/will be, but hopefully they will, since it is nice to have it be its own magazine instead of a copy of the other one.

In short, I love both of these magazines, and highly recommend them. If I had to pick one, I would probably pick GreenCraft, but only by a little.

These magazines have inspired me to start looking at everyday items a bit differently. For instance, instead of buying organizers for a shelf we have, I’m making them out of cereal boxes and tape. Infinitely cheaper, and still just as functional. (And I can cover it in wrapping paper / magazine pages to make it pretty.)

It’s also helped me take a serious look at my consumerism. It isn’t the only motivator I’ve had to do that, but it has certainly contributed. Why would I buy things when I can make them? And for each thing that I can’t make, but I want to buy, why do I want it? Is it going to be useful in the long run or just a space consumer?

And, really, what better time to be extra conscious of consumerism than Christmas-time? I am finding the commercialism fairly terrifying, this year. It kind of makes me want to hide in a corner. But instead, I’m going to try do do things differently. Other than a few thoughtful, high quality gifts, mostly I will be giving handmade items, or donations to a cause on the person’s behalf. It won’t be quite as “SHINY!” as previous years, but it will be so much more meaningful. Because I have enough, and so do the people I’m giving to (no offense!). But, there are lots of people and animals who don’t.

Who knew a magazine could change my world so much?

Fan Friday – Book Review Edition

Since I just adore Christmas, what better way to foray into the book review world, than a book about both knitting and Christmas!

Fan Friday Presents…Knit Christmas Stockings!

When signed up on NetGalley a few weeks ago, I saw this book and thought, that one, that is the book for me. It is especially fortuitous since my brand new little family does not have Christmas stockings of our very own yet.

Image courtesy of amazon

  • Author: Gwen W. Steege
  • Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC
  • Publish Date: September 10, 2013
  • 136 pages

The book is well written, with lots of pictures to go along with the instructions. There was a nice variety of different patterns, and each pattern specified how large the end result would be. This is important because some families are very “stocking-heavy” (aka: don’t bother with those heavy stocking holders on the mantle, it’ll fall over anyway), or “stocking-light” (aka: Bigger is better, put those suckers under the tree instead!). They also had several patterns that had “mix and match” pieces, so you could make matching stockings that are still a bit different.

Another cool thing about the book is that it has some great techniques at the front. I learned how to do a long-tail cast on (which is actually an awesome cast on technique). It was pretty confusing at first, but I did figure it out after a fairly short period of time.

The only negative point of the book is that none of the patterns inspired me with the feeling of “I have to knit this right now”. Which isn’t to say I didn’t like a lot of the patterns, it’s just that there wasn’t the sense of urgency that comes with finding that perfect pattern. However, it is entirely possible that once the Christmas season heads our way again, I will be singing (or knitting) a different tune.

Overall, I give it a 4/5.

Feedback time, is this book review useful to you, or should I get back to my regular style of Fan Fridays?

A Tree Of Memories

Christmastime, to me, has always been about family. It’s about being with those you love, thinking of those who are far, and remembering those who are no longer with us. It is a wonderful time, and sometimes a hard time. But it is always full of love.

My family has started many traditions over the years that I now associated with what gives the holidays meaning for me. One of the most important is the tree–it must meet several requirements to be considered a “real Christmas tree”.

Our First Christmas Tree

First, it has to be real. None of that fake tree crap. It smells wonderful, looks wonderful, and keeping it alive for 3 weeks really makes me feel like I accomplished something.

Second, we have to cut it down ourselves. That’s right, down on those hands and knees in the dirt, sawing that sucker down. Just gives you the warm and fuzzies, doesn’t it?

Third, it must have coloured lights. White lights look very classy, I admit, but that’s not the look I want. I leave the classy trees to classy people.

Fourth, it must have moving ornaments. Some of you may not have had the pleasure of these particular motorized ornaments, but they are pretty much the best thing ever. Unless I hear that buzz of tiny motors, it doesn’t seem like a real tree.

The little elves rotate around the tree to "decorate it"

The little elves rotate around the tree to “decorate it”

Lastly, mostly importantly, there are the picture decorations. I could probably suffer through the absence of 2 – 4 as long as I had these (not the fake tree though, never the fake tree). They contain memories, that you can put up on your tree, all the while reminiscing about all the good times, and all the people you love. It is an especially good way to remember loved ones, be they human, pets, or just dear inanimate objects.

Picture Ornament

And because it’s the holiday season, I am going to be generous enough to share the how-to for these cherished decorations.

DIY Picture Decorations

Materials:

  • thin cardboard (file folders work really well)
  • wrapping paper
  • glue stick
  • scissors
  • a pencil
  • a photograph (not an original!)
  • ribbon
  • single hole punch
  • Approximately 3.5″ and 4″ round stencils (I used a small sour cream container for both, it was perfect! Other options are lids, using a compass or mugs)
  • glitter (optional)
The tools (minus the hole punch)

The tools (minus the hole punch)

On the cardboard, draw a circle 3.5″ in diameter and cut it out – if you want to make multiples, this can be kept and used as a template, so I suggest using it to draw another

Trace the 3.5" circle onto the file folder

Trace the 3.5″ circle onto the file folder

Trace a circle 3.5″ in diameter on the back of the photo and cut along the line

Trace 3.5" circle onto the back of the photograph

Trace 3.5″ circle onto the back of the photograph

Use glue stick to glue photo to cardboard

Photo and cardboard glued together

Photo and cardboard glued together

Trace a circle 4″ in diameter on the boring side of the wrapping paper, and cut it out (sensing a pattern yet?)

Trace 4" circle on wrapping paper

Trace 4″ circle on wrapping paper

Put glue all over the boring side of the wrapping paper circle. Stick the exposed cardboard side in the center of the wrapping paper circle, then fold edges of wrapping paper over the photo.

2012-12-20 02.47.25

Glue the photo-cardboard to the wrapping paper and press the exposed edges onto the photo

Use hole punch to put a hole through top of the ornament. Cut about 8″ of ribbon and loop it through the hole, tying off the ends.

Tada!

Tada!

Optional fun bonus steps:

  • Put glue on the exposed wrapping paper on the photo side, and sprinkle some glitter on. (Ooooh shiny!)
  • Stick a label on the back of that sucker! 20 years from now you may not remember who that person was, or why the photo was significant. Then you have arguments over who the baby in the picture was, where the picture was taken, who took it…(I may or may not be speaking from personal experience)

This Christmas, I’m very excited to make some new ones including my fiance and his family, so that we can start our own collection of memories to put on our tree every year.

Your turn: what memory would you make an ornament out of?

My First Wedding Photo Shoot

I have discovered a talent that I did not suspect of myself. I discovered that I missed my true calling as a wedding photographer.

A Penguin Wedding

However, it helped that I had such wonderfully photogenic subjects.

Penguin Love

Yes, they were a dream to work with. We can only aspire to a love as pure and adorable as theirs. (If you’d like to see more photos of this beautiful wedding, head over to my flickr account!)

This small scale wedding was super fun to put together. With the help of my partner, we made a backdrop of paper, and used stuffing for the snow. I had several tiny penguins (and one tiny snowman) as the guests, and a large snowman to marry them.

Penguin Wedding Setup

 

Part of my motivation to do this was the yearly contest over at mochimochiland. The other part of it was just because it was awesome, and I had all the penguins/snowmen all ready anyway.

This weekend also marked the beginning of the holiday season. Which meant that we got to break out the decorations! To my dismay, I discovered that we do not have sufficient decorations for our little home, and I may have to get a bit crafty to fix that problem…what a shame, right?

So what are your favourite things about the holiday season? Do you have any favourite holiday crafts you’d care to share?