Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Labor of Love: Making a Jesse Tree Tradition

It's finished!
I've been working on a handmade Jesse tree for the last three weeks and I'm so excited that it's finally completed. Sculpey clay is my new favorite.
 I used the clay to roll out small (these are about 1.5 inches across) fluted circles using a tiny biscuit cutter, and then I painted them with champagne colored craft paint. I originally wanted to paint the symbols onto each circle, but my goal was to complete this project for as little as possible, and I didn't have the right type of paint. So I decided to mold each tiny symbol by hand.
 This took much longer than I thought it would, and it was pretty frustrating at times, but I'm so happy that I did it.
 While most of our symbols are the standard ones (you can find tons of lists of Jesse tree ornaments online), a few were too daunting for me to attempt, so I made unique symbols for those bible passages.
 I spray painted some large branches from our backyard with white paint and propped them inside a vase that my mom gave us as a wedding gift.
I put family pictures and glittered ornaments around the tree's vase.
 Since the goal was to complete this project for little or no money, I used only things I already had, with the exception of the $3 spool of silver ribbon I used to hang the ornaments from the tree. I made "snow" around the base of the tree by cutting long strands of creamy knotted yarn and bunching it around the vase.
 I wrapped small bits of the yarn randomly throughout the branches, and held them in place with bits of craft glue at each end.
 The little boy above is an example of some of the symbols I created that are unique to my family's new Jesse tree. Instead of the lion and the lamb, I made a little child with a balloon (as in, "a little child will lead them").
 And this is the symbol I created for Isaac- a baby in a womb. He's a little hard to see in the photo above.
 I wanted to make something that would intrigue William (and ME) for years to come.
The tree is on our entry table in front of the mirror. You can see the doily project in the reflection behind the white branches, and it looks to me like a wall of falling snowflakes. I can't wait to read William the first story that foreshadows the birth of a savior. I'm so looking forward to using this tree every December.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Banana Pudding for Carpentry

Prior to Saturday, I had neither made nor tasted a banana pudding in my entire life. It's true. And now that I have both made and tasted (or devoured, more like it) banana pudding, it makes me sad to know what I've been missing. 

My perfectly imperfect pudding. It needs a little sign that says, "Made With Love."

 There isn't a humbler dessert, other than jello, but as far as I'm concerned, jello doesn't count. Anyway, I am a convert. I will gladly make banana pudding from here on out. It was GOOD. It was easy. I used this recipe, using only 2 cups of whole milk rather than 3. And make sure your cream cheese is really and truly at room temperature, or you'll get lumpy pudding.
I wouldn't have even made the banana pudding if my father in law hadn't indicated that it was his favorite dessert. I made it for him because he built custom shelves for William's room, with help from Don. I'm so excited about them it's a little hard to sleep. Now we have storage for all of the toys that have been slowly multiplying throughout our house. The shelves are built and waiting for a coat of primer and paint. I plan on finishing them this week. Finally, things are coming together around here.

And all because of some banana pudding.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving at the River

Baking at home on Wednesday. I made these. Addictive.

I am fascinated by molasses. Like an inky lake in a measuring cup. 

One thing I've learned at BSF is that my priorities in my daily life should match my heart. Spending time in the word daily.

Not totally perfect-looking, but delicious.

Green bean ice bath in preparation for making a from scratch version of green bean casserole. A whole lot of work (I even had to fry my own shallots to make the onion topping), not sure if I would make this recipe again.
We arrived at the river house late on Wednesday night. William had fallen asleep in the car, but he woke up as soon as he heard his grandparents. He had a late night snack and story before bedtime.
 Thanksgiving sunrise!
 Peeling potatoes.
 All of the males passed out on the couch before lunch was served! Don, Sr. woke up at 2 a.m. to smoke a turkey and a ham...I'm not sure if my Don has an excuse. :)
 Lots of nature everywhere.
 Napping before lunch.
 This guy knows how to smoke a turkey.
This was hands down the most amazing turkey I've ever eaten in my entire life. Smoked in a double smoker for hours with a ham smoking above it, dripping onto the turkey to baste it, and a pan of water in the bottom of the smoker to add moisture. Everyone kept talking about how delicious the turkey was.
 There is no internet at the river house, so this is a common sight.

 I was so happy that Adri and her sweet boy Lucas joined us. Adri and I met in social work grad school and became BFFs immediately. We used to skip work and get pedicures and bubble tea when we were grad assistants together (mature, I know).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sweet Things & Crafting is Messy

William has started falling asleep on car rides and not waking up when I carry him inside. This is a new development. I love the feeling of his sleeping smallness over my shoulder; when he is awake he is all boy and running and grunting and throwing things.

 My sister Melanie made this amazing book for me before my wedding day. I showed it to William this morning and was so touched by her thoughtfulness and how beautiful this page is.
 The breakfast area is a near-constant disaster. I have no place to craft. It's getting pretty bad. We may have to turn the guest room into a crafting center.
 The guest room closet is home to my mountains of craft supplies. Everything is in order, but in different containers and a less than ideal arrangement. It looks like chaos.
 Chaos, but happy chaos for sure.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tiny Handmade Christmas Garland

Sometimes inspiration comes from working with something you've never before worked with. I am currently obsessed with clay. The possibilities are endless. You can make anything your crafty little heart desires. I made a tiny Christmas garland. Since our trees (that's right, plural) aren't out yet, I hung this little garland as a banner in our bookcase. 

I used a small 2-inch star cookie cutter to cut stars from soft clay. I used a chopstick to poke a hole on each side of each star, since I wanted to hang them garland style, and used tiny alphabet stamps (the kind from the dollar bin at Michael's). I baked them according to the package directions. Once cooled, I painted them with two coats of gold craft paint. I strung them with what I had on hand, fuzzy ivory yarn I used to make a scarf in college. Next up for my clay obession: making wings for those little piggies I picked up recently. Does anyone else think sculpey clay is possibly the most amazing thing ever?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Working with Fabric Dye

I love classic boys' clothes, but am not willing to shop at Janie and Jack for William (other than their sale rack).  I thought the shape and design of this toddler boys' sweater from Tarjay and the $12 pricetag were perfect, but the oatmeal color was boring.
 I thought of dyeing it red, but I couldn't find a shade that didn't look lipstick red. I chose some olive green dye and adorable wooden bunny buttons.
 I followed the directions on the package of dye, mixing the color with salt and hot, hot, HOT tap water.
 The color looked like iced tea and wasn't at all green. Scary.
 I wanted to quit after two minutes because the color was awful. I kept stirring and the color eventually looked more saturated and green, but still a little muddy. I washed it and now I love it!
 I'm not going to replace the buttons just yet because they look much more interesting against the green background. The color in the picture above is exactly what it looks like. This picture was taken in the shade of the porch, and the picture below was in the setting sun with cloud cover.
Is it weird that I feel oddly liberated knowing that I can now dye clothing? Watch out throw pillows and blankets, you're next.