Thursday, December 27, 2007

Jane Little's Handmade Christmas photosetJane Little's Handmade Christmas photoset

Monday, December 24, 2007

The picture above is of a doll house my grandparents made for me for my 5th birthday. All of the furniture was made from bottle caps, bits and bobs of stuff they had saved. The sink was one of those shallow plastic jelly containers from a restaurant. My grandmother was forever saving me little containers and do-dads to make new things for my doll house. I decorated and redecorated that cardboard dollhouse for the next 6 years at least. I think it was my favorite present ever.
Last week, my brother bought his own little house. A real house! I am so excited for him and for the future this house represents. 
We are off to Florida today to spend time with my family. Although I never lived in their Florida house, it does feel like home. There's no place like home for the holidays!

Wishing all of you the blessings of faith and family. Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I love hanging out with all of you!

It's not high style, but this is my favorite Christmas decoration!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thrifty the Clown*

The past few times I have been in NJ for Christmas, Piper and Kate have hosted a holiday open house so that I could catch up with all my NJ friends during our short visits. It has always been a wonderful gathering of work friends, neighbors and high school friends.

One year my friend Lesley's baby started fussing and she pulled out a little clown. She shook it at him and it magically calmed little Andrew. Joking, I shook the clown in my brother's face. From time to time we call him "Baby." Well, Baby giggled. The magic clown brought a smile to his face too! All night Cliff and I checked to see if the magic clown still worked on Baby and it did. 

So the other weekend when I was at my favorite thrift shop there happened to be this clown on the counter and it clicked! For baby!  

The lady at the counter at this particular shop is always adding little do dads to my bag and she saw me admire this clown. Before I knew it she added it to my bag! 

A free gag gift- now that is fun!

*Alexa sorry for the big clown picture first thing in the morning! 
Dreaming of a White Christmas
This year we will be in Florida for Christmas. I can hardly wait. We will meet my brother's girlfriend for the first time! We will also meet our new baby cousin for the first time. These two ladies are long anticipated additions to our family and the excitement is hard to contain.

We will take long walks. We will admire the lavish displays of lights. People who are not freezing their buns off take holiday yard illumination to whole new levels. 

I will wear a new short sleeve satin top with no jacket. Boots will be solely a fashion statement.

Truly, I am only "dreaming" of a white Christmas. 

A white Christmas stands for Cliff's family in the icy tundra that is Rochester, NY at this time of year.  
A white Christmas means seeing my dear friends in NJ. 
A white Christmas includes my Grandpaw. 

I miss you all.

"And sorry that I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could..."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More Fun With Picnik

Flickr's new edit button takes you to a site called Picnik and that is where I added the hat other do dads to this picture of my Aunt Janet. 

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Possible Post Titles: 
Greetings Coast to Coast 
When a Good Idea Goes Bad
CIA Scandal Christmas

Last year when I took this picture Cliff emphatically said, "Wow! That picture has to be our Christmas card next year!" Since he has never had an opinion about our Christmas card, I thought I would go with it. 

Then one of his friends sent us a homemade Halloween photo postcard and I thought, "I could do that too!" In fact, I had the cards, the photos and the stamps all before Thanksgiving. I even had most of the addresses printed out. File this under "No good idea goes unpunished" because that was the upside of this story.

I put the project aside while Cliff's parents were here for Christmas. I meant to send them last weekend, but I lost the stamps. 

I meant to send them Saturday afternoon after I bought new stamps and thus guaranteed that I would find the old stamps in my other purse. Unfortunately, the glue had dried funny and all the photos started popping off the postcards!

So today I used double sided tape to fix all 50 postcards. Tomorrow I will go to the early post office on my way to work and finally send them off.

I got to thinking that postcards might not be considered first class mail and they may take even longer to get delivered? Or if the picture pops off, you might just get a plain green postcard from us. Klassy!

CIA Christmas?

Oh yes... Cliff emailed one of his friends:

"Bill, Thanks for the Christmas photo of your children. Our card will be coming soon. In honor of the CIA prisoner torture scandals we have our boys posed spread eagle on a metal rack. Merry Christmas!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Photo Hunters: Small

Small little cookies... big job! Actually, I love to decorate cookies. And, I really love these  awesome tiny candy cane decors! Jodi sent me the cookie cutters and a big bag of the small (tiny really) candy canes  for the November Swap. 

The fun part is decorating. The not so fun part is the postal deadline to get them sent out to all of my family members on the East Coast. So, with that, I will be around to all of your pictures Sunday morning with more time and a leisurely cup of hot chocolate!

Green and Cheap and Not Half Bad

Each year I wrap packages for a hot potato game I play with the Crayons at our holiday party.  I wrap each gift with tons of layers of paper, so to save money and waste I start with magazine pages and then newspaper. Only the last layer is actually wrapping paper. 

I have to say, between Tiffany ads in the LA times and the gorgeous pictures in the Smith & Hawken and Williams Sonoma catalogs, I really didn't need wrapping paper at all. 

Most of my gifts this year are wrapped in gift bags made from my sister-in-law's bridesmaids dresses. Next year though, I will be sure to save the best catalogs for our gift giving! I love how these three came out. With some simple ribbon you would never know they were catalog pages.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Scrappy Notebook

This notebook is for my colleague and dear friend Ms. B. She is starting a mentoring  group for girls at our school to help foster positive self esteem, strong study skills and even early financial planning and job skills. It's an ambitious task and she feels truly called to this work. 

Ms.B  & her nephew Little Robby came over for Advent dinner on Sunday. We were able to talk about her plans for the girls group. After we lit the advent candles I was ready to read my devotional from this book, when she asked Little Robby what he sang for his school show. He broke out into the sweetest rendition of Away in the Manger that I have ever heard! It was so perfect!

To encourage her passion for this girls group, I made her this notebook for Christmas. I was so thrilled to find some sweet drawings of black girls in the Magic Cabin catalog. I also discovered some very cool adhesive scrapbook paper at Target. It comes in small pads with about four coordinating designs. Using crafty hole punches I was able to make assorted stickers. Also, no wrinkling!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cookies For A Cowboys Fan

Michelle at Scribbit is hosting a Winter Bazaar of holiday ideas. Almost every year I give cookies as a gift, but I try to personalize it with a donation to a charity that would be meaningful for the recipient.

I know for sure my brother-in-law doesn't read my blog so I get to share! He is a huge Dallas fan. Like most of us, he has everything he needs in my price range. So I thought I would send him a gift he doesn't have to keep around.

The Cowboy's colors are navy and silver, but I wasn't going to make gray frosting and I couldn't get a true navy. Instead I used these blue sprinkles. 

The little footballs are just ovals laid over the hand of a regular gingerbread boy. They cooked right on.

I ended up writing famous Cowboy's numbers on the little stars with a special cookie marker. I think the santas look a bit sunburned. That's what happens when I get lazy and just add some red food coloring right to the frosting in the bag and hope that squishing it will mix it enough. Santa could get a sunburn. Right? Right.
I also included a donation to the Salvation Army since that is the official charity of the DC's. Let's hope this good chi brings his team a "super" new year!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Apartment Decorating Strategy #312 
Record Frames 

When we were just dating, Cliff happened to admire one of the records, Time Out by Dave Brubeck, in my parent's dusty and neglected record collection. His actual words were, "This is a classic you should have this framed and hanging on the wall."

A few months later for Christmas my parents sent him the record in a special frame so that he could hang it on the wall. 

Later we picked up three more record frames at Restoration Hardware. Cliff enjoys rotating his records through the frames creating different displays. Since we don't currently have a record player and Cliff is not going to part with that record collection...ever, it might as well earn it's keep too!

Recently his parents were getting ready to chuck their record collection and I picked out a couple of their Christmas records. The Koledy album is my favorite. Not only is it red and white, it features a nativity scene and celebrates Cliff's Polish heritage. 

One of the things on my thrift wish list is a real kitchy beach music album cover to go in my bathroom which has sort of a beachy theme. I also think vintage children's albums would make cheap and darling nursery decorations.

There are several other frames in the apartment that have Christmas pictures in them. I like changing out my pictures with the seasons because I can store pictures in the frames themselves and just rotate them.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Photo Tags
I am really excited about this discovery! I had the idea this year to use old photos for Christmas tags. I think it will spark fun memories and conversations at our family gatherings.I made some just by printing out photos and coloring on them with Sharpie markers. 

Then while tooling around Flickr, I clicked on the "edit" photo button with the hopes of cropping a photo. What I discovered was Picnik. Using Picnik's very intuitive tools I was able to add text and little graphics. There is tons of really cool stuff if you sign up for the premium service ($24.99 a year) but the free stuff more than meets my needs.

I did have this one printed at Target, but a 5X5 square print has to be done through the mail. So I got cheap and just ordered a 4X6 which got cropped and cut off the "Merry Christmas." Just so you know with old square pictures, either wait for mail delivery or plan for some cropping. This photo is my father (in the santa hat) and his brother at some sort of 50's Santa Land  in the Adirondacks.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tag Your It

With my in-law's coming for Thanksgiving this year, Cliff and I scrubbed the kitchen within an inch of it's life. How's that for a date night? 

One of the many things we discovered was that our canisters were mostly empty. Others contained long forgotten baking soda and tea bags. 

During the big weavle invasion of '04 we had emptied out the traditional flour and sugar and somehow never used them again. I think for a long time I was just scared by the whole bugs in my flour experience! Still, space is money canisters! Either you function or it's off to the goodwill with you! 

We found (weavle resistant) stuff to put in the canisters and in order to remember what each one holds I made some temporary tags. Since my in-laws were cooking Thanksgiving dinner I wanted to make the little-kitchen-that-could as user friendly as possible.

Somewhere I have seen cute little chalkboard ornaments used to label canisters. I may still pick those up if I see them. In the meantime these freebies are on the job.

Oh, and by the way those vintage red canisters earn their keep holding my cookie cutters.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Scrappy & Happy

This notebook is for a dear friend and former colleague who rescued me at OFS in my first year. She took me under her wing and told me I was normal. The school was indeed a parallel universe. She assured me that in time, things would still seem strange and foreign, but that I would survive anyway.

For that I will be eternally grateful. Nicole has moved on to other pastures which are just like teaching, sometimes green and sometimes bone dry.

She is busy studying for her board exams this month which is why I feel safe posting this picture here. I know she doesn't have time to read blogs!

I got the idea to make a covered notebook from Lucy at Sweet Repeats who is my collage idol. She had sent me a bitty one as part of a prize package and I still carry it in my purse and it has held up. She also sent me the old sheet music that I used here. The other scrappy part comes from my stash of ribbon and magazine clippings. Added with three pieces of coordinating paper from Michaels and those fancy clips.

The happy part is that this gift from the heart doesn't take up much space. We LA dwellers have to be kind to each other and be sensitive to the storage crunch.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

November Sweet Goodness 

The theme for this months swap was "Tags and Swags."

 The tags were pretty easy. The swag had me stumped for a while. Then I saw a picture of Jodi's kitchen which appeared to be pale green. Since my sister in-law's bride's maid dresses were pale green it got me thinking. 

I  mined those dresses for all the tulle I could get and came up with a snowy theme. Ikea had great little strings of battery powered star lights. I tied strips of tulle, ribbon, fabric scraps, and silver pipe cleaner like tinsel around the light string.

At first I wasn't too happy and  I posted pictures on flicker. Bridie and Sarah gave me some advice. A quick trip to mecca garnered me some great clear snowflake plastic balls and big silver bells. Voila! Thankfully, Jodi has a winter theme in her living room! 

Amazing how these swaps work out!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

It's Time for Show and Tell!

Things aren't all set up over here, but I am going to jump right in! 

Let's start with the awesome goodies I got from my swap partner Jodi.

While I did devour the Dark Chocolate Peanut M&M's, my favorite thing was this Merry Christmas banner. I love these curtains. They are one of my favorite things about our apartment. 
We clip all of our Christmas cards along the edges of these curtains and the banner is just icing on the cake. I really appreciate that the banner can be folded up and takes just a sliver of space to store.

Jodi knew that I love to bake cookies and this cookie cutter wreath is perfect for my kitchen! She also sent me a tin of extra mini cookie cutters which were instant favorites. The tags are already attached to to gifts. Thanks Jodi!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Our Better Than A Hollywood Movie Story

My favorite history- How We Met Again written by Cliff

In the year 2000, I bought an iMac, my first new computer since 1990. With this embarrassingly cute machine, I finally had access to this internet thing I’d been hearing about for the past seven years.

One intrernet feature was a People Search Service. I typed in my own name, and sure enough, up came the address, phone number, and map of where I had lived six years ago.

I typed in friends’ names… but if you tried a common-sounding name, you’d get hundreds of possible matches around the country. So I tried to think of people from my past with more unique names… and made contact with two that night: my old Army buddy Brewster McCracken, and my old church buddy Jane.

Jane came into the Asbury First United Methodist Church Youth Group as a freshman when I was a senior. She was very quiet and very adorable. We also went to the same high school, and I eventually asked her out.

I was just beginning to study cinema at the George Eastman House, one of the top film archives in the world. They were doing a series on Jack Nicholson, and for our first date, I took Jane to see THE LAST DETAIL (1973)… little suspecting that a story about a trio of U.S. sailors might be a bit, uh, salty, for a 14-year-old girl. Soon I was dying in my seat. If this girl next to me gave her parents any inkling of what I’d exposed her to, that would surely be The End.

But she didn’t, and it wasn’t. We went out a few more times. Jane informed me that we’d actually met some years earlier. She was born in September of 1971. The Little family, who lived three houses down the street, came to visit with a baby gift. 31/2-year-old Cliff presented newborn Jane with a Fisher Price stacked ring toy. It was both a hello and goodbye: a week later, the Littles moved to the next town.

Back to 1986: Jane and I drifted apart. The following summer, she played a bit part in one of my amateur movies. She came to my house for the gala premiere party, and that was the last time I saw her. In 1988, she and her family moved to New Jersey.

After my hello call in 2000, we exchanged a few emails over the next year. After 9/11, I wanted to visit NYC, and contacted Jane about meeting her. The only night she was available was New Year’s Eve.

We had a wonderful time. Our hosts Kevin and Dina led us around Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and we rang in 2002 at Marie’s Crisis CafĂ©, a hang-out where Broadway folk gather around a piano and sing show tunes.

Exactly one year later, the four of us were again around the piano at Marie’s. The singing stopped about a minute to midnight so people could get ready for the Big Moment.

By the time the countdown for 2003 began, Jane and I were engaged.

Here are my rings from Cliff. The first were Fisher Price the second ring belonged to his Grandmother before me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Market Roll Tutorial

WFMW: Reusable Shopping Bags

Here in CA there is a new law that requires large retailers to recycle plastic shopping bags and to reduce the use of plastic bags by offering reusable totes to shoppers.

Target offers two inexpensive totes at their checkouts. For 99 cents I bought this red one. It has a zipper pocket that turns the bag into a little pouch.  I have been using it now for a couple of weeks. I find that it is easier to remember to use this bag over other any of the many tote bags I own because I can store it in my purse. I have used it now at Target, Ralphs, 99 Cents Only, and Joannes. This cheap 'n handy bag works for me, but I took it a step further. 

I decided to try and make my own out of vintage sheets for gifts. It's an affordable and practical gift and quite frankly my city dwelling friends have little room for nick knacks.  

I copied the Target bag's dimensions and and made the zipper pouch. The zipper is tricky and zippers aren't something I have on hand all the time.  So to spare my self a zipper  I used this pillow quilt design to develop another model. The whole bag folds up into the pocket at the bottom of the bag and the bow can be untied and used to secure the bag in a little roll. It's not quite as compact as the zipper one, but very cute.

two 16"x16" fabric squares
two 18"x3" fabric strips for the handles
two 8.5"x8.5" fabric rectangle and a two 16" ribbons

To make the bag:
1. Fold over an inch of each of the 16" fabric squares and sew to finish the top edge of the bag. I used the top hem of a bed sheet so this step was already done.

2. Fold each of the handle fabric strips lengthwise (or "like a hot dog" as we say in elementary school). Iron this to make a crease. Then open the fabric and fold each side into the middle crease. Iron again.
Then fold in half lengthwise again and iron. Sew this together along the open edge.
3. Measuring the top of the bag, pin one end of the handle to the inside of the top hem at about 5 " and the other at the  12" mark. Sew the handles on good and tight. I sewed in the shape of a
box with an X in it. Do this for both sides of the bag.

4. Pocket Time
: For the pocket type pouch, take your two fabric squares right sides together and sew around three sides.Turn it right side out.  This is the pocket which will be reversible.

5. Next, sew the ribbons in the center of the pocket top one on each side of the pocket.

6. Center the pocket at the bottom of  the bag  front so that open seem part on the bottom of the pocket will line up with the bottom of the bag
. It be sewn in the seem of the bottom of the bag. Sew the three sides of the pocket onto the bottom center of the bag. 

7. Now line up both bag pieces right sides facing in and sew the three sides together. Turn right side out.

To fold it you will need to fold the sides in and fold top down in thirds so that it lays on top of the pocket. Turn the pocket inside out so that it encloses the bag and reach in and smooth a bit. Fold the pocket in half and use the ribbon to wrap around and secure the pocket in a roll fashion. (See top picture.)

I gave this bag to a friend for her birthday this weekend. She's pretty "green" so it was a hit. I am thinking of making a few more for Christmas presents for my secretaries and other hard to shop for people on my list.

This was my first sewing tutorial, so I am sure there are some confusing parts. Feel free to email me with questions. janeclifflittle at yahoo dot com

More WFMW ideas at Rocks In My Dryer...

This post origonally appeared at My Many Colored Crayons.