Saturday, December 26, 2009

The stockings were hung...

The night before Christmas Eve, I realized Ari didn't have a stocking! Mine is the Leopard print boot above (made by my mom) next to Matt's blue felt stocking. I quickly ran to a craft store to find a similar, simple felt stocking, but I felt sad as soon as I looked at the selection. My mom always handmade special holiday decorations like our stockings and I want to do the same for Ari. Living with cancer makes me even more driven to make holidays memorable for my family.
So, I headed to one of my favorite vintage/consignment stores in town and picked up some very inexpensive scraps of red fabric and the some green material that makes me think of the '50s and the Jetsons all at the same time. Ari loved his new stocking and I loved making it for him.

On a health note, the chemo has made me lose quite a bit of weight but, I'm happy to report, chemo is no match for Christmas cookies! I have gained a pound just in the last week alone. I can't give all of the credit to butter, my scan last week showed that my tumors have been reduced significantly. My husbands sums up the visuals like this: in September, we saw about 80% tumors and 20% healthy liver. This week, we saw about 70% healthy and 20% tumors. All of that healthy liver is giving me more and more energy and we're really enjoying life around here. I hope you all are too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

under someone's tree will be...

story time games

gingerbread dolls

memory games

doll slings

wooden spool snakes

bleach pen art pillows

wooden cars

tea cup pincushions

fishing games

Horse and fences

fairy crowns

freezer paper stenciled t-shirts

chocolate covered candied orange peels

Wow! Seeing all of that in one place even impresses me and that isn't even everything! I am so happy and proud of my crew. They have worked so hard and feel so much better about giving these gifts than any previous year. Hand made is definately the way to go.

Now I just need a nap!

Have a very, very blessed Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Baby blocks

Life has been so busy lately, I forgot to mention that Ari has a new baby cousin. We welcomed our nephew, Tesher (which we learned means "Gift" in Hebrew) about 2 weeks ago now. My husband, Matt, and I are really giving small, simple gifts this year since I am out of work, so I decided to sew Tesher some fabric blocks. I found a fun twist on the basic pattern in a wonderful little book, Sweetly Stitched for Kids. The patterns are simple and easy to follow, but also creative. I like the "turtle tee," a really simple pattern for adding an applique and the sleeping mat that's more complicated, but very dreamy.

The general twist on these blocks is that you back your fabric squares with batting and then use pinking shears to finish the edges. Here's maybe a better view:

I love these retro-ish fabrics I splurged on from my new favorite local quilt store. To wrap the blocks, I just safety pinned them together and tied a little a little "Handmade by Kelly/Spot wash only" note to them. I hope he enjoys them!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fun sites!

As you can see, we're busy around here painting wrapping paper for last minute presents. I have to admit that we have more wrapping paper than presents to give this year. Thankfully, Ari's artwork is an appreciated gift.

Even though Christmas is just around the corner, we're still looking for projects and inspiration. Love, love, love this site my sister, Erin just found called Design Sponge. Take a second to check it out and make sure you scroll down so you don't miss the really cool suitcase artwork. I also love all of the wreaths. I feel like it's never too late to decorate so, since I'm feeling much better right now, I will be decorating wreaths next week and will be sure to share.

Erin also found a blog aptly named lovelydesign. This blog is also written by a creative mama with a design business. You'll love the tutorials and patterns.

OK, two more--my sister's been busy on the web.

Townmouse and Fancy Elastic (don't you just love that name?!) both currently feature fun advent calendar projects right now. Other sites/projects you just love right now? Please share!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My first quilt!

I can't believe I finally finished this little quilt! It took me an entire week, but I feel proud of the accomplishment. This quilt came in a kit with all of the pre-measured fabric and directions. I still needed to do all of the cutting, which was good practice. My mom waited until the very last minute to break the news to me that the back of the binding is hand sewn. ARGH! I am such a terrible hand-sewer. It was good practice, though and I'm committing to practicing the blind stitch on anything laying around to get better.

My mom really helped me understand the directions and various steps so that I feel confident to take on another quilting project on my own. My mom went home today to the Seattle area. It was very sad after having her here for two months, but It's also a good thing because it means I'm feeling much better. Next time she's back, it's to do more projects together and, of course, to enjoy her grandson as she always does with such enthusiasm.

Also this week...

I finally learned how to burn a CD (sad, I know) so I had to make CD covers for some gifts I wanted to give. Kandyce--thanks for this idea of sliding a piece of cardboard into an envelope. I then cut the side to fit the Cd and used Modge Podge to reseal the side. Then, I just found scraps of paper around to decorate with. I really need to take a picture of the one Kandyce made for me--it's decorated with handmade paper and a pressed leaf and is beautiful!

A week of Gifts....

I have to tell you about the very special gifts I received this week. Actually, the bees wax ornaments you see above were given to me a few weeks ago by Garden Mama. Aren't they so sweet! I need to add some color to this tree--really a Rosemary Bush--but first I need to save it from dying. My husband and I traumatized it by moving it into this giant pot. Please make it to the Spring so I can move you outside! for some reason., I'm good with my outdoor garden, but I kill every plat that comes into this house.

In the same package, Nicole at Garden Mama also included the lovely postcards that are now available here on her blog. You will look at these postcards everyday, I promise, and will have to force yourself to think about giving away. I just want to frame them and put them all around the house.

The biggest gift of all this week was a new site that Garden Mama (and sneaky Kandyce) set up called The Wellness Tree. It's a site that is bringing mamas together to send me love and support while I face my current treatment and future with cancer. I can't describe how much this site means to me and my family---it's just a simple, yet meaningful outpouring of support. Please take a second to go see the handmade ornaments that crafty mamas are making--they're beautiful and inspiring. I don't think I would have had such a fun, healthy, crafty week without all of this inspiration.

Garden Mama's Giveaway!!

She's done it again. Nicole at Garden Mama is having yet another awesome give away. Be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

advent no.1

In the darkness of the early, early, early (like 3AM early!) morning, I am waken to, "Mom, is it morning yet?" Well technically, Yes, but... "No, son. Go to bed." I know it is a futile request. I hope Christmas doesn't go this way, as well, but odds are not in my favor :)
In spite of starting way to early, St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6th is a lovely celebration during the Advent season for my family. So lovely, I didn't even think about taking pictures :( Shoes were placed in front of the fireplace with the anticipation of being filled with good things. This year St. Nicholas brought gingerbread cookies, chocolate coins, warm fuzzy pajamas and snow.

Advent thus far...

purple and pink paper maiche ornaments to hang on our tree
(made before the snow arrived)

garlands adorned with purple ribbon

Mary and Joseph moving closer to Christmas
(sorry about the quality, it is right over a window :)

Advent lanterns hanging on our branch
(please ignore the compressor in the corner, house construction underway)

We have had so much fun this Advent, more than any other year I can remember. This handmade Christmas thing is great. I love it. Though I must confess, a few purchased presents did sneak their way onto the list. In my defense, I didn't have the time or know-how to make a Waldorf doll. That's an acceptable purchase, isn't it?

I thought so, too :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Simple Gifts

First, I have to tell you about a book my sister read over Thanksgiving and left with me. It called 29 Gifts and it's by a woman named Cami Walker. She wrote the book because she has MS and had a very difficult time with the diagnosis and symptoms (I'm sure she still does to an extent). At a particularly bad time, a friend told her she was focusing too much on herself and recommend she give 29 gifts for 29 days. The gifts do not have to be materialistic or big, but her friend did suggest she journal about her experience giving.

I really like this book and the challenge the author describes herself experiencing. She also set up a website you can check out by going here. I have started try to give gifts everyday mindfully, but I haven't found the mental space to journal yet, so I'm not officially starting the challenge. I thought I'd sprinkle some posts into this blog to share a few simple gifts with you that I have received lately. Oh, there are so many wonderful gifts to share! Here's my first :

My mom gave me this purple warm fleece when I started chemo because I was always cold. She just brought it home knowing I needed it:

Shortly after I received the jacket, my good friend, Beth, sent me a warm card with this silky patch enclosed. It's from a feminist group that supported a local Mountain Keepers event. (Beth, if you're reading this, leave a comment with more details. I can't find your card that I put in a special place with this info. The special place, I guess, is a little too special). I love the patch so much, my mom suggested I sew it onto the jacket I wear every day.

Great I idea! I used fabric stabilizer and the zig zag stitch on my machine for the first time and it turned out great. A little crooked on one side, but you can't tell:

It meant so much to me that Beth thought about me at an event I would have loved to attend and that she took the time to send me this simple gift. It makes me smile and feel strong.

I also love that it got me to my sewing machine--even if it was just for a few minutes. I need to warm up because I've cut my fabric for my little quilt and the sewing begins tomorrow!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Painting Pottery

You would think that I have all the time in the world to get crafty since I'm not working, doing any housework, or cooking. But, I really haven't done much of anything expect sleep, lounge on the sofa, and play with my son. Thankfully, after a month and a half of chemotherapy, a round of antibiotics, and a blood transfusion, I'm starting to have some energy and I'm getting the urge to make some gifts! My mom is a gifted paper artist and she has also been going a little crazy (though she won't admit it) without her craft and sewing studio. She takes care of my son, Ari, all day and then sleeps on a little twin bed in his playroom. Sure, she paints and colors with him and we've both been enjoying playing with homemade playdough, but she has no space or time to herself.

So, I set up a date day just for me and my mom to go to a local paint-your-own-pottery shop to give some time together and to use materials and make a mess without having to worry about clean up. We had so much fun! I made a pencil holder for Kandyce's kids art table (sshh! Don't tell) and my mom made a platter. I'll post a picture of the pencil holder once I finish the other part of the gift--I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I think the best lesson from this day is that I don't have to come up with the most original, totally homemade gift to enjoy myself and feel rejuvenated. My mom and I had a lot of time to talk, help each other, and admire each other's work. I was reminded of my old preschool teacher motto: process, not product. I'm looking forward to trying to make a little quilt next week with my mom's help, but I have to say that I would go back to this pottery ship. I think I would even go alone. It was very meditative and satisfying in an unexpected way.

Kandyce--I am aware that the pencil holder may not make it long on your art table. I made it knowing it will be enjoyed, but may also break and that's fine too:)
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Friday, November 27, 2009



Now is the time when all our preparations take on a deeper meaning. As the light time shortens and the dark time lengthens, we illuminate our nights with twinkling lights. Our house is getting dressed in purple(the color of waiting) and pink(the color of joy). Stars, snowflakes and lanterns will dress our branch and our tree. Advent. It is the season of waiting. It is a season of joy. A season of hope. A season of feast days. Nicholas', when we put out our shoes. Lucia's, when we greet the day to a candlelit breakfast made by KT. Ambrose's when we will make beeswax candles in honor of the patron of bee keepers. And two Marian feast days where we honor the woman who said yes. All of these things, so appropriately preceded by a day of gratitude help to direct our focus outward and upward, as we prepare our hearts and our homes for our baby King. Over the next few weeks, I will share with you our family's celebration of the season.

p.s. Please check out Garden Mama before noon on Wed. for a precious two part give away!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I love this time of year. I love how the cold and the snow keep us inside and focused on being together. I love how our family is maturing and developing. I love the family we are becoming.

As a child, I had the kind of Christmases Walmart's dreams are made of. The amount of stuff my sister and I received was totally and completely out of control -especially since most of it was never again touched after ripping off the paper. Ugh!!

Partly because of finances, partly because of having a large family and mostly because the desire to be less materialistic, DH and I, long ago, decided that was not the road our family was going down. We began by limiting the amount of gifts each child got to three in honor of the three gifts of the Magi (I know that event didn't technically happen on Christmas, but it works). This didn't include "stocking stuffers". Friends, you'd be surprise what you can fit into a stocking 3' x 1'(he,he, he... I was trying). Each year we have gotten better and better, arriving now at this year where we are making all our gifts. This has really helped us to focus on the giving, instead of the receiving.

This weekend, we decided, as a family, to purchase a goat and two chickens for a family in third world country through World Vision International. When I explained that this gift, for someone else, would be in place of our usual large family gift, not one complaint was uttered. I was and am so proud! They immediately set about trying to decide what our gift would be. It was a close call between the goat- chicken combo and the stocked pond-fishing kit combo. We decided that next year will be the fishing gift, as it was over twice the price of the goat one, and we will make a poster of some kind to help us to focus and save for our next years gift.

There are two charities, that I know of, that have these kinds of gifts for people to give. There is Heifer Project International and World Vision International. I am so grateful for these two organizations who provide us with ways to love others from afar.

P.S. For loving those less fortunate, near by, we are working on a plan. More on that later.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It has begun

... the mad dash to get all the Christmas gifts finished. Six weeks. Six weeks! You've got to be kidding! I have 8 children! Katie at matsutake says it best here. I know this is normal for many, but this is my first ALL handmade Christmas. The past two years, the children have made handmade gifts for each other while Ben and I have always purchased our gifts.

Not this year.

Not ever!

We are consumers no more (not totally, but you understand).

No, I have taken the handmade pledge and gosh darn it, I mean it!

I have found many resources to help with ideas for handmade gifts.

See, the list is almost endless.

And yet distraction still manages to weasle in...

this is the first Christmas thing I have made.

It turned out better than I expected. It makes me so happy when that happens!

What's that you say?

"But it's not a gift!!! What about your list, Kandyce? What about your 8 children and 10 nieces and nephews, Kandyce? What about your Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother (yes, she's still around), in-laws, and friends, Kandyce?!!!!"


I have a plan!

1. Some friends and I are having children-less meetings once a week from now till Christmas to get any covert crafting done.

2. The kids and I are schooling the first half of the day and crafting the second.


3. I have back up, quick and easy gifts just in case.

See, it's all under control, right? Right!?


p.s. check out GardenMama's wonderful, new giveaway. Now, that is something worth buying (if you don't win!)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Healing Art

This beautiful piece of artwork was drawn by Kandyce's second oldest, Gabe. It arrived rolled up and tied with a ribbon with all of my other handmade, healing gifts from this talented and thoughtful family. If you haven't figured it out yet, this is actually a cancer-eating dragon. I just think it's amazing. My mom framed it for me and we hung it right across from my bed so I can see it when I am recovering from chemo days.

There's more to this story: see the index card in the right hand, bottom corner? That's from Kandyce's dad's desk. He wrote inspirational sayings on scraps of paper and the family found them when he sadly passed away a few months ago. Kandyce was so generous to share one of his notes. It reads, "Courage is doing what you've got to do in the presence of fear." It just seemed right to frame these words with the dragon who is eating my cancer.

On the day my mom hung this picture, I had a Reiki session on the bed in that same room, right across from the picture. My Reiki Master came in and told me she had to leave her pager on because she is in Seminary and is working at the VA. I had no idea. Halfway into my session, she told me she felt like I was not going to have cancer one day and that I have an angel here with me helping. Mr. Bell (Kandyce's dad--I always called him Mr. Bell), was a very religious man who helped anyone he met. I knew right away he was there with me in the room and letting my Reiki Master sense him too. I wish I had a picture to post of my angel--you'd see that, like the fiery dragon, Mr. Bell did not look like someone you'd want to mess with (picture: ex-football player)!

I wanted to write this post to pay tribute to a great father we all loved who is still watching over us today. I also wanted to show how important art is. Children's art is so honest and bold and can really make the best healing gifts. If you have an ailing friend, artwork made in your home may prove to be very special and powerful to that person.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First of many...

I hope. I completed my first project from the Alabama Stitch Book (forever more affectionately referred to as ASB). I picked a head band.

The headband project in the book used stenciling and beading. I really wanted to use the reverse applique technique they use in other projects.

So I did.

First there was the deconstruction of the t-shirts.

Then the cutting of the band pieces and the stenciling.

Then came the sewing.

I love the rawness of this technique; the exposed knots and seams.

I can't wait to make something else. Really, I can apply this technique to anything. I'm thinking of making a shawl next. There is a beautiful one in the book. I'm feeling a little neglectful though. I haven't crossed off as much as I'd hoped on my Handmade Christmas list. Actually, make that nothing. Oh well, maybe I'll just change my list and make everyone headbands!

I'm sure Grandpa would like that.