Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Christmas presents…unwrapped (III).

I think that one of the reasons I was so excited to give handmade gifts to my family members this year is that I really enjoy receiving gifts crafted by their giver. Additionally, when purchasing gifts my choice has hardly ever been spot on (except for that one year that I bought my sister Megan glitter glue sticks), but handmade items always seem more personal, so even if you weren't writing to Santa for a chicken made of a sweater, you know that someone was really thinking of you anyway.
This year Nathanael and I received a lot of really neat gifts from our families, and four of them were particularly special to us because they were made and not purchased.

#1 Painting from my Mom

My Mom is an artist, and now that all three of her daughters are out of the house and safely on their way she has had a little time to get back into painting. I was very glad when some time last year she told me that she would be taking a painting class. I am sure that she would have done fine on her own, but this particular painting class not only would have the motivating factor of homework and weekly meetings, but the wisdom of an 82 year old man who is a spry enthusiast about oil painting. (I have heard that he is also on facebook.) He is not timid about his opinion or about making his students re-do something good because he knows they can make it much better, and because of this my Mom has a painting of a Native American woman that she has repainted at least three times--my Dad is starting to tease her about it--but she is really glad to be learning. For Christmas she gave this oil painting of a Japanese vase that goes perfectly against the red wall of our living room. I am proud of my Mom.

#2 Traveling spice kit from my Dad

My Dad is a wonderful cook. He has catered 2 events a year for our church for many years and sometimes when I have hung around with other young adults they have mentioned that he is the best cook they have met. It's probably true. But not only is my Dad a fantastic chef, he is also the boy scout of cooking. No situation will stand in the way of delicious meals, not mountain climbing or camping or visiting foreign kitchens. For many years he would try to anticipate his spice needs and mix things in jars ahead of time, but recently he began to bring an assortment of his favorite spices along in small labeled bags so that he would have more room for creativity. This Christmas, however, I received the fantastic prototype for his traveling spice kit. Someday he hopes to sell them with some of his secret spice mixes (notice the one labeled Pawilla steak in the bottom left corner). I can't wait to go camping.

#3 Ceramic mug from Gabriel

Nathanael and I drink a lot of tea, and that we have moved somewhere cold we probably consume even more of it. Nathanael's brother, Gabe, made us a mug that has perfect proportions and coordinates with our earth tone clothing tenancies. I have been using it almost every day since Christmas.

#4 Photo album from Melissa and Michael

My sister Melissa and her husband Melissa were so wonderful to Nathanael and I before our wedding. Not only did they help us with every detail they could, but they hosted our entire wedding party and our musicians in their house for the days leading up to it. With all of our friends surrounding us as we making our preparations, a busy time turned to one of our favorite weeks to remember. I don't think I took a single picture during that week, but Melissa and Michael took some of every activity, even the cake flippings. We are so excited to have some pictures to remind us of all the fun.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Christmas presents…unwrapped (II).

The internet has been down in the library for the last two weeks or so, which has delayed the posting of this blog and many of my lesson planning efforts. But, I must say, I have read two good books in the meantime and started a third. Here are the rest of the presents Nathanael and I created.

Project #4 Blue-jean potholders

Even though we were given a potholder for a wedding gift, Nathanael and are constantly encountering the need for more skin area to be protected from pans and the hot foods they carry. Pumpkin puree is especially explosive and has caused me more than one burn. Thus, the baking mitts we designed cover a large arm area and are insulated with multiple layers of cotton batting as well as a reflective fabric and cotton lining. The recycled blue-jean exterior and cotton interior should help them wear and wash well. Unfortunately, since the blue-jeans were the only recycled materials this was one of our more expensive projects.

Project #5 Cashmere purse
For Nathanael's Mom I created a purse out of a recycled pink Cashmere sweater. I didn't have a pattern, but tried to utilize each piece of the sweater (sleeve, front, back) as well as I could. In the end I used all but a few small scraps of the material, and created something one of a kind. This project as well as the stuffed pig and chicken have really inspired me to find uses for out of style sweaters.
(Sorry, I forgot to take photos of this one, as well as the next two.)

Project #6 Blue-jean apron
Nathanael's first present to me while we were dating was an apron that he made for me out of some neat canvas material. My Mom recently mentioned that my Dad could really use a nice tough apron for all of his cooking endeavors both at home and for the events he caters for our church. So, Nathanael decided to fashion him an apron out of a recycled pair of blue jeans. The result was sturdy and really stunning, I will try to collect a few photos of this one from my parents.

Project #7 Homemade fudge
Nathanael has been really excited to make fudge for me from an old candy book he has from the 1930's. He made two recipes, a chocolate fudge and a ginger fudge as stocking stuffers for his family. The ginger fudge was flavored with ginger brandy, which strangely makes it taste like ginger ale.

Project #8, 9, 10, 11, 12 , and 13 Hand bound notebooks with handmade covers

Micah's notebook

For each of Nathanael's brothers I made a handmade notebook. The covers were each 6 to 8 layers of plastic shopping bags that I melted with an iron between layers of tissue paper, then trimmed, sewed the edges (on Nathanael's old black Singer), and then bound over pages of graph paper. Most of them (all but Micah's) had drilled bindings, and each one had a different pattern of binding stitches. Since four of the six had two or more snaps, Nathanael spent most of Christmas Eve hidden away from his family, sewing them on for me.

Judah's notebook

Almost all notebooks

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas presents…unwrapped (I).

Nathanael and I worked very hard in the days of December to finish all the gifts we could. In the end we locked ourselves away Christmas Eve to work on sewing and wrapping until dinner time, and we still owe one family member their gift. Here are our first three projects…

Project #1 Pumpkin butter


This is a homemade, homegrown gift that Nathanael and I gave to some of our friends as well as our parents. It was a little bit time consuming, but did not require much more than time and the pumpkin we already had. Even though it only used a small fraction of our pumpkin harvest, we were glad to share it in some way.
pumpkin 7729
7890 Pumpkin butter The recipe I used was brought to my attention by my former roommate Lucy, and is posted here.

Project #2 Knitting needle holder

I wanted to make my Mom something that needed and that she would see often so that it could brighten her day. I decided to sew a knitting needle holder (shown unfinished above), because her former method of knitting needle storage was to keep them in a large pasta tin with Italian words all over it. The tin was a little bit cumbersome as well as loud to carry with all of the needles dancing around in there. The pattern I designed will allow Mom to sort her needles by size and roll them into a case that ties with a ribbon. I fashioned the case out of a recycled shirt and a piece of fabric from the tailor that was formerly the hem of a satin dress. The only purchased materials were the thread and the ribbon.

Project #3 Sweater animals

One of my sisters is really difficult to choose gifts for, and the other is pleased with everything. In the last few years I have tried to give them really interesting books, but since one is a student and the other is building a house, neither have had any time to read them, so I have given up on educating them for Christmas. This year I made them each an animal out of a recycled, purple, cotton sweater (stuffed with cotton batting). I hope that they will enjoy them and someday pass them on to their kids, who can sleep with them without the presence of any plastics.

Descriptions and pictures of our other projects coming soon...
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