Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas cheer


The third and fourth Advent candles have been lit. My youngest son's constant anticipation of that fourth candle was such a sweet reminder of finding joy in the little things. At this point in December with all of its activities I quite need that reminder! The third candle represents faith and the fourth stands for peace.
More cookies have been baked, cards have been sent, parties have been enjoyed, errands have been run and school book-reports and tests have been completed - phew! The delightful craft projects from my e-course will just have to wait until next year I'm afraid. But the joy of participating and enjoying the videos was a perfect splurge and I loved it. 

The big branch in the living room has been decorated with handmade angels, hearts, birds...."noel" letters a bit wrinkled after storage but festive nonetheless.
And now the tree is up – contrary to German tradition of it not appearing until Christmas Eve – and it is so very beautiful in its very imperfect way, sagging with ornaments because the little boys have not yet quite mastered the art of not hanging everything at the end of the branches. The tree has been decorated with pure love and joy and I don't want to steal the tiniest bit of that from my children's hearts. (OK I did do a few minor revisions this morning after they left for school, minimal, I promise!)
Are you also thinking about 2012 yet? I feel so energized with ideas, thoughts and plans for next year. After taking on a part time job last year I had to take a real break from scrapbooking and I miss it so much. My priority this fall was to open my etsy shop and so scrapbooking once again had to take a back seat. But I have lot of plans for my photos and albums next year and some new projects with a mixed-media twist. Just thinking about those ideas makes me happy.

Since I mention etsy I have to admit that I am already sketching up my newest ideas for an early spring collection for my shop – colorful, cheerful, happy things for babies, kids, and moms. I can hardly wait to dive into that! 

And one more thing to please note! I have started a facebook page for my shop so please do click on that to follow if you want. I would really love to see you there! 


I will be taking a little blogging break and will be back in January. Before I go though, I just want  to say thank you. I am sincerely honored that in your busy life with so many amazing places and blogs out there that you would take the time to stop by and visit my very simple little website. And if you took even more time to leave a comment, I really appreciated that (sad to say sometimes I don't manage to acknowledge them but truly I love them!) I hope there was something here for you that was uplifting.

Until then, I wish you a Christmas filled with peace and happiness. May all your dreams for the new year come true!

xoxo
Karen


Friday, December 9, 2011

around the house


Little bits of Christmas showing up around the house....

In the front hallway is a heart wreath inspired from one of my Tone Finannger "Tilda" craft books. I made it a few years ago, but still love it. 

An evergreen wreath hangs on the front door. I used greens from the yard and added some pinecones and little apples with the very last glue stick from my hot glue gun, I had to poke it through with a chopstick! The replacement sticks I had ordered didn't fit of course but guess what, thanks to the chopstick I had just enough glue and a day later found a whole new box of sticks in a cupboard in my studio. I am going to need those for the projects from my artsy workshop! 

When I look it at in the photo now, I think I need to reglue the apples on, they are all kind of sideways. Handmade charm...I suppose.  Hmmmm.

Holly and pine in the front window boxes,  little decorations outside by the front door snuggled in the heather.

Love candles and books, all year round, but especially at Christmas. Just LOVE that white doily, my sweet neighbor crocheted it for me.

I put the holiday themed books in an Ikea basket. How nice see the children's eyes light up when they rediscover „old friends“. This year St. Nick brought a couple new books on the 6th, an Elmer the elephant book (love the artistic illustrations) and a Penguin story collection. We are also busy reading an Advent book together every evening that we have to tear open the page of each day to see how the story progresses.

In another Ikea basket are the Christmas CD's.
I don't know how Ikea does it but more often than not, their products fit perfectly in our very unconventional nooks of our cottagey-house. These two baskets fit perfect under the TV/stereo shelf in a niche that my husband built. 
This cowboy boot stocking is really cute. My brother and sister-in-law live in Texas and they gave it to my husband one year. Love it hanging by the stairs.
 

A Christmassy home needs a sleepy cat lounging around, don't you think?
And of course the scent of baking is a necessity! As quickly as cookies come out of the oven they seem to dissappear! We made some chocolate chips and coconut-cranberry...gave half away and the rest stayed here....mmmm!
( I think there is one left,  please help yourself!)
xoxo
Karen



Monday, December 5, 2011

two

Two candles now have been lit.
The second candle on our advent wreath symbolizes hope. My older son lit them yesterday at breakfast which as you can see was blueberry muffins...mmmm! (thanking my daughter again for picking them last summer so I can just pull them out of the freezer!) We had a lovely day celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday and being together with family and listening to rain fall after our dry dry month of November...how I love the sound of rain!

This is the time of year I love visiting Ali Edward's website to see how her December Daily is coming along, as well as the projects of many many others who are making a version of this project as well. I love how she involves the community with her project. I have a couple of her books and just adore everything about her. In November I ask myself if I want to do this project but I usually end up saying no (main reason because I don't have a quality photo printer), and then of course wish I had said yes when I start seeing the amazing albums being created! Ali's enthusiasm for this season and her creative designs in this project are simply contagious! I did make a December album a couple years ago based on this idea and I really love looking through it now. But most years, this year included, I am just going to take some notes and make a few December pages to go into my main family scrapbook. This is what works best for me...in the words of Stacy Julian "scrapbook some of your photos some of the time and have fun"! 

I thought it would be fun to share with you a couple December pages from our album from last year. This first layout is my son lighting the first candle and it is super simple with white cardstock and just a few chipboard stickers. I wanted the photos to shine and also wanted to include authentic ephemera - a rather wrinkly page from the church program with a Christmas song that is sung every year. You see my pages sometimes are both in German and English! (Since I speak English to my kids my journaling is always in English) This pretty song is about the light at Christmastime bringing love and hope.
Every year I like to take a photo of the three children in front of the tree and usually make a scrapbook page with it. It's so fun to see how they change each year. Most of the time I get a nice photo (total challenge with 3!) last year was not one of those years. But I want my scrapbooks to be authentic so that was fine with me. I love it that our house is filled with harmony and happiness most of the time, so a photo proving that we are all human and don't always feel like smiling is in a way more precious than fake smiles. Anyway, I did some machine stitching on this, added various stickers for the title and lots of hand-journaling and i love that scalloped strip at the bottom.

Hoping your day is filled with sunshine! 
xoxo 
Karen

Friday, December 2, 2011

December Soup

Yesterday I made one of my all-time favorite soups for dinner and it's so good, I just have to share it with you.
It's super delicious, probably very healthy and a beautiful shade of deep red. It's also not bad for  using up those beets that we still have growing in the vegetable garden!

For years I have been making the "New York Deli Borscht" recipe from the "Joy of Cooking" which is simple and exceptional. Basically, it is just beets, carrots, garlic and lemon juice. This fall I found a new recipe and a few extra ingredients make it a bit heartier. Here's how I make it:

In a large pot, saute one sliced leek and half a celeriac (in little cubes) in a bit of olive oil.

Peel and chop a couple beets into cubes and add to the pot, then add a liter or so of vegetable broth.

Now add a few peeled potatoes chopped into small pieces and a can of chopped tomatoes. Then let it cook for 20 - 30 minutes until everything is soft.

I like to make it a day in advance or in the morning so the flavors can develop. When it's time to serve, puree the soup (I use an electric blender stick), heat it up and add salt, pepper and - this is the most important part - a dash of balsamic vinegar. The vinegar adds a tartness and pulls all the other flavors together. You can sprinkle parsley on top or even add a dollop of cream or creme fraiche, but it is really delicious however you do it!

Enjoy!
Happy weekend! 
xoxo 
Karen

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

candle no. 1

The first candle has been lit. 
Candle number one on our Advent wreath represents love

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine: 
Love was born at Christmas: 
Star and angels gave the sign.
-Christina Rossetti

It was a very easy wreath this year. Almost too easy (good thing I have that e-course coming up to keep me busy!)  I found the patchwork wreath I made last year in its storage box in the cellar and decided it looked rather nice! Feeling blissfully happy that I live out in the country out I went and snipped away at bushes and trees in our yard and even my lavender and rosemary bushes. These herb bundles are so fragrant along with the evergreens. Mmmm....
My daughter found these lovely berry red candles while we were shopping recently. I love the frosty festive look and it's okay with me that they are a slightly large for the wreath - perfectly imperfect is perfect! 
Nature has so many variations on shades of green even in this leafless season. I really started to notice that while gathering my clippings. I love the silver-green of the herbs and the yellow-green of the boxwood. How beautiful they all look with browns: little anis stars, cinnamon sticks, tiny pine cones. I simply placed them on the glass plate under and around the patchwork wreath and if they start to become too dry before Christmas I can quickly replace them with fresh greens.

I will leave you today with an image of some goodies from my shop that just were dispatched to a customer and another great quote from one of our children's favorites...



"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?  It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. " ~Dr Seuss

Happy First Week of Advent! 
xoxo 
Karen
P.S. Lovely quotes found here!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

fall (part two)


It's still fall here, even though our town has put up the Christmas lights and there are stars and Santas appearing in people's windows. It's still fall and November has been so sunny and dry that ski season in the Alps has been postponed (according to the news) and sadly our river Rhine is down almost too low for ships.

Is it fall where you live? Has snow fallen? Or is it a different season alltogether? I am curious....

I am also curious, because I have the feeling many of you out there are as in love with this season as I am, what do you love most about fall? 

I certainly couldn't decide on one thing in particular. But I can narrow down some favorite things:

the vibrant colors
the magic of beaded spiderwebs and glittery frost
the element of gratitude for the fall harvest
(because gratitude is wholeness and happiness)
a big low moon
red berries on bare branches
lanterns & songs & sweet rolls (German tradition of St. Martin)
costumes & pumpkins & candy (US tradition of Halloween)

Oh dear, the list is getting longer than I wanted!

One more fave I must mention though are the mushrooms that seem to pop up overnight in all different variations in the garden and forest. Even in my studio artsy & lovely fall fungi have appeared!
  
I was inspired by mix & match, pretty fabrics and embellishments, found & re-purposed materials and of course the magic of autumn. These decorative softies are really unique and fun for a child or the child at heart! 
 
As usual, I have given each one a name such as "Tweet" and "Dotty" and if you like, you can see all of them here!

I'm sure you will agree though that one of the very best parts of fall is anticipating Advent and Christmas. . I am super excited because I have signed up for an e-course “The 12 Arsty Ornaments of Christmas”. This course has such a cool line up of mixed-media artists who will be presenting projects. I have never done an e-course before and am really looking forward to it.  I just hope I have most of the materials on hand. I can hardly wait until the 5th!

xoxo
Karen

Monday, November 21, 2011

the story of a pretty party dress

Sometimes I get a bittersweet feeling when I see the darling things all the creative moms out there are making for their little ones, especially the adorable creations my friend Rachel sews for her little girl. They just don't stay little for long! A decade ago I had my chance and I did sew some cute clothes for my daughter. Sweet jumpers and pants are all safely tucked away in a pretty keepsake box along with the handmade sweaters & dresses from her grandmothers.

That pretty box hasn't had anything added to it for quite a few years now.

Then, out of the blue, this fall she signed up for a ballroom dancing course at her school and announced that for the big ball she was going to sew her own cocktail dress. With a little help from her mom :)

I was absolutely delighted and perhaps a tiny bit daunted, because you know getting dressed up for a ball is a bit different than hanging out with your play-date after preschool.

So despite any fears or doubts of course I said yes. First she selected a Burda pattern online that we downloaded (40 pages), taped all the pages together, traced the pattern pieces, purchased pretty burgandy taft and tulle, cut and started to sew.
Then she found a different pattern she MUCH preferred.

(Big smile)

She didn't need long to convince me. I will admit that while  it seems a waste of energy and money for the other fabric, I was relieved as I was feeling really overwhelmed by that German pattern with no drawings. (I'm still planning to forge on with it though...half of my pins are in that fabric and I miss them! The dress will be pretty for Christmas or New Years, and she can get some more practice sewing.)
The new pattern is McCalls with English directions. It sewed up beautifully and my daughter did a great deal of the work herself.
We both learned a lot. For the first time I sewed a corset bodice with wires. The seamstress at the fabric shop gave me an excellent tip – cover the ends with duct tape to keep them from piercing through the material. Much faster than sewing little fabric covers on each ends. You would have never guessed would you, isn't it fascinating to get the inside scoop on these things?

Of course this all gets hidden and I'm proud that the inside is as beautiful as the out. 

At first we made the dress with the shirred waist. She tried it on and we both decided it wasn't flattering so ripped it all apart, cut out new pieces and sewed in the flat waist. I think at that point I had to go back to the fabric shop since my thread had run out. Then we had a few minor problems with the zipper / tightness of the bodice. By the end, I had sewn in the zipper three times. The fabric is pretty amazing still to be holding up so well! 

(By the way, the seam-ripper is now on vacation getting a well-deserved rest!)

Finally, a day or so before the ball, the dress was finished. The ball was a dream. Quite different than the "homecomings" and "proms" I remember from high school. These children actually knew the dance steps, for one thing. All the parents were there, everyone dressed to the nines, the children (young adults I should say!) all had partners. The boys brought pretty little bouquets for their partners and the girls had boxes of chocolates in return. They danced a few dances to show us what they had learned (disco fox and waltz and cha-cha-cha to name a few), then the girls danced with their fathers, the sons with their mothers, the girls and boys (all looking so incredibly grown up) danced with each other.

Everything was lovely. And my daughter was too. And after all that dancing, the dress still looks perfect! 
 Phew. Now back to that other dress....


xoxo
Karen

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

beautiful days / children helping children

 
These are simply beautiful November days. Frosty mornings shrouded in fog, pale sun quickly breaking through and making the last golden leaves sparkle, and a big moon bright when evening sets all too early. There is such a clear quality in the light right now....
 
It's getting bare yet there are still colors and flowers and leaves. The earth is quieting down and we are slowly getting into the pre-Advent spirit here. For us it always starts with giving on November 15th.

In our house the 15th has become "Christmas in a Shoe Box Day", the day the children send off little boxes of Christmas cheer and goodness to other children someone in the world who need a gift. We started getting involved in this a couple years ago when the pick-up point for the shoe boxes was in my son's preschool. Now we are addicted! It is so much fun. We do it like this: each of our children "sponsors" a child her or his age. Together we go shopping for toys, school supplies, candy, personal items etc. My kids pick out what they want to give "their" child. Then we pack the box up and send them on their way with blessings and hopes. It's an international organization and you can read about it (German) here or (English) here.

I'm sure next year we'll be doing it again!

We always are sure to include a personal greeting. This year the children made paper children holding hands.
Last year I made a scrapbook page about it for our family book. It was one of those occasions that I really wanted to remember but didn't have a great photo (background was not nice) so I ended up cutting the children out and I kind of like the fun way it turned out.

Actually I have not been scrapbooking recently but I know there will be a week when I get obsessed with it again and can't concentrate on anything else until I get a stack of new pages into my album! I promise to start showing more of my favorite layouts for you here on my blog.
xoxo K.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

limited & lovely

A bit later than I wanted, but nevertheless, I do believe in time for German and European shoppers, my etsy shop is now stocked with a limited little collection of goodies for Christmas! Hooray!

(North American shoppers must be very quick if they want something in time for Christmas. For small items I do think shipping will be fairly quick. My experience is that larger packages sent in November from here to USA may not arrive until mid-January!)

Just click on my shop section "Holiday" to find my entire Christmas collection including: cute pins with inspiring words, vintage gift tags, lovely drawstring pouches for gift-giving or keeping :), garlands (you know I love garlands!), big hearts, little paper buntings.Lots of yummy colors, mostly pinks and reds and whites. Have fun looking!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 xoxo 
Karen