Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Over the river and through the woods... Grandmother's house we go! We are a hustle and bustle of activity, packing for our trip and awaiting hikes through the pines and four-wheeler rides along the river. Not to mention (drool) the abundance of casseroles and pies that accompany any decent Southern Thanksgiving.
In celebration, I decided to make these handprint turkey sweatshirts for Big B and little b. I saw this version (The Crafty Crow) and decided to alter it slightly--mine are hand-sewn with embroidery thread, I ommitted the button eyes, and added beaks and colorful wings. The entire project, for both shirts, took less than 2 hours.


Step 1: Collect these materials: solid-colored shirt, needle and embroidery thread, paper and writing utensil, a piece of autumn-y fabric slightly larger than your child's hand, felt scraps
Step 2: Trace your child's hand onto the paper
Step 3: Pin the fabric onto the inside of the front of the shirt, right side up
Step 4: Pin your child's handprint template onto the front of the shirt
Step 5: Hand-stitch all the way around the handprint
Step 6: Remove any excess fabric from inside the shirt
Step 7: Pull the shirt away from the fabric behind, and cut the handprint out just inside the stitch line, taking care only to cut the shirt
Step 8: Hand sew a beak and a wattle
Step 9: Embroider legs

This year I will have the privilege of dining at Papa's Grandmother's Thanksgiving table for the ninth time. I can't say enough how blessed I am to be a part of this sweet family. As with most large families at Thanksgiving, each smaller family within the group contributes one or two dishes, making for a feast of delicious porportions. Here are my contributions this year:


one large butternut squash
4 slices of bacon
4 sprigs of sage
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper


Preheat the oven to 375°. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and cooking spray. Halve the butternut squash and peel it, scooping out the seeds and stringy centers. Cube it up into 1" or slightly smaller cubes. Place in a single layer on the tray. Chop the bacon and sage coursely and sprinkle them evenly over the butternut squash. Drizzle the olive oil over the whole lot of it and add salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, then stir it all up and check for tenderness. Roast about 10 minutes more. YUM.

FRESH CRANBERRY MUFFINS (adapted from Cooking Light)

2 cups flour
2/3 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 generous cup chopped fresh cranberries (I used a food processor)
2/3 cups milk or buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. orange zest (optional)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Prepare muffin tins (grease or spray with cooking spray), preheat oven to 400°. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, stir well. Stir in chopped cranberries. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk, butter, orange zest, vanilla and egg. Pour into well in dry mixture and stir until just moist. Spoon batter into muffin pans (fill each cup about 3/4 full) and bake15 minutes or so. Muffins should spring back when touched lightly in the center. Remove muffins from pan immediately and cool completely on a wire rack.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

This is, without question, my favorite time of year. I love the surprise and the tradition, the closure and the renewal, the anticipation and the unapologetic decoration. The drop in temperature seems to bring in a surge of creative energy. My re-purposed Ghanaian basket contains glorious by-the-yard wool felt, beautiful new bamboo knitting needles and yarn, lots of little birds, and a huge stack of festive 5" quilt squares.

Here is my holiday list:
Three simple Christmas prints caught my eye at my annual pre-Thanksgiving trip to the fabric store. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them until I found this Zig Zag pattern (Crazy Mom Quilts). I can't wait to see how these evolve. I was a little nervous to delve into working with triangles, but this tutorial (A Quilt is Nice) makes things quite easy and results in a stunning pattern.
--MATERIALS: 1 yard holly print fabric, 1 yard red stripe fabric, 1 yard green polka fabric, 3 yards moda white fabric (binding, batting, backing to be determined)
--YIELD: 6 lap quilts, 30" x 45"

I was delighted to find a free pattern for these little birds (Spool Sewing). I have been able to use scraps from my stash and stuffing I'd had from a pillow project, and have thus far spent nothing on the darling creatures. I am making a few of these here and there and hope to have a dozen or more to give as gifts.

I love advent calendars. I would like to celebrate this charming tradition with a gift for my children and my niece and nephew. When I saw this felt advent calendar (Purl Bee) I was immediately inspired to find some wool felt. I am in love with this color palette! I will applique the numbers, either felt or fabric, onto the squares; I have never been good at embroidery.

For Big B and little b, we have decided to redesign their room to include bunk beds, and slowly integrate little b into this space. This rite of passage cannot go without celebration! I am making them each a new quilt. I don't have a pattern nor have I seen a precedent, but I think I have a good design.

Big B's Quilt: Royal blue patchwork with orange pieced capital 'B' applique and binding
little b's Quilt: Pale blue patchwork with yellow pieced lowercase 'b' applique and binding

I have found a font I'd like to mimic for the letters and have purchased the fusible webbing for their applique. I'm going to piece the letters entirely from scraps and go as far as I can with leftover blue strip piecing before going to the fabric store. Backing to be determined.

(A big thank you to T., who in the past week alone has suggested embroidery thread for hanging the little birds, fusible webbing for the advent numbers, led me to the zig zag cutting method, and just a few hours ago, begun teaching me how to knit. For the past five years I have looked to her for inspiration, advice and friendship, and am forever grateful for our crossing of paths.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Son-Dial (and other fun with chalk)

At any given moment, there is a box of chalk in my car. This is a lesson I learned early in my parenting days from another mother at one of Papa's softball games. Chalk, like bubbles, can be used virtually anywhere and encourages creativity in unlikely places.
When I was pregnant with Big B, I discovered the magic of chalkboard paint. Our children's room had the perfect kid-sized spot for it, just inside the door. We use this space to practice letters, shapes, numbers, messages to visitors, countdowns, octopi, rocket ships, whatever strikes our fancy. And in the kitchen, we greet each new day on a chalkboard we found on the curb. This is a little ritual we have come to enjoy very much: it teaches Big B about the calendar, and it reminds me to be grateful for new beginnings.Yesterday morning, as Big B was practicing his letters in the backyard after a nice romp in the dirt, his beautiful shadow inspired an idea: a human sundial. Big B has recently learned how to read the hands of a clock, so this seemed like a very timely activity (no pun intended).

STEP ONE: Choose a sunny patch of hard surface, mark the spot with an 'X', and plant your child there. Trace his or her shadow with chalk and note the time of day next to it.
STEP TWO: Return to the same spot every two hours throughout the day.
STEP THREE: Compare the angles, lengths, and shapes of your child's shadow and adorn your human sundial with color.

You can also make your own chalk with common household items. This can get a little messy, and sometimes we just aren't that ambitious (or patient). Fortunately, as we all know, chalk is cheap.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Buddhas and birdies and books, oh my!

This morning, Papa, Mama, big B and little b piled into the car to enjoy a few of our favorite family treats. We started by indulging in our community's newest hot spot, downtown's Buddha Belly Donuts (slogan: eat donuts, be happy). Buzzed with sugar, coffee, and the mid-morning breeze, we set off to find yard sale treasure. Encouraged by the bargain hunter's trifecta of perfect weather, imminent holidays and a weakened economy, families on nearly every city block we passed offered their wares today.

Stack of children's books ($6)
Big B typically scores huge on days like this. Today's bounty: eighteen books, two board games, a monster truck, a bat and ball, a brand new football, rocket balloons, and playdough with cutting tools. Several of these items will be stowed away for Christmas, as I was able to sneak them into the trunk by playing hand-off with Papa.

FIND OF THE DAY FOR little b :: Wooden whale pull-toy ($1)
Little b has, until today, benefited from yard sales simply by the experience of attending them, with perhaps a functional find here or there (clothing, a stroller, etc.) . This morning, however, we found a cloth activity book, some nesting barrels, and this adorable wooden pull-toy, which he loved immediately and held the whole way home.

FIND OF THE DAY FOR MAMA :: Vintage creamer ($0.50)
This little birdie chirped right to me. I was also thrilled to find a wooden puzzle for my niece, a package of retro Christmas window clings (which might appear in a future post), and several gently loved Christmas ornaments. My mother and I have developed a tradition of exchanging wooden or cloth ornaments that we've found throughout the year at yard sales and thrift stores.

FIND OF THE DAY FOR PAPA :: Belly full of Buddhism (free)
For Papa, outings such as these always have one singular goal: garden art. Oh sure, statues, fountains and birdbaths catch his eye, but ultimately rummaging has evolved into his quasi-spiritual quest for the perfect yard buddha. So you can imagine his nirvana when we walked into an estate sale, just blocks from our house, which included this room full of buddhas. Eastern and western, heads and bodies, reclining and praying, standing and sitting, wooden and gilded, ornate and simple. As we looked at each figure carefully, trying to manifest some spiritual connection with one of them, we realized that in their collection they lost a bit of their magic. For Papa (an avid fisherman), choosing one from this room would have been like fishing in a farmed pond.

We watched as another customer found connection with this buddha, seemingly praying for its pickup truck journey. After all, in the words of the Buddha himself, "It is better to travel well, than to arrive." And so, the quest happily continues.
So what was the find of the day for Papa? The glazed croissant from Buddha Belly Donuts. For as the Buddha also said, "Peace comes from within; do not seek it without." (Eat donuts. Be happy.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Snips and snails and puppy dog tails..."

Welcome to Snip and Snail, a blog about the creativity it takes to raise two boys and to keep one mother sane. I hope, through this blog, to explore what these little boys are truly made of, what I make for them and for others, and what we all make together. Please allow me to introduce you to our cast of characters:

Mama, 32, stay at home working mother, amateur quilter and crafter, completely in love with the boys in her house

Papa, 34, lover, provider, rassler-tassler, football lover and softball player, four-wheelin' romantic, lighter of my fire

Big B, 4-1/2, lover of the spoken word, humorist, thinker, storyteller, gentleman, body slammer, sweet as molasses

little b, almost 1, chooky as can be, snuggly and warm, favorite word is dog, thinks Big B is the cat's pajamas

If nothing else, my hope for this journal is to allow me to savor these moments. For as we all create together, so do we help to create each other.