29 December 2012

Christmastime Pictures

This is a set of ceramic ornaments that our great-nieces and nephew in Tucson sent made and sent to us last year.   They are too heavy for the tree, or to hang on the windows as suncatchers, so this year it occurred to me to make a garland to hang on the wall - I love the way it turned out!  (Every once ins a while, I actually have a good idea ....)

Does anyone remember the Advent Calendar I was knitting?  I finished it last December, but we didn't hang it until this year.  This is the best picture I could get of it.  I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out.  Technically, each hat and mitten should have a number, 1-24, but I like it this way.

Christmas preparations wore out Pip ...

but he did want to be sure that you saw our tree.

Milo was annoyed that Rudolph was allowed to sit on the table 24/7, 
and he was not!


Christmas Day itself was quite exciting.

Jetsam was ready from the get-go!

Dug was pleased with his gifts ...

maybe a little too much?

Milo and Pip had fun opening their gifts ... 

and Pip made sure that nothing was missed!


We are still enjoying our Christmastime, and I hope that you are too!

24 December 2012

Christmas Eve

Christmas is love with all the trimmings
 -- Anonymous

From our house to yours

Merry Christmas!

21 December 2012

Pip Speaks! Holiday Tip #3 - Wrapping Presents

Hello, everyone - it's me - Pip - again.  I wanted to talk about wrapping presents today.  I don't know about you, but I LOVE to get presents!  Even before they are ever opened, I like to attack the paper, chew on the paper, or try to eat the bow!  My ma says this is not a good thing, and also not good for me, but I really don't understand how that could be the case.  It's just so FUN!

Anyway, I think that it's important to remember that a wrapped present is just something that adds to the mystery of what might be inside.  I don't understand why everyone thinks that presents need to be wrapped like they are more important than what is inside.  My ma likes to wrap presents, but she makes them look nice, and (as far as I know) doesn't try to impress anyone with making them "artistic."   But she said that she knows some people who cause themselves a lot of stress by trying to make every single package an amazing work of art.  I think that is silly.

At our house, we love to help with wrapping presents!  Lots of the time, we help by trying out the gift boxes, and trimming the wrapping paper.  It's also fun to attack the wrapping paper and/or the ribbons.  Lots of people say that if they had pets they would not let them in the same room while they were wrapping presents. I think that is just silly.  For instance, here are some pictures that my ma took last year when we were helping.

 Jetsam takes a look to see what help is needed

I hold down some wrapping paper so it doesn't wrinkle

 Jetsam makes sure everything is wrapped

Dug was helping, but then he got tired (he was just a visitor last Christmas!)

This year, Dug is our brother, and of course we have Milo and he likes to help too!  My ma gets mad at us, but then she'll say, "You know what?  You guys are all good - why get mad when you are just excited about Christmas too?"

I like it when she says that.  :-)

So if you still need to wrap any presents, remember that it's supposed to be fun too.  But it doesn't have to be so perfect that it belongs in an art museum.  Because, after all, it's for Christmas - which should only be fun.

That's all for now - have a fun weekend!

18 December 2012

The Santa Question

Like most little kids, I was a firm believer in Santa Claus as a child.  Though I had my own take on it - for instance, I never for a minute thought those guys in department stores or Christmas parties were Santa, because a) they didn't look like him, and b) he didn't travel around until Christmas Eve.  Duh!  I also never wanted my picture with Santa, because, well - see above.

Once I started school, some kids believed in Santa and some didn't.  But after first grade, believing in Santa became something you kept to yourself if you didn't want to be teased.  In third grade, I was in what was called a "split class" - third and fourth graders in one classroom.  And I remember that some boy stated one day that Santa did not exist and anyone who thought so was a baby and stupid.  At which time Joanne Manfredi (a fourth grader) stood up and said that she believed in Santa, because he was "the spirit of Christmas."  Well, that stupid boy (because in third grade, all boys were of course, stupid) wasn't sure what to say, and besides Sister said something to the effect that we weren't going to discuss something like that, and that was the last word on that topic.

I guess at some point I realized that my parents bought most of the gifts I'd get for Christmas.  My parents certainly never said Santa didn't exist.  Ever.  I'm sure my sisters, who were older, told me plenty of times, if for no other reason to torture me!  However, this news did not in any way traumatize me, upset me, anger me, or any of the other things that others say happened when they found out that Santa wasn't real.  And even as a little kid, I was still very cynical (especially for someone my age).  As far as I was concerned, even if he didn't bring all of the presents, that did not mean he didn't really exist.  Having said that, because I was already considered a weirdo by other kids, I generally kept my mouth shut on the whole Santa issue.

Fast forward fifty-odd years, and I'm at a party with other people who begin to discuss the topic of Santa Claus.  The usual stories of heartbreak and/or anger when it was discovered that Santa was real, people had been lied to by their parents, etc. - I'm sure you've all been there.  Then everyone starts to talk about how wrong it is to tell children lies like that, blah, blah, blah.

I mentioned that I still believed in Santa Claus, but was pretty much blown off and ignored.  Which is fine (and not a new experience to me).  But the whole thing really bothered me, and I've finally figured out why.

Because I really *do* still believe in Santa Claus.  He does come to our house on Christmas Eve, and on occasion leaves a present.  But Santa is there.  He is around even if you can't see him or prove his existence.  He makes Christmas fun, and he is awesome.  If he doesn't bring you what was on your Christmas wish list, that doesn't mean he isn't real, either; at least in our house, you never got a lot of the specific things you requested (probably due to price), but there were always surprises, and you always got something.

I love Christmastime.  The songs, the gifts, Santa, reindeer, elves, ribbons, cookies, decorations - all of it.  It reminds me every year that no matter what else has happened, it's here and it's a special time.  And every year, my belief in Santa Claus gets stronger and stronger.

I am fully aware that Christmastime celebrates the birth of Jesus.  I do not believe it should be about nothing but RECEIVING, or comparing how much was spent on your gifts, or even having the best Christmas party.

But even during the saddest or hardest years of my life, Santa has been there at Christmas, reminding me that it's not all about me, or things, or money.  Reminding me that it's a time to reflect, but also enjoy.  And that whether or not I've remembered to be nice to people in the course of the year, that I have another fresh start given to me.

And that is why I still believe in Santa Claus.

12 December 2012

A Gift, a Date, and a Rant

A Gift

Once upon a time, there was a knitter whose niece had a little baby boy, born on Cinco de Mayo.  The knitter wanted to knit something for her new great-nephew, but a couple of things held her back: 1) the baby lived in San Francisco, so really heavy duty items like sweaters were not totally necessary, and 2) this niece did not say "thank you," "drop dead," or even "UGLY" when she was sent a pair of hand knit socks for Christmas a few years ago.  However, the knitter had always made something for any new babies in the family, ever since she had learned to knit.  So she thought about making one thing, then something else, another thing, a failed project.  Finally she just gave up.

But as Christmastime arrived, and she wasn't knitting any other gifts, she started to rethink the whole thing.  She found a pattern that she liked, and could use some yarn that she already had, and figured, what the heck, one more try couldn't hurt, right?

A week later, she had finished the knitting, and it was actually pretty CUTE!  Sure, she had to fiddle a little bit with the pattern, which was challenging for her, but her  calculations worked (a Christmas miracle in and of itself), and that was encouraging as well.  Hopefully, the gift will fit the recipient.  And maybe she'll never know, and maybe the parents will hate it.  But the knitter decided that she wouldn't care what happened once the gift was given, because then it was all out of her hands.

And so, I give you the finished item:

Parker's Owl Vest

and a closeup of the owls that go across the front:

Parker's Owl Vest closeup

Project: Owls for Parker
Pattern:  Owl Baby Vest by Jodi Haraldson (a freebie on Ravelry!)
Yarn:  Berrocco Vintage Colors, colorway 5220 (1 skein and a teeny bit of another)
Needles:  US4, US5, US6
Modifications:  When I was starting the rows above the owls that turn into the sleeves, I noticed that the owl on the left (as you are looking at it) would be under the left arm, when following the pattern as written.  It looked weird, so I ripped it out and redid it, after fooling with some numbers.  (These details will appear soon on my Ravelry project page for this item.)  I was pleased and surprised when it worked, and the finished piece looked so cute!
Other comments:  I can recommend this pattern.  It's easy, quick, and the result is just adorable!

A Date

Today is 12-12-12!  How cool is that?  Did you know it is the last symmetrical date we will see in our lifetimes?  I hope you will do/did something special or treated yourself to mark the day.  Being "numerically aware" (as my niece referred to me), I couldn't let the day pass without noting it!


A Rant

If you have read this blog for more than three seconds at any given time, you know that I love holidays in general, and Christmastime in particular.  And this year, more than others, I'm really tired of the Scrooges who are everywhere: in person, in print, on Facebook and Twitter.  

The latest is the discussion of Christmas carols.  Granted, I have ones that drive me nuts, or that I think are wrong (i.e., "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," "Dominic the Donkey), but I ignore them when I can, and sigh loudly when I can't.  And a lot of people don't like any Christmas song that isn't a hymn, which I can understand, but find to be personally limiting.

However, I MUST take exception with two discussions that I have come across recently that in my opinion are completely ridiculous.  Apparently, for years, we've all been listening to the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside," and not realizing that it is all about date rape.  And, the song, "Santa Baby"?  Well, that's about prostitution.  

REALLY?  Give me a break, people!  Why can't they just be amusing or silly holiday songs?  Every single thing in the world does not lead to some morally questionable result.  At least not in my world.  I just feel like these people need a sense of humor, you know?

In the meantime, there are now only THIRTEEN DAYS left until Christmas Day, and I sincerely hope that you will do everything within your power to enjoy them, and the rest of Christmastime that follows.  

And now?  I'm finally signing off ... :-)

07 December 2012

Pip Speaks! Holiday Tip #2 - Christmas Cards

Hello everyone, it's me, Pip, again!  My Ma told me that you liked my earlier post, and read me your comments, and it made me so happy.  Because unlike a lot of other kitties, I'm a talker, and love to have people (or anyone else!) listen to me.

So now I want to talk to you about these:

Christmas cards!  Or, if you don't celebrate Christmas, Holiday cards!  We love getting them at our house, and after we've gotten quite a few, my Ma likes to hang them on our garden door as part of our decorations.

(Us kitties like to bat at them, which is not really something our Ma and Da like, but that's another story.)

Anyway, my Ma was annoyed the other day, because someone told her that she should not be sending out Christmas cards, because it was a waste of paper, and not good for the environment.  She was telling us that a lot of cards nowadays are made of recycled paper, and they can also be recycled, so there is that.  But mostly, she was reminding us that Christmas cards can have a life beyond the one they have on one Christmas when you get them.  Here is how it works at our house.

We always send out Christmas cards to our relatives and friends, and it's marked as being from all of us.  Which I think is nice, because sometimes we get cards from people we know have animals in their families, but the don't sign their names.  I think that is mean.   But that too, is another story.

Anyway, when we take down our decorations after Chrismastime and put them away, my Ma takes the cards and puts them together with a rubber band with the other things.  Then the next year, she pulls them out when she is getting ready to send cards again, to see who sent cards and who will still get cards.***  Then she takes any that are not pictures of people we know, and she separates the front of the card from the inside where people have signed their names.  Any that have writing on the inside of the front of the card just get recycled, but otherwise, she collects the fronts, and sends them to a place called the Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey for their Christmas at Sea program.  The people who are in charge of that program use the fronts of the Christmas cards as gift tags for the presents they give out.  I think it must be nice to not only get a present like a scarf or something when you weren't expecting it, and then have a pretty gift card on it as well.  My Ma says that it probably makes some people feel extra special on Christmas (and that makes me feel good too, since we usually help her get things apart and ready to send).

So my tip for today is to think before your say to someone else that they shouldn't send out Christmas cards, or that they are doing something bad for the environment.  Because you can see from what I wrote that you can enjoy sending and getting cards and still be recycling them in a way that gives others a smile on Christmas Day.

Everyone at our house smiles a lot on Christmas Day, and all through Christmastime.  But if we couldn't be together, I would like to think that we would have a reason to smile because we knew that somewhere, someone was thinking of us.

My Ma just told me that this post was long enough, but I have two more things to tell you.  One is that there are only EIGHTEEN DAYS left until Christmas Day!!!! and, the second thing is that some people who get cards from us will see my picture on their stamp!

Me dressed up like Santa!

OK, bye until next time.  Love, Pip

***Like so many things our Ma does, she has a "system" for Christmas cards.  She is also the only one who understands it.

04 December 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Exactly three weeks from today, it will be CHRISTMAS DAY!!  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that Christmastime is my favorite time of year.  Along with that goes my love of Christmas music,  So when Favorite Christmas Albums was the topic for this week's Ten on Tuesday, I thought it only appropriate that I shared my favorites.

Needless to say, these are not my only favorites, but these are some that I thought of, and have been listening to already, so here you go in no particular order.

Top Ten  Favorite Christmas Albums

1.  A Christmas Heritage - this truly is a favorite, with some beautiful renditions of some classics, and some new ones I hadn't heard before.  Plus, one of the musicians is someone I went to elementary school with, and whose father was my brother-in-law's first law partner!

2.  The Sound of Christmas - Julie Andrews.  This is one that we got years ago, when Hallmark used to produce CDs or tapes for the Christmas season.  

3.  Christmas with the Cambridge Singers - I'd never heard of the Cambridge Singers when I bought this CD, but I liked the cover, I enjoy choral music, and there were songs I liked on it.  This almost immediately became a favorite, and there are two songs on it that always nearly bring me to tears.

4.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer "soundtrack" - This is a cheapo, cheesy CD with the songs from the Rankin-Bass version of the story of Rudolph (with which I am obsessed).  There are really only one or two that are actually recordings from the TV soundtrack - most are covers - but since I like the show and the songs so much, I enjoy this one.

5.  Just in Time for Christmas - Nancy LaMott.  We saw Nancy LaMott in concert a couple of years before her untimely death, and it was great, so when I saw this, buying it was a no-brainer!  It's definitely a good one.

6.  A Christmas Album - James Taylor.  What can I say?  I'd listen to him sing a grocery list.  His version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" is one of my favorites of all time.

7.  The Christmas Album - Libera.  We have several CDs by this choral group of young boys, and the sound is so clear and beautiful, I was excited to see they had a Christmas album.  It's all good, but their addition and cover of Billy Joel's "Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)" is truly stunning.

8.  Christmas Classics - I think we have several versions of these CDs, with mixes of old standards performed by Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin - you get the drift.  It's not Christmastime to me without them.

9.  Christmas  - Michael Buble.   I like this because it is evocative to me of the old-time Christmas albums that my parents had.

10.  Christmas Songs - Diana Krall.  I love listening to her, and love Christmas music - you do the math! 

Happy listening and singing along!

01 December 2012

Here We Go!

Today whether you like it or not (and I LOVE IT!), is the first of December, meaning that Christmastime has officially started, at least in our house.  Thanksgiving got some extra time this year to kick things off, but now it's getting serious.

This year, I am completely scattered for whatever reason, and have not knit a single gift, though there is one thing I'm hoping can become just that.  However, since I started late, I'm not going to worry about it.  And who knows, there may be a hat or mittens or something else small in someone's future.  I'm just going to see if the spirit moves me, so to speak.

The Tim did pull the boxes o' stuff out of the basement the other day, and today we opened up the holiday mugs, glasses, and that kind of thing, as well as the Christmas linens (you know, tablecloths and such).  Those are always first in our house.  I don't know if it's because they are easiest, or if for both of us it just makes sense.  I know growing up, we got started on Christmastime once the calendar showed December, but since my mom's birthday was December 2, the heavy duty decorating started after that.  It's probably just something that has stuck with me.

Jetsam, Pip, and Dug all thinks it's very interesting, of course.  Milo isn't quite sure what to think of it.  I'm sure that will change once boxes open and there are shiny, small, hanging things to investigate.  This may be a minimal decor holiday, unless he can be convinced that Santa really does care about his behavior!

Tomorrow, I'm teaching a Basic Sock Class at Rosie's, and I have four students signed up, so I'm kind of excited about that.  I just hope that I can convince them that it's not going to seem easy or maybe even worthwhile at first.  I know when I first learned, I sort of wondered what I'd gotten myself into, but now socks are one of my constant things on the needles.  Will I be able to create new sock knitters?  I sure hope so!

That's it for now.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and for those who celebrate, I hope your Christmas spirit is starting!