Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No crafts today..

No crafts today, my heart just melts away
The children stand for joy, a symbol of the day
No crafts today, it seems a common sight
But people passing by don't know the reason why
Unlike what I think some families do, we don't take family pictures to use as Xmas cards.
It's not that we are not family. In a modern sense, we are.
It's not like we don't look good in pictures-
in a LOLcat way we do.
It's not even like we don't do Xmas- darn right we do.
There were crafts I could show you, but beautiful people like Saraccino rounded
them up a helluva lot better and more original than I could. Hop over and give the girl
some love- in a very tentacled way, she is incredibly talented, humorous and incredibly
big- hearted. One of my favourite blogs ever. This wonderful lady happens to be 
a fellow German, but I can't say I was ever lucky enough to encounter somebody as,
and I mean it in the BEST way possible, odd as her in Germany EVER. If I had,
maybe I wouldn't have felt the need to leg it!
Right, I was talking about Xmas cards.
I might not have told you, but the minions are staying with us for a full week.
For those of you who have their own minions, this might not quite be the biggest deal
ever, but for somebody like me who has successfully avoided reproduction, it darn well is. 
A full week trying not to swear, getting up early (well... The Man does. I just switch to Deaf Old Witch Mode 
and steal another hour!) and hiding your alcohol intake that seems to be getting
out of hand around the holiday period. Hic. (please don't take this one literally,
we DO drink responsibly and share with them! LOL)
We got them early Monday morning, and, boy, days seem to drag when the weather is
so frigging bleak that you can't take them to the playground and the bank holidays
don't really allow you to go into town and drag them through random museums to make
everybody elses life misery. 
What we have learned so far is that a Transformer toy is not only impossible to
transform, it also breaks easily in Daddys hands. It was called Bumblebee, now it is
called "The Plastic Thing That Drowned In The Bath Never To Be Mentioned Again".
We have also learned that it is quite cool to take a very grown- up 8 year old girl
and a "third child syndrome" 4 year old munchkin boy round the shops to buy really
big heaps of chinese plastic for about 45% of the price that was charged like... 
a minute ago. Did you know that cr@p provides about ten minutes of fun, while 
watching Daddy trying to get all the packaging off entertains for a full afternoon?
We have tried to make Xmas last for as long as possible. Yesterday, we did aforementioned 
trip, while today, we just spread out silly little gifts like pound shop
cutlery with engraved dinosaur footprints (for him, the princess got love hearts)
to dig into their astronaut feasts (chicken with broccoli and cheese sauce, but
in really fancy dishes, they nearly busted their bellies!) and stupid Xmas
crackers with paper crowns and stickers in them. 
Tomorrow morning, a 99p stuffed toy is awaiting the wee man Aaron(he has a thing with monsters. 
One minute he's scared, the next he luuuurves them), looking like a pink zombie.
The princess will be presented with an equally expensive necklace with a love 
heart pendant.  They went to bed tonight knowing there'd be something to wake up to.
If I had to price absolutely everything up, including the big heap of
chinese- made scrap plastic they both got as their main presents, I'd say we spent
about £20 on each kiddo so far. Keep in mind that is 2 days of being showered with
surprises like a toy car for being a good boy and a little lockable diary for
helping carrying the shopping without even being asked for the princess. (a hands-
on princess like Shreks Fiona, never mind Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella! My Abigail will 
knock the Prince straight off his horse and nick his ride until further notice,
So, now that you know how absolutly adorable we all are, I don't mind showing you the TRUTH.
The ugly, absolute, undeniable truth.
Let me please show you what would have been our Xmas cards if we did them. And understand
why we don't do them. Ever.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Heiligabend means Christmas Eve!


according to Wikipedia, this is the German tradition of Christmas Eve. Check it out.

In some families the whole family comes together; in others December 24 is celebrated only by the close family, whereas the larger family (grandparents, uncles & aunts, etc.) will visit on the first or second Day of Christmas (December 25 and 26 respectively).
Before the Bescherung (gift giving) begins, many Germans go to church. Christmas masses/services often last around one hour. Families with children go to a children's mass which is usually shorter and dramatised with a Krippenspiel, which is a nativity play.
While everyone else is at church, one of the adults prepares the Christmas tree and turns on electric lights or lights decorative candles, and puts on festive Christmas music and places the gifts under the tree.
When the family comes back from the church, the living room is locked. The children must wait to enter into the prepared room until a little bell rings. This bell marks the departure of the Christ Child (Christkind) who, according to tradition, brings the presents (instead of Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus). Revealing the decorated Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas tree) with all the presents is a big surprise. For the Bescherung, the only light comes from the Christmas tree lights (in the past real candles, today electric lights rather than candles).
Many families will sing traditional Christmas carols or play music on flutes and/or guitars around the tree before opening the gifts.
The gifts lie under the tree, wrapped in colorful paper, and the children unwrap them before the big Christmas feast. Adults may also share gifts while the children are opening theirs. Many families also prepare decorated paper bags or carton plates (Weihnachtsteller) for each of the children and adults. These are full of treats and are often in the shape of angels or Santa Claus, who is called Weihnachtsmann in German.

All of this, to the letter, applies to the Christmas Eves of my childhood. I never enjoyed the church bit (hey, c'mon, what child does?), but the little silvery sound of the bell, the smell of the tree (remember- I am conservative, its gotta be the real thing... or it did have to be...), the soft glow of the lights in the tinsel (red one year, purple the next) and even the flute, played enthusiastically by yours truly, were cherished.

I used to get two Bescherungen, one with my grandparents who technically raised me and one with my Mum and her partner who lived two flights of stairs above us in the same house. My Mum always had "the same tree"... the tree itself, of course, changed from year to year, but the decorations never did. To this day, they did not.
She, in fact, is the only person I know who still uses real candles in her tree. She might only light them on the actual Christmas Eve and substitute them with electrical lights for the rest of the season, but there are CANDLES in her tree. I remember the smell of real bees wax like I had only experienced it 5 minutes ago.
Her tree was and is a feast for my sore, tired eyes. It has been years since I last saw it, but please spare a minute to admire MUMS CHRISTMAS TREE 2009.

All the gifts are arranged around it, and on the wall you see my silly face under a silly hat overlooking the scene.
Her apartment is tiny, and the tree is always quite big. I know that green sucker reminds her of years gone by just as much as any Christmas tree reminds me of her.

I don't really care if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Ashura or Diwali... nothing, all of the above or something entirely different... I would love for you to use 5 minutes today to sit back and gather your favourite memories. Sit back and unwrap them like a really expensive piece of chocolate. If you are on a diet, unfold them like the first love letter you ever received, carefully as to not tear the slightly age- worn paper.
Look at what is right in front of you, and then read between th lights. Remember smells, sounds, colours, whatever makes those memories special for you.
When your 5 minutes are up, pick up the phone, grab a pen or open your mail program. Get in touch with somebody nice. Mom, niece, Granddad, the wicked witch of the east, somebody who unexpectedly dropped you a line or two, your divorce lawyer, your vet... it doesn't matter.

I have come to the conclusion that all this holiday stuff really is about the fuzzy feeling inside. And I don't mean the eggnog. Go and share it, it has a tendency to grow. Bugger, eh?

Thanks for following me on my little adventure as far as you did. I hope you will keep traipsing along with me as you guys give me almost as fuzzy, warm and, well, LOVED a feeling as my favourite Christmas memories do. Your support has been amazing, and I love and appreciate each and one of you strange people who keep stopping by for inexplicable reasons to work their way through my ramblings.

Happy Holidays, everybody- Frohe Weihnachten!

Monday, December 20, 2010

How are thy leaves so... foily?

This little house of ours is not meant to be adorned with a Christmas tree. 4 unruly cats and 2 typical kids (who will visit during the holidays!) simply don't allow for a proper tree, which even I had to admit. I am normally really conservative when it comes to a needly friend during Xmas, it's eitherthe real thing or nothing. Period.

Look what the man adopted yesterday.

It is not much taller than a pint, incredibly despicable and made from some sort of foily fiber things. Things. When I came home to it, it wasn't even shaped, and I could not stop laughing for 15 minutes solid. The ugliest piece of third world child labourers impression of a Christmas tree you could imagine! (or at least I suspect child labour for the price of £2.29, reduced from £8!) I instantly fell in love with it.
I always wanted the teddy with the dodgy eye or missing ear as a child, and I always wanted the tree that nobody else wanted for Christmas. Softie, eh? So this awful little fellow made from stuff that probably ends up as bin bags 11 out of 12 months a year stole my heart.

The Man said it was my challenge to make something pretty out of it, so I started immediately.
A pathetic little popcorn chain was made, and the little fellow got a hat and scarf so as not to freeze. Skinny thing MUST be cold, don't you think?

Then I remembered a wonderful post I read not too long ago on Polish The Stars about frosting candle holders with Epsom Salt. How freaking clever is that?
Well, I have no Epsom Salt. So what else sparkles? Yeah, man! Sugar! (at this point I think The Man kinda lost his last bit of trust in me and decided to go with the "Yes, Dear" routine. Bless him, he has suffered a lot.)

Here's what happened:

Get some reasonably sturdy clear plastic and cut your desired shape. Get your sugar and mod podge (or, for savvy folks, cheapo PVA glue) ready.

Attach thread (or pretty wire) to your stars. Watch  your hands, people. Don't ask, okay? (...)

Dry the little beauties together with slices of lemon you happen to have sitting on the radiator, too, for another project:

Start over with the other side, dry again and display:

I am dead chuffed with how these fellas turned out! And I shall do more stuff for that little ugly tree. The plan is to buy nothing new and just use stuff I have 'round the house anyway, so let's see how it goes. I think The Man likes it, too- he sweetly commented how crafting away put a genuine smile on my face and didn't even attempt to strangle me after another giggle- attack while inspecting the tree late at night. Never laughed so much in my life!!

All in all, minus the time it took the stars to dry, the whole session didn't chew up more than half an hour and it is literally a sweet little craft you can fit into even the busiest schedule!

Get frosting, guys, you know it makes sense.

See you soon with further tree- hugging!

Keeping It Simple

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bad blogger, busy bee!

Okay... so I have not blogged. Again. As odd as it is, I actually feel bad about it because I had the opportunity (we are still sharing a pc, but the Man is quite generous!), but rather spent my time creating things.

If it counts in the way of an apology, my working pattern is quite erratic, and when I actually DO get quality time, I have recently found it quite relaxing to craft rather than stare at a screen for longer than necessary. I have also found that when I can't fall asleep at all, it helps to mentally go through a future craft project, smooth out edges, solve little problems like, oh, I don't know... what fabric? Where to get a wreath?... and just get lost in it till sleep finally comes. Who would have thought that crafting would turn into my happy place?

Anyway, I want top show you what I have been doing while not staying in touch with you all, something I do miss. Pixels are one thing, but the people behind them... hey, the insurance might yet cough up and I get my laptop back so I can just drop a line or two whenever I fancy rather than making a session out of it and chasing the Man away from his machine :D

Right... are you guys ready for a shameless display of "what Steff did this Xmas"?

For my colleagues, I came up with a daft little Nikolaus treat. The lad got a pair of normal, well, guy socks, the girls all got fluffy socks. Each sock was filled with the second sock, xmas confetti, sweets and a little gift. Oh, the husband of my beloved colleague Barbara got his own treat, too. Can't help it, I love that chap.

This is what happened:

 Not very detailed, but you get the picture.

I also did some Xmas decoration, on a very small scale and potentially embarrassing, but that's in the eye of the beer holder, right? Please be lenient, this is my first crafty xmas and my very first xmas where kids get to judge my effort... I couldn't be more freaked.

I started with a tweaked version of something I saw on Everyday Mom Ideas
A guest post from Robyn, check it out here.

The trees are made out of a German Heave Metal Magazine, a dish towel, a sweater and coloured pencils. Oh, and loads of hot glue.
The wee stars are felt and beads. Everything else is just the everyday atrocities one encounters around the three bed semi.

I love that chain of lights that pretends to be a chain of snowballs. Three bulbs need replacing and I am frantically searching for a pack of snowball xmas light chain replacement bulbs- when, please, did I stop being cool? Ironically, while typing this, the whole thing blacked out. Not fair.

I shall tell you about my primitive (in a good sense) wreath soon, I am tired of things (including the pc, it's done it three times now while typing this post) blacking out.

Hopefully the minions (geez, Sunny over at Life in Rehab
has a lot to explain!) like it, as they are the only reasons I'm feeling all xmassy in the first place.
Amazing what a pair of small- scale hooligans can do!

Guys, I hope the preparation for Xmas are not too stressful for y'all and you don't forget to enjoy all the good stuff.

Catch you soon!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

OWL tell you a tale!

Not too long ago, my wonderful blog friend Mich held one of her competitions- guess the mystery thing.
She makes a quirky piece of jewellery out of a totally unexpected thing of everyday... things totally taken out of context and makes you guess what the heck it is. Q- tips, automotive vacuum hoses and aquarium plants, to name but a few.
In her endless generosity, she awards a prize not only to the first correct guess, but also to the most crackpoteative guess.
I was lucky enough to be a creative crackpot and win her automotive vacuum hose competition.
Since we had been burgled not too long before that, she promised she'd throw in a little something on top of my prize to put a smile on my face... brace yourselves, peeps, this is what I found in the mail the other day:

Please take some time and look up those pieces on her blog, you will not believe what they are made from!
If you hop over, please leave her some love and let her know if you'd be interested in a tutorial for the beautiful little bracelet she made for my bff Abigail (which I will save for a Nikolaus treat for her, but that's for another post) I, for one, am all for it, because then I can make one my size!!

The necklace, featured on her blog on August 10th, actually inspired the little piece I showed you in my last post, but please head over to see for yourself.

I wear my new bling with pride and am so proud and glad to have such a wonderful friend in La- La- Land! Let me repeat myself here again, what's a couple of stolen items compared to truckloads of love sent my way?

Today, a frozen postie knocked on the door and brought a parcel full of felt. All the colours of the rainbow and then some. This year, most of the Christmas gifts coming from the Three Bed Semi will be handmade, and I had something in mind I wanted to try.

You might know about my slight obsession with owls? Can't help it, I just love them, and one of my dreams is to see one in real life. A short while ago my Mum was lucky enough to encounter one , and I am sure I will one day. Until then, I will have to make do with what is available.
So I decided to make a little stuffed owl brooch for my Mum to always remind her of her Day Of The Owl.
Since my little camera is pretty crappy, so are the pictures, and this is not a tutorial, but I guess all you savvy crafters out there are way ahead of me anyway and have long since passed the stage of owl crafts.

Here's what I did:

I received the book amongst other things today in a big parcel from Mum, but that, as well, is another post as I will just well up with "I miss my Mum" tears again if I go there now. Gotta chew and digest first. Never mind.
So... take an incredibly cute image for inspiration, draw something entirely different and cut the felt to size. (body twice, wing twice, eyes twice or once if shaped like figure 8)
Stitch on eyes with embroidery floss, realize your talent is non- existent and add two seed- beads as pupils. Laugh at self. Add beak.
Stitch two body shapes together inside out, leave bottom open and reverse.
Use old pillow- stuffing to stuff.
Ignore silly questions like "why are you disembowelling that cushion? I am still using that!" and stitch together the bottom.

Add two remotely wing- resembling shapes on the sides, be proud of yourself and laugh some more. Make onlookers feel compelled to congratulate you to your mad skills by reminding them that otherwise they'd fall out of favor (and this is an important step, ladies, make sure you go the extra mile and make everybody feel really guilty about smirking in the first place!!).

Realize you don't have a brooch back and call it a day. Blog it.

Hey... by my standards, this IS a tutorial! It would be better if a few folks actually knew what the heck I'm trying to say, but that's alright, I let you off.

I shall now enjoy a fine glass of wine, regardless of the fact that my owl kinda looks like an (admittedly sort of cute) potato sack and, as Germans say, let God be a good man.

Have a lovely day, love you all!

Disclaimer: The Man wasn't really that cheeky, but I do think he's getting fed up with Twits and Twoos!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We're streaking in the snow....

Yorkshire is covered under a remarkably thick layer of snow. So thick that the miracle happened- I was allowed to close my shop at 6.30! After taking an amazing 188 bets (and a few menacing phone calls, I have to admit) all day, the powers that be decided to let us go early. YAY!

Sometimes, snow seems to bring out the best in people. Like their bums. Don't believe me? Look at these ghastly ghostly captures of The Man braving the elements and, while he was at it, traumatizing the neighbours...

This was a few days ago, when the first layer of snow came down, and I am actually quite happy with the fact that my new stupid compact digital ALDI camera decided to capture a ghost rather than the full monty; at least I do not need to censor anything. Any questions?

Today, my little world looked like this:

Since the photos were taken, the amount of snow almoust doubled- I am kind of giddy about it, even though I am aware of the downsides that come with it.

Tomorrow, I will buy some food for our feathered friends and make sure they have a little landing area in the garden. If I make it up the hill to the shops. If not, they'll have to make do with what I find in the house.

And since there is bugger all else to do, there's loads of time to craft- look at my new necklace!

All you need is crappy pencils the kids reject because they are, well, crappy, a drill, a cutting tool and a few jewellery findings. Behead the pencils, drill holes, connect with eye pins, add chain, wear with pride and stick out from the crowd. Easy.

Tomorrow (hopefully), I will tell you a tale of overseas friendship and crazy jewellery that found its way to my house over the big, big pond. Stay tuned and behead some pencils while you wait! Love you all, folks, you are an amazing bunch.