Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tree Time

I already filled you in on some of the post-decoration Christmas tree drama around here this year.  So far,  the wire and Jenga blocks are continuing to keep it upright, and my glue gun is keeping up with the L.-associated breakage.  Here's a photo essay of the choosing and decorating the tree this year. 

Animals!  L. making his standard growling noise for all creatures.

L., sick of being manhandled by his siblings.

Anxious to get in the straw maze.

Three of my favorite men.

Lights on!

First ornament on the tree.  N. has been playing with this angel for two months now,
 and talking about putting it on the tree.

Is this one considered fragile, Mom?




Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Zooful of Cheer

Last week we continued one of our favorite Christmastime traditions: visiting the Cincinnati Zoo for the Festival of Lights.  
The kids and I visited the zoo back in early November, when they were already getting ready by stringing lights in all the trees.  
O. has been asking when we will get to go back and see Santa's reindeer ever since. The mild weather this year meant we got to enjoy everything without dealing with too much whining about how very "chiw-y" N. was, at least until the end, when it was time to head home anyway.

O. was literally bouncing with excitement the whole walk in from the parking lot, 
so I'm amazed that we got him to stand next to the 
gigantic Christmas tree long enough for this shot.

Once we started seeing the animal shaped light creations, O. kept asking to get a picture with them.  I was surprised, because he lately does not like to cooperate with posed pictures.

Then I figured out that he had a plan for a whole series.  
N. is not in on the act quite yet.
Ah, now she's got it.

What fun we had together!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Should have been our Christmas card this year...

We already sent out our cards, a montage with some semi-professional pictures of the kids throughout the year.  I wasn't up for trying for a group shot where all three were both smiling and had eyes open.  I found myself a little sad I didn't have a Christmas-y shot of them yet this season, so I tried getting them to don Santa hats the other night.  

Yep.  These are my kids. 

Clowning princess, my mostly sweet Cub Scout, and the happiest baby on earth. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

RWOP: Ballsy Attempt

This week's RWOP installment was inspired by this tutorial for making a wreath out of Christmas balls.
Since the smallest Small is obsessed with balls, and likes to pull all spherical objects he can reach off the Christmas tree, we had a lot leftover when we finished decorating this year.  

I really thought this looked easy.  Just requires a wire hanger and some ball ornaments. You unfold the hanger, shape it into a circle, then string the balls on by their loops.  Twist the wire back together, and hang!

As usual, I thought I could somehow rig my own version of this craft, and that I wouldn't necessarily need the EIGHTY balls that were recommended.  Seriously. Who has eighty balls just lying around, or is going to buy eighty balls for a wreath?  When will I learn though, that crafting is not cooking?  I really can't always just improvise with what I have, unless I'm willing for the end result to look a little forlorn.  

Anyway, here is where the initial magic happened, on my kitchen counter.  You are supposed to hot glue the top onto each ball so that they don't fly off when you start stringing them on the hanger.  Again, I thought maybe this was overkill.  But then I strung a few on, and the minute I tried to touch any of them:  Yes.  They fell off.  So hot glue it was.  A little tedious, but not too bad.  

O. helping me with the stringing of the balls.  

I did try to pay attention to the pattern of color and size when stringing them on, as I would do when making a bead necklace.

Okay, I don't have any of the in between shots of this project, where I ran out of balls, tried to hang it up anyway with the top third of it basically bare.  The problem with trying to use less balls and reshape is that the balls are not very flexible, and tend to burst into a billion smithereens if you mess with them too much.  Also, the weight tends to fall towards the bottom, making it impossible to spread them out just how you'd like.

Sooo.  I went and bought some new balls.  Target had some in the dollar spot, luckily.  But, it meant I had to unstring all of my old work, so as to redistribute the new color palette.  J. helped me twist the wire more securely than I could do with my fingers.

You use the original hook from the hanger as your wreath hanger.  You'll see here that I have covered up the remaining bare wire with a very cheap looking bow.  All the ribbon I had was too translucent when I made my own bow, so I went with the pre-made 99 cent bow from Michaels.  Kind of fits with the retro/dime store feel that the whole thing ended up having.  Here it is hanging on the inside of my front door  Might look better on a solid door than my glass one, for contrast.

So, here's a poor quality closer-up view on my living room chair.
Not awesome, but not too bad.  I miss the extra sparkle all of these ornaments gave our tree, but I'm sure J. is glad we may not have an entire box devoted to "Ornaments: Balls" to put away this January!

This is my weekly Real Women of Pinterest post.  What are you pondering producing on Pinterest lately?  Would you like to share?  Email me your photos, or if you're a blogger, link up below!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

RWOP: Trying to Keep Christmas Together This Year

This seems to be the Christmas of broken things.  Looking back, my dustpan first started getting use before Thanksgiving, when I dropped a friend's casserole dish in my front hallway.  I was trying to help her juggle her potluck dish, her toddler, and baby on her hip, and the casserole dropped right through the bag she had been carrying it in, and smashed to bits all over the floor, with children who had just taken shoes off everywhere.
Since then, I have broken a couple of glasses, which is relatively unusual for me.  I wasn't even holding L. at the time, so mostly it's just distraction.
Sometime before Christmas,  I found this image of a square vase turned into a Christmas decoration on Pinterest.  I thought it was lovely, but wasn't sure I could forgo my usual dining room centerpiece -- our enormous brandy snifter filled with jewel colored balls.  In January, I swap out the balls for snowflake napkin rings.
Well, there must have been a larger plan, because when I went to the basement to get the glass snifter, and began to unload the snowflakes and candle holders that had been stored in them, one of the candle holders slipped out of my fingers and smashed right through the glass, shattering the whole object.  All the times I'd been so careful washing that glass vase by hand, all the way back in the tiny house J. and I first lived in together flashed through my mind.  I'm not beating myself up over a decoration, but still, a stupid way for it to be broken.
So, new format to display glass balls it is:

I like it -- maybe more than my good old giant brandy glass.

And then there was our Christmas tree.  I'm not sure if you've heard the story of ours falling over two years ago, but it did.  We lost a good number of ornaments.  I've never really gotten over how completely quiet it was, just a little ringing on the way down, and some tinkling of broken glass as it landed.  Amazing.  Well, we have made sure to wire the tree to the wall since then.  This year, our tree is a big improvement on last years', mostly because we didn't buy the first one we saw so that we could get the heck out of Lowes.  However, just like last year, the buying, lighting, and hanging of ornaments on our tree this year was quite a marathon of a day.  Just keeping L. away from ornaments was a full time job, and only the top two thirds of the tree are actually decorated.  

Guess who has his first word?  "Ball!  Ball!"  And he's only broken one so far!!

J. didn't get the tree wired to the wall.  My parents showed up the next morning, and were admiring the tree.  Just as my mom was observing "It does lean a little to the left, though," I saw it go.  Holding L. on my hip with my left arm, I caught the falling tree with my right.  No chance for ringing or tinkling, but this tree was not having any part of standing up straight, and the tree stand was not working quite as it should.   

An hour later, using an combination of wire and Jenga blocks (yeah, don't ask.), the tree is stable again.  And thanks to an idea I found either via Family Fun or Pinterest (can't remember which one at this point, we'll always remember the tree that almost fell down.  

If your family is of the "real tree" variety, you can check out the instructions for creating your own keepsake ornament from a cross section of your tree here.  It's not too late to do so -- you can always cut a slice off when you throw it out.  I decided to decorate ours using another idea from Pinterest, a thumbprint string of lights.  Not sure if mine ended up looking like lights, but it's colorful and festive anyhow.

Up next week: my semi-successful ornament wreath project!

I'm a little late on my Real Women of Pinterest post this week, but I'd love it if you'd link up your own projects.  Bloggers, link to your site below.  Other readers, send me your photos and I'll share, or just tell us about it in the comments!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

All Dolled Up

Ask N. what she wants for Christmas this year, and she will immediately reply:  A Camerican Goyl.  (American Girl).  
Ask me what she's getting, and I'll admit, I'd love to get her an American Girl, but I have my doubts as to whether she's ready.  So, she's getting a fake.  And I'm conflicted about that.  Feels a little like giving The Sunshine Family instead of Barbies.  Okay, not exactly like that.  
Truth be told, what N. really wants is the zebra print dress in the American Girl catalog.  The one she can wear, and the one the doll can wear.  It does not come in her size, so she will definitely not be getting this dress.  I haven't decided if her Target doll will be getting the real dress, or if she'll be settling for the one I ordered on Zulily.  Are you sensing a theme here?  It's not the money, necessarily, though I really don't want to spend thirty dollars on a dress for doll.  It's that N. is more focused on the zebra print than which historical time period might be her favorite.  She can't even decide whether she'd rather have a doll that looks like her or one that looks like her cousin.  Because she's FOUR.
Clearly, not ready for the American Girl.  But she thinks she is, so it could make for an interesting Christmas morning.  
Anyhow, she has been enjoying dressing up her baby dolls and stuffed animals lately.  So this week, we decided to make them some diapers out of felt, using a pattern I found on Pinterest.  Super cute, and just as easy as it looked on the tutorial.  
We found the patterned felt at Jo-Ann.  A little pricier than I had imagined, at $1.33 a sheet for the patterned, but not too too terrible.  We only bought a couple, just in case it didn't work, and really, two are enough to trade around on the dolls and animals.  
We folded the felt in half, traced around the pattern, and cut it out.  

I had some Velcro squares left over from my framed handprint project, so we used those instead of a whole line of velcro.  Since mine were sticky backed, I didn't bother sewing them on.  If they come off, I can always sew them then.

And there you have it.  Fancy diapers for my fancy girl's fancy animals.  Now that they are finished, I'm afraid they look a little more like fancy panties, but oh well.  I just hope this is enough zebra print to keep her satisfied for a while.  

That's what this Real Woman of Pinterest has found Pinteresting this week.  How about you?  Link up below and let me know!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 30 of Gratitude: Grateful for this Project

Okay, I know I putzed out here at the end, but you know, I'm really impressed that I was able to write as many posts as I did this month.  There are so many days that I have no idea when I'll find time to do lots of essential things, like eat or sleep.  (Shower?  Not essential.  Not every day, anyway.)  Finding time to write is like finding time to exercise, a miracle type thing.

What I discovered this month is something I already knew was true, but hadn't put into practice in a while.  The more you write, the easier it is.  You get into the rhythm, so your words flow easier.  You remember how to compose in your head, and the lines get stuck there until you can get them on the page.  Also, when you are blogging, and you stop for a little while, there's always this hurdle to get over when you start back up -- how much of what I haven't written about do I need to catch up on?  And there's pressure for it to be good.  Why write that piece of minutiae when you haven't written in weeks?  There's always that thoughtful post waiting to be written that you don't have the time or energy or brainpower to compose, so you just don't write anything at all.  But when you expect yourself to write every day, you know it's okay for there to be some junk.  

I'll admit, I was a little panicked every single day.  I couldn't get ahead of myself enough to write some posts and schedule them to publish ahead of time.  So every morning there was a time that I wondered, 'What if I can't find anything to be grateful for today?'  How terrible would that be?  What if today was the really crappy, I'm feeling really negative, there's nothing new to say under the sun day?

But then, every day, by the time evening rolled around, there was some moment that stood out as "Yes.  That is why I'm glad I'm living this particular life."  And that's what I wrote about.

There were some topics I knew I'd want to write about going into this project, of course.  But truly, each day brought different angles of the best parts of my life to my attention.  And I was able to think about them, and write about them, in ways that surprised me as the posts unfolded.

Having this structure to frame my days really did help me be more positive about my life.  I had fewer rough days this month.  Fewer days when I felt exhausted and exasperated and just plain overwhelmed.  Whether that is directly related to choosing to find ways to be grateful, I'm not sure, but I think it played a role.  When I was actively looking for the things in my life that are valuable and precious, and making sure that I put into words just why they are valuable, I felt better about just about everything.

There were times when I started to get self conscious about the project.  Times when I started to wonder if what I was writing bordered on bragging.  Hey. Look at me and this great life I have. I had to just get past those thoughts.  Because hey.  It is a great life.  And I know how very blessed I am to have it.

I think also, my writing benefitted this month from having to adopt a more straightforward, sunny tone.
It's not that I don't write positively about my life.  I do.  In fact, I think I tend to err more on the side of positivity in general on this blog, as a way of protecting my kids who may someday read this blog.  While I want them to understand some of challenges I faced raising them, I don't want them to feel as if I worked out my most serious concerns and anxieties about them for an audience.

I don't always share the biggest difficulties, but I do tend to write about the everyday challenges with what I recognize is often self deprecation and deflecting humor.  Adopting a more earnest style this month forced me to be a little bit more thoughtful, and to write with a little less snarkiness as I sometimes feel.

Oh, in case you were wondering about days 26 through 29, it wasn't that I didn't find anything to be grateful for on those days.  I just was simply too tired to make myself sit down and compose those posts.  That's one benefit of this exercise.  Even when I wasn't actually writing, I was writing.

I'm glad to have found ways to be grateful this month.  I may take a little break from this particular format, but I'd like to see Gratitude Days become a regular feature here at Small World.  I just hope it is on a regular enough basis that I'll still be able to pay attention to the small things I'm grateful for as well as the big ones.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 25 Part Two

So much for praising technology. Blogger froze up, as usual, before I could finish captioning the photos in the previous post & publish. Then my laptop battery died. Of course, I brought the wrong cord for the laptop. So now I'm composing in HTML on J's iPad. Not ideal, but still amazing what is possible to accomplish via all kinds of devices.s Even though technology is not working at it's optimum for me, I'm still so grateful to have all these methods of communication. Amazing. I'll be back on Sunday when I have my darn cord back...

Day 25 of Gratitude: Technology

Like many of us, I've become pretty blase about the presence of technology in our lives, used to being connected to media pretty much anywhere.  But I am still old enough to remember typing on a typewriter and recording television shows on VHS tapes.*  Heck, I even remember life before VHS tapes.  So it kind of blows my mind a little that I can be typing this blog entry on my laptop and posting pictures to the internet as my husband drives us along the highway on the way to visit his family in Cleveland.

I still want to have some time to read my book while I'm having some quiet time in the front seat, but boy oh boy, it amazing and good to imagine all those pieces of data flying around the air as we travel.

Here's the photo essay of yesterday's Thanksgiving festivities, courtesy the personal hotspot we are so fortunate to have.

Pinterest inspired veggie tray!

Looking at her daddy makes e. laugh every time!

Two pretty ladies.

m. and her dad.

Grandchildren always stuff the turkey!


Dinner Table Before
Where these two spent most of the meal.

*(One of L's favorite pasttimes is dragging out some of my old tapes that are still inexplicably stored in an end table drawer.  It's always a fun little surprise: Oh!  The Claire Danes Romeo & Juliet!  Sliding Doors where Gywneth has great hair!  Oh, Dead Poets Society.  Neil, you can pretend to be Dr. House's friend as much as you want, you'll always be starring in A Midsummers' Night Dream to me.  And Knox!  Stop pretending to be a big shot lawyer on The Good Wife).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 24 of Gratitude: Family

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Thanks to my family for spending the day at our house sharing my favorite things: my kids, food, and conversation.

I meant to have photos to post, but it was all just too wonderful to enjoy as it happened.

Hope you and yours had plenty of delicious food and moments today too, and that your gravy turned out as great as ours.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 23 of Gratitude: This Awesome Boy is Mine

Today I'm grateful to have an assistant to conduct today's Real Women of Pinterest tutorial.  
I'm a little busy chopping celery and onions, ironing tablecloths ( I know I said I wasn't going to, but...), and playing goalie at the lazy susan cabinet.  
He's going to tell you about a little activity we conducted last week.  I found the inspiration on Pinterest, but he original project can be found here.  We painted bread with colored milk, then toasted and ate our art!

Check out the video so you can do it, too!  
(Oh, he got food coloring all over his shirt, 
which explains the interesting fashion statement here.)

That didn't really take too long, so we also tried out some mini volcanoes by pouring colored vinegar onto baking soda spread onto a baking sheet.  
Probably should have had them use droppers of some kind like the original inspiration. 

I didn't do a very good job of capturing the 'volcanoes' before it became a lake of mixed colors.

Pretty simple stuff, but O. called his grandparents 
to report what an awesome afternoon we were having!

Make sure to go visit mep at Not to Brag today and every Wednesday as she shares Pinteresting things.  Stacia at Fluffy Bunnies is also playing along with us in Romania!  Please, link your own successes (or failures :))  below!