Ornaments are here!

When I was little, I fondly remember visiting my mother’s good friend, Hattie Lou’s house at Christmastime. Sweet, smiling Hattie Lou had a bromeliad farm and cows in her back yard and a pretty and comforting home, but what I remember most was her Christmas tree. I grew up with a Christmas tree chock full of a mish-mash of big colorful lightbulbs, handmade and storebought ornaments, all different and not a single glass ball in sight, strung all over with tinsel, wrinkled and curly from being reused year after year after year. I loved our family tree, but there was something revelatory about Hattie Lou’s tree as it had nothing but perfectly hanging 4 or 5 inch teddy bear ornaments all in different outfits with different colored fur. It was so simple and clean and wonderful. A Christmas tree of teddy bears. What could be better? I’ll tell you. She let me pick any teddy bear ornament I wanted off the tree for to keep.

Since I started making amigurumi a few years ago, I have always wanted to have a tree  featuring only happy amigurumi ornaments all over it. I want it to have some ornaments that look like balls of yarn and a big happy crocheted star on top. I haven’t even come close to making that happen, but I came a little closer this year thanks to a custom order from someone named Lisa. She has a lovely tradition of giving both her daughters an ornament each year that represents them and what they like best that year. She has them customized with their names and the year. The ornaments then serve as a symbol of that year and something they can cherish with their own children and grandchildren someday. I love it and was very honored to be asked to make their annual ornaments for 2012. Here is the monkey I made for Ava and the pig for Hailey!

I love how they turned out and I was so happy to read Lisa’s feedback:

OMG they are too cute! I get my twins custom ornaments each year and this year the theme was their favorite animals: pig & monkey. I spend hours looking on etsy for just the right pig and found it here, but he is even better in person. Although Jess did not have a monkey in her Etsy portfolio she was able to make one for me based on only a picture; she is truly talented. They are both too cute to only display at Christmas time so that we might need to keep these ornaments out all year long. Thanks for also adding the name and year as that way my girls can always have a memory of the year when they grow up and they take them with them for their first Christmas tree. Jess’s talents extend way past what you see here so don’t be afraid to ask her!

It was SO nice of her to take a moment and send me that message!

I had to send those ornaments off, but I loved how they looked so much hanging on that little tree that I decided to make a few more to offer on Etsy. Here they are!

I will accept orders on ornaments until December 12th. Of course, any little thing I make can easily be turned into an ornament with an added loop on top, so if you’d prefer a little Baneling, happy star, bumble bee, guinea pig…I just didn’t get a chance to make an example of those. They are up in my shop here 

I’m so excited for this holiday season. Our calendar is already packed with so many fun things to do…starting tonight when we head to Union Square for the Macy’s tree lighting ceremony and some winter window display viewing. It’s also Plaid Friday in Oakland today, so I’m going to try and walk down the street to a couple of my favorite local shops selling local handmade goods. I encourage you to find a similar store in your area or hop on Etsy and browse in your PJ’s to your heart’s content. By the way, if you’ve ever felt turned off by having to use Paypal to make an Etsy purchase, you no longer have to have a paypal account to shop in most Etsy shops, now, including mine! Plus, Etsy now offers gift certificates! What a fun stocking stuffer!

This is a pretty fun stocking stuffer, too. Here’s hoping your 2012 holiday season is unbelievadorable.

Someday I hope to have that amigurumi tree. Maybe someday I can offer one of Jhonen or Margot’s friends any of the ornaments off my amigurumi tree. And maybe that child will remember that amigurumi tree with the fond, comforting, Christmasy feelings that I remember from Hattie Lou’s teddy bear tree.

I hope you find your own sort of teddy bear tree feeling this season, in whatever form that may take for you.

 

 

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 will be a memorable one. Our first Thanksgiving in California. Our first Thanksgiving in a long time not shared with our family and friends. Our first Thanksgiving in years without my favorite cranberry sauce…I’ll have to dig up this recipe and post it sometime. It has pineapple and strawberries in it and it’s amazing.

Instead, I made a million loaves of mini cranberry breads that were supposed to be shipped out to my family and friends, but, instead, await Christmas-time in my freezer. Oops. (By the way, the cranberry bread recipe I like best is the one right on the back of the Oceanspray cranberry bag and I love giving them in these mini bread pans from Michaels on sale for $1 apiece!!)

This holiday season has me feeling tugged in all sorts of directions, thinking a jumble of thoughts, wondering, wishing, worrying.

What is preferable for the holidays? The nostalgia and comfort of tradition or new, exciting and memorable experiences? Which one is preferable for my kids?

Without twelve people to feed, do I make every single Thanksgiving side dish I want to make or should I…gasp…buy a can of cranberry sauce and call it a day? How do you draw the line between making a holiday special and making a holiday stressful? How do I prioritize all the things I want to do and remember there is a limit to what I am actually able to do.

How can I express how thankful I am that I get to do this?

And remember that gratitude even while looking at this? Because there are only so many hours in the day and doing one often means not doing the other.

How can I show these amazing, healthy, love-and-trust-filled kids how much I adore them and how thankful I am for them?

How can I adequately express thanks for the crazy amount of good fortune and deep, abiding love in my life…especially when that good fortune has brought us far away from some of the people I love the most? How do I express gratitude through the guilt?

How can I express how thankful I am to be here in California enjoying all of this (For-real Fall leaves? Mountains? Where AM I?)

and not make people feel like I haven’t appreciated, enjoyed, and learned so much from where I was before? Or make people feel like I’m trying to one-up them or brag?

So many emotions to sort through of late. So much to do, keeping me from sorting through them.

This has been a beautiful, life-altering, utterly terrifying, heart-breaking and heart-racing, overwhelmingly exhilarating, just-plain-fun Autumn. If there are levels of thanks on some Thanksgiving-o-meter, my thanks levels would be off the charts. Every possible star that needed to align, aligned so that we could be here in Oakland. The move was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but each new challenge was met. And with every hurdle jumped, Ben and I felt like more of a team. We knew, deep down, that past the hassles and fears and the Unknown, was a bright, shiny new home and neighborhood and life to discover.

We have a lovely roof over our heads and some of the best food to eat that this world has to offer. My husband has a job he actually dreamt of having and now has. These two kids get smarter, stronger, and funnier every day. I get to make things, things that people buy for their children’s birthdays, their friends’ engagement parties, their husband’s surprise parties. All across this world are probably about 400 little crocheted buddies that weren’t around before. There are people who bother to read something I’ve written.

Wow.

I’ve never been more thankful in my entire life. Thankful for you who take your time to read these words. Thankful that I’m here on this spot on my little life timeline. Thankful when I look back and thankful when I look forward. Thankful for my friends and family we left behind who thoughtlessly, and often tirelessly, helped us get here. All that thanks…with a little “I’m sorry,” too.

After the gorging and parades and dog shows, remember: shop small, shop local, shop Etsy! I’m hoping to unveil a whole line of ornament buddies on Friday. I can’t wait to show you! In fact, I really can’t wait. Here’s a sneak peek.

Here’s wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, from Happy Handmade. Drink wine. Eat carbs. Hug a lot. Say thank you and mean it. And then, watch Elf, because it’s the best Christmas movie ever.

 

Neighborhood Walks

With my camera in hand, a regular walk through the new neighborhood becomes a lot more interesting. I like to imagine what new creatures I should make and then set among this scenery for fun pictures.

I like these walking “adventures.” The weather has been gorgeous and everything is so fresh and new. I only wish I had the time to turn the inspiration into action. Homeschooling my preschooler, figuring out how to get around the city with two kids, keeping up with much-appreciated Etsy orders, and ramping up for the holidays has had me SWAMPED. However, we’ve had some great family time lately with some creative fun. Election Day was very special this year. I took the kids to our local polling place. We learned about Obama and Romney and my son colored them blue and red, respectively. We also colored in the U.S. map as results rolled in and made special decorations for the occasion including a ballot box for an all-important vote: which tastes better, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies or oatmeal raisin?

We printed out ballots and voting badges and cast our vote at the end of the night. Poor Ben was in the minority on this one. Surprisingly, 75% of the vote went to raisins!

The real winner of the night, though, was the homemade guacamole (Barackamole) made using this pinned recipe.

Speaking of recipes, I have to get busy planning our Thanksgiving menu! It will be the first Thanksgiving, ever, with just our little immediate family. We aren’t quite ready to make our way back to Florida for a visit yet. I’m thinking about forgetting the turkey and trying out some of the amazing side dishes out there on good ole Pinterest. And, while I’m talking about turkeys…and fun preschool projects…and taking pictures of my creatures…I’ll leave you with this:

I hope your Thanksgiving preparations are fun, crafty, and delicious. And if you don’t already have an adorable turkey for your table, order one, like…NOW!

 

 

Happy Handmade Halloween!

Amigurumi zombie guy and I hope your Halloween was full of creativity, fun, and food you probably shouldn’t have eaten, but did anyway.

I think we pulled off a little of all three, though I always find myself lagging behind when it comes to Halloween. Maybe it’s because my family’s birthdays surround the holiday, so it’s hard to make the holiday a priority. Maybe it’s because I stay away from all things spooky or ghoulish. I hate scary stories only slightly less than I hate scary movies. Add on the pressure I put on myself to come up with amazing costumes and the guilt of never coming up with amazing costumes and, well, I always feel a bit like a Halloween failure.

Now, with two kids of trick-or-treating age, the pressure is really on and, in a new neighborhood, it was especially difficult to figure out a plan.  I had some leftover pumpkin pancake batter from this weekend, so I let Jho help me turn the pancakes into pumpkins with turkey sausage stems, chocolate chip eyes and mouths, and pomegranate seed noses.

I took pictures of Jho in his Finn from the show Adventure Time costume.

We tried to trick-or-treat, but couldn’t find a great neighborhood for it, I forgot the main component of Jho’s costume at home, it was raining, and when we knocked on our first door, Jho got nervous and said he didn’t want to say “trick or treat.”  So we just went to Fenton’s Creamery and told the waiter “Trick or Treat” when he passed over a pair of disgustingly amazingly huge ice cream sundaes.

When we got home, Jho went into his dress-up clothes and came down wearing a Hawaiian lei, a Bumblebee helmet, and a glow-in-the-dark necklace. I put Margot in a pirate costume and plopped a dinosaur mask on and, honestly, that was the most fun we had all day.

I guess what I’m trying to convince myself and maybe anyone else out there who puts too much pressure on themselves for perfect holiday moments is this: it’s the messed up moments which allow for us to become the most creative and it’s the messed up moments that lead to the most memorable moments.

I’ll never forget our silly night, both kids in completely unrecognizable costumes at the ice cream shop because I’d forgotten my kid’s costume at home and hadn’t noticed that the trick or treat event I had planned to take them to was from 4-6pm and we’d missed it.  I’ll never forget how much fun we had just dressing up in costumes we already had, pretending to be dinosaurs and pirates while videotaping ourselves doing silly dances.

I’ve got to give myself a break once in a while. The sooner I ease up on myself, the quicker the day goes from being a “failure” to an unforgettable memory.