Baby Yoda

Leave it to pregnant friends to reignite one's knitting bug. "Makers" can't seem to help themselves when it comes to babies. Itty-bitty hats, sweaters, quilts, and more, all scream to be created for the new person entering the world. Perhaps it's because a hand-made gift is truly made with the recipient in mind and is, usually, tailored just to them.

Take, for example, my current knitting project - the one that brought me back from a looong knitting dry spell. A friend is due any day now and we know it's a boy. As Christmas was ramping up, I discovered that her husband is a bit of a Star Wars fiend, as was evidenced by his home-made Star Wars nativity scene. One which his wife was concerned would cause consternation among the neighbors (in fact, it didn't).

Day time (awesome)

Night time (MORE awesome!)
Being a pretty loud-and-proud geek myself, I was thrilled by this turn of events. I provided many suggestions of ways to improve on the nativity scene and was happy to learn that her husband liked some of them. And, of course, my plans for a baby gift were impacted as well.

Off the needles came my original gift idea (a baby balaclava which is slightly weird but super-practical)

Baby balaclava pattern is a free download at

And... on went the new

Seriously. How cute is this??
I love, love, love this pattern. The hat knit up in one night and, while I chose to make a kimono rather than the bunting provided here, the bunting is very original and adorable. The pattern for the set is $3.99 on 

The kimono I'm making is the Miss Sadie Baby Kimono on It's knit in one piece and then seamed.

This is a finished one... my almost-done one is below.
Here's where I'm at with mine:

Note the appropriate linen color

Ears still need to be attached
Welcome to the world, Baby Yoda!

- Alex

Batting My Lashes

There's something about my recent surgeries that has caused me to really need to get girly. I had to buy some new clothes due to inadvertent weight loss (I'm not complaining) so that was "girly thing" number one. I've been compelled to have pedicures and massages (not complaining about this either) and I'm going to an overnight spa in a couple of weeks. But, perhaps the most outrageous thing I've splurged on recently was eyelash extensions.

I usually don't consider pampering myself outrageous. I'm fortunate enough to have an income that allows me to, occasionally, spend some of it on splurgy self-indulgences. But there are some things that just seem silly - like eyelash extensions. 

Cassandra and I have a couple of friends who started getting this done about 18 months ago. One friend did well with them but the other couldn't help herself and would pick them off, causing them to be very expensive to maintain. The way it works is this:

1. You lie down on your back and close your eyes.
2. The aesthetician takes individual itty-bitty fake eyelashes, dips the end in a tiny bit of black adhesive, and attaches each one - one by one - to a real lash, right at the lash-line.
3. Then you hang out for a bit while the adhesive dries.

E voila! You open your eyes and you look like you have on the best-ever application of mascara. And it's like that ALL THE TIME. When you wake up in the morning, your eyes look bright and "done".

As your lashes fall out naturally, the extensions go with them so, at some point (usually 3-4 weeks), you go back in and get your lashes "filled in" with new extensions. It's pretty straight-forward. 

I had this done three days after my last surgery. When I went back to work, nearly every person I interacted with expressed how great I looked. I believe it was because I actually looked like I had make-up on, even though I, literally, had none.

I still think that this is the silliest self-indulgence I've ever self-indulged in. And the feeling of them takes a bit of getting used to. They are false eyelashes after all. But, at this point, I think the good outweighs the bad and I'll probably maintain them for a while. Or not. Maybe I'll find some other girly thing to spend my money on instead. :)

- Alex

Here are MY eyes:

Holiday Distractions

I don't know if it's because Thanksgiving was so late this year, but boy December is moving fast. Barely enough time to get the shopping done...cookies and outside lights have fallen off my to-do list...but the house interior is decorated! Picking my battles. It feels good.

Of course, there was still plenty of making going on this past weekend...because you know, I will sacrifice most things in order to work on a project or two. Along with some knitting, my weekend creativity consisted mostly of...

New pajamas for little boys.
3 batches of Potica. (not my recipe but click the pic for more info)
Home-made pizza...mmmmm.

What is not pictured are the dust bunnies in the corner, baskets of laundry to fold, and the fridge that needs a good cleaning out. Hopefully I'll be getting to those this week, unless...well something distracts me. Something like the gorgeous new colored pencils I got from my Secret Santa last week. I just know they are itching for me to draw with them!



I am a person who's been fortunate enough to be exposed to some very fine art in her lifetime. Museums, years of art history classes, and world traveling have worked together to shape the artist that I am today. However, I have to admit something sort of shocking. My biggest creative influences have come from TV.

I know...I know...many folks think TV is a fine-art wasteland. But the thrill I get when I see oddly creepy but beautiful vintage stop-motion animation sets me back on my heels. At this time of year when the Rankin/Bass classics such as Rudolph or the Year Without a Santa Claus seem to run on a loop in our home, you will find me looking at the screen very closely. Examining how every tree or character was made. As much as I love the Rankin/Bass films, what really captures my imagination is the older stuff. The stunning beauty of Suzy Snowflake or Hardrock, Coco, and Joe are a rich soil for my creative ideas.

It's no secret that I love classic films. But I don't think I've ever shared the fact that you can catch me pausing the TV on hand drawn title cards, and maybe even taking a photo so I can look at it again later! (I found this great resource recently.) I will even take photos of interesting props. Below is a photo I snapped while watching the silent film The Thief of Baghdad a couple months ago. I was swooning over the patterns in the background.

It's blurry...but I still look at it all the time.
When I was in college, I remember a teacher telling us about an article they read in Art in America that was analyzing the emerging artists of the late 80's color palettes against Hannah Barbara cartoons. Apparently what we watched as kids had an impact. This should not surprise us in the least. I actually remember watching Tom and Jerry as a small child and spending more time admiring the background art than the cat and mouse action. Somehow knowing in my gut they were special. Watch this...check out the amazing background art:

You know what all of these influences have in common? The human can see the hand in the work. I love that it's not highbrow fine-art hand...but rather art that is created for the people. (If that makes any sense?) Beautiful because of, rather than in spite of, it's flaws. This type of art has soul that computer-aided creations will never have. Sure, computerized fonts, animation, or color-pickers give you a faster and more perfect result. And yes, I do make my living creating at a computer. But it can never match the artistry of hand-done work.


Stocking Stuffers

Need some fun and inexpensive stocking stuffers this season? How about crafting something unique for your friends and family? A quick trip to the craft store and a little bit of quiet time can yield special gifts made just for them.

In the spirit of the season and in support of "making", I'm pulling some easy tutorials from our archives in hopes of inspiring you to create something special for the ones you love. Pick up your materials this week and set aside a little time this weekend to focus your holiday love into these fun projects. The end-result is sure to be appreciated. :)

- Alex

What the Kids Are Wearing - Easy-peasy pop-tab bracelets for girls, boys, and even grown-ups (depending on the lacing materials you choose). Check on YouTube for variations and put your own spin on it to ensure that your gift fits the receiver's personality.

Making Your Own Hand Lotion Bars - An awesome and easy idea, hand lotion bars can be taken anywhere and are great for dry, cracked winter skin. Personalize with the receiver's favorite scent - or make it "unscented" and enjoy the pure smell of the oils.

Bread Baking Without Fear - Seriously, who doesn't love a loaf of homemade bread? And you can personalize it by adding the receiver's
favorite flavors - garlic, herbs (rosemary, thyme), cheese, etc. This easy, easy recipe will have them all believing you're the next Top Chef. :)

Rainy Day Crafts - Two simple, but impressive, crafts that will bring a smile to even the Grinchiest of faces. Make t-shirts with a stencil and a bleach-pen or paint your own mugs (or plates or any other white,
ceramics). These are the ultimate in personalized gifts and are super-inexpensive and fun to do.

Handmade Holidays - A list of links to various resources for holiday craft tutorials. There's some great stuff in here - especially for making holiday ornaments!

Friday Finds: SoKind Registry

Keeping on the holiday trend we seem to have this week, I want to share with you a great tool for keeping your gift giving simple and sweet this season. It is an online gift registry called SoKind.

In their own words:

Want to plan a joyful and meaningful event that reflects your lifestyle and values? SoKind is a registry service that encourages the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods, experiences, time, day-of-event help, and more. Here's to more fun and less stuff!

I just love it,


The Meal That Keeps on Giving

I'm on meal number 285 of leftover Thanksgiving food. Okay, maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration. BUT... come on. The leftovers just go on and on. I guess it's good that I really like my own cooking. LOL

Is this enough food for three people??
So, in the spirit of awesome food, today I'm going to share a few recipes that always make it to my Thanksgiving table. These are tried and true crowd-pleasers - maybe because there's booze in them. (No worries, the alcohol cooks off and is only there for flavor). 

I hope you try and enjoy them. Happy Thanksgiving leftovers!

- Alex

Warm Cranberry Compote
serves 6

2 T butter
1 small bunch of green onions
1/4 C cognac
2 C of fresh cranberries (you can also use frozen whole cranberries)
1/2 C water
1/2 C sugar
a pinch of salt

Dice the green onions including a lot of the green bit. Saute the green onion in the butter over medium heat until the onion is soft. Deglaze the pan with cognac. Add the cranberries, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil and boil until the berries pop and the compote thickens. Add a pinch of salt. Remove from heat and keep warm. This dish can be made up to three days ahead of your meal and stored, tightly covered, in the fridge. Just warm gently before serving.

Bourbon Sweet Potatoes with Buttered Pecans
serves 8

6 large sweet potatoes
3 T (or more) bourbon
1 stick of butter (softened)
2 C pecan halves
1 t Kosher salt
2 T packed dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425. Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake in the middle of the oven until tender, about 1 hour. (use a baking pan or they'll drip sugary stuff all over your oven) When just cool enough to handle, peel and mash until smooth. Add bourbon (I use more than the three T's the recipe calls for...) and 6 tablespoons of the soft butter and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer potatoes to a 2 quart gratin dish or similar shallow baking dish. The mash can be made up to two days ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge. Bring the potatoes up to room temperature before proceeding. 

Reduce oven temperature to 325. In a shallow baking pan, spread the pecans in a single layer and bake until fragrant - about 10 minutes. Toss the hot pecans with the remaining 2 T of butter and the course salt. Arrange pecans on top of the mashed sweet potatoes and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake the potatoes until heated through and pecans are slightly browned - about 30 mins. 

Green Bean Casserole

2 cans of Del Monte French-cut green beans
1 can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup
Black pepper

Heat oven to 325. The actual recipe on the back of the onion container also calls for milk. I find that makes the casserole too soupy. So, just mix the beans and the soup together in a casserole dish. Mix in some black pepper and some of the french fried onions. Put a layer of onions on top of the casserole and bake, uncovered, until warmed through and the onions are a bit browned - about 30 mins. 


Every year I play the same mind game with myself. About a week or so before Thanksgiving I imagine what the my ideal holiday season looks like. The food cooked to perfection, handmade gift items finished without rush, time for volunteer opportunities, etc. You get the picture. When I eventually fall short of being the Martha Stewart (note: no dig intended on Martha here) I aspire to be, I can beat myself up pretty badly. But not this year, I am changing my ways.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this madness. I blame TV and movies for making us think this time of year has to be "magical" or we are somehow failures. I mean come on, the Hallmark channel has movie after movie about some kind of Christmas miracle right now. Enough already. Sometimes our holidays are just what they are. There are some that we remember fondly for a special reason, but mostly they are a harried frenzy to the finish line. Things have to fall off our plate. And guess what, that's okay. The world will not stop spinning if you didn't get around to your holiday cards.

Sometimes littles will not cooperate for the perfect holiday photo.
With less unrealistic expectations on this season, we are open to seeing the goodness we have been letting go by unnoticed. Maybe I won't get around to making sugar cookies, but I will take a few minutes to share stories with the kids about some of our holiday family heirlooms. And maybe the shopping will be stressful and rushed, but I'm going to sing along with Judy Garland and Bing Crosby on the radio in the car.

This little drum ornament was made by my Great-Grandmother.
This season I plan on paying attention to the little things, and taking more opportunities to "pay it forward" to strangers. That is what I will consider a success. And I think I can manage it. 

Knitting by the tree with a slice of pie is one of the simple joys.
You know, I'm a really big believer in creating your own reality. What goes on in my life has been created by me...the good and the bad. And what I don't like I can change. No excuses, no pointing fingers outward, it's all on me. So why let the holidays be any different?


PS - This Friday (Dec 6) is St. Nicholas day. There are some great links on this old post to find out more about this tradition.