Tuesday, December 24, 2013

a very merry Christmas to you!

It's Christmas Eve. Our tree is lit and the presents are wrapped. The girls did a great job trimming the tree, I think.

 The matryoshkas are on parade.

 The normally useless foyer pole is now bedecked with cards from people we love. (Another Christmas card fail logged for me this year. Lettin' it go.)

 The mantel is forested and the mirrored advent is now empty. Christmas books have been read and enjoyed.

  The paper crafts have been made and laughed over and dangled and mounted.

The snowflakes are hung from the chandelier. Yes, those are paper clips. No, after five years of hanging them I still can't be bothered to cut thread for them instead. Plus, paper clips add sparkle.

 The doors merrily ring when opened or closed. My husband will not miss this, but I will.

 My sixteen year old Christmas village on fuzzy mountain is still glowing warmly. See Santa on top of the Library?

All the tiny wooden ornaments from the mirrored advent have been hung on the girls' tree. 

 Playmobil Advent Santa has finally made his appearance, bringing a sleigh full of food for all his woodland friends.

And I'm hosting our family dinner this evening. I should really be cleaning. Or getting a shower. Before I go panic over the beef tenderloin I want to wish all of you a blessed, peaceful Christmas filled with joy, family and most of all, the love of Christ.

Monday, December 23, 2013

hello, my name is Princess Snow Cream

And here's the ornament for my 9 yr old Thing 2. See the previous post for a closeup of Thing 1's. I'm so excited about these! I love to make them. They are 3.5 inches tall and can stand on their own with the help of their royal robe. They each seem to have their own personality and sky's the limit on hair color. Which is fun! (They are made using my Wee Princess Pea pattern.)

I guess I still have a little girl's fixation on long hair. I used to wish for it with all my might, and pull yellow t-shirts inside out over my forehead to pretend it was long blond hair. You probably did that too, right?


Thursday, December 19, 2013

hello, my name is Princess Candy Cane

Another ornament from the Wee Princess Pea pattern, this time for my sweet eleven year old Thing 1. I cannot wait for her to take this out of her stocking and see her hang it on our tree! I added a loop on the top of her head (that's the silver thread you see at the top there) and a wee little present in her hands. It's glued in place so it doesn't get lost. Her name is written in white ink on the gift tag, but I touched it out.

I didn't forget my Thing 2. Her princess ornament is next!

Monday, December 16, 2013

our favorite Christmas picture books

Our stack of Christmas picture books emerges from the attic every December and is packed away in January. Having them out for only one month of the year makes them extra special. Here are some of our favorites:

My bestest Christmas book EVAR: Mr Willowby's Christmas Tree (above). This is an oldie from my childhood, so it comes wrapped in 1970s two-color nostalgia for me. It's a really sweet story about a rich old man who buys a Christmas tree that is too tall, and how the top of the tree gets lopped off and successively smaller as it gets passed down to a series of other people and woodland creatures, finally ending as the perfect tree for a mouse family. And it rhymes!



They've published a full-color version these days, but I searched Ebay until I found the two-tone green and black one I had when I was a kid. Because I'm weird that way.



If you love the classic Petunia picture book, you need to add Petunia's Christmas to your library. In this one Petunia gets her head turned by a handsome gander behind a fence, and then she tries her whacky best to keep him from becoming Christmas dinner. Spoiler: For those of you who are now worried about the gander, he does not, in fact, get eaten. The illustrations have the same bright primaries and vintage ink pen sketch look I like so well in Petunia.


Fancy Nancy Splendiforous Christmas was a new one on us. Thanks, Robyn, for introducing us to her. Fancy Nancy loves glitter, girliness and big words, and so do my girls. There's also plenty of humor thrown in for the parent:
"I think bigger is always better.
But my dad says we must compromise.
That means we end up with the tree my mom wants."
And in this story, crafting saves the day. So I especially like it.


The classic Seuss Christmas must-have, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The Boris Karloff TV special is nice and all. But the book is so much grinchier when you read it under a blanket with funny voices and take your time over the drawings. You get to say fun words like "Cindy Lou Who" and "roast beast". Also, two-color books rule.


This is a new one in our stack from last year. This version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol is illustrated by the same talented Brett Helquist who did the A Series Of Unfortunate Events books. I love his sinister style.


The Polar Express: This sweet story of a boy's magical nighttime train ride to the North Pole is possibly my very favorite in the illustration category. How they decided to make a full length feature film out of a book you can read very thoroughly in 15 minutes is still a mystery. Can you say filler? (Also I really hate when they put 'now a major motion picture' stickers on the front of a book! I can't get it off without tearing the paper. Grrr.) 

But look at these gor-orgeous illustrations by Chris Van Allsburg:

I lovety love the velvety texture and strong color of his paintings not to mention his gifted use of light and shadow. Chiaroscuro! See, art history professor? I did not sleep through all of your slide shows.

My family went on an actual train trip in NC modeled after The Polar Express a few Christmases ago. It was a great experience overall, but the much anticipated hot chocolate was a lukewarm, watery disappointment. For the price of the train ticket I kinda expected a melted chocolate bar with gold dust sprinkled on top. But it was still pretty cool. Our waiters conducted us in Christmas carols as we trundled along. Then there was a reading of the book. Then we entered the North Pole! A train full of excited children wearing their pajamas were suddenly glued to the windows as we pulled into a little town lit up with about a gagillion Christmas lights. And then Santa Claus boarded the train. Major excitement! The girls each received a heavy, shiny sleighbell from Santa himself. 

I checked and yes, I can still hear them ring!


What's not to love about the busy, cheerful country cuteness of Mary Engelbreit combined with the classic The Night Before Christmas poem? There is so much eye jangling detail and pattern to look at in each of her spreads. It's a keeper.


OK, if you are looking for an impressive, over-the-top pop-up book to rock someone's world, this is it. Robert Sabuda is the pop-up master and Winter's Tale is amazing. It's about 2.5 inches thick because there are not one but two complex pop-ups on each page.

The main pop-up forms as you open each page, like this snowy owl.

And then there is always a side flap to pull out that holds a second pop-up wonder.

I've spent a lot of time looking at the mechanics. Every time I close it I can't believe it all folds back down like it should.

And then there is the grand finale forest scene and the little cabin with actual lights(!) that blink on and off when you pull a tab.


We love Eric Carle, and we love Dream Snow, given to the girls a few years ago by Gramma. It's a great one for younger kids. The sleepy farmer dreams that snow is covering his farm in a soft blanket, so each illustration from the farm has a clear overlay so little hands can enjoy covering them with dream snow. And when the farmer wakes, he sees the snow is real and it is time to decorate for Christmas. Such sweet pictures. And there's a little button in the end that plays a tinkling (and kinda eerie) Christmas tune.



I can always count on cool gifts like Where Are They? Christmas Fun from our friends, the Smileys. (Hi, Julia!) Take this book with you to wait in line for Santa. It's chock full of busy pictures with lists of objects to find. Lots of humorous twists thrown in to enjoy as you scan for the list items. We love it!


This The Twelve Days Of Christmas, by Laurel Long. I have several Twelve Days books but this one is the prettiest (thanks, Leigh Ann!) I also like it because it accurately says collie birds (it can be spelled colly or collie) instead of calling birds for day 4. You didn't believe me, did you?


The one for this year! It's not wrapped yet so I can still show you. I'm sooo excited to have found this favorite sad/beautiful version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Steadfast Tin Soldier on Ebay. It's illustrated by Fred Marcellino, whose style you might know from this gorgeous version of Puss In Boots. It's in great condition with the dust jacket and everything. I love Ebay.

I'm running out of ideas for books though. Do you have a favorite? Do tell.