Friday, December 28, 2012

New Faces

Just a note to say that I updated faces and ages today on the blog, and put them back on the left handed sidebar (again) to add more personality to the blog homepage and distract you with nine smiling faces while you're trying to read. ;-)

This was done at the request of a reader who had trouble remembering our names and ages. Any other suggestions / ideas to make the Simply Livin' blog layout more reader friendly? I'm in an edit and freshening-up mood!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Handmade Christmas 2012

Ho-ho-ho, eh?

I'm here with the photo-intensive post of the year to showcase our handmade Christmas gifts!

Of course, Christmas isn't only about the presents...

It's about love and family...

pretty decorations with stockings hung all in a row...
...and cookies!

I'm just kidding. 
I have no wish to take this opportunity to pump my personal opinion of what I feel Christmas is about on you or anyone; I'm happy for you if you're celebrating with conscious choice something you're passionate about and I'm happy that we can both be celebrating at the same time, even if we've our own mindsets. I'm just happy! :)

We took some (much needed for some of us!) quiet time to relax, ponder and share with lighted candles and tree.

 The big white candle has taken the center of our life ring, donning a yellow bow in recognition of the sun's light, warmth and life on our world; the last phase of our beautiful month of celebrating all kinds of awesome life this Advent! 

We begin our handmade gift exchange by having the girls select the most intriguing or creatively wrapped gift among the boys packages and the boys selected one of ours to be set aside and opened last. The boys selected our gift with the long stick coming off one corner, and we chose one of theirs that Andrew had doodled all over, drawing different expressions on all the santa's on the wrapping paper. 

Presents that are fun to look at are a bonus!

Okay, get ready, here are tons of pictures of the gift openings... 

Donna was dying to be part of the gift giving this year, so I helped her to make this puzzle for Johnny, which she patiently worked on painting for about two hours, talking nonstop about how much Johnny will love it. Her smile when she proudly gave it to him was priceless. :)

 Johnny then gave her a set of cardboard guitars, which she was wildly jamming on late into the night.

Andrew seemed genuinely concerned when I paused and put an ear to his box to make sure it was 'still alive'. He opened it very hesitantly, half anticipating something to jump out at him...

It was a drummer-themed clock and I was listening to hear if it was still working (ticking) before I handed it to him, because I had been having some problems with it the day before. It's made from one of his spent cymbals and two of his numerous broken drum sticks. It's not proving to be very reliable for the time (goes too fast!), but it still looks cool hanging out in our music studio... and he's smart; maybe he can fix it. ;) haha!

Lizzy got a band-saw jewelry box in the shape of a guitar with a heart shaped headstock. Inside was a necklace pendant made out of one of the apple trees we thinned, carved in the shape of a guitar pick. I thought it was a very sweet way for the boys to acknowledge Lizzy's growing love for playing the guitar! 

Steven got the package that the boy's deemed second to the one that was selected as most intriguing.

A spider-man themed wall lamp that I put together with leftover parts. Lizzy did all the painting on this one.

A nice diffused light for when he's up later than the rest of the room's occupants.

Turns out the boys' present everyone had been calling 'the toilet' was for Donna.

A set of drums with skins made out of our bull hide. Totally awesome (too nice to be deemed as toys!). She loves them, but later, she was still looking around wondering what happened to the toilet...

The boys were also nice enough to make bones from the leftover rawhide for two naughty, undeserving puppy dogs. ;)

Michael's gift had an exorbitant amount of curly bow on the wrap job...

It was a homemade version of the game 'Settlers of Catan' which retails around $35 in the stores and sports over 130 individually cut out, sanded and painted pieces. Annie was the director/creator of this gift, borrowing the wood and a saw from the boys. She completed it in two days!!

Mom opened a package titled: 'the Queen'...
...which was a beautiful maple-wood cutting board.

Dad got a gift from the girls... So fun to be able to give back to our childhood Santa! 

A locker hooked Beatles rug (my first attempts at locker hooking--some mistakes, but more or less successful). I was pleased and so was Dad.

Momma then received her requested Othello game (which we offer in our shop), except her version boasts non-removable rolling pieces, which is very nice for this big family where game pieces love to go traveling.

 The "Queen" was popular this year, as she also received a tall package from the girls.

A quilted banner for the living room displaying the Porcupine Mountain's old growth trees and our familiar Porkie mountain horizon and lake Superior in the distance. The woods are filled with embroider-ings of the different kinds of mushrooms we hunted up in those hills this summer and fall. 

Annie opened Andrew's own design of the popular Quarto game, with a clever carry compartment for the pieces and a beautiful walnut wood top.

Theresa opened our second choice nominee for the boys' most intriguing and clever package... it had two knobs like eyes on the sides and the duct tape bow (which Andrew is 'fluffing' in this picture).

Andrew: "Guess what it is!"
Theresa: "Ahhh....?"

The knobs, turns out, were attached to two rubber cords which are used to spring wooden pucks back and forth in a slot dividing the sides. Non stop action; first one to clear their side of pucks wins! It's called 'Puckett'.

Finally, the intriguing ones were passed out. Johnny was the recipient of ours.

A crossbow with a working trigger, foam darts and a carry pouch! Theresa made this gift almost entirely by herself. The boys loaned us some wood and tools, but I never realized how capable my sisters were at using them! Johnny called it the best gift he's ever received. You might recognize the foam darts, as they are made in a similar fashion to these from a couple years ago: cool simple stocking stuffers

Me! Finally! :D 
So happy to discover I was the recipient of the boys most intriguing and creatively wrapped gift!

  Check this feller out... a stout little garden gnome whittled to adorn one of my beloved flower beds! They couldn't find any pictures to copy, so Steven created a 3D model of him on the computer and printed out several angles for Andrew to copy while hand whittling him. I also got a matching garden mushroom (like the kind we offer in our shop) that Steven turned on the lathe for me. So happy! :)

Well, that's it. We also did homemade stockings in the morning, but I don't have pictures of those gifts. Perhaps I'll share those gifts later--they were quite impressive as well.

I hope this inspires some readers out there to try doing the handmade Christmas. Each one is the best Christmas ever and yet they get better every year. :) 

We're not rigid about it, however, as we also received some store purchased family games from Dad, as well as a few tools in support of our various hobbies; a bass tuner for Mike, a horse sculpting kit for Lizzy and an instructional book on barn dance calling for me (yay!! Who wants to attend a hoedown in the summer?? ;).

Taking a deep sigh and enjoying the kickback post-Christmas time now. We went right from crafting for our shops up to the last few days before Christmas and then worked on our own gifts right up until the evening of Christmas Eve. Every year we have our doubts as to if we'll get everything done, and every year we amaze ourselves by doing so. :) It's good fun though--just as long as the sewing machine is behaving, otherwise it can be a tad stressful. :)

Honestly though: it's so awesome how our homemade Christmases have progressed into our family now being professional elves, minus the ears. ;) So much fun to think of the kids opening all our handmade toys this year!

It's zero outside, but I don't care. I'm donning my thermals and new slippers (courtesy of Annie in my stocking!) and planning cozy activities; I have some socks to knit, some books to read (both to myself and aloud to the younger kids) and some stories and music to release from my head onto paper.

Thanks for visiting and if I don't pop in again before then; have a happy New Year! 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Advent--The Miracle of Human Life!!!

Gosh, I am so excited to be writing this post tonight! It's an amazing, happy night and an amazingly awesome thing we're celebrating today on the last Sunday of Advent; the miracle of human life!!!!

This detailed carving that Theresa did of a family celebrating an unborn life, as well as their toddler playing on the ground, is the most beautiful thing ever... I  just can't stop smiling at it...

This celebration is especially meaningful to me today, with the news that a friend of mine just had her baby a few days ago!! I've been so happy today with that news! She will be one of three friends who are celebrating Christmas with a new baby on their knee this year, which is so awesome, and we are also awaiting the news of a new cousin due tomorrow! Ahh, so many babies!! :D :D 

We have so many treats going on right now, it's almost hard to choose which to eat with our celebration tonight, but I think we've decided on more fudge. ;)

"The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind."
(Borrowed from: the Waldorf School )

Check out all those presents that have been piling up under the tree within the past few days!! While us girls try to be fancy and traditional with our wrappings, the boys find such cute and creative ways to compete with our fluffy bows; we have bows made of duct tape and funny name tags such as: 'the beautiful sister' and 'the queen'. Every added package brings a new giggle and more puzzlement and  anxiousness for Christmas to get here!

Stay tuned! I'll be back in a few days with the results of this year's handmade Christmas! :D

Off to chow some fudge. You all have an awesome Christmas!!