Monday, December 24, 2012

CO HO HO, and a Happy New Year!

(I give full credit for my Coho title to Ray Troll...I stole borrowed it, and you're awesome)

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a spawning salmon from a stream.

(not really, of course our salmon aren't spawning right NOW)

These are a gift to say thank you to a special friend who keeps us regularly stocked with the best smoked salmon in Ketchikan. (as well as fresh salmon, halibut, and more) He's also given us guidance on buying a boat, how and where to crab and shrimp...and so many other things. This man is a treasure trove of fish and game knowledge.

BUT he is not a man who likes to accept/exchange we knew we had to do something simple that wouldn't make him uncomfortable. So we decided to make him some salmon...cookies that is. (I tried to smoke my winter kings from last didn't compare to his)

Up here in Alaska we have such beautiful life cycles to watch, the most obvious and prolific being the spawning of the salmon in the summer and fall. They change color and begin fighting their way up the rivers and streams to start the next generation.

My kids LOVE to go to City Park and watch the salmon struggling up the stream...and they love to cheer on the underdogs...who often don't make it. (they also love to watch the seals make their lunch of the slower fish) Often the streams are as crowded as this plate of salmon cookies!

The card is courtesy of Laurel, who loves the sea and all it's wonderous creatures.

Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family near and far!

A Little Christmas Roux Just For You

I wanted to make something a little nontraditional this year to give out as gifts to our friends and family. Cookies and candies are an obvious choice...but I felt like reaching into my own family's traditions and picking something that others might not be so familiar with.

Almost every Christmas I spent as a child was at my grandparents house on the bayou. And every Christmas Eve was spent at my uncle's house, and we ALWAYS had gumbo. (and as much as I loved Mimi's gumbo, rest in peace Mimi, Uncle Skip's gumbo is still the best I've ever had) It was usually shrimp and sausage gumbo and an extra pot of chicken gumbo for those who didn't like seafood.

I can't help but associate the Christmas season (and love and family) with gumbo. And the most beautiful part for me is that the making of the roux makes me feel very connected to my Mimi, my mom and my older sister. As the earthy rich smell fills the entire house it centers my heart and makes everything feel right again.

I hope that many years from now Luke and Laurel will think about me when they're cooking roux for their families. (and I wish they could have known Mimi and her house and the land on the bayou...they would have loved it all)

And since we're on the subject of roux...I will throw in a strange and surprisingly tasty cookie recipe. I call it a roux cookie, but the original recipe from Heidi Swanson called it a Toasted Flour Cookie. Just like roux for gumbo the longer you cook the flour the more intense and complex the cookie will become. I'd start light and work your way dark...see what you think.

(and please ignore the messy stove top...making roux is a messy business!)

Roux Shortbread Cookie

To toast the flour you just put it in a dry skillet and stir until light-to-golden brown. (you can go darker...but beware, once it's's is your house for at least a few hours)

1 3/4 cups of flour (any combination you like, I used 1 cup All Purpose and 3/4 fresh ground Hard Red Wheat)
1/2 t salt
1 C butter, chilled
1 C sugar

The easiest thing to do is mix the dry ingredients and then toss it all into the food processor. Once combined, form into a disk and chill for at least 45 minutes. Then roll, and bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes. Allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes, otherwise they will crumble to pieces.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Modern Quilt Christmas Stockings

I have wanted to redo my Christmas stockings since my first little one was born.

(yes, I realize that's more than 7 years now)

Finally I decided that this year was THE year to make our family stockings.

I had visions of unbleached muslin with our names embroidered in white. Very classic, very simple. Maybe too simple for us. So I started sketching and thinking and searching...

At one point I was going to applique a Southeast Alaskan sea creature on each stocking, and the next it was going to be completely plain...then I was going to applique our faces...then I thought that was too much.

It went back and forth until piece by piece I picked what I liked best.




a touch of whimsy.

Tall order. (thank goodness stockings have 2 sides, because it's the only way I got everything I wanted)

The personal came from the candid memory tags hanging from each stocking. (These are the hand painted paper tags I alluded to last week.)

Since we just got back from our big Disney trip the kids unanimously voted on Mickey hats for theirs. Who knows what it will be next year...especially since things seem to change greatly from year to year in our lives.

The funny part is it turns out I love the back of the stockings more than the front. So for this year at least I will have the backs facing forward. (This is due to an aesthetic design flaw that will be a future post...once I've fixed are actually looking at the back of the stocking in all of these pictures!)

I LOVE LOVE LOVE these. I can't wait to pull these out and hang them up year after year. It's like seeing tradition backwards...I can imagine pulling these out in 10 years and thinking about this time period in our lives when I made them.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Quick Knit Teacher Gift

This Christmas has been pretty quiet. I have the standard amount to do...nothing too hectic. With nearly everything checked off the holiday to-do list...

work parties
christmas shopping
girl scout party
bake cookies for school concert
make stockings
host homeschool party
make 3 teacher gifts

I couldn't decide what to do for teacher gifts...I was playing around with an idea for slug ornaments (banana slugs are sort of a popular theme here)...but I realized stopping to make a pattern might take too much time. I was thinking and thinking of something that I could do that would be handmade, special and wouldn't take too long. Then my head got cold cause I was in the mudroom (we heat soley by wood, and the woodstove is in the living room), so I reached for one of my knitted headbands to put on. Then I looked up at the mirror in front of me and BOOM. OF COURSE! So I found the link to the tutorial for the headbands that I made last year.

I actually had to unravel a few old unfinished projects to get these done. (What a great way to take the stress off of ever finishing those projects!)

As I said last year...this is a GREAT tutorial (I can say that cause it's not mine). It's 8 repeated rows, and it makes a REALLY cool cable. It draws deeper from one side than the other so it makes a really deeply-ridged cable. Very dramatic...good for when you use chunky yarn like this. I used much larger yarn and needles than required so that it would knit up fast.

This thing is wide, warm and gorgeous. It makes the perfect teacher gift...unless you live in Florida. Thankfully, I live in Alaska. (beautiful snow covered Alaska)

Wrapped with hand-colored Luke-tags it makes it personal too.

Guess what I have to do now? Nothing...except enjoy my kids, my hubby...some eggnog and some more Christmas movies.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Personalized Christmas

Now that my shopping and decorating are done it's time to move into finishing the handmade things for this year. The largest project I'm doing is remaking our stockings (post to come). But a little sneak peak are these handpainted cards...which will be part of this years stocking project. (It will be explained in the stocking post)

But for now...just a little peak.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Things I want...

Valeriane Leblond

Diana Sudyka

Neiko Ng

And Amanda White


Advent Calendar Banner Kit

This inspiration came from none other than Pinterest, which I converted for my own holiday idea: a 25-envelope advent calendar.

Oh...but it's SO MUCH MORE.

See, we moved to Alaska. (If you read this blog, you probably already know that) It's so far away from EVERYONE. And this year, for the first time EVER in my entire life I can't be with every one for Christmas. So I wanted to send something that would make every one know we're thinking of them this holiday season. And what better way than to give them something that they can look at every day?!?!

This project took a while, I won't lie. You could just grab 25 pictures of your kids and be done with it...but I didn't want to do that. We were sending these to different people, and we personalized them for each group. We made each one a way to express how much our loved ones mean to us. This is more than just something cute, it's meant to be meaningful...and meaningful takes time. (And hand cutting the decorations for 125 envelopes takes gluing, drying and packaging) But it also makes a GREAT family that the kids can really get into. (especially when it comes to picking the prints)

Some things will make them laugh.

Some things might make them cry.

But the important thing is we will be there on Christmas morning, at least in spirit.

For these I bought:
Coordinating holiday craft paper
4x6 ivory envelopes
cotton twine (tied in a loop on each end, ready to hang)
25 wooden clothespins

Each set cost less than $5, and each was shipped as a pre-made, ready-to-hang set. The most fun part was selecting the prints to send to everyone. (I did the penny prints at Snapfish to save money)

We made one for ourselves too, and the kids get so excited to see the pictures I picked out for them. And at the end of the season we can pack it up and use it again next year with new prints. Plus, you don't have to limit yourself to prints, you can write jokes, memories, cards or even come up with a daily holiday to-do list (like string popcorn or watch a Christmas movie).

Plus, it packages small, I fit the whole kit into a standard sized manilla envelope. Next time I'll try to send it before December 1st though...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Finding a Purpose Through Homeschooling

I have always worked. From the time I was 14 (10 if you count babysitting) I began to earn my own money. I got my first real job on my first day of high school. I worked through high school, then through college. (sometimes working three jobs at a time while going to school)

After I graduated from college I got a job right away. Once I began working full time I never took more than a weekend between leaving one job and starting another. I rarely took vacation...I took a week off to go whitewater kayaking in 2003, and a week off for my honeymoon in 2004. When I had my first child in 2005 I felt the pressure to go back to work quickly, so I only took 6 weeks of maternity leave. Then again in 2008, I took 7 weeks with my second child. As for leaves-of-absence that is about it.

Then, all of the sudden I had a wake up call...despite thinking that we NEEDED the money (which we probably did), what I REALLY needed MORE THAN ANYTHING was to be with my kids. So, when we began our house renovation project Jon and I had a big heart-to-heart about it, and at Sonny's BBQ (during my lunch break) we made the decision. I was going to quit my job. Once I quit, we moved to the new property. We lived in bliss in a camper on our farm...playing, reading, gardening and farming for an entire summer.

Then, in a totally unplanned move...we took a chance of a lifetime and moved to Alaska. For an entire year I didn't work. I led a girl scout troop and filled in once in a while for a friend at the REC center. I worked out, and visited Laurel's class...and honestly I'm not sure what else I did with my time. I think I felt a little lost. I'm used to having a purpose, a time limit, a goal.

Since beginning homeschooling with Laurel I have found that I LOVE having a purpose to my day. Not only do I accomplish more with her, I accomplish more in general. My house is cleaner, our meals are better, I feel kinder and more patient.

I feel...happy.

I didn't even realize that I was floundering, but I guess I was. I needed to have a purpose, and I found it. I took that hardworking frame of mind I've learned after 18 years of working and focused it on my current goal of educating a whole child. (or rather whole-y educating a child...obviously I'm educating a whole child)

It might be the best goal I've ever had.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

My kiddos making the pies...pumpkin and caramel apple.

These aprons were made for my very first craft fair 4 years ago. It was the second item I sold, but three were left over, so I kept them...and we've worn them every Thanksgiving since then.

(the dog didn't move an inch until the cooking was done)

The kids set both tables all by themselves. The dining room table was set for Thanksgiving dinner and the coffee table was set for brunch, which we ate while watching the parade on Thanksgiving morning.

Laurel made pilgrim hat placecards for everyone.

The food was plentiful...the turkey lasted nearly a week...strangely the pies only lasted 2 days.

The homemade huckleberry sauce that we made from fall's late harvest berries at Settler's Cove came out GREAT! (but I was prepared with a can of back up cranberry sauce just in case...oh me of little faith)

I am so thankful for my family, without them I wouldn't be having such an incredible year. It seems like every holiday is better (and more special) than the last. And while I realize that these days of magical holidays with kids won't last forever...I'm thankful that they are here now (and for a few more years at least). I'm even thankful that my boy came to the table as both a vampire victim (puncture wounds on his neck) and a vampire (blood dripping from his lips) courtesy of crayola markers...because we just wouldn't be us without a little crazy at the table.
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