Christmas Tree Bread from Sunset Magazine

Spiral Shaped Christmas Tree BreadLisa contacted me about Christmas Tree Bread last week after she read a Note at 9rules. In the Note, I said it’s just not Christmas without Christmas music from the Andy Williams Christmas Deluxe album that my natural father brought home from Japan around 1968, or the Christmas Tree Bread that my mom’s been baking for 40 years. I’ll bet Lisa thought I forgot about her or I made the whole thing up or something, but no. Yes, Lisa, there really is a Christmas Tree Bread recipe!

The recipe is from Sunset Magazine, and it’s really the biggest reason that I have a KitchenAid mixer. It’s a huge recipe, calling for about nine cups of flour, and it’s just difficult to do in a regular size mixer. Usually, I make the bread dough around the 23rd of December, so that I can shape it and bake it on Christmas Eve and it’s ready to eat on Christmas morning. Nobody gets one tiny bite until Christmas morning, but around the 27th, when we’ve plowed through all three loaves from the first batch, I usually make more so that we can continue to enjoy it for breakfast (and sometimes lunch) until New Year’s Eve at least. In the past, ITMan and the kids have asked me to make it for other holidays but I’ve refused, wanting to keep this a special Christmas-only thing.

Christmas Tree BreadI thought about making a batch early this year, so I could take pictures and all, but then I’d have to decide whether to let everybody dig in or freeze it until Christmas. In the end I decided not to tear holes in tradition around here, because if I do it once, they expect me to do it again, and I like tradition just the way it is! Recipe follows! Continue reading Christmas Tree Bread from Sunset Magazine

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Christmas gifts and Pfaff vs. Bernina experiments

No, I didn’t go on vacation, just been super busy here! Just FYI, busy+notmuchquilting=nofun. Well, maybe not “no fun,” just not as much fun! Anyway, things may be winding down to an acceptable level, so I can just coast through Christmas now. The last party is over, thank goodness, and I finished up my last online programming class for this month yesterday. I’ve been working on a gift for my landlords and I finished it up today:

Placemats

I made them a set of eight placemats to go with the table runner and the napkin rings that I’ve made in previous years. I was a bit worried as I was making them, since they seemed to be a bit “floofy” and weren’t laying flat after they were quilted. I think I should have used a thinner batting. 😦 I decided to toss them in the washer and pray to the quilting goddess for a boon. Since fabric placemats need to be washable anyway, I also figured it would be better to get it over with now in case the machine embroidery didn’t survive.

Placemats detail

The embroidery came out fine, and after a bit of judicious steam pressing, the mats are wonderfully flat! I guess the quilting goddess figured it was my turn or something. Whew! I’m probably going to have to think of something else entirely for next year, since I’ve used up most of the green fabric for the embroidery, and I’m not sure what else to make anyway. Napkins?? Hmmmm…

I got a little bored quilting the placemats (okay, really bored!), so I decided to do some Pfaff vs. Bernina experiments with my machines. If I’m going to do machine guided quilting, I usually use the Pfaff because it has the built-in dual feed, so I started quilting the placemats with the Pfaff 2056, my favorite machine until the Bernie came to live here. When the quilting wasn’t turning out so well, I thought I’d see what the Bernina 440 had to offer with the walking foot. Continue reading Christmas gifts and Pfaff vs. Bernina experiments

Preparations for Christmas

The tree is up, and the packages have been mailed. One party down, only one more to go, and all of this despite the fact that I’ve felt a bit under the weather for the last few days, and finally decided a trip to the dental clinic was in order this morning to deal with some tooth pain. While it’s not as bad as I feared, I do need to have my wisdom teeth removed as soon as I can get to it! Yes, I still have all of them, even though every dentist I see tells me they need to come out. I don’t know why my teeth were bothering them, since they weren’t bothering me, but since they are now I guess it’s time. 😦

I didn’t put up as many decorations this year as I usually do (the reason for this will become apparent soon, but for now I have to be a bit mysterious). The tree and the wreaths are up and about, but other than that I decided to limit the decorating festivities to the nativity scene, and I had to choose it’s place very carefully this year or all of the figures were likely to become casualties well before Epiphany. I can just imagine Shadow carrying little Jesus around in his mouth, and tearing bits of fabric and trims off of the rest. The mannerless one has absolutely no respect!

Nativity Scene Detail

My mom made this nativity when I was very young, maybe as young as two years old. She started with cones from industrial size thread, and added stocking-covered styrofoam balls for heads. Scraps of fabric became robes and clothing, and bits of trim and jewels were pinned in place to complete the ensembles. I think Baby Jesus is a chunk of salt dough under the swaddling.

Mom gave the nativity to me when I moved out, and I remade their faces in cross stitch, and added hair and a few newer and different fabrics and jewels around 1989. After we moved to Germany, I thought about adding a quilted background for it, and I made a Mariner’s Compass Star of Bethlehem, but I got stuck trying to make the landscape under the star too realistic and never could put something together that I was happy with. Time and experience have resulted in some new creative ideas for finishing that quilt, so it’s good that I still have the UFO creativity pieces 10+ years later!

Nativity Scene

I just love looking at these pieces and remembering which fabrics and jewels were original and which ones I added later, and seeing how it all works together. When I decided on the only place in the house that I thought was safe from the evil cat, I realized that the quilt that was already hanging there is somewhat star-like in the center and it all goes perfectly together, so all is good and will do until that other quilt gets done. I’ve never seen a nativity that I liked better than this one. Maybe someday one of my girls will add her special touches and make it hers.

The plan and to-do list

Hard on the heels of clearing the mechanism and getting back to what’s really important came the thought that if I don’t make some sort of a plan and get to work on it, all the things that need to get done before Christmas won’t. I’ve done this to myself every year for the last few, just sort of waited to even think about the holidays until they’re here and then it goes downhill from there.

I remember being more organized once upon a time, maybe more than five years ago, when I would start shopping and planning in September, though like all parents who buy too much and spoil their kids, we were still up on Christmas Eve wrapping like madmen. More recently, I’ve been completely unmotivated to deal with any of it until the dreaded season is threatening to mow me down, and that doesn’t work too well when many gifts have to be ordered from the States and shipped soon enough to arrive on time.

I think it may have started to degenerate when I realized that no matter what I did for one of my kids, it was never “enough.” There was always something completely unreasonable on the wish list that we wouldn’t buy for a child in a million years, and then she wasn’t happy with what we did buy. There was always something she wanted to do that just didn’t work (usually because it was, again, something that a child wasn’t going to get to do anyway) and then everything we did do was met with surliness and/or noncooperation. She’s still kind of like that, though there are (very) brief moments when I see a faint glow toward the end of the tunnel, and last year Christmas was a bit better than previous years had been with her.

My reaction to that and all the rest of the holiday stress is to just not deal with it for any longer an amount of time than is completely necessary. (ITMan calls this my “Bah Humbug” response) Thus, the shopping and planning scramble starting on Thanksgiving and continuing on through December, ending with a complete crash on Boxing Day. Continue reading The plan and to-do list

Veterans Day

Veterans Day 2007 Poster, US Department of Veterans AffairsThe observance of Veterans Day means more than sleeping in (though I must say, that was heavenly this morning!), but I’ll bet my kids have no idea why they’re not doing school today. That’s completely sad for two kids who have spent a good portion of their school years in Department of Defense schools, and whose father is a 24-year veteran of the US Air Force. Maybe we can cut the DoDDs schools a bit of a break, due to the fact that three of the most recent school years were spent at an international school, and not much (if any) mention was made of US Veterans Day.

Other than that, I think that maybe the pace of life these days is so wild that when a holiday weekend comes along, people are just so thankful for the break that they don’t care why they get it. I have to say that I don’t remember my parents ever discussing the whys and wherefores of holidays with me when I was a kid, and I don’t remember much about it from school either. Obviously, it’s up to me now since my kids have school at home, so they may start getting an extra “mom project” every now and again. Yeah, they’re upstairs sleeping late or otherwise vegetating in their rooms, but I think a short discussion about why they’re getting the bonus is in order later.

ITMan is at work today, despite the fact that he is a veteran. His company is one of those that says “we’ll give you the day after Thanksgiving off instead.” I think that policy ought to apply only to employees that are not veterans! 😉 Of course, there would be a skeleton crew aboard at the office on Veterans Day if that were the case, since a huge number of these people who work for government contractor companies like this are veterans, I think.

In the spirit of the day, I think I’ll begin work on a small quilt with a patriotic theme that’s been floating around in my head for a couple of years, and is now destined to be donated to the Silent Auction at the Guild Quilt Show in spring. What about you? Are you home from work today to observe the holiday? What about your kids? Do they understand the significance of Veterans Day? Whatever you do this Veterans Day, say a thank you to all those who serve or have served our country.

Stars & Stripes

Vivian's Marching Band blockI had another whole post planned and mostly written for today, but then I saw Kristen’s wonderful Independence post, and decided to be a copycat and share pics of my own Americana themed quilts. While they are in no way as awesome as her king size Service Star quilt, I thought you might enjoy seeing them today. I do have a very large soft spot in me for Americana-ish quilts, so I have to keep one room in the house decorated properly so they’ll fit in. At the moment, that room is the dining room, and ITMan’s display case with his Military medals and awards and the American flag presented to him on his retirement lives there too, along with most of my Longaberger baskets with red and blue weaving.

Love at Last Sight

The oldest one is from 1997. A bit of back story: I joined the Black Forest Quilt Guild in 1995, and sometime that year, probably in June, the Block of the Month was Marching Band, in red, blue and tan fabrics. I won half of the blocks (there were so many that we divvied them up) and someone else got the other half, but I can’t remember who it was. The blocks sat around in a box for a while, because I didn’t really like them all that much in the beginning. Sometime in 1996, I put it together with the sashing and borders, and I still wasn’t thrilled with it. In early 1997 I think, I wanted an Americana-looking quilt to use for decoration around the house, and I quilted it and finished it up. As soon as it was quilted, I fell in love with it, Continue reading Stars & Stripes