Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas with Haime and Lois...


Seriously, every once in a while, stop whatever you are doing and take some time to "people watch." This is a particularly excellent time of year for the people watching activity. Personally, I HATE shopping in "enclosed" malls, especially anytime there is any possibility of ginormous crowds of "bargain hunters." However, these are some of the best places to sit, enjoy a beverage and just watch the show! YES, I know, I have too much time on my hands, this however is a planned activity, not just something you can "fall into." Regardless, it's just one of the perks of retirement...don't hate!

First, the scenery is exquisite! GIANT trees, great music, festive decor and the temperature inside is perfect! Then there are the costumes...these cannot be overlooked (even if you tried). Sometimes the "costumes" are the best part of the show. Who knew "screaming" purple "skinny jeans" were latest fashion rage for twenty-something men...the things you learn. The interplay between the characters is always interesting. Especially if you are as lucky as I am and have voices in your head that only you can hear. (The voices really like to people watch...its just REALLY good that no one else can hear them)...just saying!

Now, lest you think that the holidays are just one long leisure-filled day after another for us, let me assure you that they are actually long "project-filled," sleep deprived weeks. For the last few years, I've made more and more of the gifts I give. My gifts vary from baked goods to furniture to hand stitched creations. Now, its not unusual for me to wait until the last minute to start on these Christmas projects, (maybe I need a little bit of stress in my life in order to perform at near peak...whatever!) Anyway, that was the case again this year...I actually felt like I was ahead of the normal curve because I knew exactly what projects I was going to do for each person. I started "working" on the first one in early November. Unfortunately, I did not realize the amount of time any of the projects would take, because I was a first-timer for most of them. That is, while I had done similar projects, for most, I had never done another exact "first run" of the specific project I had planned. Here are the end products...

The first thing I actually completed was a two-sided art easel for Carter. The fun part (for me...I'm a bit of a nerd) is that the only three things that I had to purchase were the chalkboard paint, the "wipe board" and the roll of craft paper. (OK, so I did also purchase some chalk and markers and dry erase markers and a couple of erasers, but well, you know). I had made a much earlier version (for Carter's daddy, when he was about 3), but this one was much more detailed...complete with chalk rail!

While I'm listing my projects in the order that they were completed, it does not mean that I started one, finished it then moved on. Instead, after completing Carter's easel, I had the remaining projects all going at the same time and in various stages of completion...I certainly didn't want to get bored working on just one thing!

The next completion was for Reece, two Adirondack chairs. I was a little bit worried about this particular project. Reece can be finicky. We were talking about some friends that he had come over to his house and they had bar-b-cued and visited and had a great time and I had mentioned something to him about my needing to build him some outdoor furniture, as I had done for Chip and Mallory a few years ago. Well, he went into one of his "no, I don't want you to build anything for me, I don't have the room for it", (he lives on a 100 acre piece of property), blah, blah, blah! Well, I built the chairs for him anyway and...yep, he LOVED them! His first two comments were: "Wow, these are so comfortable" and "They even have room for wide butts!" I think he had visions of more comfortable entertaining around the "Q" and having a place to sit-n-sip.

I was happy with the chairs and Reece is correct, I did make them a little larger than normal. My sons are big guys, (each over 6'3"), and I wanted to ensure that the chairs would be comfortable for them. The hardest part about building the chairs was, unfortunately finding suitable lumber. I say unfortunately because it's just ridiculous that the selections of boards for sale are of such poor quality. Each chair took about four 10' boards and I looked through and rejected about twenty boards to find just one that I could use. Maybe I was just buying this type of lumber during the wrong season but the pricing certainly did not reflect "out of season over-stocks."

I love working with wood. I also love seeing what others build and I love trying to figure-out how they did what they did. One of the things I have admired for years are the cutting boards that are built out of various species of hardwood. The colors and different grains are, in my opinion, works of art when put together for these cutting boards. So, this year I decided I was going to build one for each of the "boys." I used maple, red oak, "purple curly heart" and something called jaraboa (I think that's what it was called. I will tell you that it was such a hard wood that it caused my table saw to shut itself off because of the heat generated when I was ripping it!) Now, I'm fudging a little bit here. The cutting boards are really not completed yet. They are actually pretty much complete but I'm not satisfied with the sanding jobs and during the planing, (Thanks Lige for the use of your planer, it was a lifesaver!) some of the "curly-purple-heart" wood got some pits in it that I haven't been able to completely sand out so I took the boards back after the guys opened them.

This project actually cause a bit of drama! My dear sons did not believe me when I told them that I had made them...oh the heartbreak of being doubted by the one's you love! (Just kidding, it was really pretty funny watching their faces!) Of course, being the good (half)German that I am, I cannot let things go to waste so I also built a couple of trivets from some of the left-overs:

I think they turned out pretty well. I kept the one on the right for myself and the one on the left is on its way to my "sista" in California, I hope she likes it!

pic is larger than the others so you can see the shirt details
My final completion was a t-shirt quilt for Chip. A couple of years ago, I designed and help sew and quilt an A&M themed quilt for Reece but I had not done a quilt for Chip. Then I saw a t-shirt quilt that reminded me that I had always liked the design so I asked Mallory to save Chip's old A&M t-shirts for me rather than tossing them or putting them in a garage sale. Here is the result.

When I say it was the last project completed, I mean I finally called it quits at 2:00ish AM on Christmas morning! I had the quilt put together and it could have been called done a couple of weeks prior to Christmas but I decided to "quilt" around some of the designs in the t-shirts or, where the design was a little higher than center, I "quilted" some Aggieism or some other appropriate phrase into the square...Chip LOVED it! It was awesome seeing him discover some of these "old friends" that he hadn't seen since he as in college.

This year, I went a bit overboard. Haime and I have made it a Christmas tradition to give baked goodies to some of our neighbors. This year, we delivered a dozen to our closest (in proximity) neighbors. The goodies included apple bread, pumpkin/pecan bread, and 4-5 varieties of cookies. We also included some for other family and friends...I baked over 20 loaves of bread and honestly lost count of the cookies. They are always a hit and we enjoy doing it.

Did I mention that we also hosted a couple of Christmas dinner parties? Well, it should be no surprise to any of you that I love to entertain, in fact, I might have mentioned it once or twice. We had one small party with about 10 for dinner a couple of weeks before Christmas then our annual Christmas lunch with my mom, sisters and brothers-in-law and my nieces and nephews. This year, there were 18 of us. Next up is a Chick-Fil-A Bowl Game watching party...Gig 'em!

We sincerely hope all of you have as blessed a Christmas season as we are (it's not over yet...)



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