Handmade Christmas

Janie Kathryn had some very interesting and seemingly difficult requests this Christmas. From Santa, she requested "a purple polka-dotted baby doll, a nightgown, and Barbie furniture" to fill the dollhouse that Daddy and I were supposed to create for her. 2011 proved to be a very creative Christmas, but I can only take credit for the project designs. I had help with the execution. The nightgown and Barbie furniture were easy enough. Though 90% of the Barbie furniture was vintage, purchased on eBay. Modern Barbie furnishings belong in a doll-brothel, not a dollhouse! The custom dollhouse and baby doll specifications required clever thought and precise execution.

I thought the best route to take for a purple polka-dotted baby doll was to search for just the right rag doll, which I found on Etsy. I fell in love with the dolls at Mon Petit Amour and reached out to the shop owner, Vanessa. She turned out to be an absolutely delightful person and was eager to assist Santa with the special request. I shipped all of the materials to Vanessa, who worked hard to complete the request in time for it to be shipped back to Santa. Keep in mind it had to be packed into the sleigh before Santa left on Christmas Eve!  After all of this was set in motion, Janie Kathryn began to further specify that the doll should have WHITE polka-dots. I don't know if it was Santa himself or one of his elves, but someone hand-painted every dot on that doll. Janie Kathryn named her Sally. Sally is a treasured gift in the Skeen house. I can't thank Vanessa and Santa enough!

The Barbie House couldn't be outsourced to Santa or Etsy elves... at least not within my budget. We already had a house-shaped bookcase that I purchased unfinished and decorated for Janie Kathryn, years ago. So, I made a plan for Jorma, bought some wood, and put him to work.

Jorma did a wonderful job! It's was exactly what I wanted. Um, what Janie Kathryn wanted. Besides creative control, you're probably wondering about my part with these handmade holiday happies. Why decorating of course! I finally put to good use all of those quarts of paint samples I refused to purge.  The end result was a beautiful, albeit colossal, dollhouse!

...and one day, when the Barbie phase has come and gone, this beauty of a dollhouse can go back to being a bookcase. Perhaps, in someone's classroom.


A Teacherrific Christmas

The best part about being a teacher at Christmastime is V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N. Perhaps, the second best thing about being a teacher at Christmastime is the bounty of gifts exchanged during the days leading up to the holiday break. Okay, so I'm not a teacher yet, but I do work in 8 different classrooms with a total of 123 students.

I wanted to give my students a little Christmas treat, but needed to by mindful of my budget. Shopping or crafting, as it was, for 123 kids can be pretty costly! I got a jump start on this project, trolling the clearance page at Oriental Trading in September. That's right, September. I found some really cute snowflake buttons and star stickers. On their own, neither was particularly special. However, they were deeply discounted and together I thought they had gift-worthy potential.

More recently, I purchased coordinating candy canes, which turned out to be the most expensive piece of my gift (especially if you consider the ratio of broken canes). A couple of packages of clear treat bags and a few pieces of festive paper and I had some cute little gifts, if I do say so myself.

I know "it is more blessed to give than to receive," but I think both acts are equally fun! And I was certainly on the receiving end of some delightful holiday gifts this year. One of which really warmed my heart. One of my third grade students was concerned that since I do not have my own class, I wouldn't receive any gifts. So, she made me a Christmas ornament.  
One day, when I am a teacher and have many classes under my belt, I suspect I will have an entire Christmas tree dedicated to the ornaments given to me by my students. And I will always remember that it started with this one glittery red ball with black polka dots, given to me by a sweet student, when I was still a student myself.


Teacher Gifts

 I work very closely with eight awesome teachers. Naturally, I want to present them with a little happy for Christmas. So, I asked myself what would I want? Since iPads for everyone isn't in the budget, I changed the question. What do I need?

Not surprisingly, throughout the school day, there are several things I need and never seem to have at hand. Emery boards! At least once a week, I wish I had a nail file at my desk. And then, there are those crazy mornings, tantrums abound, when nothing goes smoothly. I never know if it is the five-year-old, bad hair-day tantrum or the thirty-something, my clothes-don't-fit tantrum, but it all results in the same mid-morning realization. I forgot to put on deodorant! So, I decided to go for equal parts practical and resourceful, with a dash of humor, and create emergency kits for my teacher friends.

Diet Coke for a caffeine fix. Deodorant for crazy, forgetful mornings. Sanitizer to battle the kid germs. Emery boards for snags and chipped nails. Tissues for when a student says there's a bat in the cave. Chap-Ice for dry lips. Certs for bad breath (also called out by said student). Band-aids for when you can't get to the nurse's office. Nail polish for a run in your pantyhose (circa 1988). Chocolate for when the mood calls for it. Assorted pins for MacGyver-ing just about anything!
And this is when my hoarding pays off. 
This girl never throws out an egg carton, paper towel roll, bottle cap, or coffee can!


The Cupcake Mom

I've been waiting to debut my new blog, until I had a post worthy of all the effort that went into my peachy design. Thanks to my dear Scott Moss for hosting my domain name. Could there be a better topic than baking, more specifically baking for the cookie swap at school

3 dozen petit fours, 
6 dozen mint chocolate chip cookies, 
5 dozen turtle cookies, 
6 dozen cran-rosemary rounds with orange glaze, 
and 5 dozen Mexican brownies with cream cheese frosting
- for a grand total of 300 yummies!

It's true, I love to bake. I can spend hours (6 today) in the kitchen, listening to music and making a huge mess that eventually looks like this (minus the ugly ones that Jorma and Janie Kathryn get to eat). I was thinking about the origins of my beloved pastime today.  
I wasn't always fond of the kitchen.  

When I was growing up, I remember being so envious of my friends who brought cupcakes to the class parties because their moms would walk them into class. It was an unfortunate disaster to send a child to school on the bus with cupcakes. Those cupcakes looked so delicious and I could just picture the mom happily baking them. I so wished I was assigned cupcakes to bring to the party and that my mom would have to tie on an apron and crank out a few dozen sprinkled confections. Alas, I was always assigned something like soda. Yep, that's right. We drank soda at school parties in the 1980's.

From the second I found out I was going to be a mother, I knew I wanted to be a cupcake mom. Bake sales, birthday celebrations, school parties- I was going to bring the prettiest, sprinkliest, yummiest baked goods anyone had ever eaten! Okay, so I'm no Cake Boss, but I sure do try and I have so much fun. It makes me wonder...
25 years from now, what will Janie Kathryn say she envied about her classmates?