Thursday, January 23, 2014

Handmade with Love

Have you ever had the present dilemma? Here it is: you want to get a gift for someone, but you don't really know what to get them and you don't want to fall victim to the commercialization of holidays and just buy some thing you saw some where because you couldn't find the perfect gift. 

Am I alone in this? Pretty sure I'm not.

Don't get me wrong; I love presents, and I think that they can be a great way to express appreciation and love for someone when done correctly. But, I also know that there is more to life than what can be bought at a store, and I want my children to know that I value time and love over material possessions. 

Accordingly, over the last couple of years, my family has tried to cut back at Christmastime and other holidays on the gifts we give. More importantly, we have tried to make the gifts more meaningful. We still buy presents, but we also try to make some of them. Several of my favorite gifts have come from this shift in gift-giving philosophy. I now have a family recipe book that includes pictures and stories explaining the history and significance of each recipe. I have a biography of my Oma that was painstakingly written and assembled over many months but that taught me so much more about a woman I already admired. I have a photo collage of pictures of Will from each month of his first year.

Here are some of the things I either received or made this year:

I finally made Will a stocking this year (he didn't have one last year because I never quite got around to this project)! When Graham and I got married, I made stockings for our first Christmas with the goal of adding a new one for each child. It's not perfect, and I still might do some tweaking before next year, but I'm excited to have homemade stockings adorn our mantel yet-to-be-determined-place-for-hanging-stockings-since-we-don't-have-a-fireplace.

This one is really simple, but I'm glad to have it. I brought a bunch of ornaments into our marriage, but Graham had none, so to make sure he had some representation on the tree, I've bought him one every year. This year, I framed one of the very first pictures we have of my two favorite boys...about 10 minutes after Will was born.

My dad is quite the master woodworker. In the last several years, he has made some wonderful gifts: cut-out letters spelling "FAMILY", animal figurines for Will, a carved Santa ornament, and this elephant puzzle for Will. I almost don't want to let Will play with it because it's so beautiful, but Will LOVES it! He thinks it's fun to take out the baby elephant and then separate all the pieces, hanging each one over the edge of the box (at which point he has to have me put it back together).

My mom made these adorable Christmas jammies for ALL her grandchildren, complete with individually designed snowmen for the shirts.

Another project from my parents this year is this:

It's a reproduction of a block print my grandfather did many years ago. He was a talented artist, but has since passed away, so to have a piece of his art live on in my home is really special to me. Apparently, it was a last minute project on my parents' part, but I'm thrilled that they took the time to do it.

And last, is a baby gift/Christmas present that I have been working on for more than six months off and on, but I finally finished in time to mail it to San Diego before I left California. It's my first attempt at a triangle quilt, and I'm excited about how well it turned out. Hopefully baby Owen will enjoy his blanket for years to come.

I've already got a couple of projects in the works for birthdays and other holidays this year, and hopefully I'll get a start on Christmas early enough that I can have some fun projects to share next year.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Celebrating Grandma Harr

Jeanne Sorensen Harr
March 29, 1921 - December 30, 2013

This week, we buried my husband's grandmother, an amazing lady who led a long, adventurous life. In the few years that I knew her, I felt her love of life and of family. She had a great sense of humor, flawless style, and the ability to make you feel like the most amazing, beautiful, important person in the world. 

As I was getting ready for the funeral Monday morning, I had the thought that Grandma was surely going to love seeing everyone all dressed up for the occasion. I imagine she was just beaming down on us all from heaven, smiling as she saw us all gussied up for the occasion. She was such a classy lady, always dressed to the nines, even if it was just to lounge around the house. Knowing that, it seemed fitting that her casket was pink. Beautiful and feminine, just like her.

It was a positive, celebratory service, full of stories that garnered chuckles from the group. The best part of the event was that it meant gathering together with so many of Graham's family members. With various siblings peppered across several states, it's not often we get this big of a group together. And while I hope our next gathering is under less somber circumstances, I am grateful we got to spend some more time together with family, something that was dear to Grandma.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

December in Pictures

We've had a busy month, and I've taken a lot of pictures. Here are the highlights:

My favorite picture of our collection from the month is one I didn't technically take, but I had something to do with the subject matter. :) Introducing...Baby Harr #2! He or she will debut somewhere around July 11th, and we're thrilled to have another crazy little one joining our family. Will has no idea what is coming his way.

I'm healthy, baby is healthy, so things are looking good! We're excited to find out the gender in February. Stay tuned!

Thankfully, this has been a pretty easy pregnancy, so I've still been able to get out and enjoy a lot of holiday celebrating. Right before the temperatures plummeted at the beginning of December, we took a family outing to look at the lights on Temple Square. Beautiful as always.

We've been living in quite the winter wonderland for most of the month, and Will has gotten a few good opportunities to bundle up and play in the snow. Sadly, he doesn't actually seem to like it very much yet, but we're hoping some sledding in January will change his mind.

Finally, we escaped the cold and drove to California for Christmas to be with my family in Clovis. The weather was heavenly, and Will loved being able to go outside and play again. Grandpa took him on countless tricycle rides, and we logged quite a few hours at parks in the area. We also took a trip to the Fresno Zoo.

Will did not like feeding the giraffes. Oops. Sorry if we traumatized you, buddy.

Jeff, however, did like getting up close and personal with the animals. I think the goat was telling him some funny story.

Will liked the statues of animals better than the real ones, at least for touching.

On Christmas Eve, our family always acts out the Nativity...and sometimes we're not as reverent as Mom would like.

Robyn is going to defend her sheep to the death. She's a dedicated shepherdess that way.

Teanca is so angelic. Can't you just see the glow?

Jeff is so wise.

Will's costume. Not sure what it is, but he wears the shoes well.

Grandpa helped Will open his Christmas jammies that Grandma made for him. Such a cute little snowman!

On Christmas morning, I had to introduce Will to the family tradition on jumping in the wrapping paper and playing in the pile. He thought it was pretty great, until he hit his head on the tile floor. Oops.

We made our annual gingerbread house...this time a vintage movie theatre that my niece designed.

The day after Christmas, Graham, Will, and I took a day trip to San Luis Obispo to visit his Aunt and to give Will his first sandy beach experience. It was 84 degrees that day! I couldn't believe the temperature outside was warmer than inside. Heaven!

We were ready to get back to our normal routine this week, but what a wonderful way to spend December: full of friends, family, warm weather, celebrations, traditions, laughter, and good food!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!