Things I am hoping to get done before Christmas

Because I am an optimistic idiot this time of year. (The rest of the year I am a pessimist. And an idiot.) As this list is kind of boring and depressing (at least to me), I will break it up with some photos of our decorations.

wreath

Sam’s dressing gown. Unlike most gift recipients, I really cannot show him the pieces I have knitted and expect him to have any idea what the heck he is looking at. It’s got to be finished.

angel

Will’s typing gloves (it’s OK, he knows I am making them). At this point I am hoping to finish one. One would make me so happy. Who needs two hands to type? He types too fast anyway, it’s embarrassing for the rest of us.

bells

Sammy’s Santa Hat. He had one last year, I want him to have one every year. But I don’t know! I made one that turned out too big, I have to frog it and try again. I don’t have time but I really want to make some.

humming bird

Make time. (Just joking. But man, I wish I could.) (Moving on.)

My present. Yes, I am making myself a present! I miss the lap quilt already so I am making one for myself. Solid (non-patchwork, that is) fabrics on both sides, simple quilting. Delightful. I haven’t even started it and I don’t have batting.

stockings

My stocking. I am not even going to try. Unless I do.

joni’s felt bird

The rest of the holiday CDs. This one might happen, actually.

Saint Nick

Some stacking trees and felt ornaments, for us and a few local friends.

mini nutcrackers

Compile photos of Sam for a holiday e-card.

Santa

Sleep.

Last Minute Gift Guide: Your Po’ Friends

There’s less than a week till Christmas and you just aren’t sure if you should go practical or frivolous for your friends (or family members) who are barely scraping by. As someone who has had to chose between rent and the car payment, I feel qualified to help.

Both are OK. Practical is good because we need to eat. Frivolous is good because we aren’t getting those things for ourselves.

My #1 suggestion: gift cards. I know it seems boring and impersonal but it is really the perfect gift. I love being able to get exactly what I want without having to juggle the budget, whether it is a loaf of bread or some new clothes. Stores like Trader Joe’s are ideal, since there is a wide variety of foods ranging from inexpensive staples to delicious treats. If you’re OK with bigger chains, Target is great for the same reason: practical and frivolous all in one place. Also consider office supply stores, hardware stores, bookstores, and anyplace else you know they shop. A gas card or metro pass would also be lovely.

Also excellent: cash. A check works just fine too but nothing is as good as cash. Cash doesn’t have to go toward your overdraft or your credit card bill. Cash can get you anything you need right away.

But you want specific suggestions. I have those, too.

  • Something to do (this one is good for families especially). Our friends bought us a membership at the LA Zoo. We can go visit the animals any time we want now, and it won’t cost us a penny. Other ideas might include tickets to a show or movies passes.
  • A meal out — or in. We can’t afford to eat out. And we miss it. My dad had a pizza delivered for us last week and it was the best meal ever.
  • A treat. Maybe a manicure for a female friend (or a male friend if he’s into that sort of thing), a massage if your pockets are a little deeper. Any service that is non-essential has probably been cut from the budget (for instance, I don’t even get haircuts anymore).
  • Does your friend have a hobby? They probably need supplies. Gift certificates really are best, but if you know what they need go ahead and get something to wrap up. (It is a good idea to find out the store’s return policy and make sure your friend can exchange the item if necessary. Gift receipts are a good thing.) Local store suggestion: The Art Store (now Blick). Online local store suggestion: SuperCrafty!
  • If your friend has a camera, pay for film processing or digital prints. You can buy a frame or a nice album and put the gift card in it, so you have something to wrap up.
  • Shop their Amazon wish list. Movies, books, and music are hard to budget and are huge morale boosters.
  • A travel mug (or paper cup sleeve) and a Starbucks gift card (or Peet’s or any other coffee shop). Obviously this is really only a good idea for a coffee or tea drinker.
  • Something handmade. There is no better gift. (Except cash.) (Kidding.) (Sort of.)

Anyone have further ideas to share?

(By the way, I hope no one will take this post as a “hint” — while I’d be thrilled to get anything listed here, I am offering the ideas for the people on your shopping list.)

A Cautionary Tale

I am usually pretty good at substitutions. I’m a great cook and baker, and I make yarn substitutions frequently in my knitting. My projects usually turn out just fine, be they eatable or wearable or what-have-you.

So you understand that this is purely hypothetical, what I am about to tell you.

Should you ever find yourself needing to stuff a gift, something that perhaps was meant to be smaller than it turned out, and you are out of poly-fil again and you think “Oh, I’ve got a spare feather pillow I can gut,” DO NOT DO IT.

Don’t ask me how I know, but your porch will look like you murdered a whole flock of seagulls. And you will find feathers in embarrassing places. Also in your hair. For hours.

feathers

Just trust me on this one, OK?

Not immune.

You know all those NaBloPoMo posts around mid-November? The ones that all basically said, “I can’t believe I signed up for this! I have nothing more to say!” Those?

I never made one of those. I post nearly every day most months anyway. Also, I invented Nablopomo but I called it something else and I didn’t have prizes. So anyway, I never felt burned out in November.

But December? Is kicking my ass. And I? Have nothing to say.

Scrambling

I love Christmas. I am doing this all out of love. If it makes me crazy, I will stop and play Lego Star Wars for a while. (Repeat mantra as needed.)

In the past 24 hours I have completed two backpacks, a bib, and a little turtle buddy. They’re all for Joni‘s children and I am really pleased with how easy the patterns were and how the projects turned out.

backpacks

The backpacks are for Teddy and Teresa. They’re from Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing and are pretty much identical, so I am trying to come up with ideas to personalize them. Right now all I’ve come up with is embroidering their names on the pockets.

bib

The bib is from Bend-the-Rules Sewing and the only change I made was adding the rick-rack. I am crazy about rick-rack this month! I’ll add a snap to this before I mail it, of course. My snap press is at Andrea’s house. And, um, the baby fingers are not included. I need them to nibble on.

turtle buddy

The little turtle buddy is also from Bend-the-Rules Sewing. I had some trouble with the seams so he is kind of a frank-n-turtle, but he is so sweet that I don’t think anyone will mind! The turtle and the bib are both for unborn baby boy. I’ve got a huge pile of unfinished projects for him from the last six months, and so of course I will only be sending stuff I started and finished today. Oh well. I might be able to get some more things finished before he arrives in January.

Up next: Eden’s present, finishing my mom’s present, and something for my dad and my in-laws. And after that I can work on Sam and Will’s presents, and my other friends if there is any time left over at all.

Putting the XXX in Xmas

(There is no porn in this post. I am just trying out Exciting! Evocative! headlines.)

Despite my breakdown at 3:00 on Sunday over the fact that nothing was getting done, I had a pretty productive weekend. I finished the lap quilt on Friday and it is GORGEOUS. Its intended recipient reads this blog, and it is sort of a surprise (she may have guessed, but I haven’t told), so this is the only picture I am posting for now:

lap quilt

I intentionally did not pre-wash the fabrics, so when I wash the quilt it will pucker slightly and look vintage-y.

Saturday I started another robot, this one for Jackson. Finished him up this morning and I adore him! See:

Robot

Sunday I started the long and painful process of cleaning up this dump so we can decorate for Christmas. I also discovered that mice (or maybe rats) have eaten half the food in my pantry. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that the scratching in the walls has been driving me insane since November 1st, when maintenance came and looked at it and SWORE nothing could get into the pantry through the spot that I pointed out. Which is the very spot that now has partly-chewed insulation strewn about, where the rodents clearly got in. THANKS A LOT, ASSHOLES. Why do I pay rent again?

By the way, does anyone know of a good non-toxic, humane mouse trap? They want to use glue traps and I flat-out refuse to have those things in my house. They are going to board up the hole so the mice theoretically can’t get back in. I am kind of hoping that does the trick on its own but I don’t know if it will.

ANYWAY, back to my Christmas prep. I got one tinsel tree up (not decorated yet) and made two little stacking trees, using this tutorial as a basic guide. Since I do not have a working printer I just found four bowls in various sizes and used them to trace circles onto two different Amy Butler fabrics and some iron-on interfacing (or something similar, it isn’t labeled). I cut the circles in half and presto! Well, OK, it wasn’t presto until I zig-zagged, stitched on the rick-rack, and hand-sewed up the back. And threaded some embroidery floss through so they could be hung. But then? Presto! (One tree not pictured as I am not quite done with the hand-sewing.)

stacking tree

And we set up my favorite decoration, our nativity:

nativity

Yay, Playmobil!

Will: Ooh, a Shepherd’s Eye view!

Me: Well, after all, Shepherds Keep Watch.

I’ll be here all week, folks.

Love and rockets, now with more rockets

I read the other day that Juno scribe Diablo Cody and her husband Jonny have split. And I was really, really sad. I have no interest in speculating what makes a couple call it quits. It’s none of my business and it would be tacky besides. But I can’t help that knee-jerk feeling of bitter disappointment. Hollywood does it again. DC came out here in a whirlwind of attention most screenwriters will never have after her first screenplay made the rounds. I read it, did coverage on it, and it’s the best script I have ever read — at least out of the scripts I did not write myself. Jonny stayed in Minnesota with his daughter while Diablo came out here and made a TV deal with Spielberg. Midwest girl makes good, but her family gets left behind. And I have NO IDEA if that’s fair. It probably isn’t fair AT ALL. There’s proably a lot more to the story that I don’t know because it is their private affair.

But I am human and I have unconsciously made the story about me.

Will wrote the first draft of our Sci-Fi/Action Mag 7 script by himself. That first draft is only vaguely like the version that everyone in town has passed on (“the writing’s great, but…”), but before I came in to do a draft I had a few weeks of abject terror: Will was going to be successful without me. Yes, I know how selfish that sounds.

Will was the golden child in his family. Everyone expected great things of him and he could do no wrong. (He doesn’t think this is true, but this is the story from my perspective.) Family friend Frannie, whom I have reviled in this here blog many a time, made certain that he got to Hollywood. She thought I would drag him down and she made sure I didn’t come with him. Obviously I did — eventually.

Will is something of a genius storyteller. A lot of people believe this. As well they should, it is absolutely true.

I am a hell of a writer. Before Will and I met, I was known for my taste in music (my mix tapes were legendary), my love of movies, and for being a writer. Plus some less important things (I was always the driver, for instance). Will was known for all those things too, and for some reason after we got together people only thought of him that way. Not everyone, but most people. This blog is pretty much the only place where I am the popular one, and only because he’s written just one entry here. In general I am fine with this. After all, I think Will is pretty spectacular. But sometimes I get annoyed. WHAT ABOUT ME? You know.

If Will had pursued a solo writing career last year, I would have died a little. My tiny drum would have broken some. I would have been left behind and I don’t know what would have happened.

We’ve written four screenplays together — one original is completed, two rewrites are done, and a second original is in rough draft, waiting for me to give it a pass (which I am not doing right now because of this whole strike thing). Will is now writing a novel. The other day my friend John called and I told him about Will’s novel. We spent a few minutes on how much we hate him for being 67,000 words in (I don’t think I have written 67,000 words total in my entire life, and I decided to be a writer when I was five), and then John, who knows me better than anyone not in my immediate family, asked if I didn’t feel left out. And surprisingly, I do not. Ask me again when Will is Michael Crichton, but I feel like this is a separate thing altogether. His. And I think it’s wonderful.

Last night Will and I went on our first date in more than 18 months. Andrea sent us as thanks for taking care of her kids the other week. It’s the first time we’ve left Sam with anyone but my mom for more than an hour, and the first time we’ve left him with anyone at bedtime. We went to the Arclight, had a cocktail, and saw Juno. It’s the best movie I’ve seen all year, and I know that’s not saying much since it’s the only movie I’ve seen all year, but it is really great.

What a Diff’rence a Night Makes

Sam

Yesterday I was so tired I thought I might just drop. I was supposed to go to the New Beverly for night #2 of the Wright Stuff film fest, a super-cool festival of double features chosen by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead). Last night was Flash Gordon and Danger Diabolik!, two of my favorite good-bad movies. Timothy fucking Dalton was to be there, in person. I really, really wanted to go! And I was invited to cover it for blogging.la — perfect!

Except, I didn’t even trust myself to drive the three miles to the theater. Seriously. Let alone to be personable and to stay awake through a double feature and Q & A. So I had to ask the group if someone else could cover it for me (Markland stepped in, because he is awesome like that).

So I missed out on a cool event and some Mama time. As rejuvenating as being away from the family for a few hours can be, I had to skip it. And I will tell you, I was terrified that Sam would keep me up all night again. I considered sleeping on the couch.

Bedtime went perfectly well, following a nice healthy dinner of popcorn. (Yes, for all three of us. Shut up.) I curled up on the sofa with my sewing (I am hand-stitching the binding of the lap quilt, the last thing to be done before I wash it and send it on its way) and Will came up and played God of War on the PS2. I was asleep by 9:30 or so, and woke up when he turned the game off at 10:30. I decided to come to bed, and Sam only came looking for milk once in the night.

Today I am feeling pretty fantastic, as you might imagine.