Friday, December 16, 2005

What I love and hate about Christmas

I love Christmas and think it's a beautiful time of year. There are tons of things I love about the season. And of course there are tons of things that drive me nuts. So, here you go, in no particular order, what I like and don't like about the season.

What I Like...
  • Multi colored lights
  • Lots of shiny things
  • Eggnong
  • Christmas trees
  • Candy canes
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and other 'classic' Christmas specials
  • Finding the perfect gift for people
  • Anticipating people's reactions to your gifts
  • Getting together with friends and family who live far away
  • People being a little more generous towards each other
  • The smell of pine trees
  • Hot cocoa with a shot of Dr. McGillicutty
  • Decorating Christmas cookies
  • Sharing holiday traditions and learning new ones
  • Acting like a 10 year old under the tree on Christmas morning
  • Writing letters to Santa with little kids
  • Cooking (and eating) large extravagant meals
  • Peppermintstick Icecream
  • Sitting in the living room with only the Christmas lights on and looking at the tree
  • White chocolate KitKats
  • Wearing my santa hat or reindeer ears for the entire month of December
  • Decorating the apartment
  • Spending a bit more than you normally would, because it's Christmas
  • Calories don't count during the holidays (Oh, I wish this was true!)
  • Making home made gifts
  • Singing Christmas carols (way off key in my case)

What I don't like...
  • Rampant consumerism
  • Forlorn, dying Christmas trees abondoned on the curb after New Years
  • People who don't put any thought into gifts
  • Commercials that make you feel bad if you don't take out a mortgage to buy Christmas presents (particularly jewelry and car commercials)
  • Being broke and not being able to give gifts
  • Not being able to spend as much time with people I really care about
  • Fighting for parking spots
  • People who go shopping in a bad mood
  • Feeling guilty if I don't spend enough or spend too much
  • Bill O'Reilly and the alleged War on Christmas
  • People who don't appreciate what you give them
  • Feeling generally stressed out
  • Updates of classic Christmas specials
  • Not having the time to do all the special little things you had planned to do
  • Christmas music in the stores 24/7
  • Feeling guilty for not sending Christmas cards to everyone
  • People of different faiths who are offended by receiving a Christmas card
  • Christians who don't understand that not everybody celebrates Christmas

Most of my dislikes revolve around how commercialized the holiday has become. I read an article in the local paper today that said the average American spends $700 on Christmas (including gifts, meals, and decorations). I'm not sure where they got their numbers, but I am certainly well below average.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Surcoat project - update

So I finished the surcoat for the Captain. It fit him well and he was quite plwased with my work. I asked if he thought the cross was crooked, and he didn't notice it. Whew! Here's a picture of the good captain in his knightly garb. I have to say this is a good look for him. I'm going to start the cloak after Christmas.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Decking the Halls

First off, let's get something out in the open. I'm one of those annoying people who really enjoys the holidays. I like a lot of the silly traditions. I like shiney objects and pretty blinky lights. Merry Christmas!

On Tuesday, my brother and I pulled out the decorations and put up the Christmas tree. I'm being a little generous here. I pulled out the decorations, assembled the tree, and then he got into putting up the decorations. This is my third year with an artificial tree. I do kind of miss the pine smell and feel of a real tree, but I don't miss having to constantly check the water and vacuuming up all the little needles that off because I can't seem to remember to keep an eye on the water. Also, the cats are far less inclined to climb a fake tree. Here it is in all its glory. And again with the lights off. A very fine tree, indeed!

We don't have a chimney in our apartment, so the stockings are hung on the stairwell with care. Our rather sterile stairwell itself has also been dressed up a little with green pine garland. And this year I put up my nativity scene. I'm pround of the lights. The figures themselves are clear glass. My mother gave me the set years ago. I drilled a few holes in a cookie tin and installed a small strand of Christmas lights. And there you have instant cheesey light up nativity scene. Have I mentioned I'm easily distracted by shineyt objects?

I own an amazing number of Christmas lights. Some I purchased, some were given to me, and some were left by roommates past. On strand was retired this year. With so many lights, I just didn't feel like chasing the burned out bulb. My brother hung some of the excess lights in the kitchen window. You can see these lights from the street. They look better from the outside. To complete the festive mood, I hung my silver instrument garland across the lving room entrance while my brother hung gold garland across the patio door. He even hung the lonely left over pine garland around the fish tank. To finish it off I hung the mistletoe in the middle of the living room. Right now it's some sad looking mistletoe, but this stuff has seen a few holidays come and go. It's been around. Ok, it's old and falling apart. I'll replace it at the first opputunity.

To anyone who actually reads this, I'm going to give my shameless plug. I started a CafePress store to support my pirate crew, Harlequin Specter. The procedes from the store will (hopefully) pay for the website and help with the buss project. If you're looking for unique gifts to give to your piratey friends, take a look at the Harlequin Specter merchandise store. I designed a special ornament just for the holidays. Here it is, hanging on my tree.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Templar Surcoat

The Captain will be knighting a small groug of children for a birthday party. Wanting to look the part of the knight, he wanted a tradtional crusaders surcoat. Museum Replicas is currently selling reproductions based on the movie Kingdom of Heaven. This is the set he originally wanted.

Given the time frame (1 week, keeping in mind I work a full time job), I realistically couldn't do the cloak and the surcoat. After talking with the Captain about what he wanted, I decided to just do the surcoat for the birthday party, and work on the cloak throughout the winter. I'd rather not rush through the cloak, plus I'd like to use a good quality fabric. A full sized hooded cloak will take 7-8 yards of fabric for the outer layer and then again for the liner.

The Captain supplied me with a nice thick off white cotton for the surcoat The plan was to line the surcoat with the same fabric. Unfortunately, as large as the fabric was, after drafting the pattern, there was not enough for a liner. I made a quick trip to the local fabric store and picked up 3 yards of unbleached cotton muslin for a liner. Here Chupa supervises as I rough out the surcoat pattern.

After cutting the pieces for the surcoat, the next task was to make the cross to be applied to the front. I searched on line and came up with a few images of what a templar cross should look like. Instead of the straight edges that Museum Replicas has, the ends of the templar cross are flanged. Since this cross is symetrical, I caould get away with making it in 2 pieces. I drew the cross freehand on a piece of dark red fabric and cut 4 pieces, 2 for the cross to go on the surcoat, and another 2 to for the cross on the cloak. Applying the cross was time comsuming and frustrating. I carefully floded over the edges and ironed them under. Then I pinned the cross pieces into position on the surcoat front and sewed around the edges of the cross. After all this, the cross is a bit crooked, not much, but enough for me to notice. Shhh...maybe Cap'n won't notice.
Sewing the 2 surcoat pieces together for both the outer layer and the liner was pretty easy. This is a very simple design. Next was to sew the liner into the outer layer. It took some time pinning everything into place, but was fairly uneventful.
Now that the surcoat was nearly complete, I just needed to put the split in the front and back. I simply cut up the center of the surcoat, from the bottom to about wasit level. After that i just folded the outer layer and liner in on themselves and sewed into place. And I have a completed knight's surcoat. Now I just await the Captain to try it on.
My sewing machine glows with pride