Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pengor's Christmas

Liza received a 3-foot-tall stuffed toy penguin as a gift from a family friend. Since she's only lukewarm on stuffed animals right now, she wasn't too upset when Pengor (as we christened it) wandered off to join the holiday festivities. Preparing for Christmas, helping pack and store the Christmas decorations, and blogging about it afterward - Pengor does it all!

With no further ado, I give you ... Pengor's Christmas!

(I recommend that you click on "Options" at the bottom right of the slideshow, and set it to show titles and comments)

We interrupt the Christmas cheer to bring you Too Much Information

It started in August.

It continued through October.

And November.

By early December my regular doctor was back to "well, maybe it's yeast, so here's some diflucan (again), but if it comes back you'd better go to a gynecologist." Oh, and I don't have diabetes.

I'm thinking that when the gynecologist I met yesterday asked, "How are you?" she probably wasn't expecting me to reply, "Great, if you ignore the last six months of fiery itching in my nether regions." I was supposed to say, "Fine, and you?" right? Darn my underdeveloped social skills!

After poking and prodding and culturing and sampling and answering a million questions, I got a "Well, I don't know what to tell you." That's doctor-speak for "WTF?" She doesn't think it's yeast, doesn't know what it would be other than yeast based on my symptoms, and since she doesn't know what it is, there's not much she can prescribe to help relieve the symptoms. Have a happy new year! And try not to scratch!

That ranks right up there with "Your cat has cancer - happy Thanksgiving!" on the list of "phrases you don't want to put on a holiday greeting card."

part 3 - bevy of photos

Making pumpkin pie and quiche to have when friends came to visit:
Enjoying an early Christmas present:

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care (in hopes they wouldn't set the house on fire)

Liza busts out the cupcakes right away (while I enjoy the minkie pajamas again):

Beloved sparkly stretchy dance shirt from Grandma, with veggies from Santa:

Beloved purple princess dress from Mom-Mom:

Musical jewelry box with dancing fairy ballerina and fairies on the lid:

Approximate number of hours she's worn something other than the purple dress or hot pink outfit since Christmas: 2 1/2

Part 2 - proof that I am not as heartless as I seem

... at least when it comes to candy on Christmas day.

See this? It's not even 8am

and I'm letting Liza have as much chocolate as she wants from her stocking (and mine, and her father's, and some of grandma and grandpa's, too).

And she's opening presents, and we haven't had breakfast (or even coffee) yet.

Thanks for making the "beautiful Clara nightdress," Grandma!

Friday, December 28, 2007

A multitude of Ralphs

Remember my snide comments about the original Ralph the Christmas angel? Dad did. Big Ralph lives with us now!
Dad also brought Micro Ralph, on the right below, next to the Mini Ralph from my tree. That's either a 50-cent piece or a silver dollar, I forget which - it's not a dime, Micro Ralph isn't THAT small. He's made to the scale of the dollhouse my father started when I was a kid, the dollhouse that's still not finished, yet my parents keep trying to dump it at my house so the two-year-old can wreck it. Not so fast, there, buckos. Let's let her trash the $2 plastic one you found at the yardsale first, and then we'll give her access to the expensive handmade one.

Catching up - Christmas edition, part 1 of many

From Liza's preschool Christmas party, where she got to watch the older kids perform:

... and see Santa, up close and personal. Apparently, the secret is a good Santa, and bribery with candy canes. Worked like a charm!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Jason got me ...

The bumper sticker:

The table runner (a similar style and color):

The t-shirt:

The hoodie:

The mobile:

Not pictured - other cool things I can't find photos of online, so you'll have to wait for me to upload the 1.5 million shots from today.
All from etsy, btw, and all sooooooo cool. Feel free to admire and covet :)

Monday, December 24, 2007


Let's all just close our eyes and pretend this is a touching, heartfelt Christmas post, hmmmmkay? Because I've got more cookies to eat and presents to open, so no time to write an actual touching, heartfelt Christmas post.

Plus, I haven't had time to edit the Pen-Gor photos yet. More on that to come!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I'm having one of those days where every thing I start to do gets derailed by something 30 seconds later.

I start to tidy the dining room, and suddenly realize I haven't responded to a friend's e-mail about coming to visit on Sunday.

I tidy the living room, and instead I end up writing two blog posts and a couple Christmas cards.

The phrase, "Oh, shit, I forgot to ..." features quite prominently in my internal monologue today. Gahhhhhhh

On a more positive note, I'm getting lots of little stuff done, some of which has literally been sitting on my desk for months (followup to this, for example, has been waiting on the side of my desk since July - if there was an Olympic event for procrastination, I'd medal, for sure).

Never dull around here

I don't even want to know the story behind this one ...

Dear Parents of My Daughter's Classmates:

Your kid is two. You, of all people, should know that what my two-year-old daughter needs around the holidays is NOT more sugar, especially when it comes in a form that is both chocolatey and stain-inducing. I already have to use a spatula to pry her off the ceiling to lay down for naps, and let's not even discuss bedtime, and I have to answer "Can I have a cookie? One cookie? Just one? How about two? Later? Now? Right now? Can I have a cookie?" at least 45 times a day.

Thanks to your choice of Token Christmas Gift for Your Child's Preschool Classmates, I now get to answer "Can I have some candy? Pleeeeeeeeeeeese can I have just one piece? One piece? Two pieces? Right now? I want some candy riiiiiiiight nooooooooow!" 1000 times ... and that's just since we got home from school at noon.

Enough already with the candy-stuffed Cute Commemorative Stuffed Character Christmas Stockings. After two years in preschool, Liza already has about 10 of them, and the combined weight of the stockings and candy is threatening to make the mantle collapse and burst into flames. You don't really want to leave us homeless and destitute for the holidays, do you?

For the same money, you could have bought books for everyone in the class, or stickers, or coloring books, or Hot Wheels. Those are cute, and age-appropriate, and festive. But no, you had to provide her with yet another sugar high.

You're on warning, parents - next time I see you bringing a candy-filled stocking near my daughter, I'm going to tell you exactly where you can stuff it. Either that, or I'm making you babysit AND clean my carpet.


Ungrateful and proud of it

Oh, and thanks for this, too:

Brings new meaning to the phrase, "Bah, humbug!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Off my butt

Go forth and fairy-fy the land!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Public service announcement

  • Yes, ski pants ARE necessary if you want to be able to feel the fronts of your thighs after shoveling the driveway when it's 26 degrees outside.
  • No, it is not a good idea to let the kid climb the ladder on her swingset while wearing fleece mittens without nonslip palms.
  • Yes, it is necessary to force the kid to sit on the potty BEFORE putting on the snowsuit, even if she claims she doesn't have to go. She's wrong.
  • Yes, when the toddler has an accident outside, it is preferable to dump the urine out of BOTH snowboots BEFORE you come inside.
  • Yes, our outside holiday decorations will now include a snowshovel, a box of pet-safe salt, and a box of cat litter. Maybe I can make them more festive by tying bows around them ...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weather update

It finally stopped snowing, with just enough light left to clear the driveway and sidewalks (and throw snowballs at each other, of course).

PTA Christmas Party

Friday evening was the early childhood PTA Christmas party, and Liza was so excited about the idea of going to a party (where she was assured there would be cupcakes and juice boxes) that she kept hounding me about it all day. "Potty? Potty? Can we go to the potty NOW?" Shame those two words sound so much alike, at least coming out of a two-year-old's mouth.

She only had about 45 minutes of nap that day, and I knew this party was going to be packed (80 families, most with several children), so I was fully prepared to bail at the first sign of meltdown. Predictably enough, we got there, the place was packed, the DJ had the Christmas music blaring, and Liza wanted nothing to do with crafts or anything that didn't involve clinging to me with both hands, both legs, and a couple other bits I'm not sure I can even identify.

And then we got her a snack and a juice box, and suddenly all was right with the world and she could go out and act like a normal kid. She was one giant cupcake-fueled blur for the next two hours.

One of the party organizers had brought a whole bunch of toddler toys from home, and Liza was determined to make the most of the opportunity.

The flurry of running ceaselessly from one toy to the next was interrupted only by a trip to see Santa, who had a cheap costume and a bad beard, but nonetheless managed to scare the crap out of my kid.

"Santa give Liza a gift. That nice man."

"No, you stay over there, Santa."

All three of us are looking at the camera, and we're close enough that Santa is actually in the shot with us, so that counts as a success, right?

I still can't believe how well it went. She had a great time, managed to not screw up her expensive dress (although it's going to take some doing to get the grey scunge off the feet of her tights from running around without shoes on for two hours in a middle school cafeteria), and handled the crowd and the other kids well. She took turns, moved out of the way so the babies could get to the slide, and whined very little.

Of course, since Jason and I know absolutely no one in the PTA, we got to stand around like dorks for two hours while the kid played ... but at least we got pizza and soda out of it.

Is there an emoticon for "giant heaving sobs"?

At 2pm I'm supposed to bring 9 dozen cookies to a cookie exchange party. There will be adult conversation and adult beverages. After baking 9 dozen cookies, I am greatly in need of both.
Unfortunately, this is what it looks like outside my front door.

So, anyone have an emoticon a little stronger than :( ? Because I could use it, preferably one that has an associated sound file of me banging my head on the desk repeatedly, muttering "why today? WHY TODAY??"

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tips for holiday cookies

Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that you've agreed to come to a cookie exchange party BEFORE you realize that instead of the "just bring one batch of cookies and take home a few of everyone else's cookies" approach, the host has decided on "bring one dozen cookies for each attendee." And there are 10 of us going to the party. Ulp.

So now you're on the hook for 10 dozen cookies - 120, plus extras for snacking and kid distraction and breakage and more snacking. Call it 140 cookies. Okay, 150.

How does one manage to make 150 cookies without losing one's sanity? I got two words for you, baby: Cookie Press.

I'm not exactly a whiz with this thing - in the past I have ended up doing more cursing than pressing, and I wasn't super-happy with how they tasted. But faced with the choice between scooping out 150 balls of something, or trying to convince the dough to work in the press, I took my chances with the press.

Two batches of cookies (one vanilla, one orange spice) later, I can authoritatively say that the cookie press kicks some serious mass-production ass ... if you've got the right recipe, at the right temperature, with the right plate in the press, and you stand on one foot while chanting "I must not freak in front of my daughter" under your breath. If the moon is in the right phase and your humidity is below 54%, you can get four dozen cookies on trays, ready to bake, in 10 minutes flat. Even when you have just returned from a four-hour return trip from IKEA, thanks to the snowstorm that sprung up while you were ordering kitchen cabinets and trying to keep your kid from peeing in the ball pit.

Ahem. Anyway, now I have more than enough cookies for the party, the misshapen ones have been stuck in the kid-accessible location, and the cursing wasn't nearly as bad as in the past. Now, if I could just get over the fact that the spice ones look like pupae of some sort ...

Good thing I didn't overbake any of them ... they totally would look like cat clunkers. Hee. I haven't used the phrase "cat clunkers" since I moved out of my parents house, where the dog was known to occasionally forage for snacks in the cat box. Now there's a mental image you wanted for the holidays, right?

Friday, December 14, 2007

In the car the other night

"So, Liza, what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?"

"I want Santa to bring me a ... a ... a pink dress to wear on the tightrope."

"Oh, that's neat. What does a pink tightrope dress look like?"

"It's pink, with sparkles, with a big poofy skirt, and poofy sleeves, and a wand, and a crown, and pink ballet shoes that will make me dance like a beautiful princess ... on a tightrope."

"Is there anything else you want Santa to bring?"

"Ummmm, maybe a lollipop."

"Is Santa going to bring anything for Daddy? What do you think Daddy would want?"

"Santa is going to bring Daddy a burger with a hot dog on it. And sauce."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More holiday shopping

Alright, I don't know if this technically counts as handmade, but it is from a smaller company, and it is made in the USA, and it does support fellow moms-with-ideas, so I'm prepared to count it.
In the interest of prodding my daughter away from fairies and princesses (and toward clothing that might protect her from frostbite in the coming months), I purchased the following from Little Capers:
That's a long-sleeve t-shirt with generic super hero logo on the front, and a detachable cape on the back. Hurray for non-licensed superheroes! Hurray for capes! Hurray for washable costumes that can be worn in public and will fit in the carseat!

This is not a cheap gift, but if it's something that she can wear every day which will forestall at least part of the "you have to take that off to eat/sleep/go outside" arguing, it will be worth every penny. Assuming that she will wear it at all, mind you. She'll probably use it to top off that god-awful poofy ballet skirt I'm making, which will serve me right, I guess, but maybe, just maybe, I can get her to wear a pair of jeans. Once.

Little Capers come in various generic superhero styles (you've got to check them out - the Saturn one is soooooo cool!), in sizes from 6 months up to 6 years. Available at local boutiques in many states, the shirts are also available for purchase direct from the company at .

Kitchen Kapers

Okay, I haven't been keeping up with this, so there's a lot to discuss. Try to keep up, okay?

- Yes, we're doing it, gulp-inducing pricetag and all. And we're not skimping, despite the fact that skimping would bring us closer to NOT being hideously overbudget. We decided that the skimping was going to end up giving us a kitchen we're not happy with, and what's the point in spending large chunks of money to end up with a kitchen that still kinda sucks? I'll compromise on things that don't matter much to me or that are easy to upgrade later on ... like the cabinet doors. We're saving $700 by going with the Stat design instead of the Lindigo design. If we decide we don't like the Stat after all, we can buy Lindigo replacement doors for not much more than the original price difference ... and there's always the chance that we'll like the cheap ones. Either way, I'd rather bite the bullet and get the kitchen that will make me happy ... until I end up in the poorhouse, where I'll be miserable until the end of my days.

- So yes, we're getting Corian, and yes, we're having them tile the backsplash with a design that's mostly cheap tile but includes some expensive glass tiles too, and yes, we're doing (engineered) hardwood floors for the entire entry level of the house, except by the front door where it will be slate.

- Work starts January 7th, so I'll be getting progressively crankier and more manic as that day approaches. Before then we need to empty out all of the cabinets in the kitchen, move out all of the books and furniture and china from the dining room and living room, and set up a temporary kitchen down in the basement. It's sort of like camping, trying to figure out what kitchen equipment we can live without for 6-8 weeks, and what we can eat when we're likely to only have a microwave and maybe a stove sometimes. We've scored some old printer paper boxes from a friend who just moved, and Liza has been having a good time making forts out of them in our living room.

- I'm starting to make some microwaveable meals that I can freeze to have on hand for when the kitchen is out of commission entirely, which should hopefully be less than 6 weeks. I plan to be thoroughly sick of soup by the end of February. By the way, restaurant gift certificates make excellent holiday gifts for me, Jason, and Liza, should anyone need suggestions for what to get us :)

-I'm going to have a giant dumpster and a port-a-potty parked in my driveway for six weeks. THAT'S going to make me popular with the neighbors.

- I'm putting my parents to work over Christmas (so, what else is new?). Mom will be on toddler wrangling patrol, and Dad's going to be helping us paint the living room ... and the dining room ... and the hallway ... and maybe some parts of the kitchen ... This will be the first time in my life that I have purchased paint in a 5-gallon bucket. I can't wait to get the paint up, if only to get rid of the giant test swatches I painted in the living room, the dining room, and the hallway. Incomplete paint jobs make my eyes bleed - and I'm stuck looking at this for another two weeks. Bleah.

- Jason's going to be out of town three different times during the remodeling project. I hereby reserve the right to decamp to a nice hotel if things get too blech at our house while he's gone. I'm sure there's a nice place in Aruba somewhere ...

Y'all are weird

Okay, my daughter may be the one running around declaring that she's Clara (from The Nutcracker) and Herr Drosselmeyer needs to come get her out of bed to go to the potty, but some of my readers are ever weirder than that.

The person who searched for "pecker cupcake pan" - weird.

The 12% of my recent readers who get here by searching for "feet" in google images in Italy, Canada, Australia, and a couple other places - weird. And kind of freaking me out a little bit.

The person who searched for "cervix speculum womyn" - probably disappointed by what s/he found. Also, weird, because normal people spell it "women," dude. But thanks to him/her, I now know that if you google that phrase, I'm the fourth result. Um, yay?

I am in love with the Yarn Harlot

If only for the following sentences:

Sam was a toddler and everyone with kids has been that mother who had to remove her kid from the gym because they threw a fit when you insisted that it was the Choir leaders turn to play the piano and they really didn't need any help and your toddler, barely holding it together after the piano disappointment, decided the secondary activity should be lying on the floor licking the road salt off of the boots of strangers, and when you saw them doing that you threw up in your mouth a bit and then had to leave with your thrashing, wailing kid under your arm because it turns out that LITERAL boot licking is the only thing that they want to do, and when you picked them up off the floor and gently tried to distract them from that unspeakable activity, the kid had a meltdown that made a failed nuclear reactor look like a small problem, so you flee to the hall way. Then you're there. Sitting in the hall outside the gym, listening to the concert going on without you and you think "Wow. Nobody else is in the hall with a boot licking toddler" and suddenly it hits you...this mothering thing is not going to work out because you suck and your kids a freak? I know you have had that day. My day was Tuesday December 17th, 1996. I will never forget it.

Find the rest of the post here.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sorry, Susan

But I gave up and had to take Elmo back for a trade. And, thanks to the SOBs who designed the Macy's girls' department with the Disney dress-up clothes right up front, we are now the proud owners of one Sleeping Beauty Princess Aurora gown, original price $60 (but we got it on sale, so you can stop hyperventilating now, Mom).

At the store:

"Liza, these sleeves are made of scratchy netting. Are you sure they won't itch you when you wear the dress?"

"Not scratchy! Liza looooooooves this dress!"

At home:

"This dress is a little bit scratchy, Mommy. Oh, well - I just won't wear it to bed."

Well, you can't argue with that, I guess. In order to preserve the dress a little longer than her previous dress-up clothes (may most of them rest in peace, er, pieces), she can't wear it outside, or when she eats, or to bed ... at least until after Christmas. I'm not THAT much of a hard-ass ... it's just that it IS nice to see her wear regular clothing at least once a day. That's not asking much, is it? And if I don't set some sort of limits, I'm going to be trying to fit her winter coat over the damn fairy wings so we can go to the grocery store, and I'm just not willing to go there yet.

Oh, and who replaced my toddler with a pre-teen? Because, my god, will you look at her?

She looks like she's ready to go to prom or something. Gahhhhhhhhhh. Jason, where'd you put the phone numbers for the convents?

Work in progress - (almost) no sew fairy skirt

That's four yards of tulle, in case you were wondering, which have since been joined by 20 yards of ribbon, with another yard of shiny stuff that shreds whenever I touch it still to come. And jingle bells, if the kid will let me (we're in negotiations right now).

Talk about the easiest birthday/Christmas/whatever present in the history of princess-obsessed little girls ... that's less than an hour's worth of work, and that was WITH the "help" of the two-year-old.

I didn't come up with the idea, but I'll be posting (free!) illustrated directions over on the Lazy Mama site later this week, or whenever I finish futzing around with the skirt. First I have to get it back from Her Royal Fairy Princess Ballerina, or whatever she is today.


As far as I can recall, this year is my first experience with building a gingerbread house. My mother's opinion of gingerbread houses was always, "Way too much work for something you can't eat," so we never got around to doing one.

Never one for authenticity, I skipped straight to the "fun" part by buying a prebaked kit that included candies AND PREMADE ICING (thank you, Wally World!). I've been meaning to get off my butt and do it as a craft project with Liza, but we just haven't had enough time when we've both been in a good mood and haven't had any pressing errands or appointments.

Until this morning.

Yes, I am wearing lavender Minkie pajamas**, courtesy of my mother-in-law's Christmas gift and my firm belief in staying in my jammies as late as I legitimately can on the weekend. And my daughter is wearing (what else?) her Halloween costume.

See that? The candy isn't even open yet, and already she's gone goofy on us.

True to expected toddler behavior, Liza ate twice as many candies as she put on the house, and I had to shoo her away when she lost interest and finish the decorating myself in order to keep her from going into total sugar shock. But I did let her decorate as much as she wanted to, and I refrained from telling her where to put stuff or rearranging things after she left, so I count it as a success. Plus, the sucker hasn't fallen down yet - bonus!

Apparently, the bug-eyed aliens decided to invade Candy Land today ...
Liza was in favor of the "eat candy" part of this craft, if nothing else. I think she probably enjoys sticking foamies onto paper more than sticking candy onto frosting, but this was a nice change of pace. Plus, it was only $9 :)

**Thank you, Susie! Minkie pajamas = heaven. Dear reader, run, do not walk, to your nearest department store and buy some. So soft, so warm, and so polyester, meaning they shouldn't shrink. Plus, if we all work together and walk around on wool carpet while wearing them, we could power most of the country with the electricity we generate.

Lord, where do I begin?

How about with a then-and-now:

Then: January 2007, Liza helps make pizza (see original post here)

Now: December 2007, Liza helps make pizza

She's still eating more onions than she's putting on the pizza, and I dare not let her anywhere near the shredded cheese if we want any to NOT end up in her gullet, but we're making progress.

And that last photo? Priceless. See? She does look like Jason around the eyes.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Holiday shopping for the kid, part 2

Next up on the fake-food roundup - crocheted "two-bite" cupcakes from pukashell creative designs.

I don't even know where to start with these. They're so tiny! They're so cute! They come packaged in a miniature muffin pan that is both tiny and cute!

I really waffled about buying these for Liza, since tiny amigurumi cupcakes aren't exactly labor-intensive. However, I decided that by the time I went out and bought the right colors of yarn (which I don't have) and the muffin tin (which I don't have) and the buttons (oh, the buttons! So cute! So not in my stash!) and finally sat down to make the things, not only would it be as expensive as buying them online, but I'd never get around to it and would end up with a bunch of yarn and buttons that never got used.

So, support a fellow etsy artist, keep my stash smaller, save time - what's not to love?

The only downside for you guys is that the artist doesn't have any currently in stock in her store, although there are some really cute larger cupcake playsets available, and the polymer clay jewelry that looks like dessert is pretty cute for older kids.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

So, what's the kid getting this holiday?

First in a series of posts in which I chronicle the stuff I've managed to find for Liza (2 1/2) as part of our "Buy Handmade" holiday.

Disclaimer: I wanted to get her a shopping cart for Christmas, and handmade isn't really an option there. Wood would break a toe when she dropped it on her foot, and there aren't too many handcrafted plastic artisans around. So we bought one from Lead R Us, after ascertaining that the used ones on eBay cost more with shipping than new ones do, and the really used ones on craigslist were junky. I defend my decision to buy Cheapo Plastic Crap because I fully intend to run this thing into the ground, then pass it on via a consignment store or craigslist, so at least I'm going to reduce, reuse, or recycle it. Plus, it's coming from Santa, not me.

First featured item: Handmade felt fruits and veggies from handmade on

All of the stuff that Santa is bringing goes along with the grocery cart - I'm trying to replace her Crappy Plastic Food with Fewer, Nicer Food That Doesn't Hurt As Much When You Step On It. When I saw the felt cat-toys that fellow Cleveland artist handmade makes, I immediately asked if she could do me a custom listing without the catnip. She was happy to comply.

The basket of fruits and veggies she made for us is so cute - even better in person than her beautiful photographs make it look. The corn cracks me up, with the husks and all. And the little picnic basket is soooo darling - I'm hoping Liza feels the same when she opens it. If not, I guess I've got a new decoration for my studio (or my kitchen, assuming we ever get around to starting the remodel).

Anyhow, stop by her shop and check out her stuff - and tell her I sent you! She won't give you a discount or anything, but at least I'll feel like I'm making a contribution to the Cleveland artistic economy :)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Stupid post went to the wrong place

See what happens when I start a post one day and finish it the next? It posts on the day it was started, beneath the stuff I've written in the meantime, so nobody will ever see it.

Check out Tree-riffic. It's funny.


I have very little interest in politics, and couldn't care less about most primary races, even presidential ones. I don't care which candidates get nominated, mostly because I'll be voting AGAINST one party, regardless of who is on the ticket.

That said, after reading this, Obama's got my vote. If I lived in a state where the primary election made any difference at all, that is, or I even knew which day the primary was going to be held.

Check it out - it has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with yarn.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


One of the first decorations on our tree this year was a set of felt ornaments I've made each year, using Liza's handprints and the year to show how much she's growing. **
It's an idea I totally ripped off from my crafty friend Sybil, only my version doesn't require gallons of fray-check and a huge leather thimble. This year is the first that Liza has actually understood the whole idea (sort of), and she's been very excited about showing off how big her hand is compared to the ornaments from past years.

Liza had a good time putting decorations on the tree today. We put up most of the breakable ones on the upper branches while she was napping, and let her go to it on the lower branches with the less delicate ornaments.
She also had a chance to put ornaments on the little tree for her room, which is actually in her room this year, despite the fact that we decorated it in the living room (so she could pick which ornaments she wanted for which tree). Note the look indicating the level of fiendish concentration required to get tiny metal hooks to attach to a plastic tree ...
I think this photo pretty much sums up the experience - that girl was on the go. She'd have been hanging ornaments with both hands and a foot, if she could have gotten the hooks to work that way.

**interested in the felt ornaments? They're pretty easy to make from the photo above if you're at all crafty, or you could buy a custom one from my etsy shop. Eleven dollars gets you a cherished keepsake, made from your child's actual handprint. Beat that, plastic Hallmark ornaments!