Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Home Tour

At Christmas 2012, I wrote a post about a friend who wouldn't post pictures of her completed Pinterest projects because she didn't want people to see that her house was not "up to par" with the beautiful homes she saw on-line.  To encourage her, and demonstrate that most of us don't live in those professionally staged homes, my sister and I posted pictures of our Christmas decorations.   This year, Sister Teri asked me to join her Holiday Home Touragain, and invite you all in to see my decorations.    So here goes . . .

We are not hosting any holiday gatherings this year - we will all be traveling to gather at our daughters' home in New Mexico - so my decorating was affected in a couple ways.  Our home is small, and when we are planning to fill it with family, space becomes a factor in decorating.  Since it's just the two of us this year, I found room for four Christmas trees.

There's the traditional tree in front of the living room window:

Ok, if we're going to discuss imperfect homes,let's pause for a moment and consider those ridiculous, too-short sheers on the window.  The drapes and sheers were both purchased for our previous house that had transoms above the living room and dining room windows, so the sheers were hung lower to show them off.  I re-purposed them in this house just to get the windows covered - and three years later, they're still there.  It's time to shop the after-Christmas sales for some floor-length window coverings.

Back to the tree.  Now that the children are grown and I don't decorate with their ornament collections, I went a little nutty at last year's post-Christmas sale at Hobby Lobby and loaded up on red, gold and aqua balls.    When I reached this point in the decorating, Dave suggested that the tree was full.  "But I still have more ornaments!"  Once I stepped back a bit, I agreed that this tree was probably finished.  On to the next one:

The second tree, in my sewing/crafting area in the basement (the "Mom-Cave", as Amanda calls it) is decorated with home-made decorations.  Folded fabric trees, felt cardinals, paper pieced Santas, and origami ornaments from paper and fabric.  (If you've never seen fabric origami, hang around because I'm planning to post about it - eventually.)   

Tree #3 is in the kitchen - did I mention that Hobby Lobby had small ornaments on sale also?  And yes, that is a Charlie Brown advent calendar and yes, I am the youngest one in the house.  What's your point?

And then there's the retro-aluminum tree that I adore - complete with color wheel.  The kids don't get it, but to me it's going to Grandma's house all over again.  The only space left was the guest room, but since on one will be using it . . .  

Once it was assembled, I realized that, even if no guests were using the room, we couldn't get to the closet.  So I removed the branches from the back half of the tree and moved it against the wall.  Brilliant!  The tree skirt is actually a vintage apron.

The flip side of the no-guests Christmas is that, once the trees were up, I lost steam.  Dragging out more boxes, unpacking decorations, repacking the usual decor and doing it all again in a few weeks didn't sound that attractive when no one was around to appreciate the effort.  The Polar Express display, most of the Santa collection, the greenery and a dozen other misc. items are still in the storage room.  I did break out the Charlie Brown tree and a few other favorites.

The nativity on the top shelf is one I ordered from the Sears catalog -  back when they had a catalog.  This is it's thirty-second Christmas - pretty remarkable that it's made all the moves without a chip.  The nativity on the second shelf belonged to my mother-in-law - a gift from her 5th-grade son, who made it at school.   Considering that son has been married to me for 32 years, it's even more remarkable that it's still around.  A few of my favorite Christmas books, and Santas decorate the lower shelves and the buffet.

One more thing.  In the picture of the CB tree, did you notice the little "snow girl" inside the cabinet?   Years ago, a friend of Dave's mother made these ornaments, using Dee's grandchildren's pictures for the faces. It's hard to get a shot through the glass, but Mitch and Amanda are braving a blizzard of paper snowflakes.

That's it for the 2014 Holiday Home Tour. Thanks for stopping by.  Stop by Teri's house and see how she's preparing for her crew to celebrate.  Then post some pictures of your own holiday preparations and leave a link in the comments.  We would really love to see how you decorate for the season.  If you aren't up for pictures, tell us about your favorite holiday decoration.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tangled Thursday: Negative Space

It's been a while since the Tangled Thursday gang had a challenge, so I'm glad we are back on track.  I've been so busy on other projects that the Zentangle supplies have been abandoned.  I was excited to get them back out, but I have to admit, I was a little rusty.

The challenge for this week was "negative space" - fill the area around an object rather than filling in the object. To get back in the swing, I decided to revisit an idea used for my very first Tangled Thursday submission - a daisy on a background of blocks - this time featuring a little Christmas joy.

Visit our hostess, Heather, at Books & Quilts to see all the "negative" drawings.  And leave a link to your own art work, if you choose.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cleaning House

I'm sure every blogger has her own way of keeping track of ideas for blog posts.  For me, the easiest way is to start a draft and put in a few words, a quote, or a link to whatever inspired the idea.  If I'm not near the computer, I store them as a note in my phone.  It's a decent system - - except when I wait to long and then can't remember what my notes mean.  So occasionally a little housekeeping (blogkeeping?)  is called for.  Here are some ideas that will never make it to the blog page.

1.  I really can't imagine where my head was when I wrote this.  Seriously, this is all that was on the draft:
English - very annoyed, angry
urban dictionary - pissed (british) - drunk
Obviously, I was pondering the difference in the meaning of words between American English and British English.  But why that word?  Was I annoyed and/or angry?  Don't think I was drunk.  So ... I hope that tidbit of information is helpful to you in some way.

2.  I had a draft titled "The Best Day in Parenting".  This one I at least have a vague idea why I wrote it.  It was the day that our daughter, Amanda, admitted that she had no clue why she did most of the stuff she did during jr. high and high school.  I remember thinking all the sleepless nights and headaches and screaming matching had finally paid off - I was right all along.  Vindication!  Not sure how I was going to get an entire post from that.  

3.  "I Hate That Word"  This draft has been hovering around for several years.  The idea started when I read the work "bulwark" in a book.  Not a word you run into often and it struck me as an ugly word.  It's clunky on the tongue and grating to the ear.   So, I decided to start a list of words I hate and words I love, adding on as I ran across them, until the list was long enough for a post.  After all this time the lists were : 

Hate:  bulwark and jaguar
Love:  lovely and feckless (especially when spoken with a Scottish or British accent)

Then there was the enigmatic line:  "quote from 'Secret Lives of Dresses'".  I remember the book - loved it.  But I didn't write down the quote and I have no idea what it was and I'm not even sure where I got the book - probably the public library - so that I can go back and look it up.  So if you happen to be reading that wonderful book and you run across a great quote about words, please let me know.

4.  " Frustration:  The feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something.

That would be me.  Recently, life feels like a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut-butter.  I'm driving a sports car and everyone around me is driving an Edsel."

Beyond that sparkling bit of writing, I have no idea what I wanted to accomplish by telling you about my frustrations.  So, consider yourself informed that I'm frustrated with the speed at which life is moving lately - too fast in some areas and frustratingly slow in others."  My "Life Under Construction" project is one of the s-l-o-o-o-o-w areas - but I'm not giving up.  I'll keep you posted.

Well, I feel much better for having cleaned out that blogging closet.  Left on the shelf are some serious thoughts on books, feminism, handwriting, faith, what makes a family, spaces that foster creativity, and The Saturday Evening Post.  So you have that to look forward to in the new year. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Scooby-Dooby-Do, Where Are You?

I'm still here, just incredibly busy.  Don't tell anyone, but I do a lot of my blogging at work when things are slow but, due to continual problems with our new computer system, I have been swamped.  Time at home has been filled with holiday preparations and working on several Christmas gifts.  There won't be any Christmas gatherings at my house this year so I'm taking advantage of the chance to change up my decorating a little.  For the first time, I have a full-size tree in my sewing/crafting room and I am using only hand-made ornaments.

In the process, I have discovered a new obsession:  origami.  I frequently have lunch at the Chinese buffet near my office, and one of the ladies who works there makes and displays incredibly intricate origami creations, and they inspired me to give it a shot.  Here are my VERY beginner-level creations.

Origami "bows" . . .

and snowflakes . . .

and stars . . .

and wreaths . . .

that convert to "ninja stars".

I've also made paper-pieced Santas, folded fabric Christmas trees . . .

and a Charlie Brown tree skirt.

Today we are at Mitch's for a belated Thanksgiving celebration.  I'm not a fan of Black Friday shopping, but we did make a couple stops late in the day, after the crowds had thinned, and purchased a couple gifts.  We'll return home tomorrow and, hopefully, l'll find time to finish making Christmas gifts and still meet you here for a chat.

How are your Christmas preparations going?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Planes, Trains and Automobiles . . .

The plan was for our daughter, Amanda, to travel from her new home in New Mexico to Manhattan, Kansas to surprise her brother to celebrate his 24th birthday. She would board Amtrak at noon on Wednesday and arrive in Topeka at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday.  One of her best friends would meet the train and they would get some quality time before I came to pick her up on Friday.  Saturday was the big birthday surprise and she would depart from Kansas City on Sunday to fly back to Albuquerque.  That seems like a pretty straight forward plan . . . Oh, how wrong we were!

We start on the train.  The Amtrak Southwest Chief left Albuquerque at noon.  At about midnight, Amanda texted that she had just passed through Syracuse, Kansas, where we used to live - right on schedule.   At 1:01 a.m. she called - in tears of frustration.  A Burlington-Northern train had derailed near Hutchinson, KS, blocking the track and keeping Amtrak from reaching it's next few stops - including Topeka.  The train would have to detour south, into Oklahoma, and back north to Kansas City.  An additional eight hours on the train and ending up in the wrong city were not making for a happy woman. Fast forward an hour or two and multiple calls to Amtrak Customer Service (who, btw, were angels!)  - and a new plan was formed. 

While I was chatting with Amtrak concerning our options, Amanda made her own plan.  A 17-year-old girl had also boarded the train at Albuquerque, on her way to Salina, KS to visit a friend she met at camp.  The friend and her mother were driving to pick her up.  Since the train could not get to their intended meeting place, they were driving on to Hutchinson.  As you can imagine, the poor girl was terrified of waiting alone.  She asked Amanda to stay with her while she waited for her ride and they would give Amanda a ride as far as Salina -- about 100 miles from Topeka.  Deal!  Amanda's wonderful BFF left Topeka at 3:30 a.m. and was waiting in Salina when she arrived - and the plan was back on track.

Until Sunday . . .
Her flight left Kansas City at 11:45 - so we subtracted driving time, plus the usual hour pre-flight check-in and determined we needed to leave at 9:00 a.m.  Wrong.  We needed to leave by 8:30 or possibly 8:00.  We realized the math error about halfway to the airport and Dave did his best impersonation of a NASCAR driver, but we arrived 25 minutes before departure and they refused to let her on the plane.  I understood their point that the luggage had already been loaded, so I offered to keep her bag (she'll be home again in 2 weeks) if they would just put her on the plane.  No dice.  Even though we could see the plane still sitting at the gate, a rule is a rule no matter how stupid, so we booked her on a flight out the next morning and took her home.  She and Dave left at 3:00 a.m. to make sure she made this flight - which she did with an hour to spare.  And once again the plan is  moving smoothly.  

Until Houston . . .

She landed in Houston with a short layover to change planes - - - but the new plane had no pilot.  They couldn't find him?  Or maybe he arrived for HIS connecting flight 5 minutes too late.  Whatever the reason, the waited 40 minutes for him to be located.  Then there was a "mechanical issue" with the plane.  Considering the timing, we had to wonder of "mechanical issue" is code for giving the pilot time to sober up.  Whatever the case, she took off an hour and a half late.  

Alls well that ends well, right?  We got to have a wonderful weekend with the kids, and have a story to tell and re-tell.   Mitched enjoyed his birthday - - Amanda arrived home in time for her job interview - - - and the saga of planes, trains and automobiles was over. 

Until Wednesday, when Amanda blew a tire on her car.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Quilt of Life

On Saturday, I wrote a post about giving up on quilting.  I won't bother to recap it here - if you are interested, you can find it here.  Basically, it's about doing what I enjoy rather than what I think I should be doing. 

Diane from DianeLoves2Quilt left a beautiful comment.  As often happens, Diane's comment was better than my post.  Here is what she wrote:

What's in a name? What is a quilter? Yes, it is someone who makes quilts, but how do you define quilt? It is much more than a large bed sized combination of fabric layers that is harder to push though the harp space of a domestic sewing machine than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. There are small landscape wall hangings, there are place mats, there are vests, aprons, table runners ,etc. that still fit the classical definition of a small quilt.
And then there is the non-classic, but equally valid definition of quilting ... the piecing together of different aspects of life. I love your book reviews, your Zentangle posts, your points of view on life under construction. If this is not the patchwork of life, then what is?
We all have projects we do not like. Maybe they are a requested color palette for someone else that we ourselves do not care for. Maybe it is a technique that is just not our preference. I love the look of paper piecing and have tried it but it does not float my boat to do it. There are so many worthy books out there that I have given my self permission to not finish those that I have given a fair chance and still hold no appeal to me. You are not quitting because you are not a quitter. You are making a wise choice based on getting to know yourself better. So, by your tight definition, you say you are not a quilter. If you define quilter that way then maybe in your mind you are not. Well change that "l" to a "t" and you are not a quitter, either.

Well said, Diane!  You made me rethink my definition of a quilter. defines the verb "quilt" as "to stitch together, usually in an ornamental pattern."  That definition covers a much wider variety of projects than just a bed cover.  And though I doubt I ever make a large quilt after the two I have in progress, many of the projects I make are a form or derivative of quilting.  

There is a quote, which I have used before but can no longer remember the source, that says "Love what you love without apology."  That quote wraps up the joy of living in the second half.  I" am not limited by anyone else's opinion of what I read or listen to or create.  I will "piece together the aspects of my life" into a pattern that pleases me - and that's enough.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Throwing in the Towel . . . or the Quilt Block

One of the up sides to life in the "second half", is self-awareness.  I've had 50+ years to get to know myself - what I like, what I can do, what I want to do . . .  And sometimes that includes knowing when and what to give up. 

I began quilting in 2002 - starting by hand piecing and quilting a small wall-hanging from a kit.  There was a stretch in there, when I was working at the library and had kids in high school, that I didn't sew a stitch for five years.  I picked it back up about three years ago. I have made a dozen lap-size quilts, a couple doll quilts, and a bargello wall hanging that I adore.  I have my first full-size (queen size) quilt in progress and actually nearing completion of the top, if I would find time to work on it.

I've posted lately about making the "world's wildest quilt" from fabric my daughter selected.  The body of the quilt top is finally assembled - but not easily.  I have sewn and "un-sewn" the blocks so many times that some of the seams were coming loose along the edges, requiring some re-stitching.  Even with my most cautious seam ripping, some edges began to fray, keeping points from lining up precisely.  By the time I got it assembled this afternoon, my frustration level was high and I wasn't doing my best work.  I just wanted it done!  And that's when it hit me . . .   This is not my thing.  

Don't misunderstand, I love to sew.  And I enjoy cutting and piecing the occasional quilt block.  But I do not enjoy assembling intricate blocks and I do not enjoy the repetition of making dozens and dozens of the same block.   And I really, strenuously* do not enjoy juggling yards of fabric through my trusty Kenmore machine.  I much prefer smaller projects that I can finish and move on.

Why did it take me all those years to figure it out?  Because I wanted to BE a quilter.  I wanted to be part of the quilt-iverse; to speak the lingo and visit the wonderful shops and buy beautiful fabrics.   I wanted to be in the Quilter Club with these women and their beautiful creations.  

But today I realized how silly that is, so . . . I quit.  I am focusing on sewing small projects and having fun.  I will no long try to deceive myself - or anyone else - that I am a "quilter".  But here's the best part - - I'm ok with that. I can still appreciate the quilts others make, and maybe adapt their ideas into smaller versions.  I can still spend hours browsing through a quilt shop.  I can still buy beautiful fabrics and make beautiful creations.  And if I stick to creating things I enjoy, I can do it well.  


* This is a reference to a line from the movie A Few Good Men - Demi Moore's character "strenuously objects" during one of the courtroom scenes.  It's a favorite phrase at our house.

This is the wild quilt top so far.  I'll post more about it when it's done - including a close-up of the fabrics.  The magenta fabric (in the top left block) has elephants on it, and the orange-ish looking fabric is actually magenta  with neon yellow squares.  The border and backing are two more wild fabrics.  And yes, the arrangement of blocks isn't exactly what I intended, but by the time I noticed it I would rather have set fire to it than take it apart one more time.