Saturday, December 30, 2006

As the old year is about to begin, I wanted to finish a couple of projects that didn't deserve to move unfinished into the new year. The first is a quilt that I made pulling only from my scrap box. The pattern can be found at Quilttown USA . I have been calling it A Trip Around My Scrapbox. The top has been finished for months now, the back pieced and the binding ready to apply. There was just no excuse for dragging it unfinished into 2007. It has found a happy home on top of the diningroom table.
The next quilt is the top I made for the Wounded Warrior Center. The top has been complete since November. I got stalled when I had to order fabric for the back. Even though I received the fabric weeks ago, the top just laid there. I gave myself a stern talking to concerning this quilt. It's for a good cause and there is NO reason why it should be left to languish in the house when it could be out in the world. I'm much happier with myself now that it is complete. I will add a label and deliver it first thing next week.
The last photo is my very first citrus crop. I have wanted a Myer lemon tree for several years. Because we don't have a particularly large yard, it didn't seem possible to add another tree. This past spring I discovered that a dwarf variety is available. Lickety split to the nursery I went and came home with my lemon tree and an orange tree, too. I had visions of lemon slices in iced tea and fresh squeezed orange juice every morning. I'm off to a good start. There are still about 8 or 9 lemons ripening. The orange juice might have to wait another season -- there are two oranges right now.
Time to take down the Christmas decorations and give a thorough cleaning of the house to begin the new year.
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Thursday, December 28, 2006

It all began with a gift certificate. On Christmas, I was the lucky recipient of a gift certificate at my favorite quilt shop. That same shop has an after-Christmas sale where everything is 40% off -- not just Christmas items.
I had a plan. That's right -- had. If truth be told I didn't need a single thing, but I wanted to add a 'back-up' bolt of the aged muslin you see to my stash. That was my plan for weeks leading up to the sale.
Then I opened my gift and the plan went right out the door. It marched right on out with all the wrapping and ribbon that left that day. My mind began to dance with possibilities. I hadn't gone to the shop last week to pre-plan my strategy, to see what books would be great additions to my library, what thread colors would round out my collection. I went to the sale totally unprepared to make the most of my purchasing power.
Of course it was crowded, women everywhere, putting things in baskets, Christmas decorations, rotary cutter blades, fat quarter packs. They were laden with bolt of fabric waiting their turn at the cutting table. I managed to wander around aimlessly for 5 or 10 minutes before my shopping brain finally kicked in. I got the bolt of muslin I wanted, I found 3 other neutral fabrics to have on hand as backgrounds, a few pieces of wool, a Lori Smith pattern I have had my eye on for some time now, a fat quarter pack of Regency prints by Judi Rothermeil and some basting spray, and a wool star ornament -- for good measure. A lovely purchase that made me and the shop owner VERY happy. I must admit here that I went a bit over my $25 gift certificate, but it was worth it.

We traveled to my husband's hometown for the holiday and spent the day with his parents, aunt, sister and her children. We had a delicious meal prepared by his sister -- the flavor only enhanced by the fact that I didn't not lift a finger to cook or clean. Due to space limitations, we stayed at a hotel nearby. Our room had 2 queen beds. Here is Harper on her bed with her new Christmas baby. I'm sure if she got the chance to visit Santa now, she would ask for her very own big girl bed instead of a puppy cushion on the floor.

Friday, December 22, 2006

"...And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. " ~Dr. Seuss

As we all go about finishing the last minute touches of our holiday preparations, I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. No matter how or with whom you celebrate, I hope there is peace and joy in your home and heart.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Technology has not been kind to our wallets . . . we are the generation that purchased the latest hits on 45 rpm records when the new Top 40 was published each week in junior high. In high school, we began buying albums that we could listen to on stereo systems in our bedrooms and supplemented our music libraries with 8 track tapes that made our favorites portable for a Friday or Saturday night of cruising downtown. Do you remember using a matchbook to balance the tape just right in the player?
Quickly we saw that cassette tapes were the wave of the future. More music in a smaller container -- no track changes in the middle of a song. We became adept at tightening the tape with a pencil in the wheels. We bought new music and also updated old favorites on the new medium.
Soon we saw the wave of the music future was in the compact disc. Hmmm . . . really, do we need to buy our favorites -- again? But the sound was so good, no hissing or popping like vinyl. The player didn't eat the discs the way 8 track and cassette tapes disappeared. So we began with a few essentials, filled in with 'Best Of' and hoped this would be the end of the line.
In the meantime, vcr's came on the market. We purchased our first vcr for a now ridiculous price, paid for a 'life-time' membership at the local video store and dove into the world of classic movies. Sometime in the 90's, The Princess grew weary of being our human vcr remote - 'Honey, can you press the button?' is a phrase she hopes to never hear again.
Soon renting videos gave way to purchasing our own movie library. We were certain that Christmas movies would be a wise investment -- movies we enjoy watching over and over again.
Somewhat reluctantly we purchased a dvd player. Could it really be that much better? We would still be looking at the same television. But it became increasingly difficult to find VHS movies and the writing was on the wall. We bought a combination vcr/dvd so we could continue to record favorite television shows.
Last year for Christmas, we gave ourselves a new dvd that records as well as plays. We moved the combo machine into the bedroom and felt smug that we purchased the latest technology before we were forced.
Fast forward to this past Saturday. Hubby and I planned a day of watching Christmas movies. A full line up of favorites. The ones we have been watching for years. The movies we count on to put us in the Christmas mood. It was a blustery rainy day, perfect to stay in pajamas all day long.
I opened the cabinet. I was stunned. None of the movies were on dvd. No Miracle on 34th Street, It's A Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Bells Of Saint Mary's, Holiday Inn, White Christmas. The video store loved us on Saturday.
p.s. We did have A Christmas Story, Elf, Frosty and Rudolph . . . don't want to leave you thinking our library is lacking *s* And we still have a working 8 track player in the stereo in the garage. It only plays on track 3, but it does a beautiful job. No matchbook required.

Friday, December 15, 2006

These are the decorations of the generations. They represent four generations of women in my family beginning with my grandma.

I don't ever recall Grandma's house being decorated for Christmas. All of my memories are of Grandma at our house for Christmas. She always came a day or two before and stayed for a day or two after. I often went home with her for the remaining days of Christmas vacation from school.

The Santa on the left was the one thing in her home that reflected the holiday. He was on display year'round on the dining room buffet. He is a bank with a slot for coins in his sack. I was always intrigued by him - we never had Christmas decorations on display all the time in our house. He was a happy reminder whenever I saw him that Christmas would soon come again.

The choir boys are actually a music box that plays O Come All Ye Faithful. This was my mom's favorite Christmas decoration. She always seemed to have great delight in winding up the key to make the music play for the first time each year. The music box doesn't play anymore, but I can still hear the music in my head. It was always fun to hear the song at a very fast tempo and then dwindle down until you weren't sure if you had just heard the last note.

The Chimney Santa was a gift I made for Mom in Camp Fire Girls when I was about 8 or 9. He is made from the chimney of an oil lamp and is meant to hold candy. Just lift the top of his hat and fill him up. He used to hold peppermints every year. These days he rests empty -- the glass seems so thin, I don't think it could take many more years of clinking hard candies. It amazes me to think that something made by my own hand is closing in on being classified as an antique.

Last, but not least, is the clothespin reindeer The Princess made for our tree. I really like this little guy with his holly leaf saddle and googley eyes. He has been with us now for 20 years. My where does the time go? Even though the years fly by, it's so nice to have these mementos to warmly remind us of what has gone before.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ahhhh -- a finished quilt. I shared this top in mid-November. I received the back and binding fabric in the mail last week and got it quilted and bound over the weekend. The fabric on the back is a coordinate of the Chocolat line that is available in 108" width. This was my first time using a wide fabric. Such joy, no piecing -- just baste and quilt. The binding is from the same line and has diagonal stripes of red and brown. When cut on the straight grain it looks like bias binding. This quilt could not have been any easier.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Okay - I made the switch. I didn't want to . . . I really didn't. But this morning I was not being allowed to leave comments on blogs that have made the move the Beta. I can put up with a lot of things, but when I have something to say I really want to say it. So far it seems to have gone smoothly. Nothing is lost and I did go leave a comment even before I tried to post. Okay -- see you on the 'net.'

This was the view I had yesterday afternoon as I worked on my hexagons. No, it's not another tree in my home -- I was sitting in the lobby of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. Our power company sent out a letter a couple of weeks ago saying that they would be shutting off our power for 9 hours on the 11th to do routine maintenance. While I can entertain myself for a while, 9 hours seemed like a long time so I planned a day to be out and about.
I dropped Harper off at day camp and headed north to The OC. I stopped in at a quilt shop, didn't find anything of interest so continued on to Disneyland Resort. Hubby and I have had annual passes for a few years now so my parking and admission were already taken care of. There really is magic all around, the decorations are beautiful at this time of year and I enjoyed walking around the parks to take it all in.
It's not fun to go on rides when you are alone. I prepared for that by taking my English paper piecing along in a little ziplock bag. When I was done with lunch and my little tour, I headed to the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel. The hotel is built in the Craftsman style and furnished the same. The lobby has a giant fireplace and sofas, easy chairs and rocking chairs set around for conversation and relaxing. A grand piano is usually at the center, but during the holidays it's pushed to the side to make room for this spectacular tree. Someone comes and plays the piano for about 30 minutes at a time - Christmas music, Disney tunes, show tunes, I even recognized a song by The Eagles.
I found an open chair with a table and lamp beside it and this perfect view of the tree. I stitched merrily away, got a chance to people watch a little and enjoy the music. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The trees are trimmed, the stockings are hung. Now we can take a few moments to sit back, relax and enjoy the season. This year we purchased a new tree for the living room. It's a little taller and much fuller than the tree we have been using for the last 10 years. The only thing it lacks at this point is a topper. I have been looking and haven't come upon one yet.
I couldn't bear to get rid of our old tree. I fell in love with it when I first laid eyes on it and couldn't wait to bring it home. This year it moved into our bedroom along with any ornament that is an animal and the angel. I have taken a lot of ribbing over the years about this tree -- but it doesn't matter because I have really enjoyed it and now will continue to do so.
The third tree has wooden ornaments that I painted back in the early 90's. Originally the tree was one made from dowels covered in torn fabric. While the ornaments held up the tree did not. Last year I put them on this little artificial tree and stuck it in the milk can as a holder until I could decide where to put it. Voila -- the milk can made a great holder -- quite a happy accident.
The last picture is the tree skirt I made for The Princess' home. Inspired by the construction paper reindeer that children make in school and the quilts by Jan Patek, I traced Hubby and my hand and footprints and made this little skirt. We all have a piece of handprint art from our kids somewhere, but how many have the same from their parents? The little candy cane toes you see at the edge of the photo belong to The Princess herself.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

I love everything about the Christmas holiday season (well, except for wrapping presents). There is a sense of joy and wonder as decorations begin to appear in store windows, living room windows and the exteriors of homes all around town. Holiday music is everywhere and it's fun to sing along. I remember anxiously waiting for Santa to arrive in my small town so I could pay him a visit and tell him all of my heart's desires. Moore's Department Store had a mechanical polar bear that jumped out of a box - over and over and over. He was moving oh so slowly the last Christmas the store was open, but I could have watched him for hours anyway. He was still magical to my jaded teen aged eyes.
At home, we decorated a tree. It was festive with red lights, red bows, red balls and candy canes. My mom's favorite color was red and she did not spare it's use at Christmas time. Our house was comfy and cheerful, filled with all the things you would expect to find. I would get up every morning and check my stocking . . . just in case.
My real love of all things Christmas came at the knee of Mrs. Neff. I spent a good deal of my childhood with Mrs. Neff and 'Neffer,' her husband. They were both very dear to me and expanded my view of the world greatly. From Neffer I learned about shoeing horses, how to reload shotgun shells, and about doing a professional finish when doing home-repairs.
Mrs. Neff was my stay-at-home mom when my own mom no longer could be. I watched her can beans from the garden, make crabapple butter, made consparitorial trips to the burn can in order to destroy the evidence of a cake mix being used. Neffer would swear he could taste the cardboard if he saw the box, but would praise with delight the very same cake if no box was spied. But holidays were an extra special time in their home and I always felt privileged to share in them.
Each year there was a fresh-cut tree, decorated to the hilt with balls and ornaments of all colors, a string of lights in every shade available and more tinsel that should be allowed in one home, angel hair that made my itchy but was pretty to look at, garland swirled around and around. I don't know how those trees managed to stand under all that ornamentation.
Each year there was much work to be done in the kitchen. Fruit cakes baked and left to "age." Batches and batches of cookies, baked, decorated and placed carefully in tins. Candy coated walnuts - different colors of candy for different batches then mixed together for an eye-pleasing arrangement. And then there were the pecan rolls. Delicious vanilla-y fudge, shaped into logs, home-made caramel sheets cut to size and wrapped around. Once they were completely encased in caramel, pecan halves were neatly pressed into the caramel before they were wrapped up in waxed paper. Those pecan rolls are still the most delicious candy I have ever tasted.
Over the years, Mrs. Neff outfitted my Barbies, came to my piano recitals, put Band-Aids on skinned knees,picked me up at the bus stop, took me Camp Fire Girls meetings, watched me turn into a bratty teen and waited patiently for me to return. She sat proudly with my mom in the front pew when I got married. Gave me my first Mother's Day present and The Princess her first doll. And, of course, she gave me a box filled with hand-made Christmas ornaments that find their way on my tree every year. They are starting to show their age, but they will never run out of love.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

I am fussy about my calendars. I like them to have pictures that depict the season or holiday of each month. It can sometimes be a long, drawn-out process for me to make a selection. First finding a look or graphic that pleases my eye, then testing each month for it's 'seasonal applicability'. I always anticipate turning over a new month on the calendar, but particularly when December arrives. This morning when I turned the page I was humming It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

I began hanging Christmas quilts last weekend - they are starting to look a little more relaxed now that they have been unfurled for several days.

This quilt is another that I look forward to putting up each year. It is Little Ben's Quilt by Blackbird Designs. This is actually the 3rd that I have made. The first had much lighter lights and much brighter reds. A friend had admired it very much, so last year I gave it to her as a housewarming gift. I then selected new, darker fabrics to remake for our home - a win/win situation for me and my friend. I had plenty enough to make two, so I did just that and gave the other to a friend who had had a particularly difficult year.

Linda J commented on the 'kite-shaped' applique I put on one of the baskets. It was a left over from piecing this little quilt last Christmas. I showed a photo of it's spring sister back on Aug. 9. I thought doing it in reds would resemble a poinsettia, so I had to make it again.
No sewing has happened in a few days. I think I'll start a fire in the fireplace, pop in a dvd and work on hexagons tonight. Sounds like fun. Posted by Picasa