Friday, December 28, 2007

The end of the year.

Ah, Christmas. It was lovely. It always is. I hope you had a lovely Christmas as well. On Christmas Eve we took our daughter on her first boat ride, a trip across Puget Sound on a Washington State Ferry. We spent some time in the town on the other side, eating lunch and walking around, but mostly the trip was just for the experience of the ferry ride. Our daughter loved it. She was enamored by the "bubbles" (foam) in the water; the trees that "fell down and broke" (driftwood); and the fact that cars could drive right onto the "big, big boat". It was a good day.

Christmas Day was beautiful as well. It took opening just one gift for our daughter to understand that, hey, all those packages under the tree have something fun inside! She was perhaps, um, just a tad bit spoiled. If not by us, then certainly by her other relatives. I may have been a bit spoiled as well. My husband surprised me with tickets the The Nutcracker. I have wanted to go for years. We went last night, and it really is as beautiful as everyone says it is. It's just...beautiful. The opening dance scene, all the guests and children at the party - wow. I wish I could find a painting of that scene, although I can't imagine that a painting could ever do it justice, since so much of the beauty is from the movement. It is, after all, a ballet. Thank you, Andy, for such a wonderful Christmas gift! One thing that took away from the serenity of the performance, but added greatly to the comedy, was the woman sitting next to me after intermission. She carried with her a heavy aroma of alcohol. A smidgen more and her aroma would have been an odor. Throughout the second act, whenever a piece of particularly famous music began (which is frequent in The Nutcracker), she yelled, "Yeah!" or "Yes!" (Think arm and fist pumping in the air.) I thought about congratulating her on apparently recognizing the music, but thought that might be rude. I am glad that she seemed to enjoy it so much. I know I did.

And now Christmas is over. We'll be taking our tree down this weekend. Now I am looking forward to 2008. I know that, in the progression of time, January 1 is arbitrary. There is nothing about the day that makes it different from any other day, no reason that we should start new habits or break old ones on that day any more than we should on any other day of the year. I know that it's psychological. I'm okay with that. Psychology is a powerful thing. January 1 provides a good measure of progression for our personal goals. It's much easier to remember how long we've been working on something when we begin on January 1 than it would be if we began on, say, August 19. (Unless that happens to be your birthday. It's not mine.) And so I have started my lists. Disciplines I want to develop, books I want to read, quilts I want to make, habits and values I want to instill in my daughter, skills I want to learn. They won't all become New Year's resolutions or goals. I make huge lists and then narrow them down to the things that I really want to focus on, a (hopefully) realistic number of goals.

2007 has been a year of much progress and some setbacks, much joy and some worries, much happiness and some heartache. In short, it has been a normal year, made up of the normal ebb and flow of life. I'm glad to have had the privilege of experiencing this year, both the good times and the bad, and I'm hopeful about what 2008 will bring.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband! Okay, so his birthday was yesterday, but we're celebrating today. An afternoon movie and an early dinner out - pure luxury to parents of a two year old!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holly and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It wasn't really so bad. It just felt like it at the time. The recipe was a large portion of toddler wilfulness, a dash of holiday shopping crowds, a sprinkle of poor professional service (does McDonald's count as professional service?), and a spider-dropping-from-the-car-ceiling-in-front-of-my-face-while-I-was-driving-down-the-freeway thrown in for good measure.

Then I got home and, during the eight minutes of my daughter's nap (truly), read this post at Write, Mama. Write. I appreciate so much of what she has to say. Our children are just about the same age, so I can relate to many of her parenting experiences. She is a thoughtful, intentional parent, and she likes to read, write, and sew. All the makings of a good blog, in my opinion. Anyway, I was encouraged by reading the post. I was also inspired to find a chance to go to a bookstore by myself.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Joy

Does it get any better than this? This is my daughter, mid-laugh, with strawberry jam smeared all over her face. She thought it was great fun. I agreed.

This is the Christmas wreath she made for her grandparents. (It was still hiding in the camera when I wrote the previous post.) She has had such fun with those pompoms! I wish I had a picture to share, but I don't. I'll still tell you the story. My girl lined up all of her Little People characters, each in their own chair (or stroller, bed, table, etc.), and then gave them each a tiny pompom for a ball. Then she went down the line and threw the "ball" for each of the characters. They were playing Circles, a game that my daughter made up. We play it almost daily. It was wonderful to watch her playing so imaginatively.

Today is a quiet day. The last few days have been kind of busy, so I appreciate this slow-paced day at home. Today is full of laundry, gift-wrapping, prepping packages to mail - all of those things that I never think to schedule time to do, but still must be done. With any luck, I'll get a little sewing time in as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Christmas is well underway here. The house is decorated inside and out, the gift shopping is nearly done, Christmas baking has begun, Christmas music is playing, and pictures of Christmas' past are up. My daughter believes that her first Santa picture, taken when she was four months old, is a picture of Santa Claus and Baby Jesus.

I don't have beautiful Christmas pictures or crafts or tutorials to share, as I've seen all over other blogs. Maybe later. (Probably not.) We have really been enjoying the season, however, and I thought I'd share a few recent highlights with you.

Our daughter participated in her first Christmas program (first program of any kind) on Sunday night. She refused to wear the sheep costume that the well-intentioned program directors tried to force her into. I knew she wouldn't wear it. She hates dressing up. That's the primary reason why we didn't go trick-or-treating this year. Costumes bother her. So...I knew she wouldn't do it, and I am not going to force my daughter to wear a costume just so I and other adults can say, "Ooh, how cute!" I'll make her wear a coat against her will; I will not make her wear a sheep costume. Anyway. So I did my part - knowing it would be futile - and tried to calmly talk her into wearing it. Nope. So I informed the program director that if she wanted a happy two-year-old on stage, she would have to settle for a non-costumed two-year-old. That is when all adults involved in the production, and some who were not involved, surrounded my daughter, apparently believing that they held some magical influence over her that I do not hold. One mother used comparison guilt: "Look at my son, he's in his costume. Don't you want to be like him?" (Incidentally, that particular little boy was carried off the stage screaming.) I sat there holding my daughter, doing my best to deflect the pressure being placed on her by the well-meaning, intimidating adults. She was not misbehaving. She was not throwing a fit about it. She was just saying, "Mommy, I don't want to", over and over again, in a scared little voice. And I sat there, holding her, asking the other adults to please leave her alone, all the while wondering why in the world we put such pressure on our children. She's two. Leave her alone. In the end, my little girl walked calmly to the front of the church in her Christmas dress and sheep ears headband (but no costume), sat on the stage steps, ate her animal crackers (one teacher wisely brought a bowl of animal crackers to, um, encourage the younger children to remain on stage for the entirety of the two preschool songs), clapped whenever the adults clapped, and adorably shouted out, "Happy birthday, Jesus!" during a quiet moment between the two songs. I was proud. Of the four two-year-olds in the program, one wore the costume and stayed happily on stage the entire time; two did not wear costumes, but stayed happily on the stage the entire time; and one wore a costume, but was carried off stage screaming bloody murder. So I think my girl did just fine.

Hm. I hadn't intended to write a book about the Christmas program costume incident. All that just to say - my daughter's first Christmas program was precious.

Another recent highlight was my daughter making wreaths for her grandparents. We picked up two chipboard rings from a craft store, along with a big bag of pompoms. She has been having a great time. She dabs the ring with a glue stick, then pushes a pompom onto the glue with all her might. So far, about three pompoms have stuck. I hope Grandma and Grandpa like minimalist wreaths. Well, we'll work on it. Mommy might help out with a hot glue gun.

Another highlight: pigtails. We've done barrettes, we've done the sides of her hair pulled into a ponytail on top, and we've done a ponytail. This week we tried pigtails. I love them! They're cute, and they're clean. My daughter has an amazing ability to get food in her hair, which makes for - well, really gross hair. Pigtails keep her hair clean. They're fabulous.

And, the last but not least highlight: Last week, my husband was told that he "personifies the servant heart of a ninja". These words were spoken during a Christmas party by an elder in our church. He was speaking in a very serious tone, and everyone was kind of nodding and listening reverently, until he said "ninja". Then the room erupted with laughter. He went on to explain that Andy serves in a variety of ways, always professionally and thoroughly, but in a quiet manner that does not draw attention to himself. And this is true. I was very pleased that my husband received such a compliment, and very proud that the words were accurate. Good job, honey.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Handcrafters' Holidays: Traditions

Here is the rest of my response to the Sew, Mama, Sew! Handcrafters' Holidays Meme:

What is your favorite family holiday tradition?

~Growing up, my favorite tradition was baking. My mom always baked candy cane cookies, Russian tea cookies, fudge, and Clifford tea cakes. Christmas was typically the only time of year that she made those particular treats. We always got to help. The candy cane cookies were the most fun - rolling and twisting the dough into perfect (or not-so-perfect) candy cane shapes. Another sweet Christmas tradition in my home was the filling of the candy dish. We only kept the candy dish full at Christmas. Every year my parents would fill my grandmother's pink Depression glass candy dish full of old fashioned hard candies, which we counted as a great treat.

Have you started any new traditions with your family that you didn't practice growing up?

~We give our daughter a special dated ornament each year. (Of course, this is only her third Christmas, so this tradition has not yet stood the test of time!) I don't have any of the ornaments from my childhood, even the one or two that were "mine", and I wish I did. With that in mind, we plan to give our children each an ornament every year, so they'll have a starter set when they have their own homes and trees.

What do you love most about the holiday season?

~I love the spirit of Christmas. I love that people tend to be kinder and more generous during the holidays. I love the coziness, the music, the gatherings of friends, the wonder, and the memories. I love searching for and finding the perfect gift. I love having cards and letters and packages from distant loved ones delivered to my door. I love that people are willing to include generosity to strangers in their busy holiday schedules, like the girls who just came to my door collecting canned goods for a food bank, the cheerful bell ringers who greet me outside every major store, and the people who arrived at church this morning carrying wrapped gifts for families they do not know.

What do you like least about the holiday season?

~I dislike holiday advertisements that would lead us to believe that we need more stuff. Big screen TVs will bring your family together? A new minivan will make your kids get along with each other? Come on.

Anyone close to your heart that you'll be missing this year?

~My big brother. I actually never get to see him and his family at Christmas, so that aspect is not unusual. This year, however, he is serving in Iraq. This leaves me feeling both sad and proud, and my heart is with him as well as with his beautiful wife and children in Colorado.

What is your favorite holiday food?

~Just one?! Sorry, can't do it. My favorite holiday foods include lefse - a Scandinavian dessert to which I was introduced upon marrying into a Norwegian family; Christmas cookies in general; peppermint lattes; and this year I've really been enjoying gingerbread (of the cake variety, not the cookie variety).

Do you have a great recipe to share?

~Indeed I do. This is my great-(great?)-grandmother's Clifford Tea Cake recipe:

1 c butter
2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c nuts (walnuts or pecans)
3 1/2 c flour
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Stir together dry ingredients and mix w/butter mixture. Add nuts. Mold dough into a log and chill at least two hours or up to overnight. Slice and bake for 9 minutes in a 300 degree oven.

I just copied this recipe straight from the recipe card, no adaptations. 300 degrees sounds a little low to me. You might want to play around with that a bit.
Thanks to Sew, Mama, Sew! for a fun meme!

Friday, December 07, 2007

We interrupt this blog to bring you a tip.

When Friend #1 announces her pregnancy in a room full of people which includes Friend #2, who has been unsuccessful in her attempts to get pregnant...don't turn and stare at Friend #2.

I'm just saying.

And now back to our regularly scheduled less personal blog.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Handcrafters' Holidays - Gifts

The wonderful women over at Sew, Mama, Sew! have invited us to participate in their Handcrafters' Holidays Blog Meme. I've enjoyed reading the responses of other people and decided to join in the fun. Sew, Mama, Sew! has broken the meme into two categories - Gifts and Traditions - and I will respond to the questions in two different blog posts, just to make it a little easier on myself. And so, without further ado, here are my thoughts on Gifts:

Do you have a favorite gift that you love to give?

~I really like to try and customize gifts to the recipient, so my favorite gift to give changes each year. Usually my favorite gift is a compilation gift - a gift basket, a kit of some sort, etc. Compilation gifts this year include a dress-up box for my niece, an Advent calendar for a friend, and a storybook/pajama combo for a soon-to-be two year old. My all-time favorite compilation gift was made two years ago. We made penpal kits for our then six year old niece and nephew. We included cool pens, markers, notepads, stickers, envelopes, and - the most special to the children - stamps.

If you're making gifts this year, what are you making?

~ What I'm actually making and what was on my list to make are two different things. The "want to make" list is much longer than the "am making" list. So far I have made an Advent calendar for a friend. It is pictured above. I borrowed the very excellent idea from Allsorts. I've also made a baby-themed wreath for the door of our church nursery, but, silly me, I forgot to take a picture! Oh, but it was fun to do. Miniature bottles, a rubber duck, a teddy bear, a train, some alphabet blocks - I had a great time making it. There are a few other projects in the works that I cannot mention for fear of alerting the intended recipients. I also hope to try my hand at this penny rug for the end table, Allsorts' Elf Clogs, and Montessori By Hand's Paper Clip Ice Skates for gift toppers. And hopefully a few wreaths for my own house. We'll see.

Do you have any good stories about handcrafted gifts you've given or received?

~ Andy and I received several beautiful handcrafted items as wedding gifts. A gorgeous wooden tray, a plate made by a master blacksmith, hand-dipped candles, a beautifully knitted blanket. We treasure them all. One gift, though, had us confused. It was a package of small, pink and white, crocheted...shapes. Had they been square, they would have been approximately 6"x6". We looked at them, studied them, turned them over in our hands, and could not figure out what they were. In our thank you note to the creator, we simply thanked him (yes, him) for his beautiful handiwork. We figured they must be kitchen linens of some sort, so we tucked them in the back of our linen drawer. One day I pulled them out and showed them to Andy's mother, who immediately pronounced them washcloths. You see, Andy and I were young and naive and still thought all washcloths had to come from a department store. I remember thinking, "Really, yarn washcloths?" I tucked them back into the drawer until one day, more than a year later, I fell behind on the laundry and ran out of washcloths. Having no other choice, I pulled out the pink and white wonders and washed my dishes with them. I've never gone back. They are fantastic! They work so well. They are still my favorite washcloths. Once they wear out, I'm going to have to make myself some more. And they'll have to be pink and white.

Do you have any great gift compilation ideas?

~Ooh, I should have read through the whole list of questions before I started answering. Well, as I mentioned before, I love giving compilation gifts. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:
  • a complete diaper changing kit (clearly this one is very recipient-specific)
  • a storybook paired with a related item. I'm giving Llama, Llama, Red Pajama along with a pair of classic red flannel pajamas. Other variations could include a storybook with a related stuffed animal, a themed quilt, or a movie.
  • a complete cleaning kit. My mother-in-law gave one to me for my wedding shower, and I gave one to my sister for her wedding shower. We included all sorts of cleaning and household supplies, and then wrote a letter using all of the names of the supplies. "Your husband may not always be Mr. Clean, but remember your Pledge to give him your All, and you will find that each day will Dawn with renewed Cheer and Joy." That sort of thing. It makes for a good, practical gift, and a great laugh at the shower.
  • a penpal kit, as mentioned above. Stamps, notepads, markers/crayons, pens, stickers, all in a school box.
  • a Wedding Survival kit. Not exactly holiday related, but still a fun gift. I gave this as a shower gift several years ago and included a small sewing kit, a pair of pantyhose, Kleenex, Tylenol, a miniature bouquet of silk flowers (in case the florist forgets the throwaway bouquet, as happened at my wedding), chocolate, and duct tape.
  • One of the best compilation gifts I have ever received was a New Parent Survival kit, given to me at my daughter's baby shower. My friends and family included Tylenol, magazines, tea, lotion, bath salts, and unmentionable things that recently pregnant women need but don't know that they will need, among other things.
  • a "Beach Baby" kit. For a September-born baby, we made a summer kit of things that would fit him the following year - a pair of swim trunks, sunscreen, tiny little sunglasses, and arm floaties.

In making this list, I realize that I don't give a lot of Christmas compilation gifts. I seem to give them more for showers and birthdays. Maybe that is because I am only giving to one person on those occasions, and thus have more time to devote to the creation of the gift.

Name one thing on your personal wish list.

~Joelle Hoverson's Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts. I have this book from the library right now. It is one of the best sewing idea/pattern books I have seen.

Do you make and sell things that would make fantastic gifts?

~Not yet. Etsy may be in my future. We'll see.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Sunday in Advent

Today marks the first Sunday in Advent. A lot of people - my family among them - choose to begin their Advent observations on December 1st these days, rather than the traditional fourth Sunday before Christmas. It makes it easier to keep track of the days and easier to write, make, and use Advent devotionals and calendars. Nevertheless, today marks the true beginning.

Advent is the season in which Christians prepare their hearts for the coming (the advent) of Christ. We contemplate the true meaning of Christmas - God humbling Himself to an unfathomable degree, becoming man. We refer to this as the Incarnation. It's an astounding concept. A devout person could go through a lifetime of Advent seasons and still not come close to wrapping his mind around it. Wonder is an appropriate and common sentiment during this time of year.

The Advent wreath pictured above was a gift made for me several years ago by my friend Janene. (Speaking of Janene, check out her alphabetical Advent at her store's blog.) It is one of my favorite Christmas decorations, and it is usually the first to be put up. I just pulled it from its box tonight (yes, I very nearly missed lighting the first candle). We don't have a tree yet and our mantle is still decorated with autumn leaves and miniature pumpkins...but the Advent wreath is out. When I was a child, my family used three purple and one pink candle in our Advent wreath - the traditional colors, I believe - but I have always used red in mine, adding a fifth candle in the middle to be lighted on Christmas Day.

Earlier today I was reading through a 1912 copy of The Lutheran Hymnary. I am not Lutheran, but my husband's family is, and so I have been introduced to many of the traditions of that liturgical denomination. While my family celebrated Advent, we did not observe the rest of the liturgical church calendar at all (save Christmas and Easter). I learned a little bit about Lent in college and have observed it off and on since then. I have found many of the traditions associated with the calendar to be interesting, admirable, and meaningful. I have suspected for some time that I would find greater meaning and enrichment if I were to delve deeper into the church calendar, were to actually follow the readings, prayers and songs of the entire year. Advent marks the beginning of the church calendar. I think I will try to follow it this year. If you're interested in following along, I'll be posting about it here. I don't know yet exactly what I'll post, but I suspect it will be traditional readings, other passages that I find relevant, and my personal thoughts on the topics. I hope you'll join me!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Change of plans

Well, hi there! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ours was spent with relatives on my side of the family - my parents and all of my younger siblings and their families. It was fun, good to see everyone, and of course mildly chaotic. My daughter really enjoyed spending time with her cousins and getting to know her grandparents and aunts and uncles a bit better. As we were leaving to run errands just the other day, she called out in excitement from the back seat, "Here we go to Aunt Sarah's house!" Hm. Sorry to disappoint, kid. A kid's cocoa from Starbucks seemed to make it up to her.

And now we move to Christmas! I know this sentiment has become cliche, but this really is my favorite time of year. This week, though, I have felt decidedly overwhelmed. I have not been able to catch up, it seems, after having been gone over Thanksgiving. My house is a wreck, I have very little Christmas shopping done, and our December calendar seemed to fill up overnight. Even though I know better, I dealt with this feeling of having too much to do by telling myself that I would slow down and enjoy the season after the weekend, after I crossed x number of things off my to do list. I know better. You can't live your life thinking that you will be happy, content, relaxed, calm, etc. after you complete a certain task or achieve a certain accomplishment or acquire a certain thing. can...but you'd be wrong. Anyway. I did not come to my senses on my own. I had a little nudge. My daughter woke up sick this morning. She has a cough that is too reminiscent of the hacking cough she had just before her nasty bout of croup a couple of months ago. And, while I wouldn't have wished for her to become sick, it has definitely had the effect of slowing me down. I have spent the morning making phone calls to arrange for adjustments to our weekend schedule. Now, being involuntarily rendered homebound with a child who is content to sit quietly looking at books or watching The Berenstain Bears, I find that I can clean and work on a few handmade Christmas gifts and browse Amazon for other Christmas gifts and, best of all, sit and hold my little girl for as long as she'll let me.

I'm ready for Advent now.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Progressive Giving of Thanks

Some things for which I am thankful:

  • That the event of our daughter waking up in the middle of the night and staying awake for an extended period is such a rare occurrence that, when it does happen, it renders us practically useless the next day. (That'd be today.)
  • Coffee.
  • That the coffee I spilled this morning was spilled only on the kitchen counter, and not on the freshly mopped floor.
  • Clean floors.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Reading: Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. I've only just started this book, so I don't have much to say about it yet. I do think quite a bit about how to give my daughter the freedom to be outdoors as much as I was as a kid, without compromising her safety. Our world is simply not as safe as it was 20 years ago (and back then, my parents said it wasn't as safe as it was when they were kids...also true). I also have to take into consideration that all 13 counties that make up southern Illinois, where I grew up, have a combined population of under 300,000, whereas the 4 counties that make up the greater Seattle area have a combined population of 3.5 million. It's hard to beat the safety that comes with recognizing nearly everyone who drives past one's house.

Watching: Barefoot Contessa. I used to find Ina Garten's style and mannerisms somewhat pretentious. Now I just think that I don't fit her target audience demographic. Andy used to work with a young man from Nantucket. He received things like top of the line digital cameras as stocking stuffers. He, I imagine, would fit Ms. Garten's target demographic. Anyway...I've come to appreciate the show. In the past, I have had, admittedly, a very immature attitude towards people whose tastes were on a different level than my own. Those with more refined tastes I frequently considered pretentious. Those with less refined tastes I frequently considered tacky. How elitist of me! Upon considering those attitudes, I realized that what I was really believing was that only my own personal tastes were acceptable and appropriate. Wow. That was a humbling realization, let me tell you. So. I can now watch Barefoot Contessa and appreciate the recipes without being overly annoyed by style. I still poke fun at some parts of the show; but if I had a cooking show, I'm sure Ms. Garten would poke fun at the way I cook and entertain (haphazardly on both counts) as well. She has good recipes and ideas - even if she is preparing a thank you brunch for her master gardener (and his staff of thirty) who just planted an exact replica of the queen's rose garden, in miniature, in the south garden of the guest house.

Pondering: Matthew 8:21, 22 (MSG) In this passage, a follower of Jesus asks to be excused temporarily in order to tend to his father's burial. Jesus denied his request. This passage has always troubled me. I do not understand Jesus' response. It seems uncharacteristically harsh to me. A few nights ago, I went to bed a bit early and brought The Message (Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the New Testament) with me. I had intended to read for quite a while, but I read this passage almost immediately, and it stopped me in my tracks. I just couldn't get past it. I've been thinking about, praying over, and meditating on it ever since. I believe the Bible is the living word of God. By that I mean that I don't believe it is merely a historical, anthropological, or even religious document. I believe that it is what God is saying to us today, not just what He said to Christians 2,000 years ago. That is why, I think, I got stuck on this passage. I couldn't brush it off, couldn't think that I didn't need to understand it because Jesus was talking to an unidentified man thousands of years ago, not to me. We are not eavesdroppers on biblical conversations. He's talking to us.

Playing with: felt, yarn, perle cotton.

Browsing: Natural toy sites. After the multiple toy recalls, I am wary of big store toy aisles. It's not that I think all plastic or mass-produced toys are dangerous; I don't. It's just that consumers don't know which ones are dangerous until they have been recalled, and the recalls usually happen because of reported injuries. That means the recalls are too late for some kids. I don't want it to be my kid. I've been looking specifically for a toy medical kit. Most natural toy sites carry this one, which is great, but it doesn't include a stethoscope. A minor thing, yes, but the stethoscope is the tool that my daughter fears the most at the doctor's office, so I'd really like to make her comfortable with it. Any suggestions?

Clean Up

I thought it was time for a clean up of the blog. I had stuck with the same Blogger template for so long that I had forgotten there were so many other options. I think this one looks cleaner. I'll probably be playing with it over the next few days, especially with the photo header, so don't be surprised if you stop by and find giant photos, misplaced text, dead links, and general chaos. All that means is that my husband hasn't come home from work yet. I really rely on my in-house programmer.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Uncle Chris!

You're number one!

Sigh. I crack myself up.

Messenger Bag

There has been a fair amount of sewing going on around here lately. Most of it has been Christmas gift related, so I won't be showing pictures here. This, however, is for a birthday that has come and gone, and for a person who does not read this blog (to my knowledge). My baby sister turned 18 last week. I made this messenger bag for her. The photos are rotten - my apologies. I found it difficult to take a good photo of a bag made from such a busily-patterned fabric. The bag ended up being quite large. My sister was complaining a while back that her purse was too small, and that the straps were too short to fit comfortably on her shoulder. This bag will not have those problems. It is, though, rather too large for an everyday purse (at least for an 18 year old; it would be great for a mom). I'm thinking it will be good for school.

It was fun to make. I think I'll play around with making some bags for myself.

My brother is in the Middle East now. His son went home from the hospital on the same day that my brother was deployed, something for which we were all very thankful. Thank you for your prayers.
Christmas Eve is six weeks from today. Six weeks, folks! I love Christmas.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Mama said there'd be days like this

What a week for my family! We're scattered all over the country, my parents, siblings and I, so we mostly keep up with each other by telephone and email. And let me tell you, the phones have been ringin' this week! Monday was one sister's second wedding anniversary. It was also the day that my sweet little six-year-old nephew was hospitalized with pneumonia. Yesterday, another sister's house was burglarized, the thief getting away with thousands of dollars worth of goods, including my sister's video camera and digital camera. This means she has lost video of her son's birthday and other family events, and all photos from April until now. (She doesn't download very often!) Today is my youngest sister's birthday. 18! Hard to believe. Later this week, my brother (father of the little boy in the hospital) will be leaving for Iraq. If you are a praying person, we'd certainly appreciate your prayers for his safety, and that his son will be home and healthy before he has to leave.

In a family as large as mine (I'm fifth of ten children), minor whirlwinds are pretty common. It's rare to have a week that is this crazy, though, even for us. Whew! Sometimes all there is to do is stand in the middle of the room and laugh. Baking sugar cookies with sprinkles doesn't hurt, either.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

They never claimed to be experts on tea.

Earlier this evening I stopped by Starbucks for a chai tea latte. It was later than I would normally drink a caffeinated beverage, but I was really in the mood for chai, and so that is what I ordered. Upon ordering, this is how the conversation with the barista went:

Me: [hopefully] There's no such thing as decaf chai, is there? [I ask once per year or so, just in case they decide to offer it.]

Barista: [with an amused, patronizing tone and look] Well, there's no coffee in chai.

Me: I know, but - never mind.

A Good Week

Our family took a bit of a vacation over the weekend, and the timing couldn't have been better. We were still sick, and while it would have been nice to have not been sick while on vacation, it was also really nice to be on vacation while we were sick. Does that make sense? We spent four days with Andy's parents. They live pretty close, about an hour and half from us, so we see them frequently. It was just really nice to have time to really rest and relax, to share childcare responsibilities, and to not have the option of usual work. We went to a pumpkin patch, took Elise and her cousin bowling (so cute!), and Andy and I had our first real date night in quite a while. Sometimes I don't realize how much I need a break/rest/time alone with my husband until I actually get it. Andy's hometown has a lovely quilt shop (and fabric shop and needlework store - all within a few blocks of each other), and I couldn't spend four days there without visiting it. I brought home these pieces. How would you describe them? If you say turquoise and abstract, I will be very grateful. My sister's birthday is coming up, and she told me that turquoise is her favorite color and that she likes abstract patterns. Fine ideas, but difficult to materialize. Both descriptions - turquoise and abstract - can mean different things to different people. I hope my ideas are at least somewhat similar to hers.

Yesterday I received a package containing 30 of these little hearts. They will be Christmas gifts for a group of volunteers with whom I work. I agonized over what to give them last Christmas (they got gift cards to a local coffee shop), and have pretty much been agonizing all year over what to give them this Christmas. It is quite a relief to have the gifts chosen and in hand. I'm not quite done - I still need to find something for the guys. But there are only four male volunteers, so I'm not all that worried about it.

Andy and I did a little Christmas shopping over the weekend. We picked up these rather gaudy articles (I actually kind of like the blue flowered kerchief) as dress-up items for our niece. I remember when my sister and I got a dress-up box for Christmas when we were little. It was so great! I can't think of a toy that we played with more.

Yesterday was a great mail day. I received a package from my Fall Swap partner. Wow! She really went all out. She included a beautiful handmade scarf - the colors are gorgeous and it is just perfect for our northwest fall weather. Also included were handmade notecards and books (beautifully made!), a beautiful leaf pin, hot cocoa mix, After Eight straws (I have never seen those before - not sure we have them in the US), a fat quarter of autumn-themed fabric, a British quilting magazine (which I've just realized is not in the picture; this is because it is already on my coffee table with a bookmark halfway through it), and the prettiest fall leaves which have been painted and punched. And I'm probably forgetting something, because the box was overflowing with gifts. Thank you, Jackie! You really made my day.

The Fall Swap is the first blogging swap I've done, and it has been a lot of fun. Of course, I'm not done yet. Leave it to me to finish one day before the deadline!

Over the weekend I made it about halfway through a Christmas gift that I'm making, which I cannot post. I'm a little bit stuck on it right now, having a hard time figuring out a particular step. That's all right. It's more satisfying to have a challenge and to figure it out than it is to breeze through a project without any challenges. I also finished a book that I really enjoyed. It is called You Matter More Than You Think by Dr. Leslie Parrott. I know. The title made me hesitate as well. Sounds a little pop-psych, motivational seminar, hug your inner child -ish, right? Well, it's not. It's very good. Dr. Parrott is a professor at SPU, where I attended college, and I have heard her speak on a number of occasions. I first heard of this book from my pastor's wife. She is leading a women's group, using this book as the guide. I went to one of the meetings a few weeks ago, and have not been back due to sickness and vacation, but I will go back. In the meantime, I picked up the book and found that I was not able to stop when I reached the chapter that the group is currently discussing. I had to read the whole thing. It is a refreshing, personal book about the difference that a woman makes with her life. (Yes, it is very much directed to women. Sorry, guys.) Dr. Parrott is very gracious and manages to include all women from all walks of life, without being so general and vague as to have no meaning to any individual woman. I'll be reading this one again.

Ahhh. It has been a great week. Last week, when Andy and I were not feeling well and our daughter was very sick, was a tough week. What a blessing these last several days of rest and fun have been for us! I hope it has been a good week for you as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Therapeutic Crafting

My family's fight against respiratory illness has not kept me from crafting, but it has kept me from focusing. I've started four projects in the last week. You see only three of them here - that is because one has already been torn out. It may or may not be restarted in the future.

This is a teaser. It's that time of year, isn't it? I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of hints, a lot of beginnings of projects, as Christmas approaches. But we cannot show or tell more than that. You never know when gift recipients may be lurking.

This is the project without a home. I bought this yarn more than three years ago when Andy and I first starting hoping for a child. I intended to make a baby blanket from it, but the only crochet stitch I knew was single crochet. Making an entire blanket from single crochet is not only tedious, but it also takes a very, very long time. I got about thirty rows into it, which made it the size of a scarf. When autumn arrived this year, I wanted to crochet again, so out came the baby yarn. I am now armed with a few more stitches than sc. It will still be a baby blanket, but there is no intended recipient at this point.

Another teaser. This particular sample will be torn out, but it will be reworked and turned into something. Really.

Crafting is usually a way for me to relax. That has never been more true than it has been this week. To have a project that I can just pick up and work on during those rare moments when my daughter is engrossed in Curious George or - even more rare - asleep, and then to be able to put it down at a moment's notice - this has been a luxury. I don't aspire to be an award-winning quilter or to publish a crafting book or to have my name associated with all things handmade. I just want to be able to pick up whatever it is I'm stitching and give my brain a chance to work through the problems of the day, or to take a break from the problems of the day. This is my therapy.

And today we scrub

My daughter has been sick this week, quite sick. She has (hopefully had at this point) croup, an "old fashioned disease", as my pastor's wife called it. Anyone who has cared for a sick child can attest to the fact that it is a very challenging job. My experience this week has renewed my respect for both parents who have more than one child and single parents. I'm not sure how I could have cared for more than one child during the hours when my husband was at work, and I'm not sure how I could have cared for the one child if I didn't know that help would arrive each day at 4:00. I've mentioned this to a few people and they've all said, "You just do what you have to do", and past experience tells me that this is true. hat is off to you, parents of multiple children and single parents. You should get an award.

Today marks the first day of having enough health to do some normal things. I have spent a lot of time today with Lysol, hot water, and soap. Enough of this GermFest. I am happy to report that the kitchen is very clean. I'm not so happy to report that I am out of energy. (Did I mention that Andy and I have been fighting the adult version of this virus? It affects us much less severely than it affects young children, but it's still unpleasant.) Maybe we could just live in the kitchen for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Nammies and Yo-Yos

My daughter is two years old. Oh, is she ever two years old. She keeps me on my toes, my little explorer. Here are some of the moments that the fly on our wall has witnessed over the last few days.

This morning I caught her mid-run. She was waving a set of keys (real keys) and heading towards the electrical outlet. She said she needed to "fix" the outlet. (She watches Daddy fix things with screwdrivers.)

Yesterday she twirled our rotating recliner as fast as she could, then stood back and watched it spin. "Look, Mommy, the chair is a ballerina!"

When I returned home from running errands yesterday, she met me at the top of the stairs and announced that she and Daddy got yo-yos at the store. They had gone grocery shopping. My husband laughed and told me to look in the kitchen. He had purchased Jo Jo potatoes from the deli as a treat. We may call them yo-yos from here on.

Last night I pulled her ballerina pajamas out of the dryer and said, "Look what I found!" She ran over, very excited, and yelled, "Nammies!" Why Jo-Jos are yo-yos and jammies are nammies, I do not know.

Yesterday I went to the garage to get something from the car. She must have thought that I had left. When I came back upstairs, she ran to me and hugged my legs and said, "Mommy, I'm so glad you're here!" [Enter melting heart.]

When asked what she would like to eat for breakfast this morning, she replied, "How about cheese and cake and pickles?" Keep dreaming, kid.

And yesterday she said, "No, thanks", unprompted and appropriately. Andy and I were stunned and momentarily speechless.
Ah, life is good.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friends, Food, Fall

Friday already? Beautiful.

The garage sale went well. I was only there for a short time. Elise + tables and tables of other people's things - outside, no less - is not a great combination. She and I popped in to say hello, but Andy is the one who set up at 7:00AM and tore down at 5:30PM. What a guy. Most of our things sold, and what is leftover is destined for donation.

The baby shower last night also went well. We squeezed 26 people into our living room and had a grand time. Dinner was wonderful. Can you beat a potluck? I don't think so. We served a pasta bar. Andy made four different sauces and two different breads; other people brought various noodles and salads, a trifle, a mint chocolate chip cheesecake, carrot cake, and pink lemonade. Oh my. Delicious. Elise went a little nuts towards the end. It was well past her bedtime, she was excited about all the guests being here, and she had carrot cake. She was fast asleep within minutes of the last guest leaving, but not before several moments of hyper defiance of our household rules. Nice. Hope she didn't scare the soon-to-be-parents too much.

Several of the friends who were here last night had never been to our house before. I am really glad that they came. I'm not sure exactly how to explain it, but having a friend come to my home seems to somehow cement the friendship. If they have not been to my home, and if I have not been to theirs, then we have not been introduced to the biggest, probably most important, and most personal part of each others' lives.

I was pleased that everyone here last night was able to compliment Andy on his cooking without insulting me. That sounds very insecure and petty, doesn't it? This is what I mean: When people find out that Andy does most of the cooking in our home, they usually turn to me and say, "Oh, you don't cook?" Sometimes even, "Oh, you don't know how to cook?" Come on, people. If I were the primary cook, would they look surprised and ask Andy if he knew how to cook? No. I do not cook as well as Andy, nor do I cook as frequently as he does. That doesn't mean that I don't know how to cook. Anyway, everyone complimented Andy, and a few people mentioned to me that it was really nice that I have a husband who cooks. I couldn't agree with them more.

Life has thrown us a few curveballs recently. (Is there a cliche for that? If life gives you lemons, make lemonade; if life gives you scraps, make a quilt. What are you supposed to do if life throws you a curveball? Hit it hard? Adjust your swing?) They are making me appreciate daily life all the more. It's comforting to have things to do. I know I say it a lot, but order and routine are just so comforting to me. I can't do anything about the things that are worrying me, but I can do dishes and run errands and pay bills and write schedules and send letters and share dinner with friends. None of those things have anything to do with the problems that are worrying me, but somehow they help.

Today is the most beautiful October day in Seattle. It it sunny and crisp, the leaves are at their peak of color, and there is just the slightest breeze. The tree directly opposite our front window is a brilliant orange. It's just lovely. Perfect crocheting weather.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Great Paper Purge


What's all this? Well, let me tell you. This is five and a half bags of shredded paper. I mentioned that I was going through our filing cabinet and purging unnecessary papers. Turns out there were a lot of unnecessary papers. This isn't even all of it. This is just the remains of the pile of To Be Shredded papers. There was an equally large pile of To Be Recycled papers (not being shredded, they didn't take up five and a half garbage bags worth of space). It took me well over an hour to shred all these papers. My paper shredder and I are now on a first name basis. (His name is Bernard, if you're curious.)

I know...the trees. It is sad. I do not mean to diminish the very real problem of irresponsible lumbering. But let's be honest, folks - the trees are no more dead now than they were when these papers were intact in my filing cabinet.

I don't think I can describe how happy it makes me to see our paperwork organized. This makes me believe that I am indeed...


It's A Beautiful Day

I wonder how many of you will read the title and instantly start humming a Mr. Rogers' tune, and how many of you will read it and start nodding in time to the U2 song that is now stuck in your head. I'm a stay at home mom to a two year old, so my inner rock star was squelched by a smiling, kindly, cardigan-wearing, puppet-wielding gentleman.

It is a beautiful day here, in potential if not in weather. Outside is gray and dreary and cold and wet, but it's pleasant here in the house. Elise got me out of bed earlier than I usually get up, but for once I didn't mind. The house is still a wreck as we're gearing up for the garage sale tomorrow. We're hopeful that shoppers will live up to their Seattlite reputations and not let the rain keep them away. Really, though, we don't care if stuff sells. Whatever doesn't sell will be donated. We're just so happy to be getting rid of some stuff! It has been fun to go through the house and say, "Hey, we don't need this anymore! Hey, let's get rid of that!" Very freeing. We even found a bag of stuff that we had never seen before. I'm not kidding. There was a big garbage bag in the garage that Andy thought was full of items going to our church nursery (I frequently have bags or boxes of stuff headed that way, so I can see why he thought that), and that I didn't even know was there, as I don't venture into the storage area of the garage very often. Well, I opened it last night and found that it was from a friend of ours who gave us some things when they moved. Apparently they dropped this bag off during Elise's birthday party, which was 3 hours of loosely organized chaos, so neither Andy nor I ever realized that the bag was there. It feels odd to open something in your own storage area and find that you have never seen it before. Kind of like getting a roll of film developed only to find that they are somebody else's pictures. Weird.

As per the suggestions given by Write, Mama. Write, and prompted by the desire to find superfluous toys for the garage sale, I moved Elise's toys around yesterday. Just some subtle changes - I moved her toy bins to a different wall in the playroom, moved the rocking horse from the living room into the playroom, and brought a couple of toys from the playroom into the living room. I just wanted to encourage her to play with a variety and to stimulate her imagination. It worked. She pulled toys and books from the toy bins that she hadn't played with in months. When she got up this morning, she immediately went to play with the doll house in the living room, occupying herself for quite a while. It was a joy to watch her play.

In another attempt to exercise Elise's imagination, I turned the kitchen table into a playhouse yesterday. I put a blanket on the floor under the table, added some pillows, some baby dolls, Legos, and books, and threw a sheet over the table to make "walls". Elise loved it, but she said it was too dark, so I put a lamp under there. She played for over an hour. At one point she read The Little Red Hen to her Lego penguins and orca. I heard her say, "Come on, ping-pwings [penguins], come on, whale, let's read! Okay. [gibberish, gibberish, gibberish, all in a high-pitched voice] The end!" She had great fun, and I got a few things done while she was so happily playing. My thanks to Write, Mama. Write. for inspiration.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Fall Swap

Chara Michele is hosting a Fall Swap. The sign up deadline is coming up quickly, so head on over if you're interested. (Click on the picture above.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bits and Pieces

Whew! Here I am, sitting down with my coffee and my blog, catching my breath. Our life has been crazy busy lately. Here are a few glimpses:

Last Saturday was our church's annual Fall Fest. Andy was the official photographer, standing behind the camera for 3 1/2 hours while hundreds of people filed through to have their Old West themed family photos taken. During a lull, Elise explored the staging and Andy snapped this photo.

The Wednesday night kids' program that I work with started up again last Wednesday night. I'm so excited about it. We have a great team of people serving as leaders, and a great group of kids as well. We worked really hard over the summer to put this year's program together, so it's nice to see it off to such a good start.

This is a scrap tablerunner that I'm working on. Come to find out, working with scraps of varying sizes, without precise measuring, is a lot more time consuming than I thought. But I'm enjoying it, and I love the blue and white fabrics.

Several months ago I won a yard of fabric from Sew Mama Sew!, and I kept forgetting to mention it here. I chose Amy Butler's Pink Tree Peony from the Lotus collection. I intended to make a bag of some sort from it, but haven't done so yet.

We will be participating in a community garage sale this coming weekend. It will be so nice to get rid of stuff! Andy has been pricing away. Our house is a disaster - not so much because of garage sale preparations as just the crazy pace we've been keeping lately. It will be cleaned, though. It must be. We will be hosting a baby shower here next week. Having company is great motivation for cleaning, isn't it?

Since we've been busy and have this shower coming up, I naturally decided that now would be a good time to revamp our filing system. Does anyone else ever do that? Find yourself in the middle of busy times and yet somehow convince yourself that now is a good time to start a back burner, detailed project? I seem to do that a lot. This time I was motivated by an appointment we had earlier in the week. We had to locate a lot of old paperwork for the appointment, and that was a daunting task. It just reminded me that our files were a mess. Yesterday I emptied the filing cabinet and Andy and I went through it paper by paper. Today we have a huge pile to recycle, an even bigger pile to shred, and a box of up-to-date files. It's fantastic! I'm not done quite yet - the files aren't labeled well - but it feels so great to have this task nearly completed.

Read any good books lately? I have. I just finished The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It is a really good book. There were a few parts that I found a bit dry and difficult to get through, and I found one minor inconsistency - an inconsequential character whose name changes halfway through the story - but those things were easy to overlook. This is a stirring book. It is also a very sad book. Don't read it if you are looking for an uplifting story. It is the story of a boy growing up in Afghanistan in the 1970s, and then it follows his life up to present day. If you are familiar with Afghanistan's history over the last thirty years, you can imagine that there are not many happy stories to tell. This story if fictional, but the context is very real. I did find that, once a plot line was revealed, the outcome of that plot was quite predictable. I did not feel that this took away from the story at all. I didn't want any big surprises from this book. The story is so tragic that I needed it to be predictable; I needed to be somewhat prepared for what was to come. I will also say that parts of this book are extremely graphic and disturbing. Be warned.

Speaking of The Kite Runner, I had an unusual experience while reading it. I was reading it last week while waiting for a doctor's appointment. When my OB entered the room, she saw the book and mentioned that she was reading it as well. This led to a lengthy discussion of the book (she was just a few pages behind me, but they were crucial pages to the story), why neither of us wanted to see the movie that is based on the book, why we both had a hard time watching The Passion of the Christ, our individual beliefs about who Christ is (we agree, come to find out), religion in general, and parenting. (My apologies to the other patients who were waiting for the doctor.) It was just an odd conversation to have with an OB. Usually conversations with such a doctor are quite limited. My doctor is also an avid quilter. This fact, combined with our recent conversation, leads me to believe that we could be friends were it not for our professional doctor-patient relationship.

So there you have it - a few recent snapshots of our household.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Dichotomy of Seasons

My daughter was napping, the house was quiet, and I had decided to take a bit of a break from housework. I found myself sitting, eating a piece of pumpkin pie, flipping through a Christmas catalog that arrived in the mail today, and sipping...iced tea. If someone had sketched the scene, it could have been included in the "What's Wrong With This Picture?" pictures in kids' magazines.

Perhaps I haven't really let go of summer after all.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fun Mail

Getting good mail is fun, isn't it? Packages, personal letters, cards, magazines that you actually enjoy - receiving these things can really brighten a day. Saturday was a good mail day for me. Last week I won a drawing at Fresh Vintage, and Colleen kindly sent this prize: a box full of vintage goods! Check out her original post for more pictures and details.

I think this little activity book is darling.

This receipt is from 1881. I love the handwriting. Penmanship is a dying art, don't you think?

This is an autograph book from the mid-1930s. Another example of penmanship. I like reading the verses written by young children and thinking about them now, grandparents and great-grandparents.

Everything came packaged in this recipe box, which is actually quite large. My husband was excited to find the card inside the lid, which contains a list of measurement conversions, i.e., how many eggs = one pound. Not that we have much occasion for using a pound of eggs, but still...

Here's the whole thing. Colleen included a lot. There is a book on knitting items for babies; several receipts; price tags; linen napkins; birthday candle holders; ric-rac; a biscuit cutter; a recipe booklet; and more! Andy and I both enjoy vintage and antique items. It's not so much the monetary value that we care about; we just enjoy the history, thinking about the people who made and used the items, thinking about the era in which they lived. We gravitate towards practical items - cameras, sewing machines, dishes, tools, linens - rather than decorative, which makes Colleen's gift even better. Everything she included was to be used in daily life at a home or business.

Thank you, Colleen, you made my day!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On the road again

This was my solution to the sewing rut. These are Jenny's Criss-Cross Coasters. She mentions in a later post that making these little guys is addicting...and she's right! They were so easy to make, so fast, and so fun. I used 4" squares instead of 4.5", just because I had a bunch of leftover 4" squares. That makes these coasters a tad small, but still quite functional.

I think this may have pulled me out of the sewing rut. My fear now is that the only thing coming out of the sewing room for a while will be stacks and stacks of coasters...

I knew it was too quiet!

Normally I really like Elise's drawings. I cherish them. This one...not so much. Why? you ask. Because this is my wall. And those are felt-tipped markers, the old-fashioned non-washable ones. (I don't know why we have them.) So, rather than save the wall in its current artistic state, I took a picture. And now we will see just how magical Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser really is.

Out of a rut, into a groove

I've been in a bit of a rut lately. I either have motivation but few ideas, as is the case with blogging, or lots of ideas but little motivation, as is the case with sewing. Then this morning I felt like I was in a general rut, just feeling kind of "blah", realizing that there was a lot to do but not really knowing where to start, feeling disinterested in my tasks, that kind of thing. (I am keenly aware from that last sentence that this post will not win any composition awards!) Fortunately, I have felt that way before. I know what to do when I wake up in a funk. It usually takes me a little while to convince myself that I am in said funk, but once I admit it, I know where to go from there. I just have to do something, something productive and with tangible results, something that is so routine that I could do it in my sleep - or, more importantly, so routine that I could do it in my bad mood. Making the bed, unloading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, etc. Each completed task, no matter how small, provides the motivation to move on to the next task. It also usually provides a segue to the next task. What I mean is that I don't usually have to stop and decide what to do next; one task leads into another. Unloading the dishwasher leads directly to loading the dishwasher. Loading the dishwasher leads to wiping off the counters. Wiping off the counters leads to sweeping the floor. That's just the way the wrinkles in my brain have formed.

So that's what I did this morning. I forced myself to do something, to get moving. I started with gathering loose laundry around the house, and went from there. It worked! I got a lot done, and the work helped to clarify the rest of the tasks that I need to do today. And now I'm blogging about it, hoping that doing so will help to pull me from the blogging rut. Naptime is coming up (for Elise, not me), and I'll be using that time to pull myself out of the sewing rut. Wish me luck.

Monday, September 17, 2007

You know it's a busy morning when...

...the coffeemaker turns itself off before you pour your first cup.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

15 Seconds of Local Fame

Last week my husband had his shot at local fame, and yesterday Elise and I had ours. Sadly, I do not have a link or video for you. We aren't that famous. The story is this: Elise and I attended a September 11 memorial service at a local park. We got there early and were approached by a reporter from a local news station. He asked us a few questions about why we attended the memorial, how September 11 had affected me, etc. Being the big softie that I am, I started crying (because of the topic), and of course I couldn't think of anything intelligent to say. As soon as the interview was over, I thought of all sorts of profound things to say, but that didn't really help. I was very, very nervous about showing up on the evening news in tears, but I was pleasantly surprised by the editing that they did. They showed me a little choked up, but did not make me look like the blubbering fool that I felt. I think we made the final cut because a) I had Elise with me and b) I mentioned that my brother will be heading to Iraq shortly.

Anyhow, it was an interesting experience. I thought I would be horribly embarrassed to watch the interview, but it was okay.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11

We will not waver;
We will not tire;
We will not falter;
And we will not fail.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Growing Up

Here she is, our little Sunday school student. She was so excited to go to the "big kids' room".

I thought Elise might be a bit hesitant to say goodbye to us when we dropped her off at Sunday school, being in a new room and all, but she was fine. She walked right in and began to play. Child-sized chairs pulled up to a table full of Playdough certainly didn't hurt.

After church, our entire congregation gathered on the lawn for a balloon release. We do this each year at the beginning of the school year. We sent more than 300 balloons to the sky yesterday.

Elise released my balloon at the appointed time. She kept hers.
It was a great day. Elise brought home her first Sunday school papers - torn pieces of paper glued together on construction paper to make the sun and the moon. I believe her class is learning about the creation of the world. I might have to frame those papers.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Comings and Goings

What a lovely couple of days! On Thursday I got a call from a dear friend whom I hadn't seen in a long time. She was calling with the wonderful news that she would be in town on Friday. Nothing could have made me happier! So, of course, we got together on Friday, along with a couple other friends. It was a short visit, but lovely, and I was thrilled to find out that she'll be back in town shortly. You know, many of my college friends moved away after graduation, and there were two in particular whom I missed sorely. One of them moved back last year. The friend I saw on Friday is the other. I wonder what it would take to get her to move back? Hmm...

Andy and I began today with no particular plan in mind. I decided to go through Elise's clothes, pack away the ones she has outgrown, that sort of thing. At one point I went downstairs to find a particular bin in the closet under the stairs. What a mess! So I started going through it, labeling bins, cleaning out bins, etc. Andy and Elise came downstairs, Elise to play, Andy to help. We worked hard. Finally Andy pointed out that it was 2:30, we had not eaten lunch, and Elise had not taken a nap. Oops. We remedied those situations and I think we are both very happy with the work that was unexpectedly accomplished.

Tomorrow promises to be a memorable day. Tomorrow Elise will start Sunday school. At our church, the nursery is provided for children from birth until age two. At the beginning of each school year, the two year olds move up to Sunday school. Tomorrow is the day. I'm excited, and I think Elise will really enjoy it...and I'm just a little bit sad, just because this is yet another sign that my baby isn't a baby anymore. She can "read" (she has it memorized) the entire Curious George book that we read each night at bedtime. She "reads" it to me now. I just sit there, completely delighted and completely saddened by her growth.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Long Post With Pictures Of My Living Room

Blair's Rules to Live By gave me something to think about. Rule #4 especially. I decided to take inventory of my living room, just out of curiosity, to see how many decorative items actually have some sort of meaning to Andy and me, other than just the fact that we like it. In other words, how much of our stuff has a story? Here is a brief description of our living room.

This is the top of our entertainment center. The entertainment center used to be in Andy's parents' family room. On top we have a "Daddy" picture that hung in Andy's dad's office for years. He gave it to Andy when Elise was born. Next to that is a tealight candleholder made from a tree that was in Andy's backyard during his childhood. When his parents added on to the house, the tree had to come down. That was a very sad day for Andy. A friend of the family kindly made this candleholder and one like it for Andy and his sister, and I believe he made a bowl for Andy's parents, all from the beloved tree. Behind the candleholder is a clock that we recieved as a wedding gift. Next to that are two figurines. The smaller is named Elisabeth. I have had her since I was a very young child. She used to dance and be musical, but one fateful day she was dropped, and the stand from whence she twirled and played her music was broken. I am grateful that she herself did not break. The other figurine was given to me by Andy on the day that Elise was born. It is, in case you can't tell from the picture, a mother holding a baby. (And, because I have a toddler, there is also a third figurine behind the entertainment center. We got her in Mexico on our honeymoon. She is beautiful, but a bit wobbly; thus, her new home behind the cabinet.)

Next we have the mantle. It changes frequently. Right now it holds a "God Bless Our Home" plaque that was given to us when we moved into our current house. Next to that is a bluebird tray that I bought from an online auction just because I liked it. No story there. Behind that is a wooden serving tray, a wedding gift made by the same wonderful woodworking friend who made the candleholder. Next to that is a beautiful plate - bronze, perhaps? - that was also a wedding gift. It was made by a friend who is a master blacksmith. Those two items - the tray and the plate - were among my very favorite wedding gifts. Next to the plate is a vase made from a glass block. Not really a story there, at least not one that gives the vase sentimental value. We purchased it at a craft fair, so at least its purchase supported a local artist. Please ignore the rather dead flowers in it. Next to the vase are some old books. I am not counting books in my inventory. They are a story unto themselves, yes? I do have a penchant for old books, though, and frequently use them in decorating. I used to buy old books just because I liked how they looked. Now I only buy old books that I would actually read. Next to the books, although you cannot see it in this picture, is a piece of petrified wood. It was in my parents' home for as long as I can remember. I believe they got it at the Petrified Forest National Park on our road trip to California when I was three. I'm actually not sure how I acquired it. I think it must have been living in my room when I went away to college, and thus got packed with my stuff. Huh. I wonder if they want it back? And last but not least, at the end of the mantle you can see a plant. I am so proud of this plant. I got it seven years ago and it is still alive. If you know me, you know how amazing that is. (I got a cactus right around the same time that I got this plant. I killed the cactus. Do you know how hard it is to kill a cactus? Hard.)

This little cupboard is technically a DVD/CD cabinet, and we do use part of it for that purpose, as you can tell. We got it at IKEA. No story. The contents are a bit more interesting. The teapot on the top left was a lovely gift from my friend Janene. The blue teapot in the middle was a wedding gift. The teapot on the right was a thrift store find, just something I liked. No sentimental value. On the bottom shelf there is a green honey jar given to us by a friend. It was a birthday gift from her husband, and she loved it, but they downsized and couldn't keep everything. In front of that is an old tea strainer and dish (I don't know what the dish is called...I guess it's just part of the strainer). It was also a gift from a friend. Behind that is a lone teacup with a dogwood flower on it. An antique store purchase. I think it was $1. I was drawn to the dogwood flower. No story. And next to that is a "tea for one" set, given to me by a very dear friend and one-time roommate. And next to that are DVDs. :)

This bookshelf was purchased at a department or discount store, I can't remember which. Sometimes you just have to purchase what you need, you know? It isn't a decorative item; it is a practical item. Anyhow...the only decorative thing on the bookshelf is a "Praying Hands" bookend. This belonged to Andy's grandparents, and it was given to Andy when they passed away.

The sofa was given to us by Andy's parents. The throw pillows were made by Andy's mother. The patchwork throw was made by me.

This cabinet is not actually ours. It is on loan to us by our downsizing friends. We really like it. You can't really see everything in it in this picture. There is more "just because" stuff in this shelf than anywhere else in the living room. The top (which you cannot see at all) is covered in family photos. The large open shelf houses an old desktop seismograph that Andy found at an antique store. We both like old things, as you will see. Next to the seismograph is a musical snow globe that Andy gave to me as a Christmas gift when we were engaged. I love it. It shows animals (lion, lamb, rabbit, mouse, cardinals, etc.) on the inside and it plays Amazing Grace. Also on that shelf is a vintage sewing machine. I think it would work, but the cord is frayed. It was an antique store find. Behind all of those things is a yardstick (Elise calls it "Daddy's stick") from Andy's grandfather's realty business.
In the lefthand cupboard is a concertina that belonged to Andy's grandfather, a very old magazine (I do not recall whether Andy purchased it or it belonged to his grandparents), and some Franciscan dishes given to us by friends. The center shelves house a unique vase that we purchased at a craft fair. I really like it. I almost said that it does not have a story or sentimental value, but that's not true. It does not commemorate a particularly special occasion like the wedding gifts or the honeymoon figurine, but it does remind me of a pleasant, quiet day spent with my husband. It's something that we picked out together, something we both like. That is its story. Below the vase is a silver tray given to us for our fifth anniversary by Andy's grandmother, from her own collection. The righthand cupboards house part of Andy's coin and camera collection, and my Louisa May Alcott books. There is also another mother/daughter figurine, given to me by Andy on Mother's Day.

And this...this is what I found this morning. Andy left it for me when he went to work. Those are checker pieces. Isn't he charming?