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?

Good Rules

I must direct you to WiseCraft's Rules to Live By. I wholeheartedly agree with them. I was going to say that I especially agree with Rule #_, but then realized that I would basically be copying the entire list.

Adventures in parenting

Last week was a challenging week in the realm of parenthood. For whatever reason, Elise could not sleep. She did not take an afternoon nap for three days in a row - in a row! - and only slept for 30 minutes or so on the other days, and she slept fitfully at night, taking hours to fall asleep, waking up during the night, and getting up early in the morning. This meant that I got very little done last week and that Andy and I got less sleep than usual as well. And let me tell you, a sleep-deprived toddler is not a happy toddler. She also wasn't eating much last week, which had us concerned. It was a trying week.

This week has been like butter. " buttah". Yeah. She sleeps eleven or twelve hours at night. She's taking three hour naps in the afternoon (unusual for her). She's cleaning her plate at mealtime. She happy and energetic and engaging. We ran errands yesterday and she was a little saint. It is wonderful. And a good thing, too - last week I did not know how I was going to make it through the year.

Yesterday in particular was a good day. Elise topped it off with two adorable antics at bedtime. We were saying bedtime prayers. Usually we just let Elise pray with whatever words she chooses, and right now her prayers consist mostly of "thank you". Last night she had her eyes tightly shut and prayed, "Thank you [for] Daddy's truck. Thank you car. Thank Thank binkies. Thank you...umm...thank you..." At this point she peeked around her room, apparently trying to find something else to thank Jesus for. I guess she didn't find anything that particularly inspired her. She closed her eyes again and said, "The End!"

A moment later, as I was tucking her in, we found that Lambie was not in the crib. Lambie goes pretty much everywhere with Elise. She's not completely addicted to him - she can go to sleep without him - but she definitely prefers to have him there. So Andy and I did a quick house search for him. He was not there. We checked the car. Nope. We checked the obscure places where Lambie has been found in the past - hidden corners, the bathtub, that sort of thing. We could not find him. Then we remembered that Elise had taken Lambie outside with her earlier in the day. At that point we had to find him because we didn't want him to get all wet and dirty and potentially mildewed overnight. So off I went to search our backyard. I don't think I had ever before been in our backyard after dark. It was really, really dark. We have a motion-censored light, but for whatever reason it decided to stay on for all of three seconds at a time. I went into the darkness and Andy stayed next to the light, jumping around to get it to turn on. Then we came to our senses and got a flashlight. I wandered around the yard for a minute or two, looking around the toys, the shed, all of the places that I remembered Elise playing. Then I found him. On the patio, lounging in a lawn chair, looking as though he had been waiting for his umbrella drink for hours. Even in her excitement over playing outside (Elise loves to play outside), she had thoughtfully made sure that Lambie was comfortable in his own chair before she ran off to play.

Those two things made my night. Right now Elise is "reading" a grocery store ad, and she just told me that it was a great story. "Really?", I said. "Yes. It's really, really fun!" was her response. Gotta love those great, fun artichoke ads.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fall is here.

So it seems. We woke up this morning to a cool, foggy, drizzly day. My feet are cold (and yes, Andy, I am wearing socks) and I have all the lights in our living area on. It's dismal without them. I would imagine that summer will make an encore performance, but only to give us closure so that we may turn our attentions fully towards autumn.

We enjoyed our Labor Day weekend, the unofficial time to mark the changing of the seasons. I began a new cross stitch project (much to Andy's annoyance; I still have not finished the one he bought for me 4 1/2 years ago). We canned pears. We made the most delicious triple-crust peach cobbler - the kind of dessert that keeps cardiologists in business. So good. We finished the long weekend with a birthday barbecue for a one year old friend. It was there that Elise got a taste of paradise - the bouncy house. She wents nuts over it. Have I mentioned that my daughter likes to jump? She does. "Like" is a mellow word for it. She loves it. Jumping is her preferred form of ambulation.

And now my thoughts are turning towards the holidays. What will Elise's Halloween costume be? Will we travel? What events do we want to attend and which can we skip? What should we make for Thanksgiving dinner? Which gifts will I make and which will we buy? How early should I send a package to my brother in Iraq? Should we introduce Santa Claus this year? How will we observe Advent? And so on and so forth. I am frequently an indecisive person, and I have recently learned that too many undecided decisions stress me out. This usually happens when the decisions to be made are over insignificant things. For example: if we have a variety of errands to run and would also like to go out for dinner, the decisions may involve what kind of food I am in the mood for, which restaurant would be most likely to accomodate a toddler well, what gift we should get for an upcoming baby shower, what store would be most likely to have that gift, what restaurants are close to that store, whether we should invite friends to go to dinner with us, what Elise should wear, etc. Little decisions, right? Insignificant decisions. But throw them all at me at once, and I have a very difficult time sorting through them. Each one feels heavier than it really is, and I find myself putting way too much thought into them. Since I realized this weakness, it has been easier to deal with it. Now I try to remember that the "problem" could be solved by simply making a decision and not worrying about it. My response used to be (and too frequently still is - sorry, honey, I really am working on it) to get irritated and defensive. My husband would ask for my opinion and I would say, irritably, "I don't care. Whatever. You decide." Very immature of me. So I'm working on it. And what better opportunity than the holidays. There will be a million decisions to make, and most of them will be relatively insignificant. I will try not to give myself (and my family) a headache by stressing over where to put the peppermint candle or which ribbon goes with which wrapping paper.

And now to find warmer socks...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cottage Quilt

Well, it's finally done. My simple, easy, spur-of-the-moment little quilt is done. And it only took (insert sarcasm here) two and a half months.

After a failed attempt at free motion quilting, I decided to just tie it. I don't believe I had ever tied a quilt before. It was nice. And fast. Once that was done, I got to do the fun part. The binding. I like sewing the binding. I like making binding strips, I like machine stitching it to the front of the quilt, and I really like hand stitching it to the back of the quilt. Very pleasant work.

The only thing I had to buy for this quilt was the thread. I like that. I did not officially join the Use What You Have challenge, but I appreciate the idea behind it. Most of the fabrics used in this quilt came from fat quarters that I've had for years or from the ready-made stash that my mother-in-law gave me last spring. The batting was left over from a larger project, and the ties were made from floss in my embroidery basket.

I think I'll keep this one. It is receiving blanket size and would make a good baby gift, but all of my friends who are currently pregnant have opted to not find out the gender of their baby until he or she is born. Figures. This is most certainly not a gender-neutral quilt. That's okay, I'm happy to keep it. Right now it lives on the back of the rocking chair in Elise's room, and I think that's probably where it will stay for a while.