Tuesday, December 28, 2010

a special gift

We are back home and getting sorted out again to resume a partial routine. The holidays were festive and fun and fattening and tiring! We had mild weather and no storms, unlike last Christmas, so driving to visit family was not life-threatening. Surviving the delicious meals and treats was more of a threat! I managed to bring home 2 more pounds than I left with, so will need to focus on that along with getting back on the treadmill.

Lest you think that all of my Christmas decor is totally tacky and gorilla-laden, I want to show you this very special hardanger tabletop piece on my Christmas tablecloth--
This was made by my friend, LeAnne, and it is a treasure. This example of needlecraft shows the intricate nature of the stitching, the little open squares shown in the picture on the left are shown in detail on the other picture so you can get some sense of what goes into this work of art. Since this needlecraft is connected to Scandinavia, it is not unusual to see it in this area of the country full of Johnsons, Olsons, Larsons, etc. But of all the people I know who do many kinds of handcrafts, I know of only 2 women who still know how to do hardanger.

Our Christmas Eve kick-off was a fabulous sleigh ride with our North Carolina visitors. Steve Wood (the fellow in the red jacket at the reins) was our host at Wildwood Sleigh and Carriage near Elk River (actually closer to Nowthen, one of the best named towns ever). Steve raises and trains horses to pull people around, much to our delight. Steve also doubles as an excellent vocalist and choir director at our own little church, Cedar United Methodist. We had a fun excursion around the woods and fields, and even learned interesting facts about the area and its history.
After the ride Brita and Ben took a moment to thank our team for the trip!

One of the fun things that were given to me this year is perhaps one of the simplest, again proving that it doesn't require a lot to make an impression! Not everyone might think this is so special, but one of my necessities and favorite things is ziplock bags--they are my go-to storage system for my sewing, quilting, knitting, etc. So when Nancy gifted me 2 boxes of these bags I was in my happy place!
These are the Istad bags from IKEA, in 4 sizes and colors and designs. A sampling of them is traveling back to CA with Dan to go to Katy, who is a fellow appreciator of special bags. I have not yet met Katy, but I feel we must be kindred souls because we both like the same bags and Marimeko fabric!

I leave you today with a snapshot of my 2 little kids, happy to be together.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

merry christmas to all

I am so looking forward to the next few days--family, food and fun! Having son, daughter, son-in-law, son-in-law's parents from N. Carolina all here tomorrow will be one of my most special experiences. And shouldn't there be a term for that relationship between parents of a married couple? There are steps and halfs and in-laws galore, but nothing to identify that unique relationship between my son-in-law's parents and us. "Extended family" just doesn't cut it in my book! "Friends" could be applied, but that is too general to describe the affiliation that I am thinking of. Two sets of parents both involved in the lives of a couple with different backgrounds and histories, but a mutual love. Maybe we need to invent a new word!!

So I will be absent from my posts for the next few days, and made this little holiday video just for you--

important video

Just in the nick of time, I found this video on another blog. It is important for every man to see this and study it carefully. The world would be a better place if this was required viewing when boys reach puberty. It could make Christmas and birthdays and Mother's Day into a whole new level of holiday. Just watch it and see if you agree!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

ornaments, part deux

It was too hard to limit the pictures of my favorite ornaments on my last posting, so here is the sequel!
This is actually my newest ornament, a gift from Laurel on Sunday.
In case you can't make out the contents of the glass ball, there are some little yarn balls with miniature knitting needles. Got a chuckle out of me! In the background you can see one of the funniest ornaments we have, I think Danny made it in Cub Scouts out of a Brazil nut and pipe cleaners for Rudolph's antlers. It is precious!

This is one of the ornaments that always gives me pause when it comes out of the box. It is so simple, yet makes such a statement. I'm pretty sure that we all recognize that little red ribbon loop as a symbol of the fight against AIDS. I not only remember Rick when I hang this on the tree, but also the challenge of riding my bicycle from Minneapolis to Chicago to raise money and awareness. The fun and excitement trumped the sore butt by tenfold!

I have been busy making some Christmas gifts so I don't have many pictures of sewing and knitting to share until after those gifts are delivered. But here is one that is safe to show, I think! It is my second making of the Primitive Pinwheels, and this time made from Japanese fabrics. Several of these fabrics were in a bundle of little squares that was gifted to me. In addition, I scavenged enough to complete the project from old fabric sample cards that were heading to the dumpster at the store. I peeled the fabrics off the cards, washed the glue out and trimmed them up. Voila!
I have framed it in a picture frame for display, it was a nice way to finish it. I am going to be teaching this for a class at the store sometime this winter. Since these are such little guys, it is a quick and easy project.
My mission for today is to finish the presents so I had better get a move on....

Monday, December 20, 2010

pomp and circumstance

We had a quick but fun trip to Ames, IA, on Saturday to attend the graduation of my nephew, Spencer, from Iowa State University. It was fun to watch all the red and black robes march into the auditorium and then proceed with the ceremony. Afterward we had a good dinner together and we took numerous pictures, since it not only was a greatday for Spencer but for the rest of his family, too. Here are the proud parents and sister--
Turns out there are 16 cousins on both sides of Spencer's family, and he is the final of the 16 to graduate from college--wow!

This also was one of the few times that my parents have their 3 kids together--
That's me on the left, next to little sis, Jan, from San Francisco. On the right is brother Jarry, with mom and dad in the middle. Not a bad bunch, except it looks like Jan is growing a poinsettia on top of her head!

I am counting down the days till Christmas, we have a bunch of fun things to look forward to! I went out this morning for my one and only shopping excursion to the mall, and got in and out without any problems. Got everything on my list plus a few more surprises! Spent the rest of the day wrapping and admiring our Christmas decor with snowflakes coming down outside. It's hard to choose favorites, but these are some of the ornaments that I especially like--
I made our stockings a few years ago from a Thimbleberries pattern (now out of print) and I was able to find the directions and enough similar fabrics to make a matching one for Ben this year. I even uncovered some of the same fabrics that I used in the first 4 stockings! Well aged!
The next picture has me a little worried--this is son, Dan's, pickup out in Mammoth Lakes, CA. The worry is that he won't get it shoveled out in time to get on his flight home on Thursday!
They have had many feet of snow in December, it just keeps piling deeper and deeper. They report that it is the snowiest December on their records, which is what they are saying about MN right now, too! Although our snow bonanza is peanuts compared to the mountains, it still causes some problems for folks around here. And makes the snowmobilers and snow removal companies happy! Once again, we have proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder--lots of snow can mean lots of fun, a boost in income, a hassle and a mess!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sometimes we worry about whether we will have a white Christmas. Not so much this winter! This was last Sunday after we got a good little snowstorm on Saturday. The roof of the Metrodome collapsed under the weight of the snow because it was too windy to get the crew up there to move enough of the snow. Wouldn't you think there would be a better way to clear the snow? Poor guys who have to risk their lives for the sake of athletes, maybe the athletes should be required to help with the snow to earn some of their millions.
Bob and I are very glad that we (he) had the presence of mind to buy a little lawn tractor for mowing and snowblowing soon after we built this house. It has held up pretty well, needing some repairs and maintenance over the years, but still "runs like a Deere"!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

so much excitement!

I'm sorry. I've been holding out on you.

I have found my new love. In the world of fabulous machines, anyway! Definitely still keeping Bob since he is very handy with a snow shovel and indispensable around here. But I think even he understands (at least partially) my new infatuation with my beautiful Bernina 730 from Bear Patch Sewing Center. I have waited a long time for this upgrade, happy to use my Viking Lily for the last ~10 years. We have had many adventures together and plenty of face time. But now I have moved on to the next chapter, and I'm lovin' it!
I have adjusted my little SewEzi table to fit the Bernina, still needing a plexiglass bed to fit exactly around the shape of the arm, but the plexiglass that fit my Viking comes very close to matching so I can use it for now. I'm finding my way around the touchscreen using the manual on my own until I get into a class at Bear Patch. Looking forward to happy hours bonding with my new friend!

Friday, December 10, 2010

and a good time was had by all

Last night was the Christmas party for my quilt group, the Ham Lake Piecemakers. By the way, who names a lake like that? Maybe there are just too many lakes to think up something more lovely than a chunk of hog. Sunset. Flower. Whisper. Rosebud. Those would all work better in my naming system. Anyway, back to the party, which was held at the home of Carol C. We have our regular meetings on the second, fourth and fifth Thursdays at Cedar United Methodist Church because it is sort of centrally located for our members and it is FREE! That made a big difference when we were informed that our previous meeting place (Ham Lake City Hall) could no longer accommodate our group. Since I was a member at Cedar UMC (and still am!) I hooked us up with the powers that govern the building. It's a small church, basically just the sanctuary, 2 offices, and one large multi-use space with a kitchen thrown in. But it has turned out to be a great place for the quilters on Thursday nights because we pretty much have the place to ourselves. And like I said, it's FREE! So to compensate for the utilities and wear-and-tear on the place, we have a tradition of collecting a Christmas donation of cash and cookies. And I got to bring the cookies home before delivering them to the church today so they can be used on Sunday. They are amazing!
Since they spent the night at myhouse, I had the chance to look at them a little more closely, and picked these out as my favorites:
What a generous group, it makes me happy to take these boxes of cookies along with an envelope stuffed with cash to the church office. Thank you Piecemakers!
We had a great potluck meal last night and Carol nearly ran out of counter space for all the goodies! I do have to say that her punch was yummy, and considering she confessed that she had never made punch before, I would say she should be our Punch Person from now on! Her home was great for our group of 25 (or so), roomy enough to enjoy our meal and then all sit together for the rest of the festivities. We play a little dice game for doorprizes, then we have an exchange of gifts. We draw names early in theyear, and then make something for each other. What a range of gifts and talents in our group! Everything from whole quilts to flannel slippers to pincushions to tablerunners, each gift a treasure.
I drew Jenny's name, and since I knew she loved Moda fabrics I wanted to do something with that. Here's what happened:
I sorted through my selvedges and used the ones that had come from Moda fabrics to make this little sewing caddy from a pattern by Graham Cracker Collection. I opted not to add the pockets on the outside of the pouch because that would have spoiled all those pretty selvedges! The pincushion on top is detachable from the tile base and the pouch is detachable to make emptying easy.
The edge of the pouch is made firm by a ring of plastic tubing sewn inside, which makes it flexible but resilient. The secret about this particular tubing is that it was scavenged from my nursing past (not used, I promise) and finally found a useful place. Pretty good re-purposing, don't you think?!
Sharon had drawn my name this year, and look at the cool spools she made for me! These will be perfect to hang on the wall by my thread rack.
Sharon found the pattern on a trip to Washington state at the Lavender Rabbit, if you look at this link you can see the neat idea for a hanger that I think I can contrive from some of my old wooden spools. What a great gift!
Today brings more sunshine and another party tonight, this time at a further distance (2 hours) so I hope the weather holds out, I don't want to miss Nancy's fest. I am cleaning, sewing, knitting, quilting and keeping the home fires burning (literally)!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

this and that

I have a couple of "relics" to share with you again! I have been doing some rearranging of storage and closets,thanks to spaces opened up by the transfer of Brita boxes from here to her own home. During that process, I have come across some things that I made in years past.
This rug was my own design, it was made with a latchhook and hundreds (thousands?) of pieces of yarn cut about 3" long. I used to buy the canvas and yarn packs from the Lee Wards store that was in Columbia Heights in the late 70's. That was the first store I remember going to that would qualify as a "craft" store, and I thought it was heaven! Michael's bought out Lee Wards back in the mid- 90's, so it is no more. :-(
This next little gem is a reflection of my period of counted cross stitch obsession. This particular project must have been an omen of my cross-over to quilting! I learned to do counted cross stitch in the summer of 1976 when we lived in Tom's Place, CA. Bob's cousin, Sandy, showed me the way when we visited a little shop in Bishop to buy supplies for her needlepoint project. That got me hooked for a good long time, I liked the fact that it was relatively inexpensive and very portable, which fit well with our lifestyle at the time.
When I pulled this picture out of the storage box, I had to sit down and think for a bit about the memories that it brought back. This was done in 1986 during a very rough time, and completing it felt like I was finally pulling out of the crap and was able to create something pretty again. Do you have memories like that tied to things you made? To the casual observer, it probably looks like any old stitchery, definitely 80's (would look good with the harvest gold and avocado green appliances!), not very remarkable. I actually remember thinking that putting these stylized quilt blocks together was symbolic of putting the pieces of my life back together. It's good to have this reminder of the past.

Last weekend we visited my parents and I found our bed made up with this pretty antique quilt.
Really quite nicely stitched, but I don't know who made it. It was so soft and comfy. I'm glad I had the chance to sleep under it!
Just finished listening to Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, quite the story! Very long and detailed, describing life in medieval England. There is a TV mini-series that would be fun to watch now, after spending all this time (32 CD's about 1 hr each) absorbed in that world and the characters. Now I have no recorded book to listen to in the car so I will have to get to the library!