Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Ending the year on a tired note
We have been at the Oregon Coast for the past three days. We rented a house and invited Emily and Cayo and Sofia and their Ecuadorean visitors. Andy was invited, but had to work. The house was wonderful. We cooked a lot and ate well and read and walked a bit on the beach and worked on a puzzle. Some of us were sick and some didn't sleep so well, but it didn't matter really. We relaxed mostly.
When I was a child we visited the Oregon Coast every few years with my grandparents. I remember once, standing at the edge of the water, looking out at the Pacific, the thought occurred to me that I was at the edge of this huge continent and it was all right behind me. My back was to everything—all the people, all the cities and mountains and rivers and monuments and this vast society. I was standing right on the very edge of one huge thing and facing the beginning of something else. An odd thought for a child, I guess, but I have never gone to the beach since then, that I wasn't struck by that same thought. This morning I had that same thought, standing at the waters edge and also the thought that on this last day of the year, it, too, was just behind me and the beginning of something else right ahead.
And sew it goes.
Happy, better, stronger, more peaceful, more hopeful, more rewarding, more love, family, laughter, and good stuff, New Year to all of us.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Christmasy cuteness and cookery
We were met, on our arrival, by two very excited little girls, babbling and giggling and swirling around us in their red and white party dresses, sewn by their Ecuadorean grandmother. Sofia and her same age Ecuadorean cousin couldn't have been cuter. A veritable blizzard of cuteness we decided. Here is a rare shot of both standing still for a few seconds.
I know you're all saying, "can she really be big enough already to ride a tricycle?" The answer is "almost" and look at the nifty steering handle for the supervising parent. It also came with helmet and knee pads.
Christmas Day was my turn to be the hostess and handle the American Christmas part of our holiday. I was so busy I neglected to take any pictures except for one. We'd had pie the night before, and besides, it seems that Ecuadoreans don't really "get" pie and much prefer cake. So I made the Yule Log cake I haven't made in years. It is a chocolate sponge with whipped cream and crushed peppermint candy rolled up inside. Really fancy cooks will make meringue mushrooms to decorate the log. I went for the much easier option of decorating with a little greenery and some powdered sugar "snow".
I have to say it was really delicious and a big hit with everyone. Emily said, "I remember, you used to make this at Christmas!" Andy said, "I don't remember ever seeing this before." Guess which one of my children adores chocolate and which one doesn't.
I hope you all had a great Christmas!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
There's snow place like home for the holidays
This is one of my favorite pictures I took yesterday, looking west on Rigert Road, from the bottom of our driveway. If you can stand anymore snow pictures, you can see the rest of my pictures from yesterday here.
The weather has consumed us this past week. I forget that many people take such weather for granted and live with it for months on end. Our trip to the grocery store yesterday was epic. We crept along in my Suburu, which handles very nicely on snow and ice, but has its limits. Once we got down to the main drag (Murray Blvd. for you locals) the packed snow had become ice, polished to a glassy sheen. Most cars crept cautiously along, but a few sped past us and a few were sliding and spinning into the curbs. The Portland bloggers are posting photo after photo of the snow. It's certainly all we're thinking about around here. There are some beautiful shots taken from the overhead tram that goes to the Oregon Health Sciences University at this blog.
I appreciated T's suggestion in yesterday's comment, to see if I had a can of condensed milk in the pantry for my coffee. I would never have thought of that and in fact I do have a can, but fortunately we made it to the store for supplies. Helen's suggestion to have groceries delivered was good, but useless in this weather. No deliveries happening, of any kind. We didn't even get a mail delivery yesterday. So much for "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds". But now I find out that the US Postal Service never even said that. It was Herodotus, 2500 years ago.
Monday, December 22, 2008
View of the front porch railing, taken from inside the house. Under that cute little cone shape of snow is a geranium in a terra cotta pot. They usually live through the winter here. That's why it's still sitting out there. Bet this one is a goner!
End of whining.
Yesterday I spent a good part of the day in my studio. I was still feeling a little bit inspired by the snow and made these.
I have had this idea to do some "drawing" with my sewing machine and this was an opportunity to try it out. The trees and the fence were done freemotion with the sewing machine and I'm happy with that process. More of that to come, I think. And another perfect place to use my great little bargain polka dot stamp! (first seen here) I was going to trim these to neat squares when I finished stitching, but liked the uneven edges and left them. I put them on a dark background to photo, but may eventually mount them on something. And because I know someone will ask— they are each 9" square, more or less.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I made little gifts for my STASH friends. I had planned to give them at our Christmas lunch on Thursday, but we cancelled due to the weather. So I planned to give them to them when they came to our party yesterday. Only one was able to get here. So they will get them sometime in January. I made each a coaster to sit next to their sewing machine. Use it for pins or your warm beverage or whatever works for you. I am happy with how they turned out.
I selected several of my quilts for the images and had nice color copies made at Kinko's, then decoupaged them to the bottom of heavy glass coasters from IKEA. (They are actually made, I think, to set a candle on) Then I added a round of self-stick cork to the back so they don't scratch the surface they are on. Done.
They won't be a surprise now, but my friends can guess which one is theirs. (I selected the design especially for each person). I hope you like them!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Come on over—
We're having a party!
Not out in this. We're getting phone calls and emails cancelling left and right. "Sorry, snowed in", "can't get the car out of the driveway", "no snow tires", "not goin' anywhere" and on and on. Can't blame them and I'm not surprised. It's brutal out there.
But wait! Two couples arrive. Old friends who are all accustomed to winter weather. One couple lived in Alaska, the other grew up in northern Montana. A little snow? Piece of cake! We eat, we drink, we visit, we laugh. We hug each other several times and stand in the kitchen and marvel at the snow falling and falling and falling. Later our daughter and son-in-law and his mother and sister and two little girls in parkas and fancy outfits arrive. Sofia's same age cousin is visiting from Ecuador. More food. I reheat the cider. We talk, we laugh. The girls play with my stash of toys and clatter through the house and dance in their shiny party shoes. A small party, but one of our best, I think. Thanks for coming, guys! We missed those of you who couldn't get here. We'll see you soon, I hope.
The dishes are done. The food is put away. (And if we're snowed in, we can eat for a week on what's left.) It is nearly midnight and the snow has stopped for now. Beautiful. Just beautiful.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Where to put the tree
One of the nice things about where we have it is that you can see it well from outside. Driving up to the house in the evening with the lights on the tree burning, it all looks festive and cozy. Ray pointed out that it is also nice that at night it reflects in the big windows on the opposite wall, so we almost get an effect of two trees in the room.
I have a friend who told me that when they built their house she used the floor plans to figure out exactly where her furniture would fit and where the Christmas tree would go and had the contractor make a small adjustment of the placement of one door to accommodate the future Christmas tree. Other people have told me that when they have bought houses one of the things they look for while house hunting, is a spot for the Christmas tree. I'll bet Miles chose his house, knowing where his Christmas tree would go—after all he admitted that he has a spreadsheet set up to keep track of his ornaments! You must go to his blog and see what he is doing with Walmart Christmas Village stuff. I'd love to see his house in person. I hope he gives us a blog tour when he is finished decorating.
I have to admit that I am not very organized about Christmas decorating. It's all a mishmash of stuff from many years and some gets put out every year, but not all. When we moved I got rid of a lot of Christmas decorations. A few days ago I wrote in that Christmas meme that we use colored lights on our tree. Guess what? When I opened the box all I had were white lights. (And, of course my beloved bubble lights) Sometime last summer I must have decided against the colored lights and got rid of them.
OK, I am blathering. Enough. I need to go do some Christmas shopping.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Paper tree #7 and a sunny day
Are we still in Oregon?
For many years Ray and I believed we would move back to our home state of Idaho when we retired. Things changed and we are here in Oregon to stay, but I still think about living in Idaho, especially in the winter. The winters were certainly colder, with more snow, but in Idaho the sun shone in the winter. I can think of little more beautiful weather than a clear, cold winter day with a blue sky and the sun shining so hard that the snow sparkles like fine glitter. In Oregon the skies can be dismal gray for weeks on end. The sun we do see is a weak, blurry ball that is barely visible through the gray. But not today. The sun is shining, casting long indigo shadows across the snow.
And the sky! Is that a Portland sky? Well, today it is.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Paper tree #6 and a snowy day
And today we woke up to this.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Paper tree #5
Little Angels decorating a tree with stars. How heavenly!
I am borrowing this holiday meme from Gerrie's blog. Feel free to copy and use. Fun to read what others do for their holiday celebrations.
Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? If those are the only choices Egg Nog, but, really, our favorite holiday drink is a Manhattan on the rocks with two cherries, served in an old-fashioned glass. (Cherries must have stems.) My Dad used to make these at Christmas and the taste and smell is a wonderful memory of Christmases past. I think this was the first alcoholic drink I ever had. Great with a handful of cashews or mixed nuts. Extra nice enjoyed in front of a roaring fire and/or Christmas tree. Put on a Christmas CD. Sip slowly and savor.
Does Santa wrap presents or set them under the tree? Well, duh, he puts them unwrapped under the tree to be found on Christmas morning.
Colored lights on tree or white? Colored lights and bubble lights. The gaudier the better.
When do you put your decorations up? I start putting up some decorations after Dec. 1. The tree goes up about a week before Christmas. I'm not a fan of early Christmas decorating.
What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? A really good ham. It's about the only time of year I buy one.
When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? It was a process. I pretended to believe long after I really did. But I remember being about 6 or 7 and skeptical, then one Christmas morning before I was out of bed I heard my uncle arrive at our door bearing gifts. He said to my Dad, "It was a long night. Santa didn't finish at our house until 6 this morning." The fact that I was hearing this exchange and they didn't know I was listening seemed like proof of Santa's existence and kept me going for another year or two.
Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We used to open everything on Christmas morning. Now we open some gifts on Christmas Eve, and some Christmas morning as our son-in-law's family tradition has been blended into our family's.
How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Ornaments collected over many years. No theme, no rhyme or reason to them. The angel on top looks like a gypsy. Like I said—gaudy.
Snow! Love it or Dread it? If it's going to inconvenience me, or we are planning to travel I dread it. If I can stay at home and enjoy it I love it.
Can you ice skate? Yup.
Do you remember your favorite gift? My first bicycle. That was a snowy Christmas I didn't appreciate!
What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Family, memories.
What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Fruitcake. I love it.
What is your favorite tradition? Silly presents. We started this when our kids were old enough to figure out an appropriately ridiculous present for someone in the family.
Which do you prefer, Giving or Receiving? Mostly giving, but receiving a gift that really tells me that someone loves me is pretty special.
What is your favorite Christmas Song? Good King Wenceslaus. "Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing." He really was a good king. And the tune is catchy.
Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? I can take 'em or leave 'em, but I love peppermint stick ice cream.
Ever recycled a Christmas present? Heck no! How tacky.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Paper tree #4
The Columbia Stitchery Guild quarterly meeting was this morning. I usually love these meetings. The programs are usually very good. This morning we had our second annual silent auction, which is a benefit for the quilting program that the guild sponsors at the Women's Prison. Great program. I was the chairperson for the auction this year. It all went well, but I was glad to have it over with. I think I used to be really good at organizing and managing projects, but lately I feel so scattered and distracted it is not good. Sales were a bit lower than last year, but I think that is a reflection of the economy. I bought a very cute corduroy and fleece jacket for Sofia, beautifully made by one of the members. We voted, this morning, to change the name of the Guild, which makes me a little sad. This guild is made up of some of the most talented and interesting women, including fiber artists and weavers and knitters and embroiderers and basketmakers. I had heard of this being such a great group long before I moved to Portland and was looking forward to joining. Now the feeling is that the word "stitchery" sounds dated and doesn't reflect the diversity of work that is done by the members. Maybe. I voted not to change. I was in a very small minority. Everybody else wants to change. I thought the name had a lot of charm.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Scrooge and the Scissors
The scissors I used, and still use for fussy paper cutting, are medical scissors. Nothing special. In fact I think they throw these away after one use in the hospitals now. The thing I like about them is that they are comfortable in my hands, have fairly small blades and one of the blades is a nice sharp little point that works well to pierce the paper for inside cuts. If you know someone who works in a hospital or for a doctor they can probably get you a pair cheap or free.
There are special scissors called "scherenschnitte" scissors that are made especially for intricate paper cutting. They probably work even better than the medical scissors. I have never tried them.
More answers to more comment questions
Lisa asked about the weight of the paper. It was a packet of coated paper that I had. The weight was slightly heavier than 20 lb bond, but the coating makes it nicely opaque and crisp. Anything very heavy is too hard to cut all four layers together. No, I don't remove the staples. They don't look great, but are essential for holding the layers together. I actually had a better idea after I'd made a few. Instead of stapling, I folded the paper to get a line, then stitched the two layers together on my sewing machine, using white thread. And to answer Lisa's last question. Yes, when I get them all put out together it is kind of a forest!
Monday, December 08, 2008
Paper tree #3
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Another good movie
Your reaction may be affected by whatever your personal feelings are about immigration and especially illegal immigration, but, for me, it is an important reminder that behind the politics and rhetoric the issue is really still just about a fellow human being striving to improve her life and the life of her child.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
And while the sentiment is great—I'm all for celebrating creativity and passing on the love to other bloggers—I've got to just say it. This is the ugliest darn graphic I've ever seen. I kind of wonder if it wasn't some graphic designer's idea of a joke, what with the creative spelling, the extreme font abuse and the gaggishly sweet combination of print and pattern.
I think the graphic has to die. So though I am flattered, I am not nominating any of the many wonderful, creative blogs that I so love to read. Sorry.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Paper tree #2
Here is another of my paper trees. This one reminds me of eyelet embroidery material. Christmas is coming so fast! I'm not ready at all. Are you?
Thursday, December 04, 2008
The red shoes
This morning Beth was telling me that she had seen the old movie The Red Shoes on TV this week. What a memory that brought back! When I was a pre-teenager this was my favorite movie. It was an old movie then. But the ballet—the music—the *sob* romance! And then there was Moira Shearer's red hair and her teeny, tiny little waist. It was the stuff of pre-adolescent dreams. If you haven't seen the movie you should watch the trailer at the link above. It will give you a little idea of the flavor.
The movie was based, loosely, on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, also called The Red Shoes. The HCA story is pretty gruesome, actually. About 10 years ago I made a quilt based on that story for an online challenge with a fairytale theme. This afternoon I dug around and found it.
I also added a quote from the story that is too subtle. You have to get very close to read it.
It was a fun quilt to make—not altogether successful—but I learned a lot from making it. It was an incentive to try to figure out how to make faces in fabric that worked better than this one. Do you like this one better? I do.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
I remember that I saw a picture in a magazine of white trees, cut from paper that seemed so clean and pure in their design that they traveled around in my head until I could no longer resist the need to try to make one. I folded two sheets of paper together and stapled them together, then took a little pair of surgical scissors and started cutting through all four layers. No drawing. No plan. Just cutting. And to my utter amazement I had a pretty little tree with a star on the top and birds on its branches.
For the next week, every time I had a spare moment I was cutting trees. I threw the duds away, but I kept the best of the bunch. They decorated our mantel that Christmas, then I folded them up, put them in the envelope and only remembered to take them out a few times in the ensuing years. One year I decided to try making more and all were utter failures. Then I forgot about them completely until they turned up during the move.
I hope I'm not bragging when I say there was something kind of magical about those trees—all cut in the space of a frenetic week or so, never to be repeated. Over the next few weeks I will share the rest of them with you. I hope you enjoy them. I almost feel like someone else made them. A gift from my much younger self.
I hope you all have spread the word about the danger of small children swallowing batteries. Sandy's grandchild is recovering, but has been very, very ill and is still in the hospital. This was not trivial. You can read the details on her blog. This was a wakeup call for us to assess our house for this and other dangers.