Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

 (photo from here)

"Pa's strong, sweet voice was softly singing 'Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?'... When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly 'What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?' 'They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,' Pa said. 'Go to sleep.' But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa's fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She thought to herself, 'This is now.' She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago."
excerpt from "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder
(with a little creative license taken)


I don't do New Years. I haven't for a long time. I used to do dresses and pubs and drinks and celebrations but it never sat right with me. I prefer to spend it at home, quietly doing whatever. New Years has always seemed sad to me. I remember it was 1985 (I was 6), and I was laying on the couch thinking about 1984 and time passing (I've always been odd like that). My mom came in to tell me it was almost dinner time, and I asked her if it was ever going to be 1984 again. She said "No, never." Well, I distinctly remember crying and sobbing as though my heart was breaking. Ever since then I have always felt a bit sad on New Year's Eve. I still don't know what was so phenomenal about 1984 that I didn't want it to end...

2010  was a good year for me. I've seen my skills grow, I've made new friends, I've sold a few bits, and I've done a few new things, most of which you have kindly endured reading about. I appreciate your support and your comments and visits. I'll be back soon with regularly scheduled programming (I needed a bit of a break from normalcy these past few days).
I hope 2011 is a good year for all of you!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stuffed and Ruffled

What's up kids? I hope your Christmas was lovely. I held the blahs at bay until the day after and then kablamo! A nifty cold/sinus infection/stuffiness invaded my head. Never before have I been so lazy, though. I watched Season 5 of Lost, read 2 books, played computer games, and ingested copious amounts of hot and soothing beverages. It feels good to do nothing for a bit.

I got a nice bit of sewing goodies for Christmas. My favorite is my brand new ruffler. Lemme tellya--they're a bit scary looking. Very technical and...intimidating. But there's really not much to them. I read the instructions for installation and that was it. You can sew away. The only thing I had to do was adjust it to fit my needle position, but it tells you how to do it and then it's easy peasy.

 Note to self: thread machine before attaching ruffler. Second note to self: take foot off of pedal before threading machine (it was a close one this time).

I spent the afternoon playing around with it. Here's what I made (or, I guess to be accurate, here are some ruffled fabric strips):

 On this setting (a ruffle every stitch) it makes a nice gather.

This is a deeper ruffle every 12 stitches.

 Here's a whole range of whatnot. I like the third from the bottom and the bottom one (a mid-sized pleat every 6 stitches).

Then I sewed a fabric tube to enclose the raw edges and ruffled that:
This will be cute across a bag or small clutch. These will press into place nicely (I hope).
And just to see if you could ruffle both ends:

Only problem is I couldn't get the pleats to go in the same direction, but it gives it a nice puffy 3-D effect in the middle.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to make yet. OK, that's not true. I know what I'm going to make, but it's only one thing. I'm not sure what ELSE I'm going to make after that.

Back soon, lovies!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

"It's an old legend, that on Christmas Eve at midnight, all the animals fall on their knees and speak -- praising the new born Jesus. Back in the winter of '68, my Dad was doing a short term for D and D. Mom was -- I'm not sure where Mom was. Anyway, I was home alone on Christmas Eve and I stayed up late to see if my dog, Buster, would talk. He did -- at least I think he did. I don't remember Buster's exact words, but that's not important. What matters is that a seven-year old boy experienced his own personal epiphany. My point? It's that Christmas reveals itself to each of us in a personal way -- be it secular or sacred. Whatever Christmas is -- and it's many things to many people -- we all own a piece of it. Kinda like Santa's bag, inside there's a gift for everyone. My Christmas wish for you tonight -- may your dog talk."
(quote from Northern Exposure--my dad has never done time and my mom has never been MIA on Christmas Eve. also--I wasn't around in '68. And I've never had a dog named Buster).

I thank each end every one of you who has stopped by, commented, followed, linked back, etc. and put up with my rambling. I wish each of you a happy Christmas, whatever that may be for you. I hope you find peace in your hearts and love in your homes. I hope you find time for snuggles and cozy mugs of cocoa, and endless opportunities for smiles and laughter. Merry Christmas! See you soon!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Here's some rambling for you: I've still got a bit of the blahs. I'm not sick--no fever, no cough/cold, no sore throat. I'm just a bit headachy and tired. Better than I was over the weekend but not where I'd like to be for Christmas. I went shopping with my mother last night for a few odds and ends, and I will never cease to be amazed at how rude people can be at what is supposed to be a warm and giving time of year. We both left a few places shaking our heads and chuckling to ourselves. I've still got a few things to check off my to-do list, but they're entirely frivolous (except for one). So tonight, I plan on:

Drinking this...

Doing this...

Eating these...

And watching this...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bedecked Halls

I'm not sure if I'm coming down with something or if I'm just wiped but I've spent most of my day curled up on the couch with a book and some tea. We had our family Christmas party here last night, and those are always work (no matter how easy you try to make it on yourself). I'm glad it's a short work week, but I'd be glad for a few extra days (not of work, but of doing whatever I want) before my favorite day of the year.

Our house has been decorated for a while now, and I never tire of the coziness of it all. Something about lights twinkling softly and decorations hearkening back to childhood makes all seem right with the world. I thought I'd show you a few glimpses from here and there...

First up is our Christmas village nestled on the living room windowsill:

My favorite piece (the church) has a busted light--it takes a specialty bulb which we have yet to locate...the dark church didn't photograph well :(

 I love the detail of some of the figures and buildings, and how the lights make it look soft and warm...

...from this lady working in the greenhouse of the florist shop... these two at the gates of the church.

On the mantle:


On the dining room windowsill:

I can't even tell you how many snowmen we borders on obscene.

We bought this little guy at Cracker Barrel this year:

I love Christmas fairies. Why should they only be for springtime and flowers in our thoughts?

 And here is our tree:

 It's a Frasier Fir, and a big one! They're usually a skinnier tree but not this one.

 ...and a few new ornaments (we have a number of ornaments that didn't fit on the tree...but we felt we needed more anyway :)

Longtime readers of this wee blog might remember my Christmas series from last year. Here are the links if you'd like to see more of how we roll:

Enjoy the final days until the big day! My nephew informed me last night over late-night cereal that Christmas takes forEVer to get here. If he only knew what's going to happen when he's grown up...

Happy Monday!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Treat Yourself (or Someone Else) for Less!

Hellooooo my little chickens :)  I've got a gift for you! In my email the other day I found a note from offering me a discount code to share with all of you. "Would you be interested?" it said. Um, yes, yes, and yes!!! I got lost in that site for a bit. I had no idea they had sewing and crafts stuff--how did I miss that? Anyway, in the interest of fairness to people who may not be obsessed with sewing gadgetry, I'm going to show you a few things I've been ogling:

A Murano glass necklace (or one of the other oodles of necklaces and pendants they have for sale.

These stools are going to go great in my fifties retro kitchen. When I get one.

I always wanted a headboard with shelves. That way my books would be readily accessible for reading in bed.

If I lose my mind one day and get married (haha) this is the kind of engagement ring I want. Pretty and delicate and kind of different (plus dainty enough that it won't dwarf my short fat fingers).

One day I'm going to have a sexy digital camera and you're all going to thank me for it (because you won't have to look at my terrible photos anymore).

If you're feeling like treating yourself to some goodies (or getting in some last minute shopping--some of these things can be delivered by Christmas Eve!!!) you can use coupon code 121745 to receive 10% off (excluding movies, books, and electronics). This code never expires, but it can be used only once per email address. If you do purchase electronics, there is a free ship code for you to use: 202234
 Happy shopping!

All the ideas and opinions expressed are my own. No monetary compensation was received for doing this post, however, I was provided with a discount code.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On My Christmas Bookshelf

I heart books. I can't remember when I haven't had my face buried in one. I love the way they feel in my hands. I love the way they smell. I love the way they look all lined up on my shelves. It's the main reason I don't own a Kindle or a Nook--the efficiency of one can't outweigh the sensory experience of the other (in my opinion). Some of my most treasured volumes are Christmas stories. Perhaps it's the once-a-yearness about them. Perhaps it's the distinct memory of sitting curled up with my chocolate milk while my mother read to us, lights twinkling around us, anticipation in the air. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) we have about a million and seven Christmas books. We have half a dozen different versions of  "The Night Before Christmas," several of "Rudolph" and "Frosty" and "The Christmas Story," and abridged versions of longer tales.

Since I love discovering new books, I thought I'd share my top ten with you in case there is something here that's new to you. They are in no particular order--each is so different and lovely in its own way it would be like comparing apples to broccoli. Enjoy!

Reader's Digest "A Family Christmas" (1984) -- This book is my earliest Christmas literary memory. It is packed full of history (why we haul trees indoors and mail pretty pieces of paper), crafts, recipes, and stories. I remember my mother reading us a story called "A Miserable Merry Christmas." I was too young to understand it, and for some time thought it was an awful story. Until I reread it and surprise! Not so miserable of a story. Herein is contained "Eloise at Christmas Time," excerpts from the Little House books, the very necessary "Yes, Virginia," and more. From the cover alone you can tell it's a much-loved book (it was actually too embarrassing to photograph so I had to search Google Images).

The Crippled Lamb (1994) -- Joshua, the black and white spotted lamb, longed to be like the others. He wondered why he had to limp along with a crippled leg instead of running and playing in the meadow. Joshua often felt left out, but discovers (with the help of his cow friend Abigail) that God has a special plan for each and every one of us. Read it and tell me you don't want to hunt down a lamb and hug it.

"The House Without a Christmas Tree" (1974) -- ten year old Addie doesn't understand why her father refuses to buy a Christmas tree when it is all that she wants. With the help of her quirky Grandmother, she finds a way to bring a tree into the house and Christmas into her father's heart (doesn't that sound all book-jackety? but I wrote that. I'm such a dork). This volume came to me in a bag of old paperbacks my cousin gave me. I remember being so taken in by the beautiful pencil drawings that it almost wouldn't have mattered what the words were. This has been made into a movie but I've never seen it. The book is too delightful to ruin it with a movie.

"Silver Packages" (1987) -- Every year in Appalachia, a boy named Frankie waits beside the snowy tracks for the Christmas train to come through. A rich man tosses presents off the back of the train to all of the needy children--sometimes it is their only present. Year after year Frankie awaits one special present--it isn't until he's grown that he realizes the true gift that the rich man has given him. I was an Elementary Education major in college (no, I'm not a teacher--long story), and as we were doing our junior practicum wrap-up our Integrated Literature professor read us this story. I was in undivided attention mode, while everyone else was in zone-out mode. When she got to the last line of the story her voice broke, and I gave out a pretty audible "Oh!" (the surprised staccato kind, not the slower, understanding kind). As soon as we were dismissed I drove to the book store and had them order it for me. It is still one of my favorites, and it still makes me teary when I read it.

"Christmas Remembered" (1997) -- the author of this volume grew up in the 20s and 30s in rural Wisconsin. On each page of this book he lovingly recounts the Christmases spent with his family on their farm. He very touchingly relates why he firmly believes that Christmas is made by women. The second half has a different tone to it as it is the Christmases he spends as an adult (where views of Christmas are markedly different from those of children). I have never seen this book out in the wild, even to this day, and it's a shame. It's truly delightful. It came to me as follows: several years ago I was flipping through a yard sale book when a baseball card fell out with a picture of Babe Ruth on it. It meant nothing much to me, but my baseball-loving, Babe Ruth-adoring uncle thought it was just wonderful. I gave him the card because let's be real--what was I going to do with it? And as a thank you he gave me one of the most beautifully written books I own. If you can get your mitts on this one, I highly recommend it.

"The Polar Express" (1985) -- pretty sure I don't need to intro this one. I'm sure you know it, right?... young boy bordering on disbelief? gets on a magical Christmas train to the North Pole? is given a special Christmas gift by the big man himself? any of this...ringing a bell? (see what I did there?). I have an audio version of this narrated by Garrison Keillor, the man with the most perfect voice for this story. 

"A Christmas Carol" (1843) -- I know I said no particular order but this might be my favorite. I watched three different versions of it this past weekend, and I've got two more in mind to watch. I never tire of the story of the mean old miser with his heart squeezed dry of human kindness, presented with his own misdeeds against others, who turns a Christmas corner and lets love and good will into his ticker. I love the Victorian London thing, the various forms of merry-making...I don't know why but I've always loved this story. The first one I read was an abridged version that came in my Happy Meal (one year McDonald's gave away a series of 4 books and this was one of them). Not a year goes by that I don't make time for this classic.

"The Giveaway" (1999) -- the Four-Leggeds and Those Who Fly discover that the Two Leggeds have lost their sense of who they are. The birds and animals offer their most precious gift, even at the cost of their own lives, to restore humanity. In the end, it is the Creator who must choose to give away. The Creator gives to humankind the most precious gift of all (from the book jacket). Told in a Native American style, this book isn't as explicit as other Christmas books, though it does have religious undertones. The language is beautiful, and the artwork unique. Not your typical Christmas story.

"The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey" (1995) -- Jonathan Toomey is the best woodcarver in the valley, but he never smiles, never laughs. The children call him Mr. Gloomy, and he doesn't mind one bit. One day he is asked by a widow and her son to carve a very special set of figures for Christmas. Gruff Mr. Toomey takes on the job, letting the widow and her son come to watch him work. Slowly we see Mr. Gloomy become less so, until the day he eventually (GASP!) laughs :)  I found this book in the children's section of my college library - they had a huge assortment of books for the education majors to make use of. I lost myself in this book, forgetting where I was and tearing up at one point (thank heavens no one was around!). This was another book I drove straight to the book store for.

"Christmas: Penhaligon's Scented Treasury of Verse and Prose" (1989) -- this book was on the sale table at Borders one year, just tossed there like it was nothing. Most of the scent is gone, but when you first open it there's a little whiff and then it is no more (until next year). Chock full of poems, stories, excerpts, and beautiful artwork, I can't wait for the time to come when I can dive into this book without the response "Why are you reading Christmas books already?" It's the perfect size for a hard-back book, and it has one of those nifty bookmark ribbons inside that you never see anymore. I had no idea who Penhaligon was (I thought it was a famous person I had never heard of) - but they are London perfumers. 

Well, that certainly turned into a longer post than intended. Most of these are available online, just in case you found something you're interested in. And if you've got any favorites, please share them in the comments -- it's always a treat to discover new reading material.

Ta for now!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I feel good! Da-na-na-na-na-na-na....

Normally I wouldn't post something like this as I wouldn't want it to come across as bragging or something like that; if you know me you know I do not like being the center of attention. I can be loud and chatty, and laugh really loud like a ticklish hyena, and get lost in my story-telling antics, but only in a "Don't look at me!" way. Oddly, I truly don't give a hoot about what most people'd think I would (or that I'd like to be the focus). Anyway, I'm really excited and wanted to share it with you, so I hope you forgive my self-indulgence.

But I won a contest. Not a giveaway (which is equally exciting) but a sewing contest. Now, mind you, it wasn't like it was a Vogue "Design your own something or other" contest, or anything super major, but it was enough for me to feel good about it. Some of you may remember this bag I made:

It was my first original design--I had to buy a protractor for this one! The fabrics were some of my favorites from my stash, and I was so excited it worked out on the first try. I entered it in the "Design Your Dream Bag" contest at the Januar Designs Bag Making Blog, and Daphna has graciously chosen me as her winner!! When I make a bag I usually am satisfied with it, but when I look at other sewists' creations I feel I have much to learn and live up to (as though anyone but me is keeping score). When she announced her winner I was 99% convinced it wasn't me (there's always hope--hence the 1%), but when I saw it was me my face cracked in half with a big grin. She sent me a lovely email and it made me feel really good.

The haul includes a nice bit of loot--fabric, bag-making bits, fusible interfacing (which I always forget to buy and use constantly), some fun trims and embellishments, and a bag or two made by Daphna. I'm oddly excited that this package will be winging its way to me from Israel (so far I've only got China, England and Australia under my global post belt).

So that's all--just wanted to do a quick share.


Some Leftover Weekend Randomness

I couldn't resist buying these:

And I spent a quiet evening stringing my paper stars together and wrestling and cursing with them to try and get them to hang evenly:

Alicia and I spent an afternoon melting and stirring and sprinkling:

And I thought the kitchen window looked pretty in the late afternoon light:

Hope your week is just like hot chocolate (warm, cozy and sweet)!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Christkindl Weekend

For the third year in a row, the Christmas Village has come to Philadelphia. Based on the Christmas markets found in Germany for centuries, a collection of wooden huts has been erected around Dilworth Plaza in front of City Hall. Vendors from around the world sell their wares from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve. There are German Christmas pyramids, Matryoshka dolls, Stollen, Lebkuchen, and more. Elves, wursts, paintings and photographs, and it goes on and on.

For a bit of a Christmas outing this year, we decided to trek on down to see this, and then have a nice big family Christmas dinner. We hopped on a train (I've never taken the train before--crazy, eh?) and went downtown. Our station was right outside the Market so we didn't have to go far. It had just turned dark right before we arrived, so the lighted huts were a cozy welcoming sight (it wasn't terrifically cold, so we could stroll in relative comfort):

There was quite a crowd (this is one of the more open areas)--in some sections you had to force your way through.

The first hut we came upon was my favorite:

Nesting dolls! In every shape, color, size, theme, whatever. I super wanted all of them.

Right next to this hut was that of a few Ukrainian ladies who had pegs and pegs of hand-painted Christmas ornaments:

This is a wee fraction of their wares--some of these were so achingly beautiful (with achingly huge prices).

And then we happened upon my second favorite hut:

I have a soft spot for the German elf (or gnomes, as they appear to be--there's probably a difference).

There were huts of Peruvian knitted hats, Nicaraguan scarves, personalizable Christmas ornaments, felted flower bouquets, handmade soaps, gourmet pet treats, and so much I can't remember right now. There were many more things I would love to show you, but in certain sections it was so congested that if you paused longer than necessary you risked harsh words being thrown at you (at least that's how it felt).

We made our way around, and then headed on to one more thing--the Wanamaker Light Show (technically it's Macy's now, but I'm a nostalgic person and I insist on the original name in this case). I didn't have a good photo vantage point (though fine for viewing)--this is what it looks like at the very end of the show when everything is lit up:

Photo from here.

The light show has been in operation since the fifties. We went to this show when I was little, and I had zero appreciation for it then. There was something about seeing it as an adult, and knowing that it must have been an amazing feat when it was new that made me truly enjoy it. Knowing what we can do with technology today made this simple light-show all the more endearing in its simplicity. You can see a bit of it (with no justice done, of course) here on YouTube. You can read more about it here and here.

There is also a Dickens Village, but when we got up to the third floor the line was like that scene in "A Christmas Story" where it winds its way through every department before coming to an end miles away. There was a collective "No flippin' way!" and so we made our way to the restaurant and filled our tummies with gooey cheeses and yummy pastas.

Of course I must show you what I bought:

I loved it, so I had to get one that I could leave out all year :)

A pickle ornament!

The old German tradition is to hide a pickle somewhere on the Christmas tree (I'm guessing a pickle was chosen as it would seem to blend easily). When directed, the children would look all over, hoping to be the first to find it. The child who did so received a prize (in some families money, in others perhaps a small toy). We have never had one of these before, so I bought our first original, German, hand-blown glass pickle.

And that, said Bethany, is that (because isn't that enough for one post?)

Happy Monday, folks!


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