Thursday, December 30, 2010

Color Therapy Thursday--Keeping it real

I have been enjoying everyone's end-of-the-year review, seeing the quilts and other sewn items that people have made.

Here's the thing for me. 2010 was a completely low-output year for me. My friend, Sue, was sick most of 2009 and then passed away at the end of March 2010, and this year, to put it mildly but honestly, was pretty sucky for me.

I started a lot of projects:

I thought about starting many more.
In reality, I any.

There was this quilt, which was donated to a charity auction:

These two, wedding gifts:

This one for a modern quilt exchange:
And a few bee swap blocks:
But the rest of the year, I really only had the creative energy to complete some of these:

And sometimes even that really taxed my creative energy.

Have you ever had one of those years? Or even a month? It didn't come as a complete surprise to me that Mark and I seemingly sleep-walked through much of 2010. We did the same thing in 2005. I know that quilting can be a wonderful antidote to hard times. And it has been the same way for me at times. Just not in 2010. At first I kind of beat myself up for it. You know. "Snap yourself out of it. Get busy and do something. You'll feel better." This year it just didn't work.

So instead, I read countless blogs, looked at, and was inspired by, what everyone else was doing. Did I feel, dare I say it, jealous of what everyone else seems able to accomplish. I did.

I also did a lot of what I called "grief therapy" fabric purchasing. A lot.
To combat that, I gave away/donated to church quilting group/sold a lot of fabric. And tried to simplify my life in other ways. Cleared out closets. Cleaned out drawers.

By December, I literally felt myself coming out of the year's fog. Our Christmas was more focused on spending time together and making memories, something you can't begin to put a price tag on.

My downer year of 2010 has not ended on a downer note. I feel light, and light-hearted. I have looked at relationships. One in particular had suffered as a result of this year. But that too has been repaired and restored.

Yesterday I read these two posts back to back. Oh, the conflict. The joys of simplifying one's life? Yes, please. The price of fabric going up? Seriously? And I may or may not have hit the "purchase" button once or twice. But with a little more control this time. I looked around my sewing room (and office...and spare bedroom). I have stacks of really gorgeous fabric that have been waiting for me to emerge.
I hear it calling me.

And finally....finally...I am ready to answer the call.

Thank you to all my blogging friends who have sustained, inspired and encouraged me throughout 2010.

Happy Creative New Year to you all.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Forest and the Trees

You know that saying, "you can't see the forest for the trees"? At Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (yes, FYI, but our baggage tags still say FAT from its former name, Fresno Air Terminal, which has to be one of the worst airport codes ever...), we have both the forest and the trees. Awhile ago, they decided to install a Disney-quality forest of Giant Redwoods in the lobby area. Not really sure why. I think to disguise some really big support pillars. The real trees are just about an hour away and are spectacular. These trees are pretty awesome as well. And during the holidays this year, there are also twelve decorated Christmas trees.

 (No, I didn't forget to rotate the picture. This is the South Pole tree and it really is attached to the ceiling.)

And EEEEK!! Look what showed up in my mailbox yesterday! Two charm packs would have been ideal, but a design decision has been made and one charm pack will be just fine!
Hope you're all still enjoying the holiday season.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 2.0

Our whole family went to the Christmas Eve Service last night and it was a wonderful time of singing carols and focusing on the meaning of the season.

We also got to watch this video, what the Christmas story might be like if it happened in 2010.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Presence...and presents

Here it is, the night before Christmas Eve, and I don't remember a more relaxing holiday. This year we really focused on slowing down. Less shopping, more money, more time, less stress.

Last week we had soup and cookie night, one of my favorite holiday traditions. We feasted on homemade chili, applesauce and cornbread, and after dinner it was cookie time. Last year we used lots of sprinkles. This year, we took a bag of Nutter Butter cookies, dipped them in chocolate, and decorated them like reindeer with M&Ms and pretzels.

What I didn't anticipate was that they would stick like cement on a nonstick cookie sheet! 

So we started over, with waxed paper. Aaaah. Much better.
And while the kids got ready for bed, their Mom and Dad did a little relaxing.

The next day, Mark and I left for Pismo Beach, on the central coast of California, where it Rained.The.Whole.Time.

While the rest of the country was buried in snow, we were still looking at green grass!

But we were warm and cozy in our room, with treats from our friends, George and Cheri

and an afghan I brought along for snuggling.
Today, Maggie and I went to Starbucks and worked on our hexies.

(A totally staged picture taken when I got home--because I forgot to bring my camera...)

Spending time with people you love is such a gift.

Speaking of gifts, along with Christmas presence, there have also been Christmas presents!
Jessie made me this luscious green stocking hat:

This pattern unexpectedly showed up in my email mailbox this morning. Thanks, Becky!
And Terri sent these goodies in the mail--a little notebook, calendar, tape measure, and needle case--out of my favorite Henna Garden fabric
And this cute ornament.

Thank you to all my family and friends who have such a special presence in my life.
Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My First Tutorial

I have learned how to do many things from online tutorials. So I kept thinking, "Hey, I should write a tutorial." But about what? And then a link popped up on the bottom of my blog yesterday and it triggered something back in my brain, so I clicked on it, and guess what? I already have written a tutorial. Thank goodness for Blogger archives because my brain doesn't archive things that far back....

I made monthly postcards for each of my grandchildren for a year, until they turned 1.  So for the four of you who already read this back in 2008, please feel free to move on. For the rest of you, the encore presentation of my first tutorial: 'how to make a fabric postcard."

1. Have fabulous grandchildren. Lacking this, have other great family members or friends who would appreciate something custom-made by you...just for them. Choose carefully. Not everybody fits into this category, and you'd hate to have someone receive one of these little works of art in the mail, read the message, and then toss it in the recycle bin. Send those people an email instead.

2. Choose some fun fabric. With my granddaughter, Charlotte, I tried to pick something appropriate for the month in which it was sent. You know, snowflakes for January, hearts for February. With my grandson, Levi, I decided sports was the ticket. And for his December postcard, really, who could resist little fish wearing Santa Hats and reindeer antlers?

3. Choose some plain fabric for the back, or message, side. I used muslin, but any light solid fabric would work.

4. Get some stiff interfacing with fusible web on both sides, such as fast2fuse, the thinner version, which is about 1/8 inch thick and can be fused using a steam iron.

And yes, I DO realize that photographing white interfacing on a white background probably wasn't the best choice...

5. Cut each of the above 4 inches by 6 inches.

6. On the solid plain fabric, your message will be on the left side and address on the right side. I read somewhere that the post office likes the two sides to be separated with a line and also likes the word "postcard" at the top. You'd think they would be able to tell the difference between postcards, letters, and packages...but maybe not.

7. Compose and write your message using a fine-tip permanent marker, such as a Pigma pen. Heat set for a few seconds with an iron. Note: For Charlotte and Levi, I had decided to send them one postcard each month for their first year. Each month, I wrote four lines that could only loosely be considered a poem, and only because it DOES contain a couple of rhyming words. In the interest of self-disclosure but at the risk of personal embarrassment, here is Levi's current card, ready to hit the mail today. And yes, I have already apologized to their parents for my lack of poetic skills.

8. Fuse to the interfacing. If you are careful, you can make a little postcard "sandwich" and fuse about thirty seconds on one side, then turn it over and fuse on the other side.

9. Set your machine for satin stitch, a really close zigzag stitch. I like to go completely around the postcard twice because it nicely covers up the raw edges.

10. Add a stamp. I use a stamp for first-class mail, not a postcard stamp, because these weigh a little more and I want to make sure there is enough postage. And I also add a drop of Elmer's glue to make sure it's nice and secure.

11. Get yourself down to the post office and ask them to please hand cancel your little piece of art. They will be impressed with your postcard. But I can't help wondering if they are rolling their eyes if they read my poem as I'm walking out the door...

12. If you are making your postcard in December, get a holiday-themed postmark. There are lots of them and it's kind of hard to pick. Of course, there's always the North Pole, either Alaska or New York, and I knew there was a Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, but who knew there were five others? You can check out the list of possibilities here, along with the mailing instructions. Charlotte lived in Oregon for her first Christmas, so I sent her postcard to Christmas Valley, Oregon. Now that Charlotte and Levi live a mile from us, it was a bit harder to decide. Levi's Grandpa is from Minnesota. So won't it be cool to get a postcard from Frost, Minnesota?
And there you have it. My first tutorial. I realize it's too late to get the holiday-themed postmark for Christmas, but keep in mind that this would make a great gift for Valentine's Day as well. I'm thinking Loveland, Colorado....

Friday, December 17, 2010

Harmonious Holidays

Can you believe in seven days it is Christmas Eve? With that thought in mind, Mark and I decided to head to the coast. Where it is expected to rain all weekend. But it is also expected to rain here in Fresno. So Mark is taking some work along, which he would be doing in his office on Saturday anyway, and I'm taking my sewing machine. And we'll make plenty of time to just relax and enjoy looking at the Christmas tree that is  located at the end of the pier.

(photo found here)

Has anyone out there been watching the Sing-Off on NBC? It is the second season--Mark and I totally missed the first season, and this is a really great show. Acapella groups are competing for the big prize. These groups are all amazingly talented, and there are no instruments to fall back on so their voices have to be top-notch. It's only a five-episode season and the finales are on Monday night.

If you are not totally tired of Christmas music by now, I highly recommend  Harmonies for the Holidays, with songs from the contenders. A lot of the groups are gone by now, as only four groups remain for the finale. You can listen to cuts and then go to itunes for the download. (Sorry if this sounds like a Christmas commercial, but the music is really good and it's keeping me in the Christmas spirit.)

Have a warm and wonderful weekend.

P.S. Note to Aaron and Christa: As an early gift from Santa, $7.99 has been deposited in your paypal account so you can download this CD. I guess now I'll know whether you read my blog or not (wink, wink).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Are you living in a snowglobe today?

Judging from football games on TV today, the country is running the gamut weather-wise, from sunny San Diego to snow storms in Chicago. Here in central California, it is very grey and overcast, weather I happen to adore, although a lot of people find it rather dreary. If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, check out Terri's pictures. They look beautiful to me. But I'm not the one who has to get the snowblower out and clear a path...

Yesterday I was running errands, looking at all the beautiful things at Pottery Barn (and wondering how long it will take for the PB knocks-offs to arrive at Target....) when I kept seeing people with scarves wrapped around their necks, gloves on their hands, saying, "It's so cold out there." Uh, yeah, a chilly 60 degrees...

This is my vote for one of the cutest Christmas prints out there this year: Alexander Henry's 2D yuletide zoo.

I made pillowcases for Charlotte and Levi. I think the rest will go into some wonky Christmas log cabin blocks.

Then I customized pincushions for two friends, the one who started me on my quilting journey about fifteen years ago and the other for a blogging friend who has answered lots of photography questions, and once I really start playing with my new camera, hopefully she'll be willing to answer a lot more (do you think she'll notice I'm trying to butter her up??).
Dotty took me under her wing when I decided it was time to learn to quilt. I remember sitting at her kitchen table with a yellow notepad and watching her quickly sketch a double four-patch and giving me a rough estimate of how much yardage I would need to purchase. Four different prints. Looking back, I can't believe how much I agonized over picking four different fabrics. Now fabric choice is one of my favorite parts of quilting.

And Anne, I know the question about what color hair you have was a bit weird. But here's why. I really wanted to use this selvage...

Anyone out there have red hair? Named Anne?