Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's a Real Book!

Exciting news!  My friend and fellow Twelve Brenda received the very first advance copy of our Twelve by Twelve book (due out in March, 2011).  She has held it in her hands, flipped the pages, and even filmed a reenactment of herself opening the package! (You can see it here.)  So it's coming! It's real!

Can you hear the champagne corks popping?!  You can preorder a copy from Amazon or Barnes and Noble (which has such a ridiculously low price that I can't figure how they do it, but in any event, it's a great deal).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Just because Christmas is over doesn't mean the crafts have to stop...

It happens every year.  A few days before Christmas, I stumble onto some delightful hand-crafted item and I suddenly wish I had a lot more time to enjoy the process of making more gifts and decorations.  Of course, by that time it's far too late to start any new projects (which, at times hasn't stopped me -- just this year I made four gifts after December 21st that I hadn't planned on making but couldn't resist).  And every year I vow that I'll spend some time in January having fun with some new crafty projects.

Here are a few of the things I'd like to try before next Christmas:

This felted ball garland, courtesy of Liz at "Say YES! to Hoboken" (and yes, she shows how to make the felted balls themselves).

Felt snowflake pillows, with tutorial by Anna at Noodlehead

NOEL Wall art, thanks to Jessica at Craftily Ever After -- perfect for my font/letter/type obsession.

Ribbon Christmas trees (to add to my Christmast tree collection), from Jamie at Whipperberry.

This elegant coffee filter wreath, from The Nesting Place.

And this paper leaf wreath, courtesy of  Because we all need more than one wreath!

These cupcake paper carnations, for gift wrapping decorations, courtesy of Martha Stewart.

Gosh.  I'd better get busy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

I'm Dreaming ...

Seeing as how I worked up the nerve to set up the embroidery part of my new sewing machine (and then felt silly at having to work up nerve in the first place, it was all so easy) ... I couldn't resist making a few embroidered Christmas presents.  I fell in love with this design, from Embroidery Library, and it seemed perfect for my sister and my friend Beth since we're all die-hard lovers of the movie White Christmas.  So, I went off to my local shop for some cozy red fleece, and away I went.  The pillows were a big hit, and it was fun to make something fast and perfect for the situation.  Of course, I had to make one for me, too.

Oh, and on the back:

I vow that I am not going to become one of those people embroidering duckies and violets on vests and bathroom hand towels.  But suddenly I understand how that could happen.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Keep Calm

The charming slogan on this print (a free online printable from Jessica at Craftily Ever After) has been my mantra over the last busy but fun days.  Those last few days before Christmas are always a rush, no matter how prepared I think I am.  But I am learning to roll with it, and I found myself humming and singing to myself as I baked and cleaned and wrapped and got everything ready for the festive onslaught.  And it call came off beautifully, a lovely Christmas with friends and family and good food and much laughter.

We have spent all day today in our jammies, reading, napping, playing new games, nibbling on leftovers. Perfect and relaxing.  Tomorrow, my objective is to get dressed.   Maybe I'll summon the energy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ho ho ho

Making a list (of things to do before the 25th)
Checking it twice (because I don't want to have to go back to the grocery store AGAIN)
Gonna find out who's naughty and nice (and boy, are they driving me crazy around here)
Santa Claus is coming to town (except Santa is a sore subject now that a certain teen has decided to be mad at us that we lied to her about Santa all those years)

But I'm taking a deep breath, gazing at the twinkly lights that make me feel happy and holidayish, and I'll keep moving.  As soon as we get to Dec. 24, the relaxing and fun REALLY starts.

Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ticket to Ride, um, I mean, Embroider

I have a whole list of things I was supposed to be doing this morning.  But Roger, who was totally supportive of my getting the Bernina 830, happened to mention that he'd love a Beatles baseball cap, and I decided that was more important.  So I detoured for a while to investigate Beatles-related embroidery designs, and then figured out how to use the hat-hoop for the machine, and voila.... A Beatles baseball cap! I was going to save it and tuck it into Roger's Christmas stocking, but then I got so excited watching it stitch that I had to bring him in to show him -- and this way, he can wear it to show it off to his brother when we see him for dinner tomorrow night.  We both sat there grinning while it stitched out.  We are easily entertained, I guess.

He doesn't know that I have another Beatles image already in my files, and I'm waiting for the arrival of a blank black cap ... so maybe I'll be able to produce another surprise Beatles cap by Christmas.

Meanwhile, he hasn't taken if off since it came off of the machine!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Worth A Thousand Words

Christmas, in a nutshell.  May yours be filled with twinkling lights, and delicious food, and sweet music, and happy memories, and loving friends and family.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Conquering My Fear of Embroidery

Although I got my Bernina 830 at the end of this past summer, I have been extremely intimidated by the embroidery part of it.  I've never used an embroidery machine before, and it all seemed so complicated.  It requires a special needle, special thread, and special stabilizers, after all.

But I've been reading the manual and perusing all sorts of internet sites for tips and lessons, and today I decided to try my first design.  And look! It worked!

This was just a test, trying basic settings on white cotton.  Now I can embroider this everywhere!  Note the irony: California girl embroidering Let it Snow" while my friends in far flung places are bemoaning the piles of snow in their yards.

But hey, I'm happy.  And it was easy, once I got all the supplies.  I just sat there watching it embroider away -- my husband and daughter came into the office to watch a bit, too.  Gosh, what shall I embroider now?

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Sound of Music

My first season singing with the Healdsburg Chorus has just come to an end, and I have been thinking about how to sum up this amazing experience.  And it has been a delightful experience, in ways that have nothing to do with the actual singing.

* I set out looking for a community chorus after being so inspired by watching Gareth Malone's "The Choir" on BBC America.  I don't think I've even done anything because of a reality tv show (which is a good thing, don't you think?) but this turned out to be a wonderful inspiration.

* I originally thought it would be something R and I could do together, seeing how R has a wonderful voice and used to sing in coffee houses for actual money.  But he wasn't up for group singing and I went ahead anyway.  Something that started out as being for him turned out to be an amazing gift to myself.  Marriage is funny that way.

* I'm not a great singer, and I certainly don't have the "performer" urge.  But standing among a group of other people and adding my little voice to theirs seemed do-able.  This has been a great lesson in how doing my own little part along with others doing their parts adds up to something BIG and wonderful.

* On the first day of chorus, the director sat me down next to Paula, and we started talking and we felt like we have known each other all of our lives.  Her husband Jim is just as easy and great to talk to.  I have another very great friend whose acquaintance I owe to some random person sitting me next to her at a quilt guild meeting  -- so maybe there is a cosmic thing about being put next to the people you are meant to know.  How wonderful to make a new friend when I least expected it!

* It's impossible to be cranky when you're singing.  There were evenings when I wasn't in the mood to leave the house after dinner for practice, but once I got there and started singing, I felt wonderful and was so happy to be there.  One fellow theorized that the vibration through your body does some adrenaline thing.  Who knows -- but I'm thinking that maybe singing along to the radio or a cd is a good way to keep pushing through those chores.

* Putting a bunch of women, most of whom are over 40, into skirts and blouses and requiring them to TUCK IN THEIR BLOUSES is an instant bonding experience, because they will all hate having to tuck in their blouses.  Not a good look for women in a certain age category with certain midriff issues.   I won't even mention bonding issue #2, the collar ruffle thingies we were all required to wear. (See picture above.  I rest my case.)

* I didn't know anything about singing.  I still know very, very little.  But hey, an old(ish) dog can learn some new tricks!  I have learned that I can sing better and higher if I open my mouth wider.  And I'm learning how to breathe properly.  And how warming up makes a difference.  The feeling of being way out of my comfort zone has been balanced by the fun of learning something totally new.

* It is really, really satisfying to watch the audience as you sing and see eager, accepting smiles on their faces, or tears in their eyes, or feet tapping along.  And best is that moment when we'd finish a really beautiful song and there would be this momentary hush, then an audible sigh of satisfaction, before the applause started.  Wow.  I can see how performers get addicted to that response.

So, all in all, it has been terrific. I'm signing on for the spring season, and am already eager to see what we'll be singing.  Who knew I'd like this so much?!

Singing really is an uplifting thing.  So while you're rushing about doing your holiday chores, SING! Jingle Bells!  Hark the Herald Angels Sing!  Mele Kalikimaka!

My advice for 2011?  Try something really new.  You'll never know where it might take you.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Waxing Nostalgic

Last week I spent a lovely day learning about Encaustic Collage from my friend and amazing artist Lisa Thorpe.  Lisa is the artist in residence out at Bishop's  Ranch, the retreat center where I go for my quilt retreats each year, and during every retreat we ooh and aah over the artwork Lisa has hanging in the retreat center's dining room.  I've loved seeing how Lisa has worked with encaustic collage, so when she offered to to teach a class, a bunch of us jumped on it.

So, 6 of us (including Miss C, my daughter) found ourselves in the ranch's art studio on a cold windy day, surrounded by scraps of paper and old photos and the warm smell of melting wax.  Lisa walked us through the process, and we had a very fun day of creating and exploring a new art process.

Basically, the process involved starting with a plywood base, building a collage with paper elements, painting a wax mixture over the top, then adding texture by pressing objects into the surface and rubbing pigment into the lines to emphasize them.  Sounds easy, but it's clear that it takes some practice to work with the wax so it comes out the way you want it to.  There's also the totally unpredictable effect of the papers blending into each other, so what you see when it's dry is not necessarily what you'll see when the wax is applied.

I made several small pieces that day, but my favorite is the one above which features an old photograph of my grandmother, grandfather, and my dad as a little boy.  It sits on a page from an old Italian grammar book that I inherited from my grandmother, so there are some lovely memories in here for me.  I realized, after the fact, that I have a heavy hand with the wax and that I applied it too thickly on all of my pieces so part of what I liked about the collage was obscured.  It's too foggy and blurry.  I'll know better for next time.

It was so fun to see what everyone made, and how we approached our collages so differently.  Miss C worked away happily (an art field trip to break up the homeschool week) and produced some amazing collages.  It's good to learn something new with friends.

Lisa's a great teacher, by the way, as well as a talented artist.  If you are in Sonoma County, you can see her artwork currently hanging in Ravenous, a wonderful restaurant in Healdsburg.  (Two reasons to go: great food and great art!)

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Faces of Facebook

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook.  I like the idea of it, generally speaking, and I must admit that I've been contacted by friends I've not seen in ages.  The concept of sending and receiving short, instant thoughts is fun, and in practice it's sometimes entertaining.  But what constantly amazes me is how those one or two sentences can really reveal a lot.

Now, maybe this says more about me than about the status-updaters.  I'll admit that I'm having my own quiet mid-life crisis here, working on adjusting to a teenage daughter and homeschooling and remembering who I am when I'm not a mom, that sort of thing.  And I've been working on my own little Happiness Project, loosely inspired by Gretchen Rubin's daily musings about how finding happiness is up to each of us.  I've been paying close attention to the people and things in my life that are positive, and I'm working on minimizing my exposure to the negative, draining stuff.  

And with that in mind, what strikes me almost every time I log on to Facebook is how many people use it to say negative things.  (By the way, you are a friend of mine and you use Facebook, believe me when I say I'm not writing this about you.  Really, I'm not.)

Here's an example.  I am Facebook friends with a woman in my community who is, in my real life, more of an acquaintance than friend.  Her daughter used to be in school with my daughter.  We were on school committees together.  My daughter always used to tell me that her daughter -- who seemed like a  perfectly nice preteen girl -- was one of the "mean girls" in school who could smile and look sweet but was actually pretty nasty to and about other girls when a teacher wasn't around.  And here's the thing: from seeing the mom's Facebook updates scroll past on my home page, I see her making snarky comments about everyone and every thing.  How there was a heavy lady at the grocery store who shouldn't have left the house wearing those jeans.  How the girls on the other team looked trampy.  That sort of thing.  Seeing her updates, I keep thinking a) I don't know this woman much but I sure don't want to know her better; and b) if this is the sort of talk the daughter hears around the house, then no wonder she acts like a "mean girl" at school.

It has made me think.  I get that Facebook is a way for some people to let off steam and get empathy when they're having a bad day, or something dumb happens.  But the flow of those little blurbs has made me see that there are some people whose comments have a consistent negative energy to them, even while they are full of "LOLs" and "just kiddings."  And it's the ones targeted at other people ("Could that guy have picked an UGLIER shirt to wear?") that especially bother me.  I've realized that I don't want to be Facebook friends with people who use Facebook to make fun of others.

I'm learning to use the "hide" button a bit more liberally than I used to.  And I have to say that this realization made me go back through my own Facebook comments, to see what sort of tone I found there and whether I was using it to spread snark in the guise of humor too.

Not surprisingly, there are some folks whose Facebook blurbs are genuinely entertaining.  Some people manage to let you know they're having an off day without sounding whiny, and some just have a sense of humor that carries through every time.  Some folks use Facebook so well to make a thoughtful or funny observation.  It is those friends whose comments keep me logging in to Facebook.  

Maybe it's part of the attraction and genius of Facebook that these comments can be so revealing. There's a true sense of personality that comes through these short comments.   I guess the thing for each of us to pay atttention to is what we are revealing about ourselves.