Monday, December 28, 2009

A family holiday

Christmas was really all about family this year.  It is every year, of course, but this year had some differences to it.

Most importantly, we met our new niece Boitumelo, pictured above in my arms displaying a new sweater on Christmas eve.  (Also pictured is my other wonderful sister in law Linda.)   Boitumelo (or "Itu" as she is rapidly becoming known) is from Lesotho and was adopted by my sister-in-law Doreen just before Thanksgiving.  Doreen and Boitumelo's story is a lovely one.  Doreen and  her son Dash traveled to Lesotho about 18 months ago to visit a family she'd lived with while she did volunteer work when she was in college.  They visited an orphanage while they were there, and at some point a woman passed Doreen this small, solemn girl who'd just arrived at the orphanage the day before with a severe and inexplicable wound on her face.  Boitumelo tucked her head into Doreen's neck and clutched at her clothing as if she never wanted to let go.  And that, says Doreen, was that.  She had an immediate sense of recognition of her as her daughter, and set about there and then to adopt her. The path was a complicated one with lots of stops and starts, but we are all so delighted that the story had a happy ending ...

Or should I say, beginning....  Boitumelo has now had her first family-filled, American Christmas and she's learned all about Santa (too scary to get close to), opening presents (great fun), giving presents (tolerable) and eating raspberries (a totally favorite thing.)  She is one strong, confident girl, as evidenced by her total acceptance of constant fawning by an entourage of 8 cousins who followed her and dangled toys in front of her to get her attention all evening long.  We were all charmed by Boitumelo and her presence made for a very joyful holiday. 

Although I was sad not to see my parents and siblings on Christmas day as we've done in past years, this year Roger and Caroline and I decided we needed a focused family Christmas.  It was quite wonderful to get up on Christmas morning, open presents and linger over breakfast without the feeling that I'd best be getting something cooked or mixed or thawed or otherwise prepared!  We set the rule that we would not turn on computers at all for the day -- Caroline and I adhered strictly to the rule, although Roger forgot and wandered off to google various things he needed to know.  And it was so lovely that we decided to take a few more computerless days.  Our friend Beth joined us for Christmas dinner (grilled shrimp, baked sweet potatoes, a raspberry jellow without which it is just not a holiday, artichokes, and the must-have family butter cookies for dessert.)  Easy and perfect, especially since it was all accompanied by champagne.

We chatted, we worked on a jigsaw puzzle, we played the Beatles Rock Band (ah, sore guitar fingers -- a new Christmas injury) and generally had a grand time.  Since the 25th, we've continued the trend with more jigsaw puzzling, game playing, napping, movie-watching, and lots and lots of reading.

So,  we are enjoying this peaceful interlude.  Tomorrow, I may start sewing something -- or maybe not.  We are seeing out 2009 in a quiet way, and it feels just right.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Life is better with a sister

A while back, I had an evening to myself and decided to watch a few of the Quilting Arts TV shows that I have on DVD.  In one episode (#202-4, to be exact) Pokey Bolton demonstrated a fast and adorable project that just looked like it'd be so much fun.   She strip pieced a background, fused a photo-transfer image of a pet (manipulated in Photoshop to make it look colorful and sort of funky) and quilted it all up into one charming little quilt.  I was so taken by the project that I got to work the next day -- I was in the mood to do something fun and fabric-y and for no reason other than I was in the mood to play.  I pulled up a photo of my sister Laura's sweet german short-haired pointer Katie (taken on a morning walk), assembled some of the pink scraps leftover from the 12x12 "pink" challenge, and I was on my way.  I really had fun machine stitching Katie's fur.  You can find the project instructions on the Quilting Arts website, here

Today, Laura came over so we could bake our family's "must-have" Christmas cookies together.  What a great time we had -- we made tons of cookies, for us and for our parents, we had holiday music playing in the background, and we chattered away.  The rolling and cutting and pressing and sprinkling went so much faster doing it together ... and now we are well-stocked with cookies and fudge for holiday desserts. 

At the end of our baking (and tasting) session, I couldn't wait and gave Laura this Christmas present a few days early.  She pretty much squealed with delight and made me very happy.  It's great when something you've made is truly appreciated, isn't it?

What a fun day, and how lucky I am to have my sister close by to bake cookies with!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sing Along, Part 2

Things are looking a bit more Christmas-y around here! Some decorations are out (I've been in a glittery silver mood lately), the tree is up and lit (ornaments yet to come) so I'm actually starting to feel festive. I've got my car stereo tuned to a holiday music station, so it's no wonder I'm humming Christmas songs to myself all day. Which has led to this:

Quilted Gifts (sing to the tune of "Jingle Bells")

Dashing to the store
For one more spool of thread.
I have all shades of blue,
but I need that perfect red.

The quilt is almost done,
The bobbin's running low.
I'll stitch another hour or two
And then it's good to go. Oh...

Quilted gifts, quilted gifts,
I started back in May
Sewing for the holidays,
To be done by Christmas day. Hey!

Quilted gifts, quilted gifts,
Next year won't be hard.
I'll cross off every project and
Instead give a gift card!

(And for those of you who have asked, you are free to sing my silly songs with your friends, mini-groups or guilds as you choose...And yes, your guilds may print them in newsletters as long as you give me credit! I'm amused that you like my goofy Quilty Holiday songs!)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feeling Pinkish -- in a good way!

In case you haven't noticed, it's the twelfth day of the twelfth month, and to celebrate this momentous day, the twelve of us 12x12 collaborators have chosen today to reveal the first set of our new "Colorplay" challenges!

This theme was mine to choose, and knowing how many people avoid the color pink, I chose that for my challenge theme. All we were told was "Pink!" and with the usual cleverness, everyone went off in amazing and fun directions. Go over to the 12x12 blog and see everyone's responses!

I'm trying to break away from my usual literal/representational style, so I'm challenging myself to try to be more abstract in my responses. For this piece, I wanted to illustrate the gentle, soft, pleasing sense I get from the color pink. I've called it "Whimsy in Pink."

I can't wait to see what up is next...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas Sing-Along

Sing along with me (to the tune of "Deck the Halls") -- c'mon, let me hear you!

Deck the halls with yards of fabric, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
I’ll avoid the Christmas traffic. Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Sewing gifts for one and all, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
I won’t have to hit the mall. Fa la la la la, la la la la!

My Bernina’s really humming, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
And the items just keep coming. Fa la la la la, la la la la!
My to-do list’s getting longer, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
I’ll just make the coffee stronger. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Piecing quilts is so relaxing. Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Cutting bits is hardly taxing. Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Drifts of batting look like white snow, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Only six more quilts to go. Fa la la la la, la la la la!

Christmas eve and I’m still sewing. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Cookies and eggnog keep me going. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Midnight comes and I’m still sitting, Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Next year I will take up knitting. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

It’s all worthwhile on Christmas morning. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
If only I could stop this yawning. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Brother loves the quilt that’s red. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
(Please don’t use it as a dog bed.) Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Soon the year will start anew, Fa la la la la, la la la la.
I’ll start another quilt or two. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Thread and fabric I’ll be buying. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
I’m addicted, there’s no lying. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

(Once you start putting your own words to holiday songs, you can't stop. Or is it just me?!)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Getting into a playful spirit

I don't know about you, but I'm having a hard time getting into a holiday mood. It's only just getting chilly here in Northern California, so the weather feels barely fallish, let alone wintery. And we are all absorbed in helping the student of the house wrap up her first semester of this new school-from-home situation and prepare for final exams. (Physics is traumatizing all of us around here, although we do joke about how we can now measure the speed of flight if Caroline hurls the physics text across the room.) For some reason, just keeping my head above the clutter of housework and daily business feels like plenty.

Yesterday, our neighbors across the street were out in force, blaring Christmas music through the neighborhood as they put out their vast assortment of holiday decorations. It should have added a fun and festive feeling, right? But I was annoyed at the blasting music outside when I'd hoped for a quiet morning, and I was feeling generally un-Christmasy, almost downright Scrooge-like.

I am determined to ease myself into a relaxed holiday mood. The tree will come up this week, I think, and once that is done I know I'll feel more Christmasy. But for now, to cheer ourselves, we did something that always helps: we went to the animal shelter to cuddle the cats. There is nothing that'll make you smile faster than seeing the butt-wiggly, pouncey cuteness of an energetic kitten.

They really know how to live in the moment, kittens do.

They can find fun in the simplest things.

And they can play while lying down or sitting still.

I feel much better now.