Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Tree that Tells Our Story

Christmas is over, and we're in that lovely, quiet week between Christmas and New Year's where I like to just relax and take pleasure in that "everything's-been-done-and-there-is-nothing-to-do-but-relax" feeling. Now really, there is plenty to do besides relax. But this week, I ignore it and just enjoy the decorated house and the fridge full of leftovers. I'll worry about life again next week.

I hope your Christmas was lovely. Here, it was a bit odd, what with Mom in the rehab facility and brother too ill to travel that day. But we made the best of things, enjoyed a portable holiday dinner with mom, and made it through with more gratitude than ever for family. It sounds corny, I know, but I feel like this year's holiday was a big lesson in finding the spirit within oneself regardless of what is going on.

This morning, I was sitting in the living room, gazing at the tree and thinking about how every ornament tells part of our family story.  Is your tree like that too? I know some people who decorate their tree on a theme, changing colors and ornaments each year to suit the theme -- but me, I like the tradition and comfort of bringing out the same ornaments each year, remembering where they came from and what they represent, and adding a few new ones that add more to our story.

I have my favorites, of course. Miss C's first Christmas -- that always hangs right in front, toward the top, as it's tiny-- but adorable.

When C was little, I started buying an ornament each year to commemorate something special about the year.  Guess who started ballet lessons that year?!

This year's commemorative ornament was this beautiful zebra, to mark the mini-vacation C and I took to the B Bryan Preserve in Point Arena, California and where we were able to see zebras and giraffes up close.  (I just realized that I drafted a blog post about our visit but never posted it! I'll post that soon!)

This new lamp ornament marked another wonderful memory this year, when my friend Carol and I went to see the musical Aladdin in San Francisco. It was a wonderful show and just the best day. I smile every time I see this on the tree, and it makes me doubly happy to know that Carol has this ornament on her tree, too.

I have ornaments that celebrate things that are important to me -- this glittery camera given to me by a friend when I was working hard on improving my photography, for example. And see those little snow shoes back there? Those are very old beloved ornaments from when I lived in New Hampshire and spent a gorgeous New Year's Day snow-shoeing after a heavy, fresh snow. It was a remarkable experience for this California-born kid.

And paints and palette-- another gift from a painting friend. I should focus on this a bit more before I take the tree down, as my goal for the coming year is to get back to sketching and painting more.

Speaking of New Hampshire, these ceramic ice skates are among my all-time favorite ornaments. I'd never skated outdoors on a real frozen pond before I moved there, so being able to skate outside was a true thrill for me. I never got tired of that. This ornaments brings those memories back -- as well as the time I was skating and pulling 1-year-old Miss C on a sled, and I fell and broke my wrist. Oh well. It was a fun day before that.

My sister painted a little wooden ornament of the old house I lived in in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. The whole top floor was my apartment, and it was a cozy place lined with built-in bookshelves.  It makes me so happy to put this on the tree every year.

Every year, my friend Beth and I meet for a Christmas shopping day together, and when we saw this blueberry waffle ornament at Sur La Table a few years ago, we just had to buy one for each other. Years (and years!) ago, in our college years, Beth and I shared an apartment together, and one summer my mom sent us a big box of fresh blueberries she'd picked. It seemed like an awful lot of blueberries for two girls to consume (I'm not sure why it didn't occur to us to freeze some) so we used them up by making blueberry waffles for quite a few meals. I look at this ornament and feel like I'm 20 again. Sorta.

There are special ornaments that represent childhood memories, too. Some years back, my sister gave me this Barbie case ornament. We spent hours and hours playing Barbies together on our bedroom floor when we were kids.  Look, the case even opens, and there's Barbie inside. Did you have a case like this? I remember that little drawer to hold shoes and accessories -- boy, it was easy to lose those tiny shoes.

My grandmother had a box with two viewmasters and a whole bunch of viewmaster reels of places she and my grandfather had visited in their travels. Oh, how we loved to sit and play with the viewmasters! (Did you have one? And bonus points if you remember that funny Mary Tyler Moore episode where she meets her boyfriend's parents and they have to sit and do coordinated viewmaster viewing!) 

And of course there are various ornaments representing our pets. Here's one to represent our old crazy black lab, Gemma.

We have a lot of at ornaments, both to mark the various cats we've had and because Miss C is a true cat person. Here's our newest one, a delightful felted wool cat with glittery antlers. 

My sister, a professional needlework designer, stitched this little beaded dog for me this year -- and it's all the more special knowing she was stitching it at my mom's hospital bedside.

Gosh, looking at and photographing and thinking of where each ornament came from makes me think that this would be a lovely family heirloom book, wouldn't it? A photo and the story of each ornament? I guess that's what we do when we put up the tree -- tell the stories, remember the moments, appreciate where our family story has brought us so far.

For some people, a Christmas tree is just a tree with lights. But not for me.  How about for you? And if you have a favorite ornament on your tree, post a photo in a comment. I'd love to see!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Haul out the Holly...

It's December... have you noticed?! Which means it's time to get out the holiday decorations.

Normally I love this time of year, and I love getting the tree up early and putting bits of Christmas all over the house. This year, though, things have been rather distracting. My mom is in a rehab facility after having broken her shoulder and her hip, and while she's doing great, it's just thrown all of us into a sort of strange place.  Of course, because life just seems to happen this way, work has suddenly gotten crazy so I've had a ton to do. And, frankly, the weird state of US politics and the feeling of dire bad things emerging from the White House every day has not helped to put me in a festive mood. 

Still, I know that having the tree up and decorations around always cheers me up no matter what.  So after a friend and I had a lovely shopping day on Friday, she came to spend the night and we had a fun decorating day.

 So -- the tree is up!  The festive pillows are scattered about!  
 This White Christmas pillow was when I first got a machine with an embroidery function. I love bringing it out every year.. and think I need to make a few more, after I remember how to use that embroidery module again.

Yes, Bing, Danny and Rosemary are back in the family room.

They look a little freaky in this shot, but trust me, they're kind of wonderful in person.

My favorite bird is dressed for the holiday. 

Speaking of birds, I decided to use an old birdcage I found at a yard sale this past summer. I have a few of these crowned silver birds which I just love -- and somehow it seemed to go with the glittery brush trees. But I'm not sure if it's festive or vaguely threatening. I mean, Prisoner Holiday decor?  Hmmm, maybe opening the door will fix that. Not sure. What do you think, is it weird?!

Here's another past holiday project now adorning a narrow wall in my dining room:

Shhh, don't tell... there are still some boxes on the dining room table to put away. But I've decorated as much as I'm going to this year, and I'm pooped. So I'm done for the day --  and now I'm just going to sit here by the fireplace and enjoy it. 

Have you decorated yet? And do you have a favorite decoration?

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Wait, what did I do today?

 Every morning when I get up, I make myself a cup of coffee, feed the dog while the coffee brews, and I settle down to read email and make some regular internet stops while I sip my coffee. I may scroll through Facebook for a bit to see what friends are up to, look at the NY Times app to see the latest news, or open the Feedly app to read some of my favorite blogs.  I might open Pinterest to see if there are any interesting things I need to save, or go look a bit through the visual feast that is Instagram.

I love the inspiration I get from seeing what friends are doing and creative strangers are making. I come away with new ideas every single day. But I started realizing that it was making me feel -- well, unproductive, at least, and even rather sluggish in my creative life.  I'd see a sketch by a friend or favorite artist and think, "Oh! I must get out my watercolors, I haven't sketched anything in forever." I'd see a gorgeous finished quilt and think, "Oh my, that's so pretty, I'd better get finishing those quilt tops I've got stacked up." I'd pin a recipe or two on Pinterest, thinking "I'd like to try that for dinner this week -- better add those ingredients to the shopping list."  In a blog or on Instagram, I'd see some new thing that I'd love to try -- just this morning, I pinned a few images of art books made by folding the pages -- and think, "wow, that'd be so fun to try.... when I have time." 

And somehow, the process of enjoying the visual inspiration became one of making me focus on everything I was NOT doing. And it occurred to me that I was starting the day by reminding myself of all of the things I didn't have time to do that day, which was not exactly a great feeling.  What to do?

Well, my solution thus far has been helpful. I keep a bullet journal or BuJo, If you're not familiar with the BuJo process, it's fairly a simple process of goal setting and planning that is simple but lends itself to creative variation in a zillion ways. (You can learn about Bullet Journaling here, and here, and here, and see lots of images of BuJo pages here. Be warned - it's kind of a wonderful rabbit hole if you are into paper and journals and goal setting and organizing.)

But back to the problem. Because I was feeling like I just never get anything done, I started adding  accomplishments to my BuJo daily page -- either at the end of the day, or adding it to that day's page the next morning. I list what I actually did and/or got done -- and it has really helped.

For example, yesterday was one of those days where I was feeling like I wasn't getting much done.  But then I made my "accomplishments" list:
   * Took Starlie to the dog park for a good romp
   * Visited mom at the rehab facility [she fell and broke her shoulder AND her hip!  So mobility recovery and rehab required but she's doing great]
   * Went to the grocery store for a big stock-up shopping trip
   * Sewed 8 quilt blocks on a newish quilt project
   * Wrote a (polite) complaint letter to a local restaurant place after they messed up my take out order for the second time in a row
   * Made a new recipe in the Instapot (this french onion soup, and it turned out rather well, I'm glad to report)
   * Researched wifi/bluetooth speakers 
  * Caught up with a friend on the phone
  * watched an hour of a tv show I've been recording (The Curse of Oak Island - nothing like a good old fashioned treasure hunt) 

So, it wasn't an earth-shatteringly productive day -- but I actually got a lot done, and more importantly, I reminded myself that I did valuable family things, household things, connected with a friend, and got some creative activity in there too. 

I'm liking this "accomplishments" aspect of the daily Bujo.
Do you track what you've done? Do you need to remind yourself of what you've accomplished?