Thursday, December 29, 2016

End of the year thoughts . . .

Christmas was only four days ago, but it seems longer than that to me! I am happy that it has snowed again and the ground is covered with a fresh blanket of snow. We had a quiet Christmas. For me, just shopping for baked goods at one of our favorite bakeries is a gift, as are the nights sitting together in the living room watching mushy Christmas movies and enjoying our decorated tree.

Time slipped away from me this December and as Christmas Eve approached, I had not yet made one of the gifts for my husband. I hunkered down in my sewing room for about four hours and was able to complete it. Since we had been over-indulging in Hallmark Channel movies and since I am married to one of Santa Claus's helpers, I had the idea that it would be nice to decorate our bedroom as if it were Santa's room, with lots of red and green and some garland, like the rooms we see in the B & B's and homes in the Hallmark movies! To achieve the look, I reversed one of my summer quilts that has a red and white checked backing and put it atop the bed. It was my thought when I chose the fabric for the back in the summer that I would use it this way at Christmas. Then I added the pillows to the bed . . . with their new Christmas pillowcases that I just finished. It was looking good, but needed more. So, I grabbed some unused supplies from my Christmas decorating stash and quickly made a big red bow and with the help of my" reacher thing" (for lack of a better term) that I use to get boxes and things off the top shelves in the pantry, I was able to get the bow fastened to the only nail in the wall and on the first try! I opened some red garland and lassoed the bow in my best cowgirl form and it worked . . . and it was even, too! I used a couple little command hooks to drape it and I have to admit I like how it turned out. My Santa was very surprised when I unveiled my project to him!

Fireplace in "Santa's Room"!
Pillowcases I made on Christmas Eve for my Santa!
My attempt at converting "Santa's room" to something from a Hallmark movie!

As the days of this year are coming to a close, I've been thinking about a variety of things that are either memories of years gone by and people who I used to know, to hopes and dreams for the year ahead. This month I thought a lot about my mother. She has been gone now 20 years, having passed away just a few days before Christmas in 1996. She and I were very close and her passing was an end to her suffering after a stroke that left her just a shell of the strong and vital woman she once was. But even when she seemed to be trapped inside of her own body and mind for over six years, there were bright spots and she never lost the way she would look at me with expressive eyes. It was the one way that was left for her to communicate because the stroke affected her ability to walk or talk. I learned a lot from her during her good years and during her final years, too. She was strong, feisty, smart, resourceful and loving. She was also opinionated. She didn't see a lot of gray areas. Most things were either black or white, right or wrong and would stay that way until she could be convinced otherwise. I sometimes wish I saw things like she did. It would keep life simple. I was keenly aware of her influence on me as I went about preparations for Christmas this year.

I think I have spent half of my life trying to be an organized person. I've read books, attended seminars, read blogs, watched videos, and with some success. But there are those areas where I still want to improve. My parents were both adults during the Great Depression and they saved everything. Living with them must have instilled in me the same saving mentality of their generation.

In the book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up", by Marie Kondo, there was one take away that I have put into practice. When I come across something on a shelf, in a drawer, or something that is right in front of me every day; I need to decide whether or not it gives me joy. If the answer is "yes", then I find a place for it where I can see it, use it, enjoy it. If the answer is "no", then I get rid of it. It has helped. I have a box always at the ready for things to donate to charity and it goes out the door with me on every trip I take . . . when I know I will pass by the charity's building. That isn't really revolutionary and it is espoused in almost every organizational bible. It is something I have done for almost 20 years. In that amount of time, you might think I would live in an empty house!

Some of my friends and acquaintances have asked me lately how I have managed to get rid of things, so I thought I would just touch on it here in my blog. Over the years, I have found many ways to get rid of possessions I had either inherited, or acquired, and no longer wished to own. I sold antiques in a booth at an antiques mall, sold things on consignment at clothing and antique stores, taken things to the local auctioneer, had yard sales, and used ebay and Craig's List. The newest way that seems to be really handy and easy is to use a virtual garage sale on Facebook. Wherever you live, you can search in Facebook and find several in your area. I like them better than Craig's List because you can discuss items directly with the seller, who is a member of the same group you join within the Facebook, and make arrangements for them to pick items up at your home or some other mutually-agreed-upon location. My husband takes care of listing and selling things for us this way, so I am not the expert -- he is! But I do understand the concept and it has worked for us to sell some heavy items we would not want to cart away ourselves. There are people interested in just about anything you can think of selling or donating. So, for those who are wondering what to do with all the stuff you have, just decide to do it and pick a couple of things you are willing to part with and go for it! You can list things, take photos, ask and answer questions and do it all from home while you drink your morning coffee and while you are in your pajamas!

I am trying very hard to use what I have, and get rid of the things I don't like and don't use. It isn't easy, but I know I can do it. I just have to take one step at a time . . . similar to my quest last February to list all of my unfinished quilt projects and then try to get some of them completed. I managed to complete seven of the 45 I listed. That may not sound like a lot in numbers, but in the feeling of accomplishment, it is huge. And . . . I have made an effort to buy only fabric I need for a current project, not a dream project for some future date. Sometimes I look at the fabric in my closet and I wonder what I was thinking? I would need an army of quilters to get these things all made! That is one of the reasons I took stock last February. I don't want my family to someday be saddled with deciding on what to do with all my stuff. They would never know the value I put on things and what was just some random item. Its better if I can be the one who decides where things end up. So, this will be a major focus for 2017.

There will be a lot of sewing and hauling out this year at our house. I hope you will find . . . or make . . . the time to do things you enjoy while you are paring down. I know I have a lot of items to share and I am looking forward to it!

Wishing you a happy end to 2016 and a great beginning to 2017!

Until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Calm

The gifts have been wrapped and mailed out, the cards and letters written, and the house will be decorated tomorrow and the next day. Our Christmas dinner shopping will be over the next few days; and for the first year in a long time, I feel organized and prepared for Christmas. I mentioned to my husband today that it is kind of funny how we stress over what we didn't get done when it comes to Christmas; but when I think about last Christmas, or the Christmases before, I cannot recall exactly what it was that remained undone! So . . . I think that shows me just how things don't have to stress us out if we didn't get to them.

I am content. Of course, there are things that I just thought of today that would have been nice to make or buy for someone on my list, or the event that would have been nice to attend; but I am enjoying just being at home inside my own four walls, instead of being out in the cold with crazy drivers or in a shopping mall with frantic shoppers. The extreme cold and snow kept us at home last week. Was I complaining? No. In fact, I was not-so-secretly happy to be "snowed in", as I like to call it. When I see one snowflake flying, I am ready to proclaim it is a snow day in Alexander!

My sister has a favorite set of Christmas dishes that I made her napkins to go with many years ago. She asked for some new napkins, so I went shopping for just the right fabric. The dishes are now discontinued, but I found photos of them on

Dansk "Winterfest" Pattern
I found something that I thought would go well, and decided to make a set of 8 napkins for her. I wanted to improve on the last set, so I decided to make them with mitered corners, like on the fancy napkins from the store. I didn't expect that the learning curve would be so steep. After all, I have sewn since I was 12 . . . which means I have sewn for over 50 years. Gulp. Really? Am I old enough to have started sewing that long ago? Holy cow! I found a blog post with an excellent tutorial on how to make the napkins:

Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to make a practice piece with some muslin that just happened to be lying on my cutting table. After getting around all 4 corners, I decided I could move forward and get to work on them. It was slow going! I had to refer to the photos for each step on about the first 3 napkins until I got the hang of it. Now I think I could do those corners in my sleep!

A set of 8 Christmas napkins  . . . finished in time for an early Christmas present!
Up close and personal shot of that well-practiced mitered corner.
After 32 corners, I've got this down pat!
There are some other things the elves are helping me with in my sewing room that are Christmas gifts, so I will have to wait to post them after they are received.

It hasn't been that hard to take a step back and enjoy the quiet this year. For me, pulling the decorations out of their boxes and reminiscing about them is almost like a gift in itself. All of the traditions that Paul and I have established over our marriage are meaningful, yet simple. One of our new favorite things that we have been doing this year is having hot chocolate after dinner with a handmade peppermint candy cane, from Oliver's Candies, the local candy store, in it. Yum! What could be better than watching a Hallmark movie and having that for a special treat? I haven't convinced Paul to try eggnog yet, but that's okay. That means there is more for me!

I hope you will spend the days we have left before Christmas in ways that are comforting and meaningful to you. It's a wonderful feeling to be so calm. I hope you can be calm, too.

And, until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Merry Christmas!