Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Almost Over, New Beginnings

My wonderful brother-in-law, Marlon, all tuckered out after playing Santa

Another holiday season comes to a close. If you are like me this year, it is a relief! That isn't to say that I didn't have great holidays . . . I did. But, it will be nice to settle into a routine again.

My Thanksgiving was awesome - spent in Mesa, Arizona with gal pal, Nancy. Christmas week was in Atlanta. Suzanne, Marlon, Paul and I had a quiet holiday, but nice. The week was very busy.

Caroling in Suzanne's subdivision. It was fun, but I lip synced!

This New Year's Eve will be spent at home, quilting. My gal pal, Amy, was going to come up, but I have a cold and am not sleeping well. I'm tired and just want and need to be alone. Amy, too, is not feeling well. I think we both will spend most of this weekend in our jammies. I know I will be quilting and resting. I hope she starts to feel better, too.

A wild New Year's Eve at my house. Suits me fine!

I need to reflect on what I want to be, where I see myself a year from now, what goals I need to achieve. 2010 will be a banner year, with retirement in August, selling my house and moving to a different state. Throw in a very troubled relationship and it makes an interesting mix.

A big portion of this mix will be resolved within the next week or so. One way or another it will have huge impact on my life. I've been stalled at this fork in the road for a long, long time. Soon the path will be clear and time to start moving forward.

When I "googled" New Beginnings, this picture came up. It is awesome and very appropriate for me! I love it!

No resolutions. Life can change too much for that! Just goals, more hopes, aspirations and dreams. A new direction, a new reality. I think I better fasten my seat belt. 2010 is going to be be an interesting ride.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Elf on the Shelf

I'm in Georgia now, spending the holiday with my sister's family. I discovered a new holiday "tradition" that started there. It is called the "elf on the shelf" and I think it is pretty cool.

In short summary, a family in southern Georgia started this tradition when their kids were little. Now it has taken off and gone mass media, but it is still a wonderful concept. Especially since it was started by a real family and not some conglomerate. Here's the story:

Sometime after Thanksgiving, but before Christmas, an elf descends on your family. All day and all evening it watches the children. After everyone is in bed and sound asleep, the elf flies up to the North Poles and tells Santa if the children of his/her household has been "naughty or nice." Before everyone wakes up, the elf flies back down to the house and perches in a different location. When the children wake up, they have to find the elf. The rules are that the children cannot ever, ever touch the elf. It will loose its magical powers for the day and give Santa a bad report.

This is HUGE down here. And, fun, too. Each child knows exactly where the elf has perched throughout the season and I have heard delightful tales of elves on the TV, on the chandelier, on top of the cabinet. Most families have named their elf. The kids will tell you, with their wide-eyed seriousness, that they cannot touch the elf. Heaven forbid Santa gets a bad report! Sometimes the elf can be mischievous. One child told the story of how the elf knocked down the Christmas three at 3:00 A.M! Mommy and Daddy (who might have been assisting the elf) had to put the tree back up, ornaments and all and were very tired the next day. So much for the elf perching on the tip top of the tree!

It is a darling idea. I'm going to find an elf for Shannon who will visit her and here new sibling next Christmas.

Holiday tradition are fun and each family has their own with stories to go along with them. I have a feeling within the next 4-5 years, almost every family in America will have an elf on the shelf!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shannon & the Snow People

Double click on image to get the full "cuteness" effect!

OK - Indulge me. This picture of my 3-year old great-niece, Shannon, is just too darn cute not to post. The snow people were made by Jeannie and her gang at Ye Olde Schoolhouse Quilt Shop. Aren't they all adorable? The Abby Cadabby doll is Shannon's Christmas present from her other great-aunt, Suzanne.

Shannon and I spent last Saturday together. The highlight was going to Ye Olde Schoolhouse and letting Shannon pick out fat quarters to be used for doll quilts. We stuck to the 1930 reproductions as I knew she would like the brighter colors. She did an amazing job picking them out! They are now washed and pressed and after I return from Atlanta we will start one of the little quilts.

We also made bar cookies, tried to take a nap and I started to teach her to sew. Remember the old fashioned punch cards that many of us learned sewing basics with? Well, I found reproduction cards from the 1930s and used them to teach Shannon. She is pretty young, but really loved doing this - on my lap with my watchful eyes (although the "needle" is huge, plastic and dull, it could still do damage to an eye)!

Needless to say, I was exhausted Saturday night! But I had a blast with Shannon. I'm looking forward to New Year's weekend when we will start the doll quilt. Should be interesting!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I've Hit The Mother Lode

My church lady friend, Cheryl, told me recently that she had done some quilting and had a lot of quilting books she was getting rid of. Knowing that I quilted she asked if I wanted them.


Cheryl told me she was keeping 20 books for herself, but I was still cluelss as to how many books on quilting she had. Friday night, before our annual Winter Solstice church lady gathering, Cheryl dropped off the books. And, books. And, books.


I feel like a kid in a candy store. I can't take my eyes off of them, I keep picking them up and paging through them. I'm on overload!

THANK YOU, CHERYL! What a great friend!

I have quilting books of and for every shape, design, pattern, and technique. I'm giddy! There are a few color technique books, hand quilting, machine applique and quilting, quilting clothings, paper piecing . . . you name it, I got it.

Fortunately, Phil gave me 3 wonderful quilting books for Christmas - one Eleanor Burns and two by Kathleen Tracy, which were not included. I am pouring over these books as well. Oh, I love the history Kathleen includes in her books. I enjoy following her blog, too.

What wonderful gifts as our long winter nights approach. After sewing each evening I can curl up (under one of my own quilts) and page through book after book.

Almost heaven!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Zen Kind of Quilt

Finished quilt top spread out on a sheet placed on my basement floor!
Double click on picture for a better view of the fabric.

I remember seeing this quilt, entitled "Zen" in the February2009 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting magazine and thinking, "Hmmm - interesting." At the Chicago Quilt Show last April I saw it hanging in a booth along with the very last bundle of fabric to make the quilt. I grabbed the bundle.

I had never worked with batiks before and wanted to try. And, despite an error in the magazine cutting instructions, and one of my own, it was easy and quickly put together. I also had fun pairing up the colors. Each fabric was prettier than the last.

Organizing on basement floor

I really needed a design wall to put it all together, but don't have the wall space. So, I spread a sheet over my basement floor, laid out the blocks and stood on the steps to get a good view. Despite a lot of rearranging, there are still a couple of blocks of the same print and/or hue too close together. Oh, well . . .

Now I need to purchase the backing and have it quilted. I'm excited about purchasing the backing. All those beautiful batiks in all those beautiful colors and patterns! Maybe I should go with more of a solid or a marble fabric. Picking out the backing may take a while!

Nancy's Hawk

Hawks have always been a symbol of "good travel" for me. This idea goes way back to when I was married to Bill. We took a lot of driving vacations. For a reason I can't remember, if we saw hawks along the highway we knew we would have a safe trip. It became a game for us to point out hawks perched along fence posts, highway signs or soaring in the air while we drove along. This has continued on for me.

Once, while watching TV, I noticed a little bird sitting very still in a climbing rose bush that covered a small corner of our window. I pointed it out to Bill and we both watched it. It never moved. All at once a hawk flew down, talons ready to grab, back flapping its wings, trying to get the little bird. The hawk didn't count on the window and it actually lightly hit the pane with its talons before flying away, without the little bird. Bill, sitting close to the window, jumped out of his chair! We thought that hawk was going to join us!

One morning while I was in Mesa, AZ last month I got up very early, long before Nancy. After making coffee I looked out the window and there was this beautiful hawk sitting on the wall with its breakfast (another bird, already dead). I couldn't believe how close it was. Grabbing my camera I went outside and snapped pictures. While it never took its eyes off of me, the hawk remained there. I watched that hawk for a couple of hours and was happy it was still there when Nancy gout up. We both went out and took pictures. I tried getting too close and the hawk got fed up, grabbed the rest of what remained of its breakfast and flew off. What a sight!

Native Americans, as well as other groups world-wide, believe each person has an animal totem - an animal whose presence stays with you throughout your life, serving as a guide. I do believe this. I also believe that sometimes animals (or insects) come around us for short periods, trying to guide us into the directions our lives needs to take. This happened to me a couple of years ago with the monkey. I was in Atlanta and eveywhere my sister and I went I saw monkeys. Not real monkeys, but in artwork or figurines. Seriously, they were everywhere. I'm not overly fond of monkeys and it was starting to freak me out a little. I called my gal pal, Sally, who knows more about this then I do, and she did a little research. During this time of my life I was stressed out and unhappy. I was pretty tense. The monkey was telling me to relax, have fun and play. I know some people will think this is silly, but I believe if we were all more aware of the role animals play in our life, more aware of our surroundings and what is happening all around us, they would find this to be true.

Some people know their animal totems, most without realizing or even understanding what a totum is or its role in their lives. Pam's mother loves cardinals and has been collecting pictures, artwork and figures of them for years. Pam loves wolves. Phil has a collection of small elephant figurines, people gift Sally will turtle garden statues, etc. The dragonfly is symbolic to my relationship with Phil and now to me on a more personal level. While I am not sure what animal or insect is my personal totem, I have a feeling it is a winged creature. I do love birds. Maybe it is the hawk. A good website to learn about animal totems is here.

A few hours before I left for Mesa, AZ I was talking to Nancy on the phone. I was looking out my front window at the birds and squirrels around my feeders. All at once the neighborhood hawk flew dowe, trying to get lunch! The litle animals scattered into the rose hedge along my property line. The hawk followed. I pounded on the window. I didn't want to see the hawk kill or fly off with a meal! An omen of a good trip? The hawk flew way empty handed. I had a fabulous vacation!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Visit with Santa

One thing good about hanging out with a three-year old is that you get to visit Santa and, as in this case, Mrs. Claus, too!

Every year the Milwaukee Fire Department sponsors a Visit with Santa for all MFD members and their families. It is held at the Survive Alive House, which is a wonderful place where all city of Milwaukee school children can come and learn about fire safety. This is the third year my great niece Shannon, Pam (her mom) and I have attended. It is a nice event.

One of our firefighers makes balloon shapes for the kids. Here Shannon is getting fitted.

Shannon and her Rudolph hat!

Big brother, Aaron, gets in on the act!

Shannon and her new friend, Grayson. Grayson's Dad is the Audio Visual Specialist for the MFD.

Shannon asked Santa for puzzles, toys, an Abby Cadabby doll and a healthy little brother or sister, which is due to arrive next summer!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Planning for Retirement

I went for my retirement seminar today.
I'm very excited.
Learned all kinds of new things I wasn't aware of.
I'm a-hoping August 23, 2010 is the big day!
Feeling kinda giddy.