Thursday, December 31, 2009

Can it really be 2010?

I've been mulling over that number all day.  It just sounds so "futuristic" to me; not like a real year at all.  More like a movie or song title.

Anyway, Happy New Year to all!  I hope that you take time to celebrate today with friends or loved ones, say goodbye to 2009, and raise a glass of bubbly to the hope that a new year always brings.

My family is fortunate that 2009 did not bring us the economic hardships that many endured and continue to endure.  No one lost their job or their house, thankfully.  The 30-somethings still have time for their 401Ks to grow, the 50-somethings may have to rethink retirement age, and the 60-somethings (that would be us) are grateful for the conservative approach we've always taken on investing.

No one is directly involved with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Everyone is healthy - even me!  Yup, that blessed pain seems to have disappeared for no apparent reason.  A little like the way it showed up for no apparent reason!  My doc refers to me as the "mystery woman."  Friends encouraged me to go through with the physical therapy that the doc ordered, which I will do.  I'll just have to explain where it "used to hurt" instead of where it hurts!

We celebrated the election of the first Afro-American as President of the United States.  Regardless of your political leanings, this was certainly something to celebrate.  Now, if we could only get around to electing a woman .... not just any woman, either.  A woman who is strong, decisive, confident, as well as qualified, experienced, and competent.  I think that pretty much rules out Ms. Palin.  Sorry, I just couldn't resist!

By far the best part of our year was the birth of our third grandchild, Natasha Jade.  She is turning out to be quite a beauty with striking blue eyes and ash blond hair that can't be matched by the salons of Beverly Hills.  She has the cutest way of furrowing her eyebrows from time to time.  My guess is that she's trying to figure out how the heck she's going to deal with all these grownups.

2009 also brought me:
  • new friends in The Oasis Quilt Guild
  • into the world of blogging
  • a trip through the Panama Canal
  • hiking in 5 National Parks
  • attempts to expand my sewing and quilting skills
I thought about doing a resolution a day for the past week, but life always seems to get in the way of my plans.  I do have a few resolutions to share with you over the next few days not necessarily in rank order of importance - just in the order that they pop into my head.

Since this blog actually started out as a quilting blog, Resolution #1 is to practice free motion quilting every day until I either learn how to do it or give up!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow, we leave to spend the next 5 days with our family in Ventura County, California.  I will be away from blogging for a week or so.  I can hardly wait to visit with our 3 wonderful grandchildren as well as our adult children.  Isn't Christmas the most wonderful time of the year?  Hope to take pictures of the grandchildren playing on Santa's gift - and hoping, hoping, hoping that it survives the onslaught of preschoolers!

I've been thinking today about the new year and my resolutions, but I won't bore you with what I've come up with!  I think I'll do one resolution per day from Christmas until the New Year.  Come join me - let's make a list!

It has been a wonderful year.  Our family greeted a new grandchild, Natasha Jade.  Nothing is better than welcoming a new life into your family.  Our country welcomed a new president, Barack Hussein Obama.  On any level, this was an historic event.  I am forever grateful that I was able to witness this.  As a young adult growing up in the 60s, I could not imagine seeing an African-American being sworn in as President of the United States.  Let's hear it for us!!!  We did good.

On a personal note, this was the year that I started blogging.  Not a big deal on the world stage.  Not such a big deal with my family and friends.  But for me - a really big deal!  I love blogging.  I don't know who is out there reading my blog; I don't know who may come forward in the future to read my words; but I do know that I am enjoying the process.  I enjoy learning about new technology, expanding my horizons, and challenging myself.  And, I may be the only one in my family who actually knows what a widget is!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  Enjoy spending time with loved ones; worship the season as you choose; sprinkle a little fairy dust on someone less fortunate; hum a Christmas carol; watch "White Christmas" for the 20th time; remember that the world would never be the same unless you were in it!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Through the eyes of a child - the magic of Christmas!

I don't know who had a better time on Saturday - Talia, Tati, or Oma.  The three girls went to see Disney on Ice at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.  Talia knew that she was going to have a special outing with Tati and Oma and that she was going to see a "show."  She'll be 4 in February, so a show to her is a movie in the living room!  When I picked her up at 9:30 a.m., she was all dressed up in holiday finery, excited, and ready to go.

We had a wonderful day of experiences for a 3 & 3/4 year old (she insists on the 3/4), a 50-something, and a 60-something (we insist on the "somethings").  We drove through LA Christmas traffic talking about how a show differs from a movie.  How do you explain these things to a preschooler?  All of a sudden, Talia shouted "city!" as we first caught sight of the tall, tall buildings in downtown LA.  She's a gal from the suburbs - cities are pretty exciting!

We parked and asked Talia if she wanted to walk to the Staples Center (a short 1/2 block) or take the shuttle.  She opted for the shuttle and delighted in the "crazy driver" who turned corners a little too quickly for her to maintain her balance.  The giggles and grins were enough to make my day .... and there was more to come.

You can enter one hour before showtime and visit the Disney princess exhibit.  If you are lucky enough to have a little girl in your life between the ages of 2 and 14, you know that Disney princesses are all the rage.  We saw Belle's dress (from Beauty and the Beast), Show White's costume, and - ta da! - Cinderella and Tiana (The Princess and the Frog) were actually there!  They smiled, they waved, they blew kisses - and brought delight to all the little girls and boys, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors who were enjoying this holiday treat.

Talia caught sight of the popcorn booth and insisted on popcorn.  The box was half as big as she is!  She wouldn't let me carry it for her, so lugged that box halfway around the Staples Center until we found our seats.  Tati went to buy lunch, and Talia and I settled in for the start of the show.  They announced a countdown to showtime and Talia stared at my watch intently waiting for the time to click down - 5 minutes, 3 minutes, 1 minute until showtime.  Tati brought lunch, the lights went down and ----- Mickey and Minnie Mouse skated out to great us!

I don't have the words to describe the look of wonder on Talia's face as she experienced her first live show with characters that she knows and loves.  Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck, Ariel, Flounder, Sebastian, Simba, Tinkerbell.  We almost skipped a potty break at intermission because she was afraid she would miss the start of the second half!  She laughed, she cried a bit (why did they choose to do the stampede scene from The Lion King?), she waved at Sebastian, shouted at Skar, and jumped up and down when Tinkerbell flew!

I know I'll get gifts on Christmas from my wonderful family.  They'll be thoughtful, beautifully wrapped, carefully chosen, and given with love.  They'll also understand when I say that no gift that I receive this Christmas will be more precious to me than the look on Talia's face when she first saw Ariel skate onto the rink.  There is no gift greater than the look of joy, wonder, and magic on the face of a child, especially a child that you love!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Something Special for the Kidlets!

Months ago, I bought snack holders from The Sewphisticated Stitcher to give to the kidlets as Christmas gifts.  Of course, I waited until the week before Christmas to do this project!  Isn't that typical of crafters?  It was so much fun looking for appropriate designs that matched each of my three sweethearts to embroider on inserts along with their names.  Trains for Jackson was a given, and our little princess (otherwise known as Miss T. the Elder; Talia; or T. Rex!) definitely needed something girlish.  Her snack holder has stylish pink highheels and a matching purse.  Tasha's personality is just beginning to show, but she is sweet, sweet, sweet as the cupcake design on her snack holder.  Unfortunately, I wrapped the gifts in a gift-wrapping frenzy yesterday before taking pictures!  I carefully unwrapped Jackson's today so you could see at least one of the finished projects.

I was tempted to put something good to eat in the holders, but Christmas will be filled with enough goodies to get Talia and Jackson on big-time sugar highs!  I reluctantly stopped myself from being the indulgent grandmother and just left them empty.  Sigh.

By the way, if you are looking for a really nice selection of mini-designs that stitch out very well try Bunnycup Embroidery.  (I like to link to sites that I especially enjoy.  I have no affiliation with any of these sites except as a happy customer!)

Spent the rest of today wrapping gifts, working on embroidered Christmas ornaments (another late project), and trying to get ready for a short weekend trip to see the family.  Doug will be helping Brian put together the kidlets BIG gift (it's a surprise!)  Tati (my sister) and Oma will be having much more fun - we're taking Talia to see Disney on Ice at the Staples Center on Saturday!  Whoo hoo!!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

How sweet it is - a project day!

Once in awhile, a day crops up when I have nothing, or almost nothing, on the calendar or the to-do list.  Aren't these just the most wonderful of days?  Of course, I have a mental list of all of the things that I'll get done during the day.  I can usually count my total progress at about 50% of what I actually think I can do.  No matter - these are still sweet, sweet days.

Here's a picture of the finished tablerunner actually on the kitchen table.  I decided not to add the Christmas tree applique that the pattern calls for.  Maybe next year I'll do another one in better fabric and add the applique.  I still like it, though, as simple as it is.  I made beef stew on one of our rainy days last weekend and spilled some of it on the tablerunner the first day we used it!  So, now I'll get to see how it behaves in the wash.

Doing the binding totally by machine did not work out as well as I had hoped, so I added a decorative stitch in gold metallic thread.  I haven't used metallic thread often, but I do like the effect it gives to the right project.  I used Sulky.  Although my 640 does not like the regular Sulky embroidery thread, it did very well with the metallic thread.  Several years ago, I learned at a class to put difficult thread in a coffee mug behind the machine to give it an extra-long path before it winds through the tension disks, etc.  This works like a charm for me!

One of the reasons that it took me so long to finish this tablerunner was that I had to put it aside to work on a TLC quilt for our Oasis Quilt Guild.  A downside of living in a senior community is that people get sick - seriously sick - on a regular basis.  Our Guild keeps a supply of small lap quilts on hand so that we can gift one to a resident undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment.  We were quickly in need of two quilts suitable for men, so I was tasked with adding borders to a quilt which someone started who knows how long ago and just stuck in the Guild closet.  I scrounged around our stash and found some red prints that livened it up a bit and did a piano keys border for the first time.  I enjoyed learning how to do this border design, and I definitely like the effect it has on the quilt presentation.  It's hard to see in the picture, but the small border is a black & white pindot print which is repeated in the piano keys.  Someone else in our group gets to quilt it - I'm done!

And I finished personalized snack holders for the kidlets for Christmas!  I purchased the acrylic holders from The Sewphisticated Stitcher.  The designs come from Swak Embroidery, one of my favorite sites for children's designs.  This was a fun project to do and another learning experience with the embroidery software.  Pictures tomorrow - DH needs the computer!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Infrequent Visitor

I've lived in Southern California since 1976.  I was happy to get here.  I had definitely had it with ice storms in Detroit and commutes to work ranging from 45 minutes to 2 1/2 hours during the winter.  Gifting the snow shovel to our neighbors as the moving van pulled out of Carrie Drive was a sweet, sweet moment.

I will not complain about the weather here at all, even though there are days (usually the fifth day in a row of 105+ temps) that make me want to get on a plane to anywhere else.  Incessant wind is a fact of life; firestorms announce that fall has, in fact, arrived.  And rain, any amount of it, is always the lead story on the nightly news.  Rain was actually the second story tonight, after the "Fall of Tiger."

Over the past week, we have had an abundance of rain by Southern California standards.  On Monday, it poured all day.  We've had 3 waves of storms over the past two days increasing the chances of mudslides in the fire areas and causing multiple road closures and fender benders.  As I write this blog entry, I'm dry and warm in my nice little home with no plans to venture out onto the freeways of Southern California.

We really, really need this rain.  We just don't need it all at once in downpours that threaten the hillsides and urge neighborhoods to form sandbag brigades.  Temperance, Mother Nature, haven't you heard of temperance?

I thought today would be an wonderful day to stay inside, listen to Christmas tunes, and start to wrap the Christmas gifts.  Unfortunately, I soon realized that my list from last year was inadequte - I desperately needed more wrapping paper, more ribbon, more tissue paper.  So, I ventured onto the wet streets of Menifee, California.  I should have stayed home.

One and one-half hours later, I am the proud owner of one roll of somewhat-acceptable wrapping paper for toddlers.

'Tis the season!

Friday, December 11, 2009

This is a pain in the gut - Final Chapter?

After waiting over 3 weeks for my appointment, I finally got to see the pain management doc today or, as Doug calls him, Dr. Pain.  My appointment was scheduled for 10:15 a.m., but they called just before 8 and asked me to get there as soon as possible.  They had a few cancellations, and the doc had to leave the office early.  So, we were there by 9:15.  Did I feel a little rushed?  Slightly.

Not much to the appointment.  Dr. Pain feels that I have "nerve irritation," a condition extremely difficult to pinpoint and diagnosis.  He offered a spinal injection which would deaden the area.  That didn't sound too appealing!  Since my pain has subsided over the past 3 weeks with the proactive steps that I have taken (no bra, avoiding the tasks that compress the painful area and trigger the pain, etc.), I wasn't too enthusiastic about such an invasive procedure.

He'll recommend a course of physical therapy subject to insurance approval.  That's not always a given these days.  He also recommended that I stop the pain medication.  The rest is basically up to me.  He'll give me one of those scary shots into my spine if I call him up and make an appointment.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the worst is behind me and that I will continue to make slow progress towards normalcy.

While waiting to see Dr. Pain, three people left his office who could hardly walk upright, obviously in pain.  Made me grateful that I seem to be on the road to recovery.  Chronic pain is a pretty gruesome way to live.  My mom used to say that you could always find someone worse off than you - how true.  I need to remember how stressful it was to wake each morning knowing that I would be in pain by mid-day.  I need a gratitude check on a daily basis!

This afternoon, I finally finished the Christmas tablerunner.  The experiment with machine binding was less than successful - I wasn't happy with the sloppiness at all.  So, back to hand stitching the binding to the back of the quilt the way I've always done it.  To cover the "boo-boos," I decided to use gold metallic thread and use a decorative stitch around the finding edge on the front of the tablerunner.  I'll post a closeup tomorrow of the finished binding and also share more of why I was disappointed with the machine binding technique.  I think the decorative stitching adds a cute and festive look for the holidays!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is there a letter, a letter for me?

I was listening to NPR yesterday while trying to avoid traffic collisions in the mad rush to finish Christmas shopping (why do we do this to ourselves?).  Anyway, I love NPR.  At least 70% of the time, the programming is riveting and fascinating to me.  Diane Reym interviewed Thomas Mallon, author of a new book entitled Yours Ever, in which Mr. Mallon discusses letters written by world leaders, famous writers, and ordinary people.  The art of handwritten letters is dying fast, much to my (and Mr. Mallon's) dismay.  I was enthralled by the topic and the interview.  This was definitely a broadcast in the riveting class ... I was transfixed.

Mr. Mallon addressed some very famous correspondence - John and Abigail Adams (a love affair for the ages), King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson (oh, my - he was besotted, wasn't he?), Woodrow Wilson and Edith Galt (another besotted male).  Fascinating.

I couldn't help but think about the letters that have played an important role in my life and how sad it is that my grandchildren may not know the thrill of receiving a letter in the mail, handwritten, addressed just to them, very personal and full of news, love, warm wishes, and sometimes sadness.  In this age of instant worldwide communication, will we lose forever the joy of opening the mailbox and retrieving an envelope addressed to us in a recognizable and well-loved hand and anticipating the words within?  Oh, I hope not.

Here are a few of the more memorable letters in my quite ordinary life:
  • A dear-Jane letter from a boyfriend who left for college before me and fell out of love with the girl back home.
  • The long letter from my first serious boyfriend telling me that his mom didn't think my letters to him sounded like a "woman in love."  What was she doing reading my letters?
  • All of the letters that I wrote to my parents while I was in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Niger, West Africa.  My mother saved every single one of them and carefully preserved them in a notebook for my return.  Instant diary!
  • All of the letters that our daughter, Sara, wrote to us during her college years which I saved, carefully preserved in a notebook, and presented to her on her graduation day.
  • Letters from my future husband while he was serving in Vietnam.  Newsy, friendly, revealing, then loving, longing and full of hope. 
  • My mother-in-law's letter to us as young parents criticizing our parenting skills and including a laundry list of action items!  I still can't throw it away - it is a reminder to me of what not to do as a mother-in-law and grandmother!
Today, we e-mail, blog, send text messages and twitters.  Just doesn't feel the same, does it?  I think I'll spend part of the weekend - which is supposed to be cold and rainy - writing a real letter to my oldest granddaughter!

I'd love to hear about letters that you remember receiving!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Santa, Baby .....

If you are obsessive about sewing, quilting, and/or machine embroidery the way that I am, your holiday wishlist leans a little heavily on supplies, notions, magazine subscriptions, scissors, thread (LOTS of thread), rulers, books --- whew!  One can never have enough goodies to support this hobby!  I really try to explain exactly what I want and even add websites and links to help all the Santas in our family.  It's a little like my DH explaining to me about dremels and bits and routers and why he still needs more of them, whatever the heck they are.

I have my perfect sewing machine in the Bernina 640 with embroidery module, so I don't lust after the 830.  Truthfully, I do sometimes daydream about a longarm machine.  But then I force myself back to reality.  We don't have the room!  Ahhhh, room.  Now, that is what I'd really like Santa to bring me - more room!

In our last house, I had a dedicated sewing room on the second floor.  Could anything be better?  A room to myself with a door!  Heaven on earth.  I could sew (or scrapbook) all day long and then just turn out the lights and shut the door.  No cleaning up, no search for lost pins that might be discovered by DH, no worrying about putting all the project pieces together in one place that I'll be certain to remember.

Here's a picture of my current sewing room.  (You can see the table runner which I am still working on.)

Sadly, it isn't all mine and it isn't all sewing.  It's a combined craft/sewing/computer/office that is wide open to the entire house.  I love the built-ins, of course, and feel lucky to have something so nice.  Notice how neat things look?  This is done purely out of necessity.  I want room!  Room to make a mess ..... room to work on more than one thing at a time ..... room for more storage (i.e., more goodies).... room for a real, honest-to-goodness worktable!  Ah, Santa .... I've been really, really good this year.

I have, on occasion, been a little uppity with Santa.  One year, I clipped pictures from the Zales catalogue and slipped them into Santa's lunchbox.  I think that was the year that Santa left me and my DH matching sweatsuits and running shoes.  Hmmmmm ...

So, if Santa is still listening to me after all this time, this is what I really want for Christmas:  a sewing room that looks just like this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Who needs the gym?

Being a grandmother is just about the best thing that has ever happened to me.  Actually, I'd probably place it #3 after falling in love and having my own two children.  There is nothing I'd rather do than spend time with these three small humans.  They make me smile on the outside and the inside.  Their hugs fill me with joy; their laughter makes the most ordinary day extraordinary.  But ...

... they wear me out!  Where did all this energy come from?  I can't remember being this exhausted when my son and daughter were growing up, but I was 30+ years younger.  I suppose that might make a difference!  I awoke this morning at my DD's house around 7 a.m., quietly unmade my bed (2 sleeping bags and an exercise mat carefully placed among the toys and the Christmas tree on the floor of the living room), turned on the coffee, checked e-mail (I am a thoroughly modern Oma), showered and dressed.  The day officially began at 8 a.m. when Talia, Jackson, and Tasha were awake and ready to be dressed and fed, simultaneously.  Then began the very serious task of figuring out how long Oma can play before something vital starts to hurt!

One Lego town built; 6 Christmas books read; 2 diapers changed; 1 baby cuddled; favorite Matchbox car recovered from under the Christmas tree; a timeout or two; brown barrettes replaced with red - whew, temper tantrum avoided! - more milk, please.  Hooray!  It's 9 a.m. and time for Oma to meet her friend for coffee.

Love comes in all shapes and sizes.  For me, love is a face covered in mashed bananas, a red-headed 2-year-old learning the power of the word "no," and a blue-eyed blond who loves Ariel - and her Oma.  Well worth a few sore muscles at the end of the day, don't you think?