Monday, January 31, 2011

Little House

C and I went on an actual date--an overnight date at that--this weekend.  First we went out to an OK dinner in Portland (the restaurant I wanted to go to had too long a wait) and then we saw 2 Pianos 4 Hands at Portland Stage, which was fabulous...very funny and amazing piano playing.  You should really try to go see it if you are local (or find out when it's coming to a theatre near you).  We stayed in Portland over night and went to breakfast at Silly's, which involved more fried pickles, of course.

The rest of the weekend was completely and entirely devoted to helping M build the Little House on the Prairie.

This was the culminating project for a months-long unit on the book.  Usually I have stepped back and largely encouraged/let M do his projects on his own.  Gentle nudges and suggestions are almost always met with tears.  But this time he selected a project that would have been too much for a 4th-grader to complete by himself, and part of the grad was "parental involvement."  And, we managed to get through the whole thing without any crying, until right at the very end when he was trying to make Pa's fiddle (at Z's insistence) and it wasn't coming out the way he wanted.  I consider that a triumph.

We pruned branches off various species of trees around our house (note:  fresh alder wood smells terrible and is best avoided for this type of project!), cut them to size and stuck them together with powdered papier mache that (I believe it's dust collected from paper mills that would otherwise need to be discarded, but is instead sold as a craft material).

It was very goopy and messy to work with (M wouldn't touch the stuff--he set the logs in place while I smeared slime on them) and as the walls got taller, it got kind of shaky.  It would have been ideal to build a few rows and let it dry for a few days and then add a few more.  But as it was, with our schedules and the timing, we only got the first two or three rows done early last week, and then build the rest on Sunday.  We had to employ all manner of bracing materials to hold it together.

I was, by turns, really annoyed with the whole thing and really excited to make all the teeny tiny things that go inside the house.  I helped him probably more than I should have, but I couldn't help myself.  M sewed the mattress, and I made the quilt and pillow (we stuffed them with fir needles, since all our hay is under a few feet of snow) and I made the doll Charlotte and a teeny tiny ball of yarn and knitting needles.  And the china shepherdess (beeswax) and the iron spider (toilet paper roll, paper, glue and sticks, painted black).  M split tiny logs and made the fire from orange wool.

He made the plates with metal washers and little circles of foil tape, the table and door from popsicle sticks, with felt hinges and latch string on the door, and he made a broom with some broom straw, a stick and string, and a twig rifle over the door.  The butter churn is a spool and a piece of skewer.

We roofed it with canvas (just like Pa did at first) that can be pulled back to reveal the cozy inside.

It made it all the way to the school without collapsing, despite the pointy parts of the wall being still wet and unstable.  At least three other kids had built house models too.  Z can't wait for it to come home so he can play with it.  Neither can I!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just One More Day

We're in the midst of a deep freeze here in Maine, where the temperature ranges from +10 to -10, punctuated every few days by The Storm of the Century.  It's the kind of weather where cars (even Swedish ones) don't like to start in the morning, where you have to scrape ice off the inside of your windshield, where nosing into traffic is an act of faith because the snow banks are taller than a Volvo, where you realize that there is still a whole lotta winter left before it is done.

I think I'd be OK with winter if I didn't have to drive anywhere, if I could just sit at home by the fire, knitting, reading a good book, eating chocolate and bruschetta.  You could join me if you like.  We could make a pot of tea (or, better yet, open a bottle of wine).

I went into this past weekend with the same panicked feeling I feel every Friday--the sense that I have too much to do and not enough time in which to do it.  I started first thing Saturday morning with the most dreaded, but necessary task.  E and Z share a dresser, into which far too many clothes (hand-me-downs from M and a couple of his friends) are stuffed.  I usually go through the drawers every spring and fall, removing too-small items and replacing them with new seasonally-appropriate garments from the hand-me down bins.  But the drawers were overfilled with things that fit neither boy's (incomprehensible) sense of style, so I went through every item, saying, "do you like this?  this?" and filled a laundry basket to beyond overflowing with unacceptable and too-small items.  Now their drawers close (that is, until I get around to folding and putting away the mountain of clean laundry).  I'm sorry to say that's the only thing approaching housework that I got done, other than a couple of loads of laundry (which stayed out sublimating on the line until C brought them in Monday); I didn't even get my house bewitching done...

Because, the rest of Saturday I spent on the Super Duper Deluxe Southern Maine Yarn Shopping Spree with my knitting buddies (I had been calling it a Yarn-A-Thon, but that gave someone the sense that we were doing it for charity, which we quite definitely were not, unless you count one of my buying knitting needles for a friend of hers who was laid up with a sprained ankle.

As all Super Duper Deluxe Yarn Shopping Sprees should, this one involved drinking wine and eating fried pickles,

As well as purchasing some yard (of course) from two out of the three shops we visited and a little bit of fabric, as well as some other odds and ends, not to mention browsing for a new sofa.

I did also make some progress on my sweater, which it turns out does fit, albeit snugly (I made need to invest in a bust minimizer bra and spanx).  I just hope I don't look too much like the Great Pumpkin in it.

And I got started on something very tiny with some of that new yarn.  It took over an hour to wind that tiny skein (all 400 yards of it) into a ball.  I used to think one day I'd want to make one of those patterned Swedish style sweaters with the sport weight yarn and size 2 needles.  Ha!  Knitting something so tiny makes my fingers feel like bratwurst.  

And, I started working on a spring project (inspired by Heather).  Yes, I am that person who was embracing winter last week.  Part of embracing winter is anticipating spring, don't you know?  As part of the process, I ran across a whole bunch of buttons I bought a couple of years ago when a local purse and women's clothing manufacturer went out of business.  When I added them to my existing button stash, the whole collection exceeded its former home of an old giant Altoids tin and I had to graduate it all to a jar, which is a look I've been envying on others' blogs for a while (now I just need to replace some of those ugly tan and gray shirt buttons with something more fun and colorful!)

While rearranging things for this photo shoot, I ran across this package of bobbins I bought right before Christmas, which do not fit my machine, but which I opened without checking the size in may manual first.  These are class 15 and there are 10 in the package.  I'd love to pass them on to someone who could use them, so if you're interested leave a comment with your email address and they're yours!

I know it sounds like I ignored my kids all weekend, but they had a great day ice fishing with their dad on Saturday, and E and Z are way into a heavy Lego building phase, and don't really care for adult interference (I'm pretty sure they would second my preference for a go-nowhere winter), and I did spend some time helping M with the planning stages of his school project, which I'm confident will contribute greatly into any not-enough-hours-in-the-weekend panic that arises this coming weekend.

I went into Monday morning wishing for Just One More Day--mostly to tackle the housework that I neglected all weekend, but also for some of that knitting and reading by the fire action.  Instead it will just translate into a new round of panic this Friday.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

BIG Things

I had a four-day weekend this past weekend (actually, it turned into five days, with kids' doctor and dentist appointments added to a big snowstorm today, but the fifth day cancels itself out, being more stressful than fun), and was not only able to get done most of what needed to get done, but was able to do some things I wanted to do, including working on three big projects.

Number 1:  I started M's quilt.  I bought the fabric for it something like two years ago, but have never had the time/motivation to get started...I keep thinking I'll get it done for the next birthday/Christmas, but then other projects always take over.  Finally, now, here is all the fabric washed, ironed and ready for cutting.  I figure if I work on it a little each weekend--one step a week--I may be able to finish it in time for his birthday in May.  Fingers crossed.

Number 2:  I finally got started on Issue #12 of my (print) zine GEMINI.  It's been over a year since the last issue came out and I miss it!  I'm afraid blogging has drained away much of the inspiration and energy that once went into my zine, but I couldn't leave it stranded there on Issue #11 (such an odd number!) and lots of my zine readers are not blog readers, so I really want to produce at least one more issue.  I'm embarrassed to admit this (but I'm going to go ahead and admit it anyway), but I spent a significant chunk of Friday--which I had at home alone as the kids were in school--rereading all the back issues in search of inspiration for this issue.  I actually enjoyed myself (I laughed, I cried), and found a few things I might dust off and polish up for submission somewhere.  My goal is to finish this issue by the end of January. I may need to force myself to take a little vacation from ye olde blogge in order to get the next issue written!  I'll keep you posted.

Number 3:  A sweater!  Yes, this winter marks 15th year since I began knitting and I'm only just now getting around to trying a sweater.  I was always too intimidated before--sweaters seemed so hard, and like they would take so long.  But, oh my gosh, this has been so easy and quick (knock on wood)!  I did have a slight issue of using the wrong-sized needles and having to un-knit a fairly significant chunk, and I'm terrified that it will be way too small (I noticed, after it was too late, that the sweater is designed to be more than two inches smaller than the chest measurement, which can only possibly make sense to someone waif-thin, which I am not).  But, if it is too small, some skinny person in my life will get a lovely hand-knit sweater for her next birthday and I'll just start another one, and then I'll have two sweaters to my credit.  Because, you know what?  Knitting a sweater is exhilarating.  Really, it is.  You can follow along with all the thrills and chills on my Ravelry page.  My goal is to finish one skein per week, which is totally do-able (I just finished skein #2 tonight and have a much more sweaterish-looking object now than what is in this picture).

I kind of miss the pre-holiday crafting whirlwind--having a deadline makes me so darn productive (my old boss used to say that the resume-building phrase "works well under pressure" really means "requires pressure to work"...yeah that's me), but rushing around like that makes me kind of sloppy too.  So, my last goal for these projects is to not only make time for them each week, but to also work on them mindfully, with an attention to detail (if only I'd thought of that before I started the sweater so I might have read the part about it being too small on purpose!)

Monday, January 17, 2011

January Blue

January is a blue month. The woolen skies of November and December lift to reveal a high, ice-blue dome.  Our shadows--elongated giants with enormous hands and pin heads--stretch blue across the snow in the low afternoon sun. The blue jays visit the feeder, their usual raucous cries subdued by the cold.

This weekend I finally cleared away the dregs of red-and-green, filed away the Christmas cards, swept up the last of the fir needles to make way for January.  In the kitchen I lined up blue glass on the window sill,

spread a blue cloth and made a snowflake bowl (copied from Shivaya Naturals). The silver snowflake candlesticks came from Goodwill (on sale before Christmas).

More blue and white in livingroom, and a new book of fairy tales from the cold north.

(The snowflake bowls drive M crazy, because what do you do with them?)

In the window I hung more snow flakes (how-to at linaloo),

And on the so-called mantle I placed my favorite Frank Lloyd Wright-style candleholders, which have a snowflakey design, and I cut some red dogwood branches to put in the big, scary rock vase (I have to keep it there, out of reach, for fear that it will fall on someone and brain them).

January is for sledding and snow ice cream.  For skating (after tomorrow's sleet) and snow plowing.  It is a month for popcorn and cocoa and hot melted cheese.  It is for walking on the ice along the river, avoiding the spots where the water defies the thermometer and runs black and frigid.  January is long underwear and wool sweaters, down coats and knit hats, warm socks and mittens.  January says, "Go outside and play; it's a beautiful day," when the sun streams down through the single-digit atmosphere. And January says, "Sit by the fire.  Knit.  Read a book. Watch a movie in the afternoon when you've had your fill of cold and ice.

January is a month to embrace winter.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Rachel, from 6512 and Growing won my Cars from a Marriage giveaway.  Yea Rachel!

I'll be hosting another book giveaway soon so stick around!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Walking in the Woods on a Snowy Evening*

I wake from a dream in which I’m in the house of two old ladies and the phone is ringing but I can’t find it when the answering machine kicks in and a mechanical voice announces that schools is cancelled.  I look out at dark trees silhouetted against the blue-black sky.  It hasn’t started snowing yet.  I doze until my alarm goes off at six.  I decide I can afford another half-hour of sleep and still make my 7:30 dentist appointment--no school means no lunches to make and I can pick up both breakfast and lunch for myself after my appointment.
Two hours later, out the window of the dentist office, I can see the white wall of the storm move down Western Avenue.  By the time I leave, already three or four inches have fallen.  I stop at the bagel shop, despite half my face being numb and the admonition to not eat bagels with a temporary crown.  I hope the parking lot at work will be empty, but of course it is not.  We finally get the word that we can leave at 3:00, because the governor is concerned for our safety.  I can imagine him rubbing his fat, greedy hands at the cost savings from our deaths.  At least a foot has fallen and the plow has made no heroic efforts on my road.  It takes three goes to get up the hill.
Our driveway is unplowed and the mailbox has been knocked off its post.  I ram the car as far off the road as I can and the kids and I pile out and walk.  At least I’m not pulling a toddler in a sled or pregnant with twins and dragging a three-year-old or carrying two babies and coaxing a four-year-old.  Now they troop along quite happily except E, who gets upset that Papa, who is finally coming out to plow, won’t let him come along.
Inside dishes are piled on the counter and in the sink.  I eat ice cream and read my friend’s zine that came in the mail.  She’s much more tolerant than me.  She would never fume about unplowed snow and dirty dishes.  She believes in magic.
I put on my boots and go out into the snow.  I follow our trail, taking pictures of the wintery trees until my finger goes numb.  I traipse along, cataloging my grievances--the governor, the driveway, the dishes, an irritating blog post--over and over.   The snow is up to my knees, but light.  I lick a clump off a tree branch.  It tastes like nothing.

This is the part where I’m supposed to feel the magic of the world, let go of my crankiness, but I just walk home, make potato soup and popovers, make snow ice cream, play Rat-a-Tat-Cat, read an Easter book that E had checked out, refuse to read a fairy tail, because of the late hour, and write this post.

*With apologies to Robert Frost.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Nature Journaling, An Invitation

One day during my vacation, I began to feel anxious--there was a tightness in my chest, a hollowness in my stomach and a buzzing sensation under my skin.  Maybe it was the after Christmas let-down, or too many days without a regular pattern, or the prospect of returning to regular life in a few days; whatever it was the feeling intensified throughout the day and by the next morning, to steal a metaphor from Terry Tempest Williams, my blood had turned to ants.

I tried to remind myself to breathe deeply.  I tried working on projects.  I tried to quell the uneasiness in my stomach with leftover Christmas cookies.  As the day went by and relaxation did not come, I remembered my own advice from Nature Journaling as Meditation.  I encouraged, coaxed and pried the boys into their winter gear and headed outside.  I had initially planned on walking our trail to the river, but they quickly found diversion playing in the snowbanks left behind from a half-assed deck shoveling job, so I settled on the front step and opened my senses.

I began writing down the sounds, and sights and smells, and then began sketching the oak tree and the woods across the yard.  I switched to colored pencils and tried to figure out how to show the darkness of the woods in the background compared to the black-barked poplar on the edge of the lawn.  Time slipped away, and the ants marched away.

After an hour, the words I had written had become obscured by a not-very-good picture of the woods. The seat of my pants had frozen to the front step and I'd built up a sizable pile of pencil shavings.  And I felt good.  Relaxed, calm, at ease.

A few commenters suggested that I post on my nature journals now and then and I've been thinking about how to do it so that it's not another "look what I did" kind of post.  Rather, I'd like to make it into an opportunity, an invitation for you to join me and start a nature journal of your own.  I'll post here about a nature journal entry every once in a while and include with it an invitation for you to explore in your own journal.  

For this first entry, coax the kids into their snowsuits, bundle the baby into his stroller, and sit outside on your front (or back) step and open your sense.  List what you see, hear, feel, smell.  Write a few sentences, a poem or a page about what it makes you or think about.  Sketch the view from your seat.

If you post about your experience on your blog, leave a comment with a link here.  I'd love to see and/or hear about how your first journaling session goes for you.

Please see Nature Journaling as Meditation for more about how to start a nature journal.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

More After-Christmas Crafts

I had such a nice time staying home with the kiddos last week--I realized it was the first time that they have had a school vacation where they didn't have to go to daycare every day (except, I suppose, when M was four and I was on maternity leave, but since he had two baby brothers and one sleep-deprived mama at home those probably didn't feel too much like vacations).  We did a lot of sleeping late, hanging out in our jammies and watching Christmas cartoons (Donald Duck and Chip and Dale were big hits with the boys, mainly because they do a lot of shooting and blowing things up), and, when bickering began, playing out in the snow.  We also got some craftiness in.

We each got in our stockings one of these rock & roll pine trees from Clickity Clack.  This is a neat shop if you like wooden toys but don't like the hefty price of the German ones (or don't have anyone to make them for you).  Everything is unfinished, of course, so it requires some work, but that was part of my plan.  Last year I bought them each a build-your-own wooden car for Christmas and it took us until August to sand and paint those, so I'm pretty impressed with myself for getting these done before December was out.

E, Z and I spent some time over the course of two days sanding,

and painting.  

I didn't have any beeswax polish, so we rubbed them all over with the leftover wax from beeswax candles and then I put them in the oven on low for five or ten minutes and then rubbed them all over with an old sock.  It left a nice smooth finish.  I stole the basic technique for finishing from Liv at Fifty-Four Stitches, who actually cuts out her own wood, but I'm not allowed to use power tools ever since I drilled through our plumbing pipes twice when trying to hang a picture; besides, despite coming from a long line of (at least one) Austrian cabinetmakers, I have low patience for woodworking.

Our Christmas village had been ransacked by marauding hordes (trying to reach the light switch behind the TV) one too many times, so I cleared it away and replaced it with this nice peaceful pine forest (Z's are the light green ones, mine is the tall darker green one, E's are the rainbow ones and M's is the unfinished one--he's not into crafting with his mom).

Z drew a small picture of a reindeer with a circle around it that made me think of ornaments, so I set the boys (again just E and Z, no M) to work drawing holiday pictures inside circles drawn with the lid of a jar.  I scanned them into the computer and printed them out onto iron-on sheets (I'm not quite sure why I didn't just photocopy them) and ironed them onto fabric.  Then I laid the white fabric over some red plaid, wrong sides together, stitched around the circles, adding a ribbon hanger and stuffed them with balsam needles (the first batch I tried stuffing before I sewed and that didn't work so well.  Let's just say I'll be picking balsam needles out of my sewing machine's orifices for some time to come).  Things I learned:  keeping the foot tension light makes it easier to sew around in a small circle; a narrow zig-zag disguises crooked sewing; a contrasting thread color looks better than white.  These are going to go into thank-you notes, whenever I get around to doing those.

I'm a little worried that E still draws those basic circle-with-lines-coming-off-it figures.  Maybe he's just a late artistic bloomer?

Finally, I made this little family of rainbow gnomes for the Three Kings (and La Befana) to put into Crocs last night.  I stole the idea from Mary Beth (as usual) and though I'd been thinking about making these for this purpose since before Christmas, I was not going to make them (I already had a small game for each person leftover from an overabundance of stocking stuffers), but decided at almost the last minute to make them after all (partly because a tearful Z said at bedtime Tuesday night, "I didn't get any toys for Christmas!"  Which is not exactly true--and he may not really want a gnome toy anyway).  I'm glad I did 'cause they're just so darn cute!

Sunday night we were all reluctant to return to regular life.  "Just two more weeks," Z pleaded while E sobbed, "I hate school!  I want home school."  I managed to avoid tears (saving them for today's brave new world), but I had to say I agreed with them both at that moment.  Wouldn't it be much more fun to sleep late every day and hang out at home reading and playing outside and making stuff?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Paying it Forward

I received a bonus right-after-Christmas gift:  I won the book Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield in a blog giveaway from Lisa Romeo Writes.

This was the perfect book to read during a vacation--light and amusing.  I couldn't put it down and stayed up way too late on at least two nights reading it.  I liked it because:  

a) I'm an 80s music kind of gal t[he 80s was the only time in my life I was even remotely dialed in to pop culture (I wrote my 7th grade music term paper about Duran Duran)--I have been hopelessly out of touch since 1991; it took at least four seasons before C and I even discovered the TV show Friends (though once we did we referred to it as "Our Friends" since we had none)] and I haven't heard music by a human being who is currently alive and not geriatric in I-don't-know-how-long), but I knew the artists and songs Sheffield referred to at least 80% of the time.

b) It shatters the myth (which I believe is promoted by published authors who don't want any irritating competition) that in order to write creative nonfiction you have to have lived either a tragic and/or exciting life (preferably both).  Sheffield spent the greater part of a decade holed up in his room listening to Top 40 radio (he actually remembers the call numbers and specialities of multiple radio stations from that era in his home town), yet he has managed to produce an engaging, if somewhat frivolous read.  There are at least three occasions when he touches on a subject that warrants the much deeper introspection and reflection of a serious memoir (the death of his first wife, his experience living with his aged grandfather and his intense religiousness), but he merely brushes by, which was somewhat frustrating for me as a reader--I wanted to know more about all of these subjects, but they were clearly not the focus of this collection of essays about 80s pop music as it related to his life at the time.

c) It gave me some insight into the mind of the teenage boy--I need all the insight I can get before my three boys turn double-digits.  In fact, Sheffield seems like the kind of boy I'd like mine to be in their teens--celibate and nerdy (when he finds himself alone in a car with a girl he starts talking about the Latin roots of words she says--I can totally picture M doing this)--minus his holed-up-with-Morrissey stage.

After reading this book, I was inspired to dig out my old cassette tapes and introduce M to New Wave.  He response was basically "when will this be over so I can go back to listening to the Beatles?"  And it left me feeling kind of melancholy and depressed for some reason.

I'm going to send the book to my sister, who may be the only person on earth who knows (or cares) as much about 80s music as Sheffield (though I'm pretty sure she'll disagree with him about...pretty much everything).

BUT, this book reminded me that I had won an earlier giveaway from Lisa Romeo which I neglected to mention.  Several months ago I received Cars from a Marriage by Debra Gallant.  This was also a fun, engaging read.  While I don't remember too many of the details, it's a novel whose sections revolve around the cars driven by a couple throughout their marriage.  Each chapter alternates between the wife--who is mousy and terrified to drive (though they live in New Jersey, which is apparently the wrong place to live if you don't drive) and the husband whose personality I don't remember all that well, although I do remember liking him well enough to kind of hope that his wife (who I also liked as a character) would not find out about the terrible indiscretion around which the climax of the book revolves.

I want to give away this once-read (and probably somewhat dusty) book away to a reader (both as part of my decluttering efforts and to spread the wealth a bit).  Please leave a comment here telling me what you're reading these days before Midnight EST Wednesday January 12 (please include your email address or some way of contacting you--Blogger does not share your email address with me) for your chance to win.  Also, if you're a writer, or an aspiring writer, or you thing you might like to write someday maybe, do go and check out Lisa Romeo's blog--it's always full of useful advice and tips and she even offers classes, which though I haven't taken one yet, sound great (plus she gives away books on a regular basis).

Edited:  I just realized I didn't do a very good job describing Cars from a's just not very fresh in my mind after many months, but rest assured, it is good and I enjoyed reading it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kid Art Embroidery--How-To

When I first saw (on Soulemama's blog) the idea of turning kid art into embroidery, when M was in kindergarten or first grade, I thought I would have nothing to use, because all of M's art was of monsters, monster trucks, mad army generals (MAD RME JANRL), guns, swords, knives, race cars, robots, pirates Hotwheels, and other testosterone-loaded images that I thought, at the time, didn't merit rendering in embroidery.  Now when I look back at his old preschool and kindergarten journals, I want to weep with joy at how awesome all of his pictures were and I want to smack myself in the head for once again not appreciating what is before me and instead holding my life up to an imaginary ideal from blogtopia.

Anyway, as I think I have mentioned here before (possibly on multiple occasions) it is incredibly satisfying and enjoyable it is to take my kids' art and turn it into embroidery.  I'll say it again--it is so satisfying and enjoyable (possibly even addicting).  After posting about my Thanksgiving table runner,  commenter ccp (Hi, ccp!  I miss your blog) requested that I tell how I put it together.  So here is a brief, not-quite-tutorial, on how to turn your kids' art into a wonderful embroidery (and really, you don't need any previous sewing skills or knowledge--as long as you can thread a needle and tie a knot, you can do this!).

Materials needed:
  1. a piece of kid art; a simple line-drawing is preferable to something colored in (it's best to dig something out of their school papers or rescue from the recycling bin, though I am not above ordering my kids to draw a picture for me).
  2. a small amount of light-colored, loosely-woved fabric (linen, light cotton canvas, unbleached muslin, for example).
  3. embroidery floss in a variety of colors (this is available super cheap at craft stores).
  4. an embroidery hoop slightly larger than the drawing you're copying (also super cheap at craft stores).
  5. embroidery needles.

Step 1:  Transfer your drawing onto your fabric.  I do this by placing the fabric over the picture and holding them both up to the window and tracing with a soft, sharp pencil (a lumberyard pencil is handy for this).  If you don't plan on keeping the original art, you can go over it with a marker to make it easier to see when tracing (or you can photocopy and re-size as needed and then darken the lines).  You can also iron a piece of freezer paper to the back of your fabric to keep it more stable while you trace (the fabric tends to ooch around while you draw).

Compare your tracing to the original to make sure you didn't miss any details.

Step 2:  Fit your fabric snugly into your embroidery hoop.  Cut a length of floss a bit longer than the distance from your fingertips to your elbow and divide in half (embroidery floss has six plies--six separate threads; grab three threads in each hand, hold the other end in your mouth and tug to divide into two separate three-ply strands of the same length).  Thread your needle, knot the other end and using backstitch, chain stitch, split stitch or even running stitch, go over the lines of your drawing.

Once you've finished embroidering the drawing, you can turn it into a finished product.

The easiest thing to do is just leave it in the hoop, cut and glue around the edges and hang it on the wall. Or you can frame the image by sewing strips of fabric around it and turn it into a wall hanging, a pillow, a table runner, or pretty much anything you can think of.  

I embroidered Christmassy pictures by each of the boys onto white canvas and made a set of placemats to go with the tablerunner I made last Christmas.

This is mathematical-M's 3-D Christmas package.

I used a combination of recycling and coercion to get two drawings out of each child.

E drew this Rudolph under duress.
I saved this cute tree-and-reindeer Z drew last year.

The only remotely holiday-ish drawing I found in all of M's preschool journals was this "ROBOT SNOMAN"

Another picture-on-demand by E.

The picture that started it all--I love this sleigh and reindeer by Z.

Here they all are with the runner.

Yes I do realize white is a crazy color for placemats for my messy family, but I had two yards of white organic cotton canvas that I'd gotten for a screaming deal and had no other plans for it.

The flip side.

The placemats and runner are reversible, with this cute winter greens and red flowers and chipmunks and chickadees fabric on the back (leftover from the length of fabric that we used to put around the base of our tree before I made a skirt).  Amazingly, I found three napkins made from the exact same material at Goodwill right before Christmas.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Thoughts on the New Year

Thank you so much for your support on my photo-junk meltdown last week.  I love you guys--I wished you lived here and could be my PTA-backup.  Also, I want you to know that all the typos in the first letter are due to my retyping it at 1 a.m. (I hadn't saved the original file).  I did not send in that mess.

As I started thinking about New Year's Resolutions this weekend, the first thing that came to mind was, "don't do anything I don't want to do."  I was at first a little shocked by my own selfishness when contemplating that for a resolution.  Then I thought, well, why not?  Why not examine my motives when doing something, to see if I am doing it because it brings me joy or pleasure or some other type of personal satisfaction, or if I'm just doing it out of a sense of obligation or guilt?  And then determine if there is a way to approach things with a different attitude, or just not do them if I really don't want to?  I've already failed on this one, by going along to my mother-in-law's house on New Year's Day.  We went sledding on the big hill, which was a lot of fun (though the climb back up is exhausting!) and I'm glad I did it, but then I had to sit around dying of boredom while she and C practiced their music.

Other things I want to do in the next year are to continue with my efforts of simplification and organization.  I think both of these go along with my first resolution--eliminate unwanted things from my life, from clutter to excess activities to guilt.

Last year, for the first time, I had work that I found enjoyable, satisfying and meaningful.  With the changed political climate in this state, I anticipate that this will change for the worse (and possibly undo all the work I did last year).  It kind of depresses me that in all my adult life I will have had only one year of meaningful work (and that that may prove to have been a joke).  I kind of blame college; in their quest to fatten their coffers with starving students' loan dollars, they trick you into thinking that with their degree, you will go forth and make a difference in the world.  If only they had been honest, I could be a plumber or something today.

Anyway, with the prospects of my professional life being less than satisfying for the foreseeable future, I feel like I should focus on increasing the satisfaction level in my personal life--that means more, you guessed it, writing!  Also I'd like to take an art class--drawing or painting, and improve my skills with my point-and-shoot camera.  (Why is it that all of my interests and hobbies are those of a retired person?  This is not new--when C and I first moved to Maine, before kids, I used to take adult ed classes and inevitably I was easily 30 years younger than anyone else in the class).

So those are my somewhat vague and abstract goals for the new year:
*approach life with joy and desire (rather than duty and guilt);
*get organized;
*eliminate unwanted things from my life;
*write, write, write;
*learn to draw and/or paint and take pictures.

What are your plans and goals for 2011?
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