Sunday, December 30, 2007

January--Finish It Up Month!

I've been doing some thinking about this resolution of mine to only make quilts this year that I really, really, really like and what quilts I might put on my list of quilts to make. Somewhere along that mental path, I realized I still have several small quilts that are pinned and ready to be quilted--I had to put them aside for the Christmas Madness. I also have the quilt I'm working on now for my brother's Christmas gift to finish up. And then there are one or two quilty and non-quilty gifts I need to make. So I've decided that January will be my month to finish up these projects and tidy up and organize the Sweat Shop.

I picked up this metal "bucket" on sale somewhere, and I think I'll use it to store some of my smaller, Christmas related projects that I want to make this year. The first thing to go in it is this wool tabletopper with the Santas on it. That's something I thought I might get to this year but didn't. I was thinking it might make a nice project to take to work on during my lunch hours at the office.

Currently, though, I'm working on the quilt for my brother. Yesterday I made a gazillion half square triangles which then grew into pinwheel blocks. Today I'm setting them into 9-patch blocks. The quilt has 13 of these blocks. Then I'll need to make 12 leaf blocks which will be set between the pinwheel blocks. I had decided quite awhile back that I wouldn't make the small pinwheel blocks that the pattern shows as a final border. That would take FOREVER and I don't think it really adds that much to the quilt. Cute, yes, but worth all that time? And then worrying about whether the binding would cut off the points? Nope! Not for me!

It's time for me to take a sewing break and run out to the quilt shop for batting for this quilt. I also need to go to a different grocery store to look for a couple things I need for tamales--I took pity on my husband and thought I'd make that trip myself since I'll be out anyway. Look for my tamale recipe and instructions in the next couple days!

I hope you're enjoying your weekend and the winding down of 2007!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas List Quilt

I've been "chatting" with Carol about this quilt from yesterday's post. Carol is interested in making it, and I thought maybe there might be one or two others out there in Blogland with a similar interest. I'm doing the BOM through a local shop, Bearpaws and Hollyhocks. If you click on their name, it will take you to their website which has their telephone number. I just talked to another Carol--one who works at the shop--and she said they could probably work something out to sell the patterns to anyone who is interested. They don't have online sales, so please give them a call. Of course, if you're here in Sacramento or close by, please sign up for the class--the evening class starts on January 14th and continues on the second Monday of each month. I know there's a daytime class, but I have no idea when those classes are scheduled.

I had checked the internet for the pattern and didn't find it anywhere else. Sharon (Red Geranium Cottage) had posted on her blog that you could probably get it through the Country Loft down in the San Diego area, but they don't show it on their website. Give them a call though, and they may be able to help. In any event, if this is something you would also like to make, I hope you're able to get it from one of these sources.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The New and Improved 2008 Me!

Having just said in yesterday's post that I was only going to make quilts I really, really, really like, what did I do today? I signed up for a BOM class that starts January 14th! Rather impulsive maybe? Well, actually, it's not really. This is a quilt I've been looking at on the quilt shop wall for the past several months and I've blogged about it before. It's one of those that fits into the "really cute Christmas quilt" category. I'll post another photo of it in case you missed it last time--it's called Christmas List. And yes, Sharon, as a matter of fact, I DID steal the photo off your blog! Silly Sharon! It's one of Nancy No-Blog's quilts that Sharon coincidentally showed within days of my deciding I wanted to sign up to make the quilt, and I had no photo so I stole hers. Last time I posted the photo, Sharon couldn't figure out why the background looked so much like HER house! That was when I found out that Sharon often looks at our photos before she reads what we have to say!

And what do I have planned for the last few days of 2007? Did I hear you ask me that? Or was that the voices in my head again? Tomorrow (Saturday), in honor of my weekly Day of Beauty routine, I might pluck a few stray eyebrow hairs, including the ones that have migrated down to my chin. After all, I'd really like to glide the new year looking my fabulous best! In fact, I might even clip my toe nails! And when I get tired of all that pampering, I'll wander into the Sweat Shop and work on the quilt I'm making for my brother and his wife for Christmas. Yes, I DO know that I'm late--I'm very, very late! But we won't be getting together with them for a few more weeks, so I hope to have it completed in time. Here's the pattern I'm using, and I'm planning to use Kansas Troubles fabrics from my stash.

I'll post a few photos of blocks as I go along, once I figure out what I'm doing.

And sometime this long, holiday weekend, I'll be making homemade tamales. When I get around to that, I'll post a few photos, give you the recipe, and tell you the story about why I make tamales every year. Right now, though, I'm masa-challenged. Once again, for the second year in a row, my local, neighborhood Safeway is not carrying masa flour (perhaps in an effort to curb illegal immigration?! If there's no masa, they won't come?!). That means I'm going to have to go to the immense trouble of sending my husband out on a masa hunt. Geez it's hard on me when I have to do that! He's actually a good sport about it--he knows that somewhere at the end of the hunt, there will be the most delicious tamales on Earth! And really, you absolutely have NOT had good tamales unless you've had homemade--they're nothing like what you get frozen in the grocery store or even in the Mexican restaurants. Homemade tamales are seriously TO DIE FOR--literally and figuratively! They aren't necessarily the heart-healthiest thing in the world, but we're still in that not-quite-serious-about-what-we-eat-as-long-as-it-tastes-good season. Give us another week or two and we'll forsake tamales and chocolate and whatever else might have snuck home in my grocery cart the last couple weeks, but for now, we'll eat tamales and the heck with the consequences! Ole and cha-cha-cha!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

From Meme to You!

Of course, this is the time of the year when we start thinking about New Year's resolutions. My husband and I have been watching what we eat for several months now, so continuing on with that is a no-brainer. In fact, today I took a bunch of my leftover Christmas munchies and treats to the office to share. I kept a couple of our favorite things here, but the rest went.

I don't usually get too ambitious about making resolutions, because I don't like to set myself up to fail--and I think we often DO fail at keeping our resolutions if we're unreasonable about what we can actually accomplish.

I DO have a Christmas-related resolution for 2008. Move to a country that doesn't celebrate Christmas! No, not really. I DO love the holiday. But this year, I'm really going to try to work on getting gifts and such ready throughout the year. Yesterday, during my lunch hour, I went to JoAnn's to take advantage of their 70% off all Christmas stuff sale. I was able to pick up a few things that sparked my creativity, so I have a little direction on a few gifts for next year. And I won't put those things away in a box in the garage--I'll leave them out where I can see them and remind myself of what I've planned. I'm also going to make a list of the people I give gifts to and ideas on what I'd like to buy/make/do. If I can keep on track with this resolution, I'll post what I'm able to get done as the year progresses. I know some of you have left me comments saying you'd like to do the same thing, so I hope you'll join me in keeping the motivation going by posting what YOU'VE accomplished during the year too!

But that's not the meme mentioned in the title of this post. What I want to know is what quilting resolutions you've made for 2008. And if you're reading this, you're tagged! I know a lot of us are trying to stash bust, but do you have anything specific in mind? Have you resolved to make any quilts to donate to a charity of some sort, perhaps? Or make everyone you know a scrappy quilt? Do you have a plan, Stan, or just a vague notion that you want to use what you have? NOT that there's anything wrong with that, mind you! But I'm curious, and inquiring minds want to KNOW!

Of course, if you're not on the stash-busting team, determined to decimate the stash in 2008, what ARE you hoping to do? For me, for the last several years, I've resolved to quilt the tops (flimsies) I have piling up. That's worked out okay, more or less. Although I've never gotten to the point where I've completely caught up, I haven't gotten any further behind either. But that's not my resolution this year--that's something that I think will come naturally now and I won't really need to work at it so much.

So what IS my resolution for 2008? I want to only make quilts I really, really, really like and resolve not to get side tracked into projects that I only really, really like! Hard to do, I know! Setting myself up for failure? Maybe! But I have several applique projects that I have half done, and these are projects that I really love--but I let myself get side tracked onto other things and set them aside. I have also seen quilts I want to make--some of the cute Christmas quilts I've mentioned during the last month or so. I think I need to make myself a list of quilts I want to make this year and try to keep it reasonable. I'll share that with you once I make the list--maybe you can join me in some!

Oh, and speaking of joining me in making quilts, don't forget that the next section of Hometown Christmas is due by New Year's Eve. Sharon, Ms. Red Geranium, are you listening to me?! I confess I'm behind--I still haven't made a block for the December 15th deadline, but I'll catch up.

So, back to the meme--here's your challenge. Please post to your blog what your 2008 quilting resolutions are, if you have any, and leave me a comment letting me know you have posted, so I can come visit and see what you have planned, okay? And if you have nothing specific planned--that's quite alright too. We all work differently. But I'd like to see what all of my Blogland friends are up to and enthusiastic about doing in the coming year. I've shown you mine (and will be showing you more!); now you show me yours!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Baby It's Cold Outside!

The weather outside is frightful! Okay, you're right--it's really NOT frightful, but it IS a tad chilly. I don't know why, but for some reason, I tend to forget how chilly it can get in the winter in Sacramento. Maybe it's because of the five to seven months of 100-PLUS degree temperatures we normally get. We tend to forget it's ever going to cool down again.

When I left work today (and, by the way, can I get a little applause for having gotten out of bed the day after Christmas and hauled myself into the office? I know it's still a holiday in many parts of the world, but that excuse doesn't go over well here!) it was 46 degrees. And yes, as a matter of fact I DO realize that 46 degrees is much warmer than many parts of the northern hemisphere. But still . . . . And did I mention the wind? We all know about the wind chill factor, right? I'm not sure what that would have made the temps feel like tonight, but I can tell you I was shivering! Not to mention the fact that I could have been wearing THREE bras and it would have still been obvious I was cold! And why does it take car heaters and seat warmers so darn long to warm up? With all our modern technology, you'd think they could solve that problem, wouldn't you? I'd happily trade cell phones for a little automotive heat in the winter! (At least I'd happily trade all the cell phones belonging to the idiot drivers ahead of and to the sides of me who are too busy talking on their cell phones to pay attention to their driving!)

And just so you can understand why I'm whining about the cold, I should tell you that I don't wear a coat. Yeah, I can hear you all saying it's my own darn fault if I'm cold, but there are reasons--really!

1. Hey, it's California! It's not supposed to be that cold in California, is it?! (Heck, our UPS driver, Nanette, wears shorts year round!)

2. I have a coat. I have a couple coats. I actually do BUY coats and then I decide for one reason or another that I don't really like them after all. But not until I've worn them several times and it's too late to return them. My latest coat, which I bought a couple years ago, is a pretty blue thing with a removeable furry collar (not real fur, so don't mail me any red dye to throw on myself!). But I found when I wore it a couple times that it has the worst static cling. During the summer, we chant the Sacramento mantra, "But it's a DRY heat." Well, you know what? It's a dry cold too, and static electricity is horrible!

3. If we wear a coat to the office, there's nowhere to put it. Well, nowhere convenient anyway. We're not allowed to keep coats hung at our desks because it doesn't look all neat and tidy, but the only coat closet is a small one at the farthest point away from the entrance/exit, and I'm absolutely positive I'd walk out every night without it and then have to decide whether to unlock the doors to go back in and retrieve it or shiver in the car for awhile. It's also the closet where the dry cleaner drops off the attorneys' suits and shirts, and it's often stuffed to overflowing with starched white shirts.

We used to have a coat closet. Then we got an Indian statue instead. They ("they" being the powers that be) had the Indian brought in by crane, lowered through the center skylight, and mounted on a rotating pedestal in the center of the office--in the center of what's actually our little law library. Then they found that you couldn't quite see him in all his glory from all parts of the office unless they removed the top two rows of bookshelves. So they removed the shelves and had to find another place for the books. That's when they turned the coat closet into a little library annex. That's when what used to be the janitor's closet back by the bathrooms became the coat closet. (Actually it still IS the janitors closet. Besides the starched white shirts, it holds light bulbs, cleaning supplies, and a large trash can on wheels.) And that's when I started shivering my rear end (and other body parts) off in the winter.

Oh, and by the way, the next line of that song--"But the fire is so delightful"? We have a new law here in Sacramento and a couple of the surrounding counties. Now we have "no burn" days when we're not allowed to have a fire in our fireplace or wood/pellet stove. Apparently, depending on weather conditions, smoke from our fireplaces can sit in one place and not disburse, which causes air pollution.

At least I DO know that once the rainy season starts, the temperatures (and the static electricity) won't be quite so bad. Our rainy season usually starts sometime around January or February, so it won't be too long now. Of course, living here in Sacramento, which is situated at the confluence of two large rivers, means that the rainy season often brings with it flooding. One of those rivers is about a block from my office. And did I mention that "they" don't like us to keep row boats at our desks either?!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How Many More Days Until Christmas?

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, filled with family, friends, and fun! Just about everyone I talk to has told me they plan to start making gifts for next Christmas early--some of them plan to start right away and put things aside all year long. I've tried that before, and it doesn't seem to work for me, but I'm fairly optimistic so maybe I'll try it again. I really liked the way the picnic tote turned out and may make more for family gifts next year. Here's a photo of it stuffed with the rest of the things I made and bought to fill it for our son's girlfriend:

Besides the tote itself, I made two roll up placemats and two napkins. I bought a set of utensils and put two forks, two spoons, and two knives in the inside pockets. I added a bottle of wine and a Trader Joe's gift card. Sarah seemed pleased with it although winter's not the best time for a picnic!

We all had a wonderful Christmas here at our home. Our gathering was small--just me and my husband, our son and his girlfriend, and my sister-in-law Kathy. I made a crockpot full of cream of chicken and rice soup, and my husband baked up a batch of honey wheat rolls. Besides that, we had numerous other appetizers and finger foods--we started with these heated up veggie and cheese stuffed bits.

Because we just munched on food all day long, I was able to use one of my favorite sets of dishes--the 12 Days of Christmas plates you can see stacked in the photo above. Each salad-sized plate is different and represents each of the "gifts" from the popular Christmas song. I just love to get these out each year and look at the different pictures on each one while the song goes through my head.

We didn't skimp on sweet treats either. Here are a few of the things weighing down the table--and those don't even include the cheesecake I hadn't gotten out yet!

This morning, while my husband and I were doing some preparations in the kitchen, we heard a knock at the door. I went to answer it and found two strangers there--an adult man and a boy. The man introduced himself and said his family had moved in a couple houses down from us in November, and he was just coming around to introduce himself and his son and hand out Christmas cards and homemade peanut brittle. Isn't that a wonderful way to meet new neighbors? We were both pretty tickled to think a new neighbor would take the time to do that. Of course, the peanut brittle was added to our treat table and was greatly appreciated.

Truly, though, I don't think that any of us overate. I know that a nibble here and a nibble there adds up, but I think we ate less than we would have if I had served appetizers, a huge Christmas meal, and dessert.

On Christmas Eve, I had to make a last trip to the grocery store for a couple things. As I was driving there, I was thinking about what foods I had planned and what I might possibly need. As I thought about the different things I planned to serve, I realized I didn't have any soup bowls. Well, I DO have some simple white bowls, but they didn't seem very festive. Should I make a detour and stop at Kohl's to buy some bowls? Pretty quickly, though, I thought about how my husband would complain about more dishes--and justifiably so, because our storage is pretty limited. So I resigned myself to using my plain white bowls and continued on to the grocery store.

As I reached the end of one of the aisles at the grocery store, what did I see but a display of red dishes and the perfect red soup bowls! And when I saw that the store had marked all of it half off, I absolutely KNEW it was fate! So into my cart I happily placed four new red soup bowls, and life was good.

Before I got out of the parking lot, though, I started to think again about my husband's anticipated reaction. Thinking quickly, by the time I got home, I had worked out a plan!

Fast forward now to my family gathered around the Christmas tree today, opening gifts. Within reach of his recliner, my husband found a gift bag addressed "To Kim, From Santa." What could it be? He passed the bag over to me, and knowing HE hadn't placed it under the tree, he watched in puzzlement while I opened the bag. Now how did Santa know I needed four new red soup bowls?! I'm telling you, that guy is MAGIC!

Well, as I expected my husband--and the rest of the family--burst out laughing. He knew immediately what I had done and why. In the end, he told me that as long as Santa wasn't putting diamonds under the tree for me, who was he to be bothered by four red soup bowls?!

I hope your Christmas was merry! 364 days until next Christmas, I think--time to get busying making gifts and getting ready!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Santa's Sweat Shop

Christmas is almost here--it's Christmas Eve in the United States. I know for some of you around the world, Christmas has arrived already. I want to wish each and every one of you out there in Blogland a wonderful holiday!

My online Thimbleberries group was reminiscing this morning about Santa experiences, telling stories about their own childhoods and their children's. Hearing these stories reminds me of the magic of the season when we suspend our doubts and logic and allow our imaginations to take over, if only for a little while.

Here in this part of California, we don't really get any snow, but we've certainly had some wet Christmases. When my kids were little, one year when the ground was damp, I went out on Christmas Eve and made "hoof" impressions in the mud, using the rim of a cup to form the prints. I think seeing the reindeer prints on the ground on Christmas morning more than anything else allowed my son to continue to believe in Santa for a few years longer than he would have otherwise!

I've been so busy in the last couple of weeks that I've missed out on doing some of the things that I enjoy during the holiday season. I've had a jigsaw puzzle--in its box--sitting out on the table, waiting for me to find a little time to sit down and relax and put it together. So far, that hasn't happened. I haven't found much time to relax and read. I haven't found time to just look around the house at the beauty of the Christmas decorations and experience that magic and peaceful feeling that comes along during this time of the year. And I think maybe the thing that I've missed most is going to the mall and visiting the tree with the names of children and families less fortunate than our family is. Our tradition--and one that we've not made time for in the last couple years--is to buy gifts for one or two of those kids. More than anything else, when I think of that "missed" tradition, I realize that I need to plan the holiday season differently next year.

We HAVE managed to spend time with family and friends, so that's one very important holiday tradition that we haven't missed. Saturday was spent with my husband's family, and we had a wonderful time. I didn't count the number of people there, but with six kids in my husband's family, and now all their spouses and kids--and the girlfriends and boyfriends of some of the kids--added to the group, I think there were probably about 30 people there or more.

Late Friday night, I finished the quilt I was making for my husband's aunt. I had pieced it several months ago, but hadn't managed to get it quilted until the last minute.

I just used a simple meandering pattern for the quilting. Knowing I was pressed for time, I had decided I wouldn't wash and dry it as is my normal custom. That plan changed, though, when I came home from work to put the binding on Friday night and found it covered with ants. Ants in my sweat shop?! I don't really keep food in there, but I had a tiny little package of Smarties that some Canadian friends had given me a year or two ago, and that may have been what brought the ants. Or maybe they knew is was the "aunt" quilt and misunderstood! In any event, I had to spray all over with ant spray, so into the washer and dryer that quilt went when I finished it.

I know you'll laugh or think I'm crazy when I tell you I had a relaxing day yesterday and then tell you what I got done. But I still have a couple things to make before tomorrow and I'm working in overdrive.

First of all, I finished making a pair of flannel Christmas PJs for myself. I wore them last night and was warm and toasty!

Then I took a little nap. See? That was the relaxing part! After my nap, I cleaned house and heated up some of that leftover meatball soup for dinner. Yum!

Then I decorated this flask as a gift for my son. I had picked up two of these flasks at the flea market for $1 each. During this arty-crafty phase I've been immersed in, I picked up some alcohol inks to "paint" the flasks and then used a rubber stamp for the image. I have another one to make for my daughter's boyfriend. I think they'll like them!

Next, I made some of Kairle's Roasted Cinnamon Almonds. Yum! They are SOOOO easy to make and are really tasty. Go on over to her blog if you'd like the recipe. I'd send you some, but I don't think they'll last very long here!

Finally, I made this picnic tote for my son's girlfriend. It's a pattern by Quiltsillustrated called The Desk Deli.

As you can see, there are pockets inside which will hold utensils, napkins, etc. I'm planning to make a couple roll-up placemats today and a couple napkins to match. Along with the tote, I'll give her a bottle of wine and a Trader Joe's gift card so she can go on a little picnic. My girl boss's birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, and I think I'll make one for her too. Oh, and my boy boss's birthday is next weekend--I have NO idea what I'll do for him, so I may just default to a gift card from Borders or something. "Boys" are so much harder than "girls," aren't they?!

If I don't post tomorrow it will be because I'm spending time with loved ones--relaxing! My son and his girlfriend will be here and we plan to spend some quality time playing games and munching on goodies. I hope you and your family have a joyous holiday!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Is It Christmas Yet?!

I am SOOOOO far behind on my blog reading, it's not even funny! I hope all of you are enjoying a happy holiday season. I hope to catch up with you all soon. To tell you the truth, I've been so busy, I haven't even had a chance to open my snail mail--and THAT's sad! Last night my husband and I were both up until 3 a.m., trying to get things done.

I have a lot to tell you about, though, and some things to show you. First of all, let's get my husband out of the way--that's usually one of my goals!

My husband's been busy crafting some pot people for our two kids for Christmas. I've mentioned before that he likes to tinker in the garage, creating things from other unusual objects, and these are one of those projects. These little "sculptures" are either surfers or snowboarders. Right now, they're hanging on our fence on brackets. When the wind blows, their boards and legs move, and it looks like they're riding the waves--or the snow. I think he's going to have to make one of these for me too! He's so creative when the mood hits him.

My work "kids" and I exchanged Christmas gifts yesterday. They got me a gift card from JoAnn's, which you KNOW I'll put to good use! They know me well. I'll have to show you the card they gave me and tell you about it; I wanted to keep it on my desk and didn't have my camera, so that will have to wait until next week. It's the cutest thing!

Remember the red and white quilt I teased you with? Well, that was for my boy boss, who is a big Ohio State fan--he went to law school at Ohio State. "His" team is playing in the BCS championship game this year, so I thought he might need a quilt for the occasion. It's not huge, but it will keep his legs and feet warm.

My girl boss has a little dog named Lucy that she just adores. Lucy is an Italian greyhound, which pretty much just looks like a little dog to me, but for those of you who might be familiar with dog breeds, I thought I'd mention it. Lucy is the star of the journal I made for my boss and is wearing a crown in the photo on the front. The letters spell "Queen Lucy."

I also made a collage of different things on inside front and back covers. She can use the journal to write in or just keep photos of Lucy. I love seeing all those blank pages in journals because there are so many possibilities!

I have more things to tell you about and show you, but it's time for me to get ready to go. We have our annual Christmas get together at my husband's parents' house today. I hope you're enjoying this holiday weekend and staying away from the crowds at the malls! Thanks for stopping in to visit!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Soup's On!

Remember my decorating consultant, Missy? I don't think I mentioned, but she's also, on occasion, my food consultant. Missy and I were talking the other day about possible soups I could make for my son who doesn't like onions, and she mentioned a pasta/meatball soup that sounded good.

Today I didn't feel well and came home from work early. No big deal--I just think it's a combination of lack of sleep and hormonal fluctuations. In any event, I was pretty sure that putting on my jammies and climbing into bed for a nice little nap would help me feel much better, so that's exactly what I did. But first I spent about 10 minutes hauling out the crockpot and tossing some soup ingredients in. I turned the crockpot on high, took my nap, and about three hours later, we had a delicious, hearty winter soup. I thought I'd share the recipe with you--it's really perfect for these chilly winter nights! Simple, too, to put in the crockpot to cook while you go quilt, take a nap, or do whatever other important things you may have to do.

Chicken stock/broth--use about three of those "milk carton" containers of stock that the grocery stores are carrying now. I like to keep a couple in my pantry for quick soups. Or you can use a couple of the big cans of chicken stock. Or three or four of the smaller cans.

Turkey meatballs--one package of frozen meatballs. I'm sure that you could use any type of meatballs but the frozen turkey ones are convenient and don't add as much fat/grease to the broth.

Tortellini--a couple packages of the fresh kind. I actually used two 7 oz. packages of mini cheese raviolis.

Spinach--a bag of baby spinach from the salad/lettuce section of the grocery store.

Any other veggies you like--I added a handful or two of those baby carrots that come in the bags all ready to munch. I just sliced them in half.

Seasoning--whatever you like. I have a seasoning mix for soups that I like to add, but it's not a national brand, so there's probably no point in telling you what it is. But do add salt and pepper to taste and maybe some garlic, rosemary, thyme, a little oregano--whatever suits your fancy.

Put everything in the crockpot and cook--it took about three hours on high; allow about five to six hours on low.

Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on the soup and serve with crusty French bread. Yum! Bon appetit! And thanks, Missy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Have You Seen This?

For all of you book readers out there, I wanted to mention that Jennifer Chiaverini has a new book out. My friend Eileen mentioned something to me about it before, but I thought she was talking about last year's The Christmas Quilt. All I can say is that I'm SOOOOOO glad this is The New Year's Quilt because I sure don't have time to read it by Christmas!

Although yes, I DO have the Christmas spirit now, I'm looking forward to winding down a little after Christmas and before the New Year--time to relax and enjoy just doing whatever strikes my fancy, whether it's laying around all weekend in my jammies and reading the new Jennifer Chiaverini book or working on the mystery quilt my online Thimbleberries group will be starting right after Christmas.

How about you? Are you ready for Christmas? I can't claim that I'm quite ready yet, but I've finished my shopping (my stop at Borders today netted me the Chiaverini book!) and it looks like I will actually meet my deadlines on all my other Christmas projects. Tonight I'll work on binding that red and white quilt. Tomorrow night we have my office Christmas dinner to attend. After that, I have a quilt to quilt for my husband's aunt--and I CAN show you that one because I'm sure she doesn't read my blog! But I'll post photos when I get to it.

Thanks for taking a little time out of your busy holiday schedule to stop by and visit with me!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Holiday Spirit

I've found it! I've finally found the holiday spirit! That feeling of your heart quickening a little bit and a warm glow spreading throughout your body--without even having anything alcoholic to drink! The feeling of goodwill toward man and the giddy sensation of joy and delight in seeing the Christmas decorations all around you--even those darn inflatables! (Well, except maybe Sponge Bob--I still don't get giddy about Sponge Bob!)

And how did this wondrous thing happen to me? Well, let me share it with you--let me spread joy and happiness throughout the world.

Having finally collected from my kids their Christmas lists and having finally decided what to get my hubby (since I no longer frequent adult bookstores, I had to come up with a different list), I got in my car during my lunch hour to head to Walmart. Yep, a trip to Walmart helped put me in the holiday mood! But besides that, and maybe more importantly, when I started up the car and the radio came on, what came out of my speakers really reminded me of Christmases past and made me feel all holly jolly deep within my soul!

Here's the magic that came from my speakers: Just click here--Cheech & Chong's Santa Claus and His Old Lady! Man, I haven't heard that one for a long time, man!

How could I forget what Santa's sleigh looks like? Just listen to this description: "Santa Claus used ta have this really charp chort, man, y'know? It was lowered to da ground, had twice-pipes, candy-apple red and button top. Oooo, clean!"

And do you remember Santa's reindeer? How Santa would climb abord his "charp chort," and yell out, "On, Donner! On, Blitzen! On, Chewy! On, Tavo! C'mon, Becto!"

I don't know. Maybe I caught a bit of that "magic dust" Cheech talks about, but whatever it is, I'm finally getting excited about the holidays! Wooo-hooo, bring it on, Santa!

Oh, and just in case you want to "sing" along with Cheech and Chong, you can find the "lyrics" HERE. Ho, ho, ho!

A Little "Taste"

Remember those stacks of red and white strips? Well, I can't show you the quilt top just yet because it's a gift, but I CAN show you just a bit of it. There's a center piece that you can't see (except for a bit of the border at the top of the photo) because I think that would give away who it's for, but I took a photo of the bottom section that I'm working on quilting to give you a little idea. I'm quilting free-form feathers in each of the braid sections. I'm HUGELY pleased with the way this is turning out and I'll show you a picture of the full quilt by the weekend.

We had a lovely time at Lisa's house on Saturday night. The food was good, the company was excellent--what more could you ask for? The younger generation had to listen to some of our old stories once again, but I think they enjoy it, and we have a good time remembering and laughing.

Now it's back to work today for me. I think I'll be spending lunch hours this week running in and out of stores, shopping for Christmas gifts, and spending evenings quilting. Thanks for coming by to visit me today!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Last Weekend Before . . .

This was the last weekend before our family starts our Christmas celebrations. Next Saturday, my husband's family will get together for lunch and a gift exchange. The funny thing about that is that early on, when my husband and I, all four of my husband's brothers, and his sister were in our 20s, we decided we couldn't really afford to exchange gifts. Some of us, though, didn't really feel right about not commemorating the holiday in some way, so we started giving baked goods and homemade candies to one another. Once I started quilting, I also started making small quilty gifts on occasion. Others in the family started giving one another small gifts as well. Before long, we were all exchanging gift baskets. Perhaps, then, you can see how this whole thing snowballed into the insanity of Christmas preparations I've been engaged in. In our minds, I think, if we give each other homemade goodies or "little" things, it's not the same as actually exchanging gifts.

As I type this, my husband is laying in bed with a pad and a pencil, interrupting my writing, asking questions about what we have for the different family members on his list. He's off work this week and will work on getting a few things ready as well. A few years back, we discovered "stuff" in a jar. I'm sure you know what I mean. Entire books have been written, giving recipes for dry soup mixes in a jar, cookie mixes in a jar, drink mixes in a jar, etc. He's the jar guy. So this week he'll come up with some kind of "stuff" in a jar to give out with the rest of our non-gifts on Saturday.

Before that, though, I'll have to finish the gifts I'm making for my two work "kids"--my two bosses. I have the girl boss's gift finished and am working on the boy boss's gift now. I think I'll have that done in the next day or so.

Today I pinned two quilts out on the patio. It was damp and chilly out there, but I got them both done. My sweet husband made a Starbucks run and brought me a hot, reviving peppermint mocha to help me defrost. Then it was into a nice, hot bath for a long soak. A few minutes of heaven stolen in the middle of a busy weekend! Ahhhhhhh!

One of the quilts I pinned today is for my husband's aunt--the one my husband set up a Christmas tree for last weekend. I hope I can finish it by Saturday, but if not, I don't think she'd mind if my husband came over to visit her for a bit on Sunday or Monday to deliver her present. Slowly but surely, I'm making my way through the list of family members to gift with a quilt; this year, it's her turn.

I still have to make something for my son's girlfriend--I have that all planned--and do a little Christmas shopping now that I've gotten lists from both my kids. I also thought of something to get my husband--a KitchenAide mixer. He's been wanting one for a long time now, but they're kind of pricey. Still, I figure he's worth it, if only for his kindness in making Starbucks runs when I'm freezing to death! We had one a long time ago, but it broke. Then we "inherited" my mother-in-law's old one when she got a new one, and although it works in a pinch, I think this particular mixer was "born" in the 1960s, so there's no telling how much longer it will last.

Our Christmas day will be pretty low key, I think. The Wild Child won't be able to make it home, but my son and his girlfriend will spend the afternoon with us. I had been thinking about a big, fancy-schmancy prime rib meal, but my husband suggested we just have munchie, finger foods, and that sounds just fine to me. I may add a big pot of soup to that menu. We'll sit around and play board games or cards and snack on food and relax--something I think I've forgotten how to do!

Sorry I don't have any photos to share with you tonight, but everything is either a secret or isn't quite ready for its photo shoot. Hopefully in the next few days I'll be able to share a few things with you. I hope your Christmas preparations are progressing and you're experiencing the joys of the season!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hurray for the Post Office! Boo for the Phone Company!

Well, not really "boo" for the phone company, but you'll understand what I mean when I tell you my husband came home from work yesterday (Friday) to find all of our telephones were dead. Surprisingly enough, our internet line is still working, and that to me is the important one! He placed a call for service and I think they're supposed to come out today, but since it's all automated voicemail, there's really no way to tell for sure. Still, fewer telephone interruptions mean I can get a little more done, and you all know I have lots to do!

I love the post office! I sent a few things out by mail on Wednesday and most all of them were received on Friday, including a three-pound box I sent across country to my friend Eileen! The gal in our office mail room tried to convince me to send the box UPS ground with guaranteed delivery by next Wednesday, but I knew the post office service between me and Eileen was pretty good, so I went with good old USPS and was rewarded for my loyalty when they delivered it in two days. How's that for service?!

Yesterday we had our office staff Christmas party/lunch/gift exchange. The gift I brought was a book Tazzie mentioned sometime ago called Porn for Women and a big chunk of chocolate from Starbucks. Porn for Women is pretty funny--it's not "real" porn but has photos of nice looking men doing things like cleaning house and cooking gourmet meals. I ended up bringing home these two "lanterns" that use votive candles--I really like these and I'm even thinking about what I can do to them in an altered art kind of way. That's a project for after the holidays, though!

I can show you, now, the journal I made for Eileen since she's received it and opened it. Silly me sent it off without taking a photo, but Eileen was nice enough to send me one so I could share. I wanted to make something different for her, and besides quilting, I know she loves the nature that surrounds her in her mountain home, and she makes sure she keeps the birds fed through the winter months. So I thought I'd make her a journal with a bird theme. She can use the journal to write in if she wants or to put photos of her quilts in--it's full of blank pages.

Today, after I've refilled my coffee cup, I'm heading into the Sweat Shop to work on piecing a quilt top that's a gift for someone. I finally finished cutting a gazillion red and white strips last night, so they're all ready to sew into braids. If I can manage to stay on my mental schedule, I'll be pinning this baby sometime tomorrow and getting started on the quilting. I hope this is a reasonable expectation, because otherwise, I'm screwed! LOL!

Perhaps my first project after the holidays will be to make a few pillow covers that say "BUY CHRISTMAS GIFTS!" and scatter them throughout the house as a reminder. From the comments left on my last post, I know I'm not the only one who does this, but there are so many other things I'd rather be doing right now! But it's back to work for me--as they say, no rest for the wicked!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Steady March Toward Christmas

How are all of you doing in getting ready for Christmas? I find myself envying our friends to the north, up in Canada, and in other parts of the world--those of you who don't have a major holiday like Thanksgiving falling at the end of November. Somehow I just can't get motivated to think about Christmas gifts until that holiday has passed, which means I only have a few weeks to get myself together. (Well, I was THINKING of another "S" word instead of "self," but this is a "clean" blog. Sort of. Well, sometimes, anyway. You know what I'm thinking though, right?!)

And darn it! It's at times like these that I really start wishing I didn't have a single ounce of creativity in my body or the ability to bake cookies or make candy. This year I'm not doing any baking or candy-making, but I have been creating, so I can still whine about it a little. I can't tell you how much easier it would be to just go out and BUY gifts like "normal" people. But NO! I can't do that. So instead I stay up waaaaay too late every night and can't seem to find the time to sit back and enjoy the holiday season. And each year I swear the next will be different!

Do you do that? Or am I the only insane one?

But I'm making some progress. Yesterday (Wednesday), I packaged up and mailed out the few little gifties that needed to be sent. Tonight (Thursday), I've finally finished the last of the arty-crafty gifts except for a couple for my immediate family. Next, I need to make a quilt, although I can't tell you who it's for. It won't be huge--probably lap size--and I've decided to go with the braid pattern because I think it will look pretty good and go fairly fast. But still, I only have a week to get it completely finished. Then, of course, there are still a few other things to finish for family. Sometimes I drive myself nuts!

Last night our Thimbleberries group had our end of the year party which involved a potluck and prizes. It was a lot of fun! And I'm looking forward to starting next year's club which features a BOM in two colorways--Lodge and Lakeside--as well as smaller quarterly quilts. I've always loved nautical stuff, so some of the fabrics in the Lakeside colorway really appeal to me and seem different from the typical Thimbleberries fabrics.

Saturday night we will go to my crazy friend Lisa's house for dinner. My sister-in-law will be there as will my son and probably his girlfriend, as well as Lisa's husband and her two girls. I'm sure we'll have a great time! I do enjoy the many gatherings of friends and family that take place during the holiday season. And I swear that next year, I'm going to BUY all my Christmas gifts so I can relax and enjoy the holidays!

Remember to make time to spend with your friends and family during the busy holiday season! As for me, I think it's time for me to fix myself a cup of peppermint hot chocolate and head back into the Sweat Shop. See you all later!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In Search of My Inner Artist

Have you seen her? If so, send her back!

I've been locked into the Sweat Shop at night, working on arty crafty projects that use elements of collage, scrapbooking, and altered art. I've always been creative in one form or another, so I wasn't too intimidated to take on these projects, but once I got started, I realized it's much harder than it looks. Creating when it comes to quilting is a whole lot different from creating when it comes to other, more free-form art projects. I think I've finally found my groove though, and I hope to finish these projects tonight and get back to a couple quilting projects that need to be done by Christmas. I'd like to show you photos but I can't right now because the pesky recipients may potentially SEE the photos and that would ruin the surprise. I DID make my daughter a neat little paperweight that I wanted to show you, but you know me--the photo didn't turn out well, and I can't take another just yet because the paperweight is at work on my desk. Rats!

But I will show you this--nothing I created, just something I purchased. I'm excellent, by the way, at purchasing things! Anyway, Santa came home from the grocery store with me last night--

I had seen him before and thought he was pretty cute. He just seemed to fit my "Holly Jolly" theme. But at $20 or so, I decided I didn't really need to invite Santa over to stand around under my kitchen tree. Last night, though, when I stopped at the store, Santa was half off, so into my cart he lept. And doesn't he look happy to be visiting my home?! I think even my husband was a little tickled with him, and he normally moans and groans when I bring something home that he'll eventually need to pack away in the garage.

My heat has continued to work okay this week, thank goodness! We talked to the heating guy on Monday morning, and he ordered a new switch of some sort for the unit. He thought the part would be in tomorrow, and he'll be able to come out and install it without anyone having to hang around the house, missing work while waiting for the repair guy. So, good news on that front--so far. Of course, we haven't had the terrible ice storms that blanket much of the country, but there's frost on everything in the mornings and it's getting pretty chilly out. I would hate to be without heat just now!

I hope you and those close to you are enjoying a joyous holiday season! Back to work for me! Thanks for visiting!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Santa Saga Continues

I'm still here, working away in the Sweat Shop. If you read my last post, I mentioned that our heat was out again. Oddly enough, it started working at around 1 p.m. on Sunday, so the rest of the day was fairly comfortable.

I managed to get my house cleaned on Sunday, and my daughter arrived in the evening to stay for a day or so and get some Christmas shopping done. No Drooling Dog came with her this time, so our younger cat, Spike, is beside herself with joy. Originally Spike was my daughter's cat, but she couldn't take her when she moved, so Spike stayed with us.

On Sunday, I worked on making some journals and a couple other things, none of which can be shown right now due to (1) secrecy because the recipients may (or may not) read my blog, and (2) some of the stuff that's not quite so secret isn't completely done and not ready for viewing. So instead of showing you some completed projects, I'll just show you my work spaces.

My son's bed is covered with various craft supplies that I anticipate needing at some point in the next few days. It's easier to have everything out in one place rather than rummage through the closet and drawers to find what I need.

The table in the Sweat Shop was also covered with "stuff"--the more immediate supplies for the things I was working on. Two of the journals will require a little sewing, so I had to clean everything up so I can put my sewing machine back up Monday night and move on to the next step of construction.

Once I get the journals done, I think I only have two more arts and crafts projects and then I can go back to making quilts--there are a couple I want to make as gifts.

While I was engaged in gift production today, my husband ventured out to run a few errands and battle crowds. His aunt moved into an assisted living facility this past summer, and he wanted to bring her a Christmas tree to brighten up her little place. I had purchased the tree and lights, and we had some wooden bead garland, so he just had to stop at Michael's and Target to buy some ornaments. Then the two of them had a wonderful afternoon together, decorating her little tree. When she walked him out to his van, they were tickled to look up at her window and see her Christmas tree all lit up. I think that's the best thing about Christmas--helping bring joy to others.
I hope your season is filled with joy!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Santa's Workshop, Part 2

It's mighty cold in Santa's Workshop today, boys and girls! Santa may need to sip on a few hot buttered rums throughout the day to stay warm, and goodness knows how that may affect quality control issues when it comes to making Christmas gifts!

Last night, Saturday, our heating went out again, and apparently the heating repair guys aren't open on Sundays. We aren't sure if it's the same problem we had last weekend or something different, but it's about 61 degrees in the house this morning, so I'll need to bundle up before I head into the Sweat Shop.

Last night I decorated a few dishtowels--

After that, I cleared the decks of all sewing "stuff" and pulled out materials to work on journal covers, so today will be an arts and crafts day.

Sometime today, I need to clean house. At least I know that will generate a little heat, so it may come as a welcome chore. My daughter is coming down from Tahoe tonight or early tomorrow--without the Drooling Dog! She plans to spend a day or two here and head back home on Tuesday.

The round of Christmas activities will begin this week with an end-of-the-year party on Wednesday with my Thimbleberries Club group. On Saturday, we'll go to Lisa's house for a holiday dinner. In other words, time is passing quickly, and Santa had better get back into the Sweat Shop and get busy! If you see a St. Bernard with a keg of brandy around its neck, send him this way--I may need to be rescued from the arctic cold we have going on here at the North Pole.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Santa's Workshop

I've been busy as a little elf, making Christmas gifts! I took a few hours off work on Friday and came home early and got started. Somehow, it seems like I ought to have more to show for all I've been doing, but things are coming along. Here are a couple things I think it's safe to show you.

On my way home from work, I stopped by the quilt shop when I remembered I would need some batting before long for some of my gifts. They had a few panels on sale, so I picked one up and turned it into a tablerunner. I used the quilt-as-you-go method--this is the first time I'd really tried it and it worked nicely, but I have to say I think it would come out nicer if I had pre-washed my fabric. Once I finished the runner and binding, I tossed it in the washer and dryer. When it came out, I realized it would benefit GREATLY by a little more quilting, so I added that today.

Then I've been making microwave potato bags--three so far, and I think this is as many as I need, although I'd really like to make myself one. I've heard they work great! My husband and I will put together some kind of food gift baskets with these included. My husband has been tasked with coming up with ideas on what to add to the baskets that would go along with the potato theme. Any ideas? We're looking for things that wouldn't spoil too quickly, since at this time of the year, there's no telling when people will get around to eating things.

I thought there might be one or two of you out there in Blogland who would be interested in making spud bags too. Click HERE for the link to a nice tutorial on their construction. They're basically a small quilt that you turn into something resembling a purse or bag. I used leftover quilt blocks in making mine, and I think that made them kind of interesting without me spending a lot of time piecing fabric. Besides that, I was able to use some blocks I wasn't able to use before.

Time to head back to the Sweat Shop. I have some gingerbread men waiting for me in there. Thanks for dropping in to visit!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tonight's Project

Either there's something wrong with Blogger or there's something wrong with Yahoo, because I've noticed in the last day or two that not all of the comments left on my blog are being delivered to my mailbox. Grrr! I thought it was just me, but my friend Eileen said she had a comment on her blog that didn't come into her mailbox either. I'm sorry if you'd left me a comment that I haven't acknowledged--particularly if you asked a question or are a new commentor to my blog. Hopefully whatever the problem is will be resolved soon.

Tonight I made out my list of Christmas gifts I'm planning to make, and boy is it a long one! I've been thinking I may need to cut back on my blogging a bit in order to get it all done. Also, since these things I'll be making are gifts, and some of my close friends and relatives read my blog, I can't show you what I'm making until after the holidays. I'm sure I'll be posting pretty regularly, but you might not hear from me every day unless I have something to say. Yeah, yeah, I know--lots of times I talk about nothing anyway! So maybe I WILL write every day. The point is, though, that if you don't hear from me for a day or two over the next couple weeks, don't worry--I'm just here, working away on my little projects.

Tonight's project I CAN show you though.

I sort of started this last year when I cut out the gingerbread men but that's as far as I got. I didn't really like the top I was going to put them on, so I just put them away. A few days ago when I was doing my shopping-spree thing, I bought a couple tops I thought would work well for decorating. I got out these gingerbread men and picked up some rick rack at the quilt shop last night and embellished to my heart's content tonight. I know someone will probably ask, so I'll tell you that no, I didn't have a pattern. I just made it up as I went. Try it--it's really not as hard as you might think. If you aren't sure how something's supposed to look, the internet is a great source. I often do a Yahoo search and click on the "images" tab to get lots of photos to inspire me.

Time to go to bed--one more day of work. Sure was nice of you to stop by and visit!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Coasting Toward the Weekend

We're on the downhill side of the work week and coasting into the weekend--not quite fast enough for me, but it's coming. Why is it that this "car" picks up such speed between Friday night and Monday morning? I don't want to rush though life waiting for the weekend, but I'd just like to slow the weekends down a little and speed the work weeks up. Is that too much to ask?!

You may well be wondering what that photo is at the top of my blog. Well, darn it, I've been carrying my camera to work with me, trying to get a photo for you of the crazy Christmas yard decoration display that's a few blocks from my home--I think this is the one with SpongeBob. Or maybe SpongeBob is around the corner in the other direction. Both yards are kind of "over the top." Anyway, last night when I came home, they didn't have the lights on yet and the inflatables were still collapsed on the lawn. Tonight, everything was in it's full glory, but I guess there just wasn't enough light for the camera to get a good photo. Blame it on the photographer. At least I tried! There sure SEEMED like enough light!

Tonight I went to a meeting of the Jo's Little Women Club at one of the local quilt shops. The shop is starting a BOM Christmas quilt in January and I'm thinking about taking it. I think the pattern is called Christmas List and I'm told it was designed by a shop owner in SoCal, but I'll be darned if I can remember the shop, and was I smart enough to take a photo to show you? No! Despite having my camera with me. What a dummy! (See later note below.) But I swear it's a darn CUTE quilt, and I really don't have enough "cute" Christmas quilts. I expressed that thought at our meeting, and one of my quilting friends, Liz, chimed in with, "Uh, have you looked at your blog lately?!" I gotta say that really cracked me up because it was totally unexpected. Liz had just mentioned before the meeting that she found my blog recently and had enjoyed reading it a couple times (HEY, LIZ! HOW YA DOIN'?). Anyway, what I had in mind is that most of my quilts are more traditional, I think. Although I dearly LOVE "cute," I try not to go there, but you know what? I think I'm going to be taking a trip to Cute! I've decided that if there's ever a time and a place for "cute," Christmas is it. (Actually NEXT Christmas will be "it," 'cause I won't have time to get cute done before this one!) So, now that I'm on a mission to put a little cute in my life, here are the two patterns I picked up tonight. (And don't worry--I actually paid for them--I didn't just pick them up and run out the door! LOL!)

After the meeting, I popped over to Michael's for a few things for Christmas gifts/crafts and got a candle for my bark. Sounds kind of funny, huh? Anyway, here's what it looks like all dressed up:

I finally got the It's a Wrap quilt up on the wall behind my kitchen tree--I took it with me for show and tell tonight and hung it when I got home. (Pssst! See that canning jar full of white stuff to the right of the tree on top of the toaster oven? VERY IMPORTANT Christmas decorations, I'm telling you! One of the MOST IMPORTANT! Those are marshmallows for my hot chocolate! A VITAL ingredient for the holiday season! LOL!)

I also thought you'd like to see the cool GREEN bird I found to go on the top of the tree. And those sparkly, crystally branches are the things my decorating consultant, Missy, told me I needed to go to JoAnn's and buy last week. (Missy's not "officially" a decorating consultant--or at least that's not what she gets paid to do. But she is my "go to" person when I want to bounce ideas off someone or get some ideas and input.) And see those green ornaments with what look like ridges or lines going across them? (There's one near the bird's "tail feathers" and another a bit below that.) Those are the GREEN BALLS that arrived in the mail last week from my bud Sharon. Thanks, everyone, for your help and suggestions in getting this tree together--I'm pleased with the way it's turned out, and I couldn't have done it without all of you!

Time for me to take care of a couple more little chores and then head to bed. See you tomorrow!

* * * * *

NOTE about darn cute Christmas List pattern. Heck, I shoulda known it would be somewhere on Sharon's blog! Actually, I guess I had a little inkling, or maybe I just wanted go over there and visit Cute a little bit, and there it was! Nancy No Blog made it! Here's the photo I shamelessly stole from Sharon's blog--she also has a photo of the pattern with some info on it HERE.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Are You Tired of Christmas Yet?

Whew! I'm nearly tired out. Is it time to take down the Christmas decorations and start decorating for Valentine's Day yet?! Just kidding--I LOVE Christmas and I'm not ready to move on just yet. (Although yes, I DO have a Valentine's Day tree and decorations--just you wait and see!)

I've been wanting to share with you a tabletopper I made for my online group's recent swap, but I had to wait until the package arrived in Canada. It got there yesterday, so I don't have to worry about blowing the surprise. Here's the one I made for my friend Jackie (those are buttons for the "berries"):

And, as it turned out, I received a package from my secret swap person yesterday too. She sent me this beautiful tree skirt, chocolate bars, and some decorations for my tree(s):

I was hoping to finish binding the It's a Wrap quilt last night, but I got sidetracked with shopping. I don't really like shopping for clothing very much, but I finally broke down and stopped to look for a top on my way home from work. I found several things on my list of "clothing necessities," like a new robe, shoes, and a sweater. That inspired me to come home, cook dinner really fast, and head out to another store, where I found all of the other things I needed and have been putting off shopping for. A successful evening of shopping, and now I'm done with THAT for awhile!

So let's talk pajamas for a minute. Remember that pajama pattern I posted? Well, I ordered flannel to make two sets of jammies, and the flannel arrived yesterday. The red/black check with stuff like trees, stars, and mittens is for one pair. The two black fabrics are for another--the larger print will be the top and the small print will be the bottoms (creating, of course, an optical illusion that will make me look like Barbie's twin sister. Okay, maybe not, but I can dream, can't I? Isn't that what jammies are FOR?!) Anyway, the fabric's here but I don't know when I'll be able to sew for myself again, so when I saw a couple pair of cute cotton knit jammies at the department store last night, I bought those too. Is there anything better than new jammies at Christmas time? Okay, yes, there might be one or two things better than new jammies--like chocolate--but jammies are high on my list of comfort items.

Finally, I wanted to show you what I found:

I will understand if you think maybe I've lost my mind, getting all excited over finding a hunk of bark, but here's a decorating tip from me: Keep your eyes open, look around, and think outside the box. Christmas decorations don't HAVE to come from a store and cost money. What I see when I look at this is a pillar candle in the middle and fresh Christmas greenery filling the rest, with maybe a couple old glass ornaments to add a little contrast to the woodsy look and reflect the candle flame. Or maybe the greenery with a small bowl of water, cranberries, and a floating candle. Once the bark dries (it rained here this morning) and I decorate it, I'll get a photo to show you.

Finally, I hope to have the It's a Wrap quilt done by tomorrow's post and up on the wall behind my kitchen tree, so stay tuned! It's definitely turning into a Holly Jolly Christmas! Time for me to put my new jammies on and go bind that quilt. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

It's a Blow Up Christmas!

On my way home from work, I drove around a corner a few blocks from home, and saw this--or something very close to it--in someone's yard, surrounded by his other Santa and snowman friends:

Okay, how incredibly tacky can someone be? In looking on the internet for a photo of this thing, I found several versions which all looked incredibly similar but ranged in price from about $8 all the way to nearly $200. Who would spend $200 on an inflatable SpongeBob? Yeah, maybe there are one or two huge SpongeBob fans who might, but is there really a market? People are weird.

It doesn't appear that any inflatables will pop up in my immediate neighborhood, but if they do, I'm considering calling my friend Lisa to see if she'd like to revisit the whole adult bookstore experience. I'm thinking that one of these in the front yard, wearing a Santa hat, would be just the thing, don't you?

And since I'm on the subject of Christmas and blow up dolls, I have a funny story to pass on. Perhaps you've seen it before? It's not mine--I've heard it originated with Jeff Foxworthy. If you haven't seen it before, get yourself some milk and cookies, and sit back and enjoy!


"As a joke, my brother used to hang a pair of panty hose over his fireplace before Christmas. He said all he wanted was for Santa to fill them. What they say about Santa checking the list twice must be true because every Christmas morning, although Jay's kids' stockings were overflowing, his poor pantyhose hung sadly empty.

One year I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses and went in search of an inflatable love doll. They don't sell those things at Walmart. I had to go to an adult bookstore downtown. If you've never been in an X-rated store, don't go. You'll only confuse yourself. I was there an hour saying things like, "What does this do?" "You're kidding me!" "Who would buy that?" Finally, I made it to the inflatable doll section.

I wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane during rush hour. Finding what I wanted was difficult. Love dolls come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I'd only seen in a book on animal husbandry. I settled for "Lovable Louise." She was at the bottom of the price scale. To call Louise a "doll" took a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve, with the help of an old bicycle pump, Louise came to life. My sister-in-law was in on the plan and let me in during the wee morning hours, long after Santa had come and gone. I filled the dangling pantyhose with Louise's pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. I went home and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy but had left the dog confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more. We all agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. "What the hell is that?" she asked. My brother quickly explained, "It's a doll." "Who would play with something like that?" Granny snapped. I had several candidates in mind, but kept my mouth shut. "Where are her clothes?," Granny continued. "Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran," Jay said, trying to steer her into the dining room, but Granny was relentless. "Why doesn't she have any teeth?" Again, I could have answered, but why would I? It was Christmas and no one wanted to ride in the back of the ambulance saying, "Hang on, Granny, hang on!"

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me and said, " Hey, who's the naked gal by the fireplace?" I told him she was Jay's friend. A few minutes later I noticed Grandpa by the mantel, talking to Louise. Not just talking, but actually flirting. It was then that we realized this might be Grandpa's last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise that sounded a lot like my father in the bathroom in the morning. Then she lurched from the pantyhose, flew around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa. The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth to mouth resuscitation. My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants and Granny threw down her napkin, stomped out of the room, and sat in the car.

It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember. Later, in my brother's garage, we conducted a thorough examination to determine the cause of Louise's collapse. We discovered that Louise had suffered from a hot ember from the fireplace to the back of her right thigh. Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health. Louise went on to star in several bachelor party movies. I think Grandpa still calls her whenever he can get out of the house."

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's a Wrap and Inflatables

I finished quilting the It's a Wrap quilt tonight, although I still have to sew down the binding. The next time you see it, it will be done, washed, and hanging on the wall behind the kitchen tree--hopefully tomorrow night. I know this isn't a great photo, but I wanted to share--I've been working on it all day. Isn't it funny how quilts always take longer than you expect them to? Or is that just me?

One of the lead news stories tonight was about the theft of a family's inflatable Santa, taken in the middle of the night from their front lawn. Speaking from experience, I'd suggest that guy check his neighbors across the street, the ones who have had to look at the darn thing since he put it up.

If you have an inflatable something-or-other sitting in your front yard, I don't mean to offend you. Seriously, I've seen a few yard displays with inflatable figures that looked just fine, and I kind of like those big inflatable "globes" with all kinds of stuff going on inside, but it just seems to me that a lone plastic inflatable Santa is kind of pathetic.

A few years back, the renters across the street from us put up an inflatable snowman next to a much smaller inflatable Santa/chimney combo. They just stuck them both right out near the sidewalk with no other decorations to make them look at all attractive. From our living room, we had to look at them night after night, and I hated those things! In fact, I considered sneaking over there at night and stabbing them to death (the inflatables, not the neighbors). Boy was I excited to see them sitting in a heap on the grass that first morning--I thought someone had beat me to it! That night, though, they came back to life, much to my dismay!

We have new neighbors over there this year, and when I noticed they were stringing up Christmas lights outside a few days ago, I watched with some apprehension. No, no inflatables, thank goodness! Just a tasteful display of Christmas lights and a Christmas tree in the window, which is pretty much the same thing we have.

Yes, I know I'm a Christmas decorating snob. I don't know why that is or why I'm so hung up on the whole Christmas thing. Yes, I even drive myself nuts sometimes. I wonder if there's a 12-step program?

Well, the weekend's over, and it's back to work in the morning. Time to turn out the lights in the Sweat Shop and head to bed. I'm glad you could stop by and visit!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ah, Heat!

Last night at this time, I was sitting here, writing to you, thinking my fingers just might break off from the cold at any minute. I had noticed, at around 11:30 p.m. or so, that cold air was blowing out of our heater vents. I went to bed wearing a sweatshirt-type nightgown, stretchy pants, and socks. I put an extra quilt on the bed. Now I know some of you will laugh your heads off when I tell you that it was 62 degrees in my house and I was freezing to death, but for California, indoors, that's mighty chilly!

Of course, things like this only seem to happen on weekends, don't they? I thought for sure we'd have to make a run to Home Depot for space heaters so we wouldn't turn into popsicles by Monday when the heating repair guys opened their doors. You see, we couldn't just call any heating repair guy because our system's only a couple years old and, depending on the problem, was under warranty with a specific heating company. Luckily, though, my husband telephoned them this morning and found that they were, in fact, open on Saturday. By early afternoon, I had what sounded like Santa and all his reindeer up on my roof and soon thereafter, blessed warmth was flowing out those vents once again. Why can't we have a nice hot flash when we need one?

Today (Saturday), I puttered around the house, putting some final touches on my Christmas decorating. I pinned the It's a Wrap/Holly Jolly quilt and started quilting it. And I made stuffing and roasted a chicken. You might think that having just made a turkey less than two weeks ago, I wouldn't be doing the same thing to a chicken, but we like chicken and I had sort of accidentally bought a second package of stuffing, so what the heck?! Stuffed chicken it was!

I've talked before about how many meals we get out of one poor chicken so I won't bore you again, but I've just finished making a pot of chicken soup. Tomorrow I'm putting some of that 9 (or 10) can soup/chili in the crockpot. Between one thing and another, I figure I really won't have to do much cooking for about a week--plenty of time to start getting Christmas gifts planned and started.

I've "sprinkled" some Christmas photos here and there through my post tonight. I really DO wish you could see the decorations up close and personal--they're always so much prettier when you see the soft glow of white Christmas lights reflecting off of shiny glass ornaments and smell the scented candles burning around the house. The photo below was taken looking into the Sweat Shop from the doorway.

Today's mail brought some green balls from a good friend, Sharon. The decorations in "that" color green have been placed on the tree in the kitchen--you can get a little peek at it in the first photo at the top of this post, but I'll hold off on showing you the tree in all it's Technicolor glory until after I get the It's a Wrap quilt up on the wall behind it--hopefully in the next couple days. Once I get that quilt finished, I will probably move on to the Hometown Christmas section that I'm planning to applique--which I'm already LATE on!

Time for me to get that soup packaged up and put away, turn out the lights in the Sweat Shop, and head to bed, where I can sleep comfortably tonight without the fear that I'll wake up encased in ice in the morning!