Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tis The Season

I am decorating early this year. I am still keeping things simple, but I am starting to go through the boxes. No one can ever imagine how painful it is to open those boxes and relive happy memories. So many of my Christmas boxes are still untouched as I make new decorations and new memories. And that is becoming ok. Not wonderful, but ok and all right.
I have always loved the tradition of Christmas stockings. And our "Stuffers" have always been a big part of the Christmas season. Our own stockings were skinny red hunting socks that I bought the first year we were married. That year I made all of our decorations and I still have a few of them left. Patchwork fabric pieces were glued to styrofoam balls. (I think mod podge hadn't even been invented yet!). I also made a lot of salt dough ornaments and painted wooden cutouts. I had a handmade birds nest ornament because a bird nest in a tree brings good luck. Every year we added a few ornaments but the tree has always been mostly handmade.  Every year the kids put out their shoes on St Nicholas Day and received a purchased ornament, candy, and chocolate coins. The coins used to be nearly impossible to find. I always spent a lot of time looking for special ornaments.I had several sets of five different pieces. Ornaments with their names engraved. Little statues of children. And, every year, I was more superstitous with these ornaments. They had to be packed separately, and I held my breath until I found each one, and put it safely on the tree. Maybe, somehow, I knew.  Of course, everyone grew up, and took their ornaments with them when they moved. Except for the little people and ones with names, because I didn't want to split them up. With five children, that left a lot of holes on the tree, so we started buying ornaments. Jim loved Christmas. He loved the Hallmark ornaments and things I thought were particularly tacky. If it talked or played music, he wanted it. So the tree was filled up again.
Oh, this was supposed to be about the stockings! My mother made stockings for each of the five and embroidered their names. And every one had their special place on the mantel. Rich's was always in the middle. As we added to the family, I bought hunting socks again. This time, gray with red and green toes. I appliqued Christmas trees and embroidered their names. Each has a funny family history. I meant to make stockings for the grandkids, but they were coming faster than I could finish them, so their presents went into a St Nicholas bag.
Our first Christmas, Jim bought things for my stocking,but he just "didn't get it". Toothpaste does NOT qualify as a stocking stuffer. So I enlisted my younger sisters to buy my stuffers for years. As they grew up, we would get together and exchange stuffers. Now my daughters and I are doing the same. That little party is a high point of the season. The gifts can be funny, or sentimental, or even outrageous. But they are always given with a lot of thought and much love and laughter.
I haven't had the heart for stockings the last two years, but this year I am buying little gifts again. And this year they will all go into this giant stocking that I just finished crocheting. I'll keep it on the door, and maybe a banner or greenery will go on the mantel. It's not wonderful, but it's ok, and our Christmas will be ok too.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Books...Glorious Books!

One of my favorite weekends of the year! The Book Sale I've been going every year since I had my first house with more bookshelves than books. I haven't had that problem for many a year. I confess, books are my biggest vice. And I love to make things from books. One of the reasons I go to this sale is to find  books to which I am not emotionally attached. But I always end up with so much more. This is the first half of my treasure. I went back again today (Half price day--who can resist?) and got just as many more.
One of the things I love to make from old books is new books. Here is one of the Halloween books I created last year. Folding pages, painting them and adding all sorts of ephemera is the easy peasy way to put these together. And since I especially looked for small skinny books this time, I have quite a few to work with.

Oh, yes, Pockets! Lots and lots of pockets.......

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bridget and Matt's Wedding

My youngest daughter got married yesterday. What a beautiful day we had. The wedding was outdoors at middle daughter's house, overlooking the river. For weeks and weeks every moment has been filled with wedding preparations, but it was all worth it. My son Jim and I walked her down the aisle (lined with 30 shepherds hooks and jars of babies breath.) to the sound of "Brown Eyed Girl".Yes, Jim wears his kilt at every opportunity. My dress was brown and sparkly, bought just a few days ago after B insisted I wear a real Mother of the Bride dress.
Tess was the perfect little flower girl. She skipped down the aisle tossing autumn leaves into the air with abandon. It was so cute. Cass, however, had to be carried down by one of the ushers. But that worked too.
Here they are being officially wed. This was a big day. They have been a couple since they were in college--over 15 years ago!
All the nieces and nephews. Matt's niece Avery and Bridget's niece Lindsey were junior bridesmaids. They loved it. The boys all helped, moving 200 chairs from the wedding side of the yard to the giant reception tent on the other side. We also had  small tents for the "Sweet Treats", the gifts, and guest book. With all the lights, and the tents, the banners,the flowers, and the 100 yards of tulle, it definitely looked like a party.
As with every occasion our family has, there is the bitter along with the sweet. The grandkids set up these chairs for Grandpa Jim and Uncle Rich and made "Reserved" signs for them. Rich's Irish hat and a can of Budweiser were included. Our tears on this special day were mostly happy. Today was clean up day. That's when I could have cried! But all the months of preparation were worth it. I'm sure Meghan and Jack are glad to have their house back! How lucky I am to have such generous, close, and loving children who all worked so hard to make this happen.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Party's Over!

Well, you haven't heard from me too much this month because I was so busy shopping for the birthday extravaganza. And now it's over, and I am back on a budget. So, of course, I needed these little Budget Banks. One even came with most of the labels. The holes are for paper money, and the slots collect change. The compartments inside make sure to keep your money separated. They are metal, and I guess they were popular in the 1930's through the 1950's. I'd never seen them before my late nite dates with online shopping. These were two of my  birthday gifts to myself, thanks to Etsy and Ebay-places I will be staying away from for awhile! I did have fun, picking out little gifts for myself. It is so easy to be extravagant. I bought an old magazine rack, a lovely little tin with a lighthouse picture on it, a kit to make a table runner, a couple of tutorials and online classes.

Soon after I decided on my "I'll get myself whatever I want" plan, I found something I have been looking for since we moved here. So I did have a big splurge. Here is my birthday gift to myself. I love it. Just the right size for my little big house. As you can see, this is where I'll be, blogging and budgeting. But no more shopping for now!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Where Bloggers Create 2012

We bought this house a few years ago and this was what my Crafting Room looked like:
Yes, it took a while and a lot of hard work, but I eventually had my dream space.
This is part of an old cupboard that had to be cut in half in order to fit into the room! The other half is on another wall. I love old things; old cupboards, old drawers, all sorts of old furniture. This is another piece that fits so well in the room:

More drawers, and shelves and cupboards. I think my decorating style is called Early Stack and Label. Even though I love having all these drawers, I do like to have my supplies out where I can see them. This red cupboard has most of my jewelry making supplies, and my Wishes. People who don't know me very well have to wonder when they see the two drawers marked Magic Wands!
I like to use all the space I can for storage, so there is always something behind every door!
This was supposed to be an inspiration board. I think it is more of a memory catcher. But that works too.
There is never enough wall space, so I want to use every bit of it.

For months, this room was neglected and not used very much at all, even though there is space for sewing, papercrafting,bookmaking, and many other creative activities. I started using it again by inviting work friends over to share some crafting fun. Now we get together here every few weeks and play. The grandkids also love this room and we make things together here. I am glad to be back, even though things have gotten a little dusty during my absence. At least, all these drawers are labeled!
Thank you for visiting and taking my little tour.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Bubbly Bliss

A few years ago I was the soapmaker at the history museum where I used to work. We started selling it in the giftshop, and I made several batches before my hours were cut back. I only made lye soap, and learned quite a bit about it at the time. I loved the way the mixture would magically "trace" and suddenly: Soap! Because of previous allergies and no equipment at home, I never went on to make more varieties. But this is the kind of soap I think I would have loved to make.
While looking through Etsy, for my birthday bonanza, I saw that there were over 76,000 listings for handmade soap. And all types. I chose Sarva, and I'm so glad I did. Michelle's site describes her business, and explains that "an intelligent approach to simple living can create real change. Sarva is a Sanskit word meaning whole which reflects this philosophy."
 My package of five sample bars arrived very quickly, individually packaged in waxed paper bags with handwritten labels. They are all scrumptious. After washing my hands several times that day, I immediately reordered. This time I picked Alchemy, which is an economy soap made from the trimmings of the other soaps. Each batch is a little different.
And then I picked Grace, which is "sweeter than a vintage rose."
And, finally, Sweet Earth, described as "not a hippie-groovy scent (It does have patchouly!)...but grounding and uplifting....the spirit of play and the warm summer sun."
I'll be in the bath.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me (Almost)

        June 22-July23 The Sign of Cancer, The Crab
I am celebrating my birthday this month, and this year I have decided to celebrate it every day. With Presents! So I have been looking through Etsy (ooh, lots of good ideas there), and window shopping, and visiting stores that I don't usually go to. My only rule is, it can't be a book or clothing. That's because these are just about the only things I do buy. Oh, and my other rule is that I can afford it. That does limit me somewhat, doesn't it?
This is what I have come up with so far:
July 1- a hanging basket for the kitchen. There has been a hook there forever, so I finally put something on it.
July 2-a spoon rack. Found an old one and hung my motley assortment of silver on it. Yes, I do know that it is tarnished, and I love it that way.
July 3-the sound track from Brave. It's very celtic. I really liked the movie, though I have to say that I kept waiting for the Handsome Prince. It must be my early conditioning.
July 4-another cd. I must already be running out of things to buy myself. This one is "The Wailin' Jennys".

July 5-Wild gypsy bangles-and instructions to make some more (Almost a book, but not quite. Yes, my rules can be stretched a little)
I have a good friend who celebrated her birthday by buying gifts for other people. Maybe if I were a better person. After all we Moon Children are supposed to be generous,nurturing, and loving..........underneath our crabby exteriors.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

A Year And A Day

Today it has been a year and a day since I became a widow. I have now passed all the first anniversaries-first birthday, first holidays, first wedding anniversary, and first year. Each one has been bitter and sweet, filled with memories and with emptiness.
In Victorian times, the official period of mourning lasted between two and three years. First mourning was for a year and a day. During that time a proper widow was expected to only see close friends and family and have very limited social contacts. Clothing was limited to black, usually crepe and non shiny fabrics. Everything was expected to be very plain, with no shine. When a widow did go out, she often wore a veiled bonnet, and could keep her face covered, so people wouldn't see her grief. The dyes used to treat the veiling was very irritating, so probably caused even more tears, and headaches, and feelings of faintness. I have read that cuffs on sleeves were often very wide and called "weepers', serving extra duty as handkerchiefs for weepy eyes.
Second mourning lasted for nine months. Still black, but a little more decoration was involved. A little bit of trim, a little bit of shine was considered to be proper. More jewelry was allowed, but mourning pieces were expected to be worn. A widow could be more active and no longer wore the veil.
And finally half mourning, when colors were allowed, particularly lavenders and greys.
I am ready for a little bit of shine. But, in my heart, this victorian gypsy will probably always be in First Mourning. I love you, Jim. Forever.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Merry Old England, Revisited

 Burford is one of the wonderful villages where we stayed in the Cotswalds. This is our hotel, The Burford House, located on the High Street. It is a beautiful 17th century building, and we were treated wonderfully. We were the only guests, as it is a small hotel, and they were so very gracious to us. Our dinners were elegant. I have to admit that a couple of ladies did put the napkins on their heads. What can I say? They looked like crowns. The owner even brought a life size cardboard Queen Elizabeth out to dine with us. One of the best things was seeing every town and storefront decorated for the Queen's Jubilee. Banners and pennants were everywhere.
 This is the view from our room. We had a stairway that was our own entrance to the courtyard. We stayed for four nights at the Burford House. It was our own little home!
Shopping was delightful. I am always drawn to the bookstores and here I found one of my favorites. This is the Madhatter Book Shop. Who could imagine-a book shop and hatshop in one place!! We could actually try on English hats-big,luscious,flowery hats, and dainty little fascinators. How I wanted one, but being a milliner in my past life at Living History Farms, I actually can make my own. But where would I ever wear it? I think that would be my dream store, if I were to be a shopkeeper. Hats and books-my idea of a perfect combination. I loved the shopping in Burford. I really didn't do a lot of shopping. Now that I am back, I think of things I wish I had bought. My  friend, Gerry, and I had a great time in the charity shops. And the little pharmacies. I am fascinated by the everyday papers and envelopes. I know, easily pleased. Needlework shops are another favorite of mine. I really wanted to buy some yarn as a remembrance of the trip, but didn't find anything. Most shopping was in little bits and pieces, except for the entire day along this street. And of course, there were the gift shops at the historic houses we visited. I found myself spending as much time admiring the buildings and the people as studying the merchandise. I will never get used to the idea that so many of the houses and shops are centuries old. I love it and would live like that if I could. My own little cottage was built in 1918 and always seems very old here in Iowa.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Oh, To Be In England.....

Yes, I was there. Off to England to visit the Queen, and a wonderful visit it was, though she didn't even know I was there. Right off the plane, we went to the Chelsea Garden Show in London. And flowers, we saw. People everywhere, and acres and acres of plants, and flowers, and buildings, and arrangements. Amazing.

This was a large block of foxglove. Almost every flower I could think of had a giant display. I have lots of photos of masses of garden glory. Amazing. Oh, I may have said that before. But it was. Amazing.
The chandeliers were part of a large display designed for the Queen's Jubilee Dinner. I'm not sure which was the winner.

After the show, we had a little tour of London on our coach and then off to the first of many little villages. For the first three nights we were in the village of Inkpen-at the most charming hotel and pub. We were the only guests staying at the Crown and Garter and the hosts couldn't have been nicer.
This was a coach inn in the seventeenth century. I am entranced by the history. In Iowa, we can't even consider the age of buildings like this, yet in England, people actually live in them. Every single day. By now, you must all know what a history geek I am. I am still swooning to think that I was able to walk on floors and touch walls where people actually lived and loved hundreds of years ago. It's the continuity, I suppose. But it gives me a thrill. It really really does. This was the perfect trip for me. I loved every thing about it and I will be sure to give details for weeks so please come back and visit me again as I revisit the Cotswald villages. Some of it is already a blur as I wonder where I was and when. "Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen." (Benjamin Disraeli)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Remember Me?

It's not that I don't like to write. I do. In fact, I love to put my words on paper. And I like computers, but they just don't like me. Sometimes I think my life is just one big technical difficulty after another. Right now my laptap won't sinc with my printer, my pictures want to stay on the camera, and my desktop doesn't like the Internet, and for the life of me, I just can't type on my Nook. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, whatever did I do with the last two months?
I'm here, and I'm ok. Sometimes that is a victory. Lots of family times. Holidays, a First Communion, and a Baptism (that one got a little delayed by life events). Bridget and Matt's wedding will be here in September. I've been volunteering with Amanda the Panda. Our 8 week session ends soon, but I will help again in the fall. I really want to get more training and to help others who are grieving since has become so much a part of my everyday life.
And I have been reading. And reading. And reading. Every night when I come home from my busy job to my quiet house, I read. Mostly fiction.  Light, cozy mysteries where everyone lives in lovely, little villages, and the good guy always wins. I was raised on Nancy Drew, and I want my crimesolvers to be light hearted and witty, with a great sense of history. I think I have covered almost every century. I like books in series, and have been reading one right after the other. I always stop before the final one, though. I don't like endings.
I really hoped I would use my time in creative endeavors, instead I have chosen to lose myself in books. This has been my way of coping. And I think it has been working. Finally, I am ready to make some changes. I hope to become more creative again. Sometimes, I feel that just maybe..... the fog is lifting, and my brain is starting to function. Gratefully, I am ready to join the world again, at least in little bits. I'm taking a real vacation. A few more days and I will be traveling to my favorite place in all the world. ENGLAND. I still can't believe I am going, but I am starting to pack.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March Madness

Here is an old photo from RiverView, the premier amusement park in our area when I was growing up. This is where I had almost all of my "first dates', birthday parties, and lovely afternoons. I always hated the roller coaster. I was more of a carousel kind of girl. And maybe the ferris wheel-if I felt like an adventure. I remember how happy I was the day I realized that I didn't have to pretend to like the roller coaster, and I never rode on it again. Haven't missed it a bit.
Unfortunately, my whole life is like a roller coaster ride now. Up and down. Knocking the breath out of me when I least expect it. Long climbs up scary hills and then swooooooosh, there I am at the bottom again. And I don't even pretend to like it.
By the way, they also had a gypsy fortune teller at RiverView. Loved her. Some things just don't change.

Friday, January 13, 2012


January always seems like a perfect time to work with yarn. Through the years I've made lots of small things, a couple of afghans and baby blankets, many purses, hats, and scarves, but never anything that is meant to fit. How I envy the people with the skill and patience to finish sweaters and socks. I really like little projects best, I guess. I think maybe it stems from the years of making things to sell at craft shows. Here's just a couple of pictures. I made a lot of tea cozies for a while. I really liked this one. The tie is adorned with buttons, beads, and charms.

The brooch is a little large. I guess I should have known when the pattern said "peony". I found it here, and I'll be wearing it on my jacket at work today. I guess I'll see how many people laugh. It's my own little homage to spring, now that winter has finally begun in the midwest!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Ring In the New

Happy New Year! Can you hear my sigh of relief that it is 2012? When I posted last January, I gave myself two words for the year. One was Accept, which I am keeping. The other was Soar. I didn't. I also wanted to revamp my blog and set a goal of 200 followers. I did add a few, but missed the goal. I am grateful for those of you who have stayed with me. Many of my posts start at one place and end up entirely somewhere else. So much of my past eighteen months have just been about getting through another day that I am almost afraid to even plan for the future. That's why I liked this post by Dr. Wayne Dyer:

"Forget about those New Year’s resolutions in which you decide on the first day of January how you will be conducting your life for the next twelve months. Instead, set up day-to-day goals for yourself, and then resolve to begin living with present moment awareness for the rest of your life. When you get good at living your present moments one day at a time, you’ll see yourself changing right before your own surprised eyes. Remember, anyone can do anything for just one day, so tune out the sentences that keep you locked into your old self-defeating ways and begin to enjoy each day of your bright new year."

I have always liked to make Resolutions. For years I have stayed up until the New Year, taking stock of my past year and planning for the future. But, I have learned that the Future is a wily old scoundrel who sometimes has his way with us, no matter what we may plan. I have changed so much from the woman who started a little crafty blog, and wanted to share her thoughts about her happy, hectic life. I miss her so.