Saturday, December 20, 2008

Small Accomplishments-Big Happy

Good night.
We had a wonderful time at my cousin's birthday party, and even though we got home at 11 p.m., I stayed up to start another cubic yard of laundry, load and start the dishwasher, clear the dining table, take out the garbage and remove 1 surface layer of accumulated debris treasures. And I want to remember that today was good... that a little effort counts, that I would still rather work on another quilt than scrub grout or curl my eyelashes, and that my children are a joy. I want to remember that in spite of stress and uphill climbs, there are moments, hours, and days that I would not trade for anything. I think I may be a bit intoxicated... I took in quite a bit of laughter, some tamales, a little cake, and a lot of family time.

Good night.

Friday, December 19, 2008


We have mice!
It's our own fault. We actually invited them in and we've been having a lot of fun with them. The cats like them even better, especially after they've been bouncing around in the catmint. A few mouses in the house is alright, as long as they don't mind being batted around, tossed and pawed, but I'll be sending the rest away.

I dreamed them up and could not wait to stitch them together. Maria loves to help me plunder the scrap pile, choosing the mousiest prints. I cut and sew and she turns them right side out.

Together we stuff the hungry mice with plenty of fluff. As I stitch their ends shut, Maria chooses and cuts yarn for their tails.

We've been so amused with ourselves and our mouse factory. When they are finished we toss them in to the nest, where they scurry around in the organic catmint, and that's when we have to keep an eye out for Chango and Benjamin! The kitties play blissfully and wildly with their new found friends.

This may finally be a sewing project I could make a tutorial for. It's easy-peasy, lemon squeezey.


While I am here, trying to accomplish all of my elf duties and pleasures, some of you are performing actual holiday miracles... creative and generous! I am at a loss for words, but of course I am going to try and say something here... My children see these packages coming in and they join me in awe. We are amazed and delighted, and we marvel at the talent and kindness of our friends. We have friends all over the planet, many of whom we have never even met in person. Thank you! Thank you for thinking of us. Thank you for your comments on Chickenblog, for sharing your encouragement and thoughts. Thank you for making the time to connect with us. Thank you for making bears and purses, aprons and doll quilts, pincushions and needle books, earrings and necklaces and more. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us... these amazing reflections of your time and skill. Throughout the year we are blessed by kindness that is sweet and unexpected. Amazing.

Last night the children discovered a new delivery of Christmas cheer, in the form of a package from Chapter III. Lesley recently posted about making coasters and I was happy to recall the red fabric she was looking for when we were at a quilt show together. She's made these gorgeous mini quilts, coasters, and she sent us a ribboned bundle. She really raises the bar with these. They are so nicely made and so lovely to look at and hold.

Wait... is that a...?
Yes, my friends know me well!

Lesley also sent us Winter provisions... chocolate! I have had these chocolates once before and I know they are exceptional. William, Alex, Max, Maria and I gasped simultaneously when we saw the box and I immediately declared this box sacred. Too precious for immediate inhaling or hasty consumption. We are going to wait for everyone to be home. For the house to be semi-clean, for a fire in the fireplace, Ave Maria playing on the boombox, candlelight and everyone bathed and lovely... then, and only then, will we reverently and solemnly share this very delicious gift.

I almost wish I were home alone when the box came, but truthfully, I believe good things are even better shared.

In the meantime they ask to smell the chocolates.
I am so nice to oblige them.

Yes, unusual, unexpected and delicious.... even just to smell. We'll post a post chocolate summary soon

Thank you Lesley!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Baking, Making and Thanking

Did you hear that?
That was the sound of the days whizzing by.
It may have also been the sound of the rivers rushing by our home as we begin to dry out from some rather impressive storms.
Lake Garage Mahal is as high as ever!
The chicas added water waders to their Santa lists.

Holly and Rich opened there home up for high production cookie decorating. They had everything in order and ready for us when we went over last week. Every color of frosting was represented and all kinds of sprinkles and fancy tips. I think Izzy and Maria were at the longest... reveling in creative, frosted abandon.

Yes, there were classic shapes, like trees and stars, but Max was drawn to the Christmas rhino. He brought back the once extinct chocolate rhino... of course how long do we expect a chocolate rhino to last in the wild?

Nick and Izzy, Tutu, Maria and Rich... we all took turns laying on sweet layers.

Even with traditional shapes, Alex find creative expression. Tasty expression.

Aloha! I was sentimentally decorating an Island lady, resplendent in her floral muumuu. Holly and I did not compare notes or coordinate, but we were still in synch. It's true aloha between these 2 sweet beachcombers.

Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments and feedback about the aloha memory quilt. My pride was more about relief in having completed it, but all of your praise helped me appreciate the success of it... it is pretty! You should see it now... Ruth gave it the place of honor on her beautiful pineapple bed. It's a perfect fit. The size is right and the colors fit too, matching the window treatments and the family braided rug on the wood floor.

I know I've mentioned these before, but I have to share more! They aren't necessarily easy to make, but they are very satisfying and fun... simply because it looks so cool when it's done.

It's fun to choose and coordinate the fabrics, then to fill each slim pocket. And next comes waiting to see what the children will think of them. I realize markers and pencils cannot always find their way home, but I think having a nice place to go will help the clean up process.

Sewing, baking, and lots of driving south and north and around and around, and crocheting.

I know I have been modest about my yarn mania. Honestly, I am limited in my skills, but I have been highly productive. All my girlfriends got hand crocheted and comfy-soft face cloths and lovely bars of homemade soap... the suds came thanks to my talented sister-in-law, Gretchen. There are hats and scarves everywhere. I've sent some off to parts east and north, and I am still hooked! I have got to find a friend to sit by my side and teach me how to ripple! I would love to be as Cozy as a Posie!

First Tami surprised me by sharing her color wrap pattern, and that felt like an early Christmas. Well, the surprises keep arriving, and it's awesome! Just look at what came from Mamasparks... now why would anyone think to send me a cute little chicky bag?! You may recall that Mamasparks is the amazing quilter and thoughtful friend that made and sent Blue Aloha... I feel I've hardly begun to thank her for that kindness, and now she is at it again. Maria and I had such a happy giggle about this purse. It's like a bit of origami... folding and opening to reveal 3 separate pockets. Pam, it's beautiful, and so is the clever pocket purse... am I guessing correctly that it could keep sewing needles? Thank you Mamasparks, and by the way, Maria wants me to start right away on the chicken quilt... lol!

"Fresh Eggs." Fresh eggs on my new bag and in our kitchen, all thanks to Lady Betty Orpington. If there were a reasonable way to share them, I would bring some to Pam and some more to Jennifer. It would be a heartfelt gesture of thanks for the love they have been sharing with our family.

At her blog, "Infinity More Monkeys," Jennifer posted about her handmade holiday efforts. Our family received an entire family, a clan? of her beautiful polar bears. Each of us has a bear to represent us on our Christmas tree. It makes me almost glad that we can't access our old ornaments, because these wooly friends are perfect on our little tree and they deserve center stage. Thank you Jennifer, for the bears and the music CD, for being so close and dear, even from afar.

Yes, the days are whizzing by. Not everything is done. I doubt it ever will be, but I feel blessed and hopeful, even in the midst of the frenzy. I think the holidays can be crazy, but the craziness is good when tempered with good friends, and moments spent in quiet contemplation of all that is sacred and uplifting. The fun has begun and there's more to come, as the boys will soon be out of school.

Ahhh... a break in the clouds and a chance to feel the warmth of the sun. Whoosh! Here we go!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Made With Aloha

I miss Kalopa. I miss Jim. I miss the dreams and plans that Geoff and I were trying to fulfill there, with Ruth and Jim. I miss an almost infinite number of little details that fit in between those thoughts and feelings... like plumeria fragrant breezes, and the sight of Jim, Corm, making repairs on his rugs or preparing to ride his bicycle to work, the incredible sense of belonging Geoff and I felt when we were in Hawaii. I still cannot come to terms with all that we lost last February. It has been a hard year, or more... just too many sad losses.

Ruth gave us Corm's aloha shirts, favorite ones that I imagine she could not bear to part with or, at the time, to see. In fact, none of us can look at these shirts and not think of him... him tending his orchids or reading a Jane Austen novel, Jim cooking turkey burgers or watching rainbows from the house he built, sipping port, embracing his beautiful wife. I can hear him... like a teenager with a crush, like a man with certain passion, talking about Ruth. He would tell me how he adored her and needed her, how he loved her with all his heart. He lived that way, fully, with his body, mind and spirit engaged and purposeful. Weren't we fortunate to be a part of his life, to enjoy his lively discussions and share in his journey... yes, we were.

Jim's shirts were a size too small for Geoff to wear, and the boys might have fit in them, but it became obvious to me and Geoff that they were and always will be Grandpa Corm's aloha shirts and we didn't want it to be any other way. So what do you do with beautiful shirts, shirts that are a powerful remembrance of a good man, a man that studied sailing and woodcarving, music and Buddhism? I knew almost immediately what I could try to do.

From the moment I decided to make a quilt using Corm's shirts I was embarking on a journey... a journey that I may never be able to fully describe. Designing and planning took months, and when I finally made the first cut, I had no plan at all, except to try and make something dignified and beautiful, something to honor his memory, a quilt to comfort us and to symbolize the love and passion he shared with us... I cried every time I worked on it, and at first I could hardly make any progress at all, because the emotions would overwhelm me.

It was a meditation and a prayer, and I let the fabric show me the plan. Blue and rose shirts made a balance of color and feeling. I centered those squares. Hawaiian shirts often use either the bright side or the faded sided of the fabric, another vision of balance, and so I chose to use both the faded print and the bright print in the design.

And every time I thought my plan was going to fall short, run out of fabric or be poorly constructed, I found what I needed. Maria was by my side for most of the work, and she cut scraps, sitting in her chair next to mine. Once or twice I had to retrieve those scraps that I would need after all. She called it Grandpa's Quilt... it will always be Grandpa's Quilt.

Working in the garage, with a 3 year old to help, crying every time I thought about why I was making this quilt and trying to make order out of pieces and bits... some times, many times, it felt like an impossible journey.

I would go back to my books and other quilt designs.

And some days I would take a break... breaks that could last for weeks.

Then it began to take shape. I made enough squares. I added more squares, as a design began to show itself.

I do love quilting, but I cannot say which part is an actual pleasure. It can feel insurmountable one day, then ridiculous the next. Planning is nerve wrecking. Cutting is frustrating. Pinning and basting... yeesh! Maybe I like the actual quilting part best, but my poor fingers would protest. And when it feels like it will never be done, I still can't help but imagine being wrapped up in it, and planning the next one!

I left some elements of the shirt in the quilt, and by this time I knew that I would hand quilt it, even though it was going to be a big undertaking.

Geoff helped me pin the 3 layers together. I love that everyone helped in some way or another. The boys each gave me helpful feedback about the layout and design, and they offered their encouragement and praise. And working with Geoff by my side, placing all of those pins... that was very nice.

A basted quilt is like seeing the finish line. By the time it was ready to be quilted I was feeling relieved and grateful. I could see that my idea was going to work. Geoff thought I was a bit nuts to still be thinking of hand quilting, but those stitches and doing my best seemed like an important part of the journey. Corm did his best... his work, his love, his way of living was about dedication and steadfastness... I could not expect less of myself for his quilt.

I stitched a unique motif in each square. The upper corner squares are pockets. The green and rose aloha shirt was one Geoff used to wear... we like the idea of Geoff's old shirt keeping company with Corm's and the color balance worked out nicely. Even the binding is cut from a shirt. The sashing is new fabric... a little blue aloha.

We gave the quilt to Ruth. I know it evokes strong emotions. I know it's still difficult to... to even say what we are feeling... I hope some day to find the words to express all the love, sadness, joy, gratitude, pain and healing that were part of me and this journey... in the meantime, Grandpa's Quilt speaks for me.