Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Whining child: "Mom, it looks like a Macy's Tree!"

When Dave and I merged our two families some 29 years ago, we bought a two story home with a pool, and large enough for four kids, two adults, a dog, some hamsters, and a cat. We had the modern day version of the Brady bunch, warts and all. We learned quickly that when you combine two families, there are a lot of steeped traditions that somehow have to be merged...and it can be very painful.

As a married adult, my artsy/creative nature pretty much ruled how my home would be decorated for the holidays. Because we didn't have a lot of money growing up, my grown-up aesthetic morphed into a rather glitzy, Pottery World-ish look and that love of "beautiful!" was reflected in my Christmas Trees every year.

Dave was used to the Christmas Tree traditions that he had established with his family - the kids hanging the ornaments, stringing the popcorn and paper garlands, tinsel...the whole works. So imagine their total horror when I announced the first year that I would decorate the tree. We had just bought a new sofa (remember "dusty rose"?) and so nothing but burgundy, rose and gold would do for the family tree.

"It looks like a Macy's tree, Mom."

"Yes, it does," I said smiling and thinking that they intended it as a compliment of sorts. 

But to my chagrin, the kids didn't like the massive 10 foot artificial tree bedecked in ribbons and gold.  I had a small fortune invested in it, and I must admit as I look at the old photos, it might have been a little garish. After that first Christmas, we reached a compromise: They would decorate the tree one year and then I would get to do it the next year. The funny thing was that as they got older, their attention span on decorating Christmas trees waned, and I would end up finishing the project anyway.

Over the years since they have all grown up and left home, I guess I'm stuck on "over-the-top" trees.  I alternate between my shamefully ridiculous supply of ornaments and decorations, so my tree never looks the same. And even though I try to cull my collection every January, the stack of boxes to go back into the garage never seems to get any smaller. Despite my love of Christmas in general, I will admit that the older I get, the more I dread putting it up. It stays up longer too, because the only thing I hate more than putting up the tree is taking it down.

This year, I went with the forest look, opting for berries, branches, snow and only a few beloved ornaments. I added the music ribbon because it goes with my sheet music wreath...and it just makes my heart sing. It may still be over-the-top, but what can I say? I guess I still love a "Macy's" tree!

In the end, it's not about the tree anyway. 
For me, Jesus is the reason for the Season. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, Feliz Navidad, 
Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice, etc. 
Whatever your tradition, share joy and peace with others.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Feeling Crafty...

What's with the late Thanksgiving Day this year? I should be up at the tree farm getting my pine boughs and wreaths and getting ready for Christmas.  But because this year's turkey day falls so late in the month, my internal holiday prep clock is all out of whack.  I want to start preparing for Christmas, but we haven't even thawed the turkey for Thanksgiving.

Here's the dilemma: My house is rather Southwest/Mediterranean in style - it can't make up it's mind if it wants to be decorated for the Cowgirl or the Tuscan wino in me.  Both personalities apply when it comes to my decorating style ( I think they call that eclectic).  Either way, the only time that I get to decorate with red (my favorite color) is at Christmas, so I impatiently wait for the Thanksgiving weekend so I can drag out all my red stuff.

Because we are having guests in from the East coast for a short visit before Thanksgiving, I guess that I will NOT start the Christmas decorating until next weekend. But in order to satisfy my holiday craving, I decided I could at least do a few crafty things for Christmas - and besides, don't pumpkins and poinsettias look pretty together???

Crafty Project No.1: A Wreath.  My great grandmother was evidently better at playing the piano than I am.  She had all kinds of sheet music, some of it dating back to WWI and WWII. My mother gave me a stack of her sheet music, much of which was deteriorating - we call that "vintage". I decided to make a paper cone wreath out of the pages that seemed less exciting - like the finger exercises books!

I cut the ragged edges from each page and rolled them into cones, affixing them with a hot glue gun.  When I had enough cones made I glued them onto a round piece of foam board.  I then made a second layer of cones that were slightly smaller and glued them on top of my first layer.

I used some black satin ribbon to make a hanger for the finished wreath and hung it in my living room near my grand piano. Note that I did succumb to my red Christmas fetish and brought out my red pillows for the love seat.

Crafty Project No. 2: A pillow to go with the wreath.  I had a small piece of fabric with musical notes on it. I decided I could add a poinsettia applique (in RED!!) on top of the music fabric. The finished pillow would coordinate with the new music wreath in to my little corner.

To make the poinsettia applique, I cut petal shapes out of a red and metallic tablecloth. I used a green print to add a couple of leaves for my flower. I appliqued each petal and the leaves onto the music background using a blanket stitch on my Viking.

Too cute...and it just set off the wreath on the wall behind.

Crafty Project No.3: A Table runner.  So back to Thanksgiving! My friend Micki wanted a Thanksgiving table runner for her very massive dining room table, and being the girl I am, I told her we could make one that would fit, knowing full well that the "we" is really just me.

She chose a gorgeous tapestry fabric and it had been sitting in my fabric closet for at least a month and a half.  Since Thanksgiving is next week, I thought perhaps she might like to actually have it for her dinner table.

Making a table runner involves simply cutting the fabric to the length you need and hemming it. Micki purchased half the length needed to fit her table.  I cut it lengthwise in half and matched the two pieces with a seam in the very center of the runner.  I serged the edges of the runner, turned them under and top stitched the hems.  (oh, and yes, I did miter the corners, but only because it was for her and not just for me! LOL!)

Looked great on my pool table...but I gave it to her this week!

I did have Dave drag all my plastic bins of Christmas decorations down from the attic...but they will wait patiently until next weekend...after Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Day

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Oh, just " wear something pretty!"

I could write for days on the mind-bending impact the word "pretty" has had on my life. It would involve telling tales on my feisty no-nonsense mother, a mere 88 years young and still smoking like a chimney...but I'll leave that for another day. Suffice it to say, me and Pretty have had our struggles. You would know that if you've been reading Laurel's Quill very long - I'm Pretty transparent.

The FabricLady and I are attending a regional group of sewing activists in Walnut Creek this weekend - having lunch and then talking about our adventures in making her fashion wardrobe. Our little dog and pony show will feature the garments we have made together, fabric from StoneMountain etc - a trunk show of sorts.  When I inquired as to the attire for the day in an email to Zan, I see her words "Wear something pretty!" jump from the page. No other information like where to meet, what we're going to talk about, what time, etc. made any difference to me... I couldn't get unstuck from Pretty.

Hmmmm...what does that mean? Pretty. My brain goes into panic mode immediately, as I mentally go through every dress, blouse, pants, belt, necklace, jacket, scarf and pair of shoes I own. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that I don't own Pretty, or that the FabricLady doesn't think I'm "all that and a bag of chips" - I'm just saying that the panic comes from a cold sweat realization that I'm packing a few extra pounds and my Pretty stuff may not be right for the occasion, and/or I can't get into it. It just doesn't feel right for one reason or another. And when I'm "up front" of people and talking, I have to FEEL right.

Colette: "Why not make something out of this fabric?"
Colette, barely clothed herself,  is over by the window giving me her two cents as I yank stuff out of my closet...

"Nope. That top is too summery - you're talking about Fall fashion. You'll freeze to death!"

"You can't wear those shoes - they're missing a heel and you will click when you walk!"

"Good Lord, Laurel, have you put on some weight or what - too much Boobage!"

"No jeans, Laurel. It's not a hoe-down!"

"Whoa, sister-wife! Save that puppy for the Goodwill bag!"

"Too night-clubby, hon."

An on and on went the pull-everything-out-of-the-closet frenzy in search of something Pretty. Complicating matters was the one criteria that mattered most: whatever I chose, it had to be something I actually designed and sewed. DUH!!!

Okay, Colette. Let's review some options:

I just made this cute Shape top out of a digital knit from France... but no sleeves...I'll get cold.

Or this very chic Marci Tilton jacket out of a rich woven wool I just finished...I love the fringe treatment...but I'll probably start hot flashing, so probably not the best choice for standing in front of a bunch of people you don't know...

I could wear this old standby...soft, comfortable, stylish...but hasn't everyone seen me in that??

Colette feels Pretty in silk, but it's a tad much for the event, don't ya think...

Here's another old standby....but I wouldn't call it Pretty...and besides, I've worn it with sweatpants in front of my cozy fireplace...sans the beads, of course.

I love this stretch silk top and noil crop pants...the fabric print is beautiful...but it still seems too summery...

I used to wear stuff like this when I lectured about 401k's...Pretty, but this is waaaaaayyy tooooooooooo corporate...

After all the frustration and clothes flinging subsided...
I found a sleek pair of black slacks that I haven't worn since I retired from that corporate gig...
I took my cute little black patent slingback heels to the shoe repair guy, 
Picked up a black turtleneck sweater at Ross,
Bought a little black beaded necklace at Charming Charlie's


when in doubt, went for the power dressing - anything in RED!!!!!!


Is there anything PRETTIER than a RED jacket????

Laurel. Yeah, Baby... Lock and Load!!!

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We Did It Wednesday

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Textile magic...

Living in the Sacramento area is the best of all worlds, if you're into California. We are a short drive away from two fantastic wine regions, a stone's throw from some fabulous shopping in the bay area, a few hours West to the ocean and less than two hours East through the incredible Sierra's to Lake Tahoe.

It's a great November weekend, and what better way to spend it than to do a little of everything.  Sacramento has a lively cultural and art scene, along with some of the best food in the state. We thought we'd start with taking in a little art at the Sacramento Art Festival, followed by dinner at The Press Bistro in midtown. Today we are headed to Amador County to pick up a wine release and then go see Ballroom with a Twist at Harris Theater tonight.

Back to the art festival...it was my first time attending this annual event at the Convention Center. I was a little worried that it might be too "crafty" for my liking, much less entertain my hubby, who has an aversion to the smell of potpourri, little white ducks, and bazillions of Christmas knickknack booths. But I knew if it was really bad, he would at least be able to sit and listen to blues over a draft beer in the designated "Husband Rest Area".

My wariness was totally unwarranted.  The exhibits were great...aisles and aisles of very talented artists using all manner of media. Some of the jewelry was incredible (I guess you CAN sell a $7K necklace at an art fair!) The metal and wood work was amazing, and the photography and paintings also very noteworthy.

But you know where I'm going with this, don't you. Yep, the TEXTILES...oh, the textiles! There were a host of sewists featuring very unique garment designs.  I recognized a fabric used for one jacket that I had in my own stash. I asked the designer where she got it and she responded "Stone Mountain in Berkeley". Well of course you did, hon.

But of all the talented exhibitors at the festival, two textile artists stood out. The first artist, in her words (from her website) "primarily paints on silk and incorporates collage, applique, and quilting techniques to enhance design, texture, and depth." Karel Hendee's work was magnificent - one piece featured all these tiny little individually appliqued aspen leaves, in silk, no less! So much painstaking work requires more patience than I have. There was an ethereal quality to her work...a softness that just made you want to "be" in the artwork. And I read on her website that she hails from Grass Valley (just a short drive away from Sacramento), so I can understand why she seems to be inspired by nature.

Karel puts out a calendar with her images and poetry that she writes...check out her website for more information.

Order Karel's calendar

I think it was about after ten minutes of chatting with textile artist Lisa Paige that my hubby decided it was time to go sit down and listen to some blues. Clearly, I was going to be there for a while. 

We chatted at length about her techniques and style, but I took these words from her website:

  "Sewing techniques include:  free motion quilting, applique, sculpted fabric, couching, thread painting, and needle felting. Additional embellishments are created with beading, fabric painting, metalwork, polymer clay, burning synthetics, and the occasional woodworking challenge!  Some pieces incorporate extra layers with embedded wire, which allows them to be somewhat sculpted, adding greater dimension to an otherwise flat wall piece.  My work features many curved design elements which impart a sense of movement; these are enhanced by the interaction of many layers and textures.  These techniques are accomplished with both machine and hand work."
What boggled my mind about her work was its technical precision juxtaposed to its free-spirited form. Every little seam, every couching stitch, every machined embellishment, every bead choice was perfectly exquisite! The perfectionist in me was totally outclassed by her technical genius. At the same time, the pieces were never overworked - classically simple, yet complex...many of them favoring an Asian influence.

If had had a large magnifying glass, I would have been up even more "up close and personal" to Lisa's stunning artwork. Every quilter, stitcher and needlework junkie I know would kill to be able to create masterpieces such those I saw yesterday. 


Balance III

It was such a joy to chat with Lisa.  Check out her website for more informtion about her and her upcoming shows. Like many of these artists, she exhibits at shows like the art festival frequently. I actually did that whole art show gig with my paintings back in the 70's, so I can speak from personal experience, it a lot of work! As much as I would have loved to purchase a piece from either of these two artists' works, we walked out with a beautiful little wood cutting board for the kitchen...way too practical, Laurel!

Laurel. Keep Art Alive!

Friday, November 1, 2013

I think that I shall never see...

...A poem as lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest 
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,  
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

by Joyce Kilmer

When I get old, I'm going to be a tree hugger.  I can already feel the draw. One morning while I was walking down the street in our neighborhood, I happened upon an elderly woman who had her arms wrapped around the trunk of a huge heritage oak on the roadside. I snickered to myself at the time, thinking the poor soul had lost her marbles.  As I approached her, she caught a glance of me, and quickly released the tree and walked off, not saying a word. A week later, the giant oak was brutally dismembered and chopped to the ground to make way for a power line.  I had to admit, it was tragic.

The hacienda is surrounded by giant redwoods. Though most of them are in my neighbors' adjoining yards, I nevertheless get to enjoy their great beauty. They make me smile and I am humbly reminded of their noble purpose here on our tiny piece of the universe. The air on this crisp November morning is magnificent, and I am thankful.

Good morning, sunshine...

Laurel. Feeling the quiet.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Colette deVil...

I'm not a big Halloween fan...never have been.  Maybe it hearkens back to the kids wanting me to make them a costume at 2:30 in the afternoon on October 30 for the next day. "Just be a hobo", I'd tell them.  Or a pirate...something easy that we could throw together. Truthfully, it's probably more about me not ever getting to go trick or treating...we lived in the country and it was five miles between any houses...sour grapes, probably.

Fast forward...I still don't get too excited about this day...until about 9:30 in the morning and all of a sudden I think of the kids and grand kids coming over for Trick or Treat. and how much they love this day.  And the race to make soup, cupcakes and decorate the courtyard is on!!!

Today, I decided that just because I don't dress up, doesn't mean that Colette can't. I wore a Cruella deVil outfit (I think it's Amy's) one year...she's so deliciously evil.

So.......... My mini-me "Colette deVil" is by the door waiting to give you candy!!! 
Drop by for some Corn chowder, a glass of wine and cupcakes! 

Leave your puppies home....MUUUAAAAAHH!!!!!!

Happy Halloween.  Be safe!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Life's Simple Pleasures...

Ni Hao Yall

It's Sunday morning...a beautiful crisp Fall day about to awake...looking back on my week, I am reminded that it is the simple things that give me pleasure...I see them through the lens of my ubiquitous iphone...

Shopping... for tart pans in Sur La Table...

For a Ruby port to go with a Marscarpone and Berry tart...

Afternoon baking of aforementioned Tart...

Sharing a meal with friends...

Driving to Tahoe, enjoying the aspen...

Celebrating a friend's special anniversary with dinner at Jake's...

Finishing a sweater...finally...

 Staying home with my hubby watching the Boys of Fall...

And just enjoying the changes in my yard...

The last roses of Fall...

Laurel. Enjoying the Simple Things.

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