Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The big present this holiday was a new cappucino/espresso machine. Woohoo! It has been more than a year without one, and we had really missed having one. We broke two stovetop espresso gizmos and were getting tired of the French Press coffee. I guess we are just coffee geeks.
But look what it makes: Love-a-cchino, automatically from the double spout .
My husband gave me this cup a few mornings ago and I saw the heart and went awwwww.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter Sky

I've been taking lots of pictures of the winter sky lately. Here are a few as I waited in the car in our driveway.
These were taken through the car window, so there is a slight reflection of my camera.

You can really see my camera in this one.

I think this is my favorite.

The clouds were really striking.

I think this is my favorite because of the bird on the telephone wire in the left lower corner.

This is better if you enlarge it. I love how the underlying shape of a tree is so starkly emphasized with the low winter light.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Planning Ahead

I'm choosing this as my guiding quote for the coming year:
"So I vowed to keep myself alive, but only if I would never use me again for just me - each one of us is born of two, and we really belong to each other. I vowed to do my own thinking, instead of trying to accommodate everyone else' opinion, credo's and theories. I vowed to apply my inventory of experiences to the solving of problems that affect everyone aboard planet Earth." ~ Buckminster Fuller (American Engineer, Inventor, Designer, Architect "Geodesic Dome")
In case you haven't heard of Buckminster Fuller, try here at the Institute named for him, or of course there is always Wikipedia.
A song to illustrate the quote above by Ben Harper backed by Jack Johnson (in a video made by a Portuguese speaker).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Arlee's Shifting Gears

Hip Hip Hooray, Corpse Mistress Arlee received her round two Exquisite Corpse back!
In round one, it went missing in the postal system, so after all her hard work in organizing all of us, she got zilch/bupkus to show for it. This one turned out spectacularly, mainly due to her super cool design, and chosen color scheme which she ever-so-wisely painted swatches of on the edge of the piece. Wow, brilliant eh?

So go see the whole piece here so you can experience the full-on spectacular results.
Here is how the piece looked when it arrived, non-regular sections, mysterious bits covered up already, and two sections available for me to work on. Note the color scheme paint swatches on the upper left. It was all so crinkly and interestingly textured under the mysterious covers.
The section I chose looked like this before I began. Shapes outlined, some painting already there, see the purple and copper?
Some of the beginning work with just black and purple fabrics.
Before any beading was done. I used a coppery metallic cotton, some black rayon, and purple cotton. The blue parts were painted in with Tsuinienko inks.
At the end, here is how my small part of it looks.
Either way you look at it, still interesting.
Gratuitous closeups of beading follow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

Here is how our Buddha statue looks by day, peeking out from behind the Christmas tree. I am quite moved by these pictures, the Buddha looks completely content (of course!) and perfectly placed there by the Christmas tree.
And the same view, but by night: And in some great Christmas decorating news, the missing box of favorite ornaments and the advent calendar the boys have used since forever turned up this Monday. It was in a very strange place in the very chaotic garage, "hidden in plain sight" shall we say? Anyhoo, Joy in Whoville when the boys caught up on hanging their little velcro ornaments on the advent calendar. What do you know, I've raised two sentimental teenaged boys. awwwww. And I was so glad to find all my PEACE ornaments and collection of stars. The tree looks much more decorated now, the pink pinecone isn't quite so lonely.
Sheesh, but where has this week gone? I messed up and forgot to get my 6 month bloodtest for my thyroid meds, and thus had been off them for almost a week now. It was amazing how quickly the crushing fatigue came back. Really, just like a day and half and I was back to how I was before I started that regimen. Finally got the meds yesterday afternoon and am feeling more myself again. Except for taking them in the late afternoon and then staying up til 2am (oops) making cookie dough. Ahem. I may need a nap before my parents show up for dinner today.

It was most definitely the wrong week to be curled up in a small ball all the time. But now I'm on a roll. But without the new holiday duds I'd been working on :(
Maybe next year, at least I'll have a head start on them.
We celebrate them all that we have a legit connection to (ie, not Eid or Kwanzaa, wouldn't feel right), Solstice, a secular Christmas and a secular Hanukkah. Respectful, and fun celebrations and a bit of contemplation are the order of the day around our home.
As you can imagine, it makes for a very festive month and lots of interesting conversations among our family members and with our friends and relatives about what these various holidays really mean to all us. Humankind's Quest for Meaning writ small in our little circle.
Hope your celebrations today, or earlier this week or later this month are fabulous and filled with joy!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Raven's Wings

I received the final Exquisite Corpse to work on, only one square was remaining in the design. The originating artist, Elizabeth informed us that this was an image of ravens and to make them black. You must go see the entire image, it is my favorite of all, so far.

At first I was stumped on how to do black only! Then I started pulling different types of fabric that I had around that were black. I ended up using the scraps from making my husband's Snidely Whiplash cape, which were a shiny satin and a matte crepe. Those worked pretty well together.
I sewed them on dimensionally, folding in half, sewing down and attaching only one side to create the illusion of feathers. I also couched on top a black ribbon yarn.

Then there was the beading. I used a lot of my black bead stash, and then the background looked a bit bare. So I began stitching on some red or gold beads that went with the painted base fabric. To make the jump between beads I started sewing x's, and I really like how it looks, it pulls together the raven wing and the background. Plus the nymo beading thread is shiny and pretty.

A closeup view of the wingtips where you can see the couching and dimensionality of the wings.
Oh, and the beads.

I guess I like closeups.
Oh why not, another closeup.
The final piece, without flash.
The final piece with flash.

Friday, December 19, 2008

This Years' Gift Bags

I've always loved wrapping gifts, it was my first paid job that I ever held, gift wrapper at the mall. And I do still use purchased Christmas wrapping for a lot of my gifts, but I'm trying to transition over to utilizing methods that are recyclable or reusable. Thinking of all that paper used and then thrown away seems so wasteful and extravagant. I've found that purchased gift bags can last a long time if you pack them away for storage neatly. There are about 15 or 20 of these that we use and pass back and forth in our family. One year I bought a bunch and so did my mom, so we've been using the same group for several years now. Admittedly they start to look a bit tatty after a few uses, but it is fun to see the same ones, almost an expected part of the decorations. But with the gift bags, you still need to at least wrap the gift in some paper covering, otherwise peeking is just too easy.
So one solution is using a fabric gift bag. No paper required, and very durable, and in most cases washable. Sure they are floppy and casusal looking, but you know what, so am I!
Every year I make a new batch of fabric gift bags for Christmas gifts. Some of which come back to me, to be reused, some that do not. I hope they get reused by whomever ends up with them, but who knows, right? This is a bunch of the new ones. I don't measure anything or use a pattern, just eyeball the gift that I'm planning to be contained, and add a little extra.

Crazy holiday cats, they all have such goofy expressions. Can you imagine trying to get a coat, hat and scarf on your cat? Hah! You'd have to come visit me in the hospital if I tried it I think.

This one is for a sports loving guy. The Santa print is from a panel print that had Santa Sports boxers. I pieced some strips around it to make it big enough to contain the gift.

This one I made the top differently, making a double stitched channel for the ribbon, leaving a collar at the top. I think it looks a little fancier, although it uses a bit more fabric. But, hey it is a gift right? Be extravagant, besides I bought this fabric on major big time post-holiday sale. Which reminds me, after I made these bags, I'm almost out of holiday fabric, better get some at the upcoming sales for next year...

I like choosing a ribbon color that contrasts a bit, makes it easier when opening gifts in low lit rooms. I use an embroidery stitch of bells or stars to nail down the top hem, it is subtle, but I like how it make the finished bag look, it adds a bit more subtle decoration.
This one was for a smaller gift, and I felt like making something new up instead of just the usual bag. I had some leftovers from cutting out curvy bits for the holiday vest I'm making myself, so I took one that was already a nice shape, did a bunch of stitching on it with some quilt batting underneath, made a facing, sewed it on right sides together, turned it right sides out, made a "hinge" and sewed that to the top of the bag. Then for a closure I used a button with a ribbon stitched on loop.

How about you? What's your favorite wrapping solution?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another Exquisite Corpse Revealed

Donna's Exquisite Corpse from round two has been revealed, go see the whole thing here. This is the square that I worked on.
A closeup of the beading that I did.

And this is the original version which I did without noting the color scheme that she'd requested. It wasn't written on the piece, but was on an online list which I'd neglected to check before beginning work. Luckily the artist I was sending to, Elizabeth, noticed the wrong colors peeking out from my covered up completed square and sent it back to me.

I got to pick out allllll this machine embroidery stitching. Hopefully the stabilizer I put on the back will keep the revised square together ok for Donna!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ye Olde Holiday Meme

A very fun holiday meme, coming to you courtesy of Diane at Going to Pieces.

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate please, especially with whipped cream on top. I do like eggnog, but it sometimes makes me queasy when I think of what it is made with.

Does Santa wrap presents or set them under the tree? Santa always wraps presents, no matter how big or small they are (except for the chair that one year), in wrapping paper different from the regular presents. And the presents are set near the stockings, not under the tree.

Colored lights on tree or white? Definitely colored, white lights just seem like something you could use anytime of year. This year we have three strands of the new LED lights, I'm not sure I like how they look compared to the usual kind, not as sparkly. But I know I'm saving a lot of energy and can have them on more!

When do you put your decorations up? I usually like to decorate on my birthday (December 1st), but if it doesn't happen then, then at least within the first two weeks of December. If I get them up too late, then it is harder to get into the swing of the holiday spirit, and also my family won't let me take them down until the middle of January!What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? It is hard to pick one, because we're always mixing up the menus on Christmas. I'd have to say I truly enjoyed the cioppino we made a couple years ago, it was restaurant quality, it was swoon-worthy. I think we'll make that this year for Christmas Eve dinner.
When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I think I was around 8 or 9, and soemone at school told me. I was really upset and worried until I talked to my mom, who told me the big secret was now I get to make the magic happen for my little brother. What do you know? It worked, I thought that was just great. I know people worry about telling this deliberate lie to their children, but it really is a great thing to learn that your parents=Santa Claus. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes, we open all our gifts to each other on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning we open whatever Santa brings us. Santa usually brings stuff that parents wouldn't normally give.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? We have lots of different ornaments, from my childhood, ones that the boys have made, I've been collecting stars and the word "PEACE". Some gold garland, and a gold star on top. I used to love putting the silvery "icicles" on, but once we got cats who liked to eat them, we had to stop using them. Snow! Love it or Dread it? I suppose I love it, since I have to go visit someplace else to find some, so it is a treat. I think if I lived in a place where it snowed every winter, I'd dread it.
Can you ice skate? Yes, but I haven't in a really looooong time. I remember how much it would make my ankles hurt compared to roller skating.
Do you remember your favorite gift? I think that would be my very first 110 Camera. I was so excited about it, to have my very own camera. Then we went to Disneyland right afterwards and I took all kinds of crazy pictures.
What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Seeing family, spending time just being together, giving presents and cooking good food that we never take the time to make.
What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Almond Trees made with the Mirro Cookie Press tree shape and topped with round teeny sprinkles. Don't let them overcook!
Christmas trees
1- 12 min @ 375
1 c shortening
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
2 1/4 c sifted flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bkg powder
1 tsp almond extract
Green vegetable coloring
Multi Colored Round Small Sprinkles

Cream shortening adding sugar gradually. add unbeaten egg, sifted dry ingredients, flavoring, and a few drops of vegetable coloring, mixing well. Fill cookie press, press out cookies, decorate with sprinkles. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets. Use the tree plate. yield 6 doz.

What is your favorite tradition? Making a gingerbread house with my boys and then we all participate in destroying it for dessert.
Which do you prefer, Giving or Receiving? Giving. I love to see if I've chosen a present that the person really truly enjoys receiving.
What is your favorite Christmas Song? The one that I love for its contemporary interpretation of the story of Christmas is Dave Matthews' "Christmas Song".

Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Oh yum! Especially if you use it to stir your hot chocolate (see question #1 above).

Ever recycled a Christmas present? Nope, not yet, but I''ll be honest and admit that I've been tempted.
How about you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seminal Seussical

I finally took some pictures at the closing performance of my son's middle school drama class production of Seussical. Here is what the stage looked like as the show begins. We now have two of the trees at home, the boys are setting them up in their rooms. They're covered in fake fur (very sheddy and messy).
Here are the Sneetches and the Bird Girls, with Horton the Elephant in the middle. It was very hard to take pictures without flash, as the performers are moving around so much. So this one is fairly un-blurry.

Here's another shot of the BirdGirls in the center. Pretty colorful huh? I hope they can re-use the costumes for another production, most of the bloomers were plain white skirts used in two previous shows.
This was my first experience helping with costuming in any performance. I've done some backdrop/scenery stuff before, but this was different. As I think about it, I have to say it was a genuine thrill the first time I saw a stage filled with 20 performers wearing stuff I'd dyed. Usually I'm the only one wearing my dyed stuff, and I don't look at myself all that often. So it was fun and rewarding to see my work out there getting used and enjoyed by so many others.