Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lunchbox Napkins

Two sets of colorful napkins for two children. . . for each day of the school week. . . yes, I have made "day of the week" lunchbox napkins!

Don't ask me what prompted me to do this. We have plenty of cloth napkins, and we have been using them this year even in school and work lunchboxes. It may have been the bright Kona cotton solids on sale for half off at the beginning of January. It may have been the reason to try one of Amy Karol's fabric decorating ideas. It gave me an excellent excuse to practice using some of the decorative stitches on my inherited Pfaff Hobbymatic 955. But most of all, it was the desire to make the daily chore of packing lunchboxes a little brighter and give my children a colorful reminder of home.

It was a gratifying project that took four weekends:
  • one weekend to buy the fabric, wash it, and iron it
  • one weekend to cut the fabric (using the size guidelines and instructions here) and let the children pick out their color combinations
  • one weekend to apply the bleach pen to the top fabric and re-wash it (spelling out the day of the week on one edge and the children's names on the other edges of the napkin)
  • and this weekend to put the napkins together, sew them, and try out the fancy stitches.
The bleach pen took a little practice, and I would be more careful next time about applying enough to make my lettering bolder and more consistent. None of the local craft stores in town had the metal, precision tip (discovered after an afternoon of searching), so I ordered it from Joann Fabric and Craft Stores. I messed up several times trying out the decorative stitches on the sewing machine, but I learned several things by trial and error that will help me next time I want to use these. For the decorative borders, I used bright blue thread for my son and bright pink thread for my daughter so that we can easily tell the napkins apart when putting them away.

I think this project would make a sweet gift for anyone who mostly takes their lunch to work or school each day. It was the perfect way to spend a cold and slightly snowy day.

P.S. As reported by my 10-year-old daughter, taking cloth napkins to elementary school in Mississippi is just a little counter-cultural. When her friends asked her why she had fabric in her lunch box, she explained about global warming and reducing waste. I love that she tells me about conversations like this. Who knows, maybe we'll start a new trend!

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Sacred Space

This little space in my house makes me happy every time I see it-- especially when the afternoon sunlight shines through the front door windows or when the lamplight glows on the golden walls. Lately, I have been thinking of it as a small, home altar or prayer table.

In my "sacred space" right now:

1) A bowl of yarn: The beautiful bowl was made by a potter from West Point, Mississippi, and given to us by the first church my husband served as a priest. The yarn is a mixture of stuff-- dishcloth cotton, Kool-aid dyed wool done by me two summers ago, and scraps from various projects. Most people who know me well know that I like to knit. Knitting is creative, peaceful (unless you are learning to knit something new and difficult), beautiful, and useful.

2) A hand-knitted textile: comprised by me of 4 log cabin squares put together to resemble a cross. This was an early experiment with log-cabin techniques. Log cabin textiles remind me of labyrinths.

3) A glass cross: made by an artist/friend with whom I taught last year. It makes me think of creativity, spirit, vibrancy, and enthusiasm.

4) A prayer card: made by my son in Catechesis last week featuring the best hand-writing I've ever seen him do. It says: "Dear God, reveal yourself to me again today. Help me to see you clearly, to hear your message willingly, and to share you word with generosity. Amen."

5) A Christmas card: seen in the background of a random Flickr photo last year and purchased by me because I liked it so much. For me, it symbolizes all of the wonderful women friends I love and treasure-- young and old-- past and present.

6) A stack of books: Well, I am a librarian!

P.S. Aesthetically, I like the play of bright colors in these objects against the golden background of the wall, sunlight, and wood. I also like photographs that accidentally capture the photographer through a mirror, window or water reflection, or shadow.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Creating Space

The breaking water lines in this fair city gave my children and me an entire week of time off from school. Yes, some of it will have to be made up later, but I found the extra time just what I needed when I needed it. It allowed me to do some organizing and cleaning out. The cleaning out, in turn, helped me conceive this little corner of space as a spot just for me to work on some special projects-- a room of my own-- a corner of my own.

Above is the view from behind my corner-- the foyer space.

Below is the view from the chair (wearing my recently made pajamas). I can sit with my notebook or my netbook and look out of the nearby window.

On my little table, I have the things nearby that I need: a place for some hot tea, pencils, paper, books to read and consult, and a lamp.

Probably even more difficult than creating a physical space, however, is finding the creative space and time needed to work. It is so easy to let almost everything else get in the way. Thankfully, bi-weekly meetings with a critique partner are helping me construct blocks of time in which to work. This week, I might not have even made one hour for my project except that I knew I had a meeting scheduled on the calendar. Time is available even when it seems scarce, if I take hold of it, shape it, and sit with it.

Now I have everything I need. . . some ideas, a corner for reading, working, writing, and thinking, and time. Wait a minute! A corner of my own? Well, except for those two gray cats (looking out the window), and their company is welcome.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Boil Water Alert

Yes, I can boil water and have some tea on this cold morning when the children are unexpectedly out of school because of bursting water pipes all over the city. The day ahead looks very different with them at home than it did with a day of working at home alone.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sew Lazy

I'm sew lazy today that I don't even have a photo to go with this post-- unusual for me. I have been sewing all day. The only thing extra that I have done was to host a friend's child for a play-date with my son. That venture doesn't really count, however, because it didn't require any extra effort from me. The boys played together "seamlessly," and my daughter made them macaroni and cheese for lunch.

I've made 4 French-seamed pillowcases for each member of the family out of flannel in beautiful prints appropriate for each person. This project arose from my daughter's request for "New Year's" pillowcases to replace the very soft and cozy Christmas pillowcases that needed to be put away for next year. I'm proud to say that my sewing skills have improved since I made the Christmas pillowcases last year. The New Year's pillowcases are much better.

I have e-mails to which I need to respond.

I have financial stuff that needs attention.

I have thank-you notes to write.

I always have some organizing and cleaning to do.

I always have books that beckon my eyes.

But I chose to sew all day, and it was a blast. Not only did I make the pillowcases, but I also made a baby blanket (almost finished) for a needed gift. In the late afternoon, my daughter and I freezer-paper stenciled some Valentine's Day gifts. Shhhhh. . . .don't tell!

P.S. I couldn't post without a photo or three. Here are the prints for each bedroom's new pillowcases. Can you tell which print goes with which bedroom?

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

12th Night

One last image of Christmas on this "12th night" . . .

Our advent wreath from McCartys Pottery was a wedding gift. I love its simplicity. It takes a while for us to burn down all of our advent candles, and I don't like saving them for next year or throwing them away. It serves as the centerpiece for our kitchen table where we eat most of our daily meals, but we only light the candles in the wreath when all of us are together-- which is not every night of the week. Tonight, the center candle is the last one to burn down on this cold, cold winter night.

But these words from Howard Thurman burn bright. . .

"When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart."

I say "Amen" to this.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tearing Down the House

I haven't blogged in a few days because, frankly, I've been avoiding the new year. I haven't been ready to make resolutions. I haven't been ready to return to work and school. I haven't been ready to let go of Christmas and the wonderful freedom this holiday has given me to spend time with my family and work on fun, creative projects like sewing doll clothes and pajamas (also wearing those pajamas a lot).

Yesterday, we took down the tree. This morning, I let the children dismantle and partake of the beautiful gingerbread house that was a gift from their grandparents. We are burning down the candles from the advent wreath until nothing is left. The children rehearsed for the Epiphany play today after church. Just as we eased into Christmas, we will ease out of it a little at a time.

I'm easing into 2010, too. My resolutions have come to me gradually in little epiphany moments here and there over the last few days. On a cold, afternoon walk with my daughter on New Year's Day, I realized that I need to let go of her endeavors a little so that she can assume more responsibility for her own work and dreams. Practically, this means I won't suggest to her that she should be practicing piano or start working on her sketch assignment for the week. She will need to budget her time and find out what works for her. In the last few years, I've given her sufficient examples of planning, process, and steady work. At 10, I think she is ready to manage her own activities and school work.

On this same walk, I had a strong memory of taking a New Year's walk with my mother over 20 years ago. We had walked out of town into the country down a road that changed from pavement to dirt. A cold front hit when we were several miles from home, and we were not prepared with adequate clothing. Sleet came down on our unprotected hands, ears, and faces. We had to stop every few minutes to warm our hands under our shirts. I'm not sure why someone didn't come to rescue us, but we did make it home and were able to laugh about our misfortunes and adventures.

In the new year, I would like to spend some time with memories like this-- maybe writing some of them down. I also have two other writing projects that I need to make some slow and steady progress on. Thank goodness I have a writing partner and mentor to help keep me accountable. To free up some time and energy, I may blog a little less and write a little more.

The "tearing down the house" metaphor for this post also applies to some cleaning out around this house. Needing attention are drawers, files, closets, and boxes still unpacked from the last move.

Finally, I want to finish some sewing and knitting projects that are in limbo land, and I want to work on a real quilt!

Happy New Year. It is time to start building a new one.

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