Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Patchwork Wing Chair Tonight

It's been awhile since I wrote about the wing chair I'm redoing.  This week marks the first work I've done on it since late last summer.  I had ordered a piece of vintage green chenille on etsy in August to use as a seat cover, but the green was so pale it looked white, so that put the seat on-hold, and I've yet to find another fabric for it that really wows me.  Around the same time, I ordered a pink upholstery trim to use as faux piping along the chair's cushion and/or edges, but when it arrived, it was hot pink/fuschia (one of the few colors I don't like) instead of the pale pink I'd thought I'd bought, so the piping part of the project was put on-hold too.  One of the successful finds for the chair last summer was this vintage green Holly Hobbie fabric I'm using on the outside of the chair's wings. 
A real collector of this treasured character from my childhood would probably know the name of the fabric right away, if fabrics were even named in the 1970s and 1980s, but to me, it's just Holly-Hobbie-Preparing-for-a-Birthday-Party.  The print is so dear:  It depicts Holly Hobbie and friends/family baking a cake, making a list, looking at the cake, sitting beside each other with both a cat and a stack of wrapped presents at their feet, drinking cups of tea together, holding balloons, and washing dishes.  Ahhhhhhhhhh!  I love this material.  It would make the sweetest birthday party tablecloth.  Maybe someday I'll find more and have a go at that. (If any of you are as smitten as I am, a pillowcase made of the same material--but with a pink background--is currently listed on etsy as I write this, and unless someone uses the "Buy It Now" feature before you have a chance to, an eBay search for "Holly Hobbie birthday tea party fabric" tonight will lead you to the same fabric in a gorgeous blue.  I think the blue is the most striking, but the green matches my chair better.)  Like the character whose name I pronounced "Hobbly Hobbly" as a kid, this fabric has stolen my heart. 
I need to do a real patch-job at the top of the wing above since I cut the fabric a bit too short in one spot instead of following the wing's curve properly, but at least with this style, an extra patch will hardly stand out.  :)  The chair's main patchwork (the back-rest section) started to look too cutesy to me last August, and the Old English Sheepdog patch I'd made for it was the one that bothered me most.  Kent of the Spring Bulbs kindly gifted me with a yard or so of Sheepdog fabric last summer, and I've since used it to start both a new patch and the chair's skirt/dust ruffle. 
The new Sheepdog patch is so far a cotton batting-filled dog that I'll sew to another fabric square and then sew and hot-glue into place. 
The space between the chair's arm-rests and skirt/dust ruffle is the same pretty pink roses fabric I used on the mantel wall, "Barefoot Roses" by Tanya Whelan.  I see now that I should have ironed it before adding it to the chair, but I've done stranger things than iron the side of a chair, so I'll add that to today's to-do list.
The skirt/dust ruffle is going to be made of the Sheepdog fabric and sections of an old green check Daffodil tablecloth I found on eBay years ago and have never used.  It's too small and not the right shape for my table, but it was too sweet to pass up--it screamed "Val" with its green gingham and giant appliquéd Daffodils in each of its four corners--and I knew I'd eventually find a project for it.  In 2011, it was the backdrop for the photo I used for Mike's and my wedding announcement photo-card, with our first "married" picture and my bridal bouquet on top. 
This week, it's permanently taken its place along the bottom of this most beloved chair in our home. 
The cut-out flowers along the chair's side and skirt were a late-breaking idea the other night.  I only recently discovered designer Vicky Trainor's lovely blog, "The Linen Garden," and as soon as I saw her projects adorned with floral fabric cuttings, I wanted to cover everything I owned with flowers (even moreso than usual).  This post of hers was the one that wooed me into adding these fabric cut-outs to the chair.  How darling!  Following her beautiful example, I blissfully snipped flowers while watching Marie Antoinette (also gorgeous, probably the prettiest movie I've ever seen) Monday night and have been arranging and rearranging flowers against the chair ever since. 
Almost all the flowers between the Sheepdog panel and green check panel below are only there temporarily as I want to be happy with how they're arranged before I hot-glue them into place.  I'm planning to attach trails of the fabric flowers along all four sides of the chair, and the very first photo at the top of this post shows what the chair actually looks like right now, so I do have quite a bit of work ahead of me here.  It is such happy work, though, and it's been the perfect project to delve back into in this dreary below-zero-temperature January. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Another Favorite Christmas Gift

These beautiful fingerless gloves arrived wrapped in a pink ribbon a few days after Christmas, a handmade gift from Lisa.  They're similar to a few I've had on my etsy "favorites" wish list for a long time, which made the unexpected gift even more of a treat.    They're cozy to wear, one of my favorite colors, and made of a variegated yarn for a pretty effect.  The braid along the cuffs and ends is such a sweet detail too. 
This is just the kind of thing I hope to create when I learn how to knit and/or crochet.  After rereading some of Lisa's old blog posts,  I think this pattern she has referred to before must be the one for these. She says they're not that difficult to make, so I've bookmarked the pattern page for the future.  I just love these.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. ~ Neil Gaiman

Tonight is Camera-Learning Night here.  Mike bought me a (pink!) digital camera for Christmas, and I haven't had enough free time before today to sit down with it and figure it out.  I've taken almost every picture since 2007 with the camera on either his phone or mine and decided last fall that it was time to learn to use a real camera.  Mike's phone takes great pictures, but unless he's home with me at the time I want to photograph something, pictures don't happen.  And my own phone is an old flip-phone from 2007, so every now and then, I get lucky with it and get a picture I'm happy with, but only if I'm a few inches away from my subject, and even then, only sometimes.  Taking outdoor pictures or any kind of landscape or larger-view pictures has never really been possible for me, which has been an everyday disappointment.  To own a camera now that I can take along on my walks--it is only 3.5 inches x 2 inches, perfect to keep in my pocket while I'm out--delights me.  This one doesn't look exceptionally complicated, but there is still everything to learn with it, and that makes me quite happy as I think about the year ahead. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Postscript from Dad

This succinct note from Dad appeared on the back of one of Mom's envelopes last week.    One of the benefits of not being one of my parents' local kids--my younger brother and older brother live twenty-five and fifteen minutes away from them, respectively--is that I have almost twenty years' worth of their letters.  We write to each other weekly--letters from both Mom and Dad were tucked into the envelope that arrived in yesterday's mail--and along with our letters usually exchange hometown news stories clipped from their paper, comic strips, decorating and gardening ideas from magazines, photos of my apartment projects, Mom's photos of her and Dad's gardens, paint chips, wallpaper and fabric scraps, flower seeds, occasionally a few dollars of what we call "fun money" to buy a magazine or flowers or other enjoyable "just because" thing with, and recipes we think the other will like.  It is the letters that are most precious, of course, and I've kept every one since the very first in 1995.  (I've kept all but maybe ten pieces of all the personal mail I've ever received, for that matter.)  Mom is not as sentimental as I am and rarely saves any of her mail--Alas! for my future biographers!  ;)--but I have boxes and bags full of it, and knowing that I have all these letters carefully packed away is a special joy. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Anyone who has a bulb, has spring. ~ Anonymous

A gift from my friend Kent the week before Christmas, this pot of spring bulbs has begun blooming in the past couple weeks.  For someone in Outside Gardening Withdrawal, a pot of pretty flowers in the windowsill is bliss. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chocolate Sommers Day

Today is my friend Sommer's birthday, and in her memory, I've baked a small batch of what she, my mom, and I called "Chocolate Sommers," a cookie Mom used to make that Sommer loved.  Our junior and senior years of high school, Som would come home from school with me in the afternoons and, more often that not, find a sheet of them freshly-baked for her.  "Cool!"  she would shout when she heard that Mom and I had come to jokingly rename the recipe "Chocolate Sommers."  "I've never had a cookie named after me before!"  A box of chocolate cake mix, two eggs, and and 1/3 cup of vegetable oil:  So simple, and yet, such a goofy thrill for her, my friend with the Cheshire Cat grin. 

The photo above captures Sommer exactly as I always picture her, and you get a pretty good idea from it of what opposites we were too.  There I sit shying away from the camera somewhat, knees together, hands clasped, and there's my girl beside me. . ."being Sommer."  Our teachers and students who didn't know us well were always shocked to learn that Sommer and I were best friends.  She would come to class late, if it wasn't a day she'd decided to let herself have off in the first place.  She could change her own tires before most of us her age even knew how to drive.  When she felt a teacher was being unfair to her or others, she practically growled and would defend herself and anyone else who needed it.  She got kicked off the bus her junior year of high school because she had told off the driver who was letting, day after day, a young boy on the bus be bullied.  After days of intervening on the kid's behalf, fighting with the bully harassing him, and trying to get the driver to deal with it, it was Sommer, not the bully, who was told not to ride the bus anymore.  She was positively sputtering by the time she was recounting the story to me on the phone that night, and when I told her I was sorry and that yes, it was unfair and wrong, she replied that she didn't care about having to drive, she was just worried for the poor boy.   (I don't remember how that ended, but I know she raised more hell about it, as was her way, and I'm thinking parents and/or others must have talked with the driver or school personnel.)  Her heart, I always said, was as big as her mouth.  She applied for a much-wanted job in a car repair shop when she was sixteen, and when the owner made it clear that he'd feel better with a man working there instead, she argued with him about the injustice of that.  She had a wall calendar in her bedroom featuring the hunky model Fabio; Mine at the same time was probably Quotes of Comfort or Mary Engelbreit.  She remains the only person I've ever known who could walk into a room and instantly have everyone's attention.  I had always thought that idea was just a kind of writerly way of describing an outgoing person, but then Som and I became friends and I got used to seeing it happen:  She had an energy about her that made people look up, watch, and wait for her words and actions.  She had burgundy-dyed hair when we met.  She was aching to get a tattoo, but her deal with her mom was that she had to wait until she was older if she really wanted one.  "Well!" cried out our senior English teacher when she ran into us in the local mall's Hallmark store one afternoon.  "There's a dangerous duo!"  That still delights me, although now it's more because I was half of this sweet duo and not because someone teasingly deemed me edgy.  She was born just four months before me, and we were close enough in shape and weight to share clothes, but I always thought of her as being the older one and as one of the protective forces in my life.  It was easier making my way through high school as a studious introvert when I had this purple-haired  ball of fire beside me, if only because she paved the way a bit.  I was strong and capable in my own ways, of course, and helped her along, as well, although exactly how we quieter ones do that is never as obvious.  In most of our pictures together, I am positioned off to her side and a bit behind her or am otherwise unconsciously trying to hide myself a bit.  Never Sommer.  She faced the world head-on, she stood up, she stepped forward, she burst out, she led the way.   
A month or so after Som died, I was talking about this attraction of opposites friendship with another girl in our senior class, and she said that she too had always thought it was strange that we were friends.  "But," she concluded, "You could always make each other laugh.  You guys got each other hysterical."  Yes.  It breaks my heart to have to say that while I remember her speaking voice, nineteen years since I last heard it, I no longer remember the sound of her laughter.  I pause as I type that because it hurts so much.  If you woke my mom in the middle of the night and asked her what she remembered about our friendship or the time we all shared with Sommer, she'd likely instantly respond, "They were always laughing together."  One day after school, Som and I stopped at Wal-Mart and were looking at hats--I lived in hats and baseball caps in high school, so funny the phases we go through--and my mom, who had stopped there on her way home from work, heard us laughing long before she saw us.  She just followed the sound of our laughter until she found us in the store.  In one of the sweestest dreams Mom had soon after Som died, Sommer came over to the house and ran upstairs to my room and shut the door and Mom stood at the bottom of the stairs in shock saying to my dad "How can she be here, Gene?  She died!" and listening to us as we laughed together again.  " I couldn't make out anything you were saying," she told me later, "I just heard you both laughing."  The few precious dreams I've had since she died in which we're laughing at something together are amongst my own favorites.  In one, she and I were back in our junior year American history class and our teacher's lesson for the day was depressing in that it seemed to be a recitation of sad and sobering things that had occurred in the nation over the years.  After he had mentioned the umpeenth war or famine or other historical crisis, a classmate muttered, "Didn't anything good ever happen in history?!"  And Sommer, ever the smart alec, replied, "Yeah!  I was born!"  As we all giggled, I teased back, "What about me?!" and Som quickly said, "Yeah!  Val was born too!"  Nightmares and sad dreams of her death plagued me for years, but that silly dream made up for more than a few of the rough nights.  "I was born!"  Indeed, she was, my sweet girl, and oh my goodness, am I the better for it.  I would have preferred a lifetime of sharing that laughter and not just the couple years we were blessed with, but I'm old enough now to know that not everyone gets a Sommer in their life at all.  That she had to go on ahead of me, almost seems now like it should have been expected.  I have to follow her, it has been decided by something bigger than us, as I always did, combining the best of her with the best of myself as I make my way through the world that she's already finished with, and I look forward to our hug and laughter-filled reunion.  As ever, she makes it easier for me by having bounded ahead and paved the way.  
I'll catch up to her someday.  In the meantime, life goes on, and I continue to try to live mine with as much kindness and enthusiasm as I can.  It is milk with Chocolate Sommers for dessert tonight here, in honor of my mischievous and colorful friend.  She would be touched by this but would laugh, as Mike and I did this morning, over these cookies that look like they were frosted by someone who'd never decorated a cookie before.  :)  Turquoise and peach were her favorite colors--she was not a pink gingham, patchwork, and roses kind of girl, of course not, no--so that partially explains the odd frosting.  Being in too much of a hurry to let them cool before frosting them is the rest of my excuse.  Ah, well!  A heart-shaped cookie and glass-of-milk toast now for my friend.  She would be thrilled to know that Chocolate Sommers are still being baked and that she continues, in this way and others, to make life sweeter.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Today's Charming Thing

Burrow and trudge are words that will do to define this January, and if I ever write a children's book about winter, I'm here and now claiming Burrow and Trudge as its title, thank you.  (I'm serious.  It's perfect.)  :)  It has been a trying month.  I found myself playing "Grandma's Alphabet Game" late last night with the subject of Things I Am Looking Forward to Tomorrow.  (A:  a day off, B:  bagels for breakfast, C:  chili Mike was planning to make for tonight's supper, D:  dishes washed and put away. . . .)  Tonight it is cheering enough to look around my home determined to see the little things that are beautiful but easily looked past.  These strings of red plastic heart beads hang along the window frames in both the kitchen and bathroom, and their reflection against the white wood always charms me. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Five Favorite Stuffed Pictures

This little puffball has been one of the dearest gifts of my life.  If I live to be 100, I will still look back on it all and say the same.  I love this sweet little soul. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

'Til the Love's Added

I had seen this plate on both etsy and eBay for $20 and even $35, and both prices strike me as crazy, but of course, to each her own.  I myself loved this little plate as soon as I saw it last year (or maybe even the year before now) and instantly wanted it for my collection, but $5 is about the most I'd be willing to spend on a small decorative plate, so I bookmarked the listings and kept searching and waiting.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I found the plate for about $11 including the shipping, and that was good enough.  As Mom is known to gleefully shout out when "striking rich" at a yard sale or flea market:  "Mine!" 
I attached a hanger last night, and this dear little thing that captures so much of what I love--the sentiment!  the window sill!  a braided rug!  hearts on the curtains!  a heart on the chair!  heart-shaped cookies!  heart wallpaper!  a multi-paned window!  a woven chair!  an old-fashioned stove!  a pudgy cat!  a colorful pan and mixing bowl!  a checkered backsplash!  a checkered towel!  even a (green!) checkered floor!--will, at long last, grace my plate collection tonight. 
It is in every sense a little thing, but it is making me smile like the tabby above today.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tuesday Was

A much-needed "Thank you so much" before I left work.  A blissfully short walk home in below-zero temperatures.  Slipping but not falling when I was about a block from our front door.  Frost and ice on the kitchen window (and on the scarf I'd wrapped around my nose and mouth) when I finally arrived.  Hot chocolate and a good nap, only waking when my alarm went off.  A long letter from Mom and a beautiful birth announcement-photo card from my younger brother and his wife. 
Turkey meatloaf (this wonderful recipe) for supper with salad and potatoes on the side.  Apple crumb pie for Mike.  Finishing Wally Lamb's We Are Water (the first book of his I didn't love) cuddled up under a pile of blankets in bed.  Reading that the Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) detective story I finished the other night and loved has a sequel coming out sometime this year. 
Treating myself to an online order of a pink wool coat I saw in a store last month and thought I'd missed-out on.  Seeing this sweet dollhouse online and squealing.  (A steeper roof and that's one of my dream houses.)  Remembering for the whatever-day-in-a-row to take my vitamin.  'Finding various recipes for "Pea Salad," which I'd neither heard of nor thought of before but am now happily making for my supper for tonight.  Going to bed early.  So far, this January very much feels like January. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mom's Birthday Package

New Year's Eve morning, I walked Mom's birthday package over to the post office, quite sure she'd be tickled with not only the little gifts, but also with the extra care I'd taken with the wrappings.  Her birthday was Saturday and was my first opportunity to work on my goal of wrapping gifts more thoughtfully this year.  I made a trip to a Michaels craft/art supply store the day before to buy a few wrapping supplies and found the white curling ribbon, the spool of red gingham ribbon (that I used as both a gift and to make a bow), the small red paper bag, the black chalkboard tie-on, and the blue gingham tissue paper.  I was delighted.  She is redecorating--she is always redecorating  :)--her kitchen in a red/cream/gold French Country style this new year and will be working in the many red gingham and chicken and rooster-related things she already has, so I was happy to find red hen note cards and recipe cards on Christmas clearance there to tuck in with the gifts I'd already set aside for her too.  A successful and inexpensive visit to the store, and I liked the way everything looked when it was all packaged-up.  
Do you guys know about Dover-brand stickers and sticker books?  An art supply/picture-framing business in my hometown used to carry them back when I was in high school, and I have loved them ever since.  They can probably still be found in similar stores, but Dover also has a website, and their products can be ordered through amazon, as well.   My favorite thing of Dover's, besides all the classic books that can be found as "thrift editions" there--Mike bought my $2.50 copy of Dickens' A Christmas Carol from them our first Christmas together in 2007--is their beautiful sticker books.  They're almost always $1 or $1.50 and come in all kinds of themes:  Angels, sports, tea time, friendship, holidays, birds, animals, desserts, fashion, stained glass, etc.  They're the perfect size to tuck into a greeting or birthday card envelope (about 4" x5"), and the illustrations themselves are so dear.  For Mom's birthday this year, I had ordered the "Tea Time" sticker book.  ("Of course," you would nod if you knew my mom.)  Below is a close-up of the cover of the book (photo from Dover).  And only $1.50!  You can see why I'm charmed. 
The Dover stickers are one of those "best-kept secrets of the internet," I think, since I don't know that that many people know about them, and they're so worth it, so now you know, and feel free to spread the word.  :)  The stickers books are the right size for small gifts, include-in-a-card gifts, stocking stuffers, Easter basket goodies, or to keep in a purse for waiting rooms.  Some are activity books with stickers that can be repositioned/rearranged.  I know I've bought my nephew and older niece decorate-a-Christmas-tree sticker books, decorate-a-cupcake (and maybe a pizza) ones, a this-is-my-classroom kind of one for their first days of kindergarten, and I think I got them beach activity ones before too.  Mom and Aunt Laurie have received tea ones, dessert ones, friendship ones, holiday ones, and angel ones from me.  There are so many themes.  And if you ever need to tack a dollar or two on to an amazon order to qualify for free shipping, they're handy for that too.  :)  Just so fun. Now you know. 
I used a red gingham dish towel to wrap a magazine and the blue gingham tissue to wrap a book and to line the inside of the box.  I was hoping the store would have red gingham tissue paper, but that right there is why I want to plan ahead and shop for gift-wrapping supplies ealier--and year-round--and just more thoughtfully from now on:  The red would have been perfect for her, but I thought of it too late.  I want to become a "step-ahead" kind of person, like Aunt Laurie, this year regarding my gift-wrapping.  It will make it easier on me and more fun for the gifts' recipients.  I talked with Mom Saturday night, and she had had a lovely birthday, which was sweet to hear, and she went on and on about how pretty everything here was, so "Package #1" this year was successful.    A fun start to the gift-giving year. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood. ~ Bill Watterson

Oh, Sweet Day Off!  After a six-day headache and both a New Year's Eve and New Year's Day at work that nearly ran dry my wells of patience and good cheer, now comes the day I can lounge in bed (finally headache-free!) with a new book--Robert Galbraith's (aka J.K. Rowling's) The Cuckoo's Calling, which I'm liking very much so far.   I cooked a few pierogies with garlic, onion, and olive oil for my lunch and am thinking vegetable or minestrone soup for supper.  Until I feel like facing what the Weather Channel is describing as 14-degree-weather-that-feels-like-1-degree-weather to head out for groceries, I am climbing back into bed with my detective story.  After a little more rest and time to myself today, I think I'll be ready to (re-)start 2014 properly.  I hope your own new year has been cozy and sweet so far.