Aloe vera blossoms taken in my backyard last week. The former owner of this house must have planted a house plant she'd grown tired of. The aloe is located all by itself in an odd corner, but it grows well and blooms like this a couple of times a year.
I am stalling today, slowly avoiding doing the things I know I need to do. It is warm here in Texas, and at 90% humidity. This makes me a little crabby. Updating my address book just now, I am reminded of a few small gestures that seemed to mean more to the recipients than I anticipated. I want to remember these, to remember that something that seems small to me can mean so much to someone I’m thinking of. In one instance, I wrote a Christmas card/thank-you note to the woman who volunteers as the bookstore coordinator at our church. She left a very warm, touching voicemail for me later that day thanking me. It stopped me in my tracks and made me wish I’d done more than just give her a card: perhaps brought in something baked or a gift certificate. Likewise, I took a loaf of banana bread to a woman in our neighborhood who keeps our phone list updated. Again, I later found an extremely warm, grateful voicemail from her. Their thankfulness was so touching to me and was almost humbling; I felt that my little gestures did not deserve such thanks. But it was also affirming and reminded me that it is worth it to do little things. So often it seems that most people don’t notice small courtesies or bother to really listen to each other, but moments like these remind me that it’s worth it to strive to let others know that we appreciate them, even if it’s just sending them a card. To me, a big part of Christianity is stopping to notice others for real, not with just a passing glance, to listen to them and acknowledge their presence by being fully present myself. Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done, depending upon how tired, preoccupied, or stressed out I am.

Have you found yourself in either the giving or receiving end in these sorts of situations? I’d love to hear.


A Few More Sewing Projects

Some of you asked for photos of what I've been sewing. Top is a simple curtain for our closet, made from an old sheet. I topstitched some green ribbon near the bottom. I love the way the light plays through it. (I've also sewn some other simple curtains, but these are the most photo-worthy!) I also sewed six simple envelope pillow covers for the sofa pillows, using redtag decorator-weight fabric from Joann's. I'd never done this before, and it was easier and more rewarding than I expected. What projects are you working on?


Valentine's Day ATC Swap

Would anyone like to participate in a Valentine's themed ATC swap? Depending upon how many people are interested, I'd like to have each of us create one ATC for everyone in the group. If there's a large interest, I'll split us up into smaller groups. No rules other than that the ATC be Valentine related and standard ATC size (see link above). Any media of your choice - rubber stamps, photos, collage, etc. Please leave a comment if you're interested and a way for me to contact you. I'll leave sign-up open until (comments now closed). After that, ATCs should be mailed to me before February 6, along with a SASE. I'll then gather them together and mail them out, hopefully right in time for February 14! Updated: We now have ten so I'm going to close comments so we can get started on our ATCs!


A Clear, Cool Day

Clear, cool days have been somewhat rare this winter in Texas, but last week we had several of them. I hadn't been photographing much and had been feeling uninspired, but I was so glad I came out in the middle afternoon to see what the sun was doing in the yard. I captured a bit of peace that afternoon, that old sense of well-being that comes from being outdoors on a nice day. I loved how the magnolia leaves were catching the angle of the sun, as well as the sweet potato leaf below. There are mysterious little flowers growing in my garden that I didn't plant; they are only about two inches tall (second picture.) I have never seen them before. I don't think they're weeds. My daffodils are beginning to push their way out of the ground, and it won't be long before the Bradford pear has leaves again. My dog was happily chewing on sticks while I was out, and the goldfinches were chattering in the treetops, waiting for me to leave so they could return to the feeders I've put out. It's been so fun watching them and the other birds back there - always a bevy of mourning doves, a lone mockingbird, a jay or two, a few sparrows, sometimes a wren, occasionally ma and pa cardinal, and the finches. This half hour in the yard was definitely a gift. It's nice to look back on these pictures while I'm sick this weekend and spending most of my time dozing on the sofa...



Last week I received a kind rejection letter, likely the first of many. It read, "Although we will not be publishing your essay, we wanted you to know that we found much to appreciate in it. Several staff members mentioned the beauty of the language as well as the apt and colorful descriptions of landscape. I thought the last collection, the tops-of-trees items, was a very poignant one - a great end to an essay that shows how collections reveal the collector's life. Please do try us again." While I was grateful for the compliments, I also would have liked some constructive criticism and more input as to why they were not publishing it. Perhaps, as my husband said, it just didn't fit in with the other essays they'd already selected, or perhaps it was too similar to ones they already had. Or perhaps they were looking for something entirely different. At any rate, it was nice to at least hear back from them! The little writing I've done has taught me that writing is so much like visual or musical art - a continual process of working toward balance and good design, a strong composition, tweaking fine points.
Speaking of rejection, Frederica Mathewes-Green recently published this essay on consumerism. I found the last half particularly useful. It also made me feel a bit better about my mind-numbing hours of sewing lately, although it also confirmed the emotions I've had while shopping too much as of late as well. Do you have any good resources for overcoming the consumeristic drive?
Photos: Our Bradford pear in winter, my sweet potato vine (part of 100 Leaves Project) the day before the frost got it this week.


Sewing Projects

As promised, here are a few photos of New Year's sewing projects. Top is the Amy Butler Frenchy bag, middle is a tote bag adapted from this book, and bottom is the owl linked below. I know some of you are much more advanced seamstresses than I am, so please overlook the wobbly bottom on my Abraham Owl and any other flaws you might spot! We also made a Dorset bag out of a pretty dinner napkin (with a zipper instead of drawstring). For some reason, I continue to torment myself, sewing several simple curtains from vintage thrifted sheets and making my first easy pillow covers this week. Truth be told, I don't particularly enjoy sewing (and that's putting it mildly!), but I do like being able to make things and update corners of the house. I did break down this evening, though, and tried out Stitch Witchery to hem the most recent set of window toppers. It's refreshingly easy and quick! Do you sew? Do you like it?
ps - All of this sewing has kept me away from the web - I miss all of your blogs and hope to make my visits to you very soon!


The First Days of 2009

My husband's parents have come and gone. His father left us several foil-wrapped packages of hilloo in the freezer (a Middle Eastern dessert made of farina, walnuts, butter, and sugar), as well as a lovely new fence gate and rebuilt fence section, faucets that no longer drip, a front door that doesn't stick as badly, and a bathroom door with a mended hole. His mother left me with a completed Amy Butler bag, two zippered pouches, a simple tote bag, a completed Abraham Owl, and refreshed embroidery skills - all projects I'd been wanting to tackle, but not on my own without guidance! I've made a lovely dent in my sewing projects with her instruction. I've even been inspired to start sewing curtains for various windows since their departure. I will share pictures soon!
It was cozy to have family in the house. I liked going to bed at night and still hearing muted conversation coming from the kitchen and living room, still seeing light glow under the door. It made me feel young again, nestled back with my own family or rooming with friends in college, where there was more activity than my quiet husband and I generally have going on in our house. Sitting down to real dinners every night was also nice. I did cook them all myself, but they were more balanced and complete than I usually prepare, and sharing them together as a group also felt cozy.
Who did you spend your holidays with?
Blue jellyfish photo by my husband from their daytrip to the Gulf Coast. I stayed home to sew, but I wish I would've seen those jellies! Top photo is my FIL making hilloo.



A while ago, Martha tagged me to share seven random things about myself. KatCollects also tagged me for six things, so I’m combining them. With no further ado, here goes:

My first job was at Burger King when I was 15. It lasted for three days before I fortunately got a job clearing logging slash and thistles at Mt. Rushmore, which was a much better option. I worked for the forest service the next two summers as well – it was delightful.

I love the sound of wind blowing around the house. There is nothing like wind to remind me of South Dakota.

One of my favorite albums is Hymns of Paradise, the Orthodox Christian funeral liturgy, chanted by Fr. Apostolos Hill. It is peaceful.

I don’t wear makeup or bother with my hair. I tried for awhile in junior high, but I was never successful and finally gave up! But I do end up feeling like I don’t fit in sometimes as a result.

I have one delightful sister. I always wished that I had more. So I am thankful for my close gal friends!

Sometimes when I go to bed, I remember how cozy it was to stay over at my grandma’s and imagine sleeping in her guest room on a snowy night. Or I imagine walking along Cannon Beach, Oregon, where I had a summer job, as I drift off. On those nights, I often dream about finding massive sea shells.

I enjoy people, but I need lots of quiet time to recharge. My days really are quite quiet.

If you’re reading this and want to join in, please consider yourself tagged!