Advent, My Way #2

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As luck would have it, the quilt on my quilting frame right now is red and white, perfect for this time of year!

I like the traditional colors of Christmas best–the white of pure, new snow, the red of a feisty Cardinal, the green of pine boughs.

If you celebrate Christmas, what colors do you favor? Or do you celebrate a different winter holiday, with its own traditional colors?

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Advent, My Way

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December is here, and for many people, that means one thing—Christmas.

Christmas is a complicated holiday for me.

It means little.

It means a lot.

Three sources conspire to create my mixed feelings.

First of all, I consider myself a “cultural Christian.” I’m a non-believer but I grew up in a very religious, Evangelical Protestant home, full of Christmas pageants and soaring hymns. I don’t believe in the stories but they hit me, at Christmas, on a very nostalgic, sentimental level.

Second, I am not a shopper and that means a lot of the focus of preparing for Christmas is lost on me. All my close family is the same—we don’t enjoy shopping and we buy what want we want or need when we need it. It has been years and years since we went the route of piles of Christmas presents.

Third, I live far from those close family members. The people I would want to celebrate this holiday with, who understand the holiday the way I do, all live far enough away that hours of driving and/or flying time would be involved. And no one wants to travel at Christmas.

For most of the year and most of the month of December, I’m fine with all of this. I’m all aloof and logical.

The month goes by and I don’t shop and don’t think much about decorating. I tell myself no one is going to see it but us and decorating is a lot of trouble, just to take it down again in January. We buy a wreath or two, do minimal fuss, and move on.

I don’t do special baking, although I like to bake, because we always have tons of chocolate around the house and we have friends who love to bake, and give, Christmas goodies. And if I bake cookies, we’ll just eat them!

I don’t shop because we’ve all agreed not to. Obligatory Christmas spending seems silly.

See? All aloof and logical.

But then Christmas Day comes, and I feel let down.

I tell myself it’s just another day

And yet . . . it feels like it should feel special.

I always reach Christmas Day wishing I had done a little more. Not more shopping or baking, but more to get in the mood, to remember my roots, to honor tradition, to make the end of the year feel warm and cozy and satisfying, even if the religious aspect isn’t meaningful to me.

So, this year I’m going to try to do that and focus on the advent, not of a religious event, but of a time of year that has had, and still does have, significance in my life.

I’ll be doing posts that encourage me to “think Christmas” and enjoy the mood and small projects and meaningful memories of the season.

To start this, I want to remind myself, and you, of a post I did a couple years ago. One thing we do find time for every year is the making of pomanders. To be honest, this is almost entirely my husband’s project but it is one that I love the best.

Pomanders are made with big, lovely oranges and whole cloves. The minimal time invested will provide weeks of incredible, powerful fragrance that seems the essence of the season. This is the perfect time of year to make pomanders, before all the other preparations get too overwhelming. Believe me, the pomanders will last, until Christmas and beyond!

You can find the full instructions here. We can make these together!

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By the wonders of polygenesis, my blog friend Kathy is doing a similar blog project this month. She’s taking a more spiritual approach—you can find her here.

A Weekend Steeped in Vintage

I had the kind of delightful weekend available only to the lover, and purveyor, of vintage linens.

Oh, it was a good weekend anyway—the temperatures in upstate New York reached a very unusual 60 degrees, my beloved Penn State Nittany Lions won at football, hand quilting and chocolate were on the agenda.

But the best part of the weekend involved finding a plastic bin full of wonderful linens I didn’t know I had.

How is that possible?

It’s embarrassing to admit but I have been known to hoard such things. I buy linens at garage sales, flea markets, thrift shops, and on eBay. I buy them when I find them and often don’t deal with them right away. I may have as many as 10 large plastic bins stored, waiting . . .

I thought I sort of knew what was in those bins and it did not fill my heart with gladness.

Recently my dealing with old linens hasn’t been much fun. I have a lot of plain white damask table linens—elegant and of high quality but, frankly, they all look alike unless you are a real aficionado.

I have a LOT of tablecloths. Tablecloths are time consuming and a pain to iron and I can only deal with them on days when I can move them straight from the ironing board to the big table and take photos right away.

And, lately, I seem to have had a lot of items that have damage, some of it small but some of it serious. The serious damage means giving up on the piece altogether but the small damage creates the conundrum—do I try to sell it anyway? I have to take photos of the flaws and list it “as is.” Is it worth it? Will it bring the overall look of my shop down if I include such things?

And I admit, I have a tendency to “cherry pick” when I go looking for linens to smarten up. I open bins, rummage around, pull out the unusual, the striking, and leave the mediocre or common. This means I have a lot of mediocre and common waiting around . . .

So, I was thrilled when I opened a bin, thinking it would be more of the same, and instead found a treasure chest of lovely items, vintage but in unused condition—towels with bright printed designs, napkins with perfect embroidery, all manner of unusual and striking beauties.

All the stars aligned.

The sky was bright so I could take photos in natural light.

The days were warm so I could work on our glassed-in porch where that natural light is abundant and the big table awaits.

I could iron tablecloths because I could move them to that awaiting table on that porch where the day was warm and the natural light was abundant.

And I could enjoy all the variety and quality that are the best aspects of dealing with vintage linens.

Over two days, I ironed and took about 300 photos of items ranging from large tablecloths blooming with printed red roses to small tea cloths delicately embroidered.

From sassy chickens to sweet pansies.

From understated elegance to napkins of every stripe.

Of course, I still have work to do. The photos must be edited and listings written before these pretty things are available on Etsy. But the linens gave me something I needed this weekend.

I started with a pile of chaos and ended with crisp, sweet-smelling, beautiful order.

Lately, it seems, little things mean a lot . . .

What made your weekend delightful?

Regrouping, and the Giveaway

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I promised a giveaway.

Then I postponed it, after last week’s US election.

I thought I would associate the weaving of the towel I’m about to give away with the utter devastation I felt last week, and I didn’t want it tainted that way.

Now, I find, that, instead, that I will weave the towel and, all the while, I will be thinking about the generosity of spirit shown by you, my friends in the blogging community.

Amid stormy seas, I have been buoyed by your support. I do feel better now,

Now, it’s not just you, of course. Certainly talking and commiserating with local friends has helped.

A lot of what I’m reading on Facebook has helped—really, it has! I skip the items that add to my unease and read the passionate, the funny, the irreverent reactions.

My favorites, I think, are Barack and Joe memes, imagining conversations between our wonderful current president and vice president. These jokes are juvenile, yes, and make me snort with laughter. (Truly, just Google “Barack and Joe”—I bet you’ll laugh.)

And, like everyone else in the Western world, it seems, I shed a tear to the opening moments of Saturday Night Live last week, with Kate McKinnon depicting a solemn, introspective Hillary Clinton singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I shed a tear but still, somehow, felt comforted.

Also, like so many, I’ve spent happy moments trying (and failing) to capture a good photo of the Supermoon, while the inexorable rising and setting of that moon reminds me of things larger than our election.

Hugging a small baby helped; watching a 3-year-old sing “It’s A Wonderful World,” to cheer up his parents post-election—that helped, too. Going out to lunch, having dinner with dear friends, all the things that are always pleasurable, took on new power to lift me up.

But, in large part, the overwhelming response from you folks, in the face of your own feelings and opinions on the subject, truly helped. I hesitated about posting about the election but am so, so glad I did—because of you.

Do not get me wrong, I have not moved on. I do not see this as normal or the usual business of a transfer of power. With every headline about choices made regarding close advisors or plans for the first 100 days, my heart sinks again, as I worry about friends I know, and those I don’t know but care no less about.

But it seems to be my nature to want to feel good and feisty and optimistic.

So, I’m buoyed by your responses to what I wrote, your caring and the pep talks you gave. I’m buoyed by reading your posts, whether you’ve joined me in my angst and revealed your feelings, or whether you’ve stuck to regular programming and written about the happy, normal moments in your life, the good that is still all around us.

These are the gifts of the blogging community.

I’d like to give you all gifts. If there were world enough and time, I’d weave something for each of you.

I need to start with the winner of the giveaway I announced before the world turned upside down.

My random number generator came up with number 27, and that number belongs to Caroline. Caroline writes Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog, and it seems really appropriate that Caroline should win because, not only has she been wonderfully supportive to me in the past week, but her blog is always uplifting. She posts daily about quirky, fascinating stories, all of which focus on the marvelous, strange, delightful world we live in. Caroline, start thinking about the colors you’d like in your towel!

As I said, I wish I could give you each a gift, as you have given me the gift of support and friendship. We’ll have another giveaway before too long and, in the meantime, . . .

Thank you.

Desperately Seeking . . . Pollyanna

I am the president of her fan club.

She is my patron saint.

But, right now, right this moment of November 9, 2016, Donald Trump has been elected president of my country and Pollyanna is nowhere to be found.

I have lost my inner Pollyanna.

In fact, if I’m looking for a literary fellow traveler this morning, it’s Alice—I awoke to find I had fallen down a rabbit hole into a world I don’t recognize and cannot make sense of, peopled by megalomaniacs and Mad Hatters.

There will be those who say I’m a sore loser or a drama queen. I’ve considered those possibilities and I don’t think it’s either. Many times in my life, I have voted for others who have come up short in elections and I have accepted the outcome and moved on.

This is about being terrified.

If Trump-the-president is the same person as Trump-the-candidate then a lot of Americans are justifiably terrified right now.

I acknowledge that I have far less reason to be afraid than many Americans. I am as white as white can be—to find an immigrant in my family, you’d have to go back to the Mayflower.

I was raised Christian and could still pass for one if I felt pressure to. I am straight and married to a white guy who was raised a Christian, too. We don’t have small children to whom we need to try and explain all this. We are fairly well off and retired so our jobs and wellbeing are not at much jeopardy. And so on.

I’m still terrified and, if I am, I cannot imagine how the non-white, non-Christian, non-straight, non-Trump “Others” in the country are feeling right now. I am terrified for you.

You can understand, perhaps, why I can’t settle to anything today. I just took a long walk to try to blow away these feelings of dread. Cold drizzle stung my face and I was pushed around by strong winds. The weather brought to mind all kinds of tired clichés and banal metaphors about our country. I’ll spare you.

Let’s just say, the day suits my mood.

I will try to make something, to turn my hands to some creative task, even though all I want to do right now is rip and tear and burn, even though making pretty little doodads feels trivial and purposeless.

I’ll make things because I find comfort in the act of making and comfort is what I crave.

One thing I can’t bring myself to work on is my women’s suffrage quilt. The piece I showed you yesterday is one of a number of embroidered quotes about women’s rights I have been working on, to make a quilt.

In fact, I was stitching a quote from Hillary Rodham Clinton last night, as I watched the returns—“Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” Right now, that all feels a little bit like a cruel joke . . .

I’m sure I’ll get back to this project someday; I’ll probably decide it’s more important than ever. Just not right now . . .

I’ll probably weave, maybe a complicated pattern that takes all my attention.

And speaking of weaving, I have not forgotten about my promise to choose one of you to receive a handwoven kitchen towel. I have the list of people who will be in the drawing and will get to this soon.

It’s just that I am going to make a towel for one of you, one of my favorite people, and I don’t want the process of making or the product to be associated in my mind with this moment in time, with the way I feel right now. In a few days, I think, I hope, I’ll brighten up and feel like myself again.

Pollyanna, won’t you please come home?

Loving Hands and Nasty Women

It’s Election Day in the United States.

Finally.

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For this “nasty woman,” there’s not much left to say except:

I am.

Yes, I am.

And I did.


For those of you who have not been following American politics, first, let me say, I envy you! Second, to make sense of this post and an iconic moment in the whole kerfuffle, read here.

Boston, City of My Heart

Do you have one favorite city that trumps all the others you enjoy?

I admit, I haven’t been to most of the cities that would come to minds. I haven’t been to Paris or Rome, or even to London, in spite of having been to the United Kingdom a number of times.

I love Dublin. I adore New York and like San Franciso, from what I’ve seen. Montreal and Ottawa have their distinct and undeniable charms.

But the city that has my heart is Boston.

If you’ve been here, hanging out with me for a long time, you knew that, because almost every time I go I seem to feel the need to write about it.

I love the history of Boston, as one of the cities where American liberty was born.

And my own family history is connected to Boston. My many-times-great grandfather lived on this exact site, at the corner of Washington and Essex. He owned this land 125 years before the Liberty Tree was the gathering spot for the Sons of Liberty. Might he have planted the Liberty Tree?!

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I love that Boston is surrounded by water. For the first time, we had a view of the water from our hotel and also took advantage of the location and went on a harbor cruise.

I love the sights and sounds of Boston. Like all big cities, there’s always a festival, a gathering, lots of unusual and quirky details.

And I love the museums. We go back to the same museums every single time and visit our favorite pieces and find new treasures, like this glimpse of infinity. Each side of this work had only about 10 glass vessels in a space about one foot deep. The artist,
Josiah McElheny (American, born in 1966), created a brilliant vision—I could look all day.

I know that, when I have an opportunity to travel, I should go new places. I know I would love those other great cities and find them thrilling and intoxicating, too. I know I would expand my horizons and knowledge by visiting more, different cities.

And I know I’ll go back to Boston. In fact, I can hardly wait!

So, how about you? What city inspires your affection? Should I go there soon?