Sunday, December 12, 2010

Celebrate...the Poinsettia

 

December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.

The Poinsettia is indigenous to Mexico and Central America.  The plant is named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the US in 1828.

It isn’t the flowering plant we think it is.  Actually the bright red, orange, pale green, cream, pink, white or marbled parts are actually leaves.  The “flowers” are the small yellow pieces in the center of each leaf bunch.

The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday. The story is that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Red "blossoms" sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. In the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico introduced the plants in their Christmas celebrations. They introduced the idea of the star-shaped leaf symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color representing the blood of Jesus.

There is a common misconception that the poinsettia is highly poisonous. That is because most plants of this genus are toxic.  It is mildly irritating to the skin or stomach.  It could cause diarrhea and vomiting if eaten.  If sap got into a person’s eyes it could cause temporary blindness. An American Journal of Emergency Medicine study of 22,793 cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers showed no fatalities, and that most were accidental, involved children, and did not result in any type of medical treatment. POISINDEX, a major source for poison control centers, says a 50-pound child would have to eat 500 bracts to be toxic. An Ohio State University study showed no problems even with extremely large doses.  So, it is not poisonous, but is still mildy toxic and probably should be kept out of reach of small children or pets or anyone sensitive to latex or other irritations.

So, go ahead, enjoy the beauty of the plant and the season.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

St. Nicholas Day

Tonight (December 05), we’re celebrating Saint Nicholas Eve. The tradition of Saint Nicholas Day is a festival for children related to surviving legends of the saint, and particularly his reputation as a bringer of gifts.
 
Sinterklaas
Sint-Nicolass
De Goedheiligman
Saint Nicolas
Sinte Klaas
Kris Kringle
Father Christmas
Santa Claus

Whatever you want to call him, his day of celebration is December 6, or St. Nicholas Day.  It is a feast day for the saint who inspired the legend of Santa Claus The historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians. He is also honored by various Anglican and Lutheran churches. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, and of course children.

Although he was the patron saint of Russia, Nicholas of Myra was Greek. He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents and was very religious from an early age. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic, while Nicholas was still young, and he was raised by his uncle who was a bishop. Nicholas spent time at a monastery and led a devout life which is full of tales of his exploits.  Perhaps the most famous is about a poor man who had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably end up as prostitutes. Hearing of the man's situation, Nicholas decided to help him but wanted to do so anonymously.  Version one of the story has Nicholas going to the man’s house at night and throwing three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window. Another version has him throwing one purse for three consecutive nights. A third rendition has him throw the purses over a period of three years, each time the night before one of the daughters comes "of age". Invariably, the third time the father hides, trying to discover the identity of their benefactor. In yet another version, the father confronts the saint, only to have Saint Nicholas say it is not him he should thank, but God alone. In one last story, Nicholas learns of the poor man's plan to discover his identity and drops the third bag down the chimney instead, but this variant says that the daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking.

It’s easy to see how that story created the traditions that vary somewhat from country to country.  For some, like the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas’ Eve is the chief occasion for gift-giving. Children open presents that night. But most countries have some form of children putting out their shoes either in front of the fireplace, or outside the front door before they go to bed and then waking up to find presents, typically small trinkets and sweets around the shoes on the morning of the 6th. The story says Sinterklaas brings presents to every child that has behaved his or herself in the past year but in practice, just like with Santa Claus, all children receive gifts without distinction.

In recent years, Christmas (along with Santa Claus) has been pushed by shopkeepers as another gift-giving festival, with some success; although, especially for young children, Saint Nicholas' Eve is still much more important than Christmas. The rise of Father Christmas is often cited as an example of globalisation and Americanisation.

As a rather sad footnote, the metamorphosis of Saint Nicholas into the more commercially lucrative Santa Claus, which took several centuries in Europe and America, has recently been re-enacted in the saint's home town: the city of Demre. This modern Turkish town is built near the ruins of ancient Myra. As St. Nicholas is a very popular Orthodox saint, the city attracts many Russian tourists. A solemn bronze statue of the Saint by the Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky, donated by the Russian government in 2000, was given a prominent place on the square in front of the medieval church of St. Nicholas. In 2005, the city’s mayor had the statue replaced by a red-suited plastic Santa Claus statue, because he wanted the central statue to be more recognizable to visitors from all over the world. Protests from the Russian government against this action were successful only to the extent that the Russian statue was returned, without its original high pedestal, to a corner near the church.

While feasts of Saint Nicholas are not observed nationally, cities with strong German influences like Milwaukee, and St. Louis celebrate St. Nick's Day on a scale similar to the German.  Gifts often include chocolate gold coins to represent the gold St. Nick gave to the poor and small trinkets.  In these areas the tradition of St. Nick's Day is firmly established with parents often continuing to observe the day with their adult children.

I, for one, will be celebrating in whatever small manner, the life and memories of someone with true compassion and love of children.

Happy St. Nicholas Day to you.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Tis the season for compassion...

I've been having a lot of fun with the Block Lotto the last few months.  It's an online group and we make quilt blocks and then there is a drawing, and you might "win" blocks from others so you have enough for a quilt, and if not, you mail the blocks you made off to one of the winners.  I started this when I stumbled upon the site and they were making these blocks that I really liked, that were a technique I had never tried.  While all the blocks were following the same instructions, they were different and unique.  I joined as an opportunity to push my skills, both technically and creatively.

I was so excited the month I won the blocks.  Some were so incredibly perfect, way beyond my current capabilities.  Others were like mine.  Some were design-wise gorgeous, and others not as interesting, but true to the directions of the block.  I have put off finishing my quilt as I didn't want to disrespect the effort of all the different people who made these blocks for me.  I consider myself so grateful to have won a month and want to make sure the finished project is as special as it can be.

Well, in an effort to establish the plan for the Block Lotto next year, a lot of discussion has been turned to "problem" blocks.  Really?  I am probably naive, but I assumed that everyone was doing their very best to make these blocks.  The skill level on the site ranges from beginners to people who have been quilting since the beginning of time...(well maybe less than that, but a long time anyway). 

Now, I'm doubting myself and my contributions.  Have my blocks not been up to the winners' standards?  I wouldn't have ever thought to complain about any of the blocks I received, no matter what they were like, as I know that someone spent time to make the block, using their own fabric, and then mail it to me.  I have the option of putting the blocks together anyway I want.  If I really didn't like one, I could leave it out, or I could try to fix it to my satisfaction.  Even the discussion of "problem" blocks has taken some of the "fun" out of the Block Lotto for me.
 
In this Christmas season, I truly want to be compassionate of the feelings and efforts of others.  I want everyone to know that I appreciate what they do.  May we all head into 2011 with a little less criticism and a little more gratitude. That would apply to all aspects of our lives....home, work...and even online.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent Candles


 It's no big surprise that I love to celebrate and I love traditions.  Some "holidays" I find are rather silly and bizarre, others are more traditional and a few are down right sacred.  That last category is where I put the Advent candles.


Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and counts down the days until the arrival of Christmas. The term Advent comes from the Latin “adventur”, meaning arrival. Advent wreaths  are an old Protestant custom, which originated in Eastern Germany. The traditional Advent wreath is made from evergreen branches to symbolize God's ever-lasting presence. In the wreath are four candles -- three purple or royal blue candles that represent penance and one pink one to represent the hope of the coming joy. (Some call it Mary's candle)  Each candle represents one of the four weeks before Christmas. (I could never understand why the pink one was the third Sunday.  I always thought it should be last, but  oh well, I don't make-up these traditions.)

I started having Advent wreaths when I was a kid.  I was a regular church-goer in a very traditional Episcopal church.  I went to church, but my mom didn't.  She worked and wanted a true day off, but her religion didn't seem to waver, so she appreciated the touch of symbolism I brought home with the candles.  I grew up using the purple candles that are more common in these wreaths.

When my girls were young, we went to an Episcopal church that was kind of a mix of old traditions and new thinking.  It had a guitar playing priest who really  tried to bring the kids into the service at every opportunity.  One thing he did, however, was revert to the apparently older version of the Advent candles and use royal blue instead of purple.  I don't really remember his theology behind the decision, but I do remember the hub bub it caused with some of the older members of the congregation.

Today, I don't go to church.  Partly because I work a lot of Sundays and partly because I haven't found a church that suits me, and partly because while I consider myself a Christian, I'm not sold on the "organization" of churches anymore.  That has a lot to do with working with a holy roller televangelist for a while, but that's another story.

Anyway, my daughter is going to church regularly and so I really wanted to carry my love of the meanings of the Advent candles to her home.  So I went off in search of candles. I thought it would be easy to find a ready packaged set of Advent candles, but I was wrong. (Of course, I didn't actually try a religious store since I was shopping on Black Friday.  I could have thought of this earlier, I suppose.)  I actually had a hard time finding any taper style candles that were colors other than red and white.  I finally found some though and she will have 3 royal blue and 1 pink candle to light starting tonight.

In all the hustle and bustle of the start of the Christmas season, we will slow down, and have a little joy with the beauty and grace of a burning candle to remind us there's more to the season than shopping and gift-giving.

May you have a wonderful, peaceful first Sunday in Advent, with candles or without. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving musings

I do...issue this my proclamation, hereby appointing Thursday...a day of public and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God, earnestly recommending to all the good people...to set apart the said day for those purposes. -Thomas Jefferson, 1776.

Do you really think Thanksgiving gets lost in all the Christmas stuff?  I don't think so.  I know it seems Christmas comes to retail earlier and earlier each year.  We even had a small display up before Halloween, but we held off on most things until after that sacred of scary holidays.  Other stores were a little more aggressive with their Christmas fare, but you can't really blame them.  People were shopping for the stuff, and stores want to sell things, that's how they stay in business.

I do think Thanksgiving has been washed into a huge winter holiday season that starts with Halloween and extends all the way to Valentine's day. But celebrating is a way to make people smile.  I would celebrate a holiday every day if I could and the dreary winter weather seems to make the need for celebrations more pressing.

 The bigger question is that have the meanings of these holidays been lost in the glitz and food and gifts?  What does Thanksgiving mean to you?  If it's just eating turkey and pumpkin pie, you're missing out on something.  If football is the all-encompassing goal of the day, you're missing out on something.  Yes, it's a time of family, but if you're all stressed out about the gas prices, the lines at the airports, or holiday travel in general, you're missing out on something.

Now don't get me wrong.  I plan on food, football, and family on Thanksgiving day too.  Some of my family will be traveling to the "other" family and won't be with us.  But it's the thought and feelings that make it a holiday. It isn't really necessary to have your family close in body, if they're close in spirit.

I wonder why we need a holiday to make us stop and appreciate what we have.  It seems that we are so busy with our day to day craziness, that we don't really look at the big picture.  I feel very fortunate to have kids I love, grandkids I adore, pets that give me unconditional love, great people to work with,  a roof over my head complete with some special sentimental comforts, food in my refrigerator, etc etc.

I think that when we are evaluating our lives,  we always seem to compare ourselves with the wrong people.  We're looking at celebrities, and wealthy neighbors and people who have "stuff".  We should be looking at the people around us who don't have what we have, in terms of "stuff" or family and friends.  Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks....for what you do have....for whatever your circumstances, I guarantee you are better off than someone else.

Have a blessed day.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ahh....

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, join in over at Soule Mama

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Round 5


I'm always a little surprised and excited when Kate posts the next round of this Stay-At-Home Robin.  I don't know why.  It comes around very promptly at the first of each month.  I guess it's just that I'm able to tuckk the whole project away once the round is done and completely forget about it.  That's especially true this time of year because I have so many projects in the works for the holidays.

Anyway, round 5 is actually 2 pieces...a 4x6 and a 4x7 that fit across the top of what I have so far.  Interesting that it is in two pieces and not just one long piece.  It really made me think about where I might be going, since I don't really know what other steps will bring.  Anyway.

I decided to do an adaption of the Prairie Queen traditional quilt pattern for my 4x6.  Now, the first problem was adapting a square design into a rectangle.  The second problem is this is really small for me.  I have traditionally used the width of one of the sewing machine feet as my 1/4 inch sewing gauge.  Well, guess what?  It's not exactly a quarter of an inch, but a little bit wider.  That small difference doesn't seem to matter when I'm making a regular size quilt, but on this tiny scale it's huge.  So I've got tape down on my machine and am trying to be very careful with my seems.  Not quite careful enough however as I ended up about 1/4 inch short on my 4x6 so I cheated slightly and my 4x7 is a quarter inch bigger.  That's the beauty of doing your own piece, I guess.  It was especially easy since my 4x7 is just one piece of material.  Whew!

There you have my little wall hanging so far.  It's really pushing my brain, but I love it. I still have my prairie theme going, and I still have ideas for down the road, if the directions take me to them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

More Winnings...



A big thank you to Lavender Ridge.  Don't you just love those bright pinks and blues?  My granddaughter did.  Hmmmm...I might have to make something for her with them.  These winnings were part of the Fall into Fall blog hop too.  It is so much fun to win!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I won!

Look what I won!  It's the Nostalgia Honey Bun from Inchworm Fabrics.  Their blog was one of many that had giveaways going for Fall.  It's always fun to win something.  The fabrics are really delicate.  They'll make a lovely quilt. Thanks to all the quilting bloggers who participated in the fun blog hop.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Candy, candy, and more candy

Today is Sweetest Day....who knew?  Did you get candy?  More importantly, did you GIVE candy.  After all, that is the true origin of Sweetest day....to give candy to cheer people up.


Sweetest Day started in Cleveland in 1922.  Herbert Birch Kingston was a philanthropist and candy company employee who wanted to bring happiness into the lives of orphans, shut-ins, and other people generally forgotten.  He got together some friends and began to distribute candy and small gifts to the underprivileged.  His friends included two famous actresses of the day.  Movie star, Ann Pennington, gave boxes of candy to 2200 Cleveland newspaper boys to thank them for their public service.  Another popular movie star, Theda Bara,  distributed 10,000 boxes of candy to people in the hospitals in Cleveland.  She also passed out candy to all the people who came to watch her film in a local theater.

Started as a regional holiday, Sweetest Day is now observed on the 3rd Saturday in the month of October, across the country.

It's just a nice way to warm up our taste buds for all that Halloween candy soon to come.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Celebrate!



There's a holiday just about every day, if you look for one.  Today is National Bring Teddy Bear to Work Day.  It's a day for celebrating the Teddy Bear and the joy, and stress relief, it brings to children of all ages.

 Now I know all about Teddy Bears.  I still have the one I grew up with although I must admit he's a bit worse for wear.  My daughter has hers and had a difficutl time explaining to Mackenzie that it was "Mommy's bear".  That's because Mackenzie has several bears along with assorted other stuffed animals, all of which bring her joy, although there is only one Bear.  She makes every effort to bring one bear or another with her whenever she can.

 I don't plan on actually taking a bear to work, but I think I will try to carry the spirit of National Bring Teddy Bear to Work day with me.  We all can use a little stress relief now and then, and what better than to bring a bear to mind whenever things get a little crazy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Local, Not Global

The world has gone global with the internet and international industry.  We can buy and sell across the country or overseas at the click of a button.  But what about our local economy?

 Oh don't get me wrong, I'm not abandoning shopping on the internet.  I'm all about a good bargain, and finding unique things I don't see in the local store.  But when it is the same product, to buy it locally, from a PERSON, makes a huge difference.  Your local purchase puts dollars to work in your community.  Someone gets a paycheck, which they in turn, hopefully, also spend in your community.  The tax money goes to your local school system, etc.

While no one wants to say we are in a depression, and I'm not sure how economists define that anyway, it is clear that our economy is struggling.  Just about everyone I know is having to belt tighten and pinch pennies.  Government stimulus dollars won't help, if we send our own dollars out of our communities.

That's it.  That's my soap box stand for today.  So go check out your local farmer's markets, your local stores, and your neighbor's small businesses.  It'll be good for you, and good for your community.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quilting Challenges


October had some design challenges for my quilting.  The first was the variable star for Block Lotto.  It was a lesson in value.  The background was supposed to be light, while the star was made from medium and dark fabrics.  I tried to ignore color and just look at the value of the material.  The first thing I found was that I didn't have many pieces of material in color that would be considered light in value.  That's something I will have to remedy.  The other thing I realized was that even neutrals like beige were not necessarily light in value.  Interesting challenge.  I hope these two blocks came out okay.


The other challenge was a for my Stay at Home Robin.  This is always a challenge in that I have no idea where we are going.  This month we were supposed to add a 3x9 strip to the left side.  I had a great piece of print that I knew I wanted to use, but as I laid it along side the quilt so far I realized I had a couple of problems.  One was that I had used sharp points and also curves already.  So I wanted to find a way to incorporate both shape elements in this piece.  The other thing I wanted to do, was to spread the hint of green a little further.  Here's what I came up with.  Hope it works.

Both were fun and made me think.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What? Designer Crocs?


Danger, danger, Will Robinson!  This is an unsolicited product promotion!  I know.  From me?  Shock, but here it goes.

Check out my new shoes.  Aren't they cute?  Believe it or not, they're Crocs!..you know the brand...those plastic clogs with holes in them.. Actually, I got them for free. I won a giveaway over on Jen's blog
Beauty and Bedlam.  I have had a pair of Crocs for several years.  When I bought my pair they were a new novelty.  I have always found them super comfortable and have worn them for fun and for gardening.  The tread on them has gotten pretty worn down, so I thought entering a contest to win a new pair of Crocs would be great.  What I didn't realize, was how Crocs has expanded their line. They've now got lots of styles including some that are cute and appropriate for work.


 I have a hard time finding comfortable shoes for work.  I'm on my feet the entire 8+ hours and I can't wear  tennis shoes or anything like that.  I have found comfort by adding inserts to give me more cushion and arch support.  Anyway, for my "prize" I picked these cute little Mary Janes.  Besides the black plastic, they have a suede like material on them as well.  I wore them to work the other day, and my feet were in heaven.

 What can I say?  I love them, and would actually consider paying for them!  That says a lot for me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Trick or Treat Ready


I went on a pillowcase making spree last month.  I was actually inspired by this post from Adrianne over at Little Bluebell. I found several tutorials around the web including one at about.com.  They were all very similar.  I loved them as there were no exposed seams at all, and really easy to make.

 So, first I took Morgan and Mackenzie to the fabric store to pick out something they liked.  Morgan's main one was Disney Princesses, of course, and Mack picked out a Winnie the Pooh print.  They're pillowcases were so cute and the girls loved them.  The only problem I had was that little did I realize that Mallory is now old enough to know she didn't get one, and wanted one, even though she doesn't sleep with a pillow.

Anyway, the brilliant plan came about while discussing Halloween.  We were talking about how the kids, when they were older, used to use pillowcases instead of other Trick or Treat Bags.  So.....I went and picked up a couple yards of cute Halloween fabric, and added some orange and made small scale pillowcases.  They are about half the size of a regular pillow case.  I used 14x30 for the body and 7x30 for the trim.  Don't you just love them?  They definitely can hold lots of candy.  We're ready...so come on Halloween!  Oh....make that hold on a minute.  We have not finished the costumes yet, so it's back to the sewing machines.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Art...Just do it!


I'm an artist.  That's a bold statement that has taken me a lifetime to accept, but I am an artist.  There has been a time in my life when I was what I would call a practicing artist.  Then there was an extended length of time when I was an art teacher.  Then for awhile I called myself an environmental artist.  Today, I am a "sneak in what I can" artist, concentrating on quilting because the finished product is functional, and in this economy that makes it easier for me to justify the time and money I spend on artistic endeavors.

As you can see, I've been eclectic in my art.  That's partly because that is my style, and partly because I have had to adapt to time, money, and needs.  When I was younger and I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was a hermit artist.  I think that would still stand for me, if only I had someone to pay all my bills.  I actually started college as an art major but after one particularly unliberated teacher and the realization that I probably couldn't make a living that way, I switched to broadcast-film arts.  Still artistic, but with a practical application.  After my years of television, I switched to painting.  After awhile of having to deal with kids and dragging out paint stuff and having to put it back (since I didn't actually have studio space) I switched to colored pencils.  I found a lot of success in that medium, and someday I'll go back to it, but for now it's fabric that I work with.

Why this diatribe now, you ask?  Well, a friend of mine recently posted this on facebook: "Considering taking on a personal artistic photo project that I've been throwing around in my mind for years now. I think it's time. Well, if I HAVE time.."  My heart went out at that.  I know from experience that if you don't start...you'll never finish...and if you don't start...you'll always regret it.  So to Nigel, and to all my other friends with artistic yearnings, I have to say "Do it!!!!"   Please, just try to do it.  There never is any time, and as my life has gone through different stages, I can tell you that doesn't change.  As the Picasso quote from my little painting goes, don't ever turn loose of your artistic desires.  Feed them.  Nurture them. Acknowledge them.  They are truly precious and will give you great rewards if you let them.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To not be normal....

Look at this quote from Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist:

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for -  in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it"  –Ellen Goodman

The real question is how does one get off this merry-go-round?  We live in a consumer-driven world.  We are constantly conditioned to buy things..to own things.  We are brought up to compare our lives and our things with what everyone else seems to have.  It is the "grass is always greener" attitude, so we want and we acquire and then what?

 I remember when we moved here, we had to downsize to a house and income about half of what we were used to.  It seemed like a daunting task at the time.  I still have things in the garage that I couldn't bear to part with, but they haven't moved out of the garage in more than four years.  Oh, don't get me wrong.  There are many times when someone asked where such-and-such is and the reply is "I don't think it made the move",  but for all the things that didn't move, that we've noticed we don't have, there are so many things that we haven't thought of once. 

At what age does this consumerism take over?  How guilty are McDonalds Happy Meals and advertisements in cartoons, and how guilty are we as parents?  Why is it the kids often like the big cardboard box so much better than the pricey item that came in it?  Why can't we see that in our kids? Instead we keep striving to buy them the "hot" toy.  I know the theory is that every generation wants their kids to have a better life than they had, but does that necessarily mean more a more expensive life?

Some days I wish I could just stop. I'm doing what I can.  I'm slowly paying down on debt that piled up from habit and conditioning and who knows where.  I'm trying to consider my "need" before I purchase stuff, not that that stops me from buying fabric on sale.  The biggest change is that I am truly appreciating the things I love.  I try to put as much energy, time, and yes, even money, into the things that are most important, and those things are not really things at all.  They are my family, my friends, and my pets. 

 If you aren't sure what unconditional love is, hang out with a dog, or a toddler for an afternoon.  Your attention is what's important to them and they will reward you ten times over.  Ah.....to someday, not be normal.

Friday, September 3, 2010

This moment..bear got wet

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, join in over at Soule Mama

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

First of the Month Fun




The first of the month is an exciting time for my quilting.  The Block Lotto announces the past month's winners and introduces the block for this month and Kate's Stay at Home Robin gives me the next step.  Being on vacation this week, I was able to get to both right away.

First of all, I didn't win the Block Lotto with the wonky roses.  Darn. But maybe this month!  We're doing wonky houses and  I've done two so far.  This one has a little cat in the door, and the other has a cat in the window.  It's fun to fussy cut something into those tiny spaces.  If I make a bunch more, and they all have cats, I'll probably be known as the Cat Lady.  Hmm....maybe I should do something other than cats on the next one.  Anyway, it would be a fun month to win and build a quilt city of these crazy houses.

For the SAHR we had to put a 3x10 inch segment on top of the two previous steps.  I did a liberated wavy cut with some really great fabrics that remind me of my prairie theme.  I've never really done curves before, so that was an added challenge.  I think I like it so far.  It's a mystery where we're going and that is fun too.

I've got some other projects in the works including I Spy quilts for the kids for Christmas.  Plenty to keep me busy for the remainder of my week off.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

In Search of Faith....

There’s been a lot of talk about faith and religion in the last few days. In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Thomas Jefferson.  But it seems to me that we have become less tolerant of our religious differences than ever.

A plan to build a Muslim community center which includes a small mosque within two blocks of  9/11 Ground Zero has met with an intensifying groundswell of opposition from rightwing pundits and politicians.

At the recent rally, talk-show host Glenn Beck held at the Lincoln Memorial, he said what was originally going to be a political rally, was now a religious rally.  He claimed that God spoke to him and that the next "40 days and 40 nights" will see a profound spiritual shift in our lives.

There is widespread, and growing, confusion about President Barack Obama's religious affiliation. A national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that one in five Americans now believe (incorrectly) that he is a Muslim. The White House issued this statement in response to the results of that poll:
"President Obama is a committed Christian, and his faith is an important part of his daily life. He prays every day, he seeks a small circle of Christian pastors to give him spiritual advice and counseling, he even receives a daily devotional that he uses each morning. The President's Christian faith is a part of who he is, but not a part of what the public or the media is focused on everyday."
"The poll's findings are not surprising given the scope of the issues we are focused on-a recovering economy, bringing troops home from Iraq, putting healthcare and financial reform implementation in place. The President's strong Christian faith is what guides him through these challenges but he doesn't wear it on his sleeve."

The holy wars of the Middle East have been going on forever.  In the 70s, with President Jimmy Carter’s Peace Accord which won him the Nobel Price, it looked like maybe things would get better.  But that is certainly not the case today.

My friend Jennifer felt compelled to post this on facebook:  "As a Christian, I really feel the need to share this verse: 'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me---watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.' - Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message translation)
In light of all the folks who like to create "spectacles" in the name of God, I feel saddened by what Christianity means to many people. I do not believe that God wants all that production and animosity. Mother Theresa was once asked how someone might pray for her, she responded by asking that person to pray that she would not get in the way of what God wanted to do. I feel the same way. Unfortunately, we live in a world where many people like to bask in the spotlight."

My friend Kevin did his first ever blog: a pilgrim's posts  The whole thing deserves to be read, but here is a tiny portion of it:
 "God hates religion. Yep, he does. Religion can be defined as:
1: the service and worship of God or the supernatural, or commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3: scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith   
For a MUCH better definition listen to God in the book of Amos 5:21-24 (The Message):   
'I can't stand your religious meetings. 
I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want.' 
This writing was directed at the posers of the day, those folks who loved to be noticed but didn't really carry the stigmata on their hearts. These were people who had all the appearances of holiness. They were important, puffed up with pride, with a need to set boundaries between people, who is in, who is out, etc. In other words, they were us.   
I would add that God wants more than justice and fairness. God seeks us."


From his holiness the Dali Lama:  "We can't say that all religions are the same, different religions have different views and fundamental differences. But it does not matter, as all religions are meant to help in bringing about a better world with better and happier human beings. On this level, I think that through different philosophical explanations and approaches, all religions have the same goal and the same potential".


"The gates of hell will open," Glenn Beck calmly predicted at his rally.  Is he claiming the apocalypse is upon us?  He could be right if we can’t find the true meaning of faith for ourselves, stop blindly following the fear mongerers, become compassionate for each other regardless of our religious affiliations, and get religion back out of politics as our forefathers suggested.

Friday, August 20, 2010

This friday moment.....

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, join in over at Soule Mama

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bullying and Being Mean

Wikipedia defines Bullying as "an act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.  Research indicates that adults who bully have personalities that are authoritarian, combined with a strong need to control or dominate.  Further studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying. Research on the self-esteem of bullies has proven that while some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, others can use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self esteem: by demeaning others.  The abuser him/herself feels empowered."

We all know about the problems of bullying and kids.  It's an important enough topic that even the government has a website dedicated to helping us stop bullying now.  

We teach our kids the basic guidelines to defend against such actions:  
Ignore the bully and walk away.
Hold the anger
Don't get physical
Practice confidence
Take charge of your life
Talk about it
Find your (true) friends

This is all good, but I'm amazed at how many adults are caught up in the drama of bullying as well.  We need to follow our own advice when we are faced with uncomfortable situations.  The "mean" people of the world are not going to change, but if we can somehow keep from letting their comments and actions get to us, we can spoil their fun.

My advice, my friends, for what it is worth....is to always try to take the high road.  Don't listen to their mean-spirited words.  Be a nice person even if they are not.  It's one of the first lessons we teach our kids:  treat someone the way you want to be treated.  I know....I hear the groans.....this is not easy....but it is the best course of action.  Afterall, we are the adults here, aren't we? 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Grass Is Always Greener...

The old saying is that the grass is always greener on the other side.  Maybe the problem is that we're not really seeing what's on our side.  Throughout our lives we compare ourselves to everyone else.  So often, it seems "they" have a nicer house, nicer car, more perfect children, etc.  Well, here are some of the lessons I've learned along the way.

A nicer house.  I remember growing up when one friend of mine always wanted to hang out at my house.  I couldn't understand that since she had a really nice, big, fancy house.  That was until I went to visit her.  I found out that she wasn't allowed in the living room at all.  Her dog couldn't sleep on her bed with her like mine.  In fact, her dog was only allowed in the family room.  Otherwise he was outside all the time all by himself.  Her mom yelled at her if her room was messy. So her house was definitely not better than mine, only bigger.

A nicer car.  My car gets me where I'm going and has good gas mileage to boot.  It is getting older so I don't know how long before I will have to replace it, but I doubt I'd get much fancier even if I had extra money to do it.  I don't need to spend extra money on insurance and gas either.  And I certainly don't need to panic over every little ding or scratch I might get in a parking lot.  Nor do I need to be concerned with someone wanting to steal my car.  I like my car.  It's cute and efficient.  What more do I need?

More perfect children.  We always want our kids to put their best foot forward when around others.  It's nice to be proud of our kids, but why can't we be happy with just who they are?  When my kids were growing up, I figured out that the other parents only told me the "good" stuff about their kids.  Everyone wanted to be the perfect parent and mold the perfect child.  It wasn't until I had a second child that I began to realize that kids have certain personalities and traits no matter what you do.  Oh, good parenting will bring out the best in a child, but no amount of parenting will shape a child into something they are not.  Just love them.  That's the best thing you can do for them and for you.  Love them.  Accept them. Enjoy them.  Support them.

This is part of the Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge at ">Steady Mom  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

SAHR

It's the first of the month, so you get to see assorted quilting blogs.  I am doing several things that are monthly right now.  This is step 2 of the Stay At Home Robin from Kate's Quilting and Other Fiber Arts Blog

Step 2 was to add a 4x6 inch piece onto the left or right of our original 6x6 inch piece.  Well, I have known that I was not completely satisfied with my original square, but I've been waiting for step 2 to figure out what I wanted to do with it.  I think I worked it out quite well.  I took my original square apart and realigned the "stem" pieces and then I cut it down to be the 4x6 inch piece.  I did some little triangles to make the 6x6 piece.  This did a couple of things that I really liked.  First of all, my original "stained glass" design is a little more exact.  I haven't really dealt much with tiny pieces like that before.  Secondly, it moved the "stained glass" piece away from what will be the edge of the quilt.  I think I like its placement much better now.  I like the prairie prints in my triangles and I have a few left over that may find their way into the quilt someplace else down the line. Who knows?

Now it's back to the waiting game, which is so hard when I'm excited about the project where it is right now.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name....

When I took my first quilting class, I learned about precision cutting and lining up the little points exactly.  There are fabulous traditional quilters out there who can do that.  I just cannot.  I suppose it's a matter of patience more than anything else.  I want to see the pattern come to life, and quite frankly, most people don't notice whether the corners are lined up exactly point to point.

Thanks to Block Lotto, I recently discovered the creative fun of "liberated" quilting.  Some call it "rule-breaking" quilting. In this type of quilting there is no exact pattern, but rather an idea of how you are going to sew your pieces together.  It's fun, but also challenging.  It's not so easy to throw pieces together.I don't want to end up with a mish-mash, but rather a well-balanced design.  I am definitely enjoying the process though.

These are two of my "roses" for the August Block Lotto. As those of you who know me, you'll figure I'm not perfectly satisfied with them.  In fact, I have reworked these blocks a couple of times, but I think they are okay.  I definitely will attempt some more.  I think I get a better idea of how to arrange the pieces to make it work with each rose I do.

And just so you know that I haven't completely gone off to the wild side of quilting, I'm also working on a very traditional sampler as a welcome wall hanging.  There's room in this world, and my life,  for all kinds of ideas.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Camera

I got a new camera.  Actually I've been wanting a new camera for awhile as my old one wasn't very good.  But the frugal person that I am was not about to put out any money for a camera when I already had a camera that worked (even if it didn't work great).  Lucky for me, I guess, my camera died and I absolutely could not go for long without a camera. I don't see pictures as extravagances, but rather as necessities.  So off to the store I went.  Since I don't really know anything about cameras and I have a limited budget, I took Paige along to help me.  She was very tactful explaining how she was looking for something "not too complicated" with a large viewing screen.  Thanks, Paige.  She is right that I'm not very savvy about technical stuff and even though I am somewhat capable, I am very impatient.  I want a camera for fun to snap all those cute pictures everywhere I look.  We won't go into the advantages of the larger viewing screen.  I get it and certainly don't need any age references to go along with either of those criteria.

Arriving  home with my cute new red camera, I start getting it all set up only to discover I need to go back to the store to get a memory card if I want to take more than 4 picutes, which of course I do.  Finally, it's ready, so I go around snapping pictures of things that make me smile.  I've got several of the dogs to see how fast the pictures took.  I experimented with the different settings to see which would allow the fish in the water to show up better.  I think I now have my basic easy settings that will be good for most of what I do.

The pictures make me smile. This one I posted shows I've got not one but two orchids blooming right now.  A miracle for sure!

So I love my camera, but I have a techy question.  It's taking a long time to upload the picture.  I know that has to do with the file size.  And I know the file size effects the quality of the picture and how many pictures my memory card can hold.  So, what numbers do I want for my image?  If anyone has an answer I can understand, that would be great.  Otherwise, I'll just keep snapping pictures the way it is for now.  Little kids are coming over for lunch....Oh.....photo op!!!!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Experimental Quilting

Here's the result of my fist "Liberated" quilt.  Some people call them rule-breaking quilts.  It is a great creative outlet in that there is no set pattern to follow.  There are some guidelines which give me enough help to feel confident to experiment even more.  You will notice there are some traditional nine patch squares, but the bulk of the sections are a little wonky.  I loved moving the elements around trying for a balance of the colors and shapes.  I don't think it came out too bad.  Then, to top it off, I experimented with some non-structured machine quilting on the top.  There are swirls and x's and I tried a freehand leaf pattern twice and there's even a butterfly stitched into one space.  This quilt is far from perfect, but it was great for my creative spirit.  I want to thank Sophie from over at
for giving me my first taste of this freestyle block. I also want to thank Kate North for inspiring me with the wonderful Round Robin quilts she has been involved with the past year.  I've got ideas swimming in my head now, and I am excited again about quilting.  Wait until you see the pink flamingo fabric I picked up the other day.  WOW.  Such possibilities!

Friday, July 16, 2010

This Moment during this Heat Wave


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, join in over at Soule Mama

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dot

I can't imagine living my life without pets.  I have often been accused of living in a zoo, as the number of creatures sharing my household is usually at least double the number of humans, but I make no apologies for any of them.  I love them all, and they each add something to the household.

Today, we said goodbye to Dot, so I would like to indulge myself for a few minutes to remember the loving contribution she has made to my family over the years.  We first saw her as a tiny kitten some 17 years ago.  My oldest daughter brought her home.  We in no way needed an additional pet, but that's what I have said almost every time one has crossed our threshold.  She was a muted calico kitty that actually matched the sofa we had then.  My girls named her Dot, not because she had dots of color on her, but rather after the softball star Dot Richardson.

Starting life as Paige's kitty, she became Leann's kitty when Paige went to school, and then when Leann went to school, she became "officially" my kitty.  Dot was one of those elusive creatures who was very independent.  When she chose to sit with you it was very special. Her long hair was very soft and she would gently purr and generally just made you smile. She liked to play with water and would come into the bathroom when she saw you enter and meow at you until you turned the faucet on for her.  She calmly put up with the dogs, but was no where to be found when an unknown person entered the house.

All in all, she was a sweet, loving cat who enriched our lives for many many years.  She lived  a carefree, gentle life up until the last month when kidney failure caused her to rapidly go downhill. We will miss her.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What's For Lunch?

The challenge of lunch at work has been something that I have struggled with for some time.  I used to just get a bagel everyday.  That was fairly frugal and not very fattening.  It was also not very nutritional and got really boring before long.  Next I tried taking my lunch, but I leave early in the morning when I work days and do not allow myself time to "pack" a lunch, so I have resorted to grabbing a yogurt and granola bar on my way out the door.  That's proven to be a little bit healthier, and not too expensive.  It still gets boring, and on the days I work at night, it is definitely not filling enough.

Enter the laptop lunch box system.
I noticed it in a book that a co-worker had and had never heard of it before, although apparently it's been around for awhile.  I went to check it out on the Internet.  It's an interesting system, in that there are several small containers that fit neatly like a puzzle into a larger container, which then fits snuggly into an insulated bag with an ice pack and water bottle.  The system renewed my excitement for trying to make better lunches and I was thrilled with all the color choices too. It's promoted as "greener" and encouraging healthier lunches for school. Another plus of the laptop lunch system is that it comes with a book of suggested lunch stuff.  There's even a weekly newsletter with ideas and pictures of  lunches, all neatly packed in the little boxes.

The only drawback for me is the price.  That's when I have to weigh the options. Would investing in this type of "system" give me the assistance or motivation I need to actually prepare the kind of lunches I want to take?  I would still have to prepare the pieces in advance, so I could just grab stuff and go in the morning.  I understand how these would be popular with the school lunch crowd as it all matches and comes in great colors.   But, would plain old plastic mix and match containers work as well for me?

For now, I think I'll go fill all the little containers I can find with an assortment of lunch stuff and put them in one of the crisper drawers of the refrigerator.  We'll see how it goes and whether color coordinating is needed.

Friday, July 9, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, join in over at 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Stay at Home Robin

A few days ago, I told you about my search for creative quilting motivation and my discovery of the
.
  Well, another thing I had explored was the making of Round Robin quilts.  Basically, you started a quilt and then it was passed along to others in your group, each of whom added a border or whatever the instructions called for.  I don't really have a circle of quilting friends to do that, but I then I found

 
They had done round robins, but of a non-traditional type.  The results were fabulous art quilts that were small wall hangings.  I loved them!  In July, Kate started a Stay at Home Robin, where you would do each of the steps yourself.  I thought that was a wonderful way to "test the waters" so to speak.

I picked a sort of theme.....the Prairie.  I found some fabric from my stash and picked up a couple of fat quarters that amused me.  I have a few visual ideas and even some quotes floating around in my head.  Since I don't know where we are going with this, I don't know which of those elements I'll actually end up using and I'm sure I'll think of tons more along the way. Then I was ready to make my first block.

Here it is: a 6 inch block that roughly mimics the Prairie Style stained glass of Frank Lloyd Wright.  It's done scrappy with batiks and creams.  I'd say I love it, but the perfectionist in me seldom "loves" anything of the artwork I do.  I think it's an okay start.  I've already thought of how I could have done it differently, but I'm just going to relax and see where this project takes me.

 The only problem I have now, is the next step isn't until next month.

Friday, July 2, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, join in over at SouleMama.

Liberated Quilting

I will probably always be a beginner quilter.  I don't have the patience to do the exacting work of the truly talented quilters.  I do enjoy piecing quilts together, but I get tired of doing the same block over and over again. So I'm always looking for quilts that fit my short attention span.  I like samplers as the blocks are different.  I like scrappy quilts as the materials are different.  I like mystery quilts as I don't know how they are going to end up until they are finished.  I do mostly smaller sized quilts that I can hopefully finish before my interest fades.

Now, I've found a new group that is right up my alley.  It is Block Lotto.  First of all, I can make as few as one block to be included. If I'm only making a few blocks, I can probably use leftover material I already have.  That makes the price right.  Then, each block is a "chance" to win. Winning is always exciting.  What you win are enough blocks to make a whole quilt mailed to you from other Lotto contributors. How many winners is determined by how many blocks are made.  How fun is that?  Then to top it all off, the last several block patterns have been "liberated" patterns.  That means there isn't an exact pattern, just the process to make the block, so while all the blocks are the same, they are also all different.  The idea of uniqueness for every block really suits me.

I'm excited about my first four "fireworks" blocks.  Wish me luck.  I might end up with a whole quilt of these little abstract sparklers, and if not me, then someone who will love them, I'm sure.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Art of Listening

I was reading the
article today from the
. He's been posting his "techniques' and tips. Today, he was talking about taking a breath (an old fashioned zen technique) to stop impulses. A good article, but one part in the middle, which had nothing to do with weight loss, but everything to do with how we live, really made an impression on me. Here's the quote from his article:


"Most people, myself included, have a habit of trying to make conversations about themselves. If someone is talking about Florida, instead of listening and reacting to what that person is telling you, you're just waiting for them to stop talking so you can jump in and say, "You know what I did when I was in Florida?"
Restraining this impulse allows you to truly listen to someone and respond more sensitively and genuinely, which they'll appreciate it. And knowing you had the discipline to restrain the impulse to make the conversation about you can make you feel ever-so-subtly proud of yourself, as it should."


I know how irritated I get when someone always seems to try to turn the conversation to themselves. But in honestly thinking about it, I have to admit to being guilty at times of doing exactly that.

This made me realize that if I'm telling a story, or especially, if I'm having a difficult time with something, I am asking for your help, or sympathy, or empathy, or motivation, or something from you. I am not looking to be outdone in my story or problem. It's not going to help me to know that your story or problem is "bigger or better" than mine. Why do we always seem to live life as a competition? It seems we are always comparing our homes, our kids, our pets, our craft projects. Often our comparisons are invalid. The friend who lives in a really nice house and has lots of money isn't necessarily any happier than you are. We should be just doing our best and trying to find happiness in our accomplishments, without trying to "top" someone else.

Life is not really a competition for me. I want to be my best, and I want you to be your best, and those are probably not equal accomplishments, but so what?

Anyway...thank you Slowest Loser. I will try to use my "zen" whether it be your breathing technique, or just a better awareness, and truly LISTEN when someone is talking to me. They deserve that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quilts for Kids

I just finished my second quilt for the
 program, sponsored by Downey.  If you like to quilt you should check it out.  They send you all the fabric and the pattern for a child's quilt.  You put it together.  The only thing you have to add is the batting.  Then they give the quilts to children in hospitals.  They even give you a label to "sign" your quilt and then you can check on it's journey at their website.  (I, of course, lost my label.)
I am what you might call a beginner quilter.  I've been quilting a long time, but I don't do fancy things.  I love to piece quilts together but I don't have a terrible amount of skill or patience.  I heard about this program from my friend Cindy.  She claims to be a beginner quilter too, but I think she is much better than me.  Anyway, I got on their website, and requested a kit.  The fabric they sent me was so cute and kid-friendly and the pattern was super easy.  They would like to get the finished quilt back in about 4 weeks, and they would love it if you would send a second quilt too.  They are figuring on a more dedicated quilt maker, who probably has enough scraps to do one of these little quilts.  Yea, well that isn't me.

 To piece together their quilt didn't take very long, I must admit.  I had it finished in an afternoon easily.  It took me longer to get around to the machine quilting.  They wanted it with a little more quilting than I typically do.  It has to hold up to industrial washing.  Then I went looking for material to make a second one.  I found a cute bundle of fat quarters all with dog prints on sale.  I pieced that together in a really easy pattern of diagonal squares.  I ran into a problem when I need the border and backing.  Of course, the cute little dog prints were no longer anywhere to be found. Every dog print I found was done in muted colors with an emphasis on beige.  My squares were bright primary colors.  After checking several stores several different times, I finally went with a bright red dog print border and backing.  So both quilts are finally finished and ready to send off.

Dear Downy and Children's Hospitals,
I'm sorry this took so long, but I hope the kids like their quilts.  I think your program is fantastic.  I hope you get many quilters, more talented than I am, to join in this effort.  I know all kids love having a quilt that is uniquely theirs and I would think that would be especially true for a child in a hospital.  Thanks for letting me take part.
Janet

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sales and Discounts


Sales and discounts are a good thing.  Right?  Except when they aren't.  The thing about sales and discounts is that they often suck us into the same spending pattern we're trying to get out of.  I was recently tempted by two different offers.  One was an incredibly deep discount on some cute clothes.  The other was on pet medication.

 I was really excited about the clothes because the savings were so good.  The clothes were cute.  They had my size.  But I really didn't need the clothes.  Are you saving money when you buy something you don't need?  Not really, no matter how "good" the deal is.  It's a classic example of want versus need.  I passed on the clothes.

The other temptation came on my pet medication.  I have 3 dogs and 2 cats.  By the time I buy heart medication for the dogs and flea and tick control for all 5, I have spent quite a bit each month.  The discount I found really brought the price of each individual application down, but I had to buy the product in quantity.  My dogs are different sizes so they can't even share one box.  The total of the order felt way outside of my monthly budget.  But the product would last more than 3 months.  When I divided it out per application per animal per month, I couldn't turn it down.  I went ahead and spent the money today.  I believe that it was a frugal choice over the long term.

 Living frugally often means taking advantage of sales and discounts.  Sometimes I find things on sale that I don't need right now, but I will need later, so they are still a good deal.  But I have found that I have to be very careful with sales, so I don't end up spending money on something that I don't need, and might not even really want.

The clothes were a want, but the pet medication was a need.  I'm proud of myself for carefully analyzing my options.  I think I made good choices today.  And I think that's the trick to frugal living...making reasoned choices, not impulse buying.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


"Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." - Pablo Picasso

Creativity is something that needs to be nurtured and prodded into being. But it is also something that everyone can have.  Why is it that some children think they can't be creative?  When did realistic drawing become the only "good" drawing?  Obviously it is not, or people like Mondrian and Jackson Pollack would never have become famous.  But it is something children too often believe.  

 Peter Reynolds has an excellent book entitled "The Dot".  In it, a little girl doesn't think she can draw.  Her teacher encourages her to just make a mark, so she does.  It's one small dot on the page.  Then this brilliant educator tells her to sign her work and proceeds to post the drawing on the wall.  This encourages the student into believing she is creative.

As an art teacher, I never understood the concept of writing your name on the back of your work.  You should always sign the front.  Be proud of the effort, even if you are not satisfied with the result.  I can guarantee that most artists are seldom 100% satisfied with their work.

Children can see the art in everything, up until their vision is discounted. Is there something adults say to them to squash their notions of expression?    

So, take my word for it:  Art does not equal realistic drawings.  While they may be art, there are so many other things that are also art.  Take a look at your grandmother's quilt.  Check out the weaving of an oriental rug.  Look at the pattern on your china.  Closely examine a piece of handmade paper. But creativity is not just in producing things that may be considered works of art either. See the shapes in the clouds and the colors in the morning sky.  Compare two stones from the stream to see their likes and differences.  Creativity is in your mind's eye.  Creativity comes in appreciating the unique qualities of things, including a child's crayon drawing. 



Monday, April 12, 2010

Religion and Politics

The old saying that you should never talk about religion or politics is probably good advice.  But here I go anyway.

 

I know why not to discuss these two things.  People have very set opinions on both, and are not likely to be swayed by your comments, therefore instead of discussion, you end up with argument and often hurt feelings.  But the other day, sitting in the lunchroom at work, a young co-worker made a comment that has been creeping into my thoughts repeatedly.  She asked, "How can you be a Christian and a Republican?"

 

Now, at first, I thought that was a strange comment.  After all the Christian Right and Moral Majority are strong Republican sects.  I am sure they would be appalled at her statement.  But then, I started to see her point.  Why would anyone be against helping others, especially the poor and children?  Why is it considered liberal to support government programs designed to feed the hungry and give people out of work assistance?  Oh, don't start about the people that abuse the system or don't deserve the aid.  I know all that.  But are you willing to deny someone who really needs help, because someone else cheats the system?

 

My co-worker asked if Jesus was a socialist.  After my initial shock at the question, again I saw her point.  After all, he was all about helping the poor and living in peace with your fellow man.  Certain aspects of the ideology of socialism definitely feel Christian, even though the entirety of it has not proved to be an efficient form of government.  We send aid to Haiti without asking their religious or political beliefs, yet we question whether we want to force the insurance companies to not deny coverage to a child born with a heart murmur. I suppose the answer is that only some people are sending aid to Haiti, and only some people don't want to change the insurance industry.  Generalizations are so easy, but the reality is much more complicated.

Then I was reading the book Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh.  If you're not familiar with him, he's a Buddhist monk from Vietnam who was kicked out of that country for his unpopular writings.  I was appreciating his simple theology about peaceful living and mindfulness, when I came upon the chapter about the Eucharist.  Here is a Buddhist monk supporting the life work of Jesus. That led me to take my co-workers outrageous question one step further.  How can we be Christian and not support people of other religions following the same path?

 

 For the record, I am a Christian.  While I was raised in the Episcopal Church, I do not currently claim any particular denomination.  I would have to say, I agree with those who believe in a loving God as opposed to those whose God condemns them for every little grievance.  I certainly need forgiveness way more than threats.  And for the record, I am an Independent politically.  I vote for the person, not the party.  And I believe there are many good Christians, who are Republicans.

 

It's all food for thought.

 


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Civility...where fore art thou?

 ci·vil·i·ty

Pronunciation: \sə-ˈvi-lə-tē\

Function: noun

1 a : civilized conduct; especially : courtesy, politeness

b : a polite act or expression

 

 

It's perhaps a naive wish, but I can only hope that some degree of civility and rational thought can return to the national political front.  The vulgar insults, the threatening phone calls and the vandalism over displeasure in the health care reform are cowardly, disturbing and sometimes dangerous.  We have a legal process to deal with government policies that we disagree with, and violence has no part in that process.

 

George Washington wrote down 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior when he was about 16 years old.  He copied them from a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595.  Granted, he probably wrote them as a school assignment, but the sentiment of our nation's father being associated with these rules is significant.  Today the wording of those orignial rules sounds fussy or even silly, but the many of the ideas are valid and worth reviewing.  Here is a modernized list of some of those rules:

 

-Treat everyone with respect.

-Be considerate of others. Do not embarrass them.

-When you speak, be concise.

-Do not argue, instead share your ideas with humility.

-When a person does their best and fails, do not criticize him.

-When you must give advice or criticism, consider the timing, whether it should be given in public or private, how it should be delivered and above all else bekind.

-If you are corrected, take it without argument. Consider the message, and then if you were wrongly judged, correct it later.

-Do not make fun of anything important to others.

-If you criticize someone else of something, make sure you are not guilty of it yourself.

-Actions speak louder than words.

-Do not be quick to believe bad reports about others.

-Associate with good people. It is better to be alone than in bad company.

-Always allow reason to influence your actions.

-Some things are better kept secret.

-A person should not overly value their own accomplishments.

-Do not go where you are not wanted.

-Do not give unasked-for advice.

-If two people disagree, do not take one side or the other without examining the issue. Be flexible in your own opinion..

-Do not correct others when it is not your place to do so.

-Do not be quick to talk about something when you don't have all the facts.

-Do not be curious about the affairs of others.

-Do not start what you cannot finish. Keep your promises.

-Do not speak badly of those who are not present.

-Show interest in others conversation.

-Don't allow yourself to become jaded, cynical or calloused.

 

May our politicians, and news people take note as their influence is enormous. These rules seem like small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make in order to live together in a peaceful, yet productive world