Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fun Faces of Family and Friends at Festivities!

How fortuitous to have friends and family forming flocks of fun these past few festive fortnights! PHew!  We're nearly finished with all this frolicking with one more family function later today.

Until then, I would like to offer a photo gallery of some of our favorite folks in alphabetic fashion:
The Anderson Girls (and Miss E)
The Bassetts and Santa

The Catrambones (with upside-down Jackson)

Faculty (Group A)

Faculty (Group B with others in another room)

The Gutierrez Family (Congrats, Alex!!)

Jennifer with presents
The Johnsons (with newlyweds Kiera and Stefan)
John and Kari with Miss E
Librarians (and not one gesturing "Hush!")
Muriel and Elder with their "Greats"
Nelson Sisters in the kitchen
New Mama holds a new outfit for her new daughter
Rholl (Bjorn) Birthday Party
Sanctuary Brass at LCC
Tuesday Night "Girls" at Cook Park
Wes and Deb on the road.
It has been festive, that's for sure!
(And if I forgot to mention you somehow I beg your forgiveness!)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sisters Celebrate

Perhaps you know that the Nelson sisters do themed gifts for Christmas and birthdays? 
And, before Christmas, the themes were shared and revealed at a city nest
and what fun themes they were, indeed!
We go all out for each other with tags for each gift giving clues as to what could be inside the
beautifully wrapped packages...even though the gift inside could contain post-it notes,
stickers or a sweater or book. 
Care to take a guess as to which sister wrapped which cluster of gifts?
We both used silver and gold.  One used a box full of packages and one used a tower of graduated-size nesting boxes. 
Give up?
Diann created the box to the left and I managed to make the tower of boxes on the right that wanted to tumble off towards the floor so I had to ribbon those boxes together with gusto.
Hers to me was easier to figure out due to all the stars on the packages and the ornament on the front.
She chose the theme to remember the stars by the tree in the Walnut Room that we recently visited to kick off the 2012 holiday season.
And I chose round shaped boxes that look like coins...kronor coins specifically.

Tre Kronor means three crowns and is one of the symbols of Sweden.
Yes, her gifts are all with a Swedish theme or origin of purchase.  (Including the silver "drawers" fit for a queen found at H & M.)

The three coins on the left are kronors just the perfect size to fit in the smallest gold box and the star on the right is hand-made with glass beads.
Our poor husbands to have to witness all our oohing and aahing and picture-taking!
But this is what we do.  It is an important part of the bond we celebrate as sisters.
If you have a sister you are close to, you will "get" this, too.  I hope Miss E and Miss M will be close sisters, too!
Wishing you and yours - especially you and your sister - the happiest of Christmases ever!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sewing Room Guests

My happy place is in my sewing room.  It can be the home of a mess and I don't much care --- fabric scraps thrown on the floor, lengths of thread not quite making it to the waste basket, pattern tissues
here and there.  It's all good!
But what is even better? 
 When I am joined by someone needing help in putting together a sewing project for
their loved ones and they come for a visit to my sewing room.
Recently, Carol came to have quilting lessons as she wanted to make a quilt for her grandson, Bjorn, who was about to turn one. 
Kudos to Carol for learning how to use a rotary cutter!  The quilt top was put together in just one day due to Carol's whirring and stitching determination. 
 Once the quilt was put together, she hand quilted it instead of the original plan of tying it with yarn. I am so proud of her and I know that Bjorn is going to love having this quilt made by his Gramma.
 The next guests came to my sewing room just yesterday.  The youngest guest wasn't much interested in sewing, but her mom was.  Her Mom is my daughter and she had making Christmas stockings for her family in mind.
To make these stockings, a woven blanket was repurposed.  It was a score because of all the different
pictures and scenes on the blanket such as snowmen, stars, people, buildings and trees.
Not long after the stockings were completed --- all seven of them, extras in case you are a visitor at their home on Christmas Eve --- another guest came to visit the sewing room:  the fairy Godmother of the Mom to meet the newest family member, Miss M.
I just love having visitors stop by my happy place....c'mon over!  (And please close your eyes to the threads and snippets on the floor!)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 13: Lucia Day

Today is a special day for those of us with Scandinavian roots. 
It is St. Lucia Day.
Even though this young woman was from Italy, we have somehow adopted her into our Swedish traditions.  On this day, the oldest daughter in the family dresses up in a long white gown with a red sash and, by candlelight, awakens the rest of the family members very early in the morning with a tray of saffron buns and some hot coffee. 
For more information on how all this works, please click on the link below:

This year, Miss E is old enough to sort of "get it" and we have participated in two pageants thus far.
In one pageant she was a little tomte girl and in the second - held last weekend at North Park University in Chicago,  she was in the audience wearing her very own miniature Lucia outfit.
Just this week I was watching a sewing show on PBS and I learned something about this dress that I didn't know when I found it calling to me in a thrift store: three rows of pleating on a hemline isn't just for accommodating a growing girl, but it represents the Holy Trinity. This dress was possibly a First Communion dress used by its former owner!

         Miss E didn't wear the candles on her head for very long.  This was a gift brought right from Sweden by Anne's
                 former SVF roomie, Elin.  Tack, Elin!

Once outfitted we were off to the pageant and John and Kari met us there.
And, once again, Miss E - for the third year in a row now - loved the candle lights, the singing and the presence of a beautiful Lucia maiden. (And the Lucia "helpers" with their sparkly silver head wreaths and belts, the wild pepparkakor boys who threw candy out to the audience,
 the dance up front with Mr. Peterson and the "big" kids.) 
Next year, we must bring Miss M, too!
H A P P Y     L U C I A    D A Y !

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Not Picture Perfect

Know how you see pictures on packaging that are supposed to be just the epitome of perfect?  Kids have the most fun using this toy, teeth have never been whiter when using this toothpaste, dinner out of a box looks like the food served at the best get the drift. 

This Christmas season, I thought Miss E. would be ready for making a gingerbread creation for the holidays.  I confess I am not one of those Grandmothers who bake and fuss in the kitchen too much.
I prefer getting a head-start with ingredients that are ready to go within a box.
This box - this picture-perfect-train-on-the-box - to be specific.  Even the candy canes are styled!
But why not a Christmas train for a girl who loves trains? 
(Even if the girl who loves trains had a sleepover and got stomach flu in the middle of the night.
with her first question in the morning being, "Can we go downstairs and make the train now?")
With leftover Halloween candy (thanks, Kari and Anne), a little odds 'n ends compartment box
was filled with various candies. 
Then the train was assembled with glue, not with the frosting as suggested in the directions that
came with the kit.  Not perfect frosting..oh dear.
She made her own, very own not-picture perfect rendition of the gingerbread train
When it was all assembled, perfection was certainly in her mindset!
So, with this Christmas season daily upon us, let's try to remember that it isn't about being perfect,
but rather our attempt to make the most out of what we are given.  It isn't about making our home look like a magazine spread, baking the most perfect-looking cookies or selecting the perfect gifts
for others. 
 The best we can give is a piece of ourselves, however imperfect that might be!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jeepers Creepers...We're Housewalk Peepers!

Time once again for legally peeping inside the homes of strangers at the annual
St. Joseph's Women's Guild
Doorways to Christmas
And, oh how we love this! 
It is such fun to see how others decorate for the holidays.  This year 
 seemed to have a strong emphasis on letter graphics with words on the wall, arty and vintage posters (even eye charts like we used as youngsters), and advertisements
 like a menu and a toothpaste ad.

Check out this cozy office niche with inspirational quotes painted in white on
chocolate-colored walsl:
"finish what you start"
"be thankful"
"keep it simple"
In another home, the woman of the house is an artist and had made dimensional red letters with sayings attached right to the walls.  Here in the foyer you could see
"When my heart finds Christmas"
"Deck the halls"
and (not shown because someone was in the way)
"Baby it's cold outside"
But my favorite quote was in the kitchen and it said, (again not shown because someone was in my way):
"There is no skinny Santa in here."
Out of the five houses we toured, we had our favorites for various reasons.
Some appeared magazine perfect, others had pictures galore of family members
who obviously adored being together - very personal views into the life they share daily.  Others had just a few glimpses into day-to-day life and I respect their privacy with that.
Another house had books - lots of books - visible in nearly every room, including the dining room.  And in the living room, the books were arranged by color of the book jackets.
As a librarian, I can say this could be a Godsend for the patron who knows what the cover of the book looks like, but has no clue whatsoever what/who the title/author could be, but it is blue.
Now, let's talk about the trees we saw on our Housewalk journey.  Oh my!
One house had 60ish trees.  Really, that's what the mini guide pamphlet said - I certainly didn't count them all!  That's a lot of trees. 
I think of that house now as the Imelda Marcos of trees house.
Some trees had themes - sports, princesses, handmade ornaments, cookie cutters, etc.

Here is my own version of of their room in my humble home with our tree:
We have no loft area, no 2 story windows, no imported Persian rugs, no
valuable ornaments, no vases (vah-ses) holding dozens of fresh tulips and roses,
but it still feels like a place I'd want to live a full, blessed life in!
Happy Home-adays!
May you and yours feel warmth and love in your home, no matter what it looks like,
whether or not it is a "feature" home on a Housewalk or looking like it needs some TLC.
It is shelter and there are those who would give anything for that...let's remember them at the holidays with anything we can give or donate.

Monday, December 3, 2012

One Tomte. One Elf.

'Tis the season for wee little impish ones to be making their way into house and home!  In Sweden they are known as tomte (tomten) and they act as protectors of the farm, animals and children.  Better give them porridge WITH BUTTER on Christmas night, or you'll be sorry --- the cow's tails will be tied together or objects could be turned topsy turvy and generally you should expect mischief.
 Here at home, there may be an Elf placed on a Shelf (some love 'em and others don't) to encourage/threaten good behavior as the days count down to Christmas.
As for me, I just love both!  In the past I have sewn little elf ornaments for the tree and made an
elf doll out of fun fabrics.  This year was the year to make tomten.  Because this was the year we went to Sweden and visited a very special little shop called Tomte Verkstan.
In this shop, one could buy ready-made tomten.  But I opted to buy little tomte kits and make them myself back home.  And it has been so much fun!

Seriously, does this place look like fun or what???
Once back home, though, it was a bit of a challenge to craft the little red-hat wonders as there was no English in the instructions and quite a few little pieces to figure out:
Which brings me to the next Swedish tradition: the Lucia Pageant.
And Miss E being a little participant in the pageant as a tiny
tomte handing out candycanes, decked out in red from top to toe.
Now it seems apparent to me that we have a tomte in the family....but what about her
sister, Miss M?  Today I confirmed she is an elf while watching her at her 1 month check up.
See what I mean?
We're in for some holiday merriment with these two little ones!