Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Embracing Change

This is our engagement photo. We were 18 years younger and had no idea about the life on which we were embarking. We have more gray hair now but the same smiles on our faces.
Sometimes life throws you for a loop. (Where does this saying come from?) There's nothing you can do when it happens but deal with the problem, issue, or situation. In our case, the "loop" came on Valentine's Day. Mike lost his job. (I think this is a funny saying, too. I mean, can't he find his job anywhere? Is it hiding from him?) We didn't expect it to happen but yet weren't totally surprised. 

When bad things happen, I like to look at all the possibilities. One possibility was that we could feel devastated and believe we would be penniless and out on the street in time. Of course, we didn't think this way. We are fortunate to have a savings account and to live fairly frugally so we knew we had a lot of time to make some decisions about employment. The possibility that we chose to go with was that this was an opportunity.

Mike has long talked about getting back to teaching music full time. He stopped teaching when he started working at this small company. In the past year he picked up some music students one evening a week because he enjoyed teaching. Of course we couldn't see our way to having him quit his job to start teaching as his job was our main source of income. Without quitting, it would have been very difficult for him to focus on getting enough students to support his family but he couldn't support his family if he quit his job. Quite a catch 22.

In addition, with Nathan back at school and Nolan finishing his last year of homeschool, I began to wonder what I would do with my time. In fact, Nolan is so self sufficient (generally speaking) that I was already wandering around the house a bit. I starting thinking about going back to work in some capacity in the next year.

Well, when this Valentine's Day opportunity came along we started thinking that it made more sense for me to find a job and for Mike to pursue music as a teacher and performer full time. I have a degree in social work and have generally found it somewhat easy to find a job in relation to the general population. So, on Monday I will begin working full time. Mike will take over Nolan's last two months of school (with my supervision in the evenings....I can't let go that easily) and work on filling his teaching schedule. He's already gained a few new students.

We feel fortunate. We believe God has laid a path before us with love and affection. We are the lilies of the field.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks or Hey, I'm Learning the Ukulele!

I didn't post much about Lent this year. To be honest, I've not put as much thought into it as a usually do. I think some of that has to do with the ages of my children. In the past I looked at activities we could do to enhance our Lenten experience, to prepare us to celebrate the Joy of Easter. In fact, I was pointed to this blog this year:  Catholic Icing. Catholic Icing is a wonderful blog chock full of ideas and activities. 

What I've realized is that I no longer have children in my home. I have teenagers. Our activities need to reflect their growing maturity. So in thinking and talking with the boys about what to "give up" for Lent (they still do think of it in those terms) we've decided to limit our time on the computer. While I believe the computer is a wonderful invention (notice I'm sitting at it while writing this), it easily sucks up our time in ways that are not productive. So, I'm not forbidding them from playing computer games or looking at information on the computer, we're just being more mindful of the kind and amounts of time we are spending at this little screen.

The question for me then became, what to do with my extra time. I've decided to work on a few other skills that I've been wanting to improve for many years. One of these skills has to do with music. I sing and play piano and guitar. I do them all poorly. I've really wanted to improve my musical skills and chose to focus on them this Lent. The one problem I am running into with my musical training has to do with my husband. He teaches music students out of our home several days a week and that limits my available time for learning. 

How to solve this problem? I decided to learn to play the ukulele. The ukulele is small, portable and quiet. I can play it in my bedroom with the door closed while he is teaching and I am not disturbing anyone. Mike bought a tenor ukulele last year because he had two ukulele students. Since I know a little about the guitar, learning the ukulele isn't quite like starting from scratch but since all the chords are positioned differently it is having to retrain my fingers and mind. I'm enjoying the challenge, it's giving me something new to think about and it's bringing more music into our house!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Light In Darkness

The Hiding PlaceI just finished reading the book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I bought it because Nolan will be studying World War II at the end of this school year and I like to combine our literature studies with history whenever possible. He is an avid reader and I think a good fiction or non-fiction book helps to bring history alive, to make it more real and more understandable on a personal level.

The Hiding Place is the story of the ten Boom family, written from Corrie's perspective. What an amazing, loving family. When the Nazis occupied Holland (the ten Boom's lived in Haarlem), the family became part of the underground resistance movement. Mostly they helped to hide people in danger from the Nazi's. Eventually the family was arrested and Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to a concentration camp. Betsie died in the camp but Corrie survived to tell their story to the world.

What struck me most about the book was the faith of the people. The ten Booms were Dutch Reformed. When they began taking people into their homes, they continued their practice of Bible reading and prayer with everyone in the home, no matter the religion of those they were harboring. Obviously, many of those they were helping were Jewish. At no time did the ten Boom's try to convert those in their home outright. They showed the love of Jesus through their actions, their daily lived prayer and Bible study and I'm sure by the words they spoke about the love and sacrifice of God's son. They did not proselytize. What they did at all times was LOVE. 

Corrie wrote over and over again about her sister Betsie's love for others, especially for those who were cruel to her. She was a pure example of God's love for the world. She carried the light of Jesus into a very dark world. She was thankful for everything, even the flea infested bunker in which they had to sleep.
"Betsie, there is no way even God can  make me grateful for a flea." 
"Give thanks in all circumstances," Bestie quoted. "It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are a part of this place where God has put us."
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong." (pg 210)
While in the concentration camp, Corrie and Betsie were able to hide their little Bible and so held Bible study and prayer each evening in their bunk house. Women of all faiths joined them. Catholic women said the Magnificat in Latin, some Lutheran women whispered a hymn, and a sotto-voice chant by Eastern Orthodox women could be heard. Betsie and Corrie would translate their Dutch Bible into German so more women could understand and the words would then be translated down the isles into French, Polish, Russian, Czech and back into Dutch.
I would think of Haarlem, each substantial church set behind its wrought-iron fence and its barrier of doctrine. And I would know again that in darkness God's truth shines most clear. (pg. 213)

Again, at the core was the love of God. These women came together and in the midst of horror found hope in the Lord. They shared their faiths together and together God gave them hope amidst despair. Many of the women died in the camp. Their hope was for the next life. For Corrie, who was released due to a clerical error, she used her experiences to share that love and hope to millions of people around the world until she died. 

What kept the Nazi guards, who watched every movement of the prisoners, from finding the ten Booms Bible and breaking up their daily prayer service and Bible study? 

It was the fleas. The guards wouldn't step into the bunk house because of the fleas. Be thankful for everything, no matter if you can see the use of it or not.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Penny Rug

A few weeks ago I found what I thought was an amazing piece of black wool at the Creative Reuse store. I've been wanting to make a penny rug for our pie crust table for some time and thought this would be the perfect medium. I did a little research on penny rugs to determine how they were made. If you don't know, penny rugs weren't really used as rugs. They were little appliqu├ęd wool table or dresser decorations, really. It seems they were in vogue around the time of the Civil War. Wool was used because it was a popular fabric for clothing at the time. When the clothing wore out, women cut them up and made these little decorations for their homes. The term penny rug was "coined" because it was often a penny or other coin that was used as a template to cut out the wool decoration. You can find out more here.

I'm obviously not using a traditional pattern for my rug. While I do like the traditional penny rug, they are a little drab for my taste. I love the wool rugs and pillows found at this site and decided to go with Black Eyed Susan's. I just drew my own pattern. I had to laugh at myself when I unfolded my black "wool." It isn't wool at all but some kind of synthetic. It really did look and feel like wool on the outside. Once I opened it and looked at the back it clearly wasn't wool and after I washed it, even the top didn't resemble wool. Of course, I'm using it anyway!

I did buy some wool felt for the flowers and some extra for some other projects I hope to accomplish this year. The wool felt is wonderful to work with but the black fabric is not. I'm not able to sew using a blanket stitch like I wanted. All in all, I'm happy with how the project is working out. I hope to finish it this weekend. We've had some not-so-nice and definitely not-so-warm weather this week. I'm hoping that changes soon so I can get out in the back yard and start working. If not, I'll just sit home and sew!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Sewing

I've been wanting to make the tunic from this book for some time. I wore the dress from the book the other Sunday to Mass and remembered that the tunic would be a great addition to my spring wardrobe (which is full of old t-shirts and not much else). This photo doesn't do the top justice but I'm too lazy (and cold) to put the thing on and snap a picture. The pattern calls for adding a belt around the middle but it really didn't look right so I took it off. If I make another of these (which is highly likely) I'll add something permanent below the bust to add a little flair. It would take too much ripping to add it in now so I decided that plain works for me (which is actually more my style anyway). I'd like to find a nice simple khaki straight skirt to wear this with. I guess I could make one....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Market Bag for a Worthy Cause

I'm a sucker for a worthy cause. Maybe I shouldn't say that too loud but it's true. Arch Street Center is one of those causes I deem worthy. They do so much good in our city and have been hit hard by the economy in recent years. Every year they have a fund raiser which includes a fish bowl raffle and silent auction. I wanted to donate something to the cause and thought a market bag would fit the bill.
I modified a tutorial I found on Sew Mama Sew! It was originally for a garden tote. The size was just what I was looking for but not all the pockets and handles. The tote is quilted for durability.
Inside I added a removable zipper pouch for money, change, cell phone, lip balm, parking stub, whatever you might need while at market. I was vastly disappointed that I couldn't find my pouch hardware. I had to substitute hardware of lesser quality. Growl.
I also sewed up some little produce bags. I used muslin and some scrap fabrics to "cute them up." Wow, that's some bad grammar!
Here you can see that the bag really holds a lot. I've got onions and three kinds of fruit in the little bags.
Although tiny, the little pouch is mighty. I've got bills, my cell and lip balm inside with room to spare.
Just a sample of all you can put in the produce bags. I'm itching to make some for myself.
I made them using french seams. This is the first time I've made french seams and I'm in love with the process. Especially for something like these little food bags since most people don't want threads attached to their food. French seams are totally enclosed which eliminates the little threads that are inevitable on cut fabric and tidy up the inside of the bag. My mother would be proud.

Becoming a Young Man

I can hardly believe that handsome young man is my son. Seems like just yesterday I was dressing him in his baptismal gown. Everyone always tells you that time flies and I think most young mothers are sick of hearing it. Well, it is true. You blink and they are teenagers. Of course, everyday didn't pass by that quickly, just the years! Well, Nathan celebrated his Confirmation on March 12th with a beautiful Mass given by our newly installed Bishop McFadden. 
Here you can see Nathan and the bishop. I love the crozier (the shephard's crook-like thing). This is one bishop I am glad is leading our diocese. His homily was amazing. Nathan picked St. Martin dePorres as his Confirmation name. St. Martin dePorres was a humble man who did great good and loved all. Just like my Nathan.
Nathan enjoyed reading every word of every card. He reminded me of his DadDad in that respect. 
A few days prior to Confirmation, Nathan turned 15. I need to stop saying I can't believe he's that old, but I really can't believe it. We are so proud of the young man he has become. Above you can see the pillow case I made for his bed. When I asked him if he liked it he said,"I don't just like it, Mom, I LOVE it!" How sweet is that?
Here's the cake Nolan decorated for Nathan. I think that thing is called a one-up mushroom but don't quote me on it. Nolan spent quite a lot of time counting out the mini M&M's and organizing them on the cake. Of course we had to have pizza from our favorite pizza shop, Jr.'s. All in all it was a wonderful day for a wonderful teen. We love you Nathan and are so thrilled with who you are becoming!

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'll Fly Away Quilt

I'll fly away quilt
I've been quite under the weather for the past few weeks and haven't felt like posting or doing a whole lot of other things. I do have several things I'd like to share this week, including Nathan's 15th birthday and a few days later his Confirmation. 
Birds were applique, the rest pieced.
Today, I want to share a quilt that I don't remember taking pictures of! I was looking through the photos on my laptop and lo and behold, I found that I had taken some photos of the finished product. I made this quilt for my dear friend Amy last year for her cute as a button new baby (who is almost a year old now!) I thought I'd share the pictures with you today.
Machine quilting around one of the birds.
One of the patchwork squares.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

give away (but not by me)

ReSew: Turn Thrift-Store Finds into Fabulous Designs

I've been under the weather for several days so don't have anything to show you but wanted to send you over to Make It Do for a fantastic give away. Although if I was selfish I should make that link send you somewhere else. I'd really love to win the book myself. But....in thinking about Lent and what to do for our family, I've decided we're going to focus on being selfless, on thinking of others every day. So, even though Lent doesn't start for a few days, I'm doing my first selfless act and pointing you in the direction of a great give-away. Have a lovely Saturday.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Shop

My etsy shop that is. Mostly I'd like to make back the money I spent at Lancaster Creative Re-Use. No big deal if I don't. It's sort of a challenge to me. I sold things years ago on etsy when it wasn't such a huge site. After awhile I found that it would probably take a lot of work to get myself known and to get my product viewed so it could be bought. I just didn't have the time or the inclination to do it back then. 

Of course, I don't quite have the time now, but I have the inclination. So I'm spending a lot of my mornings and evenings on etsy, making treasury's and trying to figure out how to get my name out there. Of course, I need to be in the sewing room, too. Then there's Nolan's schooling. Fortunately, he is mostly independent on his school work. 

So here's a sample of my etsy shop. You can click here for the whole shop (which isn't too full). I'm still working out how to add my shop to my side bar. The world of social media has changed the way etsy (and everything else on the web) works so much that I'm having trouble finding the code I used in the past. Oh well. I guess I've got to learn something new.
Princess or Fairy cape. Fully lined with taffeta. Attached hood. closure is velcro on rickrack. 
Blue Knight. Hood "chain mail" is made of silver tulle. Tunic is some kind of poly/cotton light weight. Belt made of silver stretch. 
Here you can see the hood a little clearer.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In the sewing room

Nathan is obsessed with all things Mario. So for his birthday I cross stitched a little Mario and Luigi and will use them to make him a new pillowcase. I purchased the fabrics today and hope to get it sewn tomorrow or over the weekend. 
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