Archive for October, 2012

October 28, 2012

Frustration!

by Decemberbaby

Remember that TV commercial for the board game Frustration? “Frustration can be fun!” No, no it can’t.

I’ve been working on a very intricate quilt for the last couple of weeks. It’s been the bane of my existence. Anyhow, I finally got the top pieced and I spray-basted the whole thing together with the batting and the back. I started quilting. And then…

CLUNK.

Ugh. Really? the thread started bunching up under the quilt like little multicoloured bird nests. I sighed, took the machine apart, cleaned, re-threaded, changed the needle, and started to quilt anew.

CLUNK.

Grrrr. Maybe I missed a small piece of thread that’s stuck between two metal pieces? I repeated the whole cleaning and re-threading process. Now to fire the machine up again…

CLUNK.

I’m stuck. I’ll have to take the machine into the shop on Monday and hope that it doesn’t take them long to fix the timing (I’m pretty sure that’s the issue.) I suppose this is what a backup machine is good for… although I’m not sure if my darning foot will fit on the IKEA machine, so I might be out of luck as far as the quilting goes. Maybe I can work on some of my smaller projects.

Or maybe I should turn my attention to the clutter-pit that is my house. First up – the calendar area.

(Can I maybe just go back to bed and hope for de-cluttering elves to show up tonight while I sleep?)

October 20, 2012

Prude.

by Decemberbaby

I just need to take a moment to bask in your love and approval. I might lose it with this post. Then again, maybe not.

You see, I’m kind of a prude. Sure, I’ll put my hand up at a Weight Watchers meeting and casually mention that sex counts as an activity, even if it’s not listed in the program guide. And I’m not in the least bit inhibited when it comes to, uh, marital intimacy. And I’ve slept with every guy I ever dated (it’s true! Does the fact that I only ever dated one guy change how that statement sounds?)

But you know, most of those things happen behind closed doors. And with the exception of the first one, my sexual exploits (sexploits?) are known only to me and Mr. December. Which is as it should be, as far as I’m concerned. There’s a time and a place for everything.

So I hope you’ll all understand when I state, here and now, that it bothers me exceedingly when women attend synagogue in skirts that don’t even make it halfway to their knees. Or in tops that show a lot of cleavage. It just screams “inappropriate!” to me. Even worse, it smacks of disrespect – even if none is intended.

I find it strange that some women get all defensive and bristly when I say this, as if it’s their God-given right to wear whatever they want whenever they want. As if someone is imposing some medieval dress code on them. As if we’re passing judgment.

Okay, I’m passing judgment.

But why do women defend their right to wear too-tight and too-revealing clothing into a synagogue when they would travel to India and gladly take off their shoes in any given temple, or respectfully don long pants instead of shorts when visiting the great cathedrals of Europe? What gives?

I’m not an adherent to the standards of tznius (modesty) in dress that orthodox women follow. But you know what? We come to synagogue, many of us, to talk to God. Or to be part of a holy community. It’s hard for me to feel holy, or focus on God, when my eyes are constantly drawn to a woman’s cleavage – and I’m a heterosexual woman. Seriously, it’s that distracting.

Is this about ego? Is it about being blind to the effect of one’s clothing on other people? And is it so hard to remember that how we dress for synagogue (or anything) is an expression not only of ourselves, but also of our respect (or lack thereof) for the sanctity and importance of the occasion?

I don’t have any answers. Just questions that come up time and time again… so I’m turning to you, my readers. What do you think? And if you think that there should be standards, who gets to decide?

 

October 20, 2012

A little more quilty goodness…

by Decemberbaby

Yesterday we said goodbye to our beloved nanny… at least for a couple of months. She’s going back home to visit with her grandchildren.

I didn’t want to give her a too-big gift, because she’s supposed to be coming back (and I certainly hope that she does – she still has our house keys,) but I did want to give her a memento to take with her. She’s watched me make several quilts over the last 10 months, and I knew she loved the blue minky. What to make her? Can’t be too big, as I’m doing it at the last minute (as usual.) Nothing too intricate or fancy. Something that screams our names… got it!

It’s a mini-quilt. Or a potholder. Maybe a trivet. A quilted handkerchief. Something cuddly. It’s perfect.

I told our nanny that whenever she misses us, she can hold the children’s hands.

The hands are actual size – I outlined each child’s hand and then cut it out of a fabric that seemed appropriate: cupcakes for K, who’s always jonesing for sweets, frogs for N (his favourite hat is made with this fabric,) and bumblebees – busy flying around – for R. The bicycle background is an homage to our bakfiets.

I experimented with free motion quilting again, and fell in love with simple loop-de-loops. So easy!

And, of course, the back is made of her favourite blue minky.

She loved it. the first thing she did was put it up to her face and nuzzle it a bit, which sounds weird but is completely understandable to anyone who has touched minky. It just makes you want to cuddle up with it right away.

And it was so quick and easy, I’m left wondering if my grandmother would like one. What do you think?

October 18, 2012

I was feeling quilty…

by Decemberbaby

Not guilty. Quilty. And I’ve had the pieces for this quilt all cut and ironed for months now… so I pieced, quilted, and bound it in three days (roughly 3 hours of work a day.) The top is pieced from flannel and a jersey knit (I had to stabilize the knit with interfacing before piecing with it) and the back is turquoise minky.

The quilting itself was an exercise in frustration. It must be nice to have a sewing machine with a longer arm than the one on mine – I have to work with such a small frame to quilt that I spend most of my time repositioning and securing the frame. It was worth it, though, as I find stippling (the pattern of quilting I used on the main part of the quilt) very satisfying to do. I quilted the side strips with freehand lines, which I rather liked. I’ll have to do some line quilting on something one of these days.

Image

ImageImageImageWell, that’s one unfinished project down, 53,000,000 to go. Up next… an improvisational I-spy quilt with my polaroid blocks.

October 14, 2012

Turn around and she’s one…

by Decemberbaby

My baby turned one on Friday.

She has four teeth and hair long enough for two tiny pigtails. She has at least five words that we can tell – Mama, Baba (abba – “daddy” in Hebrew,) “Zeh” (Hebrew for “that”,) “Den” (Ken – Hebrew for yes,) and our nanny’s name. She has recently become attached to one of our baby dolls and can spend upwards of twenty minutes sitting in a chair, cuddling her baby.

In my usual fashion, I invited the grandparents over for cake and pizza. Honestly, she has no clue what a birthday is and it seems silly to go all out on a party for her first birthday. My policy is to throw a small cake party with lots of cool decorations, so that I have photographic evidence that we cared enough to have a first birthday party for each kid. So this morning I contemplated what kind of theme I could whip up in a few hours, and came up with dots. Polka dots. Have a look:

The garlands were a lot of fun to make: Cardstock circles (I used my 3 1/2 inch circle punch and some 5-inch precut circles) sewn into a chain. They’re fast, too.

I started to set the table and realized that my white tablecloth is terribly stained. Don’t worry, I totally fixed it:

No, there isn’t a stain under every polka-dot on the table… just some of them. The polka dots on the glasses, by the way, are wall decals that used to be on the wall in K’s room. I put a different colour and size on each glass so that people wouldn’t get confused about whose caffeine-free diet coke was whose. Oh, and see the tiny little bucket on the table? Mr. December thought it was just more junk when I brought it home from Shoppers one day – 99 cents after Easter – but I knew that we’d find a use for it sometime. It really rounded out the theme (pun intended.)

I tried to keep the food thematic. We had brownie cookies with “polka dots” (m&m’s,) cupcakes in polka-dot wrappers with round sprinkles on top, and veggies cut into rounds. There was also pizza and bourekas. Yum.

Sure, the icing is a bit sloppy, but nobody complained. And aren’t the polka dots all over the table cool?

Even R’s outfit – a polka-dot dress – fit in with the theme. And as you can see, she was mesmerized by the candle on her cupcake… and very pleased when we finally gave her one to eat. It was only a couple of minutes before all that remained of her cupcake was a (very large) smear of icing on her face.

After dinner and dessert I pulled out the guitar and sang her favourite songs. Then I changed gears and got everybody singing the Shehecheyanu, the Jewish prayer thanking God for sustaining us and keeping us alive to reach this milestone. Mr. December and I got a bit misty-eyed, especially during the next song – Al Kol Eleh – which is all about being thankful for all of life, both the bitter and the sweet. The bitter was so very bitter… but the sweet is indescribably sweet.

So that’s it… we survived her first year. Sure, we were in “survival mode” more often than not, and we’ve been awfully exhausted, but we made it. And – as my best friend pointed out – I made it to her first birthday without getting knocked up (I was six months pregnant at N’s first birthday.) And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a Good Thing.

Happy Birthday, little R. It’s been a real trip.

October 9, 2012

Choosing to love our small home

by Decemberbaby

Our house is small; I’ve mentioned that many times before.

I’ve also mentioned that we’re unsure of whether we should renovate or move when this house becomes too cramped for us.

After a lot of research, hours of discussion, and many spreadsheets (my husband is an engineer. Every major decision gets its own spreadsheet,) we have decided to take the third option. We have decided to stay put.

It sounds odd, but there it is. When we asked the question, “what problem are we trying to solve?” the answer was that our house feels crowded and cramped, and that there isn’t room for our stuff. Our STUFF. Not “there’s no room for our kids to play” or “we don’t have space to entertain the way we’d like.” We have plenty of space for the people… but not for the stuff. Am I the only person who thinks that’s a really sickening reason to move? Talk about first world problems.

We know that we have too much stuff. We have so much stuff that we don’t even know what most of it is. During the summer Mr. December and I spent a couple of days clearing space in our basement rec room, and we unearthed most of Mr. December’s life as a bachelor as well as much of our early married life; quirky cocktail shakers, a once-prized alcohol dispenser, an entire box of things to re-gift, even dishes that came from his student hovel. All that stuff made its way to the curb economy. Whatever remained went in the garbage. And we still have more stuff.

Our house isn’t like an episode of Hoarders. We’re more like the people who call Hoarders and offer themselves up only to be told that they’re nowhere near as cluttered as the TV show’s guidelines require. But there’s stuff everywhere, and when we remove it there’s more stuff, and it’s just too much. It’s enough to make me think – fleetingly – of how nice it would be to start from absolute scratch the way people do after a natural disaster. Not that I would ever, EVER wish for any kind of disaster to befall us (or anyone); it’s just the thought of being able to have only exactly what we need without having to dig through boxes and piles of our old stuff.

Anyhow, as I was saying… that’s not a reason to move. We love our home, and we’ve invested so much of ourselves (also our money, but moreso our time, sweat, and creative energy) in making this house work for us. We don’t want to leave, and that’s that.

And since we’ve decided to stay put, something has to give. Our new plan is to get rid of all the junk over the next few months, and then make small modifications to the house that will enable us to stay here as long as possible. It’ll be a great winter for DIY projects (did I mention I got a great deal on a circular saw and a table saw? $100 for both!)

Someday, hopefully soon, I’d like to take you all on a photo tour of my house so that you can see why we love it so much. In the meantime, tell me: do you move frequently, or do you like to stay in one home for a long time? Do you find moving easy? Difficult? I want to know.

October 4, 2012

Little Sukkah in the Big City

by Decemberbaby

For those of you not keeping track of the Jewish calendar, we’re now halfway through the festival of Sukkot, the next-to-last in our month-long marathon of holidays (trust me, the Christmas season has nothing on the Jewish holiday season. We’ve pretty much got at least two festive meals a week for four weeks.) I love Sukkot. Building and decorating the sukkah takes care of any residual Christmas-decorating envy I may have, and it’s a mitzvah to invite guests into the sukkah, which I love to do.

We built our first sukkah several years ago, on the driveway. It was lovely (if poorly lit) until the wind started up one night. The canvas walls acted like an enormous sail, and the next morning we found our entire sukkah lying on its side on our next-door neighbour’s lawn. The next year we tried the backyard, which meant that bringing food and drinks to the sukkah involved walking through the back hallway and through the third bedroom, then down the porch steps, sometimes in the dark. Also, there was no urgency involved in taking it down; I joke that we’re the Jewish equivalent of people who haven’t taken down their Christmas tree by June, because last year’s sukkah was still up as of this past May.

Anyhow, after last year’s debacle in which I pressured Mr. December to set up the sukkah, which we then failed to use (it wasn’t my fault! I gave birth on Erev Sukkot!) he declared that I was on my own. I recruited a friend’s husband to help me build (bartered, actually, for some groceries and a place to bury their placenta – true story.) And build we did! I even used a circular saw to cut the lumber. And the reason I had to cut the lumber? This year we have a new location, the best yet! This year our sukkah is on the front porch.

The banner says “welcome” in Hebrew. The gate keeps the babies inside. The roof, as per Jewish law, is made of a natural material (bamboo) and lets in the rain and the sun. Come inside…

It’s a mitzvah to decorate the sukkah. Some people use strings of lights and tinsel (especially in Israel, where they don’t really associate that stuff with Xmas,) others decorate with fruits, vegetables, and other harvest-themed decor, and still others hang posters of Israel, of great Rabbis, and of quotes from the Torah. I’ve decided that since Sukkot is also called “the season of our happiness” we should decorate the sukkah as we would for a big, joyful party.

All of our decorations are handmade by us, and they dance beautifully when the wind blows through. You might recognize my reusable fabric streamers from last Purim.

A paper chain is an easy craft even for a preschooler. For this one I cut strips from gift bags that were too shabby to be re-gifted. I handed them over to K along with a roll of tape and she spend the next hour engrossed in making the chain.

This banner, and the “welcome” banner, were made using a batik technique involving blue school glue and craft paint. This one depicts a lulav and etrog, or as Wikipedia calls them, the Four Species.

We even have a light in our sukkah. The front porch light is plenty bright in the evenings, and it doesn’t require us to run extension cords at all.

Oh, and those paper balls are from a tutorial by Creative Jewish Mom. Aren’t they cool? I love them so much that I might just bring them inside and hang them in the playroom when Sukkot is over.

So that’s our sukkah. Thanks for visiting, and Chag Sukkot Sameach – Happy Sukkot!