Archive for January, 2013

January 30, 2013

Finally, an HST we can all get behind.

by Decemberbaby

The decluttering and purging continues unabated. Today somebody bought our old 27″ TV for $50, enabling me to clear some space in the basement and brag that “my house just lost 100 pounds!”  I’m also keeping up with my “five minutses”, and after three weeks of one small task a day, the difference in our home is striking. I love my new system.

I haven’t been doing much sewing lately (aside from N’s pants,) but I do have a backlog of photos to share with you. So, without further ado, may I present…

My very first HST* quilt!

*HST=Half Square Triangle. NOT Harmonized Sales Tax. FYI.

This quilt began as a promise. For her birthday last July, I told my old nanny (as in, she came to live with us when I was 2 years old, and she’s still with my parents) that I’d make her a quilt as a birthday/Xmas gift. I googled some quilt patterns and showed her the pictures, and she chose a fairly traditional HST pattern.

I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be easy. I started with pre-cut squares, for heaven’s sake. How hard could it be?

Apparently, very. HST triangles need to be sewn, then cut, pressed, and then trimmed to a uniform size, making sure that the diagonal seam is precisely in the middle of the square. It’s exhausting.

But it was worth it. Behold!

Maureen's christmas quilt

Relevant details: the HST’s are made from Cuzco and Ticklish by Moda, along with Kona white. I used more batting than usual, and in addition to the thin cotton batting, there’s a layer of fluffy polyester batting. I really wanted that puffy look and feel. Adding to the puffiness, I tried to keep the quilting pretty minimal.

 

The backing is a cuddly pink minky. I love how defined the quilting is on this back.

Maureen's christmas quilt back

The binding was problematic. Well actually, it’s my procrastination that was problematic. I was racing against the clock on December 24, and I absentmindedly started sewing the binding on the front, instead of the back. After experimenting with a bunch of things (all of which looked terrible) I decided to embrace the flaw and machine-finish the binding with a zigzag stitch. It actually looks kind of cool. Not cool enough to make that mistake again, though.

 

 

maureen's christmas quilt binding

 

Finish it off with one of my labels…

 

maureen's christmas quilt label

And Voila! A finished HST quilt, ready in time for Christmas.

maureen's christmas quilt 2

The entire time I was cursing the HST’s and swearing I’d never do this again, but I already have plans for a quilted duvet cover for my bed…

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January 30, 2013

GAH!

by Decemberbaby

I’m frustrated.

I’ve been sitting here for nigh on half an hour, trying to upload photos of my latest quilt. I’m doing the exact same thing I always do. Why won’t it work? I just keep getting an error message from WordPress.

Rest assured, that post will come. In the meantime, what would you rather hear about next? How I’ve reached new heights of cheapskate-ery? Or how and why I sawed a giant hole in my wall?

I await your bidding…

January 24, 2013

We want for nothing

by Decemberbaby

For a complicated variety of reasons, my sewing room is overflowing with fabric. It’s not exactly clutter, but there’s just too much of it. In the spirit of drastically reducing clutter, and having adopted the old rhyme “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” I decided to sew a few pairs of pants that N desperately needed. He’s a tall, skinny boy – any pants that are long enough in the leg have to be cinched in all the way in the waist, and the resulting ballooning looks kind of silly – so I figured making his pants also carried the advantage of giving him pants that fit nicely for a change.

It was while sewing his third pair of pants that I started thinking that I should have just ordered a few pairs from Old Navy online. I reminded myself that in order to avoid shipping charges I’d have to order at least $50 worth of merchandise, most of it stuff we don’t actually need. What N needed was three pairs of pants, and now he has them. The temptation to buy a little more, or to buy something cute on impulse, is completely absent when I make my children clothing. It just takes too long to make something if we don’t have a need for it.

It occurred to me the other day that I haven’t spent time in a mall in a very long time. I don’t like malls these days: I always leave with a severe case of what I call the “wanties”: I want some new pretty t-shirts, I want new throw cushions for the couch, I want that awesome floor lamp, I want another travel mug, some costume jewellery, a more coordinated wardrobe. None of these things are things I need. None of these things are things I wanted before I went to the mall. It’s just impossible to spend time in a place dedicated to consumption and to novelty without succumbing to the shopping bug.

Grocery stores offer similar pitfalls, though not on such a grand scale. I was just saying yesterday at a Weight Watchers meeting that planning my meals and shopping only once a week reduces the number of times I have to be tempted by food that I want but don’t need (and, arguably, shouldn’t have.) Last time I went shopping I handed over a bag of pecans, a bag of Craisins, and a chocolate bar to the cashier. “I changed my mind,” I told her, “I don’t really need this stuff.” I saved myself thousands of calories (yes, thousands. No joke.) I saved myself about $15. I also saved myself from a bit more kitchen clutter. I don’t know if I’d have the strength of will to do it three times a week, though. Stores have a way of convincing us that we need things.

When K was younger she liked to tell me that she needed things: “Mummy, I need a balloon. Mummy, I need a twirly dress. Mummy, I need chocolate!” I made a point of telling her – each and every time – that there was a difference between “need” and “want.” She doesn’t confuse the two very much anymore, but I don’t know that we can say the same for most adults in our society.

Most of us have what we need: shelter, some functional clothing, food, heat, family, friends. I’d hazard a guess that we also have most of what we want: stylish clothing, gourmet food, tastefully appointed homes, cars, iPods. We should be able to say that we want for nothing. But don’t we keep on wanting and wanting?

Thankfully, with no TV and no trips to the mall, I manage to keep my list of wants to a bare minimum, and I have no trouble saying “no” to myself if necessary. The kids are fine too: their wants aren’t many, and so we’ve avoided accumulating a lot of stuff. I wouldn’t say that we want for nothing, but we definitely don’t want for very much. I can say that we need for nothing. And if we did need something, there’s a very good chance I’d make it myself. It’s the best way I know to make sure that we have as much as we need, but no more. And besides, I want to make room for some pretty new fabrics…

January 17, 2013

“I want to hear one off your heart.”

by Decemberbaby

When I was a little girl, we had a nighttime ritual: after teeth were brushed and pyjamas donned, my brothers and I would pile into my parents’ bed and listen as they read us poetry. Not children’s poetry like Alligator Pie or A Child’s Garden of Verses, but classic poems: Byron’s Destruction of Senaccherib, Rudyard Kipling’s If, Ogden Nash’s Custard the Dragon (okay, that one was probably for children.) The poems all came from a book called The Golden Treasury of Poetry, which is now out of print, and which my brothers and I have all (at some point) tried to take home with us. None of us succeeded. Mum guards her poetry book zealously, by which I mean that it’s up there in the top three Things Nobody Else but Mum is Allowed to Touch EVER! along with her sewing scissors and her stapler.Untermeyer poetry

Fast forward to last year. At the school book sale there was a representative from a smallish publishing company, selling beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully curated anthologies of stories, legends, and poems. I took one look at the Barefoot Book of Classic Poems and knew that I had to have it. Boy, were the children disappointed when they learned that the book was mine – and that it was, in fact, The Book Nobody Else but Eema (mum) is Allowed to Touch EVER!

Owl and the PussycatI love reading poetry. It’s the rhymes, the rhythm, the economy of words, and the breadth of language that excite me. I read The Highwayman for the first time a few months ago and was clutching the book, knuckles white, until the girl sacrificed herself for her love. Something told the Wild Geese evokes in me that strange hollow feeling that comes at the end of summer when you just know that winter is on its way.  I just love poetry.

Do other people love poems as much as I do? Do any of you expose your children to good, classic poetry? I took it for granted that poetry would be part of a family’s reading repertoire, but then I read a comment thread on some forum in which parents had been asked for good things to read a kindergartener, and people mentioned all manner of serialized, licensed books that use the exact same vocabulary as we do in our day-to-day lives. For heaven’s sake, people, where’s the magic? How will our children’s minds and vocabularies and imaginations stretch if we keep limiting them to the same basic stories in the same basic words?

Despite my childhood exposure, my children came to poetry in a bit of an organic, roundabout way. We were waiting  somewhere – don’t ask me where – without books or toys, and I offered to tell my children a “rhyming story.” I recited Custard the Dragon and Jabberwocky to their rapt attention and when begged for an encore, I had to wind down with In Flanders Fields and Invictus. Eventually I had to stop reciting. I had reached the limits of my memorized repertoire. “I’m sorry, sweetie,” I told a disappointed K, “those are all the poems I know off by heart.”

We’ve been reading poetry together on a daily basis for a few weeks now. K and I have been working together on memorizing Tartary and Tyger Tyger. She can recite the first verse of each of those ones, and we’ve taken to using them to practice her speech therapy sounds. N can complete every line of The Owl and the Pussycat if I give him the first word or two. I can’t express how full my heart feels when I hear them reciting poetry. I love the sounds of the words as they trip off a toddler’s tongue. I hope that years down the road they will, at oddly appropriate times, be struck with the memory of a few lines of verse that we read long ago, and that the lines will bring them comfort, inspiration, and wonder.

In the meantime, poetry time in our home is synonymous with quiet, snuggly, family time. We don’t always use the book. After all, there’s something undeniably sweet about K saying, “Mummy, I want to hear a poem off your heart.” Absolutely, little girl. For you and your siblings, I always speak – and sing, and recite – off my heart.

January 13, 2013

Out of hibernation: my organized life

by Decemberbaby

Whew. I’ve made it through winter break with my sense of humour mostly intact, sailed through Chanuka with enough time and energy to make my own sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts,) ran a princess birthday party (for K) that didn’t make me want to hurl, and I even had time to read. All the while I was thinking, “I should blog this!” but we all know how that went. Sorry.

So anyhow, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Have you read it? I loved the idea of determining small, concrete actions to take each and every day. And since I’ve had it up to here with feeling overwhelmed and underproductive, I decided to take (small, concrete) action.

I’ve tried to get organized using apps and websites, only to discover that in this realm I’m a low-tech kind of person. I bought myself a massive calendar with big squares for each day and started writing everything on it: menu plans, recurring tasks (pay the bills, for example,) and – my favourite – my “five minuteses.”

Five Minuteses are tasks that take very little time to complete, but keep getting put off. Changing a particular lightbulb, for example, or fixing a broken toy. Sending an email or making a call. Instead of promising myself to do them “sometime” I write them on the calendar, only one a day. Right now I’m booking my Five Minuteses about nine days ahead, which sounds like a long time until you consider that some of these tasks have been on my mind for months. So far I’ve done ten of those tasks and I have nine more penciled in. Isn’t that exciting? The stuff’s getting done!

It’s amazing how much calmer and more organized I feel, just from being able to know exactly when a task will be done. The lack of procrastination feels good. And boy, do I love seeing all those checkmarks on the calendar!

In other organized news: the great basement purge is going great guns and the basement rec room will soon be kid-safe (no more batteries or coke-can sculptures lying around.) I can breathe a little. I may become addicted to purging my stuff… but only if it’s scheduled on the calendar.

So… if you’re still reading… whether or not you celebrate the new year in January, do you often use this month as a fresh start? What are you going to start doing? Tell me in the comments, please!