Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Jolabokaflod – An Icelandic Christmas Treat

November 26, 2018

Giving books at Christmas is an Icelandic tradition that goes back to World War II. It’s called Jolabokaflod (Christmas Book Flood). It helps that Iceland’s literary history goes back to the medieval era, and that every Icelander gets a book catalog sometime in November from the Iceland Publishers Association. As an independently published author I would love to see a Christmas Book Flood start in this country, so I have to wonder why most Icelanders buy books and most Americans don’t (or at least that’s what I’ve been told).

I am on the far edge of the book-buying curve. My one regret is I buy books by the pound and read by the page, so I’ve got stacks of unread books around the house. They go nicely with my stacks of unfinished quilt projects because if push comes to shove I can throw some fabric over the books and call them end tables.

One of the reasons I don’t read as much as I would like is that reading is a treat for me. It’s my reward for getting all the chores finished and my deadlines met. Since I acquire obligations at the same rate I acquire books (and fabric), you can see my problem. Even if the chores are done, there is always some deadline or other hanging over my head.

I suspect that is true for many Americans. Reading for pleasure is treated as an indulgence. I think the Icelanders have a better idea – reading is a treat, yes, but a vital one, like making time for family or enjoying the outdoors. I say it is time to be nicer to ourselves, and revel in the joy of reading. If that encourages you to buy more books for Christmas presents this year, so much the better.

Luck and wisdom!

Ahead of Schedule

April 9, 2014


This has been one of those weeks where I check the calendar twice to make sure I haven’t forgotten something. Projects for friendship groups? Check. Deadlines for bills? Check. Short story for anthology submission? Check. The squirrelly part of my brain is chittering, “What are you forgetting? What are you forgetting?”

Until I figure out what I’ve forgotten, I’m collecting fabric for the next projects on the list.

Christmas project, take one

Christmas project, take one

This is the first run at my mother’s Christmas present. She sent me a sample of the colors she wanted. The peach is the right shade, but I’m not sure it is the right print. The luxury of knowing I have time to find a better fabric is worth more than chocolate.

The little scraps will find a home

The little scraps will find a home

The next Challenge project is on the theme of water. I have had this box of sky and water scraps sitting on the shelf for a very long time. It was high on the list of boxes that had to be cleared out. The joy of having one’s procrastination rewarded is almost as wonderful as the luxury of extra time.

Luck and wisdom!


Boxing Day

December 26, 2012

The week between Christmas and New Year holds such promise. When the kids were younger I always planned to do great, fun things on their vacation. When they got older I planned to do great, useful things around the house. But we all know about plans . . .

At any rate, I did manage to do some things in the sewing room. I started a free-form stuffed collection that I hoped would look like Christmas ornaments that I could pile in a decorative bowl.

Christmas puffs

I still like the concept, but I’m going to have to spend some time auditioning embellishments.

My daughter asked if I would make a name tag for her dog’s Christmas stocking. She asked on Christmas Eve. After dinner. Luckily, she liked what I did.

Christmas stocking name tag

The week between Christmas and New Year holds demands, too – specifically the demand to clean up the place. Given that I still have my Easter Egg collection out on the hutch, I’m not holding out much hope for getting the Christmas moose/reindeer collection back in storage any time soon.

Christmas centerpiece with reindeer

Still, it is Boxing Day today, and regardless of what it might mean in the U.K., at my house it is a reminder to get out the boxes and put things back where they belong.


December 12, 2012

I love made-up math days. Ever since the turn of the millennium (and doesn’t that have a lovely ring to it?) I’ve looked forward to the triple digit days. This is the last, although we still have 11/12/13 next year, and 12/13/14 the year after.

While I won’t ascribe cosmic significance to the day (even though it would be fun to try), I can say that it’s been a pretty good week. We got the Christmas tree. It isn’t decorated yet, but the pagan in me always enjoys just having the tree in the house, in all its evergreen glory.

My druid ancestors would be happy

My druid ancestors would be happy

The dog isn’t too excited, but at least she’s leaving it alone.

Such a bored critter

Such a bored critter

I don’t have my moose/reindeer collection out, mainly because the garage is full of the kids’ stuff and I couldn’t get to it. However, I bought a moose ornament over the summer, so that is representing all of its sisters.

moose ornament

Finally, I had an idea of a different kind of vase I could make when a few scraps of ribbon got piled up in the same corner.


I haven’t figured out what I want for a base yet, but I’m confident that will be revealed in good time. For now, I am enjoying a rare moment of calm, peace and joy in the holiday season. I hope y’all are too, and have a great triple digit day.

Countdown to Something

December 5, 2012

My kids may be grown, but I still buy them Advent calendars every year (chocolate-filled, of course). There’s something about opening little boxes and getting a surprise that everyone loves – or at least everyone I know. The promise of a reward is a great motivator, in work and in art.

Since it is the season of giving, I’ve incorporated the promise of reward and delight in boxes with my need to make presents. Here is the first of what I hope will be a series of treasure boxes:

chenille treasure box

I’m experimenting with chenille because the sequel to Death By Chenille should be available in April 2013. That book will be called When Chenille Is Not Enough.

The promise of reward in art is to find something delightful from every angle. The Challenge projects I showed earlier needed to reward the viewer for a close examination, so I added some embellishments. This is one of the pieces as viewed on a wall:

Alaska quilt

This is the reward for taking a second look:

Alaska quilt detail

Here are a few of the others I made:

This is how I secured the peacock feather

This is how I secured the peacock feather

Fish, moose and puffin - what more could you want

Fish, moose and puffin – what more could you want

My idea of reindeer games

My idea of reindeer games

Getting these small pieces embellished for the meeting was the first of my countdowns. There are still a few other projects with their own countdowns on my to-do list. Here’s hoping all our year-end countdowns go smoothly!

Dasher, Dancer, Discipline

November 28, 2012

I was all set to start my annual December whine about being too busy to enjoy the holidays. Then my friend Maya Madhavan asked if I would bring her projects to the Progressive Party. Yes, that’s projects, as in plural. She won’t be able to attend for three months and she got them all done ahead of time. While she’s working. And taking care of her young family. And fitting in the holidays. I have no excuse.

Maya’s projects – done ahead of time!

Instead of whining I remembered “The Night Before Christmas” – especially the line about dash away, dash away, dash away all. Dashing about without a plan is as useful as those nutrition panels on the back of candy bar wrappers (you can only read them after you’ve opened the wrapper, and once the wrapper is open you know you’re going to eat the candy, so why bother reading how bad it is for you?), but I have lots of to-do lists, which can fill in for a plan until something more reasonable comes along. Similarly, dancing is best when done with joy, even if your feet are hurting. Joy comes from within, which leads me to discipline. That also comes from within.

So, I found myself a new mascot:

My new mascot

Crows are clever and observant – and I just happened to have this one left from the Halloween decorations. My little crow will remind me to plan.

Next, I found something that represents holiday cheer:

This is the one time of year I can indulge in my love of all things shiny. If that isn’t enough joy, I’ve got a recipe for killer gingerbread cookies.

Finally, I will remember that creativity requires a certain level of discipline:

I bought these badges with small gift ideas in mind. I didn’t make any notes, so those ideas are gone. I can whine and moan, or I can pull out my graph paper and come up with a new idea. For now, I’m going to pull out the graph paper (the whining will come later when I design something I can’t sew).

Before I forget once again, Julie Royce wrote about her crime novel in progress – PILZ – last week. You can read it here. Julie’s blog alternates between her novel and her travels. Check out her stories about her recent trip to Europe with her husband.

Another New Start

May 23, 2012

One of the great things about having the kids come home to visit is that I have to clear out all the crap I put in their rooms. My husband would prefer that I simply stop putting stuff in their rooms, but we all know that isn’t going to happen. Both kids are visiting this month but at different times so I have had a chance to clear out one room at a time.

Lately I’ve been keeping the fabric for the prison program in the kids’ rooms. I managed to get all the stuff out of our daughter’s room. Some of it was even sorted and moved in plastic bins to the garage.

Most of it wasn’t.


The stuffed dog is guarding the fabric, not growling at it.

If the universe smiles on me, I’ll get a chance to sort at least some of this between the time our daughter leaves and our son arrives. I’ve made a bit of a start:

I’ve been going through the fabric faster than I thought I would, and the quilt guild has offered to store new donations of fabric for the program. With any luck, by the time the kids are back at Christmas, they’ll both have tidy rooms. Yes, believing this will happen is about the same as believing in Santa Claus, but Christmas is the time for miracles, yes?


Project Challenge

June 22, 2011

Happy solstice! Yes, it was yesterday, but I like holidays. I’ll celebrate anything, including the anniversaries of obscure natural disasters and made-up food holidays (by the way, today is chocolate éclair day – enjoy). Still, solstice marks the beginning of the end for the light. The days will be getting shorter, and before you can remember the order of the reindeer it’s Christmas again.

Which is why, as I was scanning the sewing room, my eyes fell on the bin containing the ghosts of Christmas presents past.

I buy presents, props and fabric on speculation. You never know when something that whispers “take me home, take me home” will become the emergency gift, the perfect centerpiece, or the beginning of an award-winning quilt.

When you have an entire sewing room full of these treasures-in-waiting, however, some of them fall off the radar. That’s what happened with most of the stuff in the bin. And, of course, there are always more treasures begging to come home –

– to say nothing of the scraps of all those scrumptious Christmas fabrics we buy year after year after year:

So, this year, I decided to use the summer solstice to make plans for the winter solstice. Specifically, I need to come up with projects that I will actually complete to use up most of the stuff in the bin and the tote bag. The only caveat is that I must avoid ornaments. I’ve made so many for the kids already they could open their own shop, and since they are still in the moving-apartments-every-year phase, that means the inventory is in my garage. No, these projects have to be ones that will walk out the front door on their own. Here’s a prop to get you started:

Suggestions, anyone?

The year is dead, long live the year

December 29, 2010

Holidays wait for no woman. Christmas came, and once again I was surprised. Nevertheless, family members were fetched, food was prepared, presents wrapped, trees decorated (well, a tree). I gathered up my colony of lists, stacked them neatly in a corner, and enjoyed the company of family and friends.

But there is always another holiday on the horizon, and it usually requires a quilt; so with presents, on occasion. This year my family gave me a GPS. They’re hoping a) I will learn to operate this electronic device, b) once I learn, I will actually use it, and c) I won’t get lost nearly as often.

First, I need to make it a case. My husband bought one for it. The packaging declared in large, friendly letters that it would actually fit the model I now own. The packaging lied through its little plastic teeth. One could, with a firm enough hand, get the beastie into the case. Getting it out, well, that took more skill.

Still, it was an excuse to abandon the company of family and friends and retreat to my sewing room to pick out fabric. I couldn’t decide whether I should use something encouragingly travel-related, like these balloons:

or something more in keeping with my unerring ability to take the wrong turn:

Of course, I could go expectation-neutral and use a map fabric. I know I have some. I probably have several different kinds of map fabric, but I think they are in here:

I just didn’t have the courage to attack the stacks. That will be the goal for 2011, and I think I’ve got a chance at achieving it. After all, at the end of 2010 I had reclaimed more floor space than I’ve had in years. If my courage fails again, I’ll just take a look at the present I bought myself and laugh:

Then I will visualize the task as one of of the birds that I used in a table decoration. While I find the bird adorable, it unnerved a few guests:

Having my deadlines stare me in the face is a great motivator, so I expect imagining projects, not just due dates, staring at me should work just as well. Whatever your goals are for 2011, may the year be kind to you and yours!

Camels and Whales and Tree Glitz, Oh My

December 22, 2010

Since the kids are home, and I know for a fact they won’t be reading this until I point it out to them, I can show off the Christmas ornaments Mom and I made in October without ruining the surprise.

I’ve been itching to get these out and deck the tree, especially the glitzy ones:

The sewing room is filled with wrapping paper, ribbon and gift tags at the moment, but at least there aren’t any ghosts of quilt projects past in the way. Come the new year, I’ll be able to get back to finishing projects (oh, stop laughing) and organizing (really, get a grip).

I wish I could say the same about my kitchen. It will take weeks to clear out that mess, and I still have more cooking to do! This last week I have been baking my traditional gingerbread Christmas camels. I added a friend, too:

My college roommate’s mother used to send her camel sugar cookies. I thought they were wonderful, and when I found a camel cookie cutter I decided to use it for the Christmas gingerbread. It has now become a standard in our house. I usually do trees and reindeer, too, but this year I added the Christmas whale. One of the kid’s friends was talking about the Raffi Christmas music they liked as preschoolers, and that reminded me of “Baby Beluga” (come on, sing the chorus in your head with me – it might even displace “Jingle Bell Rock” for a few minutes), and that means we have Christmas whales on the menu.

As my last bit of tidying up for the year, I finally went to the “About Me” page and posted something other than the generic form that had been living there for months. Once again, we take our victories where we can.