Monday, December 21, 2009

Remember Others


Today remember those less fortunate. I know the economy is bad for most of us. But think how a small amount of money given by a large group of people can add up to a lot. If we all pledge to donate all the change in our wallets to the Salvation Army today, it could really make a difference. They are having a hard time making their goals this year. It will be hard to think of children without even a good meal on Christmas. I know you've probably already sent checks to several charities.

I always try to send money to the homeless shelters. My oldest son has a mental illness. I look around and see many of the long term homeless are victims of mental illness. I send money to the shelters so there will at least be a meal for them during the holidays.

I also send money to the Smile Train. This charity helps children with cleft pallets get the surgical repair they need. One thing we want is for children to be able to smile with joy. The surgical repair only takes 45 minutes and can really make a difference in a child's life.

I send a check every year to the Salvation Army. I like all the programs they sponsor.

I think some of my favorite gifts were for children and families I didn't know and would never meet.

Today just give a bit of extra change. I guarantee that you will feel much joy. If we all gave even a quarter it would soon add up to dollars.

Until tomorrow.

Alma

Sunday, December 20, 2009

`No More Relaxing!



Who am I kidding? The relaxation has to stop!!! I finally got my Christmas tree up yesterday. The house is a mess....I've been reading books, walking and having a great time. Only half of my Christmas cards have been mailed out. I'm in trouble here!!! Are you doing any better?

One of you should have written to me and said..."Alma, have you read the story about the grasshopper who played the fiddle while the ants prepared for the cold weather? The moral of the story may have meaning for you."

Last night I made more cookies....more than anyone really wants to eat....and now I'm faced with some real work that needs to be done before the holidays. So today....my suggestion is run around like crazy and get caught up. Enough of the relaxing stuff!!! I'm in panic mode now. You will have to get all of your ideas from Barb today.

Barb's idea
: If you are a bit behind in decorating like me, think of quick and easy ideas to bring the holiday sparkle to your home. If your Christmas tree isn't up gently throw some Christmas balls and twinkle lights into a clear crystal vase. A china bowl will look great with some fresh fruit and boxwood or evergreen branches.

After listening to Barb's calm voice on the phone I did think of one idea: Go to Goodwill and get some clear vases in an assortment of sizes. Fill them with candy. The variety of colors and flavors is guaranteed to bring a spark of delight from the "children" in your family. (mine are in their 20's now...but they still love the exuberance of this visual treat) Set the filled vases on the table next to your candles. Or you could even fill the vases with 2" of rice and place candles inside of them for a calorie free holiday decoration.

Winners of the contest!

#160 Plume de Chat ...you have won a deer mold
#376 Mama Spark ...you have won a deer mold
#82 Andrea....you have won a Santa mold
#403 Frances Seng....you have won a Santa mold

Please send your address to alma@blackbird-designs.com

Congratulations ladies.

Hope you all get lots done today. (In a stress free way, of course!)

Your neurotic friend,

Alma

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Celebrate Winter


One of the best stress reducers is just to give in and embrace the stark beauty of winter. Put on your coat, gloves and hat and get yourself to a walking trail or park. Winter is so quiet, most of our song birds have returned south. Their song no longer fills the air. The bracing chill clears your mind. The natural landscape will fill you with quiet joy and peace. No malls....no cars....no blaring commercial noise to capture your attention. Sometimes in the rush of "it all" it's hard to take a bit of time for exercise. Promise me you will do this at least one time during the holiday. Here's what I found today.

The trail beckons....snow begins to lightly fall.

Left over flowers from late fall still bloom on frozen branches.

The surprise of a white tailed deer.


Frosted stems of grass.....

Architecture of bushes and trees is revealed. Forgotten leaves continue to cling to thorny branches.

The promise of spring is all around us if we just look.



A Christmas Rose fading on the branch.

Until later dear friend. Don't forget the contest from last post. Drawing Sat. night and winners announced on Sunday.

Alma

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day Late and a Dollar Short


Today is contest day. Wish I had planned this earlier so you could have it by Christmas....but no I didn't think of it until today. I ordered 4 molds from House on the Hill. Below are pictures of the molds offered in the contest. I will have 2 Santa molds. This is one of my favorite!


The second mold in the contest is the deer below. I haven't made him yet...but he looked very wintery and nice. If you would like to be entered into the contest leave your name and which mold you would like. I will do the random number thing and try to match you up with the right mold....but I can't promise. There are 4 molds...so 4 winners!

Good luck and hope you win! One entry per person. The contest closes Saturday night. Will announce the winners on Sunday.

Until tomorrow.

Alma

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Barb is spending some quiet time at night working on the above sampler. It's "A Quaker Study" by Carriage House Samplings. Jeanne Horton from Country Sampler in Spring Green, WI came up with the colors -

Barb is using one strand each of Weeks Dye Works "Lancaster Red" and Crescent Colours "Used Brick." These are her favorite colors this week! She likes to stitch a bit each night. Helps her wind down after a busy day at work. This will be her Christmas sampler this year.

Barb's idea for Day 4: Save a bit of time each evening for stitching.

I find there are some people who are "real stitchers" and some who are just "wanna-be" stitchers. I think Barb fits into the real stitcher category and I'm a wanna-be. Barb stitches each day. It's part of her daily schedule. It's relaxing for her to pick up a needle and work on a project.

I like to think about stitching....I might look at projects and want to stitch them....but just never get around to it. I have stitched quite a few samplers .....but only when there is a deadline or if it's January. For some reason January seems like the perfect time to stitch a sampler to me. Usually I can finish several in the month.


My Idea: Spend 30 minutes looking through your patterns and choose one you would like to begin in January. Here is my "Pandora's Box". Inside I have my collection of cross stitch patterns. When I feel like "working" on a new pattern, I open my stash and look at the one's I've saved through the years. After looking, I feel more relaxed and even a bit excited. I've forgotten some of the designs and it's like seeing them all again anew.

I'm going to open the box now....but you have to pinky swear you will never tell anyone how many patterns I have. And here is the shocking part! I really feel no obligation to stitch all of them either. I just love looking at them.

Wish you were all here and we could go through them together!

Thinking of you all and hope your're enjoying the season!

Oh....I wanted to answer a few questions about the cookies...

Lynda....I flour the molds so the dough won't stick. I also use the recipe from the book that comes from the molds. Let the cookies dry out several hours on the cookie sheet before baking. I've made them from Gingerbread dough too. But the white ones are my favorites. Use a very deep mold for Shortbread cookies. They typically will not hold a molded design well. Click-on the word Gingerbread dough and it will take you to my web-site showing the darker colored cookies made from Gingerbread.

Until tomorrow!

Alma

Monday, December 14, 2009

Day Three




My Idea: Spend time laughing with a friend. Many of my most stressful times were made easier by spending time talking and laughing with a friend. Mary would probably say she spent the afternoon working....but still we know how to have fun together. The cookies last a long time and get better with age. Just like our friendship.

Mary and I have been friends for over 30 years. We went to nursing school together. (That was truly a bonding experience!) Mary continues in the Nursing profession, while I retired from mine. (Although, I do miss Labor and Delivery. My job was a pleasure. Always interesting and fun to see the new ones and be a part of the joy.)


Mary brought her tree mold. These molds are all from House on the Hill. Check out their web-site for molds and other information about these wonderful cookies.

The Santa above was a favorite of ours this year as well as the deer below.


A cellophane bag and a bit of ribbon are the perfect finish.

Barb's Idea: Meet for a glass of wine. Much more relaxing and less work!


You have to check out Barb and Mary's blog. You won't want to miss their fun day!

And stockings from Nina. Click on her name for her blog.
She writes, "Both are on 32ct linen (left: Belfast, right: Lambswool), stitched 1 over 1,
right: Victoria Clayton silks, left: sampler threads (gentle art, weeks dye works, crescent colours)

So sweet! Thank you Nina

One more link....7 Gypsies site. Click on the name to go to their blog....no pressure to make any of this stuff....just look at it and enjoy! That's what I'm doing.

Until tomorrow!

Alma

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Light Up Your Day

As the sun sets I want to say....what the heck? I just feel like I got dressed and did a bit of work and now it's night? The shorter days take their toll on me. I long for a bit more light.


My Idea:
Today you have to do a bit of work. Your chore is to light a candle. I don't care how many you light....it's your choice. How can something so simple bring so much calm and peace?

I keep a couple votives burning on my kitchen counter. It helps as I cook. Even in the mess of the pots and pans as I'm cooking, the candles make things seem more beautiful. I light them during the day as well as the evening. Their soft glow quiets everything down...the scented ones add a bit of spice to the atmosphere too. I usually only purchase vanilla scented candles as some of the others can be a bit much for me. You don't need a fancy candle holder....small votives are very sweet.




Make sure you add candle light to each of your meals! The glow of the light adds warmth and makes for more intimate meal times. Soup and salad seems like a feast under the candle light. Although these candle sticks look expensive....they were found at estate sales and at Curious Sofa for a reasonable price. I always buy my candles after Christmas on sale and save them for the next year.




Barb's Idea: Make sure you burn some pine scented candles. If you don't have a tree set up you can always smell the pine scent and pretend the tree is in the other room! (Darn that Barb! She always has the best ideas!)

Wishing you light and peace!

Until tomorrow,

Alma

Friday, December 11, 2009

Good Intentions


Oh.... I had the best of intentions. I planned on putting up all kinds of things you could make before Christmas.....but it's just not going to happen. I guess if you want to make 20 new ornaments, 3 quilts, and 8 new cookie recipes while shopping, decorating the house, writing cards and notes and hosting parties, you will just have to go to another blog. It won't be happening here.

Barb and I have decided that Blackbird Designs will be doing the "12 days of guilt-free relaxing." If you feel like kicking back a bit ....we are your gals.


My idea: Make a cup of hot tea and get out several of your favorite magazines that have fabulous things to do and make for Christmas. Look at them and enjoy the pictures. The magazine above is from Saveur. This article talks about how in Sweden everyone enjoys cooking in the winter. They all pitch in and help each other. The candy on the left looks fabulous.....Now say with me....."Isn't that nice?" and turn the page. Spend about 30 minutes looking at the pictures and reading the articles. Promise me you won't feel like you have to make one thing!

Barb's idea: Now go to the phone and call a restaurant that has curb-side delivery. Wear your house slippers and drive over and pick up dinner. Get out your china and serve everyone up a meal. Smile and take time to play some games with the kids tonight.

Hanukkah begins tonight. Wishing you eight nights of light, peace and time to enjoy your families.

Check back tomorrow for more "crafty" ideas.

Hugs to you all!

Alma

Monday, December 7, 2009

Show and Tell


Over the weekend Edie McGinnis (designer and our editor from the Kansas City Star) and I went to Spring Green, WI to stay in Country Sampler's "2nd. Story." (Click on the name and you can see where we stayed.) We cooked 5 recipes and photographed them for Blackbird Design's next quilt book which is due out this spring. After we unloaded all of our gear, large snowflakes began to cover the streets and walks. I don't think I've seen such a lovely snowfall in a long time. Just glad we were not still driving!

The 2nd Story is within 1 block from the General Store, Grocery Store, library, post office, hardware store, the department store and of course Country Sampler. I even walked to the grocery store in my house slippers to get butter. I think I might have to move here....everything is so convienent. At home I have to drive about 6 miles to get close to a grocery store. After all of the cooking....we had to go shopping of course. What fun we had. We even had a chance to work on quilts.

When I returned some lovely images were sent via e-mail to me and I wanted to share them with you.


The first is from Carol Weatherman...she writes,

I wanted to share my finished hooked rug that I took from your “Cold Wind” quilt book. My daughter saw it and told me, “Thanks Mom for my Christmas present”, so that’s where my rug will go.

Carol...love your rug. It looks so vintage!

Cathy Lloyd took the covered sewing box lesson to heart. Look what she has completed! She writes,

I've been silently gathering all the materials to make boxes for some of my stitching friends for Christmas. This week I began the exodus to completion. I have not been able to stop!!! So much fun! I don't know how I've ever lived without PVA glue! That "stuff" is simply fabulous...my mind has just been spinning with endless possibilities! I just took all my fat quarters to the copy store and had fun copying. Both times at the copy store, I've had comments from other creative women...wanting to know what the heck I was copying fabric for...then I just had to tell them! Your ideas make me look really good! Thanks for so many fun ideas you have given us on your blog!

Cathy ....your stitching friends will loved these....hope they don't read this blog or your secret will be out!

This was made by Mary Kathryn....you have to visit her blog for the rest of her pictures and the story that goes along with her project! Click on her name.

Mary Kathryn....love the trim you used....where did you find this? I know we all will want some too.

Well....I have to make this short....I woke up this morning and told my husband we only have 20 days to get ready for Christmas. And you know how fast 20 days can go!!! (It will feel like 15 minutes.)

Until later!

Alma

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Journals



While going through some drawers I found these old journals. Although these are probably not how I would decorate a journal cover now....it's what's inside that called to me. When my kids were younger I found it hard to get through the Christmas season. Sometimes it would feel overwhelming to get all of the decorating and shopping done. I found that if I spent a bit of time writing what I did each day during December it was easier.
I jotted down Christmas card lists, menu planning, shopping lists and daily events. (Who was naughty and who was nice!)

I would make a cup of hot tea and write some thoughts about what was happening during the day and how I felt. Many "to do" lists were included. Somehow these journals got me through the busy time of holiday preparation. They were a good excuse to take some quiet time. I was reminded to reflect in the beauty of the season. Enjoy twinkle lights, snow, my kids and everything that makes life sweet. Now as I read through these journals, I'm transformed back to those past holidays and am able enjoy those times once again.

Hope you all find quiet time to write.

Until later!

Alma