Thursday, December 25, 2008


Celebrate the miracles of this season~
Blessed Christmas
Joyous Hanukkah!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Textmas

I’ve heard that Santa is going high tech this year. Parents can actually make arrangements for him to text message their cell phones. He’ll provide travel updates as he journeys toward your home and reassure little ones that, in spite of a paralyzing snowstorm about to hit the Midwest, presents will be delivered on time.

It’s a cute concept, but I see a couple flaws. First of all, the application for the text message service comes with the following caveat: “If your child does not have a phone, have Santa send the text messages to the parents!” Do kids young enough to believe in Santa really carry cell phones of their own? Perhaps they do, in which case you can scratch that particular electronic device off their Christmas lists. Secondly, if I were a kid, I don’t think I’d want Santa a mere keystroke away from Mom and Dad. After all, what’s to keep parents from turning the tables, reporting last minute behavior infractions to the big guy himself?

When my son was little, we employed the latest technology to create a memorable Santa moment. In the end though, it was sheer happenstance that made it magical.

We’d borrowed my dad’s business car on Christmas Eve, for our traditional tour of Christmas lights. We’d arranged with Grandpa to call his car phone about 15 minutes into our drive. Of course, we had set the situation up by telling James to “be on the lookout for Santa! Watch the sky for signs of his sleigh and reindeer!”

When the car phone rang, we could hardly contain our laughter. Santa had his chat with James via speaker phone. Grandpa’s “Ho-ho-ho” was convincing and we were all giddy with pulling off the surprise.

And then we turned the corner. Standing at the curb was a magnificently dressed Santa, reaching inside his car trunk for a sack full of gifts (or finishing a cigarette. I can’t quite recall which). We adults were dumbstruck, but little James simply pointed and called out, “Santa.”

Once I caught my breath, I rolled down the car window and shouted like some lunatic Santa groupy, “Hey Santa, we’ve been driving all over town looking for you. We have a little boy here who’d love to say ‘hello.’”

Santa was nice enough to stick his head in the car window and say all the requisite things: “How old are you James? Have you been a good boy this year? Now go home and get to bed so I can deliver your presents.” Meanwhile, the guy who was waiting for Santa’s grand entrance to his Christmas party, could do nothing but stand there holding his front door open.

It all happened so fast, there was barely time to thank him, let alone slip Santa a tip for his efforts. The party host may have been annoyed but we were ecstatic with our unforeseen Santa sighting. It was pure magic!

This is the quilt I always associate with that Christmas. I'd just made it for James’ third birthday. 

Included on the quilt label is a Dickens quotation: “ . . . for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.” It sure was good to be James that Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Scared of Santa

Tis a week before Christmas and the last thing you have time for is looking at other people’s Santa snaps. But bear with me; it’s worth it.

Here I am again (on the right), my 1961 self, waiting demurely for my turn to sit on Santa’s lap and reveal my innermost dreams and desires ~ eeewww, CREEPY! The two kids on the left look just as befuddled and clueless as they did at Halloween. And judging by the smiles and glances exchanged between Santa and the girl on his lap, I’m guessing he just might be her dad. My mischievous brother (second from right), is no doubt preparing to ask Santa for something of which our parents disapprove.

For the past couple years, the Chicago Tribune has run a holiday photo contest asking readers to submit their family’s bad Santa photos. Editors Denise Joyce and Nancy Watkins have compiled 250 snapshots of squirming, shrieking, traumatized tots into a new book, SCARED OF SANTA: Scenes of Terror in Toyland.
Take a few minutes to scroll through these pictures. Quick as a wink, you'll be laughing like the jolly old elf himself!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Never Too Old

You’re never too old to enjoy little trinkets stuffed inside a Christmas stocking. Santa usually leaves an orange, a few nuts and chocolates, a new toothbrush or pen, perhaps a lottery ticket or music cd. My boys keep looking for a set of car keys, but don’t let their disappointment show for long.
What does Santa leave in your Christmas stockings?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

James' Baby Quilt

These blocks were made for the first quilt class I ever taught. Each block demonstrates a different hand sewing technique: piecing, curved piecing, set-in seams and appliqué. The blocks also illustrate particular quilting techniques: outline quilting, stitching in the ditch, cross hatching, hanging diamonds, echo quilting, stippling and all over designs like spider web and baptist fan.

Click to enlarge

I figured if I made each demonstration block from coordinating fabric, by the end of class, I'd have enough blocks for a functional quilt, rather than just a pile of samples. Obviously, I chose fabrics with a baby in mind, covering both bases by including pink and blue.

When James was born, we hung the quilt on the wall above his crib. I continued to use it as a class sample, for years. It really was a good way to illustrate a variety of sewing techniques.

This picture? Just because.

Friday, December 5, 2008

December Quilts

Many people get the Christmas spirit just as soon as their Thanksgiving table is cleared. I envy them, using the long weekend to pull out the Christmas decorations and “deck their halls.” That’s not the custom in our home though, since sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas lies our son's birthday.

As anyone with a December birth will tell you, it’s easy to feel shortchanged by the holiday hoopla. One way to make James’s day special was to hold off on putting up the Christmas tree until after his birthday celebration. 
Since this is James' birthday month, let me share some of his quilts with you. 

This Bear Paw quilt was made for James by my Elmhurst friends, the Piecemakers. They worked on it in secret, choosing fabric, stitching blocks and passing it around for hand quilting at our weekly gatherings. They're a stealthy bunch - I never had a clue.

They told me they wanted to make the kind of baby quilt I wouldn’t make myself. "Hmmm," I thought. "I wonder what that means?" Perhaps they thought bright colors were out of character for me. But I love the 1980’s vintage calicoes they used.

Maybe they were referring to this humility block. Deliberate error or not, this bear paw, with its twisted toes just adds charm to the quilt.

Whatever their intention was, James and I were thrilled by his baby quilt. To this day, it's one of my favorites, because it's bright, cheerful, charming, and from the best of friends.