Sunday, May 11, 2014

I just took up my place in right field

Happy Mother's Day!

My poor little blog has been so ignored for the last month (or more). There are reasons for that and I'll get to a newsy post soon. Today, though, I want to share how my Domestic Church touched this mother's heart.

Earlier in the week, I was asked how I'd like to spend Mother's Day. Getting a wonderfully made breakfast is a given since my boys really enjoy cooking. And I agreed to bacon, making Zydeco's own heart sing. My usual answer to how I'd like to spend a leisurely day is "sewing without the pressures of a schedule." 

But this time, I asked my family to stretch themselves. The company I am working for has a wonderful branch that encourages and supports community involvement and volunteerism. We certainly do both of those in this Domestic Church, in many ways and forms, but the company offers new and various avenues we've not explored.  My family agreed to try something very new.

We donned our logo'd tee shirts and headed across the water to help with a very special Little League game: a game for special needs children. Explanation of the Challenger Jamboree is here. We all stepped outside of our comfort zones to "buddy" a child during the ball game. We played in the field, cheering and offering encouragement while also providing a watchful eye. We stood near home plate while our buddy player swung at pitches or a tee, then ran with them around the bases.

(No pictures of the game because I thought it insensitive to photograph other peoples' children).

Classic Rock, a true football fan, put aside his baseball prejudice and really enjoyed his time in the field with his buddy. Irish Jig didn't ask any questions about why a child walked a little differently or didn't speak quite as well, thankfully. She just accepted the fun offered to her by the small boy we buddied. I love the innocence of the young.

The rock star today was Jazz. She was so nervous and anxious about befriending someone with a special need. Would she be able to communicate? To share? She was buddy to a girl just about her age but with a slower speech pattern. The girl took Jazz's hand and ran her around the bases, laughing and enjoying every minute of the attention. And Jazz relished in giving it to her - all her qualms vanishing in an instant.

Today, I am so very thankful to be mother to these amazing children. I'd like to believe their hearts are generous because of the nurturing from Mr. Neoclassic and me, but I know the hand of God is playing their hearts to His tune. I'm just along for the beautiful, amazing ride.

On a slightly humorous note, when I received the logo tees from the HR department, they didn't have a tee tiny enough for Irish Jig.  Knowing she'd feel left out, I pulled a navy tee from her stash and traced her small hand on the front.  I used day-glo orange fabric paint to create a helping hand logo so that hers would mostly match ours.  She was thrilled!  It's the small things that really make us happy, right?

Today's post title is from Peter Paul and Mary's Right Field.  So appropriate since Irish Jig, our buddy child, and I played in right field today.  And, as my parents can attest, that's the position I played during my high school Catholic Youth sports league tenure!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Gentle mother, peaceful dove

The Annunciation by Francisco de Goya
Image from

Today, the Catholic church recognizes the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary and her willingness to accept that which she surely didn't fully understand. The readings of the day are carefully chosen to reflect this day - The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord:

Isaiah 7 & 8 (parts only here):
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us!”
Psalm 40:
Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Luke 1: 26-38 (parts only here):
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”

I heard these readings during women's Bible Study this morning and found myself revisiting the words and messages throughout my day.  I met a great friend for coffee and long overdue conversation.  I spoke with my own mother and shared funny vignettes from our home's last few days.  During all of the little parts of my normal "mothering" today, I reflected on this great event, this young woman's willingness to be mother for us all.

I also let the idea of mother remind me of the wonderful mothers I know: my own (of course), my mother-in-law (hysterical), my sister, and fabulous friends.   All these inspirational women that make my own mothering journey more fun, more sensible, more loving, and more palatable (just being honest).   Women my own age who are in the same stages of mothering adventures and women who have "been there, done that" and offer valuable hindsight thoughts; women who love this crazy adventure as much as I do and are as thankful to the Lord for the opportunity.

Many years ago, while hugely pregnant with my third child (Jazz), I reluctantly rolled (literally) out of bed and dressed for Mass.  I was tired, achy, hurting some, and not wanting to leave the comfort of my bed and my fuzzy jammies.  As I left Mass, a wonderful member of our congregation stopped me to offer words of encouragement.  With eight children of her own, she had much encouragement to offer!  I just remember her holding my hands and reminding me that my state of pregnancy just meant that, like Mary, I'd said YES and allowed the Lord to create something of his own within me.  For just a brief period of time (although those nine months don't always seem brief), we turn ourselves over for His use and become something wonderful in the process - mothers.

I let that and other encouraging memories of conversations had and experiences shared color my day and make it more joyful.  I made cookies with the four year old "just because" and skipped more laundry loads in favor of downloading silly music and dancing up and down the hallways with my girls.  We danced to the LEGO movie's Everything is Awesome, some Bruno Mars favorites to remind us that we're great Just the Way you Are, a few Frozen movie themes, and Katie Perry's Roar.  Because sometimes a mother roars.  Sometimes a lot.

And we danced.  Badly.  And laughed.  Loudly.  And rejoiced that motherhood gave me all this.

Celebrate your motherhood today!

Today's post title from Hail Mary: Gentle Woman by Carey Landry

Friday, March 14, 2014

Math, Science, History, Unraveling the Mystery

Happy National Pi Day!!!

Classic Rock decided he needed to make a pie for National Pi Day and bring it school to share with his favorite math teachers and good friends.  After some discussion concerning the mess of cutting into fruit pies (his first choice was cherry) and the inability to keep them chilled (lemon pie), he settled on a straightforward chess pie.

Be a geek today!  Our Domestic Church is, sadly, full of geeks.  Some are cooler and higher up on the geek scale, but truly geeks nonetheless.  I remind myself that this means my children will rule the world and support me in my old age - when I will eat lots of pie.

Today's post title from The Big Bang Theory's theme song...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Right Tool for the Job

My solo trip through the array of booths at the Quilt Show brought to light a fairly serious addiction of mine. I really love NOTIONS. Those wonderful tools of the sewing, embroidery, and quilting trades are like crack to me. I just need  them and have a very hard time just browsing.  I buy.  And then buy again. Lucky for me, many are reasonably priced to dang cheap.

This year's haul was smaller than years' past:

It would probably be best if I didn't mention the number of needle packets I own. I love having various sizes from which to choose. I blame this disorder on my mother, who for years would come to visit and bemoan my one packet of "Various Sizes" needles. "They aren't like Band-Aids! You can't substitute a different size or shaft and expect the project to turn out well." (Add your own exasperated sigh and eye roll). You'll notice two new packets of needles up there. One has an extra long eye for thicker embroidery threads without the extra wide shaft to match. I will try it out and report back.

I also have a love affair with thimbles.  I collect them, try them out, lose them, replace them.  Actually, it's not such a love affair as a horrible tracking system.

As always, there's a new presser foot to play with.  "It was on sale," I reminded myself, "and you don't have to deal with the cranky local dealer to get it!"

Lastly, I picked up a new pattern for teeny tiny pieced ornaments.  Buying them in March surely means they'll be complete for the giving season in 10 months, right?  I'm not betting money on that and neither should you.

A bit of fabric made it into my bag, as well:

These are for a table runner project that's been mulling around in my head for a year or so.   I have several other veggie and fruit prints in the stash and, finally, a dimensioned pattern on paper.  Now all I need is my New York sewing buddy to come home for a week or so and pull out the embroidery machine.

The last bit of fun fabric is a gift (Spoiler Alert - Karen):

You asked for SKY and I found what I could.  The upper piece (which could have used an iron prior to photographing, lazy me) is an ombre print.  Depending on where you cut into the fabric, the shading and gradation will be different.  It's more of an aqua than a true sky blue, but still beautiful.

Karen, my intention is to mail it soon and then just send a post-it note for Christmas saying, "remember that package of cool fabric."  The reality is that it will probably arrive for Christmas.

Thanks for letting me share.  Maybe soon there will be a project picture of something actually completed?  We can only hope.

Today's post title from Marcia Ball's The Right Tool for the Job.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

And I count it all as time well wasted

I spent most of Saturday at the annual Quilt Show. Due to crazy schedules and children with activities, my buddy Jannette and I had to forgo our tradition of giggling and ogling through the exhibits together. She visited on Friday, texting me during the day with messages of quilts not to miss or exciting new booths of notions to check. I visited on Saturday, texting back with commentary on the quilts she'd told me to find. Not as fun as if we'd been together, but still exciting to see the hard work and planning of other artists.

Here are some of my favorites:

For my SIL, Karen - a landscape with beautiful sunset.  I wish you'd
have been there to study the stitching.  It's way more work than
I'd be willing to do.

The points of the center stars were amazing.  This is the show winner.
The beauty of the work was detracted slightly, in my opinion, by
the huge fake gem glued to the center of the star. To each his own, but
I would have left it out.

This reminds me of a cathedral window.  Such beautiful piece work.

I see a bad moon rising!
(sorry, couldn't resist)

As always, there were some pieces displayed that just made me wonder why all that work?  Why cover a beautiful fabric creation with glitter, faux jewels, or plastic?  It seems strange to me.  But then, my mother would tell me it's because I'm an engineer and can't think outside of my box.  "It's art" she says.  "It's not something I'd want to wrap up in on a cold day"  I say.

Here's our favorite in the Not My Choice but Very Interesting Nonetheless Category:

It's absolutely stunning - there is no doubt about the level of workmanship.
It also looks like the Martha Stewart craft aisle exploded onto fabric.  It contains glitter,
beading, jewels, sparkling bubbles, and paint.  Wow!

Other really cool works I found:

Made by a Newport News Shipbuilding employee for her retiring supervisor.  It contains a Mariner's Compass at it's center, surrounded by photos of the supervisor's history with the company.  I particularly appreciate the corner applique concerning the FORD class - the first ship Mr. Neoclassic has been a part of from beginning design to final construction.

 A wonderful rendition of a young Amish girl.  The bow tie quilt is actually appliqued
to the bigger quilt, as you can see in the chicken shot at the right.  Such a 
cool technique.  The grass and feather detailing was stunning.

While a fish isn't really my choice of wall art, this piece was beautiful.
The fabric choices really representing scales, water, and seaweed.
The fins were further defined by beaded embroidery.
Which begs the question, "How do you wash this?"

My next post will detail a few of my purchases and some projects upcoming with those purchases.  I enjoyed sharing the show with you.  Maybe you'd like to come with me next year????

Post title from Brad Paisley's Time Well Wasted.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Friday finally came around

While Mr. Neoclassic enjoyed a Friday evening out with a few of his good friends, I hosted Jazz and her friends for an overnight party. I'd planned to show a fun romantic, Valentine's movie (age appropriate, of course), but was outvoted. The crowd, including Irish Jig and Zydeco, voted for Despicable Me 2. We turned out the lights, hooked up the sub-woofer and covered the den in popcorn bits. After the movie and Irish Jig's bedtime, I pulled out the paints and had the girls finish a Girl Scout project for me.

Recycled Halloween tablecloth for spills.

Lower lip biting for concentration.

Cross-eyed stare for intense concentration.

The end product - painted soup cans and matching peg people:
for color sorting and for hand-eye coordination.

Kaitlyn and Hannah (my good friend Jannette's girls) are Jazz's closest friends.  They are also in our sweet little Girl Scout troop. The whole troop worked its way through a Journey book and decided their service project would be creating manipulative games for a local preschool (Irish Jig's). The troop spent a recent meeting cutting felt for a different project and we just didn't get to the painting for this matching/ sorting game. With all our lost snow days, we don't have Troop time to finish this last project and we were going to skip doing it...until I realized I had three wonderful painters at the ready.

Their commentary and conversation is always hysterical. They get into their "art" zone and start discussing events at school and church, funny stories, and the latest music, movies or good snacks. Their guards drop and I hear it all. It's great fun and very informative!

Once finished and dry, we let Irish Jig road test the game.

She had a blast picking up the correct colors for each can and then carefully placing the peg people along the can rims.  I am happy that our Troop used a bit of recycling in the project.

If you'd like to make your own set, here are some suggestions:
  • Use a quality can opener.  Mine crimps the open edge to eliminate the sharp and dangerous edge. 
  • Cleaning the cans well goes without saying, right?
  • Apply a quick layer of spray primer.  This helps the paint adhere to the can much better.
  • Use non-toxic acrylic paints.  For little people who might place something in their mouths, it pays to be safe.  We used higher-quality tube acrylics.
  • Sand rough edges/ spots on the peg people first.  These were donated to the troop and weren't the highest quality, so there were some rough spots.  I didn't want little fingers to get a splinter.
The biggest hint/ reminder I must always give my OCD/ Type A self when watching smaller people create their work is to BACK OFF!  Not every spot of wood or can is perfectly covered with paint.  There are brush strokes showing.  That's okay.  These girls (and the rest of the troop that did the other projects) put their heart into creating something wonderful for someone else.  And that is the lesson no amount of badge earning can teach.

Today's post title from The Judd's Girls Night Out.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Oh rise up, Fruit Loop lovers

I know it's been a bit quiet here on the blog. I am really enjoying the work I'm doing and the company I'm doing it for, but I am feeling the pinch of time that comes with hours spent away from home each day. For that reason, I'm hoarding my family time in the evenings and not really spending much time here.

That said, I've been wanting to share with you a sewing project from prior to Christmas. I love to make gifts for some of the teachers who give their time, talent, and heart to my children. Classic Rock and Zydeco have decided that they are too old to walk into school laden with gifts, but Jazz is all about something fun and pretty for her teachers.

This year, she has a four main teachers - two men and two woman - and we wanted a gift that was useful, colorful, and not overly feminine. Enter the humble placemat:

When rolled, it fits easily into a laptop bag or backpack.  It's personalized for each teacher and guaranteed to make them the envy of the teachers' lounge.  When you unroll the placemat, you'll see a handy little pocket for your fork, spoon, and/ or knife.  And a matching napkin is tucked up in there as well!

For her wonderful science teacher, who was kind enough to let me take over her class one day and talk all about watersheds, storm water drainage, and environmental practices, Jazz chose swimming fish and swirling green.

For her history teacher, a male, who encouraged them to memorize Patrick Henry's famous speech and truly made the colonization of Jamestown come to life, Jazz chose what she thought looked like fireworks and represented the New World.

For her cherished homeroom and math teacher, Jazz picked out the most geometric and colorful fabric she could find.  This is the teacher who writes all his word problems based on the menu at his beloved Taco Bell.  His humor and devotion to his class is greatly appreciated and I am so thankful that Jazz has been in his class for two years!

This fun, swirly, out-of-the-box pattern was chosen especially for Jazz's SAMS teacher.  [Students Achieving in Major Subjects]  This lively and vivacious woman gets one day a week with the students to challenge their thinking, ignite their imaginations, and cultivate their teamwork skills.  Her class is so much fun and I've tried to sneak in and play along.  Apparently, I don't pass for a fourth grader.

As for the construction details on the placemats, I read many tutorials and hodge-podged my favorites.  I cut the top, bottom, and batting (Warm & Natural) about 1/2 larger all around than the finished size I desired.  I cut a 3.5" wide strip for the pocket, folded it in half at the short ends, tucked under the raw endges, and stitched it to the front piece.  I spray basted the main layers together and either free motion quilted or stitched diagonal lines across the piece (but not the pocket area).  My free motion quilting needs a lot of practice, so I liked the straight line look better.  I made corresponding bias tape for the bindings and ties.  I really love to make bias tape!  I'm geeky that way.

I have another project to share soon.  I finally finished something for Zydeco and it really needs to be seen.  

Today's post title from the hilarious Breakfast by the Newsboys.