Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tis a gift to be free...

For the past several years, I have tried to create the majority of the Christmas gifts our family gives. Either by sewing or baking, we’d create something wonderful for friends and family. This originally started about the time the press reported most of the small toys imported from China were covered in toxic lead paint. I wanted to know that the gifts I gave my children or my nieces and nephews weren’t hazardous.

We would also incorporate purchased/ manufactured gifts because sometimes, that’s just what is needed or desired. If a small child is begging for Legos, you don’t give them crochet finger puppets. Both excite the imagination, but one is truly more relevant for the asker.

That all said, this year I realized that a full time job just doesn’t lend enough time to the sewing and creating endeavor. I decided which very few gifts would be handmade and accepted the rest would be purchased.

But I have put a great deal of thought into how the gifts would be purchased. I want to make my “almighty dollar” make a difference. So I turned to the Fair Trade Federation website and looked into various retailers offering fair trade merchandise. Scarves, coffee mugs, wall art, jewelry, and so much more are available for purchase. These items ensure the makers, often in depressed societies, are justly compensated for their work and time.

Image result for fair trade symbol

Here are a few of my favorite finds this year (click to go to company website):

Ten Thousand Villages (their local retail store closed last year, but their online store is awesome)

Serrv (their wall hangings and tree skirts make me drool)

Project Have Hope (these are the most beautiful bead bracelets I’ve seen!)

TaraLuna (the scarves are exquisite and I selfishly purchased a whole new stack of dinner napkins for our family)

Women of Cloud Forest (I want all of the embroidered bags….I can’t decide! Sea turtle? Fruit Bat?)

The lyric I’ve used today is very old and everyone knows the song….Tis a Gift to be Simple…but we sometimes need a reminder that it truly is a gift to be FREE. Just knowing my shopping will help someone – a lot of someones if I’m honest about my shopping – be a little more independent and a little more dignified makes my personal Christmas season much more meaningful.

PS - I didn't include any pictures of the items I bought because I don't want to give away the surprise...shhhh!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I believe that happiness is something we create

I stopped blogging (you might have noticed??) for the summer.  It wasn't expected or intended.  It was the result, I have figured out, of not being completely at peace and just needing to step back. My work, while necessary, wasn't fulfilling and I spent a great deal of time feeling guilty for being gone.  Lucky for me, a great husband, supportive family, wonderful kids, and awesome friends helped me to remember that happiness can be created.  And it has been....

A new job will be started in about three weeks.  A fulfilling and exciting position I will be proud to hold.

I've posted several snapshots of a summer well spent by this Domestic Church.  A summer that included the following:
  • MAGGIE:  I am pretty sure I haven't mentioned the newest family member.  Maggie the standard poodle sort of fell into our laps and we love every curly, large inch of her.  She was a rescue, but not hurt or abused in any way.  Maggie is wonderfully gently with the children. She loves playing catch and chasing the kids around the yard.  The best part is that she came house trained, leash trained, and command trained.  The only downfall is that I find myself horrifyingly jealous of her long and lean legs.  The short Italian women in me is coveting her neighbor's goods.
  • PAINT and MORE PAINT: I finally stopped the family agenda for one whole weekend and managed to paint Zydeco's room.  He's been upgraded to a fabulous deep blue accent wall with the rest of the walls a version of sand.  A gift from Papa inspired the color palette.  Riding the high of accomplishment, we finally picked a color for the kitchen walls.  We'd had various paint sample splotches on the walls for months, so it's nice to have a uniform color.
  • SEWING: In order to stay sane, I found pockets of time to cut fabric and plan small projects.  Irish Jig has two new dresses (one involved the piping foot - whee!) and new jammies.  I started a sweet doll for Irish Jig that will become a "Tooth Fairy" doll.  Halfway through doll sewing, I managed to drop a straight pin into the sewing machine.  All sewing is on hold until the machine returns from its tune up. 
  • CONFIRMATION:  In early June, we witnessed Classic Rock celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation.  The Mass was beautiful and the Sacrament delivered with such grace. That grainy picture up there is the blessing with oil.   A wonderful family friend stood with Classic Rock as sponsor.  This young man has been a quiet but steadfast mentor to our boys and we feel blessed to have had him walk the journey with our son.
  • VISITORS:  We joyously welcomed Nana and Papa (my parents) for the Confirmation and a two week visit.  It was, according to my children, the best visit ever with their grandparents.  My parents would pick them up from school and treat them to lunch out, snowballs, a shopping trip, or just let Classic Rock practice driving them around town.  Nana spent an afternoon teaching me to safely launder delicate vintage linens.  I took notes!  I will post!
  • DRIVING:  Classic Rock received his driving permit in December and we've been very good about giving him opportunities to drive.  He's quite a careful and deliberate driver.  While I am eager for him to just get his license already and run errands for me, he has another month before he meets the age requirement for Virginia.  Since Louisiana pretty much handed me a license at 14.5, I appreciate the caution and extra training he's had.
  • BIRTHDAYS:  Zydeco celebrated 13 and recently surprised us all by asking to having his longish hair cut much shorter.  While the long hair bothered many a relative (Nana), I always figured he wasn't piercing or tattooing, so what did I care?  Jazz celebrated 10 with a Fiesta themed party that is worthy of it's own post - note to self.  She's taking time each day of her summer vacation to work on a variety of needlework projects and really showing improvement.  Classic Rock embraced 16, his driving permit, a summer sailing trip and a week at the NASA Wallops Island facility.  And, yeah, I celebrated yet another year....
  • OPEN HOUSE:  I always seem amazed and surprised that our home becomes the central party house each summer.  The kids' friends are invited over or just randomly show up, and we embrace the chaos.  We serve a lot of lemonade, popcorn, and freezer pops.  We make the children guests do their own dishes.  We listen to many wii competitions and board game disputes debates.  We (me really) try not to obsess about the constant dirt on the floors by reminding ourselves that we know where the kids are, that they are safe, and that we can overhear every little comment.
  • GOODBYE:  Our family said goodbye and good luck to wonderful friends starting a new journey.  I consoled Jazz as her closest friends moved halfway across the country on their new adventure.  I indulged extra sleepovers and took lots of pictures to preserve the memories.  I finally created an email for Jazz so that she could keep in touch with her friends.
  • FARMERS' MARKETS:  We start every Saturday at either the Smithfield or Williamsburg Farmers' Markerts.  The fresh and local produce drive our menus all summer and force us to try new and exciting foods - 8 ball squash??  We've also discovered the wonderful woman in Smithfield with blue egg laying hens.  Yum!  
Much more has occurred in the Domestic Church, but stopping here allows me more fodder for future posts! Create some happiness of your own -

Today's blog post title from Sugarland's Something More.

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.