Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Advent of a Jew

Hello. My name is Inga and I am a Jew. Or, one of "those Jews who, while not practicing Judaism as a religion, still identify themselves as Jewish by virtue of their family's Jewish descent and their own cultural and historical identification with the Jewish people." Suffice it to say that, sadly, I have a limited knowledge of my people's religious traditions, and, instead, grew up celebrating - in a purely secular fashion! - the multitude of Christian holidays. My mom grew up in a secular Jewish, socialist home, wistfully observing her gentile friends' yuletide festivities. Her family didn't even celebrate the Jewish holidays. So, we got the Christmas tree, instead of the menorah. Here's last year's:

A peek at our tree

I would love to celebrate all of the holidays, and to embrace both aspects of my heritage, but, not having grown up with the traditions, I find it difficult incorporating this into our lives. It is so much easier to follow the path that has been lain down than to forge a new trail. Two years ago I did hold a Passover seder and it was extremely intricate and time-consuming to execute. I enjoyed it, but swore I would never do it again! Perhaps not the best celebration to start with. . .

Our token tributes to our maternal ancestors were the Hanukkah gelt in our Christmas stockings (oy vey!) and the gold Stars of David we hung on our tree. Those lovely stars - painted yellow, with our names written on them - were my favorite ornaments, but fell apart many years ago. This year I made new Stars of David for our Christmas tree, so my son can enjoy this same tradition. And we're lighting the menorah! I'd love to incorporate more traditions, but for now, at least, I have these silvered beauties:

Star of David

On my paternal side, my Swedish heritage is dominant. My son has the traditional, Scandinavian chocolate advent calendar that I had when I was little - lovely picture of Santa bringing joy to all and delicious chocolate shapes hidden behind numbered windows. I have a nostalgic fondness for these calendars and he seems to share my liking, as the first thing he says upon waking is "can I have my chocolate?" Still, last year I saw all these wonderful crafty advent calendars, and swore I was going to make one this year. No such luck. I am not known for planning ahead and I am always over-ambitious!

So, I've been sitting around, looking at this year's crop of crafty cuteness and bemoaning my shortcomings, when, lo and behold, I stumbled across Bella Dia's wonderful idea of a book/activity advent calendar. We're a few days late in starting, but no matter. I can get the books from the library and just start with whichever book/activity strikes our fancy. It's a wonderful idea - and Day One is all-inclusive!

Day 5 of Advent, Day 1 of Hanukkah:


Or, check out wish jar's list of ten things to do instead of shopping for more inspiration on how to spend whatever free time you have during the holidays.

Not quite sure where gingerbread houses fall in the Christian-Jewish spectrum, but we think they're fabulous! Especially, when you can buy a real Swedish house for only $4.99 (NOT the $8.50 noted in the link) and use up all the candy that's been sitting around since LAST Halloween. . .


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fortunate. . .

in so many ways.

If I'm being honest, my default approach to life is to see the glass half empty. Today's challenge is a simple exercise in appreciating that which makes my life full. Although there is much more to strive for, having the following is a great blessing:

Family - living and nearby
Friends - few, but intimate
Health - excellent
Hearth - warm and dry
Sustenance - available in abundance, both nutritious and delicious
Time - for crafting and being
Freedom - of religion, choice, speech and lifestyle, to name a few!

In thinking about what I have to be thankful for, I've also come to the following realization - that, if you don't raise these blessings up for recognition and appreciation, they don't exist. That isn't to say that they don't apply to one's life, but the benefit is not felt.

The following quote says it best. I would like the balance of my days to be a feast, not a famine. . .

"It is literally true, as the thankless say, that they have nothing to be thankful for. He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient. But a thankful heart hath a continual feast."

W. J. Cameron, The Ford Sunday Evening Hour Talks, 1930’s

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Grateful. . .

first and foremost, for my son. For his continuing laughter, smiles, and affection. I hope that two years from now, I will still be the grateful recipient of his unrestrained love.

two years ago

Autumn leaves Me and my baby


IMG_5952 IMG_5954

IMG_5956 IMG_5962

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Happy Place

For all you gnome enthusiasts out there, go on get happy! And if that's not enough to satisfy, here's more than you ever wanted to know about gnomes. According to a review of Gnomeland, "gnomes are 'so out there', they're 'in' again." I wouldn't go this far, but a soft, huggable gnome is welcome in my garden anytime!

Mrs. Gnome

Mrs. Gnome

Mrs. Gnome

Thanks again to Hillary for letting me test-ride her newly available, just-in-time-for-the-holidays, how-can-you-pass-it-up gnome pattern!

And, if you've been feeling the gnome vibrations, but are lacking a garden, this is just what you need.

Don't say I don't gnome how to have a good time. . .

Monday, November 12, 2007

What To Do With Felt

I've got a lot of felt. Not so much that I won't buy more (the nice, wool felt, that is) when I happily and unexpectedly come across it, as I did this weekend! But enough that it will be sitting around for a few years unless I think of more ways to use it than the occasional softie.

Enter this lovely felt garland by Anna Maria Horner. I NEED to do this. Now if only I could figure out how to stretch a 24 day into at least 28 hours! I think I need a wardrobe to craft in, so that time will stand still.

Off the crafting tip, please examine this picture of moi. Not supermodel status, but not exactly chopped liver, wouldn't you agree? Sadly, according to My Heritage celebrity look-alike, my "strong" (my quotes) features have me parsed as a boy. Mouseover picture to see my celebrity counterparts. I suppose I should be greatful that Cary Grant appears here, although I would have preferred Grace Kelly. : )

The second go-around cracked me up!

(psst... mouseover!)

Go on, try it! You know you want to...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Good Intentions

Okay, so I've wrapped up my swaps (pictures coming soon!), refrained from joining any new ones, and I'm all set to start holiday crafting for my loved ones, when I find my good intentions blindsided by an innocent visit over at Hillary's place.

Did you really expect me to pass up the opportunity to test-drive one of her fabulous patterns? Now I've got to ask myself one question: "Who can I make a gnome for? Well, who?”

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Laundry List

Just to keep myself on my toes and accountable, I thought I'd make note of the holiday projects that are in progress or waiting in the wings. Lest I get selective amnesia. . . Of course, in case anyone comes sniffing around, I won't mention whom the recipients are!

More of these paint chip wallets that I find so addicting:

Paint Chip Wallet

Paint Chip Wallet

Nested magazine bowls (I'm so excited to try this, and I'll finally get to work with Modge Podge! Hope it isn't a disaster. . .)

A pouch or two:

Butterfly pouch detail

Patchwork purse

Fingerless handwarmers, either knit or sewn from fleece. I'd intended to sew them, until I started this post and came across these fabulous patterns! And what a great opportunity to knit from stash. If I can resist heading to the yarn store for just the right color, that is. . . ; )

And a couple of CD jewel case calendars from my flickr pics (if you think they're for you, they probably are, so don't ask any questions!)

All this crafting would make for a satisfying, straight-from-the-hands-and-heart, without hurting the pocketbook, kind of giving if only I didn't drop $60-$100 every time I walk into Michael's. Damn Martha and all her good things.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Running With Scissors

Starting off slowly on my reentry to blogland, with an update and some pictures. . .

I had a minor epiphany today, and I am now TOTALLY inspired to approach the holidays with all the craftiness I can muster! My goal is to make this as much of a Handmade Holiday as possible. Of course, there will still be some store-bought goodies, but if I can minimize the commercial aspect of the season and highlight the joy of creating, I will be very pleased. I have a few swaps that I'm working on, but once they're wrapped up my creative energy will need to be directed towards the handmade gifts I've got planned for my immediate friends and family. I'm not deluding myself that this is going to be an easy task, but I think it's manageable if I start now. : ) This is my early New Year's resolution. . .

Never a post without a little eye candy - here's my little bat, in a costume I made from an umbrella! I'm pleased with my execution, but can't take credit for the idea. Instructions courtesy of Lenore.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Swap Guilt Redux

Caution: Self-pity lurking ahead.

We - myself and the boys - signed up for our first kid-oriented swap: Mollycoddle's miniswap. As a self-appointed crafty mama, I was excited to participate in a swap with my son, thinking it would be fun to put together a package for another family, including, naturally, lovingly handmade goodies from us! Well, I didn't live up to my own expectations and instead of making things we sent some (cute and fun) bought and gently used items (per the guidelines). In return we received some wonderful handmade items from the Cardillos. The boys were so excited to open their package, but I waited anxiously to see what they received. Fortunately for them, they were thrilled, but as soon as everything was unveiled I was overwhelmed with swap guilt. I posted previously about swap stress, but this was OVERWHELMING, full-on, perfectionist-driven guilt!

Look at all the wonderful handmade things that were sent our way!

Missing from the pictures are the other thoughtful and wonderful items included: Batman and Superman action figures, a wonderful story/song from Massimo, a pirate map showing where they live and tea for me!

What we sent (click on picture for notes):

The dilemna facing me now is do I re-swap? Has anyone done this? I'm sure that Eleonor and Massimo probably liked what we sent, but I feel like I failed at this swap and I want a DO OVER! So, I'm thinking of putting together a new package, small, but personal, since I am, after all, a neurotic, but sometimes lazy, perfectionist! Keep in mind, it's not about comparing or competing, but rather about following through on what you intended to do. Personal expectations and all. . .

Any thoughts? You can weigh in anonymously if you want!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Garden Lupinus

I'm a super speedy knitter most of the time, except when confronted with decisions or transitions, whereupon my knitting usually ends up languishing in some corner for an irresponsible length of time. So, naturally, I wasn't very surprised when it came time to remove the sleeves onto waste yarn and Wicked went on hiatus. It's not that I don't know how to remove the sleeves (a pretty straight forward procedure!), but I start agonizing over whether I've knit enough or too much, and I find myself paralyzed, unable to move forward. The simple thing, as advised by the Zephyr girls, would be to remove the sleeves, try sweater on, and procede from a point of knowledge rather than speculation. Well, this has finally been done! And I'm getting back up to speed. . . Here's my progress thus far:

And some earlier pictures since I've been so lazy about blogging:

With any luck I'll be wearing this soon! Hopefully before the rainy season ends. . .

Edited to add:

Information on my fabulous dress form!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I'm Still Standing

I guess I really do date myself when I feel compelled to head my posts with song titles of my youth. I may have a select group of contemporary artists that I know and even like more, but I certainly can't identify today's artists or songs with any regularity! And really, when did I last have the time to lie around listening to the radio all day waiting for my favorite song requests to be played? Ah, those sweet angst-filled early teen years. . . It amazes me that almost 25 years later thinking about these songs brings back powerful physical memories. I don't just remember, but feel with a visceral quality, the emotions that I felt then, usually in relation to some boy or other. Some songs still do it for me, but more likely than not the feeling of longing evoked is tinged with regret, not hope.

Please parse the above lightly. I did not intend my return to blogging as a downer, but nostalgia is never far when I am near. Really what I was intending when I started this post was a reference to the fact that the holidays are over and, despite a long absence, I am STILL STANDING. I baked, crafted, shopped, wrapped, visited, recovered, and welcomed in the new year. I don't put much stock in resolutions, as I am ever skeptical of my ability to see any to fruition, however I do have some intentions:

To live in the moment more. My son will turn five in May and I anxiously dread the ebbing of the easy love we swim in now. In fact I've pretty much dreaded this from the day he was born, anticipating the sullen responses, averted eyes and general rejection that parents often suffer at the hands of their callous young. So, for now, I will smother him in kisses and demand my share in return! Hopefully, the banked love will make the desert crossing easier.

Conversely, to create my future. I hesitate to put those words down as I don't have any strategy waiting in the wings to move the action forward. But a change is gonna come.

Where are you goin' my little one, little one?
Where are you goin' my baby my own?
Turn around and you're two
Turn around and you're four
Turn around and you're a young [boy]
Going out of the door

Turn Around by Nanci Griffiths

(Lyrics by Malvina Reynolds, Harry Belafonte & Allen Greene)