Monday, December 31, 2012

The New Year spreads before us

"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls." --Jeremiah 6: 16

2013 begins in little more than half a day.  A new calendar, a new year, and a new journey spread out before us.

I end this year by mailing off this fennel green kerchief to join a stack of others made by a group of knitters using their needles to send comfort to the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  In the aftermath of unspeakable tragedy and horror, I, like so many others, wanted to do something...anything to join my voice and heart to the national lament.  It felt a strange solace to to add my name to a Ravelry list of knitters, and it feels oddly right to have these comfort scarves destined for teachers--from this teacher to another.  I chose the color fennel which in the language of flowers means strength, a commodity these heroic educators must summon in great measure as they minister in their classrooms with their kids in the days and months to come.

In addition to picking up my needles, I am also exercising my democratic right to speak my mind, sending weekly emails to all my state and federal senators, representatives, and the Speaker of the House John Boehner, urging them as my elected representatives to act quickly to ban the buying and selling of these deadly weapons and clips containing dozens of bullets.  My fervent prayer for this new year is that an end might come to such senseless tragedies, and that together we as nation we may travel a better path.

(Thank you Dick for the words of wisdom from Jeremiah...)  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas this year

Believe it or not I have a Christmas 2012 folder, a relatively thick orange tabbed folder housing all the lists of gifts, menus, shipping receipts,  recipes,  and knitting patterns, all collected as I collected my thoughts for the Campbell family Christmas this year.  My teacher years of planning continue to serve me well in my attempt at organization.  However, planning and implementing don't always coalesce when a family is involved and once Christmas began here, it took on a beautiful life, all its own...

There was

 a Christmas Eve day family breakfast followed by

a first haircut.  We hung stockings and lit candles.

We lounged, snuggled


and read.

We had tea parties

and floor puzzles.

We ate too much, slept maybe too little, and bumped around a lot, together in this comfortable old home. I never did get that family photo, I planned to pose, a beautiful snowfall cancelled our day-after-Christmas dinner reservations at our favorite pub, and at some point, I lost control of the carefully planned menus as my son-in-law took over head chef duties (to my relief and ultimate delight).

It is a most wonderful life, isn't it?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In the early morning quiet

The tree stands shiny and bright.

The stockings hang, all in a row.

The holly is cut, and the cookie tins are filled.  The beds are freshly sheeted, the larder filled, and the menu anticipated. Today, our family begins to arrive and celebration commences. Until then, a few minutes of morning quiet.  Merry Christmas everyone.

May your time with your loved ones be blessed and may you fully enjoy God's good gifts during this holy holiday season.

Monday, December 17, 2012


“The function of Advent is to remind us what we're waiting for as we go through life too busy with things that do not matter to remember the things that do.” 
 --Sister Joan Chittister

One week from today, it will be Christmas Eve, and our waiting will be nearly over.  I have tried during this season of Advent to be as concerned with preparing my heart for the coming of the Christ child as I have been with preparing my home for the coming of our family.  Sometimes, I have been successful, other times, not so much.  This season is fraught with busyness with the decorating, the present buying (or making), the wrapping, the baking, the cleaning, the celebrating, and on and on.  The to-do list can be never ending as I think of one more thing to make, or bake, or buy.  At some point it needs to be over; at some point it needs to be enough, for at some point, I need to quiet my hearts and still my hands to come and worship, to come and adore Him.  May it begin now....

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Yesterday was a Rosemary Day, and this is what greeted me when I came in the door,  a sweet little girl in a sweet little reindeer dress.  Rosie was decked out in her Christmas finery because both her grandmothers made plans to take her out for lunch in what we hope will become a yearly Christmas tradition.  Nonna drove to Mr. Deli and Mrs. Too! ( kinda perfect--two bubbies observing a first annual Christmas luncheon in a Jewish deli!), and I sat in the back humoring our granddaughter who wasn't quite sold on the idea of a midday outing.  Lunch was a Rueben Sandwich for Nonna while I ordered a Veganini Wrap.  Both were amazing (I sampled Patti's and she mine) and so were the pickles and potato salad!

Rosemary took a seat in her car seat, although sometimes she sat on laps.  Next year, she will have her own food, but this year it was BYOB for Rosie who sipped a bottle of her mama's milk.  We hoped to get a photo of the three of us during the event, but time and Rosemary's patience ran out a bit, so when we returned home Nonna snapped a few:

It really was a fun day and memory in the making.  And she really was very happy....really she was.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I couldn't resist

Lately, I have become intrigued with Amigurumi, the Japanese art of knitting (or crocheting more often) small, stuffed animals with anthropomorphic features.  The patterns are quite stylized and actually remind me of drawings I saw in manga, Japanese comics some of my students read.

Last weekend, I got on a bit of a roll making these Martian Mice friends.  And even though these will be Christmas gifts, I couldn't help posting their cute faces.  Just looking at them makes me smile.

Even their behinds are happy!

Friday, December 7, 2012

In the bag

In my preparations for Christmas, I endeavor to be mindful of the wasteful way we package things--the items we buy and the gifts we give.  In the past, I have wrapped gifts in tea towels, eschewed wrapping paper for a single satin ribbon, or used tissue paper because I believe it decomposes more readily.  This year I made a few reusable totes and small pouches to house gifts.  Just yesterday, I stitched up this.

This travel size pillow case was quick and easy to sew together.  I simply pieced the inside border and then stitched together the body and the two borders.  My children had travel pillows made for them by my grandmother (Matthew's still sits in his room!).  Always useful for small heads, the smaller sized pillow is great for car trips, watching television, or adorning the bedroom.

By family consensus this year, we are reducing the number of gifts we buy and give.  This rocketship pillowcase will house a special gift for a very special boy.  After the case is emptied, it will be refilled with a pillow. How about that?  Two gifts in one!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

On Mending

My Grandma had a mending basket;
a shirt missing a button,
a skirt with hem ripped loose,
Grandpa’s overalls wanting patching.

And my mother darned socks;
who does that now--
spending precious hours
weaving holes shut?

It takes time to mend;
sewing up the rips
and tears of living, restoring
things back into a state worth using.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

If the only prayer you ever say in your life is
thank you, it will be enough.

             --Meister Eckhart

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Women helping women"

Last week, a women's comedy improve troupe (No Artificial Sweetners--isn't that a great name!) that my daughter-in-law belongs to, staged a benefit performance to help the women of Mwariki.  Prompted by the stories of Brenda  Eppley, a Fulbright Fellow, these players made people laugh and in return asked for a donation of money, yarn, or knitting books to send to global sisters seeking sustainable ways to live in a village where the male population has been decimated by war.   Brenda documents the story here.  Read it.

As a knitter and quilter, I am captivated by stories that connect those of us who work with our hands.  Women have always clothed families, covered beds, and warmed hands and heads with the yarn and fabric passing through their hands.  Women have always championed their families, their villages, education, justice, and peace in words and deeds that reflect a uniquely feminine voice and step.  Like Brenda and like Alexis and her friends, I too want to help in whatever small way I can. My small part was to pack up some yarn and books from my stash to theirs, from my hands to theirs, and from my heart to theirs.  May God bless them as they learn and labor.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like

Almost Thanksgiving.  For some reason, even though grocery store circulars and recipe emails have been touting our national day of thanks for some time, mid November still surprises me.  My intuitive calendar remains stuck somewhere in October.  However, almost all our leaves our down, save this surprising flame bush, and the tree silhouettes outside the windows where I write are brown and spindly in contrast to the lush green foliage of the previous season.  We are heading into winter's hibernation....sigh.  I am not quite ready to do that.

But despite that weird internal calendar, I have been sewing a bit in preparation for Christmas.  A few simple potholders--gifts for Alex's teacher, Jamie's daycare provider, and for whomever else I decide to give them too  Easy and quick and fun to put together.  Basically I cut:

          one 4 1/2" h square for the center
          two 2 1/4 x 4 1/2" strips
          two 2 1/4" x 8" strips.

Sew the shorter strips on the top and bottom first and then sew the long strips to the side.
Cut the back and batting (about 8 1/2" squares) and quilt.

Sew on the binding with 1/4" seam allowance (One potholder takes about 40" of binding, I cut 2 1/4" strips) and finish either by machine or hand stitching.  Ta dah!

Even though I drag my November heels, I confess to thinking about Christmas.  This year,  I want to stress less and celebrate more.  I overhead wise counsel for women for the season of celebration--"be a host, not a martyr."  Part of our family will be here for Thanksgiving and our whole family will gather for Christmas.  The thought of that warms my heart, and I get excited with thoughts of preparations.  This year, we are going to try something new with our big Campbell family time.  With two now-growing families, my sister-in-law still seeking work in this challenging economy, and my husband and I who are trying to downsize our stash of stuff, we all decided to pick names for our gift exchange.  We each will buy one gift (and Jim and I will fill stockings).  The only exception will be for the children or a handmade gift.  A true blessing of the season is simply being together.  With our family spread up and down the East coast, those times when all the leaves expand the table are preciously few.  Laughter, chatter, bodies bumping into each other in the kitchen, and toys strewn all over the house will be the best and most lasting gifts for all of us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Patches of Sun

Two patches of light dot
her unfurled tiger stripes;
lounging in the morning,
capturing sunbeams
wherever they land.