Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Yes, I'll take Jimmy Fallon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt for Christmas, please.

I like to try new Christmas candies each year. Here is a sampling of what I've made thus far. If you'd like the recipes for any of the following, just let me know. 
And for what it's worth...
My favorites: gingerbread biscotti and the mint shortbread cookies.
Coconut almond cookies
 Chocolate truffles rolled in all sorts of unhealthy stuff
 Mint shortbread cookies and gingerbread biscotti
 Brownie truffles setting up in the freezer
 Peppermint serving plate
 Snicker doodle blondies
 Step one of the chocolate bark
 Finished product
 Brown sugar cookies with brown sugar icing

Oreo truffles

I know they aren't carols. I know they aren't sentimental. I know religious undertones are nowhere to be found. I don't care.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I want my own Institute of Slow Information.

A couple of weeks ago, I included an excerpt from Vivian Swift's travel journal, Le Road Trip, in which she describes the "colors of Paris" in thought-provoking and artsy ways like "gray without melancholy." I decided to do something similar for my hometown.

*Purposeful rust - the color of still-functioning antique farm equipment and my dad's barn roof in certain shades of light

*Subdued hazel - the quiet color of hay fields, the river, and the eyes of several people I care about

*Patchwork blues -a stippling of shades that somehow create continuity in the lake, the library mural, and hand-stitched quilts
Additional excerpts I absolutely love...
"Travel Tip: The term is in situ --in the land of origin. We travel to put ourselves in situ, in a place where we belong.  The feeling that one was born in the wrong place is an ancient and universal experience, such that I suspect (a) it is part of our human DNA; and (b) is why our kind are born wanderers.  We travel to find the place where we can recognize ourselves for once.  Be on the lookout for that jolt of unexpected familiarity in a foreign land: that's how you'll know you are in situ." 67

Throughout my travels, I have had only a few moments when I thought, "This just feels home-ish to me. I could live here." Who knows? Maybe I could, maybe I couldn't when it came down to it, but I do think "it says something" that the rather rare thought even crossed my mind. Those places included Wallingford, Vermont, Seattle, Washington, and Prague, Czech Republic.  Ultimately, however, the place where I have most recognized myself, the place where I have felt like the "best version of me," the place where I never expected familiarity after the passing of eleven years, was exactly where I am now. 

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." - Douglas Adams
Talking to a tapestry owner  in Bayeux about new threads, "This counts as one of the best conversations I've ever had in my life." 71

A few conversations I consider my "best"...
1. a 30-minute phone interview with Brandi Carlile in which we talked about everything from the colors in her kitchen, to what constitutes a "good Christmas," to the names of her many animals, to how she takes her coffee, to her lingering frustrations toward organized religion

2. a brief, and frustrating-at-the-time, conversation with my dad in the Turner Farm living room on a random winter afternoon a few years ago: I was talking about an "ideal job," and how taking the opportunity would help me "in the long run." His paraphrased response: "True, but Liza, you have to make enough to live on.  It's good to dream and want more, but you have to provide for yourself in the meantime." CLT was always supportive, but he also kept me grounded. By example, he encouraged self-sufficiency and reminded me that sometimes we just have to suck it up and do the hard stuff, the stuff we don't necessarily want to do.

3.  an ultimatum-based conversation in an ice-cream parlor that involved me clearly articulating what I wanted, what I could give, and what I couldn't; it wasn't a conversation that yielded a triumphant end, but it was a conversation I look back upon with pride.  I didn't give in when it mattered. I held on to what I knew was most important.
"Next Life: My embroidery studio on the Main Street of Bayeux will be just one part of my Institute of Slow Information. I will also teach letter writing, listening, miniature portrait painting, and the art of doing one thing at a time." 71

I want my own Institute of Slow Information.  I want to spend days writing letters to Caroline, taking painting classes, working on my great-grandmother's quilt tops, learning how to bake sourdough bread with my mother, reading every book that is stacked on my nightstand, and writing a book, the likes of which I like to read. 

If you haven't checked out Bill Guffey's new studio, I definitely encourage you to stop by. His artwork is beautiful, and has heart, and will surely impress you.  The building renovations he and Kelly did themselves are equally impressive.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Project updates and other such piddling...

I found this quilt top in my grandmother's attic over the summer. My great grandmother, who we referred to as "Gramma," had hand-stitched it, using pieces from various shirts, dresses, and other fabric scraps.  I fell in love with it and asked Mama if I could have it.
I had big plans....none of which actually involved me trying to quilt the thing myself.
Nevertheless, if you remember from a Pillow Book post over the summer, the ladies at the library convinced me that I should do just that. What an awesome idea in theory; I mean, how much more meaningful would it be if I could do it myself? 
And so...I was all over it initially.  Vickie made a trip to Wal-Mart with me to help me pick out the batting, thread, and sheet I wanted to use.  We brought the supplies back to the library, laid it out and pinned it the very next day. ....
Four months later, I actually picked it back up, and started working on it (thanks to guilt trips by those same wonderful library ladies).  And within one week, I shockingly had it finished. 
 Laid out my backing, batting, and the quilt top
 To be honest, this (pinning it) was probably the most frustrating part.  Once I actually got started with the tacks, I enjoyed the project.

 This is a tack.
 Each tack is roughly four inches apart.
I've always loved making these ornaments.
A dozen clear, glass ornaments from Hobby Lobby - $4.00 
 Collection of squeeze paint I've kept from various projects
 Study break
 Decided I would drain the ornaments in this expensive tool
 Very complicated and strategic process: squeeze paint in, cover lid with paper towel, shake and swirl, drain.
 Let them drain overnight and then turn right side up and put the "lids" back on
 I used some of my Dad's flannel shirts for a blanket last year. I used the leftover fabric to create "hangers."
Finished product
A Christmas project for Isabella
 I painted the bench, which I'm considering to be her "reading nook," and used more of my Dad's shirt fabric to make pillows (along with the pink fleece material from one of Lucy's old Halloween costumes:))
 Pillows are about the extent of my sewing skills.
On the back side of the bench, I wrote a secret message (a line from a poem I wrote for her 2nd birthday).
"I wish for you a world of possibility, of never-ending stories, a world filled with your very favorite books.
I wish for you days of pretend, days of dress-up, days of hidden reading nooks."