family

Mothers and Gifts

I caught a glimpse of a Facebook live post asking for viewers to share what you think you got from your mom in terms of a talent or gift.   It got me thinking about my own mom of course, especially with Mother’s Day tomorrow.  My mom has been gone now for some time, over ten years, after a long and slow decline from early onset Alzheimer’s.

When I was younger (teen years and then early married life), I always thought I had time to work on fostering and building a stronger relationship with her.  Once we had kids, which was in my early to mid 20’s, I thought we could definitely connect over that.  The grandkids, were so important to them but being in the military made it hard to connect often.

However, we made an effort to see each other at least once a year.   We didn’t have facetime, Facebook, or really even a computer back then so we really relied on letters, photos sent through the mail, video tapes recapping six months of events and milestones and phone calls with only the imagination and memories to recall faces.

Even though it’s been a while since mom has been here (over twenty years if you count the years we couldn’t be with her as she declined and lost recollection of faces), I think of her often, if not daily.   You know the old saying that you become your mother when you get older?   Well, I am starting to “see” more of her in me.  I hear her voice in mine, I see her face in some of my pictures of myself, and my hands callused and poked by pins. I definitely feel and think of her when I’m sewing.

My mom used to work at an Arctic Cat factory when we were younger sewing snowmobile suits and jackets.Mom in her Artic Cat sweater I remember taking a tour of her factory when I was younger, seeing all the industrial machines and being pretty impressed.   I’m not sure she really enjoyed it, but it was a job.  Later she would become a CNA at a local nursing home, the same one she would later live in and be cared for by her peers.  While at Arctic Cat,  she would often bring home bags of scraps for us to pull threads out of to get the batting in between the slippery layers to use for quilts and other projects.  We were great recyclers even back then….actually I think that is something that was engrained in me not only from my mom but my grandmother who reused the cardboard concentrated orange juice containers to freeze strawberries from her massive strawberry garden.  Nothing was wasted and everything was reused…even tinfoil.

Sewing at Arctic Cat was a job but sewing at home was not only out of necessity with six girls to clothe, but a talent and outlet for my mom’s creativity.  One that I believe I inherited from her.  img_2807Besides teaching me the sewing basics on her old manual Singer machine  starting with Barbie clothes and eventually graduating to my clothes and even quilts, my mom taught me patience (or at least tried to) especially when I would have to rip out a seam.  She taught me how to lay out patterns to use the least amount of fabric possible. She taught me creativity through her many “homemade” home projects using recycled elements anywhere from the plastic rings that held a six-pack together to empty thread spools (large cone ones I am assuming from Arctic Cat) and a can of spray paint.

So instead of focusing on regrets and how this disease stole our time and what could have been, I want to honor what I actually got from my mom.   I will be forever grateful for the gifts she gave me that I have been able to nurture and build my business.  Not a day goes by where I don’t think how lucky I am to be able to do what I love, working with fabric, helping people with their vision, and continuing the ever important repurposing and reusing which, I believe,  will become even more important.

I wish I could have one more day with my mom to catch up. I think she would be proud not only of me and my family but she would get such a kick out of her great-grandkids. Mom  playing accordian  with Megan and ScottI’m pretty sure she would pull out her accordion and play “Roll Out the Barrel”.

I saw this video and poem by Maggie Mobley dedicated to mothers on the Today Show this week and thought I would share it with you all. I dare you not to be moved.

Her Hands, Mother Poem

Happy Mother’s Day to all mom’s, mom’s-to-be, grandmas (mimi’s, grammys, nannas etc), great-grandmas, step-moms, Godmothers etc.

Denise

 

family · Food · Intentional Living

Traditions

With an early Thanksgiving we gained an extra week to get ready for Christmas.  I don’t know about you but I feel a little calmer and more prepared for Christmas than in years prior.  As I start to plan for our family get together I find myself reflecting a bit more on our family traditions and also reevaluating them.  Are they necessary or important? If I didn’t do something would anyone even miss it? Would I?

I started by asking my husband about his Christmas traditions growing up in rural Minnesota in a big family of ten.  

 The ones that stood out in his mind, were the opening of gifts on Christmas Eve, a big breakfast at their house after Midnight Mass with friends and family and the town priest often attending. His mom always made a duck and ham.

They would get homemade flannel pajamas from his grandma when he was younger, and of course a “taste” of Mogen David wine for all the kids.  They felt pretty special.

My traditions also centered around family gatherings.  We would go to bed early on Christmas Eve and then wake up to get ready to go to Midnight Mass.

We always opened gifts in the morning and then would pile in the car, all eight of us, and drive to my grandparents house about an hour away to spend the day with my aunts, uncles and lots of cousins.   We would have a big turkey “dinner” around noon complete with apple and pumpkin pie.   After my sisters and I did the mounds of dishes by hand, my grandpa would usually set up his reel-to-reel to show home movies. 

Grandma would pass out little glasses of ice cold apple cider and homemade caramel popcorn.  After, the kids would either play games, go outside to play in the snow or sit around and chat with each other. We then had the great Minnesota  potluck hamburger hot dish “supper” with potato chips, beans, homemade buns, ham, Jell-O and pickles.

I then asked my kids what traditions were important to them.  I was curious if my value on traditions had translated to them.  I found it pretty interesting.  Some things that I thought were definite musts weren’t even mentioned. Those that made the list were spritz cookies, chocolate covered cherries, going to a movie on Christmas day, new pajamas on Christmas Eve and handing out gifts with the Santa hat.  Why is it we do traditions anyway?

Traditions bring a sense of comfort and connection to the past.  For me it is a way to pay homage in a way to my upbringing in a large family where the value wasn’t on gift giving but rather on family and spending time together.  It was/is a way to remember my mom and dad.  We only had one TV with three channels, board games, cards and the great outdoors with lots of snow. 1966 normal year of snow in MinnesotaThere was no internet, no cell phones, no computers or distractions.   Simpler times.  The traditions were often developed and evolved over the things we did to pass the time and out of necessity.  They stuck and became tradition as a way to celebrate our heritage, our faith, our family. 

Traditions help us to “go back” and regroup or recharge.  They are an already planned event or food where  you don’t have to think about what to do, it is just something you do.  It helps us to pause and try to put the brakes on our hurried lives.

They evoke emotions.   Ask “Alexa” to put on Celine Dion’s “These are Special Times” or the Carpenter’s Christmas CD and I am instantly in the holiday mood and ready to bake or decorate.  Traditions can be songs we listen to, movies we watch, games we play, places we visit, or things we do.  My annual Christmas letter and photo has become a tradition I personally love, though some would argue against them.  It has taken different formats over the years as we moved into the computer and digital age (yes, I used to handwrite them back in the dark ages) but I find it a wonderful way to document the year that was, the good and the bad.   A journal of sorts.  This year I want to put them all in a book with our annual Christmas photos.

Is it a lot of work?  Sometimes.  Is it worth it?  That depends.  Does it bring you joy?  Does it bring others joy? If the answer to these is no, than probably not.   I think it is important to re-evaluate from time to time the traditions you have because they sometimes just aren’t practical at some point. Of course times are different.  When we were younger all of our families were close geographically.  Now we live in three states, thankfully on the same coast and still within a short days drive. But once the kids get married, have the in-laws to consider and then grandkids come along, things can get complicated.

The traditions that were once near and dear to our heart become obsolete and impossible to hold on to…just a memory.  One tradition we incorporated for several years as our kids became teenagers and young adults was to go to a movie on Christmas Day.

Though we would still love to do this, with four very young grandkids, it would be a bit challenging.  Kids grow, families grow and change and grandkids come along all giving the opportunity for a tradition adjustment.

This year will be our first Christmas Eve alone in 33 years.  I’m not sure I want to make a tradition out of that so for now I think I will do what makes me happy but in moderation.   I will make the spritz cookies for my daughters, caramel rolls (ode to mom), Italian food for our family gathering,  maybe show some of my home movies I recently converted to DVD’s or at least as much as the kids will tolerate (ode to grandpa).

I will have apple cider and caramel popcorn on hand (ode to grandma), play the game TROUBLE with my granddaughter (a game I played endlessly when younger).  Someone will wear the Santa hat to pass out the gifts.

We will still open one gift at a time to anticipate and appreciate. Traditions come and go and evolve, is what I have decided, but the important thing is that family is together to celebrate, no matter what the day. It is then that we repeat favorite foods and activities that in time will become new traditions for a new generation.

                                                             Merry Christmas!  signature.jpg

Creative Things · family · Sewing · Slipcovers

Ben’s Big Boy Chair

When you think of slipcovers, you typically think of a wingback, club chair, parson chair, side chair, benches, the list goes on.   But let’s think outside the box for just a moment.

My grandson was about to turn one and I received an idea for a birthday gift for him. 

Original Chair: Before
Before: pink girls chair

His sister, Addy, had a Pottery Barn chair with her name appliqued on the back of it and my daughter thought it would nice for him to have his own chair.  But those chairs are expensive new, so I thought, what if I found a used one and redid it? It would be more personal to me, a challenge for something new to try, and the thought of making something handmade for him was appealing.  I found one for $25 on a local yard sale facebook page.   It was pink and had the name “Aberly” appliqued on the back but it had good bones (hee hee, foam inside). 

And so I began the deconstruction and transformation from a little girl’s pink  “Aberly” chair to a blue denim boy’s “Ben” chair with bright green trim.  I cut out the letters for his name out of fabric with little trucks and appliqued it to the inside back of the chair.

I trimmed the chair in a bright green piping, incorporated a back storage pocket and a coordinating handle for easy carrying.  A zipper on three sides of the bottom on the chair reveals the foam blocks tucked into their designated spaces and kept in place  by Velcro panels. The fabric was prewashed and would be easy to remove and put back together.

This was such a fun project to deconstruct and figure out and it gave me such joy to be able to give him something especially made for him. 

detailsbydenise_3x5-smaller

 

Decorating · family · Food

A few of my favorite things…

We’ve shopped, baked, decorated, wrapped, cleaned, attended office parties, listened to holiday music, watched every Hallmark Christmas movie ever made, watched other favorites on Netflix, and pulled out old classics on DVD all to get into the holiday spirit.   One of my favorite, get-you-in-the-mood movies, is “The Sound of Music”.   It was on TV the other night and I watched most of it (until I fell asleep…. probably because of the list of things I mentioned above), with my youngest who is home from college.  Well, here are a few of my favorite things this holiday season.

 

 I want to take a moment to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from my family to yours.

heart-and-needle-with-name