Monday, December 31, 2012

The Other Thing I Made This Christmas

Several things, actually, but all in the same vein. I'd been thinking about possibly passing on my first few cookbooks to my daughter. With that thought in the back of my mind, I accidentally happened upon the idea of covering old, meaningful books with handmade slipcases for gift-giving. I jumped on it. Not only did I love the look, but this was my big chance to buy gorgeous scrapbooking paper without guilt (I'm not a scrapbooker) and play with it!

I waited for a half-price sale on the paper. With AC Moore and Michael's, one doesn't have to wait long. I chose a "Garden Tea Party" pad of cardstock. I loved the subtle colors and the "tea stains" on many of the prints. I also bought a pack of inexpensive decorative scissors, acid-free glue, and permanent double-sided tape. (After the first one, I abandoned the glue and used only the tape.) My small X-Acto paper cutter (like a big office model, only smaller) came in very handy.

I made three slipcases for my daughter to cover those first three cookbooks: Ladies' Home Journal (see text below), New York Times, and Amy Vanderbilt's. And I made one for my cousin Barbara to cover a used copy of Tofu, Tempeh, and Other Soy Delights, a Rodale cookbook I contributed to (20 tofu recipes) decades ago.

Incidentally, I bought used copies of those first three cookbooks to replace the copies I gave to my daughter so I wouldn't be without the favorite recipes myself. But she has the ones with all my handwritten notations.

I had a lot of fun doing these.....clearly, playing with paper hasn't lost its charm.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Something More Cheerful for the New Year

Last year for Christmas I decided to make aprons for my daughter and her family. I would use printed fabric for her and her daughter, and matching denim ones for her husband and his two daughters. I had a lot of enthusiasm for the project until I saw what denim is selling for these days. So that was last year, and after the project hit a couple more snags, the aprons never got made.

This year someone posed a question at one of my online hangouts, asking if anyone was making Christmas gifts. One of the responders posted a link to instructions for making aprons out of men's shirts. She posted two links, actually—the first, where the idea seemed to originate, was a Russian website. The second was a blog where someone was kind enough to take step-by-step photos of the process.

Off to the Salvation Army I went, where the shirts cost me $2.50 to $3 apiece. I ended up buying more than five because it took awhile to find one long enough for Chuck (I'm still not certain I did). One of the ones I bought for his apron and rejected after I cut it was a 100% Irish linen shirt from Banana Republic, the back of which is now serving as a wrap for Bonesy-the-outside-cat's heating disk.

The process is simple: You cut off the back and the sleeves, leaving the double-seams on the front so those edges don't have to be hemmed. (Most dress shirts—excluding the linen one—are so tightly woven that you can cut right up to the seam without worrying about unraveling.) Then you cut diagonally from the collar to the underarm, leaving a bit of the shoulder. This bit of shoulder will disappear once you turn it under, twice, to hem the diagonal cut.

Then all you have to do is cut ties, using the length of the back. I added a patch pocket to each, using fabric from the other apron backs. It would be a nice idea to cut the ties on the bias, but I didn't do that. I've since seen instructions that have you sew bias binding around the entire edge of the apron, but I didn't do that either. I am far from skilled as a sewer, and kept these as simple as possible.

Everyone seemed to like their aprons, and I thought it was a good sign that no one realized I'd made them until I said so. I knew they were a hit when my son asked, "Where's mine?"

Here's the one I made for my daughter. The pocket is made from her daughter's green striped apron fabric.

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14, 2012

I advise you not to read this. No good can come from it. It's about today's shootings in Connecticut, and I have no words of comfort or hope.

The pain of losing a child is unimaginable to those who haven't experienced it. I have experienced it, but I haven't shared the experience of the parents of those school children. I read once that one sometimes encounters a nasty competition in grief support groups such as Compassionate Friends. Parents who have lost a young child might say their grief is more acute than other parents' because their child was small and innocent. The other parents might counter by saying they'd forged a bond with the older child that could never be achieved with a younger one; therefore, their grief was more profound.

I stayed away from those support groups. I believe without a doubt that every age brings its own pain. But there's something that can add to it. My daughter's death was sudden and unexpected, yet I'd had two years of fear beforehand. I remember my older daughter saying that day, "What must it be like for families who had no warning?" Well, 20 of those families know what that's like tonight.

Not only did they have no warning, but they sent their children there themselves, to what they thought was a safe place. For years I was haunted by the knowledge that my Jill died on my watch. So what if she was 25? It was my watch. It's always a mother's watch. From the time they're born, our mission is to keep them safe. If the ultimate lapse in safety occurs, we know who's responsible.

I can think of something else that adds to the magnitude of grief. It's hard to imagine anything that can make the most painful loss in the world even worse, but Christmas does that. If it were an elderly person who died around the holidays (and for whatever reason, many do), we'd think, Oh, that's sad. Their family will think of this every Christmas from now on. But these were little children! Christmas and children have been knitted together forever. It's not just their future absences, it's that we know they were excited about Christmas. Christmas was coming! It was only 11 days away.  I remember my first child saying, close to Christmas, "It's fun to be happy!" Yes, it is. Those 20 children should be safe in their beds tonight, storing up enough energy to be brimming with happiness tomorrow. Their parents have presents for them, probably wrapped, possibly under the tree.

This line of thinking becomes unbearable.

Shit. I told you not to read this. To those of you who did, to the sweet children, to their parents who will never be the same, I'm sorry. I'm so damned sorry.