It's All Gone, And So Are We

In the blink of an eye, the snow disappeared.
Lucky for us, with our post-Christmas travel plans.
What a magical winter we've had here in Portland.


Simple Goodness

The other night, while sitting in front of my jewelry-making supplies, I kept thinking about how content I felt this Christmastime. About how I was able to spend time enjoying the company of Barry and of good friends. About how I loved the cozy feeling of our apartment, glowing in the evening from the lights on our Christmas tree. About how giving and receiving handmade gifts felt so good. About how slowing things down and scaling things back allowed me the time and energy to think about Christmas memories and the meaning of the holiday. I realized that I felt so content this Christmas because things were so simple. So beautifully simple. I tried to make this realization translate itself into the jewelry I made that night. I tried to make each piece extremely pared down and straightforward:

The pieces above are all listed in the sulu-design etsy shop (images are direct links to listings, or check them all out here). Orders placed after Wednesday (tomorrow) morning will be shipped on January 6th, as Barry and I are heading to Virginia for several days to see his family. Ah, family... more simple goodness.


Handmade Holiday 2008

There's still one box of presents in limbo (the one downside of all the snow last week) somewhere between Portland and Cleveland with gifts for my father, brother, and brother-in-law packed carefully inside, but most of the handmade presents to and from my family have been exchanged. My family knocked my socks off again this year with their amazing gifts.

My brother, Peter, and his wife, Jennifer, designed their cards
using a pattern from Petite Pattern: Scandinavian Style.
I'm now itching to get the entire Petite Pattern series.

Jennifer made us a set of beautiful pillows.

My sister, Maryanne, designed the cutest gift tags.

And she made me a gorgeous platter.
I want Porcelaine 150 paint now, too.

From Portland to Cleveland, with love:

a set of notecards that I block-printed for my mom
(along with some earrings - how could I not?),

a tote bag for Jennifer,

one for Maryanne, too,

movie-watching kits for my nephews,
with blankets, video rental cards, and popcorn,

and teacher-play items for my niece,
including a bulletin board and lots of desk supplies.

A little planning made this handmade holiday much less stressful for me than last. But both last year and this year, I was really blown away by the thoughtfulness of the gifts we received as well as the beautiful design of each of them. We'll see if my family is up for Handmade Holiday 2009. I'm totally hooked. And I've already got ideas for next year...


Peace on Earth, Good Will towards Men

The snowfall in Portland this past week had me taking the bus to and from work every day. On one of the coldest, windiest, snow drivingest days of them all, I boarded the bus a stop before a thin older man got on. He was dressed in ragged clothes too thin to keep him warm, and was talking to himself and rocking back and forth. He sat down across from a well-dressed man who kept an eye on the thin man for the entirety of his ride. Just before the bus reached his stop, the well-dressed man stood up and handed the thin man his gloves - his hi-tech, expensive-looking gloves. The thin man looked up and asked, "For Christmas?" "Yes, Merry Christmas," said the well-dressed man as he exited the bus.
I hope this Christmas that your hands and hearts are warm, and that each of us spreads that warmth to those around us. Merry Christmas, friends.


On Scaling Back

Aside from the fact that I got a jump start on our handmade holiday gifts last month, the real reason that I'm not in freak-out mode this Christmas is that we've scaled way back on the holiday preparations this year. I did not make a single holiday-related decoration this season. I hung the same wreaths I made last year. I pulled out my old fabric scrap trees. I hung some felt stockings I'd made long ago. We did get a tree, a smaller one than in years past, and draped it with the garland I made by finger knitting last Christmas. In the course of one evening early this December, the apartment became just a wee bit more cozy and Christmas-like. We didn't make our Christmas cards as we'd intended... maybe next year. There's been almost no baking to speak of. If we were parents, we'd be the biggest Scrooges ever. But we're not. It's been super low key here. Just as we wanted this time around.

Every morning this month, instead of scribbling down a list of to-do's and concocting some master plan to squeeze way too much into my pre-Christmas day, I've sat by our little tree with my usual breakfast cereal (now being served in my new favorite bowl from Ink and Peat), and daydreamed a bit. I've thought of the wonderful Christmases I had as a kid, I've thought of my far-away family whom I adore, I've thought of how I've come to love this wonderful city we live in (even though a year ago I was feeling all undone about it). I've gone on long walks in our perfectly snowy neighborhood. And I've thought about how content I am, doing a lot less than before.

same tree as last year, happily not undone


On Procrastination and Getting Older

Note to readers: If you're not my mom, you probably want to skip this post entirely... it's long and photoless. There may be a few more like this one up my sleeve this week. Bear with me.

Whoot, whoot. That's the sound of me tooting my own horn. I'll admit it, I have been pretty proud about getting my handmade Christmas presents done and out the door early this year (United States Post Office, don't fail me now), but I also must admit that being prepared has not always been my strong suit.

For my most of my school experience - elementary through grad school - I found it impossible to start an assignment until the last possible moment. In high school, I often implemented a method passed on to me by my brother, whom one could call the king of procrastination (am I right, Peter?). He taught me a trick that allowed me to wait until the last minute - three or four o'clock in the morning on the day a paper was due - to write, edit, type, and print out school assignments at home. My Smith Corona word processor (remember those days before we had computers at home?) made quite a racket when it printed, and it took for-freaking-ever to print a single page, let alone a ten or twenty page paper. The sound of all that printing in the middle of the night would certainly have woken up my mother who would have been furious to know that I'd waited until the night before a paper was due to start it. But Peter showed me that if I threw a blanket over the word processor, taking care to provide just enough of a drape as to let the paper exit the machine smoothly, it would muffle the clacking sound to a degree that my parents would sleep soundly through it. I could wait until my parents were in bed to start working on an assignment, and if I worked through the wee hours of the morning, I could finish printing it before my parents woke. I must have been turning in really quality papers...

In college I was worse. With distractions galore (note to parents: think twice before letting your kids attend school in New York City), I not only waited until the last minute to work on assignments, I often had to come up with creative excuses to get deadline extensions. My favorite was a complicated story that I told my art history professor about how getting egged on Halloween made me unable to complete an assignment. I'm a bit ashamed of the lie - I got through a dozen Halloweens in the Bronx unegged, knock on wood - but really, the story was a work of art itself. Almost anything that allowed me to put off my inevitable work was fair game.

Once I became a teacher, it took me a solid three years to learn to plan my lessons a week in advance so as not to experience Black Sunday. You know, Black Sunday - when I'd sit on the living room floor, surrounded by teachers' guides and story books, plotting out exciting and stimulating activities while the rest of the city was at brunch, enjoying museums, and generally doing anything but work. I finally figured out that a little preparation every day during the week made for much happier weekends. Who knew?

The older I get, the more I realize that being prepared really has its benefits. I'm too tired to pull all-nighters, and too mature, I hope, to make up pathetic excuses for not coming through with things on time. This year, I started my handmade Christmas presents in earnest back in November, so this has been a pretty stress-free December for me. After last year's handmade holiday issues, that's saying a lot. Why did it take me three decades to figure this out?

All that being said, our Christmas cards still aren't in the mail.


It's All My Fault

While it probably hasn't captured the attention of the rest of the nation, the weather here in Portland and the surrounding areas is all anyone in these parts can talk about. We've been getting dustings of snow for almost a week now, with plenty more than just a dusting expected in the next couple days. If you read any Portlanders' blogs, you know that this has meant school closings, snow days from work, and shortened hours at stores. Yes, we've only had mere dustings, but the city is unprepared for any snow, so the smallest snow fall brings things to a grinding halt... fun for many, but not so great for small businesses, especially in these tough economic times (I say that phrase with a sneer on my lips... while I am completely sympathetic to those hard hit by the state of the economy right now and am feeling the effects of the busted economy myself, I am beyond sick of hearing those three words strung together).

Well, folks, to be honest, I think I ought to take the blame here. When I was in Cleveland - snow-covered Cleveland - over Thanksgiving, I couldn't shut up about how great it was to live in Portland, where the winters are mild and we don't have to deal with snow all season long. "When we want snow," I bragged, "we can head up to Mount Hood. And then we return to our snow-free city when we're sick of it." To the business owners, I apologize. I should have kept my big mouth shut. But to those of you enjoying the change of pace and the pretty flakes, you can thank me later. Nothing says thank you like caramels covered in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. Just saying.


That's All Folks

At least for 2008. I think. I pulled together one last sulu-design shop update before the new year because I couldn't wait until then to share the earrings that I made using the killer gray beads that I picked up in Cleveland. And a few more of the mustard yellow beads I got there, too. I'm loving the gray. And the yellow. And the gray and the yellow together. And then I had to add a couple pieces similar to ones that have recently sold. And, well... I got on a listing roll and ended up putting all of these in the shop:

Hey, thanks for scrolling all the way down. That should do it for a while. Time now to sit by the Christmas tree and enjoy some slowness.


Color, As Promised

These are all in the sulu-design shop as of this morning. I'm off now to run some errands, and hopefully when I get back I'll be able to catch up on the thousand or so blog posts that I've accumulated in my bloglines account since Thanksgiving. Yikes. Looking forward to seeing what you all have been up to...