Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflections on Christmas

Christmas was lovely this year, except that I became ill on Christmas Day.  I had a stomach bug.  But my family took over and made the dinner.  Fortunately I was able to sing at church on Christmas Eve.  I rested all Christmas, briefly watched the gift exchange, and then later was able join the family for Grace and candle lighting, that is all.  But it was a lovely season.

We had some snow.  Donnie could not resist venturing out.

Our tree was beautiful.  This is my favorite ornament.  

I wore my hair in a blinged-out fashion.  Sparkles!

We sang the Hallelujah Chorus at the end of Midnight Mass.

Then we came home and ate some figgy pudding with a chocolate Brandy Alexander sauce.  

Then Santa came!

Our Advent Wreath candles were replaced with pure white candles on Christmas Morn.  
Welcome Baby Jesus!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Top the Tree!

Our Last Christmas Party as a Team

Earlier this month, the team of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and medical assistants that I have worked with for the past five years all got together for a Christmas party.  It was a lot of fun, but very sad: our clinic is closing, and we are all scattered to the winds.  Some are going to a new pediatric clinic, others to other practices, some quitting medicine altogether.  I am going back to the NICU I worked at previously.  I brought my harp and played for everyone.  Katie's house is an old Victorian, which I love.  So the harp felt right at home!

(Note: the perspective on my friend's camera was a little off - the harp looks enormous!)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Special Birthday

One of my friends had a landmark birthday this week.  She invited a group of us to come help her celebrate.  It was an Irish/Christmas birthday theme, reflecting the season and her recent journey to Ireland.  She insisted on being the one to cook!  It was lots of fun, and I was glad we were able to share in her celebration.

Irish/Christmas Beautiful Table

Delicious Main Course

Friday, December 6, 2013

Getting Organized for Christmas

It is St. Nicholas Day today, and a good time to start decorating for Christmas.  We always are rather last-minute about decorations.  I am inspired to do some more organizing.  This week I have been going through papers, getting things filed, or shredded, or recycled.  I finally, finally sorted through this one bag that has been sitting in my closet/home office space since the beginning of time.  It is gone.  Everything in it dealt with at last.  As you may have guessed, the majority ended up in the trash or in the recycle bin.

Tyler and I began going through some of his toys to give away.  This made room in his closet for two bins that have been lurking about without a home.  One bin is computer parts and equipment, the other is our photo bin.  We cleaned out a section of Tyler's closet, near the sloping wall, and put them there.

This year I was inspired to get an Advent Wreath for my home.  I want to dress it up with some pine boughs.  We also have two Advent calendars, one religious, one with chocolate!  Tyler was very excited and I helped him light the first candle.

Happy Advent!



O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Loving Ballet Class

I returned to ballet class today, after being off a week.  Thanksgiving occurred and I ate so much.  It is hard to go to ballet, in a leotard, after overindulging the entire weekend.  But it was a very enjoyable class.  Very difficult too.  Every week, slowly, I feel like I am regaining facility in my dancing.  

Ballet is always humbling though.  Today we did a most confusing petit allegro.  We also did a combination that included a turn à la second (turning with one leg extended out to the side).  I was pretty bad!  But I love it anyway.  This studio has old tin ceilings and a live piano player.  It is another dimension to get lost in, easy to forget life's concerns for one and a quarter hours.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Preparing for the Winter (In a Most Unromantic Way)

Normally when one thinks of a blog post about preparing for winter, the thought that would come to mind is of lovingly storing up food, knitting warm socks, making warm pies and cocoa.  All with a serene countenance and, of course, in a lovely romantic sort of dress - with a frilly apron.

Not in this house!!

Our winter prep is of a more utilitarian nature: namely rehanging the ancient basement door that has been letting in so much cold air it is like its own air conditioning unit.  This is a problem for me doing laundry, and our poor kitties whose cat box is downwind of the draft - Brrrr!.  The door is rather ugly and peppered with small gouges from BB guns from previous owner's children.  But the big problem was that the door was ill-fitting, did not close properly, and had air leakage and drafts constantly.

So Paul removed the door this weekend (probably the last "warm" weekend here in the Chicago area).  He found proper wood in his stash, got new hinges and a handle from the hardware.  He refitted the door and added pieces so that when the door is shut with applied insulation strips it will be a tight (and draft-free) fit.  I did the usual lady thing when a man is working: holding sticks of wood, holding parts in place while Paul marked things or drilled holes, making "helpful" suggestions, ordering pizza, and taking annoying photos.   The work is mostly done.  All that is left now is to add the insulation strips, fill the BB holes, prime, and paint it.

Here are two in-progress shots, more to come once the door is painted:

In other non-romantic news, in between holding things in place for Paul, I did a lot of basement uncluttering, packed up and sent off a large load of give-aways to Salvation Army.  Then I sorted things into new spaces, cleaned a bit.  I still have a lot more of that to do.  Maybe I'll get to the cocoa and knitting one of these days.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What I Have Been Up To Lately

There has been a lot going on in my life lately, which is why I have not posted in a while.

  • School - I am finishing another class towards my BSN completion program. Three classes left to go, which will be available to take in summer. 
  • Work - The clinic I work in will be closed in a month, very sad. Then my new job, back in the NICU, starts. 
  • Family - The big news here is that Robert is having surgery, extensive inner ear surgery (Google Tympanomastoidectomy and Ossiculoplasty if you care to see details).  In fact, this is happening this very second - we are four hours in. Praying he will be out of surgery and restored to health soon!
  • Home - Lots of winter indoor projects on the list.  Poor Paul!
  • Health - I am dealing with chronic issues, medication changes and adjustments that are not pleasant.
But I am feeling blessed in spite of the challenges. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chocolate Outing in Chicago

We took a little trip to downtown Chicago to go to the annual Chocolate and Dessert Show at Navy Pier.  We had a wonderful time!  Wonderful sights and tastes.  Here are the highlights:

Free samples!

One of our favorite booths, the Four Brothers Chocolates.  In particular, their Drinking Chocolate was divine.  Of course we brought some home with us.  

There was a beautiful wedding cake display.

And even a chocolate shoe and chocolate lipstick.

Trump Towers served the most delicious hot chocolate with frozen vanilla chips.  Seriously, it was like a drug.  We drank it sitting down, savoring, it brought us to a different place in time and space.  

Vanilla beans!  We bought a "Vanilla Kit" where you prepare the beans by scraping out the innards, adding alcohol, and letting it sit for many weeks until you have your own homemade vanilla extract.  

I particularly liked this little fairy made out of confectionery.  She reminds me so much of Robert's girlfriend, Sierra!  (I hope she did not mind me making the comparison - it was meant as a compliment!)

Here we are, all happy from indulging!

A view from on high.  Finally we took a long awaited ride on the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel - we have been waiting literally years to do this.  Tyler and I were a little freaked out - it went so high in the sky.

It was a happy day, filled with sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences.  I am so glad we went there.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Life, Shaken AND Stirred

There is peril in becoming too comfortable in one's life.  I had a vision of working my job in the pediatric clinic for the rest of my career, helping my children and grandson (and future grandchildren) as best as I could, gardening, harping, costuming, and so forth.  But life has a funny way of, every now and then, throwing this over.  What is the expression?  "We plan, God laughs".

In less than one month, the following has occurred:

  • I received the news on Friday, September 13th that the public aid clinic I work in at the hospital is closing doors forever at the end of the year, meaning I was out of a job at that time.
  • I interviewed for a job in the same hospital on my old unit, found out I got it, will start in January with orientation, then go to night shift once orientation is over.  (Option to put my name on list for day or PM shift as they become available, but I will be on the bottom of that list).  
  • Paul, Julie, and I needed to meet with the principal at Tyler's school to discuss bullying by another child against Tyler.  After a nerve-wracking weekend, worrying about if the principal would take our concerns seriously and take action, we met Monday morning - it was a good meeting, and I feel hopeful the situation will be resolved.
  • Other family concerns, prayers that resolution of that is truly going to happen.
  • A minor car accident, my fault, a combination of being deep in thought regarding above, and a killer migraine.  No one hurt, minor damage to both vehicles.  
  • And the above mentioned migraine, three days worth, killer pain, Imitrex only helping somewhat.  I haven't been able to keep food down until this morning.  In the worst of the pain, I did wonder, "Why must I have this on top of everything else?".
I really do long for serenity.  I have read all sorts of things online about coming through the storm due to needed change.  I just wonder why now?  It feels rather dark now.  I think once the pain from the migraine is completely gone, I will play my harp and see if music will soothe this troubled soul.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lady Audley's Secret

For my friend Colleen's Victorian Book Club (a quarterly meeting of eight ladies who meet to read and discuss Victorian literature), I was inspired to portray a character in the book we read, Lady Audley's Secret.  I did not want to be the main character (read the book to find out why!), rather, I was inspired by her step-daughter, Alicia.  Alicia was a very sympathetic character, as her father's second wife seemed to drive a rift between her and her father.  The fact that she was also a horsewoman fit right in with what was going on in my present day life, Tyler's horseback riding lessons.  Originally I planned on making a true reproduction riding habit bodice, but the pattern was delayed in shipping, and I didn't have much time to begin with.  So I decided to put together a faux riding ensemble that would capture the spirit of Alicia.

I have my Beatrix Jacket (made from the Sense & Sensibility pattern) and a modern black skirt that, when worn with a widening petticoat, looks somewhat authentic.  I had boots that looked like riding boots, a hat that just might look like a riding hat, and I bought a cheap riding crop (because, as you know, a good horsewoman must always be prepared for a ride!).  But I did not have a blouse that would work, and I wanted a new reticule.  I went blouse shopping and found this blouse, which does not look at all Victorian in the picture, but I rolled down and buttoned the sleeves, buttoned the buttons all the way up, added a brooch, and also sewed a little lace on the cuffs.  Voilà, a faux Victorian blouse!  For my reticule, I used this pattern, and just happened to find two different dotty fabrics at Vogue Fabrics that went with the blouse, which went together beautifully, making an adorable drawstring purse. 

Here I am, in all my faux glory, as Alicia:

Lady Alicia, her crop at the ready


The fabric of the dotty blouse

And the little dotty reticule

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

At the Renaissance Faire

A few weeks ago we traveled up to go to the Renaissance Faire in Bristol.  It was very colorful and interesting.  Tyler loved it because he saw someone dressed like "Link", his favorite video character, and we got him a small wooden sword with a sheath.  Kristin was in her element on one of the rides, the Pirate Assault Catapult, combining trampoline and bungee jumping.  Fun!   

Tyler shooting the "po 'n' arrow".


...and over!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Homemade Laundry Products

A while back, Tyler was diagnosed with eczema.  While he was undergoing treatment, I also began to rethink our laundry products.  I had read about making one's own laundry products to help with problem skin conditions, and all of the difficulties people can have with some of the additives to commercial products.  I thought I'd give homemade products a try.  There are tons of "recipes" out there, all very similar.  I think it is trial and error to find the best one for your needs.  So far, the combinations and proportions I used (below) seem to work well.

Powdered Laundry Soap

1 cup of soap flakes (I used Zote Laundry Flakes)
1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1 cup of baking soda
1.5 cups 20 Mule Team Borax
(Mix all together, store in airtight container.  I used a cheap glass jar with a seal that I got at Walmart, along with everything else.  Use 2-4 Tbsp per load.  Note for front loading machines: be sure to remove the liquid detergent insert in your machine when adding this.  The homemade soap has to go in the powder cup or it will clog.)

Homemade Fabric Softener

3 cups of water
1 cup of hair conditioner (I used VO5 Freesia)
1.5 cups white vinegar
(Note: it is best to mix in a big bowl and stir well, or if mixing in the container you will use, gently invert the container back and forth to mix.  If you shake, it will suds up terribly.  Gently invert container back and forth before each use.)

This time around, since I am satisfied with the way they work, I used a double recipe of each homemade product, which nicely filled my containers to the top.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity - Costuming Adventure

My Tea Ladies and I went to the Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit at Chicago's Art Institute.  If you haven't yet seen it - go.  It is amazing.  I understand now why one of my friends was brought to tears by it: upon entering the first room, you see a painting of a woman in a gown, across from it is an original gown which is strikingly similar (and in one case it is the actual gown that was worn for the painting) and incredibly beautiful.  Rooms and rooms with paintings and gowns, a costumer's delight.  This was one occasion where (for me) dressing up in costume was mandatory.  I worked very hard to complete a bustle gown using Truly Victorian patterns 208 and 400.

I got a lot of questions and comments.  Some thought I was an employee of the Art Institute.  Questions included: "How do you sit down in that dress?"  "Are you wearing a corset?" (I was).  Even, "How do you go to the bathroom?" (Really?!).  And, "Can I touch your bustle?" (asked by a woman, so I wasn't creeped out by it it, at least, not too much!).  I was asked to take photos with people outside the exhibit.  The funniest reaction was this: My friends and I were moving onto the next room.  We passed in front of a man and wife, I walked past first.  My friends told me after that the man had startled, then said to his wife, "It's like the Twilight Zone, like she walked out of the painting"!

The exhibit runs through the end of September.  Tickets purchased in advance is a good idea.  I would have posted a few photos from the exhibit, by it was forbidden.  Here are a couple of my dress:

Me with "Dad", also known as the painting American Gothic - my father looked almost exactly like the man in the painting!

Outside the exhibit.

A close-up of the bustle.  This was taken after the event, so sorry about the wrinkles.  I just love this bustle.

A better close-up, showing the clever sewing technique to achieve the bustle (along with the bustle pad worn underneath).  Truly Victorian patterns are some of the best historical patterns to work with!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Gentleman Rides a Horse

Through an unusual set of circumstances, Tyler ended up in a horseback riding camp last week.  He loved it!  He learned basic techniques, posting, obstacle courses, and even did a little bareback riding.  He wants to return next year. 

This is the very beginning of learning to jump.  

Tyler and "Herky", his favorite horse!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer's Bounty - Rainbow Chard

I usually plant Rainbow Chard in the garden simply because it is pretty (it's sort of scary-looking to eat!).  But as we are trying to eat more healthfully, we cooked some up last night, sautéed in olive oil, onion, garlic, and a little soy sauce.  Not bad!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Peplum for my Bustle Dress

Here is one of the cutest parts of an historical outfit I am working on: the peplum to my 1871 bustle dress.  The pattern is from Truly Victorian: TV 400.

This will attach to the back of the bodice, and sit on top of the bustle.
(Note: I originally posted a photo of this with the wrong side up.  Oops!  Now corrected.)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tea With Gerri

Last month, my Tea Ladies and I went to "Tea with Gerri", a lovely tea house run by a most gracious hostess, Gerri Gwarnicki, originally from Ireland.  We all enjoyed this outing very much, and plan to return again.

One of the table settings (A hilarious footnote: the overlay on this table is the same one I used for my Downton Abbey Dress overlay!)

Gerri pouring tea and explaining its properties

Hats abounded!

1940's dress, but a modern hat.  However, I love how they go together!

The simple elegance of Afternoon Tea