31 March 2010

{Fabulous} Dream Girls Weekend

First and foremost, I wanted to thank all of you who reached out to me with your sweet and warm words after my last post... I rarely post such deep and intimate thoughts, but knowing that you were there to listen was such great comfort and meant more to me than you will ever know... That is the wonderful blessing of blogging, it knows no boundaries and the love and friendship you receive in the form of a true embrace can heal any aching heart!!!

This last weekend was exactly what the doctor ordered... Good old pure, unadulterated FUN with the most fabulous girls ever!!!! Our wonderful friend, Tiffany, organized an incredible workshop with the ever so talented Terry Brush, and Lisa and I headed up north, as giddy as school girls!!! Not only were we going to work on some fun decoupage and soldering projects, we were so excited to finally meet some wonderful gals we had admired from afar and revisit great friends!! It turned out to be (and I don't say this lightly) one of the best weekends of my life!! We laughed so much our cheeks hurt, and, just like magic, we all became a true sisterhood of kindred souls!!!

Before arriving at Tiffany's, we met up with Timi and Donna at the beautiful Today's Country Store, in Sumner. It was so nice to catch up with them over a delicious lunch... Timi is a self proclaimed Queen of Junking and is the motor behind a new venture called Come Junk with Us, which organizes super fun bus trips to some of the most popular junking events in the PNW. She is, right now, organizing a trip to Farm Chicks from the Seattle area, how incredible is that??!!!

After some great shopping we anxiously headed to Tiffany's house... Pinch me!!!!!

Tammy and I were birthday girls and were spoiled with a cake and some gorgeous and very thoughtful gifts!!

(super cute linen pouch by the uber-creative Jeanne!)

Tiffany lives in the country and is so lucky to have some acreage for her horse, donkeys and chicken (and her sweet dog Dazy)... Can you say "farmgirl envy"...?!

(Cookie, her new mini-burro)

(Jeanne, me and Lisa)

The set up for our workshop was breathtaking.... Not only did we have all the supplies we needed, we were presented with little treats, an adorable personalized charm and the cutest folder made by one of my favorite people in the world, my friend Joy!!

Tiffany was so gracious to allow us to "raid" her (insert angel voices singing here....) dreamy studio for anything we needed!! What a kind soul she is!!!

Here is some of my work in progress...

It was truly a memorable weekend and the hardest thing was to say goodbye to all these fabulous women!!!! I only hope it won't be long before we can all be together again, because a piece of my heart left with each and every one of them!!!

Back row left to right: Robin Laws, Kim Taylor, Tammy Akervold, Linda Morrison, Amy Mc Coy, Kris, Terri Brush, Donna Tinney
Front row left to right: Isabel Lang (me!), Tiffany Kirchner-Dixon, Maija Lepore, Jeanne Oliver, Lisa Johnson

25 March 2010

Choices of the heart

Many people tell me they couldn't do what I did... Leave their family, their country, their lives and move across the Earth forever. When I met Mark, after a failed marriage, I felt like I had won the relationship lottery... I fell so hard in love I would have followed this man anywhere... And I did. I left my apartment, my work as an investment banker, my large family and my friends and moved to Irvine, California, where my prince charming had been reassigned to his former F-18 fighter plane squadron.

It wasn't easy. I spoke english fluently, but I struggled with the cultural differences. I remember Mark taking me out to a comedy show shortly after arriving in the US, and how absolutely awkward and out of place I felt when I couldn't understand the jokes... Only 3 months after moving here, my hubby was deployed to Japan for six months. I was left alone, with no family or friends to comfort me, support me, look after me. Food became my comfort and I gained 10 pounds in one month... Thank goodness for the military wives who took me under their wings... I would have been lost without them!! I would get a call at least once a week checking up on me, and was encouraged to attend socials and getting to know other wives.

I tried to find a job, fired up dozens of resumes and sent them off. I figured a degree in Economics, an MBA, some experience in banking and the fact that I spoke four languages fluently would give me a good push... I didn't even get called for an interview!! One of the few people who had the courtesy to call me back told me they preferred to hire people with at least one year of experience in the US... I couldn't help but ask him how I was supposed to get a year of experience if no one gave me the chance to start??!!

 Just about a month into Mark's deployment, I  received a call from a dentist's office I had been to. She proceded to tell me there was a problem with my insurance coverage. I had no idea how to solve the situation, and this woman, frustrated with my inability to understand what she was saying,  became so verbally abusive towards me I was left sobbing...

I remember one time, after I finally started doing some temporary work, I invited some new aquaintances for a little get together at my house. The day finally came, and I was absolutely crushed when no one showed up! When I later inquired about it, I was told that since I had not confirmed the event, they weren't sure it was on... I had no idea you had to confirm an invitation!! I thought once was enough!!

Our nomadic military lives made it hard to set up roots... In the first eight years of marriage alone we lived in eight different homes and three different countries... I have always made an effort to make a home of where we were, and create a well adjusted, happy life for my children... But it was hard making friends and saying goodbye to them over and over again...

A few years ago I met a fellow European ex-pat... I asked if she liked living here. She sad she did, but I was struck but what she said next: she told me that even after eleven years she did not feel completely at home... I suddenly realized I could relate... Don't get me wrong, I love the live I have created, my family is my heart and I am surrounded by friends and I do feel feel at home.... Most of the time!! But there is an aching part of my heart that never lets go of my roots... There is a part of me that misses my family, my friends, my language, my country... When I think of the word home, I see a fork in the road, a split path...  But do I  really have two homes or am I stuck in between the two paths...?Am I  "too late" for one but "too early" for the other, no longer part of one but not quite a part of the other yet...?  Still, to this day, there are times when I feel like an alien who was just beamed down from a space ship, like some teenager left out of a high school clique,  like someone floating in a bubble looking in to the world... These are the times when I feel the need to nest, when I would rather stay in, when my friends probably don't hear from me as often as they normally would, when I find myself dwelling on nostalgic memories and life's paradoxes...

There are times when I still stare at my kids while they speak a language that is not mine and think "how utterly strange..."  I still feel, in many aspects, very different than most other moms, I don't wear makeup, I let my teenagers watch rated R rated movies, I still don't yet know what I want to be when I grow up....

There are times when I think of my aging parents and feel sad that I am not around... I cannot tell you how jealous I am of anyone who lives within a driving distance to their moms!!! I wonder about my growing nephews and nieces, my friends and their children... Part of me wonders what my life would have been if I had never left.... What job I would have, who I would have married, what my children would have looked like... I am reminded of one of my favorite books, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", by Milan Kundera. In this novel, Tomas is agonizing over the decision to whether be with a girl he barely knows or not... Here is one of my favorite excerpts:

"He remained annoyed with himself until he realized that not knowing what he wanted was actually quite natural. We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come. Was it better to be with Tereza or to remain alone?

There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes , without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, "sketch" is not quite the word, because a sketch is an outline of something, the groundwork for a picture, whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture.

Einmal ist keinmal, says Tomas to himself. What happens but once, says the German adage, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all."

I only have this one life to live, this one shot... I have absolutely no regrets about the choices I have made, I am still madly in love with the man who changed my life forever... It was all so worth it... Just look at my beautiful children!! I have learned, throughout the years, to turn my aching nostalgia into a force, a burning commitment to make this life the best life possible...  I strive daily to love life fully, and to make those around me feel that love too... I choose to be happy, to be at peace!! I have always been a "half cup full" kind of gal, and I will always be... I give thanks for all my blessings, I may not have riches of the material kind, but my heart is full of riches of the important kind... I would choose nothing more... 

21 March 2010

A transformation years in the making...

A little over a year ago, I posted some pictures of my bedroom, but I carefully avoided the windows... I mentioned that there was something ugly I was working on... Well, it has taken me this long to finally be done, and I am very happy with the results!!!

The ugly truth is... Just until a few weeks ago, I still had some really ugly paper blinds on my windows!!! But it gets worse: I've had them ever since we moved in almost eight years ago!!! Can you believe this...??!!! If they got old or torn, we would just buy new ones and replace them!! We live in a fishbowl, so privacy is a real issue, and I could never decide what to do as far as window treatments... I didn't want traditional blinds, then I considered roman shades, but wasn't convinced that was exactly what I wanted... I also considered plantation shutters, but was unsure if I would like the final result.... The agony lasted way too long, I am ashamed to admit!!!!

Then, a few months ago, I found three matching sets of victorian swiss dot sheers... Bingo!!! I had the start of my transformation!!

... Then I stumbled upon these adorable cast iron trellises at one of Tarte 's barn sales...

... I also had a set of golden Cherub hooks to which I gave a whitewash treatment...

... But the icing on the cake was this gorgeous vintage barkcloth I found a while back at Monticello. The set happened to include four pristine panels, exactly what I needed for my windows!!! I used hangers with clothespins (spray painted in cream) to hang them between and at the end of the windows.

For now I used some lace to gather the panels, but I am on the lookout for old rosaries, I think they would make great ties!!

19 March 2010

Polkadot pillow tutorial

I've been wanting to make a polkadot appliqué pillow for a while... The latest launch of Liberty of London for Target inspired me to dig into my stash of LL fabrics for the circles. I will show you how easy it is to make appliqué circles, perfect every time.

First, start with a sheet of heat resistant template material. I like to use Templar, you can usually find it at any craft or sewing store. Pick a size for the circles, I just go into my kitchen and audition cups, bowls, plates until I see something with the size I want. Trace the circle onto the template material and cut.

Cut circles of fabric about a half inch bigger than the template all the way around. It doesn't have to be perfect, you can just eyeball it...

Next, with needle and thread, do a running stitch all the way around the edge of each circle (about 1/8" from the raw edge). Leave some thread at the beginning and end of the run, so you can tie it later.

Place the template inside the circle (wrong side of fabric facing up), and pull on the two thread tails, gathering the fabric in the process. Tie a double knot to secure snugly around template.

Here is the trick that makes this process so easy... Magic sizing or starch (I prefer Magic Sizing, as if leaves the fabric softer so it becomes easier to appliqué). Spray a light mist over the gathered fabric edges. If you don't have a spray bottle, you can use liquid starch, just dilute it with some water and brush it on the fabric edges with a small brush. 

With the iron set on cotton, press around the edges until the sizing or starch is dry and the creases are flat.

Carefully remove the template by bending it a little bit and pulling the edge of the fabric over. I prefer to leave the thread tied just to keep the circle a little more "tame", but if you have a hard time taking the template out, just clip the gathering thread. Press the full fabric circle one more time to make sure it is nice and flat. Reuse the plastic template to make the remaining circles.

Once you have all your circles, place them in a pleasing way and pin in place. You are now ready to appliqué, by hand or by machine. My favorite stitch is the blanket stitch, which I do in my machine, but that can easily be achieved by hand. Or you can give a more primitive look by using a basic running stitch... I will show you my finished pillows in the next post! Have fun with polkadots!!!
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