Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

I am setting this down in cement. (No, I know they're actually pixels, but cement really sounds better, right?)  I figure if I put this out there for all the world to see, I will have to be more accountable to update you all on how this all comes together as the year passes.  Experts say that it's much more likely that someone will accomplish a goal if they 1.) Write it down, and 2.) Tell someone else about it.  This qualifies.  We'll see if it works, OK?

MMM and I are happily planning away for a wedding on September 1 of next year.  I have all kinds of ideas spinning around in my head, and I can imagine them coming together.  First and foremost, I want MMM to be really knocked out when he sees me in my dress.  We won't play "hide the bride" or anything like that.  Do you know the origin of that tradition?  Apparently, back in the day of arranged marriages, the families were so delighted to have found someone to marry their daughter, they refused to actually allow him to see her until it was time to lift the veil, just in case he refused to follow through.  I think being jilted at the altar is pretty bad luck, all right.  That's softened somewhat, and now we mostly think that it's so the groom can be surprised at how beautiful his bride is.For me, though, to really feel like a knockout for MMM, I really gotta lose 15-20 pounds.  So here's my first resolution:

1.  Lose 15 pounds by July 1.  That will give me another month to try for that extra five.

This is not something that I usually write about - my 8-5 J.O.B.  But I have one.  I work in a state program, assisting local governments to build public facilities and housing.  Unfortunately, there is quite a backlog of projects that need simply to be closed out.  It's a daunting task, and a big part of my issue with it is that  these aren't MY projects.  I'm doing work that should have been done, often years ago, by former employees.  Grr.  There's nothing I detest more than cleaning up someone else's mess.  Nevertheless, it's work that must be done.  And having it done would give me a great deal of mental clarity.  It's like constant static playing on the radio to know that that pile of files is sitting there, day after day, waiting for me to process them and send them off to archives.  So.....

2.  Close out all the old projects by March 30.  Then I can breathe a quiet sigh of relief.  And move on.

I want this blog to be a roaring success.  But I need to work at it.  It's fun - don't get me wrong.  I like to write, and I like the community of bloggers.  They're fun, creative, interesting people.  I want Sassafras Salvation to be known as a good, solid blog, with interesting content.  I want, eventually, for it to at least pay for the costs of the craft projects, if not the home renovation ones.  There are lots of things I could set goals for, but here's one that I have absolute control over:

3. Post at least half the days in any month for the coming year.  So, if April, June, and September have thirty days each, that's 15 posts in each of those months.

I'm a HUGE reader  and MMM and I have been reading together, as well .  Right now, we're working our way through Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. A very interesting read, by the way.  The Tipping Point was also very good.  If you like to watch 60 Minutes, and you're a reader, you'll like any of Gladwell's books.  They're very well-researched and he draws interesting conclusions.  In addition, in the past year, we enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (WOW!), and The Help (by Kathryn Stocket - Loved the book and I LOVE that she spells her name right!).  On my own, I've also read three of Bill Bryson's books, specifically Notes from a Small Island and At Home, a Short History of Private Life, and A Short History of Nearly Everything,  and  Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival.

We've both read the first four of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, and Book 5, A Dance of with Dragons, is now out in hardback.   We're waiting for the paperback version (and I'll probably get it for my Kindle).    And we loved HBO's first installment of the dramatic series, based on the novels, so we're really looking forward to the next one this Spring.  

I heard on the radio that a lot of folks set a resolution to read more.  This is not my problem in the least.  I didn't even begin to list for you all that I've read.  I don't generally read much junk.....I read a lot of challenging and interesting material.  But I want to continue to work my way through some of the classics, and get some history in, as well.  Plus MMM came to reading as an adult, so his bibliography is shorter than mine.  I want to share some classic works with him.  So here's the next one (and one I have no worries about accomplishing):

4.  Read The Life of George Washington by John Marshall (for me) and White Fang by Jack London (for us).

Lastly, MMM and I will be combining households.  I have been unmarried since 1985.  Can you believe it?  Wow.  Marriage will be a dramatic change in my life.  So here's my resolution:

5.  Talk it over.  No drama.  Remember that he's not a mind reader. Stay in the moment.

I think that does it.  Lotsa text, no pictures to delight and entertain.  But I've laid it on the table, and I want you all to check in with me and see how I'm doing.  



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Pinterest New Year's Party - Wanna Come?

Oh, Pinterest is a lovely place, indeed.  There, I can have a little imaginary world where I live a life that is otherwise not even remotely possible.  But for New Year's Eve, wouldn't you like to come to my party?  You're invited to dream along with me.  First, come to my beautiful imaginary home.  Here it is:
My butler will take your coat and usher you in.  (He's hired for the evening only - otherwise, I'm the perfect housekeeper.  What?  Don't start that.  We're still here in my imaginary world, remember?)

You'll be ushered into a ballroom - it's the one with all the windows.  Here's the view.  (I thought you'd like it!)
Since money is no object, the house looks amazing.  I've spared no expense to make it beautiful - downright magical:
We're all dressed fabulously - to the absolute nines.  Here's what I'm wearing - of course, it doesn't hurt that, in this fantasy, I look amazingly like Grace Kelly.  You wear whatever makes you feel like a million bucks.

Here's MMM's tux.  (This makes me giggle.  He is at his most comfortable at home in bib overalls.  Literally.  Even in this fantasy, I cannot imagine him actually wearing this!  But if he did - he'd be yummy!)
Here's what we'll be drinking.  I'll toast your health and all the fun we'll have in the New Year!

 Here's a selection of the finest hors d'oeuvres to tickle your palate:

We'll dance the night away to the rockin' sounds of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  Of course, MMM will magically be transformed into a man who loves to dance for this fantasy evening, as well.  In reality, he likes to dance the same way a fish likes a chlorinated pool.
We'll all count down to the magic hour:

And we'll have a lot of kissing at midnight!

Get ready to sing 'Auld Lang Syne'!

Oh, it will be a night we'll never forget......................!  So what do you say?  Want to come?  I want you there, my dear friend!



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Few Christmas Thoughts

Christmas was nice this year.  It was sweet, in that it's MMM's and my second Christmas, but our first as an engaged couple.  This has been our year to make memories that we can look back on many years from now.  It was a year full of change and growth.  Full of love and meaning.  Full of promise.  We are different people than we were a year ago.  We've grown a bond that we hope, with much focus and care, will only grow stronger as the years pass.  I have a few months to prepare for the actual wedding, but in my heart, I already feel so committed to him.  I am very blessed.

Traditionally, we open gifts on Christmas Eve.  This year, it was with MMM and his mom, with my daughter and SIL, and with four of my six grandkids.  There was an embarrassing wealth of gifts.  But it was lovely to spend the evening with them.
Anyone who has attended an online Christian college would wish for a night like this.

Earlier in the day of Christmas Eve, I sang with my church's worship team.  We had two services and, in the middle of each, I experienced a true moment of Christ's presence.  Our worship minister had chosen to make 'O Holy Night' a congregational hymn, rather than a solo.  So often, the congregation just gets to sit and listen to some highly skilled (or not so highly skilled) soloist sing this beautiful song.  But we sang it in unison.  And oh, it was lovely,

A thrill of hope,
The weary world rejoices......

Fall on your knees!
O - hear the angel voices!

We had candlelight - light passed from one congregant to another, spreading symbolically the light of the world....Jesus himself.  In a darkened church, with hundreds of candles held aloft, we sang

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright.

And for a few still moments, all was truly calm and bright.  Such inexpressible sweetness, making my heart swell with the truest meaning of Christmas - the coming of Jesus, the Savior of the world.

I hope that your Christmas was tender and full of meaning.



Friday, December 23, 2011

Primitive Skates Door Decor

I wanted to share a little project I made some years back.  This was another craft inspired by Mama Sass.  My sister and I were home over the holidays, and she'd gathered supplies - essentially nothing but skates, brushes, and acrylic paints.  We sat down and started painting.  Here's what resulted:

I put greenery in the tops and hang them by my door.  They're as pretty as any wreath.  They have to hang a certain way for the road to 'flow' from one skate to the other.   I love to paint primitive art.  There's a certain charm about it.  Here are two more of the scene's details:

I hope you enjoy them. They sure were a lot of fun to paint.  My sister's skates have chickadees on a pine branch.  I should have taken pics of hers, as well, but then you'd see who the really fine artist is in our family!  These hang by my door every Christmas season, and I always get nice comments.



Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Version of TDC's Skinny Santa Hats

I follow Sarah over at Thrifty Decor Chick.  She's so much fun, and has wonderful ideas.  Nothing seems to intimidate her.  I really admire that. 

Last year, she made some very cute knockoff Santa Hats, and she shared her tutorial for making them.  I had to have a pair, too, so here is my version in brown velvet with gold leather hatbands.  I've seen other versions on Pinterest, as well.  Hope you like mine!

(I love my choir birdies, as well!)



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lucia's Christmas Sweater

Hello everyone!  My name is Lucia.  I am a brindle Chihuahua, and my human is MMM.  But I know that Sass loves me, too, and to prove it, she outfitted me for the Christmas season. 

She bought a skein of red acrylic yarn at the thrift store for fifty cents, brought it home, and in a flash of inspiration, decided that I would look terrific in a red Christmas sweater.  Turns out she was right.  Fortunately, she also took pictures of me so that I could share my new sweater.  I'm told that this should probably be one of those "What I Wore Wednesday" kind of posts, but I may run around naked on Wednesday, so you'll have to look at my sweater today.

Here it is - and it only took Sass about two hours total to crochet it.  I know she didn't use a pattern ('cause that's how she rolls), but she tried it on me as she went along and made adjustments as she worked.  Look!  It even has sleeves and a bit of a turtleneck.  I love the ruffle on my backside and the flower on my shoulder.  So fashionable!  Don't you love it?


(This is Sass - Lucia's a pretty good typist.  Who'da thunk?  But thanks, Lucia, for sharing your sweater with us!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Easy Santa Boots

I haunt the craft section at the Good Samaritan Thrift Store on a regular basis.  And I almost always hit the jackpot.  The other day, I had been inspired by someone's post about spray painting a pair of snow boots red.  They were really cute and got me to thinking.  I decided I wanted a pair of Santa's boots on the hearth.  

I happened to find some faux fur scraps all in a little bundle at the thrift store. They reminded me I wanted some boots, so I crossed to the shoe section and there they were!  The perfect Santa boots.  They just needed a little embellishment.

I took them home, added the faux fur with hot glue (thanks goodness there was just enough!), and added a couple of other pieces to create a little vignette.  I think some other time, I may make a Santa sack to put with the boots.  It would be a logical accompaniment.


The snowman was a little fifty cent treasure and the HO HO HO sign was nothing more than some wood pieces - also found in the craft section.  I used a Sharpie to decorate them and then hot glued the pieces together.  I probably should have sanded, stained, name it, whatever.  I like the sign fine the way it is.  It was easy.  That's the best part.

Altogether, these make a very charming grouping.  It was a low work project with a high impact - the best kind!



Monday, December 19, 2011

Mama Sass Shares Her Poinsettia Basket!

Mama Sass is my best fan.  You should count yourself extremely lucky if your mama loves you even half as much as mine loves me.  And I love her right back.  She's pretty wonderful.  I inherited either by genetic means or by osmosis her love of home and comfort.  She was always a crafty mom.  

I remember when I was in high school and the high school art teacher thought she'd dazzle us all with this exotic new craft - batik.  Yawn.  My mom taught us how to batik in the basement the year before.  We knew as much or more than the teacher.  (I say 'us', because my sister is just one year older.)

Mama Sass sent along a really wonderful craft for us all.  I had forgotten about this, but I'm going to have to make this now!  Read on!

Basket of Lighted Poinsettias

I used an old laundry basket - one that was given to me, so it has plenty of memories about that person.

(Here, I insert a personal note into Mama Sass's instructions.  When I was about 14, my mother's best friend's grandmother - did you follow that? - was about 85.  She'd fallen and broken her wrist.  She lived independently, but it would be really hard for 6-8 weeks, so my mom volunteered me to go and live with her for a couple of months and help take care of her.  I was not happy about it, but I was a pretty compliant kid and did it.  It turned out to be a very good experience and gave me a lot of compassion for older folks - not something that every 14-year-old has.   It was this old lady that owned this laundry basket.  Sorry about the interruption. Back to Mama Sass.) 

Fill the basket about 3/4 full of lightweight packing materials (not peanuts - use chunks of styrofoam, if possible.  Otherwise, hit the dollar store and buy a bunch of floral foam).

Step 1

Gather your supplies.  You will need:

~red bump chenille (as shown in the pic, above);
~a set of red Christmas tree lights;
~floral or other lightweight wire;
~wooden floral picks; and
~ floral tape.

Step 2

Divide the total number of your lights so that each flower will have the same number of lights.  So, for instance, a set of 100 lights will yield 20 flowers with five lights apiece.  Put a wooden flower pick (something like a slim green dowel) in the center, then gather the lights around it.  Wire them together and cover your work by winding with floral tape.

Step 3

For each flower, you will need 14 stems of red bump chenille.  Bend two pieces together to make one petal.  Pinch the tip together, flare the middle part of the petal, then pinch the base together.  Put the lights into the center of a group of seven petals and wire them all together.  Cover with floral tape again.  After everything is secure, poke them into the styrofoam in the basket.  Play with them until they have that wide petal stance that poinsettias have.  If you have any empty space, add a little greenery.

It's really quite easy, and I've had a lot of good comments about my poinsettias!

Thanks so much, Mama Sass!  Now, I'm off to find some bump chenille!



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sass's Sunday Salvation Show #5

Hello everyone!  I can see that I have developed a pattern where I assiduously post every single day, Sunday through Wednesday, then peter out for the rest of the week.  Don't really mean to do that, but with Christmas, so many things take up my time.  And for those of you who didn't catch my recent post about my Sweet Christmas Surprise, you should take a minute, click over there and read up.  It's OK.  I'll wait here 'til you get back.

Now, you probably understand why my head is whirling with DIY ideas for the big event.  It will be strictly handmade/homemade, and I will be a very busy girl in the months to come.

Now, for my fave project from the last week's Salvation Show.  I loved the wood block JOY sign for Christmas, done by  Artsy Vava.  It is altogether bright and happy, and rustic at the same time.  Her directions are good, too, so zip on over there after you've linked up and have a look.  

It's hard to pick just one - there are so many really wonderful ideas.

Let's get on with this week's link party!  A few rules:

Share something you've done recently.  Take a moment to look at and comment on someone else's link - we're all in this together!  Please consider becoming a follower of Sassafras Salvation and take a Sunday Salvation Show button to remind yourself and others to come back again and again!

Sassafras Salvation

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Favorite Christmas Ornaments

I just thought I'd share a few of my favorite ornaments.  I love them all so much.  I think it's wonderful that we each have these treasures that we pull out once a year, and they bring back lovely memories, brighten our homes, and make us thankful for all we have.  Be aware -- this is a picture heavy post.  As designers with design degrees know, sometimes the best canvases are tiny ones.


 This is one of my most recently acquired treasures.  It's the antithesis of a Christmas Village.  Rather, it's a Christmas trailer park.  Someday, when the weather is nice again, I'll show you my little camper, and you'll totally understand.

Last year, when everyone was making coffee filter wreaths, I was too.  This is mine, and I love it.

I can't keep Christmas without a nativity scene.  Some years, I have skipped the tree, but I've always had a nativity.  I love this one - so beautiful in ivory and gold, although I know Jesus was born under much more lowly circumstances.  He sits on the throne of my heart every day of the year. I have a special tradition for the baby Jesus.  I wrap him up in a little box, and, after we've read the Christmas story in the book of Luke on Christmas Eve, it's the first gift we open.... because Jesus is the best Christmas present of all. 

This pretty little Currier and Ives reminds me of my grandparents, all of whom have now passed.  I miss them so, but especially at Christmas.

I'm sharing this one just because I think it's beautiful.

I've had this treetop angel for years.  I work hard to keep her nice.  She's one of the best ones I've ever seen.  I'm not one of those people who make a big deal about angels.  I know that they are real and that their primary duty is to point the way to God.  

This little angel is made from a cotton boll.  I just think it's unusual, and unusually cute.

When I was a girl, my mom always had us make ornaments during the Christmas season.  Often they'd come in kits from LeeWards.  I don't know if that place is even in business anymore, but I remember making this ornament when I was about 16.  (Either that or I made the baby blue one that's hanging on my sister's tree and she made this one - too many years have passed to make any difference any more!)

I sang for a friend's wedding some years ago.  (As I recall, it was This is the Day by Scott Wesley Brown - this link is NOT me singing, however, although it's darned good.) This was the corsage she gave each member of the wedding party, including vocalists.  It's a lovely ornament and a sweet reminder of the day and her friendship.

1982 was a very good year indeed.  See how adorable my daughters were?  They were just ages 3 and 1.  Today, of course, they are 30 and 32.  But I remember those early Christmases with a great deal of sentimentalism.  I made the dresses they are wearing in this pic, by the way, as I did most of their special occasion dresses for years.

This odd little photo shows the Christmas village I have put out for years.  I love it, although I know its days are numbered.  I bought it when my elder daughter was in third grade, making it about 24 or 25 years old.  It's made of flattened, dyed wheat straw, and is intricately detailed.  If you can believe it, I bought it from Oriental Trading Company, and I think I spent about $15 for the whole thing.

Each of these little houses has a little surprise.  It's a box!  The lids lift off each and every one.  I've never put anything in any of them, but I love that I could.....

Thanks for walking down memory lane with me.  It may not mean much to anyone else, but I'll bet my girls read this and enjoy it.



Monday, December 12, 2011

My Sweet Little Christmas Surprise

Every year, I buy a few ornaments at after Christmas sales.  You know, after Christmas, but before the tree actually comes down.  That way, I can pack them away with the rest, and then I have something new (but relatively inexpensive) to look forward to when I open up my Christmas decor the following year.  What's fun is that those ornaments can be a real surprise.

This last year was no different.  I bought a few things, packed them away, and when I opened them, I was delighted at last year's choices.  Last year was a very sweet year for me.  There a bit of a back story, however, so bear with me.  

I was divorced when I was 24 years old, in 1985.  I had two small daughters, ages 5 & 7.  I tried dating a little bit, but I was apparently not ready for a real relationship.  I decided to put all that away.  God had given me my girls and an opportunity.  I decided to focus on raising them and building my career.  While I did that, I gained weight, lost a good bit of self esteem, and decided that maybe, relationships just weren't for me.   

Then, 2 1/2 years ago, I lost a good deal of weight (sometime I'll share that with you - my favorite before and after of all time), and I decided that I would try again.  My girls were grown with families of their own.  I had a reasonably steady and well-paying job.  I owned my own home.  Maybe I could find someone.  I dated a few men who were themselves not ready.  (I'm afraid to say it, but sometimes there's a very good reason why a man in his 40s or 50s is not married - yikes!)  Then I met MMM in the spring of 2010.  He's something pretty special.  Steady, caring, and knows how to have a real relationship.  He gets me.  With him, I can be my genuine self.  We started dating, and last Christmas, had been together nine months.  

When I was out post-Christmas shopping, I spotted a pair of ornaments.  How remarkable that they had both our names.  Both names from the sixties and seventies.  No one's giving their kids these names these days.  (Isn't that funny? How will Shaquille and Artemis ever buy personalized ornaments when they get together?)  But there they were.  So I bought them, wrapped them in tissue and put them at the bottom of my ornament box.  It was very nearly the last item I brought out when I decorated the tree this year.

When I unwrapped them, I loved them all over again.  And then it struck me.  What if MMM and I had not lasted until this Christmas?  The scenario would have been very different.  I would have unwrapped that little parcel, and then just sat and cried.  Because I love him so very much, you see.

But here's the good news.  On December 1, 2011, MMM asked me to marry him.  I said yes.  So this sweet little set of snow people can go on hanging on my tree year after year after year, for the rest of our lives, and they'll just remind me to rejoice that we found each other.  Forever and ever, amen. 



Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Seussian Mantel for Christmas

 When I see a white Christmas tree with all the bright aquas, shocking pinks, and lime greens, I LOVE them.  Really.  It's just such a happy look.  Those brilliant colors all in a riotous confusion against a frosty tree?  I'm in!  

Trendy Tree
 One day, I'd like to do a whole Christmas up that way.  But, since I'm not independently wealthy (darn that Powerball), I have to do one little project at a time to get there.  Lucky MMM.  My own mantel is my traditional Christmas village this year.  But at his house, the mantel gets the full Seussian treatment.  What's that?  Of course, you know I mean Dr. Seuss.  I let  the Grinch lead the way on this one.

I made three stockings, one each in each bright color.  The skinny legs and long pointy toes are very much like Seuss's illustrations.

The trees were very easy.  Also long and skinny, with the tips leaning away.  I found this great fat rick-rack trim at Joanne's fabrics (much cheaper, by the way, to buy it in prepackaged lengths rather than by the yard), and knew that it would be just right.  I left the bottoms open when I sewed them.  Each has a lightweight cardboard support inside taped to a dowel.   I left them flat.  They didn't seem to need any stuffing to get that Seussian feel.  And I just wanted a little gathering of trees, so there are just ten here.  The buttons were one of those huge packs of multi-colors, all different sizes, essentially just sewn on with one stitch, using black embroidery floss.

I made this garland some years ago from pre-punched foam bits, hot glued to ubiquitous pine garland to make it special.  It was a lot of work, as I recall.  None of the interior bits had been removed from the individual snowflakes.  I sat and pinched out those tiny pieces until I had a blister going.  I actually have three or four lengths of this with snowflakes throughout, though I'm only using one here.  That's probably close to thirty feet.  What's nice is that the foam is weatherproof, so I can put it outside when I want.  I added the silver beads and shiny little pink and blue balls for accent, also from Joanne's.

The snowflakes against the rock wall are just lightweight foam, purchased at the Dollar Tree.  The rocks are rough enough to sort of allow each individual flake to 'grip' and hold itself in place. 

I have to confess, I was really discouraged at one point, doing this project.  I was sure it would be a total fail.  It just didn't seem to be 'enough' for this big fireplace.  But as I worked adding things and fluffing, it seemed to transform.  And now?  I really think it turned out nice!

So, here it is in all it's Grinch-y glory.  Do you love it?  I do.  And I love that it's pretty non-traditional.



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