Christmas Village and My Favorite Creative Deviation (Melissa Robbins)

This month, I could choose between “What I do to get ready for the holidays?” or “Creative deviations from my writing.”  I choose both! 

I love Christmas.  My mom has a Christmas tree in almost every room in the house and I appear to be following in her footsteps.  One thing that I try to get up early for Christmas is my Christmas village.  After the first year my husband helped me, I keep them up most of the winter.  That was his suggestion since it took us forever to get them up.  :0D  My five year old helped me this year. 

It’s the Department 56 New England Village.  My mom started collecting the Dickens Village when I was a kid.  Once I got old enough to care about stuff like that, Mom started giving one house each Christmas to my sisters and me from our chosen villages.  I found it interesting how different our tastes were.  One sister, the sophisticated one, got Christmas in the City.  My other sister gets whatever house strikes her fancy.  I chose New England village, because I like the outdoorsness of it and I spent my childhood in the northeast.  The sea themes remind me of spending time on the Chesapeake Bay and summer vacations in Nag’s Head, NC. 

With fifteen houses, they are spread all over my house and out of the reach of my two year old.  I wish I had the room to create a complete town like the miniature one of a Kansas town at Exploration Place, but for now, my library shelves and desk will have to do.  I have shops and homes. 

I believe this lighthouse was my first one. 

My kids call this one the pirate ship.

After decorating my house and should be writing, I’ll do another creative deviation.  What is it?  If WARA members even had to guess.  Yup sketching.  No, this isn’t Jack cheating.  Funny, if I tried to sketch Jack, it wouldn’t have looked like him.  I’m terrible at drawing characters consistently.  This twosome is a new couple I’m still figuring out.  I LOVE this drawing, but I don’t know what happened to the colors.  Her hair is orange and her dress should be a prettier green.  While spending a couple of hours in the car during the Thanksgiving break, I also sketched my boy in my notebook instead of writing.  The sketch is so bad, I can’t bring myself to post it.  Drawing in the car is hard. 

One of My Favorite Things (Penny Rader)

Share one of your favorite creative distractions.

You got it.  First, though, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

 Back to the post.  Gotta finish soon because I have family waiting for me downstairs.  My favorite form of creative procrast--,er, distraction (besides reading, movies & tv!) is crocheting.   I learned how to crochet when I was ten.  A lady from church gave me lessons once a week for at least a couple years.  Now, I'm not a major genius at it.  Mostly, scarves and blankets are my speed.  Nothing too complicated. If I have to keep looking at a pattern, I'll start over with something simpler so I can crochet and watch tv, not crochet, find my place in the directions, crochet, find my place yada yada, and totally miss the plot points of the show/movie I'm trying to keep up with.  (I know, two prepositions at the end of that sentence.)

Last year I decided to stretch my abilities a bit and made several hats and headbands for kids at the hospital.  We found a snazzy book at Michaels and I found a hat that only took me a couple tries to get right. :D

A few months ago I discovered there are tons of free crochet patterns available online.  So, in addition to scarves I was whipping up for the homeless, I also made hats for them.

The last few weeks I've been making hats for babies and kids.  Lexi's LAMB will be visiting the kids at Wesley hospital on Christmas Eve.  

Here are a few glimpses of what I've been up to: (I know, more prepositions)

and this one (the face of this head freaks out my hubby)

 and these

and these

This is my current project:

What's YOUR favorite way to creatively distract yourself?

The Oddest Gifts

Patricia Davids here.

The holidays are rushing toward us, making us crazy and forcing us to buy those last minute gifts that aren't really on anyones wish list. You've gotten them. I know you have.

My strangest gift was a dozen arrows. Yup. I was an archer at the time, but arrows? RAlly? That doesn't exactly say Happy Holidays. It kind of says, Donner and Blitzen had better beat it out of town or their heads are going to be hanging on my wall.

So share. What was an odd gift that you gave or received?  Did you give it to someone else or is it still in the basement?

Time for some holiday cheer and laughter. If you don't have a good story to tell, make one up. What is a strange gift that the hero in one of your books would give to the heroine? A potholder to someone to hates cooking? A cheese board to someone with a milk allergy? Sexy undergarmets that are three sizes too small, or worse, three sizes too big.

I'm working on a Christmas story right now and I think the hero is going to give her...

Holiday Crazies

I'm probably the odd woman out in the group when it comes to holidays.  I'm not a big holiday person.  That doesn't mean I'm a holiday hater.  It simply means that I chose some years ago that the pre-holiday insanity was, for me, better avoided than embraced.  But that's me, and I don't tell friends or family that they can't enjoy their holiday planning, working and festivities.  Not at all.  In fact, I'll be there early for the celebrating!

The above does not mean that we skip holidays in our family.  It only means that I've been lucky enough to pass on the work and can enjoy the the actual holidays much more.  I'm blessed to have four daughters who love all the hustle and bustle, in spite of full time jobs and families.

When my girls were growing up, I vowed never to make holidays stressful by insisting that, once they were married or on their own, Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day were mandatory family get-togethers.  While I never experienced the problems caused when families play tug-of-war over who grown children and their children will spend a holiday with, I saw friends and relatives struggle with it to the point of very heated arguments.  Instead of celebrating the holiday by the exact date on the calendar, we get together on a different evening or weekend.  We tried the "dinner at his family early, then dinner with our family later," but it didn't work.  Now we simply set aside a separate time for "us."  Stress is reduced, and there's no hard feelings to deal with, not to mention that the family is together, and that's what's important.

In spite of passing on what I tell myself is the bulk of holiday chores, there are still some things that I haven't managed to escape.  Making the turkey and a traditional cake for Christmas comes to mind.  Of course I still spend time shopping for the gifts I give, but the tree decorating and wrapping have been taken over by my youngest daughter, who, unlike me, enjoys both.  For me, that's what holidays should be.  Enjoyable.  They shouldn't be a time when we beat ourselves up because we ran out of time to do something that would only be missed by us.  Therefore, I now live by two holidays rules

  1. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
  2. Delegate
In spite of all that, I still end up coordinating and reminding the others.  I'm sure they could do it without me.  I believe strongly in traditions and how important they are, but I've also looked back at my own life and realized that traditions constantly adjust to the changes in life.  Don't sweat it, embrace it.

Wishing everyone the happiest, stress-free holidays, filled with love and laughter and joy!

Creative Distractions by J Vincent

There are many distractions when it comes to writing.  Some are just plain work--laundry, grocery shopping.  Some are fun--lunch with friends, a walk in the park.  Put to the right use all of these can add creative touches to writing when one uses incidents that happen or ideas that are sparked by them.  But for this blog I have a different sort of creative distraction in mind.

One of the things that distracts me from writing is quilt making.  I have sewn and hand quilted since the 1970’s when a neighbor asked me to finish a top she had pieced.  That led to a second one she had squirreled away,  Then, of course, I had to make quilts for my children and down the slippery slope I went.  When I took up writing in the late ‘70’s quilting went to the sidelines.  I still made a quilt here and there, mainly for my daughters as they finished embroidered blocks or tops and wedding quilts.  But it wasn’t until my oldest daughter took up quilt making that I returned to this particular distraction with a vengeance.  I was self-taught but my daughter took classes.  She revolutionized my quilt making by passing along what she learned.  I once hated piecing quilt tops but no longer.

One of the best things about quilt making is the instant gratification the quilts provide.

Early this summer I made a quilt called Catkin for one of my nieces.  I loved the Egyptian look of the fabric and the colors.  While I followed a pattern that didn’t leave room for “creativity” that is not the case with most of the quilts I make.

My hearts quilt which I gave to a very good friend was a lot more creative.  The center block with the four hearts to embroider was what I started with for the quilt.  I had to design the single hearts and the setting for all the blocks.  It sometimes takes more math skills than anything to set a quilt top together but the reward is great.

My most mathematically challenging quilt was made from the baseball and softball team logo t-shirts my son got from all the teams he played on over a fifteen period.  I put over fifty shirt logos into this quilt.  Naturally no two logos were the same size which made it more of a challenge.  Due to the number of blocks I had to make it double sided which made the math even trickier.

Then there was the butterfly blocks Mom had hand appliqu├ęd and embroidered to set together.  I decided to band each block with one inch strips of four colors.  It did turn out a lovely springtime quilt.  Below it's pictured with a corner of the back folded over.

One of my favorite quilts is the sunflower quilt I made from a sampler class I took with my daughter.  I love sunflowers --my sewing/craft room is covered with many different sunflower items.  I even hand stenciled a sunflower border around the room.  One of the blocks in this quilt has 130 pieces in it.

Last year for Christmas I made throws.  My daughters love the old classic Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.  I took fabric books, cut them apart, and you see the result below.  The only difference in the two throws was the setting strips (sashings)--one green and one red. My daughter-in-law loves snowmen and here is a photo of her throw.

These are a few of my “distractions.”  While I should get to writing I really must get back to sewing.  As Pat said in an earlier blog, “Christmas is coming!”  I lost the past three months and didn’t get a head start on my quilt projects for this Christmas.  So many stitches to take, so little time!

Lost & Found . . No, wait. It's still LOST by Reese Mobley

I absolutely love the holiday season which for me, begins the last week of September and runs all the way to the beginning of January.  During those months our family celebrates twelve birthdays, two anniversaries, four major holidays and countless parties.  All of which I'm lucky enough to cook, clean and bake for.  Not to mention shopping, wrapping, decorating, candy making, volunteering and still working my day job. 

My celebratory cup runneth over.

My writing cup runs dry. 

I know life is about making choices--writing included, but as a woman, I struggle with striking a balance while juggling so many balls.  I love all the hub-bub associated with the holidays, but I really miss my writing time too.  I make lists and start early.  I work late and still find it hard to concentrate on the lives of the fictional people I've created, while having to tackle a to-do list as long as my arm.  I envy my characters who, while never out of my thoughts, get to take some time off from solving their own personal conflicts and take it easy while I scramble about like one of Santa's elves. 

How do I find some extra time for writing?  Good question.  This year, I think I'll write a letter to Mrs. Claus instead of the Mister.  Maybe she'll have the answer.  After all, she is the reigning queen of the holidays.  She manages to do all of the above and still manage a household of hard-working men.  Yep, if there was ever anyone who could find some writing time for me, it would be her.  Keep your fingers crossed.  All may not be lost. 



The Holiday Rush

Pat Davids here.
Heavens, it's the second of November already.
The HOLIDAYS are coming!! The HOLIDAYS are coming!!

If you are like many people, myself included, you may find yourself running in circles like a nutty chicken as the holiday season rushes closer and closer. Well, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to happen. You can shop for Christmas gifts all year long. You don't have to wait until Dec 23 to hit the stores. You can bake goodies and freeze them in September. You can wrap presents before Christmas Eve. It is possible to have a sane holiday.

But I ask you, where is the fun in that?

I LOVE the holiday rush.

I adore shopping at the speed of light the week before Christmas. Mad wrapping with only an hour to go is the only way I know how to wrap. Scotch tape stuck in rows along the edge of the dinning room table, lost scissors, creative cutting to make that last roll of paper cover everything, that's Christmas prep for me.

I used to cook a lot, but hey, someone needs to support the bakers at the supermarket. They make good stuff, too. Yes, I've done the whole clove and pineapple covered ham with brownsugar glaze and it was great. I may do it again when the spirit moves me. I'm not lazy. I'd just rather do other things. Like drive my family around to look at the Christmas lights and decorate the tree beside my grandkids as I tell stories about each ornament and how they came to adorn our tree. After all, when I'm gone, I want the stories to live on.

Life is about choices. Make the choices that make the holidays what they should be.

Thanksgiving is about celebrating the bounty in our lives and giving thanks for our family and friends.
Don't forget to help the less fortunate. Not everyone's life is good. Make yours better by helping someone else. That warm glow in your heart will be better than any hot spiced cider can give you.

Christmas isn't about the perfect gifts, it's about giving. God gave a tiny baby to the world so that we might be saved. Let's not forget to be thankful for His gift as we open our not quite perfectly wrapped packages. Love is what makes the holiday special.

The HOLIDAYS are coming!! The HOLIDAY are coming!!

I'm getting ready for the rush. Are you a planner or a rusher? What makes you that way?