They are practice pieces for skills I want to have one day. That’s why they’re not perfect. There are colors that shouldn’t be touching, and doubled stitches and tucks in the backing. There might be a red thread shadowing through behind a white block. But, those things don’t detract from your enjoyment of a quilt, or my enjoyment of the process. My quilts (now yours) are an adventure I took with colors and textures, all the while with you in mind. Sure, they were expensive sometimes and time-consuming to make, but I chose to do that. You didn’t ask me to. You have no obligations to me arising from the fact that I made it for you. To the contrary–they are my expression of appreciation to you, either for something you did, or usually more often than that, for just being you. 😃
Sometimes, I have to remind myself that not everyone is a “maker” of “things.” Some people are “lovers of life,” and “all living things,” and junk like that.
But me….I’m one to quietly observe what goes on around me, thrive on meaningful conversations (or none at all, thank you) and then take my gathered experiences, obsess over them by myself in a dark room, and eventually make something tangible out of it. Like a quilt. (Or a revenge song.)
I realize this isn’t every quilter’s process. Not every quilter is as introverted as I am, and not every project is cathartic or meaningful, or….pretty.
People who make things love to feel pride in their work. And art, well, it’s very subjective. Even you aren’t going to love everything you make. That doesn’t mean it didn’t come from the heart, teach you something of value, or take a lot of damn work.
People who don’t make things, I’m beginning to conclude, don’t really know about the experience-processing, dark room brooding, and accidental needle finger-stabbing (or the equivalent) that goes into every creative work. And as a result, they sometimes take art for granted…because they think it only deserves respect if they like it.
Which leads me to a surprisingly common occurrence when you get a group of quilters together talking. Inevitably, someone will tell a story about a gift they made that ultimately met some sort of unthinkable use within a very short period of time. I’m not talking about an emergency tourniquet after a freak logging accident, here–I’m talking about a dog bed.
I expect with this statement, I have now divided the room. Quilters, this probably happens a lot more than we’d like to think. Pet owners, I’m sorry….but we don’t all understand.
I read a group post the other day where this exact thing had happened–and the quilter actually witnessed it, with her own two eyes. Now, I will tell you–it’s a hard thing to feel as though your work isn’t appreciated, but to see (what you believe to be) clear evidence that what you’ve made has become not just unloved–but trivial–to the receiver….well, it’s heartbreaking. And this quilter was heartbroken, to the point of wondering whether she should stop making quilted gifts altogether. Dozens of other quilters confirmed that in the same situation, they would be heartbroken as well.
I’ll be the first to admit, I am by no means a pet person. I have no general disdain for animals, but having been raised on a farm, and having a lifelong mindset of an accountant, I tend to look at them as delicious sources of income. (Or protein.) Otherwise, they are virtually useless to me. (Sorry.) I had pets growing up, and I loved them, and I was sad when they died. But I never formed what I would consider a special bond with them. I hated when they’d get into the house and jump on me in my sleep, I was never fond of muddy paws on my school clothes, and I dreaded cleaning up their misplaced bodily fluids…especially from my 4-H sewing projects I hadn’t yet taken to the fair. Though I remember fondly every pet I had as a kid, I have never once wished for another as an adult.
In contrast, my best friend loves animals more than anyone else I’ve ever known. I’ve known her to have as many as seven pets at one time. She sacrifices everything for these animals, and she is happy to do it. They are family to her–commonly referred to as her “fur kids.” I have given her two quilts so far, and I have no doubt in my mind that they are loved and enjoyed by her, two dogs, and three cats. And I feel like if I can’t be alright with that, I should be giving them to someone else. (With this in mind, I also made the first one out of denim–not a bad strategy.)
So, to some extent, I can’t help but think hurt feelings we quilters experience over things like this are caused more by a lack of understanding than a lack of respect. And that is a two-way street. To be sure, occasionally the son of a quilter will marry a woman who doesn’t even know her CLOTHES are made of fabric, much less understand a thing about fiber arts and homespun gifts of love….in which case, I’d buy the couple a nice, top-of-the-line….toaster. But you have to assume the recipient of any gift will find the highest and best use for it, within the context of his or her own life–NOT the maker’s. For my friend to share the gifts I’ve given her with her pets is something I feel honored by–because I know that her living black and white menagerie get as royal a treatment as she can possibly give them. I wouldn’t be able to see it this way if I wasn’t close to someone like her, but I also don’t think she would use either quilt to line a kennel. (Thank you, Erin. :-))
Seeing animals as I do, I could easily be appalled to see any handmade quilt well-worn into a pet nest in a living room corner, or the back of a car. My logical side believes it is unlikely for a dog or cat, with limited perception of color and fiber, and a possible inability or refusal to control bladder function, would have the ability to discern the real difference between my 50-hour creation and an 8-dollar Wal-Mart blanket made in China. I’m all for making puppies comfortable. But maybe not with a family heirloom hand-quilted by Great Aunt Liza during her final days on this earth.
I get that stuff is stuff and for some, dogs are people, but some stuff represents as much to me as your dog does to you. (Time, attention, unconditional love….you get the picture, even if you find this statement horrifying. I find the litter box smell kind of horrifying, so we’re even.) For you to use something I’ve spent hours to make for a purpose that could easily be served by some other more…replaceable…item, could indeed lead me to assume you don’t care for my gift and are perhaps undeserving. I know that with many pet lovers, this isn’t the case at all. They’re among the most loving and selfless individuals on the planet, and the efforts they direct to pet care, rescue and even legislation are nothing short of heroic.
If you’re unable to release your work into the world to let it meet its destined fate in the care of someone else, it might be time to hold on to your quilts for a while. As you see them stack up, you may later decide they would be doing more good wrapped around somebody–while you’re still alive to see it.
If your loved one is a pet lover and you still can’t bear the idea of your quilts being pet-loved, maybe making a dog (or cat) bed is a great idea. They take less fabric and time, and may be even more appreciated. You can personalize it just for little Kiki, and show your friend you appreciate her fur family as well. An added bonus–no need to pay a longarmer, pin baste, or stipple. You can sit on the couch and stuff it full of poly-fil and rainbows, drinking a glass of wine and watching a Gilmore Girls marathon on Netflix. And isn’t that the best part of quilting anyway? 😉
It seemed like just an ordinary day. Ok, maybe it’s your birthday. Heck, maybe it’s only Thursday. In any case, this unexpected….package…shows up at your door. You didn’t order anything.
You suspiciously eye the layer of packing tape that has encrusted what you’re pretty sure was once a cardboard box. Being ever so careful, you saw through it with the nearest razor blade, and little by little, the mystery–and the gift–starts to unfold.
It’s something made of fabric.
Hot pink and zebra print fabric, to be exact. It’s not awful–at least, it wouldn’t be if you were a 12-year-old girl….other than, perhaps, yourself at twelve years old…
As you pull it out of the packaging, you realize….someone has given you a quilt.
You don’t understand. How did this happen? WHY did this happen? And what could possibly be an appropriate response?
Chances are, you are the loved one of a creative person. Many people might receive such a gift from an aunt or grandmother, or in some cases a distant cousin or friend. (If the gifter was your Mother, I certainly hope this doesn’t need to be explained to you.)
In any case, what you have received, whether it is spot-on, or a million miles away from being, exactly, “you,” is a gift of love. It may not feel like it right now, but allow me to explain.
Today, quilting is big–among quilters. Everyone else is in varying strata around the quilters, ranging in levels of understanding from “I totally get it!” to….”So….why on earth would you cut fabric apart and….and…and….sew it back together?” Like many creative endeavors, but maybe in some ways, more so–quilting quickly becomes an obsession. Almost an addiction. It’s visual, it’s tactile, and it’s a way to create things–lots of them–all different, all with your own personal stamp, and all over the country and world. It’s hard to explain if you’re not involved. But, once you’re a quilter, it’s all you want to do.
So, let’s tie this affront to your eyeballs back to where it came from.
First, the quilter has an innate desire–a NEED–to create, and spends plenty of time doing it. She also does not have unlimited storage space where she can hang onto her work for the rest of her natural life. That said, a quilt takes a good amount of time and monetary investment to create. You were chosen as a recipient NOT because you “didn’t have one yet.” If you have received a handmade gift from its maker, you are very special to that person, and are considered worthy of such an investment of time. Most quilters know and love a lot more people than they ever have the resources to make a gift for–even in their lifetimes. Often, they do this kind of work for hire, which limits their “recreational quilting” even further.
“Seriously though….can you at least explain the zebra print?!?”
When someone sets out to make you a quilt, they do it with you in mind, start to finish. A lime green scrap in the border might remind her of the dress you wore to prom in high school. The zebra print was included because it kind of looks like that fuzzy thing hanging from the rearview mirror in your car. The violet section in the middle is there because she remembers how much you love purple, and while she was stitching it, she thought about how Halloween is your favorite holiday, and wonders which haunted houses you’ll be hitting this year–if she doesn’t already know.
She remembers the decor in your living room, and thinks of how well the chosen color scheme will go with it. She added that wine bottle print to the backing knowing how much you love a good Cabernet, and thinking about how much this gift will lift your spirits to receive while your new husband is overseas. While she’s sprawled out on the floor, pinning the top, batting, and backing together, she is thinking about that four-hour dinner you had at Chili’s when you first became friends.
Making a quilt for someone is not just work of the hands, but of the mind. Whether or not it actually shows in the piecing or fabric choices, this was a journey for the quilter, and one she took with you. She is now handing it over into your care, and hoping that you’ll understand this is the best way she can give herself to you in her physical absence.
Quilting sometimes becomes the language at which the creator is her most articulate. It isn’t meant to create any sort of obligation for you, (if you boiled it down to dollars and cents, it could be the most “expensive” gift you’ll ever receive), but more an expression of gratitude. A quilt made especially for you may just be the quilter’s way of thanking you for your presence in her life, and letting you know that who you are, and what you are or have been to her is valued…nothing more or less complicated than that.
Ah….the end of November. Melting patches of week-old snow pepper the ground outside, the kitchen fills the house with the smell of various baked goods and hot cool-weather dinners. The floor takes on the sheen of gravel that hitched a ride in on our shoes…and everyone knows what that means. Pine-scented potpourri and cleverly-disguised pumpkin-from-a-can will be a part of our daily lives for the next 40 days. And for the first time in almost a decade, I am far away from “home” (more meaningfully, my family) as holiday season comes to an open.
Not only is this, for most families, the most tradition-steeped time of the year, it’s also wrought with controversy. From whether or not a nativity scene set up on a courthouse lawn is offensive, to the age-old debate over whether it’s wrong to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving is over….opinions are like fruitcakes. By the new year, everybody has one.
This week’s controversy is whether it’s “right” for retailers to be open on Thanksgiving, when instead, they could stop being “greedy” and allow their employees to spend time with their families on this, one of the most togetherness-saturated holidays in America. I’m not going to get into it. I hate that they’re open on Thanksgiving, because it complicates my life. (As a SHOPPER!!) I also understand the corporate pressures to perform, especially in a craphole economy, and the desireability of keeping a good job if you have one. Or sometimes just *a* job, if you have one. Not, of course, to defend the “evil CEOs” of the world. In the end, everyone’s just looking out for #1. But I wouldn’t personally trust that job to anyone else.
Predictably, our fall family traditions begin with Thanksgiving. This year, my Thanksgiving dinner will be for two. My family will be up in Fairfield, celebrating together in a church hall because, well, as a group, we’re outgrowing the available living rooms. I look forward to hearing how that goes.
The fun, of course, doesn’t end there. It’s looking like we may have started a tradition last year in Great Falls by participating in the “Burn the Bird” 5K, which happens on Thanksgiving morning. Last year, my sister, my nephew and I went when my friend Erin invited us. This year, my sister-in-law, Karen, will be representing the Forseth clan. I’m really proud of her. I give her (and my husband) much of the credit for inspiring me to work out more often than, like, once a decade. But I digress….
The overconsumption of food is then followed by the examination of Black Friday ads in the Great Falls Tribune, which I have usually gathered about 5 copies of before I head out to Fairfield. (I have a subscription to the Cheyenne paper this year, but it only comes every other day. I’m not sure yet what that means.) We clip coupons, we make lists, and we drink wine. Everyone figures out what time their alarm clocks will be going off, and we head to our respective homes.
Tradition has been that I get the ball rolling on Friday morning, because I lived in Great Falls, childless, and packed full of enthusiasm for the last several years. In the past, my day would start at 4 or 5 a.m. at Herbergers (a favorite), followed by some combination of Home Depot, Office Max, Staples, Old Navy, and Joann’s, followed by a trip *back* to the mall to meet up with the Fairfield contingency, who were rolling in around 8 or 9. I would try to gather up doorbusters from the early-open stores from everyone’s shopping lists (they were merciful), and then we’d “get started.” While we as a group are serious shoppers, our desires for the day typically aren’t. Everyone has a small handful of things they would like to “score,” but I don’t think any of us has ever been willing to walk over bodies for a good deal. For years, we’ve had a method. A system–a good time, and a lot of jocularity. We have been ridiculously “productive.”
And THEN. They screwed. It. All. Up.
By “they,” I mean “the retailers.” Herberger’s opened last year at midnight on Thanksgiving. MIDNIGHT!! (Outlandish at the time, a whole year before we started seeing this 8 p.m. bullcrap.) Midnight? !? I tried. But the place was full of people who would have been up at that hour anyway, and have no concept of the Black Friday ettiquette or indoor/outdoor traffic patterns. It was insaner than your typical insanity. I had gathered a few purchases, and I was in what seemed like the world’s longest line, when I started getting dizzy, and sweaty, and decided it wasn’t worth it. When I went back six hours, sleep and coffee later, the things I really cared about were still there, sans crazy people. And some of the things I had originally intended to purchase appealed to me less and stayed in the store. I don’t know what their profits did last year, but I wasn’t happy with Herberger’s. They were one of many stores who were suddenly inviting amateurs to the party. Not ok.
Furthermore, when Herberger’s has already been open ALL night, it fails to provide that benchmarking start time I have relied upon for so many years. If the doors are already open, why should I get up at 4? Or 5? There is no rush, there is no deadline. I can’t work like this!! Changes must be made.
In any case, with the structure of Black Friday changing, and with it, its honor, glory, etc., etc., I am giving it much thought and going back to the basics. These changes shall NOT ruin the system, the good time OR the jocularity! Simply, we will adapt. And these are my tips for adapting.
1) Know why you’re involved.
My first tip for involvement in Black Friday is to understand WHY you’re participating. Is it about great deals? It shouldn’t be. It’s becoming widely-known that many of these so-called “must-haves” that go on Black Friday sales are just as cheap or even cheaper later in the season. You can get most of the same and other great deals online, all week and for weeks after. Don’t make it about that. Is it so you can get your Christmas shopping done and not worry about it anymore? Totally valid. Is it because it’s fun to go shopping in the middle of the night, because you don’t usually get to? Then, have at it! But be clear with yourself about why you’re even doing this and what you’re hoping to gain. Then you’ll be all the more prepared to deal with unexpected emotions or physical fatigue when one or the other inevitably rears its ugly head. Will you be ok with going home, or can you press on? Be aware: quitting earns demerits.
2) Plan your day.
Duh. This tip is on everyone’s list, but that’s because it belongs here.
You don’t have to wait for the Thanksgiving paper. Most ads have already been leaked online….just use your Google. A favorite planning site for me is www.bfads.net, but there are lots of them out there. Use them. You don’t have to spend Thanksgiving Day looking through ads–especially now that stores are opening earlier…you have to be more prepared than ever. Researching ahead of time may help you to protect some of that precious, ever-shrinking time with your family.
I recommend making a VERY short list of your “must-haves” for this day, and structure all other stops around obtaining those items. There is no shame in shopping online. The only reason not to (for big-box “deals”, at least) is if you need something in your hands immediately. Save your local stops for your local stores. Many big stores also allow you to order online and pick up in-store. Use these things to your advantage. Time is a valuable resource. (See #8.)
3) Sleep? Yes. Coffee? Yes. Breakfast? Double yes.
Be as nourished as you can when you start this day. Carry some small cash with you so that you can stop for snacks throughout the day, and throw at least two granola or protein bars in your purse per person you will be responsible for. (The fewer of these people, the better. :-)) Nothing is less fun than being out among a huge crowd of shoppers with whom you’d like to share an overarching fog of holiday spirit, than running into someone who is tired, cranky, and mean. You’re probably not going to get everything you want, some things will sell out. Deal with it. Be nice to people.
While you’re at it, a couple packets of Emergen-C aren’t a bad idea, either. You can drink this at lunch, and those B vitamins will help give you energy.
4) Comfortable shoes: the tired foot’s biggest must.
If you really “do” this day right, but you’re wearing uncomfortable shoes, you’ll pay way too much for a new pair at 3 PM. Buy quality, comfortable, supportive shoes THAT FIT, and break them in ahead of time. While wearing your cheetah-print Crocs may be marginally acceptable today, do you really want to do that to yourself? I didn’t think so.
5) Budget your money
You don’t have to do all of your Christmas shopping today. You really don’t. In fact, it’s obvious that most of the really “big” deals are for personal purchases anyway. Let’s be honest–anymore, the only thing “Christmas” about this day is its timing. Are you really going to buy someone a Sonicare toothbrush as a gift? (Maybe. Ok.) Or a 60-inch TV? How do I make those friends? Understand that this is a good day to purchase things you’ll be using throughout the Christmas season, and need to have NOW. But when it comes to buying gifts for others, don’t forget that some of the best Christmas gifts don’t come from Kmart, they come from your kitchen. (Or sewing machine, or local “Made in [your favorite state]” store. You get the idea.)
If you have the financial ability to make all of your seasonal purchases today, that’s great! I try to make a spreadsheet showing where I want to be, when, what I’m planning to buy there, and how much I expect it to cost. If you do this and the total at the bottom is a little out of budget, weed out the non-essentials. Remember, this doesn’t have to be the last time you walk into a store until after New Year’s.
Speaking of the absence of Christmas….
6) Create a holiday-friendly transportation vessel.
Clean your car. Check your tires, park in the garage the night before you head out so you don’t waste ten valuable minutes scraping the ice off your windshield. Make sure the trunk is empty and has room for that top-secret enormous item you’d like to keep hidden for the day. Hang up a peppermint-scented air freshener. Thanksgiving is over, so even the nay-sayers can’t tell you anymore that it’s too early to play Christmas music, if it’s essential to your joyous shopping experience. Make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape. And most importantly, have a good supply of CDs (or your media of choice) in the car, ready to go, ahead of time. I recommend any Christmas album containing “Sleigh Ride” done by the Boston Pops. It’s just not Christmas until you’ve heard it.
7) Allow yourself some room for imperfection
Think you’ll make that regularly 15-minute drive across town in 10? Don’t plan on it. You might, but if you schedule your day so tightly that you can’t help but run behind immediately, that will take all the fun out of it. Also, budget a little money for impulse buys. You will inevitably see something on this day that wasn’t in the “plan.” Try not to torture yourself. If you forgot gloves at home, your fingers are freezing, and there’s a pair you like on sale, don’t beat yourself up if you make that extra purchase. The same with the coffee. If there were ever a day to splurge on delicious caffeine, this is the one. Try to patronize the local coffee kiosks. Also, because it needs to be said…there is no situation that warrants the purchase of a Snuggie.
8) This is not the day to buy by-the-yard fabric.
Especially at a large fabric chain store, unless there isn’t a single other thing you want on the planet. This is, in my opinion, the fastest way to ensure that you will be in line FOREVER. There is no way to cut fabric quickly and well, especially when fifty people are ahead of you in line, each buying 25 different colors of polar fleece. (Oye!) Joann’s, in my experience, has been unsuccessful in meaningfully speeding up the process. I will share with you something I often hear my sister Nadelle say…(to paraphrase) “The true cost of something is the total amount of hassle it takes to get it.” Would you rather wait 2 hours in line for $2/yard fabric, or buy it later for $4/yard, one day when you can run your errand AND bake a pie in the same amount of time? Time and money are BOTH valuable resources. Never forget that.
9) Don’t be that guy.
You know the one. The amateur who goes to the store with his professional-shopper friend, to “keep him/her company” at time-critical, door-busting store opening, then wanders slowly and aimlessly around said store, lacking any general sense of the people around him who have goals of their own. I don’t advocate being rude or pushy, but I advocate being slow and oblivious to others even less. (Elderly women and adorable elderly couples are exempt from this rant, and deserve our respect and patience.) If you’re not into it, go home. If someone has begged you to participate, and “needs” you there, put up. Show up, do what you’re supposed to do, and get out of the way. This isn’t the time to amble through the store like you’re just killing a Saturday. I mean it.
10) Beware of inferior Black Friday merchandise.
If you were unaware of this, a good number of the so-called Black Friday “deals” are really special-production items, made at a lower cost so they can be sold at a lower price. What might this mean? Fewer HDMI ports on that new TV you’re buying, for one. Brand names you’ve never heard of, except at this time of year, for another. I think this is particularly true in the world of electronics and computer components. Now, the TV you need might not have to be anything fancy, in which case a Black Friday model might be the perfect solution for you. But be aware that it may not be exactly the same as the seemingly identical model at the same store for $50 more the day before. Research model numbers ahead of time if you’re interested in these items, and know what you’re buying.
11) Maximize the bang for your buck.
For each of us, this means different things. While coming home with the most “toys” might be your goal, there is a huge movement right now to spend money locally, at small businesses, and to buy merchandise that was made in the USA. Even on the surface, this isn’t always more expensive.
Use credit wisely. Hundreds of credit cards offer cash back and other incentive programs when you use them. If this is an option for you, the rewards can be significant if you shop within your means and pay your balance before it accrues interest or fees. If you’re shopping online, look into cash back programs like Ebates. Starting on the Ebates website and linking to your favorite online stores from there can earn you 2-10%+ cash back on all your purchases, after you sign up for free. I’ve been doing this for a year, and each quarter I get a check back. This is on top of any credit card points earned separately on the purchase. If you refer friends, you get further incentives.
12) Make these crazy retail store hours your bitch. (PTF)
Do you know where I’ll be on Black Friday? Working. An office job. Our company doesn’t get Black Friday off, and this year, I’ve run out of vacation. So, from 8-5, I will be at my spreadsheets doing tax rate reconciliations, and happily taking home a paycheck. The good news? Not a whole lot will be going on in stores from 8-5. Many of my favorite stores open at 8 pm Thursday night. Do I intend to go there? No. But I do intend to have my laptop open in front of some Christmas movie on the TV, ordering my must-haves before I even go to bed. Sure, maybe I’ll venture out of the house at 10 pm and make a bit of a late night of it, (to me, the wonky hours are a HUGE part of the fun), or maybe I’ll get up at 4 am when not another soul is expected to be out and about, get everything I want, wait in short lines, stop for breakfast and roll up to my office at 7:55. Rocking my world this year is that I have OPTIONS. You don’t have to be there when they open the doors. You can be there whenever you want. So, adhere to your principles if it really irritates you that people have to work retail on Thanksgiving (for double time, or time-and-a-half), or go join in on the fun with the clueless, inexperienced Grey-Thursdayers who think they should go since they don’t have to get out of bed at an unreasonable hour…(seriously, have fun with that)…but make it work for YOU. You don’t have to do what the stores *want* you to–you can make your shopping patterns as confusing for them as possible. They’re open earlier because they want your money before their competition gets it. Don’t be swayed by this–put your money where you want it to go.
The most important thing about Black Friday is to have a good time. If it’s not your thing, you don’t have to do it just because it seems like “everybody else” is. For me and my family, it’s tradition. Some years, I don’t get much of my shopping done at all, but without fail I fill up an emotional tank full of happy memories. To me, Black Friday is part of Thanksgiving with my family…not the ugly consumerist cloud that cuts the holiday short. It’s a great way to get some exercise I don’t notice I’m getting, and it eases me into the holiday spirit with every crack of the orchestral whip coming through my car speakers. And those are all things you can have, even on this day, without spending a dime.
Ok. I feel like after all this, I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. In a couple of previous blog posts, I’ve alluded to the possibility that there may be more on my mind of late than music. And now, I’ve accosted you with…what?!? A LOVE song?!
Well, it’s a ridiculously giddy truth. I am in love.
I’m also in all the cheesy misspellings of love, including “loooooove,” “luv” and “lubb.” It would be rather embarrassing, I suppose, if I cared much about how silly it seemed. So all I ask is that you bear with me.
Because, really…just look at him. Can you blame me?
About two years ago, I met this incredibly handsome military officer, and he took me on a stealth date. I laugh about it now, because the quickest way to freak me the hell out when I’m really, truly single, is to tell me you want to take me on a proper date. So, he didn’t. He just asked me on the spur of the moment to meet him for dinner. And he picked up the check. That was when I began to sense his intentions.
Roughly eighteen months later, Jordan worked like crazy at the Driven release party, selling CDs and t-shirts, generally charming our guests and being referred to, repeatedly, by announcer Michael Gilboe as “man candy.” The pictures above were taken by Erin K Photography that night.
While I talk about it like it is, this relationship isn’t new. It’s been a pretty awesome couple of years. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, we enjoy each other’s company. And while we spend plenty of time with friends, and family when we can, it’s nice to feel like we’re “enough” when it’s just us, too. (Well, us and Pawn Stars…)
In the last few months, though, we’ve had to spend a fair amount of time apart, and given the nature of the military and its propensity for rearranging the location at which you work, we’ll be spending quite a bit more time apart. All with the goal, of course, of getting ourselves situated once again in the *same* location, upon some undiscovered eventuality which admittedly seems at times to be getting further away than closer.
Hey, does anybody want to buy a tremendously charming house and help me speed up the process?
The end of this summer is a little bittersweet. I spent the good hottest part of it renovating the bathrooms and painting the living room, but I quite like it now. I’ve always been fond of my house–and for eight years, it’s been my home. It has seen me through a divorce, a few interesting journeys through friendship, and a LOT of karaoke practice. (I’m weird like that, okay?!) A million memories have been made here. So, in some ways it’s hard to say goodbye. In other ways…I don’t know how much higher I’ll be able to count after that first million.
The cool thing about it all is that I get to embark upon a crazy new adventure, with a crazy awesome fella. I wouldn’t leave allll this for just anybody, after all. Right now, the distance is painful but in the end, I know it’ll all be worth it. I mean, how often do you see me write a love song? 😉
So, I don’t know exactly when, but I’ll be moving, and looking for a new job, and headquartering danajoforseth.com out of a different state…probably a few different states, honestly…but I hope you’ll keep me in your hearts and on your radar. While I may periodically pause, I don’t plan to quit making music, EVER.
In the meantime, I want everybody to know, I’m in good hands. I can tell, Jordan is one of the good ones.
Don’t you just love summer?
I know, I’ve been starting posts lately talking about the weather. But for the first time in a long time (it seems) we are dealing with a real, honest-to-goodness SUMMER, something that is occasionally tough to come by in Montana.
And what a summer it’s turning into! Where I live, in Great Falls, we are surrounded by dozens of smaller rural communities, many of which have their own town festival of sorts on a different weekend from June through August. So many in fact that it’s hard to get to them all. And when you do, running into people you know is inevitable. The feeling of “home” follows you here, wherever you go.
I loved this about growing up in Montana. While Great Falls was a planet of its own in my youth, those of us from small towns, amid our rivalries and our own real-life Dawson’s Creek dramas, we stuck together. We were at every graduation in a 50-mile radius for all four years we were in high school, and at least the three years after. We went to each other’s proms, and we carpooled to the night shows at the fair. And while many of us have scattered across the country and even the world, there are very few people I would be surprised to run into at any one of these events, even all these (mumbles an undiscernable number) years later.
A couple of weekends ago, I was able to make it to a street dance in Fort Benton as well as an end-of-rodeo celebration in Augusta. A band called The Alleged played on the street outside the Grand Union Hotel, and a break-dancing circle broke out when they started in to “Billie Jean.” I ran into an old karaoke buddy (from my adult years) who always brings his dog out with him to “pick up chicks.” Some friends and I had a few drinks and sang karaoke into the wee hours of the morning, and then it was back to another week at work. This is what I love about summer in Montana–there’s always a good time to be had, anywhere you go, and wherever you end up, you know everybody. 🙂
This summer, I have some serious work to do. I’m getting ready to put my house on the market, and packing up for a big move. But we’ll talk about that later. 🙂 In the meantime, I hope that whatever any of us may have going on, we can find the time to have some beers on a patio, barbecue some burgers, and sing a couple of songs at an open mic. Summer is fleeting, good times are bountiful, and this is why we work so hard for the rest of the year.
Hugs and High Fives,
One of the highlights on the CD for many people (well, at least my relatives) is the song “In-Laws, Outlaws and Offspring.” One day I was browsing around for family reunion blogs, and I found familyreunionhelper.com, which is a very comprehensive website about planning your family reunion, whatever type of group you have. “Aunt Mo” runs the site, and offers lots of great ideas, tips, games and activities to implement at your family reunions, including theme packages for theme reunions. It’s a really cool website!
She was also kind enough to feature the family reunion song from Driven. She interviewed me and published the story here. There are a few pictures and well-guarded stories from reunions past, and if you have a chance, it’s kind of a fun read.
But don’t worry, Ward relatives, I didn’t give away all the family secrets…
At the end of the last blog entry, I promised something about Norwegian traditions and the holiday season. So here it is.
My family is of Norwegian and Swedish descent. At least, my Dad’s side of the family is. My grandparents have both passed away, but my parents, Dad’s siblings, and their progeny proudly carry the torch into the next generation. For the last several years, we’ve made the lefse at my sister’s house in my hometown, because no one else’s house has enough room for us all…or enough breakers to support the extra load of 3 simlutaneously-running lefse grills!
The process begins before most of us even get there, with the peeling, boiling, and ricing of Lord-only-knows how many pounds of potatoes. I think there’s a little butter in there, too. But, at the tender age of 3mbvsth, I have not been made privy to the secret first steps of creating the perfect lefse round. Once we are all assembled, aproned, given wine, and placed under some ridiculous form of headwear, the assembly line begins.
First, flour is added to the potatoes, one bowl at a time. Aunt Karen has been the head flour-adder for the last several years. I took over part of that duty in 2011, but I doubt any of us are actually quite as seasoned at it as she. Flour is added to the potatoes, and the mixture is formed into small rounds for rolling-out.
Rolling the dough is done with special grooved rolling pins on round, flat boards. The goal is to roll them about 1/16″-1/8″ thick, and very round. As you can see in the picture below, my brother Clayt was still getting warmed up. My perfect circle is unfortunately obscured by the bucket o’flour. Or else, it’s already on a grill. In any case, I can show ’em how it’s done…
Rolling is something we involve all generations in. Not shown in the photo are Clayt’s sons, Justin and Nolan, (ages 9 and 7, I believe) who are more than likely responsible for the lefse you see on the board. This year, we had the kids down to the age of 3 under close supervision rolling out lefse.
The next step is cooking the lefse. You can see my cousin Stacey in the photo above is there at the ready with a lefse stick. These are used to transfer the lefse from the rolling board to the grill, and then to the finished pile, where it will be left to cool.
The lefse grills are much like a regular griddle, made of either cast iron or aluminum, except they are round and about 18″ in diameter. They are also very hot–about 450 to 500 degrees. Each lefse is cooked on one side “until there are 63 bubbles,” then turned with the lefse stick until the other side is done as well. From there, they are transferred to the cooling pile, and admired by quality control. Unless they’re the shape of, say, Alaska. Or California. Then everybody gets yelled at.
This is what the cooling pile might look like throughout the course of the day. As we go, someone (usually my Mom and Dad) wraps up the cooled lefse in packages of 10, and we are sent home with a supply that would feed our families for weeks. I want to say this year, we made 120 rounds. But it might have been 160….I’m not sure. Maybe we drank 160 liters of wine…it just seems to all run together sometimes…
If you’ve never tried lefse, I definitely encourage it. Though it’s not as good as the fresh homemade kind, pick some up at your local grocery store during the holiday season. I don’t know where to tell you to look, because I never buy the stuff…but it’s great eaten warm with some melted butter and cinammon sugar. And for the very adventurous, I highly recommend trying it with lutefisk. But, don’t leave your maiden lutefisk voyage up to your own cooking if you’ve never made it before. Support your local Lutheran church at their annual lutefisk dinner and let the professionals prepare it for you for the first time. 🙂
On this day, we honor potato farmers, wineries, and milliners.
At the end of the work, we all sort of look like this:
I will talk about these hats one day in therapy.
My family has a tradition.
Ok, we have lots of traditions. Ever since about 1989, we’ve been staying in touch over e-mail. I’m talking about my extended family–on my Mom’s side. (The “In-Laws, Outlaws and Offspring” you may have heard of elsewhere on this site.) Over the last few years, we’ve sort of built a Christmas tradition where each of us sends a picture of our decorated Christmas tree to the rest of the family. This was my picture from 2010.
As this was taken before my Christmas wrapping was done, there were no presents under the tree. So, in an effort to make it look a little less pathetic, I filled the space with brightly-colored wicker balls. “What ARE those things?” my family asked. I was sort of taken aback that no one knew what they were. And as I explained the heartwarming story to them, so shall I explain it to you.
As you may know, one of the biggest industries in Sweden (as in other Scandinavian countries) has been sheep farming, for several centuries. Historically, it was fairly common for Swedish sheep farmers to save part of the previous spring’s wool crop for dyeing/spinning/knitting/etc. during the winter months when it was cold, so they could make sweaters and socks to keep warm, and for Christmas gifts. As you can imagine then, families in rural Swedish households often had large quantities of yarn. Because they weren’t very wealthy and lived in small houses, they didn’t have many places to store the yarn, so they incorporated it into their Christmas decorations until it could be used up on that season’s winter clothing.
A couple hundred years ago, Sweden had a large outbreak of disease among its sheep farms. Flocks died off down to about 10% of their original size, and it took the sheep farming families and the industry several years to recover. During this time, they came to realize that without storing the yarn in their homes at Christmas time, their decorations seemed sparse. So, to fill the void, they would weave balls out of sticks and paint them bright colors. They would place them around the house and pray for the health of their flocks to return and their livelihoods to recover. It became Swedish tradition to decorate their homes with such balls, and they are thought to bring good fortune in the coming year if they are incorporated into Christmas decorations.
I had mine under the tree just because that seemed like a good place to put them last year. This year, they may well end up on an end table.
What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? Next week, we explore another Scandinavian Christmas tradition, celebrated by the other side of my family. (The conversion from potatoes and wine into lefse.)
I have a party to plan! My Type-A, organizational side (strangely not evidenced by the appearance of my kitchen) is going, for lack of a better term, apeshit.
I haven’t had so much of this type of fun since…well, that time I got married. You can’t imagine the lists, and you can’t imagine the spreadsheets. It makes me want to write a novelty song.
There will be plenty of time to share the details with all of you, just write January 28 on your calendar, and later, we’ll discuss the rest. Just know that this thing is going to be one rip-roarin’ good time and you’re not going to want to miss it. Save the date, man. Save. The. Date.
Oh!!! And you’ll see, off to the right, that there is a little linky-link that says something about subscribing to the mailing list. DO IT. (Please. If you want.) If you would also be so kind as to include a mailing address, you will receive mailings about the party, and a sweet merch table coupon for use while you’re there, happy, and full of booze.
In other news, I am supremely stoked today because Jordan will come back this weekend. He’s been gone a ton this month, mostly for work, and I am missing him! We have plans once he gets back to do our own “Christmas,” with a nice dinner and maybe a Christmas movie marathon, featuring classics like “Jingle All The Way” and “Santa Baby” (ABC Family) (Jokes! ) But the idea that I have a boyfriend who doesn’t openly hate “It’s a Wonderful Life” does bring a smile to my face, and leaves that portion of my holiday cheer unsquelched.
I do have a few Christmas gifts to buy, and must admit I haven’t even started my shopping yet. Or my idea-generating. So I’d like to rip off some of yours and pass them off as my own. (Cool?)
So then, what is the coolest non-traditional Christmas gift you’ve ever been happy to receive? I frame the question that way, recalling the year my sister told me she’d like the strangest thing I could find on eBay within a specific budget. I’m not sure she was thrilled when I got her two bags of rocks (which, upon much further scrubbing and mining, were supposed to reveal sapphires and rubies, as I recall…) I don’t know that I ever became privy to the outcome of that wild gravel chase, but I do remember that at some point, maybe even that same year, she repaid the thoughtfulness with a CD of “Opera’s Greatest Drinking Songs.” Joke’s on her, though, because “Drink, Drink, Drink” and the “Anvil Chorus” have made it into the regular rotation on my iPod.
Anyway, I hope you’re all enjoying this holiday season with too much togetherness, too many calories, and the higher-than-average level of hilarity that can only come from being fat and surrounded. 🙂