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Childhood Dress to Table Runner in Three Easy Steps

While cleaning out some boxes in our basement this holiday season, I came across one with “vintage clothing” inside.  That’s what you call anything worn in the 60s or 70s.  It sounds much fancier than “old clothes”. 

At the top of the box was a red Christmas jumper; it was one of two identical dresses ordered from The Sear and Robuck catalogue for my sister and me to wear on Christmas Sunday, I’m guessing, in about 1970 or so.  Sidenote:  Did you know that you can look at old Sear and Robuck Wishbooks online?  Check this out and plan to spend a few hours there http://wishbookweb.com/  You will soon discover that plaid was a big thing then.


Even for boys.  Gotta love the Toughsins.  We all had ’em. 


Now back to my project…

While still in fairly good condition, the fabric on the bodice of the dress was degrading and as result, it was shedding copious amounts of red dust on everything it touched.  


Because of the mess, I was tempted to toss the garment right into the trash, but the plaid fabric was in such good shape that I hesitated for a moment or two.  I LOVE plaid and while I’m unsure of the fabric content because all of the labels had faded, it was most likely a polyester of some kind.  The woven fabric was in excellent condition and caused such sweet memories to tumble through my head.  Was that the year that I wanted an autoharp for Christmas?  I think it was.  

Obviously, there were too many wonderful memories tied up in that dress to simply throw it away.  So here’s what I did…

Step one:  Salvage the fabric.

Using my seam ripper, I got busy separating the skirt from the bodice.


This was a little fiddly and messy but easily accomplished while listening to Christmas music and having a cup of tea.

Then I gave that skirt a nice bath.  


Again, unsure of the fabric content, I used a mild detergent in cool water and allowed it to sit for a bit.  

I carefully rinsed the fabric and rolled it up in a fluffy towel to absorb most of the excess water.  Then I hung it on the rack to dry.  

Step number two:  Give that fabric remnant a new life.  

Now clean and dry, I carefully pressed the plaid fabric with a medium-hot iron to steam out wrinkles and open up the old hem, which promptly came out with a pull on the line of stitching.  

There was enough usable fabric for a small pillow or a doll blanket, which would have been equally endearing, but I quickly decided upon a table runner because of its obviously long and skinny shape.  Perfect.  

Following the lines of the woven plaid, I trimmed the fabric to its maximum length and width following the straight of the grain.  Then I serged the edges with the serger to keep them from unraveling.  Back at the ironing board, I turned in about 1/2 inch along all edges and mitered the corners, pinning them in place.  A straight line of stitching with white thread secured each edge.  Small lengths of red pom pom trim on each end provided the finishing touch! 


Step three:  Enjoy!

The table runner now sits on my farmhouse table under a piece of wood that was once part of my grandmother’s quilting frame.  Fat candles in thick,  seeded-glass holders line up on top.   There is so much sentiment and satisfaction in that simple centerpiece, now completed with the addition of the plaid runner.  I may trek out into the woods for a few sprigs of cedar, too. 

I think I love it.  

Merry Christmas!

I Do Christmas Cards for Me, Not You.

That sounds awfully selfish, doesn’t it?
Let me explain.
I’ve sent Christmas cards every year since 1982. That’s the year Eric and I got married. I’ve sent photo greeting cards every year since Clay was born in 1986. That’s more than thirty different cards, counting this year’s version. At an average of 100 cards per year, that’s more than 3,000 envelopes and pushing $1500 in postage.  Did you just check my math?  I know some of you checked my math.  
What?

Is it worth it?

How do I justify the time and cost it takes to send out Christmas cards each year?
It’s simple. It’s all about me.  
I come by it honestly. My mom was a big Christmas card sender. Yep, we even did photo greeting cards back in the day when we only had black and white film and my dad set up the camera with a timer. 


One of my fondest childhood memories of Christmas was the daily receiving of Christmas cards in our mailbox and the opening of each one. I especially loved the cards from people who lived far away but were long-time, treasured friends of my parents. The receipt of cards from military folks who served alongside my dad in the Air Force led to stories about my parents’ newly-married days living in a trailer park in Colorado Springs. Remember when you realized that your parents actually had a life BEFORE you were born? I loved hearing those stories about borrowed Christmas trees and jello salad made with canned, mixed fruit. What treasures. I never met the Kapertas in real life but feel like I watched their children grow up as my sister, brother, and I marked each passing year.  
I grew up thinking that Christmas cards are what you do in early December.  

Through the years, my Christmas card tradition has become so much more than simply giving and receiving holiday greetings. It has become an important part of the season for me.  I own it.  It’s all mine. 
It’s a timeline of friendships from every phase of my life.
I still exchange cards with friends from high school and college. And those years are measured in decades now. It’s wonderful to have friendship histories that are so long-lasting and true.  North High School, Western Kentucky University, and Ball State were once my stomping grounds and remembering those faces makes me smile.  
It’s a geographic scrapbook of all the places I’ve lived and the people I’ve met in each one.
From our tiny apartment in Muncie to our timber frame in Hassler Woods, we have dear friends gathered from each address we’ve occupied. There’s Haven Drive, our first house and our dear neighbors there; Woodside Court where my kids learned to ride bikes and we had an annual block party; and finally Petersburg Road and our “country neighbors” here.  These are cherished people who brought us homemade cookies, bought ice cream truck popsicles for our kids, and watched our kitties when we went out of town.  We’ve had the best neighbors.
 It reminds me of what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained.
Each year, and increasingly so, there are names and addresses that give me pause as I realize that no card will be sent this year. These tender moments lead to a reflective time of prayer and thanksgiving for that person and the impact he or she has had on me. I leave those names on my Christmas card list so that in the very least, I have a yearly reminder of the precious gift of life and friendship, and consider the continuing impact that we can have on others. This is a good time of year for that.  
My card list also grows every year, which is a good barometer of whether or not I am stretching and putting myself in new places and new experiences. I am never too old to widen my circle and make new friends.  
 It helps me to sloooooooow dooooooooooown.
December is a crazy and frantic time of the year for most of us. You know the drill…shopping, decorating, baking, traveling, parties…all of the busyness can be a real joy stealer. Here’s my recipe for sanity:
1. Light the Yankee Candle Company Mistletoe candle. It smells like a real Christmas tree, people.

2. Put on Christmas music. I have fine-tuned my Christmas Pandora station like a beast. NO Christmas Shoes. May I suggest starting with “A Christmas Song Radio” particularly if you like the old standards…Bing, Judy, and the like.

3. Brew a cup of holiday tea (I love Santa’s Secret by David’s Tea), OR make creamy hot chocolate with real milk and miniature marshmallows, OR pour a glass of wine (if after 5:00 pm…or earlier…up to you) and make sure it’s in a big, special Christmas mug or fancy stemware (I have a wine glass that says “Mrs. Claus.”  If I don’t quit eating this Dresden Stollen, I’m gonna be looking like that jolly lady soon enough.)

4. Gather your cards, list, pretty pen, and beautiful stamps. This year, I picked The Nativity, which is gorgeous. Take time to admire the art on that stamp.  


5. Savor the moment.
I don’t know how I did it with toddlers underfoot, or a million Christmas programs to attend (Christmas adrenaline, it’s a thing) but I always found a moment or two to steal away and work on the cards each day. Peace. On. Earth. 
It’s a blessing counter.
With each name I write (and I don’t judge if you use labels because those blessings can be tallied, too), I have an opportunity to think about that person or family and recall how very thankful I am for their presence in my life. They include fellow cheer moms and marching band parents, my children’s teachers (man-oh-man, am I thankful for those people), my church family, small group friends far and near (at one point we joked that if you wanted to get relocated, just join our small group), cousins scattered across the country, and on and on. That fills me up to the point of bursting. Watch out for glittery bits of Debi flying all over the place. So very thankful.
Sooooooo, here’s the honest truth, people: I receive all of these precious gifts before I even get one card in my own mailbox. And to quote Linus, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”  Amen. 
(And that doesn’t even start to describe the incredible joy that comes when greetings come my way. I love, love, love every card and every picture and yes, EVERY CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTER. They are my absolute favorite. Send them to me with abandon and ALL of the details.)
I started a new tradition a couple of years ago. We drive to Dale, Indiana to have our cards postmarked from Santa Claus because why wouldn’t you do that? There’s also a quick stop at The Christmas Store for a new ornament, and a short trek to Monkey Hollow Winery for a case of Winter Warmer. See how much fun doing Christmas cards can be?
Oh yeah, I started one other Christmas card tradition last year that was inspired by my sweet cousin, Angela. If you send me a photo Christmas card, it gets pinned to a big bulletin board in my laundry room so that I can see your sweet face all year. I often stop to count my many blessings and pray a prayer of thanksgiving over your picture. To quote another holiday favorite, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.” (One point for me in the Christmas Vacation quote contest.) Thank you, Eddie.  

From Hassler Woods in Earle, Indiana, we wish you the Merriest of Christmases and Happiest of New Years!!!! 

Rejoice, rejoice! The Savior is born!

A Full Day in Poznan

Good morning, Poland!


After an amazing breakfast at the hotel, which included braunschweiger and mackerel for some, we hit the streets of Poznan.


The old city is very quaint with tall and narrow buildings.


School children were everywhere.


Each day at noon, the court house clock tower strikes and the doors open to reveal two goats which move forward to butt heads twelve times.  We take our places in the square to observe.

As promised, they come out and the school children shriek with joy each time they strike.


Why do they butt heads?  Here you go…

A legend behind the original addition of the goats to the clock mechanism states that a cook, while preparing a banquet for the voivode and other dignitaries, had burnt a roast deer, and attempted to replace it by stealing two goats from a nearby meadow. The goats escaped and ran up the town hall tower, where they attracted the attention of the townspeople when they began to butt each other (according to some versions, this drew attention to a fire which might otherwise have done significant damage). Because of the entertainment provided, the voivode pardoned both the cook and the goats, and ordered that two mechanical goats be incorporated into the new clock being made for the building.

After securing a warm, spicy beverage, we walked up to the Christmas Market and also popped into an antique store.



There, Clay discovered a 1916 stereoscopic camera.  Being an avid collector of antique viewers and cards, I think he is still thinking about that camera.

We purchased some candy.


And found a great place to warm our chilly bones.


We accidentally found a great place for dinner.


This part of the menu was very sincere.


With help from our kind waiter, we decided upon a variety of Polish dumplings with fried beets, fried cabbage, and the best roasted potatoes we have ever had.


Of course, we had to top off the evening with a little dessert.

When we got back to the hotel in the evening, this display made so much more sense to us.  


Yes, these goats have pants.  

Poznan

The somewhat early departure from Dresden was eased by slices of stollen and a gift of fresh croissants from our Airbnb host.  


Packing up our bags and backpacks, we took the tram to the central station.  


We said goodbye-for-now to Cameron and Michael who headed for an adventure in Prague, while Eric, Clay, Tif, and I took the train for a return to Berlin and then on to Poznan.  Cameron is already posting Instagrams from Prague so be sure to check out her feed @camhalcomb!


On the train to Berlin, our cabin-mate was a Polish gentleman named Michael who was traveling through Berlin on business.  He lives in a small, coastal village on the Baltic Sea.

He shared a lot of historical information about Poland and gave recommendations of food to sample.  While his English was very, very good, we all chuckled at his attempt to explain the word “garlic” in describing a type of pickle they make.  I especially loved the description of his family’s Christmas celebration, with a big meal on Christmas Eve and then celebrating the twelve days of Christmas that follow.  This is such a special time of year to travel.  Michael even taught us to open a beer bottle without an opener.  “Easy peasy” he said.  

We had a brief layover in Berlin before boarding our train for Poznan.


After securing a car for the four of us, we settled in for the trip across the border.


That included a picnic of wine, bread, cheese, salami, fruit, and cookies, some on-board knitting (I am turning the heel on my sock and Tif is knitting the thumb gusset of her mitt).  We also watched “Home Alone,” a family Christmas favorite.  

We arrived in Poznan after dark and quickly walked to our hotel.  Clay and Tif checked in with the film festival and were introduced at the beginning of their screening.  It was fun to see the film sub-titled for this non-English-speaking audience.  


The Q and A after the screening was engaging and lively.  An interpreter from the festival translated from Polish to English.



There was one request…

A crowd selfie!


Many stayed to talked to Clay and Tif after.


This young man wanted to be Clay’s friend on Facebook.


We are anxious to see Poznan in the daylight and explore the old city today!

Dresden

We are just back to our apartment in Dresden after spending a very full day in Altstadt Centre.  

We started with a delightful breakfast, Dresden style, created by Clay and Tif.  Our Airbnb host also provides fresh fruit and bread daily.  


Catching the bus to the city center, we got off one stop early so that we could walk along the river and cross the Augustus Bridge on foot.



Once across the river, we walked to The Zwinger, the palace complex of the Saxons.

We walked around the palace garden and after securing steaming cups of hot tea, walked around the terrace on top of the palace.  The bells chimed the hour and played a tune as we shuffled in and out of the many student groups touring today.


We walked past the opera house and Furstenzug mosaic toward the Christmas Market.



When rounding the corner, we heard music and followed the sound to find a brass quintet playing under the bridge.  We listened to several festive pieces.


There are several markets within the town proper; one of our favorites was the Stallhof which offered more medieval booths and wares.  Two Bavarian sheepskins may be coming home with us.

Cameron and Michael enjoyed the exhibit of the Gems of the Green Vault while the rest of us toured the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister, an art museum.


My favorite room was the collection of paintings of Dresden by Bernardo Bellotto.


The gong of the docent sent us scurrying outside…

When we exited the museum, it was snowing!

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Another walk through the Christmas market led us to dinner and a plate of cookies to enjoy back at the apartment.  


Tomorrow we head for Poland!

Dresden

I’m enjoying a full mug of hot kaffee in our Dresden apartment.  This is a lovely city.  My mom told me that this was one of her favorite spots in Germany and not to miss it.  I have to say, she was right (again).

We had an enjoyable train ride through the countryside from Berlin to Dresden.  Tif and I knitted on the trip; me knitting socks and Tif knitting mittens.  We shared and sampled delicious pastries purchased by Cameron and Michael for the trip.  We sang a bit of “Hot Chocolate” from The Polar Express when the agent punched our tickets.  (I’m sure they get that a lot here.  Maybe not.) 


After locating our apartment and our first trip over the magnificent Elbe River bridge, my family indulged my love for yarn and walked with me to Nach Strick und Faden.




It is a sweet yarn shop with a most helpful shopkeeper and a wide selection of German yarns and notions.  I chose two skeins (a Zauberball and Wollmeise) and an Addi 9-inch circular needle.  

Next, we hopped on board the bus and headed for the main square.  Again, the view of the city coming across the river is breathtaking.  After a luncheon of potato soup and pretzels, we walked to Dresden Frauenkriche, The Church of Our Lady, rebuilt in 2003.  All of Dresden was decimated in WW2.  Recovered stone used in the new church is easy to see because it was blackened by the bombing and fire.  


I am so thankful that several in our group insisted that we take the tour up the dome of the church.  So thankful.  


We watched the sun set over Dresden from the dome.



Once down from the dome of the iconic church, we wandered into the Christmas Market.  We quickly found a warm fire and steaming cups of Gluhwein.  We also found more Springerle molds!  Wandering carolers and horse drawn wagons passed by.  The church bells rang at 6:00 pm.  

We once again got the chance to talk to several interesting folks and especially enjoyed a chat with the merry-go-round operator and woodworker, who hosted the fire we sat around.  Alexander gave us a German’s perspective of Dresden history and it was fascinating.  


This is our happy place.

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Berlin to Dresden

This will be a quick entry as we are catching an early train for Dresden.

Monday, we visited the site of Hitler’s infamous bunker. Once again, a solemn place.



We also found the memorial to the book burning at Bebelplatz.

After grabbing some sandwiches, we jumped on board a train and set our sights on Charlottenburg to see the palace, Christmas market, and antique stores there.

We ventured off the beaten path on a quest to find the home of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose life and story Clay and Eric have studied.  Standing at Dietrich’s home, the place where he was arrested by the SS, gave us pause as we considered his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship, particularly the day after we visited the Holocaust memorial.


We stopped in to a sweet, street-side restaurant for a drink and then caught the train to return to Berlin for our second evening meal at Nurnberger Wirtshauskultur.  Yes, it is THAT GOOD.  Now considered regulars by the staff, we were given a most hearty “welcome back”!  If you ever find yourself in Berlin, you must eat here.  


Happy birthday, Tif!  Now off to Dresden!

Berlin, Day Three

Germany.  No wash cloths and no top sheets, but we’re getting used to it.

First destination today, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  

This will probably be one of the most memorable parts of our trip.  Deeply solemn and impactful.  The full magnitude of history’s consequence descends into this place.  


It’s as if the stones are weeping.

This memorial is profound; we took our time walking among the pillars and absorbing the exhibit below.

Next, we walked back to the Gendarmenmarkt for lunch at Kasermandl.  Sitting on sheepskins, we enjoyed this

cheese soup,

beef soup,


meat and cheese, and pizza.  I’m sorry, I did not write down the German names for this food.  I will do better.
Clay and Tif must head to Poznan for their first screening, so we bid farewell to them for a short time.


I quickly ran back to a booth in the market to purchase two nativity springerle molds for cookie making.  

Now to catch a cab to The Spree.


The conversation with our driver about American politics was fascinating.  The German people are anxious to speak to Americans about the recent election, and our talks are very enlightening and enjoyable.  

We hopped on a boat for a riverside view of Berlin.  


We visited the flea market.


Made some new friends.


Took a tram ride.


And wound our way to dinner at Nurnberger Wirtshauskultur.  More pork, more red cabbage, and more potato dumplings.  We have decided that German food is our spirit animal.  

For dessert, we sample Germkonodel, and tried to learn how to pronounce its name.



The report from Poznan this morning is good; “Homeless” was well-received and the film festival hosts are very hospitable and most kind.  We will travel to Poznan later in the week to see the second screening.   Today we will welcome Clay and Tif back to Berlin to celebrate TIF’S BIRTHDAY!!!  Herzlichen Gluckwunsch zum Geburtstag!

Potsdam

We’re finding the four-day Berlin Welcome train tickets to be quite handy.  Public transportation in Berlin is convenient, easy (when you have Tif and Michael navigating), and enjoyable.  This day, we hopped the train to Potsdam.

After a walk through the quaint, older section of town and a couple of stops to ask about food, we heeded the advice of the townspeople and headed for the town square.  We stopped in at Weiner Restaurant for our first taste of curry brats.  We were not disappointed.


The atmosphere was very festive with most enjoying a hearty brunch on this cold Saturday morning.  


My fourth meal of sausages.  How long can I keep this up?  Delicious! 

Most Germans speak very good English and are delighted to have the opportunity talk with English-speaking tourists.  We are getting better at deciphering all-German menus, but Eric’s Goggle translate print app comes in super handy when we’re completely stumped.  

Now warm and well-fortified, we head out through the Potsdam Christmas Market on our way to sein Sanssouci. 


At this market we had our first taste of Frittierte Krapfen (fried doughnuts).  Eric got the mini doughnuts smothered in Nutella.  That was life changing.

We entered Sanssouci Park at its southern-most point and walked the very, very, very long drive all the way to the new palace.  While beautiful in early winter, we could only imagine the gardens in their full vigor in springtime or summer.  We must come back.  We entertained ourselves by asking various people to take our group picture with the palace in the background.  Fail.


Finger over lens.  Out of focus.


Not bad, but we lost the top of the palace.


Thanks, Herr German Man.  He was not amused.

Here’s the palace’s full glory…


We purchased tickets for the palace tour and after my first experience using a pay toilet (it cost .70 Euros to use the bathroom) we walked to the palace of King Frederick the Great.


The palace is currently undergoing extensive renovation of its exterior but is still quite beautiful from the outside.  Unbelievable splendor on the inside.  

We tried to behave but irritated our prickly German guide when we lingered to take a group photo in front of one of the gilded mirrors.  Oops.


It’s now dark and very cold.  While waiting for the train back to Berlin, we chatted with a couple of lovely German students who were very interested in American politics.  We are quite intrigued and surprised with the perspective from this side of the ocean.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Next stop, dinner at Haufbrauhaus in Berlin.  Being the naive tourists that we are, we expected to walk in to Haufbrau on a Saturday night, no problem.  Almost turned away at the door, Tif used the Walz charm to at least get us past the doorman to “make a reservation ” for Monday evening.  I guess that our sad American faces sparked compassion in the hostess who, after a bit of rangling, found us a table among the masses.  She was a bit overwhelmed when we each decided to hug and kiss her before sitting down.  Hallelujah.


Our table was soon laden with beer, crispy pork knuckles, roast pork loin, spatzle, sauerkraut, and potato dumplings


And the atmosphere? For my Evansville friends, think Germania on steroids. Times a million.

Just happy, happy people enjoying delicious food and drink while singing, dancing, and toasting the night away.  We let our waiter choose our after-dinner libation, and we invited an American Naval sailor stationed in Bahrain to join us in a toast to the day.  Everyone is so friendly here.  

We walked through the Christmas market at Alexanderplatz to end day two.  Today promises sunshine and warmer temperatures.  It’s the first morning that we can see the Berlin TV Tower from our apartment window!


If you aren’t already following my kids’ Instagram feeds, find them and look at their wonderful photos of our trip @camhalcomb, @tifthegirl, @clayhassler