jims-quilt-007There were just two of us for Sunday school so we didn’t have class jims-quilt-003at my little church this past Sunday, but I learned a lesson anyway: (K)not all sermons come from the pulpit. When I got to church on Sunday morning and it became apparent only one other of the usual five or six women in our class was going to show, I contemplated going home for more coffee and Sunday New York Times. But before I could head for the door, our minister asked the two of us (our church is small so there’s no place to hide!) to finish a prayer quilt from the women’s group. The quilt is for a church member who’s fighting cancer, and our minister wanted to bless it at the service and deliver it that afternoon. My brain said, “But I have no crafting skill whatsoever and besides, I want Sunday Styles and another cappuccino,” but my mouth said, “Sure! Of course! Love to!” That happens a lot at church. But I was so glad — this time, at least — that my mouth paid no attention to my brain. Turned out all the quilt needed was tying some knots, and I’m very good at tangling things up. Our church women’s group makes these prayer quilts for people who are sick and in need — when you tie one of knots you say a prayer for the intended recipient, who then gets to wrap up in cozy warmth and love. As we tied and talked, I suddenly sort of time-traveled back to old-fashioned quilting bees, where women gathered to care for each other through fabric and friendship, and I finally understood the timeless power of needle and thread. To make it even better, this quilt was for the husband of a friend of mine. I sat beside her during the church service. When our pastor blessed the quilt and announced it was for her husband, I got to hand her a tissue and give her a hug. Definitely worth the loss of a second cappuccino.

12 Days of Christmas Countdown

machine2In Day No. 8 of Cathy’s 12 Days Before Christmas Countdown, it’s time to look at the original holiday-simplification guide, “Unplug the Christmas Machine.” Even though it’s almost 20 years old, this book remains the signature how-to for scaling back and cutting down. But you’ll find more here than tips on re-using wrapping paper and getting decorations out of your own backyard. In fact, the rest of the title says it all: “A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back in the Season.” Authors Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli show you how to identify and make time for what’s truly important to your own family’s holiday celebrations and gives you permission to ditch the rest. Isn’t that the kind of Christmas we all want? And we’re talking real-life here. For instance, the authors warn you that while deciding to forgo massive present-opening on Dec. 25 could be a good thing and spiritually satisfying, you might find yourselves sitting around staring at each other without anything else to do. Awkward! And while it christmas-and-new-years-2006-07-01810reads a bit dated — it was written, after all, before laptops, cell phones and Blackberries became essential family tools — the core message still is relevant: To get the most out of Christmas, you’ve got to regain control of it. It might be too late for this year — you’ve already gotten all your Christmas chores done for this year, haven’t you? — but reward yourself by getting a head start on Christmas 2009. More good news? You won’t derail your new holiday frugality when you buy this book because as an older paperback, it’s only about $10 at most online booksellers — less if you buy it used. It’ll be a $10 you’ll never regret (unlike the $10 I spent on Max Factor Lipfinity Lipstick Sweet 55, but who knew?). Check back on Christmas Countdown Day No.  7 for one of the best online sites I’ve found for Christmas shopping.