Candy Canes and Holiday Goals

It looked like Santa’s workshop.  Wrapping paper, scissors, tape, and stockings littered my kitchen table, complete with the Christmas candy I’d found before most people thought about putting away Halloween decorations.  Everything I’d gathered for weeks sat waiting to be placed in the box.  We were mailing Christmas to Paraguay.

Our daughter is living there as a missionary for the restored Church of Jesus Christ and this will be her first Christmas away from home.  Five thousand miles away from home.

All my discretionary time had gone to gathering little things I hoped would bring her happiness.   And candy canes.

Little boquets of candy canes, tied with a bow.  More than she would ever eat.  I don’t even know if they already have candy canes in Paraguay, but I doubt it, because American candy of any kind is so hard to find.  What I do know is that she loves the people of Paraguay, especially the children.  Every package I send to her has something little in it for her to give to the children she serves.  In my mind’s eye I could see her smile as she gives them away.  Yes, I had to send candy canes.

We got everything ready and then it got real.  As in, how would we actually fit it all in the box?  I didn’t want to find a bigger box; the flat rate box I had was already going to cost a small fortune to mail.  So we all began suggesting ways to pack everything in, which drew my husband to the table.

I remembered how he fit an unreal number of wedding gifts into our car when we were married and had to haul everything from Colorado to Utah, so I stepped aside and watched him puzzle it out.  He did a great job, fitting more into the box than I would have, although I cringed when one stocking went in upside down.  Soon the box was full and bulging, but he did it.  He got it all in.

I should have been ready for what happened next.

But I wasn’t.

I should have handled it with grace.

But I didn’t.

He squeezed the box so he could seal it.
And I heard candy canes go “crack, crack, crack.”

Somewhere in my brain the thought registered that sealing the box required squeezing it shut.  Somewhere in my brain I knew he had done a logical thing, but apparently that part of my brain wasn’t connected to my heart, and it definitely wasn’t connected to my mouth.  I don’t remember what I said, but I do know that I effectively communicated to my husband that he had messed up and broken the candy canes.  To which he replied, “You didn’t really think the candy canes were going to make it all the way to Paraguay without breaking, did you?  You knew they would break.”

I picked up the package and my keys, and left for the Post Office.  I blinked back tears as I waited in line.  Then I blinked back the tears while I very politely thanked the postal worker for his kind help with mailing my package.  I blinked back tears while I walked to my car.  Then I drove as the tears fell.

I’m her mom.  Moms make holidays happen.  She’s thousands of miles away from home, living in conditions I can only imagine.  I wanted her to open our box and have love come spilling out, not candy cane dust!  I had been so thoughtful about this package, hoping it would feel like Christmas to her, wishing it could hold every tradition and favorite thing about the holiday.  It was my offering to her, my gift of love, and before it even left my house it was broken and flawed.  I felt broken and flawed.

My conscience seared with guilt.  I was crying over candy canes!  Candy canes, of all things.  I’d hurt my husband’s feelings and made him feel flawed as well.  Over candy canes.  Broken candy canes.  In my quest to send the perfect package to our daughter, I’d damaged feelings like my husband had broken candy canes.

Eventually the candy cane dust settled in my heart and I saw the approaching holiday season more clearly.  It’s a lot of work to “do it all”.  The decorations, the events, the food, the gifts, the opportunities for giving, are all amazing and yet challenging.  My husband was doing his part:  making everything fit in the box, and sacrificing a few candy canes was worth it.  He was probably right.  But when we’re all thrown together and life happens, those low-flying but deeply felt expectations can be like my candy canes: fragile.  And when they snap, it’s easy to forget that people’s hearts are a lot like candy canes:  fragile.

Today I am grateful for broken candy canes.  I am sure we will all laugh about how many tiny candy cane pieces ended up inside that box.  I hope I get to share with her what I learned that day.   My goal this holiday season is to remember those candy canes: to let everyone contribute in their own way to our holiday celebrations, to extend grace when something breaks instead of breaking back, and to keep the little things little.  To make relationships and people more important than delivering a perfect holiday. Because all I really want to feel this season is love.  Love is what motivated the package in the first place.  And love is what our daughter will feel when she receives our package, no matter how many tiny, sticky candy cane pieces come with it.

I wish you a heart full of love this holiday season, regardless of what breaks.
-Jennifer

Anthem Quilt: Peppermint Edition

Christmas sewing is underway in my studio and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  Meet my Anthem quilt: Peppermint Edition!  This is the Anthem quilt pattern with cheerful holiday colors to make a festive peppermint version.

I was sitting in my car when the idea struck: pink and red stars on a green background and my little girls happily snuggling under it while watching a Christmas movie.

I started with the stars, picturing a pink and red swirl.  The colors I used were Moda Bella Solids in Ruby (red) and Moda Bella Solids New 20 color 9900-385 (pink).  I particularly like the Ruby red – it is a great color!

Once the stars were made I began the hunt for just the right green… which was harder to find than I expected.  I made test blocks in several colors before narrowing my favorites to Kona Pistachio and Kona Pear.

In the end I decided not to choose between them and instead use both.  I alternated the greens as I sewed my blocks together to create a secondary pattern with the background fabrics and continue the minty feel of the quilt.  I like the green pinwheels where the blocks connect and the overall feel of the quilt is happy and festive, exactly what I pictured.

This pattern is great because it comes together easily and without too much time.  I have several complex quilts underway and they’re amazing, but it’s also nice to finish a quilt quickly and easily.  When I’m sewing with a deadline, either for a holiday or for a gift, I favor patterns like this one.

Want to make your own Anthem Quilt: Peppermint Edition?  I’ve updated the pattern with fabric requirements and piecing instructions for two background colors.  Download yours today and have a Christmas quilt top ready before you know it!

Hunter’s Star Quilt Pattern

While writing my Hunter’s Star quilt pattern, I cut fabric for a second version in blue and green.  This quilt top is all solids and I chose colors that play off each other to really grab the eye.  The blue is the same color I used in my Lucky Lone Star quilt, and the green is somewhere between a lime and a chartreuse.  I quilted this version with straight lines, following the seams in a ditch-stitch method.  It turns out that the Hunter’s Star quilt pattern is my favorite for gift-giving right now; I may make a third if time allows.  No special rulers or templates, no fabric waste.  My kind of quilt.

Hunter's Star Quilt Pattern by Hopeful Homemaker

Since this is version two, and because I shared my random high school physics story along with version one, it seems only fitting to share my other random science class story now.

It was my sophomore year of college and I was knocking out the last of my GE requirements, one of which was Physical Science.  I looked forward to seeing the cute boy I often sat next to, but everything else I could do without.  Especially the monotone voice of the professor.

And then there was one day – just one, mind you – when he was a little more interesting than usual.  He actually brought an object lesson to demonstrate his principle and talked with a little more animation.  His lecture topic:  centripetal and centrifugal forces.  His object lesson:  a large bucket of water.

Hunter's Star quilt pattern at hopefulhomemaker.com

Surprise, surprise.  He began the age-old demonstration of swinging the bucket in a large circle to demonstrate how it stayed in the bucket without spilling.  Of course it worked… until he slowed to a stop.  Suddenly a ball of water shot out of the bucket and straight into my face.  I still remember the slow-motion feeling of watching a ball of water move through the air toward me, the blurry face of the professor on the other side of the strange shape.  Me, my notes, my desk, my bag – all wet.  The students to my right and left got a drop or two on them; those above and below me felt nothing.

blue and green hunter's star quilt

He paused for a fraction of a second to blink and observe what he’d done, then continued his lecture without a word to me or even a change of expression on his face.  I couldn’t decide what was funnier; the water or his total disregard for his mistake.

So there you have it, my most memorable experience from my university science classes.

Moral of the story:  never sit in front of the professor if he shows up to class with a bucket of water.

Hunter's Star quilt pattern by Hopeful Homemaker, available at Craftsy.com

Moral of the photos:  make more Hunter’s Star quilts.

The Hunter’s Star quilt pattern is available in my Craftsy shop.  It’s available until Friday (11/8) at the special introductory price of $5.00.  Buy yours today!

-Jennifer

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