Hankering for a hobby?

November 7, 2009 | My Jottings

This is the time of year when many people think about taking up a hobby. In my part of the country those of us who don’t cross-country ski, snowboard, or ice fish, think of inside pursuits to while away the cold winter months that are fast approaching.

Some of my friends and loved ones knit. Another friend crochets. Another quilts. I know someone else who does the most amazing cross-stitch creations you can imagine. One of my friends makes gorgeous jewelry. Years ago I used to try my hand at creative scrapbooking but now turn to my beloved books more and more.

For those of you who get that winter hankering to do something creative with your hands, I have a hobby for you to consider.

I’m not sure what it’s called yet – maybe after looking at the photo below you’ll be able to help me with a name for this new crafty trend.

I learned about this new hobby a couple of weeks ago when I opened my home for a Mexican potluck dinner with several women from my church. As we sat together and enjoyed Chris’s Mexican lasagna, Carol’s Mexican rice, Kim’s homemade salsa and chicken tortilla soup, Ginny’s most-delicious-ever-eaten refried beans and Darlene’s Sopapilla Cheesecake, we had the greatest time together. We laughed and shared and enjoyed each other’s company so much, even though some of us were just newly acquainted with some of the women there. It was a relaxed, comfortable, joyful time.

One of the women in attendance was encouraged to share about her job as caretaker to a millionaire family in our area. She works at their breathtakingly beautiful old mansion and caters to the whims and fancies of whatever it is millionaires feel they need. We learned at our Mexican potluck dinner that some millionaires feel very strongly about their toilet paper. This particular family has fourteen bathrooms in their mansion on the lake. And part of this lovely woman’s job as caretaker for this mansion is to make sure the toilet paper in all fourteen bathrooms is just right. Not just well-supplied and always within reach. Not just hung properly, with the paper coming over the top rather than from behind. No. Our dear friend’s job description as caretaker to a millionaire’s mansion is not only to shop and clean and set gorgeous tables and who-knows-what-else, but it is also to make sure that every single toilet paper roll in all fourteen of the bathrooms looks like this when it’s hanging in its place:


See the little banner that hangs down as a pointed pocket, holding the perfectly folded little fan? Have you ever seen anything like this? By this time we had all discreetly unbuttoned our jeans and pushed our plates away, and our friend gave us a lesson on how to create this lovely fan in its holder on a regular roll of toilet paper.

After I picked my jaw up off the ground and reigned in my thoughts about millionaires, I immediately grabbed the camera to snap a picture of this because I knew it would provide inspiration for my readers in search of a hobby.

Here are the amazingly simple instructions: tear off two squares of tissue and fold back and forth back and forth evenly to make accordion pleats, then fold in half to bring pleats together in the shape of a fan. Set aside. Next, pull several squares of toilet paper down away from the roll, keeping them intact with the roll. Fold the two corners up toward each other to make a v-shape pointing downward, then fold this v up toward the roll. Then take the two sides of the paper and fold slightly under toward the roll, creating a gradual diagonal line from the roll down to the end of the hanging piece. Press firmly on each side to crease. Make sure it’s even and crisp looking. Then bring that small tab up again and press to form a secure pocket in which to place your perfectly folded small fan.

So simple, and it only takes about sixteen minutes to do each one. When setting the fan down in the little pocket, take care to do it gently so the pocket holds. If it doesn’t hold and tears, you have to start all over again. But since it’s your new hobby, you wouldn’t be that upset if it didn’t work the first time around, because part of the reason one takes up a hobby is to keep busy and to have something to do with one’s hands, right?

Once mastered, you should do this each time the toilet paper is used, so that the next person in your bathroom is greeted with this delightful little outhouse origami.

Let’s just think this through together. If you’re hankering for a hobby and decide to take up knitting, you’ll have to buy a beautiful designer knitting tote, a bunch of needles in different sizes, some stitch counters, some pattern books, and dozens of skeins of some yarn. And if you wanted to knit something beautiful, you’d have to buy higher end yarn like my daughter dyes, here at her website. If you take up quilting, you’ll have to drag out your sewing machine onto the dining room table, buy a few hundred pieces of fabric, an Olfa board and a rotary cutter, lots of needles and thread, some bifocals, some batting and a hoop. If you want to learn to do counted cross-stitch, you’ll need patterns, charts, canvas, lots of colorful thread roughly the size of DNA strands, and a powerful magnifying glass. If scrapbooking is what you’re leaning toward, you need a nice acid-free scrapbook to start with, different colors of acid-free backing paper, acid-free adhesive, acid-free stickers, acid-free doo-dads, a miniature paper cutter, several pairs of decorative scissors, and a craft room addition on the back of your house.

If you decide to start small and take up the hobby of toilet paper folding, you’re most likely already set to go! Nothing to buy, nothing to haul with you, no special place on the dining room table is needed. All you need is a bathroom, two hands, and a roll of toilet paper. Anyone can do this! Are you a homeschooling mom? This could be your children’s art project next Friday! Teach your little ones the joys of toilet paper folding and they can learn to craft this diminutive fan in its holder each time the bathroom gets used.

And here’s one final benefit to taking up this new hobby. Consider what people’s opinion of you might be if they visit your home and see this unique and elegant creation waiting for them in your bathroom! Your friends will view you in a whole new way. And you will have a satisfying new hobby to busy yourself with this winter.

Me? I haven’t been able to master the fan yet.

I think I’ll stick to blogging and reading books…and praying for my friend who works for the millionaires.  🙂

Nod to November

November 4, 2009 | My Jottings

I have a good friend who is always smiling and usually quite cheerful, but he dreads the coming of November. He says he doesn’t like the eleventh month because the creeping cold, the bare trees, loss of color and resulting bleakness, the shorter, darker days, bring on some depression for him. For my friend, gray Novembers usher in a sort of gray living.

I understand his feelings, and can relate somewhat. January always seems to be my bleakest month, because in northern Minnesota it’s often so bitterly cold by then. Christmas is gone, long months of cold and dark are looming, and the wind-chill hurts. The happiest thing about January for me is the birthday of my middle daughter Carolyn. 🙂

But this post is about November. Here’s what November means to me…

1.  Thanksgiving, of course. Turkey, stuffing, tryptophan.

2.  The month my father died

3.  Vivienne‘s 4th birthday

4.  Carey‘s birthday

5.  Gail’s birthday

6.  Vague memories of my first wedding when I was a mere eighteen years old, in a tiny wayside chapel in Rough and Ready, California

7.  Soups simmering

8.  Attempts at baking homemade breads and rolls

9.  Snowbird daydreams

10. Decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving

11. Time to buy our yearly two new Christmas CDs to add to our collection

12. Mukluks always out, sitting by the back door

13. Patience, waiting, hoping

14. Checking the weather report before leaving the house

15. Thanking God for remote car starters

16. A furnace that hardly ever goes off now

17. Gale warnings on Lake Superior, made famous by Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

18.  Taking 1 Thessalonians 5:18 very seriously, as if right now my life depended on it: “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

What does November mean to you?

SAGs at Stonegate – Part 3

November 2, 2009 | My Jottings

Imagine sitting in a warm and cozy cabin by a fire, while moody and majestic Lake Superior alternately pounds or gently laps the shoreline just yards away. Imagine the rhythmic creak of a rocking chair while a wonderful book is being read aloud by a pleasant and melodic voice. Think of piles of Bibles and books and Bible study workbooks on the coffee table, silent testimony to which well the visitors to this cabin are drawing from, which path in life they’re walking, Whose wisdom and face they seek. These are some of the snapshots I have in my memory from our SAGs weekend away.

We all have taken some sweet memories home with us from our recent SAGs retreat at Stonegate on Superior. Here are a few highlights from our last day there.


All four of us love to read, so it seemed entirely appropriate that Lorna brought The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, and read to us about his thoughts on friendship. So many quotes inspired thoughtful discussion and one of our favorite quotes will be shared below.



Picture a soft and pastel-colored baby afghan taking shape as a loving new grandma’s silent prayers entwine with each crocheted stitch, making an heirloom that will cover that baby girl in warmth and prayer.



On our final night at Stonegate, Pat made the most delicious dinner – Spaghetti Carbonara, with a salad and garlic bread.



Pat, Julie, Gail and Lorna, the four SAving Graces, or SAGs. Enjoying the quiet, the beauty of our surroundings, the conversation, the food, and the friendship that God has given us.



I got up early on Sunday morning, wrapped up in a blanket and went out onto the deck. The sunrise was so much more spectacular than this photo depicts. As I sat there and watched I thought simply and profoundly (at least to me), “The sun is coming up again. That must mean that God thinks there is still hope.”



Five minutes later: the cantaloupe colors were replaced by pink and peach and periwinkle.



And here Lake Superior took on the colors of the sky. Soon after I took this picture we all started packing our things and preparing to head back to our homes and respective blessings and challenges.

I thought I’d share one of the passages on friendship we all liked in Lewis’s The Four Loves:

“Lovers are always talking about their love; friends hardly ever about their friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. And the reason for this is important.

“Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but “A’s part in C,” while C loses not only A but “A’s part in B.”  In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out…hence true friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth…hence we picture lovers face to face but friends side by side; their eyes look ahead.”

This rang so true to the four SAGs. We all are blessed with other close friends and there’s no jealousy about this. We’re always so happy when we know someone else loves another SAG as much as the other three SAGs love her. But we do believe God brought the four of us together for His good purposes, some of which we may not even know about yet. We know that He has given us comfort, encouragement, laughter, hope, prayer, correction, challenge, loyalty and companionship through our little group. How thankful we are for this!

When the four of us talk about aging together, I’m usually the one to bring up that most likely, three SAGs will someday attend the first funeral of our group, and I tell them that I know it will be mine. Don’t ask me how I know – I just have a maudlin side to me that spills sloshes over now and then. 🙂  I have asked Gail, Lorna and Pat to share at my funeral someday and they have agreed.

For now, we are helping each other with the wonderful, terrible business of living.


We are “friends, side by side, our eyes looking ahead…”