Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Snappyfriends youth and garden loom

They say on hot summer nights you can sit in the front porch rocking chairs and hear the corn grow. That's how I feel about Charlie. He's 4 1/2 now and I feel like he's growing so fast I can hear him grow. He's my snappyfriends youth assignment. He lives three hours away and we miss him terribly.

OK, here's the weekend project we spent last weekend on. But first, you have to understand, Patient Husband isn't called Patient for no reason. He definitely got the short end of the stick in this partnership. Let's just say I'm not the easy one. I admit it.
I saw this garden loom in a magazine and asked him if "we" could please build it. If we did then I wouldn't bug him about a barn or goats or chickens anymore - though I'll miss that!
You also have to understand that we are sorely lacking in the tool department. When we decide to "make" something the neighbors gather to watch. What we use for a screwdriver or hammer or vice or even a pencil would make any man cringe. But we cobble things together and somehow make it work.

Good Neighbor Bill, came to help with this step, digging the post holes in clay, the levelling, the loan of a level, drill and grips. About the only thing we contributed was the shovel and the posts and the idea! Patient Husband is the one in the pics, though. I kept after him about trompling my lavender plants. This particular part of the lavender bed is where I put the baby plants and they were fighting for their lives.

Thank goodness for bifocals!
Ta Da!!
The one I saw in a magazine was 3 feet wide by 6 feet tall. Patient Husband thought that if 3 x 6 was good, then 4 x 8 was better so that's what this is. I fretted and fretted when the frame was up that it was just TOO big, but after a couple of days I decided it's good. It's a big house and a big yard and proportionally it works. As long as that pear tree behind it is alive, you really can't see it from the road right behind it, so it does blend in. It's pretty cool.
It's strung with simple garden jute and I completely depleted the supply of jute in our small town. I'll have to go to another city to buy more to finish the right side. But it's done enough for the picture to show you all. My daughter has some roving from her spinning days I'm going to use when the birds are building nests. I'll string grapevines, flowers, cattails, whatever I can find now. String berries, hang whatever I find that strikes me. It will be an ever changing work in progress.
This is taken from the front porch so you see it doesn't look THAT big. This is all lavender in the front yard. Both sides of the walk.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


We are so lucky to live in the part of the state that supports farms, orchards, small fruit growers and vineyards. With everything looking so good it's hard to stop buying and harder yet to get all this freshness eaten in good time! We hardly turn a corner without coming face to face with someone selling their garden bounty. Yesterday I picked green beans for dinner. Just a handful, but they were fresh from plant to pot in two minutes. Wow. Summer.... This Saturday we'll visit our farmer's market downtown and stock up on goodness for the 4th of July gala here on Sunday. I'm expecting about 30, give or take 10. The weather is going to be beach hot and not raining and that's just about all you can ask for the 4th of July.
I went out with my camera last summer and took pictures of farm stands. There was no shortage of originality and honesty around the countryside. Not a soul in sight but mason jars, boxes and buckets served as cash boxes. Take some and leave some they all trustingly said.

This farm stand was just that. A board balanced on two saw horses. The potatoes were taking a bath in that tub, waiting for customers.

This is the same stand on a different day. No potatoes but look at those tomatoes!

Fresh! That's the name of the game and everyone around here seems to have chickens but me!

"Me! Me! Me! Pick Me!" they all say. Ya gotta get your sign out there if you want your fruit picked. Sweet Cheeries anyone?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Biggest berry

Last Saturday we were driving along the country highway and saw a sign for raspberries that wasn't there a few days ago. Being complete suckers for raspberries, and mine aren't ripe yet, we stopped. We found a brand new patch of the biggest berries I've ever seen. Ever. I immediately went for the black raspberries and we picked two pints in about two minutes. They were as big as a quarter!
I hated to boil these berries into jam. I gently constructed a pie - one of the best pies I've ever made - and the berries held their shape they were so perfect! We just finished the last piece and even my non-dessert eating Patient Husband said it was a perfect pie.
My black raspberry picking has always been confined to what I could find in the woods and fields around the house. I am not afraid to tromp through brush and tangled prickers and poison ivy to get a good berry. I come out looking like I've been scourged and welted with mosquito bites but there's a bag of black raspberries in the freezer for a pie in January when I savor each bite and remember what I went through to get them. Remembering each scab and mosquito by name .
When my son was a little guy I remember coming home from a particulary wicked picking experience and my legs were really, truly scourged, the blood dripping and dried in rivulets down my legs. Cuts and scrapes on top of each other. One cut keeping the other moist with my dripping blood. Really. I was filling the bathtub to soak my cuts and he walked by the door, saw my legs and asked, "Mommy! What happened!" I told him and he looked at me with huge eyes, "Why aren't you CRYING??" I knew the moment I lowered into the tub and the water hit those scrapes I would be crying. But he wouldn't see it. I didn't want him to think picking berries was something that made you cry.


I am, I really, really am working on a quilt! I would have finished today but there's a big yard project we spent the weekend on and I'm still fiddling with that. More on that later!

Friday, June 25, 2010

when do you have time??

No pictures right now. I'm not at my computer or camera. I'm at a neighbor's house waiting while the carpet is cleaned and while I wait I'm checking out blogs, blogs, blogs on his computer. Not reading the book I brought with me, but enjoying the view of the lake from this desk and reading blogs. This makes me wonder. How in the world do you guys get any quilting (or crocheting or sewing) done? What time of day do you work on projects? Are you so prolific because you use sewing machines? I quilt and piece by hand 99% of the time. Yes, it is slower but the sewing machine and I are not friends. I get too tense, it stares at me, it keeps me tethered to the outlet. Piecing and quilting by hand gives me the option of being on the back porch conversing with Mrs. Wren, or sitting in the yard or curled in my favorite chair with old movies going. Or sitting anywhere listening to an audio book. Besides, there are so many other things that need doing! And then there's the blogging. I absolutely LOVE this meeting of the minds from all over the world, even if I don't comment on many, I do read them and marvel at the wonders everyone is creating. But it takes time!!!
Yesterday we (my daughter and her two daughters) went picking raspberries and cherries. We missed great photo opportunities because in the haste to get the 3 year old and 8 month old out of the door during our small window of opportunity (read: good moods) we both forgot the cameras. So, as Elizabeth picked her own berries and Adelaide watched and nibbled on berries, and Elizabeth ran and ran over the hills at the cherry orchard and peeked at us through the fruit full branches, we missed it all except for in our memories.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Self portrait

Snappyfriends photo assignment for this week was a self portrait. So I chose my bookshelves to represent me. I am a reader. I read books. I read book reviews, I read about books. There is never a moment when a book is not nearby, even if I'm going to a baseball game, I have a book with me. Just in case. In case I have a moment or several or I have to wait for a train to go by or the baseball game goes into extra innings or I find myself with 15 minutes. Or less. Some of you have crochet hooks and a ball of yarn in your pocket for these moments. I have a book. This pile represents my taste in fiction, my love of photographers Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Jacob Riis, my cooking style, my quilting life. It's a mere sampling. There are many, many hundreds of books in this house but this is a quick sample.

And this is just one small section of shelf! So - as I wondered and wandered this past weekend looking for something to show myself, I realized I was looking at it all along.
Just today I finished reading A Reliable Wife by Goolrick. As I browsed the shelf for the next (there is a very large pile waiting to be read) I chose Day After Night by Anita Diamant. I got that one at the library sale, in a hardcover pristine condition (not library processed), for $3.00! I just purchased The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins. This summer I'll also re-read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn since I haven't read it since I was a child. Waiting also for this summer is Little Bee by Chris Cleave and these for school for next fall: Darby by Fuqua, Truth About Sparrows by Hale, A Nest for Celeste by Cole and Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Cushman ( I love Karen Cushman's books). Always open and ready for a quick pickup spot read: A Homemade Life by Wizenberg. Wonderful book!
I'm struggling through The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. It's disturbing and I need to put it down and go with something else sometimes, though I never, ever do that. I read one book at a time, and I give a book 50 pages to grab me. If it isn't to my liking by then I need a really good reason to continue. Life is short and I don't have that much time left to be stuck struggling through something I don't like. There are too many waiting in the wings.
That is a sampling of what I PLAN to accomplish this between quilting. I did start on Christine yesterday and find training myself to use a floor frame awkward. The back porch was bright and sunny so I worked on the Sunbonnet Sue for my soon to be grand-daughter while listening to Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry on audio book.
OH! I DO love audio books. And I listen to very different books than I read. I don't read mysteries but listen to them. I don't listen to heavy books, but lighter ones because I'm usually driving or painting a room or canning tomatoes or quilting or.....while listening. Though while painting the attic this spring I did listen to Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna and enjoyed it.
So. That's my self portrait. What would yours be?

Friday, June 18, 2010

berries and peas

Aren't these tiger lilies gorgeous? They don't bloom till the 4th of July and yesterday none of these blossoms had opened, but we have a very hot and muggy day going on today and they just couldn't contain themselves. They had to show off.

I had to drive 30 miles today to find a spool of thread. Really. There is no place to buy a spool of thread in this city unless you consider WalMart's huge selection of black and white. So I did the drive and splurged on SIX spools! Anticipating some colors for Christine waiting patiently over there for me to uncover her and start stabbing away.
On the way home I stopped for some strawberries at the picking place I frequent and the owner told me if I wanted to go out in the field for the first of the RASPBERRIES, I was welcome to!(I'm there a LOT) Well, she didn't have to twist my arm!! My daughter and her troops are coming for Father's Day tomorrow and they'll devour these four pints before they put the car seated Adelaide down!Aren't they gorgeous? It was just what you'd want raspberry picking to be. Hot, sunny, a little humid, the berries practically jumping into my hand. There is nothing, absolutely nothing like a warm piece of fruit right from the plant onto the taste buds. THAT, my friends, is summer.

The peas are in, too. Yuck. But Patient Husband likes them, especially the fresh ones, and Elizabeth will eat these fresh out of her hand gladly. Her idea of a good time is to go out in the yard and eat basil or fennel fronds or lettuce right out of the ground. I have to admit these DO look good enough to eat, but not by me.

It is a very good summer day, even if I did have to drive for a 1/2 hour for a spool of thread.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

popsicles and posts

Cathy over at Cabbage Quilts had a giveaway a couple of weeks ago and I won one of her totes! It arrived yesterday (during our popsicles on the porch) and immediately my daughter started eyeing it for herself! It's very cute and came with a tape measure and what I believe is a piece of silk? I don't know, if it isn't silk then it's the softest, lightest piece of fabric I've ever felt. Thank you, Cathy! It was my lucky day for sure!

It's the first week of summer vacation and the girls are planning weekly visits to keep me entertained. Here we are with popsicles on the porch. Ahhhh....

This is a pretty good picture of Adelaide's hair. It's ALWAYS that stickyuppy, downy soft, and we've tried several times to get a good shot of it. This one looks good!

My goodness it's a beautiful day today. The kind you'd write up a prescription for. Go out and enjoy your day!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

bicycles and baby quilts

Here she is! Christine is tamed into submission! I cleaned up the floor frame, made sleeves to slide on the bars, basted her onto the sleeves and mounted her on the frame. As Patient Husband would say, "she came down with one shot between the eyes. Clean." and he isn't a hunter. I want to just stare at her for awhile. Gloat a little. I'm sure as I begin quilting her she will rear her tempermental head and let me know she's still got a little consternation in her. But for now, she is a piece of furniture. So there!

Here's the quilt top I finished yesterday while waiting for the wireless installers to arrive. It's for our new granddaughter coming in August. It's very cloudy today so it's had to get a really bright picture. I'll baste and start quilting her this week.

I missed Snappyfriends last week. It was just so busy at work with getting things ready for summer and I was without computer at home and time at work so I didn't do a bridge photo, but I knew exactly the picture I wanted to share of a bicycle. There is a home fruit/flower stand up the road about 3 miles and I love the quirkiness about the place. The possibilities for pictures are endless.

Guess what!!! I am so excited to be hooked up to wireless high speed internet! I was absolutely giddy for about an hour while using it yesterday. Then I turned the computer off to have dinner with Patient Husband and when I went back later in the evening the computer wouldn't boot up. At all. Several tries of turning off and on, sneaking into the "F" keys at the top. I don't know what to hit in that department so I went to bed very frustrated and tossed and turned for most of the night. I was sure the borrowed laptop I'm on now wouldn't cooperate - why should it? Could I just unplug the cord from the desktop and put it into the laptop and actually have it work? YES!! It did! It's slow but it works. Kind of like me.

So, until I figure out how to boot up the big thing, I'm trying to teach my big arthritic fingers how to manage the little keys but I'm not complaining....I'm is going to be a good day!

Friday, June 11, 2010


Isn't this just about the coolest thing? We have an amazing art teacher and she took a building of 430 children, aged 5-10 years and one blank wall and little by little in three days they created this!

Retirement and recipes

Well, it's the last day of school for the summer and I'm usually very excited to get home for a few weeks, take some naps, get some projects done, have friends come visit, sit at the beach with a book, do the laundry in the daytime, have dinner - real dinners, not quick sandwich things - but this year is very sad and I'm not looking forward to the end of today. We have 6 of our staff retiring and they have all been very good friends over the years. These are good, strong, loving people and I'm going to really miss them. These are people who literally held me up, walked me from my car and into the building and kept me going when we hit large bumps in the road and I hadn't the emotional energy to continue on. These are people who I've laughed till I've cried with. People who I've shared books, recipes, grandchildren photos, lunches and hugs with. These are people who have been a part of my everyday life for 13 years, people who I've seen more than my own children these past 13 years. These are not typical co-workers.
I'm excited for them and stand like I'm looking in a shop window, wondering how that dress would fit if I were to put it on. It looks great on them but the buttons wouldn't quite close around my middle so here I stay. Not quite old enough or financially able enough to join them. Patient Husband and I talk a lot about retirement as we make that long drive everyday to come to work. We both admit we still have too much energy to give up yet. Even though by evening we're both dragging ourselves from exhaustion off to bed. If we retire and have to 'find something to do' then why not continue doing what we really enjoy for a bit longer? People who have taken the plunge, have bought the dress, all say they love it and wouldn't look back. Some, though, are bored and are 'looking for something to do.'
So, today as the last school bus pulls away from the curb, there will be many tearful hugs goodbye to very good friends. I wish them the very best, the best of health, love and a yellow brick road to their new life.

Here is the potato leek dish I served at the End of the Year Party. It's a winner.

5 TBSP butter
4 lb. leeks, white and light green parts cut into 1/4 inch rings
1 1/2 TBSP kosher salt (or any good salt)
1 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup heavy cream
6 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
3 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
3 lb. russet potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices

In a 12' non stick pan melt 4 TBSP butter over medium heat. Add leeks and salt, stir to coat leeks in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are tender, about 20 minutes. Add thyme, nutmeg, pepper and cream. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Wipe out pan and grease with 1 TBSP butter.
Preheat over 400 degrees. In a bowl combine cheeses. Layer one third of potatoes in the frying pan or a casserole dish. Spread one third of the leek mixture on top. Sprinkle with one third of cheese mixture. Repeat layers two more times. Cover and put in oven for 45 minutes. Remove cover and bake until potatoes are tender and top in golden brown - about 30 more minutes. Serves 8-10. Easily doubled and the leftovers are really good.

I will be in computer limbo after today. Home computer problems abound and until they get worked out I'll be a bit out of touch. I hope I can come back to play with you all as soon as Monday but we'll have to see. Keep fingers crossed, I love playing with all of you.

Monday, June 7, 2010


The staff party was a huge success, and I didn't take any pictures! It's a hectic time but I love giving this party so the work is worth it. Have you ever done something for the simple joy of seeing other people having a wonderful time? I mean we all cook the feast now and then, and I do love cooking the feast, but this group is so full of laughter and gratitude and joy it's a pleasure on my part to just sit back and watch it happen once they arrive. So what does that mean, I do this party so I'LL feel good? Is there something Freudian there? I don't care.
Friday morning I went to the strawberry patch and picked 28 pounds of berries. You should have heard the roar as Patient Husband, friend helper, myself and another helper walked into the house carrying those seven strawberry pies! Held high in the air, balanced on our palms over our heads we carried those luscious, highly stacked, highly glazed pies.

We made paella for an appetizer, dishing a scoop into cups and handing them out as they arrived ravenous. We had chicken and sausage, zucchini, onions, yellow, red and orange peppers, and tomatoes in this one. A good, mild intro to paella.

Saturday I picked up a needle and started stitching again - for the first time in weeks. I made a sleeve for the floor frame for quilt Christine, started working again on the baby quilt I'm making for the baby due in August and OHHH it felt SO good.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


No picture today. Too tired to lift the camera. Tomorrow (Friday) the staff from school is coming for the annual EOYP (End of Year Party) and I've been chopping, slicing, dicing all day. Every year we have this end of year wind down at our place. Even though it's an hour's drive for them, they love this evening very much. They contribute to the groceries and I do all of the cooking so when they arrive the drinks are cold and the food is hot. The menu for tomorrow is: As an appetizer we're making a paella in the biggest paella pan. That will hold them while we wait for everyone to arrive, and it helps with the first hungries.
The we have grilled souvlaki, Greek salad, spinach pie (instead of individual little triangles I'm making it in 9 x 13 pans) and a wonderful potato leek dish. Dessert? Well, first thing in the morning I'm going to pick strawberries and make 7 of those wonderful strawberry pies I showed you yesterday.
We'll have about 35 people so I basically triple any recipe. It's a lot of work but I'd rather cook the feast than dinner every night! I put an audio book in the CD player and someone reads a story to me while I slice, dice, chop, saute, and bake.
Bon apetit!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things that make you go GRRRRRR

Well, THIS was a no brainer assignment. Snappyfriends this week wants to know what frustrates me. And I can think of nothing that frustrates me more than the computer. Especially one that doesn't cooperate. Like the one at home. I'm ready to turn the thing into a planter. Or and anchor. This lovely little thing is one I use at work and it works just fine, but not the home monster. No, sir. Nothing makes me crabbier than the computer.

Memorial Day Beach Day

First day at the beach

We had a beautiful holiday weekend! First time in 11 years we could actually go in the lake on Memorial Day weekend. The temperatures were in the high 80's and it was Adelaide's first time at Lake Michigan's beach. She who isn't much of a sleeper dozed part of the time, had her little toes dangled in the water and couldn't decide if she liked the feel of sand. Most of the time she didn't.

Elizabeth was busy building castles and filling her bucket with "important beach materials" (yes, that's a quote!)

And this is Charlie. He would live in the water like Captain Nemo if he could. He loves to count boats, throw stones and be wet all the time.

OMG! I'm actually claiming these guys as mine! I asked for a muscle man pose and didn't realize how sorry this was going to look!!! Maybe it's because everyone is still so winter pale. Yeah, that's it. From the left, Son-in-law, Colin, Elizabeth, Patient Husband, Son, Ben and Charlie. I think I like Charlie's pose - he's trying so hard!!
We were spending the weekend celebrating Patient Husband's birthday and the weather could not have been better. In fact, we recall that it was 11 years ago that we had a similar hot weekend for Memorial Day. We have been unseasonably warm enough that everything is about 2 weeks early...including strawberries!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I didn't pick these myself, though I begged the picking place people to let me, but I still couldn't let pass a strawberry pie made from the very first berries of the season. This pie is the reason God made strawberries. It's showstoppingly pretty and absolutely delish.

Recipe for Strawberry Pie
LOTS of fresh (not grocery store) strawberries
1 baked pie shell
In a saucepan combine 1 cup water, l cup sugar and 3 Tablespoons cornstarch.
Cook and stir till it's thickened and then add
1 box strawberry flavored Jello. I know it sounds like a cop out to use Jello, but it really is good in this pie.
Stir together, let it cool, fold in the berries and pour in the shell. Then refrigerate.
This absolutely has to be eaten the day of. It starts to lose itself by the next day
but I force myself to eat the leftovers if there are any.

I always put LOTS of berries in so it's really mounding. The jello keeps everything together when you cut it so it's a guaranteed conversation stopper when you cut and serve that first piece.
During peach season I use peach jello and blueberry season I use blackberry jello if I can find it. ENJOY!!!!!!!

All that time in the cold, cold water and hot, hot sun just tuckered us out. Charlie and I shared the hammock and a nap.