Friday, December 28, 2012

New year, new palette

    No, I'm not color blind.  I didn't pick these from my stash at midnight with only the light of the full moon to guide my choices.   A group of 12 friends meet every October for a 4 day quilt retreat and this year we were given a challenge to complete by our next October weekend.   Each of us chose a focus fabric, cut 12 pieces into fat eights and Janet combined them and distributed them to all of us.  Yes, there are only 10.  I'm getting to the bottom of that one, but until then, we use each person's focus fabric along with others (hopefully from our stashes) to make a finished 12 1/2 inch block for her.  We can do anything we want as long as the person's fabric is a part of it and it finishes at 12.5 inches.  
   Some had restrictions on what they don't want.  Val wanted neutrals for her piece (top just to the left black/gray).  Janet chose to give four pieces of her black/white/red combo.  Barb gave bits of Christmas fabric (bottom right).  Friend Marilyn's is the brown just on top of Barb's.  Sister-in-law Joyce's is on top of Marilyn's.  Mine is the off white with summer fruits at the top. 
    I spent some time digging through my stash last night playing the toss game.  You know, toss this one and that one on top of the focus and see if it works.   I have to get my color wheel out for a couple of them. 
    So, once I finish raising the barn I will start playing with patterns and fabrics and see how this goes.  I'm waaayyyyy out of my comfort zone on some of these.
    Now, I have a barn to raise and a whole day free to do it.  So, off to the pile of DVD's and my Ott light and I'm going to put a roof on a barn, stitch a dog down, embroider some beaks and by the end of TODAY I will have that barn put together. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Secret Santa and Ceci

My secret santa, Pam, sent me these placemats!  They're going to brighten up our dismal winter meals for sure!  Thank you, Pam!

We had a fun weekend with our kids and grands, and here's Ceci with her quilt.  She slept with it that very afternoon and snuggled with it in the car on the way home. She's holding the book that went with it.

I found myself examining it after she opened it and realized as I did that I always look at a finished quilt with wonder.  I have a real "I did it!" feeling when a quilt is finished and I'm not looking at it with nose to the needle.  This was a marathon quilt, it needed to be done by a strict deadline, and I did it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Merry Days

Taking a few days off.  Enjoy.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas 14

I work in a K-4th grade school.  I don't feel much like talking about a perky Christmas story.  Instead, please, go kiss a child.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas 13

This one really doesn't have anything to do with Christmas other than Christmas brings gingerbread to the forefront of the recipe box.  I'm all for strong, brave and smart girls.  I push it.  Hooray for author Lisa Campbell Ernst for bringing that concept to a cookiegirl.  If your pile of Christmas stories is too tall to get to this one for Christmas,  save it for March...Women's History month.  Flaunt it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas 12

 Believe it or not, somewhere under all that Christmas decoration is a house.  It all started with a single strand of white lights.  Before we know it, Father is possessed by the Christmas spirit.  But his extravaganza takes over everything and there are consequences...even at Christmas.  I read this every single year without fail to the kids at school.  They absolutely love the ending.

OK, here it is as I work on it. The next thing to get sewn down is the sunflower on the chicken coop side.  Then there's a grass panel for the bottom with duck pond and a dog and bunny.....phew!  Looking at it from this angle it looks like it's coming along but I know those elements left will take a full week of work if I can give it some time every night.  There are also embroidery details to the tail on the cow and pigs, beaks on the chicken and owl, feet on the crows.  But December is creeping along, isn't it?   Last night I baked the few cookies I'm going to do for the kids when they come.  Now I have to concentrate on making up the beds for them, getting groceries organized, dusting...I fear I won't get back to this before Christmas and thus missed my deadline. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas 11

There are many versions of this Hans Christian Anderson tale of love and loyalty.  I like this one by Fred Marcellino.  A few years ago son-in-law Colin made a one legged steadfast soldier and gave it to me with the book for Christmas. 

Update on quilt:  Last night I finished half of the second side.  It's coming along! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas 10

I think I've said before, with the book Silver Packages, that I love Cynthia Rylant.  Well, Christmas in the Country is the first book I open every year.   I smile when I see it, I smile when I read it and I smile when I finish.

I'm also working very hard on the new baby quilt.  I have the middle done, one side panel and part of the second side panel. I still have to do the bottom panel and then can put it all together.  I don't know if my have-it-done-by-Christmas deadline will be met but I'm giving it my best attempt.  Thank goodness it's a new baby quilt so not huge.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas 8

Every year I read this to the kids at school.  I tell them it's a story without an ending...and that gets their attention.  Santa is finished.  He gets home tired and puts his pjs on and gets into bed. One of his reindeer has a cold.  Santa just settles in bed and notices he still have ONE gift in his bag.  It's for Harvey Slumfenburger who lives at the top of the roly, poly mountain which is far, far away.  He can't take his reindeer so he sets out on foot asking for transportation help as he goes.  It's a long journey to the top of the roly poly mountain and he has many mishaps along the way.  But finally, he leaves the gift for Harvey Slumfenburger...and there's a question at the end. A question that drives the kids crazy. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas 7

     I read this yet again just the other day.  Aren't holidays made up of traditions?  When our kids were little if we did something just once, it was immediately declared "a tradition."  Forevermore we had to include that activity in every Christmas.  It got to be a little overwhelming after a few years of "traditions" stacking up.  I remember whispering to Patient Husband once as we came up with a "new" thing to do, "Oh,'t bring that one up. I can't take another tradition...I'm exhausted!"
      Young Truman and his elderly cousin Sook began their tradition of making Christmas fruitcakes with Sook's declaration on a particular November morning, "It's fruitcake weather!  Fetch our buggy.  Help me find my hat."  And the adventure began.  Rolling Truman's old wicker baby buggy out to the fields and collecting fallen pecans, they used their pinched pennies saved all year to buy their supplies.  Truman takes us with them as they purchase, bargain, even deal with the man who sells whiskey.
     This is time travel. This is innocence.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas 6

        I'm reading this book to the kids at school this week.  It's one of my absolute favorites and Cynthia Rylant is one of my favorite authors. I love her writing voice, so quiet and calm.  Like listening to someone tell a story about someone they know while sitting on the porch in the evening.
        In this story, she tells of the Santa Train, a train that wound its way through the hills and hollows of the Appalachian Mountains each Christmas.  It's about how important this train is to the children who live back in the hills.  About the man who brings the train each year and tosses a silver package to each of the children waiting for the train to bring them what may be the only gift they'll receive that year.  A toy and socks, or mittens or a hat or scarf.
      In this story Frankie wishes every year for a particular toy and each year waits patiently in the cold along the side of the tracks and hopes.  And it's the story of what Frankie makes of his life.
     I tell you, while I'm reading it you can hear a pin drop in this room and at the end, a gasp from the kids.

I'm also working so hard on the baby quilt for our newest grandchild, a boy, come first of February.   Wow, what a project I've taken on!   These itsy, bitsy pieces!  It's taking a long time at each sitting to do just one stall in the barn.  I still have to do the embroidery outlines and eyes...yikes...eentsy, weentsy pieces!

 These are a little dark because I snapped them as I was leaving this morning and we leave while it's still dark outside.
 I'm changing colors from the pattern, but you already know I'm not a good pattern follower. I change things.
Anyway,  it's hard to work so close to deadline, especially while also reading a good book.  I'm working on Round House by Louise Erdrich and it's very good.  I have one eye on the needle and clock (because I have to be in bed by 9 p.m.) and one eye on the book sitting over there in the chair...waiting for me. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas book 5

 I hope I don't get into trouble by featuring some of the illustrations from this book.  I do it with the best of intentions because they are so charming.   The text in this book is the story of the Nativity according to Luke. But the pictures are all Julie Vivas.  We tend to think of Mary and Joseph as otherworldly. Not bothered by the business of  daily living a real life. But she chose to illustrate this story as it really must have been. No Renaissance artist representation here!  Just remember, Mary was 8-9 months pregnant.  Do you remember what YOU looked like?  How you felt?
 Mary is hanging the laundry when the Angel comes to visit. Of COURSE she had laundry to do!
 The Angel (wearing hiking boots) is telling Mary the news. Over coffee.
 Mary runs to tell Joseph..."Guess what!!!"  And as time goes on, her tummy grows. Of COURSE her tummy grows!
  There's been a decree. It's time to go. We have to go to Bethlehem. Can YOU imagine what you would have looked like trying to get on a donkey  8-9 months pregnant?
 Finally!  Hooray! Can't you just imagine Joseph saying "Now, please! Hang on!"
  Bethlehem is packed.  In the lower right corner you can see Mary and Joseph wondering what to do next.

This book won my heart the minute I saw it and I thank Julie Vivas for shaking our comfort tree a little and reminding us what it must have really been like.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas 4

Asking if you've ever read The Polar Express by Chris VanAllsburg might be like asking if you've ever read The Night Before Christmas.
  Chris VanAllsburg grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  His boyhood home is represented in the book exactly as it was when he was growing up.
   A few years ago when the movie was finally made (after much convincing by Tom Hanks), I was able to take two children from school to the premier that was held FOR children.  There Mr. VanAllsburg told us "This happened to me.  I just wrote it down."  And no one doubted him.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Santa arrives

Santa was here! Santa was here!  Look what arrived!  This is from Pam in Australia!

I am allowed to open the smaller package, and a good thing, too, because I would have opened it anyway and lied!  The bigger package has to wait until THE day. 

 Look at these gorgeous stitched ornaments!
 They're as big as my hand!
I hung them on the white stick tree on our dining table for now...everything on that little tree is red so they feel right at home.

Thank you, Pam! 

Christmas 3

I liked this one because it is NOT about Santa and NOT about the spirit of giving.  This one is set with an immigrant family in New York during the early 1900s.  Pennies are dear and putting enough of them away to buy a proper Christmas dinner is important.  Some weeks before Christmas Mama sends Papa out to buy  a half pound of flour and two eggs.  He comes home with a turkey poult to raise for their Christmas dinner.  "Think of the money we'll save!"  Well, raising a turkey in a tenement apartment, with Christmas looming,  is full of issues.

I loved the attention to detail author/illustrator Brock Cole put into his drawings.  I have many books of photographs by Jacob Riis showing the immigrant/tenement condition and Mr. Cole was fastidious in his detail.  I told the kids when I read it to them last week, "this means the author/illustrator did his homework. What he is showing is true."  Fanciful and colorful but true.  That counts for me.  This book was the one that rose to the top last year with booksellers, the publisher and reviewers.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas book 2

This is patient Husband's favorite Christmas story.  I have it on a CD read by Vincent Price.  Adelaide doesn't like to listen to this while we're driving because,  "The Gwinch ith too thcary, Grandma." And of course he is,  the voice is Vincent Price!  She is interested in the story, she asks questions about it, but she hides when we put the CD away for another year.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Today is December first...already!  Seems like it was just last year....
The daily Thankfuls of November put me in mind to do a daily Christmas book for December.  When the kids were growing up I bought a new Christmas book every year and even though they are long gone with families of their own, I still buy something special every year. I'm going to start this daily feature with the one our family loves the most.

I started reading this book to the kids when they were just about 4 and 6 years old. When they were growing up I read to them every day while they ate breakfast.  We started this one on December first every year.  And for all the years I've read it...and I still do...I still laugh at the beginning and cry at the end. Every year.  When the kids went off to college I gave them their own hardcover copies.  My son would take it to the dining hall with him and read aloud to the table.
"The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers..."  and so it starts.
   Now, imagine never hearing the story of the nativity in your life and you're hearing it for the first time.   Imagine how it seems to kids who are on welfare and have their needs taken care of by social services trying to understand how a woman who is obviously pregnant is turned away.  And what about Herod, out to kill this little baby!  The indignation these six children feel is the turning point in this story and its innocence is priceless.  They decide to become a part of the annual Christmas pageant.   Of course, if the Herdmans are involved things don't go smoothly.
    For many years we started our Decembers with this Christmas story.  I'll read it again this year.  I hope you do, too.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thankful 30

After a whole week on the road, I'm thankful Patient Husband made it home safe tonight.

Thankful 29

I was thankful for an uplifting talk with a friend today.  Also for yet another unusually beautiful November day. Thankful for the full moon shining directly on the lake casting a most beautiful moonbeam on the waves, and Jupiter right there keeping the moon company.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thankful 28

I am thankful today was a calm day. Wednesdays usually aren't.

Thankful 27

Thankful the Christmas shopping is almost done.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thankful 26

I'm thankful it took less than an hour to put the piece back together.  Sigh. 

Thankful 25

Oh, dear.  I was humming along all day long cutting out the bazillion pieces of applique for the new baby's first quilt (due early February).  I cut out all the pieces for the barn.  I hummed along thinking "Oh, this is a good thankful day...I have the whole day to do this without stopping."  I sewed the bits and pieces of the barn together, ironed, it looked so nice.....until at 8 p.m. I held it up for  that  final  aaaahhhhh moment.  And I saw the mistake.  The upside down mistake.  The mistake that was inside all those pieces.  I looked and looked and looked to see if there was a way in without taking the whole thing apart.  And there wasn't. So, while I was thankful ALL DAY LONG for having the time, energy and opportunity to work on this, at 8 p.m. I sat down with the seam ripper and ripped it apart till 9 p.m.   So, what in all of this is there to be thankful for?  Well.....I'm not afraid of the project anymore.  I mean, how bad could anything else be?  And after I ripped it out, I laid the pieces on the table IN ORDER so tonight it will take just a half hour to put back together. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thankful 24

Sometimes it's just the little things, isn't it?   Today, I'm thankful I could get
 from this

to this

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankful 23

Believe it or not it's cold and snowflakes are swirling around.  The lake has 13 foot waves and the roar is deafening.  So we did a few errands and accomplished some Christmas shopping.  Thankful for that!

OH! And last night I finished Ceci's quilt!! Thankful, thankful!

 I used perle cotton and it went just fine now that I'm using the right needles.   

Thankful 22

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful 21

   I'm thankful for a wonderful day with the girls today. 

I took my little sewing machine that I've had since I was a little girl, dug out some squares and Elizabeth was busy for the whole day.
 She took to it like a girl to chocolate. 
 She learned the importance of pinning, the little seam guide and feed dogs. 
It was another one of those beautiful days we cherish in November so after naps we went down to the beach for a run.

After an hour of running, sand play and collecting rocks it was time to go back up those 153 stairs and head home.

They're in bed right now, reorganizing their universe.  Soon I'll go up with my book, lie in one of the other bedrooms so they know they're not alone and they'll settle down.  Tomorrow we take them back home and meet up with our son and his family for Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful 20

   How can I not be thankful for the start of a 5 day holiday weekend? 
   And for the Thanksgiving feast one of the fourth grade teachers puts on for her class - and invites the specials teachers to.  It's a good warm-up for what's coming on Thursday.  The kids had a great time today!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful 19

   Today I'm thankful Santa loads his sleigh early.  These wrapped and secretly addressed goodies are in his sleigh and headed for a mystery friend. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thankful 18

I'm thankful today I got the binding on Ceci's quilt and can now concentrate on turning and finishing it.  I love sewing the binding on a project.  It says "Finished!"

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thankful 17

Today was a hard one.  Hmmm....
     This morning there were 6 deer right outside our back door.  Four hanging around the clothesline, one just inches from the door, one in the field.  Is it ok to be thankful in this first full weekend of deer hunting season that they're still alive?   The other day when I came home as I drove around the curve, they were all hanging around the mailbox (probably checking to see if the package from Amazon came yet.) I told them if they hung close they might live through this hunting season.
     Is it ok to be thankful for the 2.5 hour nap?
     For yet another day of sunshine and warm enough to hang the clothes out?
     How about thankful I made the cookies I make every year - a tradition our grandma started by not letting a Thanksgiving or Christmas go by without them.
     How about being thankful Friend Marilyn's new grandson was born healthy?
     I guess today wasn't so hard after all.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thankful 16

I thank my cousin for giving me my laugh for the day.  And it's only 7:51 a.m.!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful 15

A good friend and I had lunch today.  Thank you, good friend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankful 14

Thankfully my nose is not broken.  I think.  When it lets me touch it it says OUCH! but isn't black and blue.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thankful 13

Today we went to sign me up for Social Security.  Yikes.  One of the pamphlets described me as "old people."  While you are encouraged to do your signup online, we had a couple of questions so made an in-person-appointment.  I'm thankful we did. I joked that our life is pretty mundane but it turned out there were just enough glitches connected to me (so what else is new?) that even the woman helping us said, "it's a good thing you came in." Thankful, thankful, thankful!!

After we left we went to a new place to eat.  As I was walking out I crashed - read CRASHED - my face into the glass wall I thought was the door.  I now know what they mean when they refer to seeing stars.  I think I broke my nose.  We'll see what I look like tomorrow morning.  It's swelling, sore and there's a cut.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thankful 12

I am thankful today that I am home from work one more day.  And thankful I finished making the peppermint patties I make every year at this time.  It's a soothing thing to make, everyone loves them.  Here goes:
 Twelve cups of powdered sugar.
 One 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
 One cup butter, melted and 3/4 teaspoons peppermint oil (NOT extract, use oil)
 Use your scrupulously clean hands to mix.  It really is the only way. (Holy cow! Is my hand really that wrinkly?????)
 Knead till it's the consistency of PlayDoh.
 Form balls about the size of a walnut and flatten. Lay on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
 I layer and layer with cling wrap between the layers. Then cover and put in the fridge overnight to harden.
 Next day melt 4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips with 8 Tablespoons Crisco (or other white vegetable shortening). This sounds yucky (the Crisco part) but it keeps the chocolate from forming that gray crawl.  Drop a pattie into the chocolate and immediately fish out with a fork.
Line them on another cookie sheet lined with parchment. Put in the fridge to set then store in a container with parchment between the layers.  Store in the fridge (or as I do, in tins on the back porch).  They keep forever but since everyone loves them, they don't last forever!