Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rite of passage

       In this family you need to go through a rite of passage to become a full fledged member.  Many primitive tribes require their young to go on dream experiences into the wilderness and if they survive they are accepted as brave and worthy and move on in tribal stature.
      In this family we have a similar rite.  PH is a can-do kind of guy.  Most people think he's a bit insane about this thing but somehow he survives each time, and thus far, so has the initiate.  Our rite requires the initiate to hold something onto the top of the car with what PH considers sufficient ropeage.   One time, I swear to you, we tied a full length couch onto the top of the car with ONE rope tied in a bow.  I was told to hang onto the rope and we headed for the highway to drive 70 miles away at 70 miles an hour. 
      Another time it was a four foot by four foot wooden sandbox for the kids. Again, tied to the top of the car with one rope.  Our daughter's college roommate still begins to shake and sweat when she recalls the trip with her king sized mattress tied to the top of our mid-size car....again with one rope. PH's attitude is "Oh, pshaw...of course we can do it!"  And out comes the rope.  
  Today it was Elizabeth's turn.  The Christmas tree was tied to the top of the car, one piece of twine threaded through the windows twice and she was told to "hang on!"  You can see what she thought of this.  And yes, we made it. Somehow, we always do.
 At the Christmas tree farm we were prepared to go hunt one down for ourselves but as we got there the tractor pulled up with a load of trees they had just cut ten minutes ago.  One of them was the type we wanted so we were saved muddy boots and knees.   It was drilled and trussed and, well...see above.  Turned out to be a baby tree, though.  We've never had a tree this small.  There are a lot of things we are getting used to with this house.  Going from ten foot ceilings to normal ceilings is one of them.

 We spent the afternoon decorating the tree, unpacking boxes and we even decorated the fort.  Elizabeth strung wooden candy canes, PH tacked them up inside.  I found a string of red lights I never use (and wonder why I bought them) around the entrance to the fort.  They were in girly heaven.  Adelaide made a plate of cheese and cracker snacks for everyone to nibble.
 A couple of days ago I made a batch of the chocolateyest, densest, richest, chocolate ice cream you've ever had.  And to make it even better I chopped up ten small peanut butter cups and mixed them in.  The girls wanted to taste test. Just before bed, of course.  Let's feed them chocolate and sugar!  Well.  They couldn't dig that ice cream out of the carton fast enough.  I asked how often they are allowed to eat out of the carton.  Elizabeth held up her hand to form a "zero."  I asked if it was good.  Elizabeth said, "there aren't words."  Adelaide just kept moaning, "can you believe this?" 
I guess it's good!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The day before the day before

"It's the day before the day before Thanksgiving," says Adelaide, and that means we keep them out of Mommy's hair while she prepares for the big day with our family.  Every year we pick the girls up from school on Tuesday and bring them home with us for a couple of days.  Today we detoured to the movies to see the Peanuts movie and then to the Broadway Bar.  It's a little neighborhood bar in a working class old neighborhood my mom grew up in on the west side of Grand Rapids. There isn't much to it but a good burger and fun.  Each holiday they decorate and Christmas is their busiest time. We were there late afternoon but too early for the dinner crowd.

 Elizabeth walked in the door first, stopped in her tracks and said, "WHOA!" Adelaide walked in and said, "Holy Santa Claus!" There isn't a single square inch of this place that isn't decorated.  The chairs all have Santa hat coverings, the walls are completely (COMPLETELY) covered, there are singing, dancing characters, it's a festive sensory overload.
 I gave them 3D glasses to look at the lights with.  Adelaide's made every light look like a snowman and Elizabeth's made every light look like a star.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Here Comes Santa Claus

Last year as we were packing up Christmas and purging things for the upcoming move this stuffed Santa pillow was in the purge pile.  PH came in the house and said, "Santa stays." Now, this Santa was always disrespected around here. He was unpacked each year and propped in a corner and forgotten.  He's kind of big, too. Nobody even remembered he was there till it was time to pack Christmas away and then he wasn't even given a box.  He was just tossed in with whatever.  Little did I know he was an integral part of PH's decor.  So. To keep both of us happy I unstuffed him, cleaned him up and then carefully basted him front and back (so they lined up) with a green pinstripe ticking looking fabric.
 Then I bordered him with my F A V O T I T E  Santa print.  I'd been keeping this print for just the right project. He is the Santa from my childhood and I couldn't use that fabric on just any old thing.
Quilting was a little tricky.  If you notice, the body lines up front to back but the belt goes up in front and down in back.  There's a face on the front but not in the back. And I didn't want to mess up the Santa face border.  This was harder than I thought it would be.  But I used BIG stitches with perle cotton for a casual soft look, worked on it every night  and it was done in a week (so says my calloused finger.)

Friday, November 20, 2015


Product DetailsHot Bread Kitchen: Artisanal Baking from Around the World
                                        by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez  and the bakers from Hot Bread Kitchen

If it were possible to eat this book while reading it I would.  I tried the recipe for Nan-E Barbari, right off the front cover.   It was more focaccia than nan but who cared?  I still ate half of one of the loaves while it was warm and I’m not the least bit sorry.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Books, books

Kids books for two weeks!  If you don't like these posts, you are excused now.  But if you are interested in recommendations for your little and not so little ones, stay with me here!

 Ask your youngsters if they know what a baker's dozen is. More than likely they won't know it's 13.  When I was a kid and we bought our cookies individually or corn from the back of a pickup truck, the 13th was part of the deal. This is the story of the person who truly introduced the concept of  "a dozen means twelve, and then one more."

 This is the true story of how a baker fed George Washington's revolutionary war forces.  And even some of the British "enemy."  I absolutely love the illustrations, all drawn to look like gingerbread cookies.
 Mr. Squirrel finds a runaway wheel of cheese on his branch one morning and is convinced it's the moon and he will be accused of having stolen it. Thus begins his quest to return it to the sky.  The story is a charmer but the illustrations are fabulous.
 And this new one by the same author/illustrator is even cuter.  Squirrel is determined to stay awake long enough to see snow. Deer tells him it's white and soft and cold and he enlists the help of other animals who are up way past their hibernating bedtime to help him experience snow.  Again, the story is really sweet but the illustrations are a winner.
 Here in the U.S. we have the tradition of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade every year.  When I was little we watched on black and white televisions but we always watched this parade every Thanksgiving Day morning.  This is the partly true story of the parade.  I explained to the kids that you can take any historic event and write a story about it but if you change it you have to explain yourself and the changes in author's notes at the end.  In this case the idea of the parade is true, the reason for the parade is true and the consequence of that first parade is true.  But Milly and her family and the role they played is the vehicle author Shana Corey chose to tell this story.  Oh, and Mr. Macy had been dead for 50 years before the first parade in 1924, but that's him in the bottom left corner.
 After you hear the story from Milly you follow up with this one.  In the first couple of years of the parade wild animals from the Central Park Zoo, elephants, camels and bears marched with 1,000 Macy employees in the parade.  But it was when lions and tigers joined the parade and scared the children with their roars and close proximity, that an alternative was sought.  Enter Tony Sarg, marionette expert.  Tony loved to tinker and make things move.  It was his work that gave us the huge balloons we see in parades today.

 We wore this book out at school.  Had to buy a new copy.  And I bought one for myself, too.  It's that repetitive rhyme that follows the form of "I know an Old Lady that Swallowed a Fly."  The kids love it.

And I love this one.  What a little finger paint and your hand and your imagination can do!  The kids are always into this book, it's perfect for your preschooler to first grader. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A little of this and a little of that

Last week when Friend Jan and I pinned our quilts you might have noticed she had something in her hand. Now, I don't do gadgets.  When I go into a quilt shop the last place I look is the nick nack wall. But when Jan showed me how to use this tool to pin a quilt I was so excited the nick nack wall was the first place I went when we stopped in a little shop on the way to lunch. Even better, they had this little tool hanging right there waiting for me.

 This is it.  I'm sure you all know about it and I'm the only one on Planet Quilt that doesn't.  But just in case you are a quilt pinner this little thing will revolutionize your task.  And save your fingers.  In the past by the time I finished pinning a quilt my fingers were always bleeding. Not anymore!  AND!  AND the tool gets the job done in record time.  No wonder we pinned two quilts so quickly. 
 These grooves grab the pointy part of the pin and with a mere whisper of movement on your part the pin is closed.  Amazing!  I'm gushing but it really will change my quilting life.

 Friends Jan and Marilyn came for our once a monthly quilt get together Monday.  In the forest outside our window we could hear a very different bird call.  Suddenly a pileated woodpecker came right to the tree nearest the house, mere feet from the window where we sat.  These birds are huge, as backyard forest birds go.  When I first saw one I declared it was as big as a chicken.  Almost is, for real.  It would fly away, come back, fly away, come back.  So here we are, three 'mature' women standing at the slightly opened sliding door, Jan holding her phone in her hand stuck out the door, tuned to a youtube playing of the pileated woodpecker call.  Marilyn standing next to her poking her head out scouting for a sighting and me dodging from window to window hoping if he/she came back I could zoom in.

Alas, not so lucky.  This is as close as I could get.  But after they left I could hear the bird calling again and when I looked out that window it was hanging onto the staff of the shepherd's hook holding the suet feeder.  Its wings were flapping as he was holding on for dear life feet sliding down the pole. 
I saw him just once today.  Sigh.  Today is the last of the nice days.  Nice enough to take a few minutes to sit outside looking for birds.  Tomorrow our weather finally changes to what it's supposed to be for mid November.  Darn. 

 Santa has packed his sleigh and is off to another country, package in hand for a secret friend.  Hold on tight, Santa.

Saturday I made over 400 peppermint patties and Sunday I chocolated them.  That unpretty one in the lower left corner will go into the container that holds the not so pretties for our personal enjoyment.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Quilty day

    Exactly a year ago we discovered our round robin quilts coming from Germany were lost in transit.  It was a devastating blow and I still deeply mourn their loss.  Three of the eight quilt tops were delivered and mine was one of them.  Dodie and Barb also received theirs.
    Because of my period of mourning and the chaos of moving to a new house I didn't want to start quilting mine until things settled down.  There is a lot of white in it and I didn't want the quilting process to get it dirty during the moving process.
     Now that the holiday sewing is about complete and I can see January on the horizon I asked Friend Jan (whose quilt was one that was lost) to help me pin it.  Once a week Jan quilts with some ladies in a church basement.  The six of them sit around a floor frame and chat while quilting the old way.  Slow. These women are all in their 80's and Jan says she is learning a lot from them.
     One of the conveniences of my former job was having big library tables I could push together to baste my quilts.  Now I don't have those and certainly don't get on my knees on the floor anymore (not with two artificial knees.) Jan said we could use the church tables and today was the day. 

 Here's my quilt, all layered and waiting for pinning. I love it and everyone says it's absolutely me. I made the center square, the four borders were made by our friends in Germany. Getting my nose in there to pin it I saw the incredible detail in fabric choice and impeccable workmanship that went into the quilt.  It will be an honor to quilt it and remember the women who worked this top.
 We spilled the pins in piles that looked like ants on a lollipop and began.
 That third table width made the stretch a little long but Jan was used to the reach from pinning so many church quilts so she took over that section. 
 Then we layered her quilt and set to work pinning.  In about an hour an a half from arriving at the church we had both quilts pinned.  Not a bad morning's work!

On the way home we took a short detour.  Jan wanted to show me these "barn" quilts.  These quilts live on a former dairy farm and when the owners sold the cows the wife had the time to take a stained glass class and she made these!

These are all stained glass!  Aren't they gorgeous!  Imagine your stash being glass!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What She Knew

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Rachel Jenner and her son Ben are out for a walk one sunny Sunday.  Ben asks if he can run ahead to their destination swing.  Rachel has no reason to say no.  But when she gets to where she is supposed to find Ben, he is missing.  Just that quickly, just that close to her.

From there the story turns to the psychology of suspects and police procedure  in the horrific event of a missing child.  Everyone is suspect, especially Rachel.  The media has opinions.  The police aren’t moving fast enough for her, they aren’t looking the way she would look.  They won’t listen to her, a hysterical mother, when she thinks she finds new clues.  She unravels, compounding the problem. 

This new genre of psychological thriller is picking up steam but the psychological part in this story is putting yourself into Rachel’s place and wondering how to deal with a child gone missing.  While the list of suspects is long it’s not always “stranger danger” that we need to be wary of.