Sunday, January 29, 2017

Time to Celebrate!

Yesterday was my birthday and my family pulled out all the stops.  We started the day at Elizabeth's basketball game,  followed by lunch out with PH and then over to our daughter's house for cake.

 Elizabeth baked a birthday cake for me.  From scratch and by herself.

 Look at her concentration as she applied sprinkles.  No shaking a bottle over the top for her! She was going for design.
Yes, I licked!

Now, I knew the evening was going to include dinner out.  They just wouldn't tell me where.  I had a couple of clues (not in Grand Rapids and the place took reservations, not a common thing anymore)  and eventually in the afternoon I guessed, but of course, no one would confirm my guess.  Even the girls knew where and who but wouldn't say, no matter how I prodded.
 The big surprise was that our son and his family joined us (they live two hours away!)  Oh, my goodness, when the kids walked in and I saw them!!  What a stupendous and perfect surprise to be all together!!! I found out that Elizabeth was in on it from the beginning and she never said a word.  I think we can trust her with national security!
 These two just travel in their own little world.  We don't hear a peep out of them, they're too busy planning our destinies. Or theirs.  Who knows, but I think we could let them run the world.
 Next week our little Mike will be four!  His birthday is exactly a week after mine.  Two Aquarians...oh dear!
 The girls
The guys
Almost 43 years ago PH and I were just the two of us.  Now we are eleven and pretty darned proud of them all.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Night With Friends

     Before we moved here we lived on the lake shore (Lake Michigan) and during the winter it snows there a lot.  My brother and SIL escape every winter to Arizona and we would leave our house and move into theirs in Grand Rapids so we could be closer to work and not have to worry for the snowiest months about winter.  This move wasn't something I talked about on my blog( I just pretended I was home) but we did it for seven years.  It was a blessing for us to be within 5 minutes of our jobs instead of an hour.
     Because we were back in the city, we got into the pattern of having friends over on the last Friday in January. It was convenient for everyone, for me it celebrated being in everyone's company without the travel involved for anyone.  We are six (and sometimes, when schedules worked out, eight of us) counting PH and I and I love these people.
     Pat and Karen always listen when I need to talk.  Pat has a way about her that exudes love and kindness.  I once told her, when she was trying to figure something out, she is a class act and people respond to that.  Karen held me together when I was working.  She works SO hard for the benefit of the kids at school.  I was/am in awe of her.
     Pat's Bill is the one you want to be sitting next to anywhere.  He always has a joke or three to tell, his stories as the dad of three daughters are in his repertoire and you will spend your whole time laughing. His heart is bigger than anyone's I know.
     Dave is fascinating, as are his interests.  I wish I had his toy budget!  Photography might be his biggest interest and his work is breathtaking.  I talked his ear off when I was shopping for cameras.  Rather, I listened my ears full.  He plays the ukulele, he loves to cook and is the one who sent the smoked cheeses, bacon and almonds when I last saw Karen.  I blogged about it here  Karen said his next project is to learn to make sausages.
     The best thing?  It's hard to get a word in edgewise because we're all telling stories at once and laughing till our cheeks hurt. 
     So, tonight is the night and for weeks before I wander through cookbooks and -sigh- Pinterest looking for ideas.  I have a hard time with pork loin.  It's always so dry it's hard to choke down.  I've tried every which way and even made one as a trial run last weekend and had our daughter and her family here to taste test.  They said it was good, but I thought it was dry. I'm a good cook, if we're patting people on the back, but pork loin gets the best of me every time.
     Wandering around the meat section of the grocery store I saw pork tenderloin was on sale - a very good sale so I went with it.  I found a nice idea of stuffing it with pears, blue cheese and a rosemary sprig.

I put together two of these. Sure looks good!  I know I'll have my fingers crossed and fret the whole time it's cooking.   If it doesn't work, there's chocolate cake with salted caramel/smoked almond ice cream.  Dave's smoked almonds.
    I finished, except for the legs, the third raven/crow.  I am changing the blocks by adding or subtracting or moving things.  I am still struggling with the design being so close to the edge but that's what I get for following the designer's direction on how much fabric to purchase for the background.
    I finally met my next door neighbor and she's a quilter!  She had been admiring my wall from the street and due to recent coincidences PH saw her and told her to come see it up close and knock on the door.  So, last Sunday, she did!  I invited her to come to the quilt group I go to twice a month, and the next day she came!  She is also new to the town and was also looking for people to quilt with so it's all good!

Sunday, January 22, 2017


When I was working in an elementary school library I fell in love with Lois Ehlert's books.  Intended for the preschooler in text, the illustrations are gorgeous for anyone.  I loved the simple lines and materials she chooses to illustrate her books.  All of her books are illustrated with only cut out paper
with very few exceptions and the exception is always something natural.  I decided when I retired that I would like to make a quilt and each square would be an illustration from one of her books.  After going to a book conference years ago and meeting her and having the time to really talk with her, I came away even more determined. But it's hard keeping up with her!
 I started at the library
 And then I went through each book looking for an image that I liked, no other requirement. It just had to be something I really liked.
 From Color Zoo I chose the goose.  It's a bird.  The lines are severe. It really speaks goose.
 Not finished yet, but here's my interpretation.  I am trying my best to stay with her colors but I'm also determined to use my stash.
 This is my favorite of all her books.  I love, love, love each page so decided to go with the cover.
 The nose is even a fussy cut strawberry.  Not finished yet, either.  The bird needs the popcorn.
 For Boo to You! I also chose the cover.
 Still have to finish the teeth.  In her illustration the teeth are pumpkin seeds. I used rick rack for the cat and fussy cut bright yellow flowers for the eyes. The nose IS a fussy cut cherry. The orange background is a deeper shade than it shows here.
 Nuts to You. Ugh, will I really be working a squirrel square?  They are getting more and more bold in the yard but I will do a page. Sigh.
 I chose this one. 
 I make a copy of the page so it's exactly to scale, trace the design onto white paper and then make the applique templates from the white page.  Then I go looking for fabric.
 I keep putting off this square but I'll do it soon because there is only one more that is waiting before choosing and prepping more.
 This one is also the cover of Top Cat and the process.  It's almost done.  Cat just needs a pupil for the eye.

This is Ms. Ehlert's newest book.  I saw it in the bookstore last week and this week the library had it. It's quite small so I decided it could be done quickly.  I'll cut the pieces today, I think.

The idea for this quilt is a slow process only because I'm making it slow.  It needs to be speeded up a bit with a little more attention paid.  I like to prep a page or two or three and keep it ready for when I go to a quilt group meeting.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Not Alone

 I know I'm not alone in my feelings about the result of our election, and I know I'm not alone in the frustration of thinking that no matter how bad he got, it was never bad enough to be taken down and that others before him had their careers end over slights that were far, far less than his.  I KNOW it but today I SAW it when I went to Lansing to join my sister-in-law at the women's rally at the capitol.
 We estimated 10s of thousands of people and not all of them were women, some carrying signs, some not, but everyone was there to be seen and counted.
This was the very first sign I saw and for me, it said it all.  Meryl Streep's platform at the Golden Globes awards was exactly and precisely what I had been saying for many months.  No one listens to me.  Everyone listens to her and I am so glad she said it.
 This was another thing I have been saying for months and months.  Poor PH.  How many times have I ranted, "we don't allow KINDERGARTENERS to act like this. Why is HE getting away with it!!!"
It was a good way to get a little of the angst out of my system and to be with like minded people who just want to be counted.

That's the end of politics.  No more.

Friday, January 20, 2017


    I don't use my blog for political purposes.  Politics is a touchy subject with people.  I never before felt like it filtered down far enough to my life to make a huge difference.  And I never felt like there was anything lil' ol' me could ever do to change the minds of those who DO make the decisions.  Politicians wipe their feet on people like me.
     But today I am profoundly and deeply affected.
     I handled today by declaring it a day of fasting.  There would be no television, newspaper, radio, Facebook strolling, nothing that would put the events of today in front of me. Nothing that would make me hear his voice, see his face or read his name in a headline. Nothing that would force me to accept what is happening to us, our country and our world.  Your world, too.
   Today would be a day where I ran and hid.  I left this morning and ran an errand or two, took myself and my book to lunch at Pot Belly's, bought a dark chocolate/almond/dried cherry candy bar and went to the movie theater to see LaLaLand. I knew a few things about that movie.  It was getting rave reviews from everywhere, there was a lot of singing and dancing, which would make me smile, and PH would have not enjoyed it. It would be a good choice for today. The reviews are right, it's wonderful and was the perfect choice.
    During the drive I continued listening to the audiobook I keep in the car.  The title is  Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and it's FANTASTIC.  If you don't listen to audiobooks then go to the library or bookstore and get the book.  It's a fascinating memoir look at apartheid in South Africa and even very funny.
    I just got home to a very quiet house.  Usually upon coming home I switch on the radio to NPR or the TV to reruns of Bones for background but today, right now, I'm listening to Roberta Flack while I tell you about my day of fasting and mourning.
    PH and I are going to forgo the inauguration dinner party at his brother's house tonight because I'm too much of a mess and he's supporting my decision to not go.  He just called and said to choose someplace for dinner tonight, his treat, so I don't have to be home during the evening newscasts and he won't be tempted to turn on the TV before the news is over for the night.  Thank you, PH.  When I hung up, I started to sob.  Tears are rolling down my cheeks and I type this with blurry eyes.  Good thing I know the keyboard.
     I have been profoundly, deeply affected by the outcome of this election because I just don't understand how someone so monstrous could be elected and we are supposed to look to this person as our leader and feel good in his hands, feel confident that smart decisions will be made. It - HE - makes my gag reflex work overtime and I live in fear for our lives.  Literally. 
    UPS just came and delivered my next book for review.  In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, something I want to know more about.  Maybe Roberta Flack wasn't the right choice.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

     Oh.  My. Goodness.  What a story! I mean really!  It took a couple of pages to get into Lillian’s head, to realize she is one feisty woman who has standards, who lived her life her way, and once I did get into her head I couldn’t and wouldn’t have fought my way out. 
     Lillian Boxfish came to New York City in 1926 ready to begin her life.  She finds a job with R.H. Macy’s Department store writing advertising copy.  She is witty, she is smart, she knows how to hook  the interest of the customer with her poetry and humor in ways not used today, and eventually in the 1930’s she is the highest paid advertising woman in the country.  She is also the published author of four volumes of poetry.  But that comes later.
     Tonight is New Year’s Eve 1984 and Lillian ate so many Oreo cookies ( that she didn’t even want nor can recall buying and wonders why they are even in the house ) she is afraid she won’t be able to eat the dinner she planned to eat at her favorite restaurant around the corner.  So she takes a walk.  Lillian walks. She’s always walked and in her walking she stayed sane, tuned in to her world and her thoughts. She said walking saved her life. 
     But, again, back to tonight, New Year’s Eve.  Lillian begins her walk and each part of her walk brings her into contact with people she interacts with. People who find a lone 84 (or maybe it’s 85) year old woman in a mink coat, funky hat and tights hard to not talk to.  A limousine driver, a pregnant woman, a bodega clerk, children, a security guard, muggers, she shows interest in all of them and a respect that unsettles them and then continues on her walk.  She leaves all of them a bit befuddled as she walks away, that five minute conversation enriching us.
     It’s New Year’s Eve and she ends up walking 10 miles around New York City and as she walks she thinks and as she thinks she tells us her story as she passes the landmarks of her life.  Lillian has always looked to be an independent woman who insisted on being allowed to be independent. Spending this night her way is just expected.  After awhile we are right there with her but boy, my feet would be tired long before hers were!
     The biographical points are based on real life Margaret Fishback, who held the same position at R. H. Macy’s, wrote four volumes of poetry, married the head carpet buyer for R. H. Macy’s and had one son. But that’s just the biographical part.  The author imagined Lillian’s life and it’s a treasure.  Under no circumstances let this one get away from you!  Wow.  Run, don't walk to the bookstore.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ice Day

   We were woken by the telephone ringing at 8 a.m. this morning asking if we wanted company for the day.  We were apparently in the throes of another ice day and schools were closed.  Of course we wanted company.  What else would we do all day?  Nap? 
 The first thing they asked was if they could bake.  Remember, they are mad scientists in the kitchen and there is no measuring.  I had to talk them into butter today.  Elizabeth thought of cookies and Adelaide wanted to do cupcakes.
 That dough is finger lickin' good.  They wouldn't care if nothing went into the oven.

 Elizabeth's dough was more cupcake than cookie and she was good with the change of plan.  It really didn't matter because they eat most of the dough anyway.
 Adelaide ground up half of 6 golden Oreos and put that into her dough.  She planned on using the frosting half as a topper for her cupcakes.  When the cupcakes came out of the oven she topped them with the half cookie, frosting side down so it would melt.  She does know what she wants.
 They frosted them and then ate a goodly amount of the frosting.  

 With a sugar high heading straight for us I thought we needed something a little more sedate to do so we cut out heart shapes from an old discount store quilt that I had broken apart years ago.
 We chose floss from the huge collection of embroidery floss that was my mom's.  There are hundreds and hundreds of colors and when she couldn't do her embroidery anymore she gave them all to me. Elizabeth would have and could have taken all of them into her hoard but I saw the look in her eyes and said that we had to pick SOME colors. 
 I showed them the running stitch but it was easier for them to stab stitch around the edges.
 There was concentration for about 30 minutes tops.

 And then I lost control of the day.  And the camera.  It was the sugar. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson

Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson by Nancy Peacock

    Persy knows he is going to die in two days. Outside his cell he can hear his scaffold being built. In his remaining two days he wants to tell his story, his side of it, he doesn’t know if anyone will read it but in the telling, he needs to know that by reliving it he can justify his existence.
  Persy begins his story in 1860 on the auction block where he meets his soon to be master and Chloe.  Both Persy and Chloe are purchase and taken to Master Wilson’s sugar cane plantation where Persy is set to the fields to cut cane from “can see to can’t see” and Chloe is made a companion to Master Wilson’s sickly wife.  Because of circumstances when they were purchased, Persy dedicates his life to looking out for Chloe.  Life cutting cane isn’t tortuous but the idea that sometimes he actually gets to meet up with Chloe keeps him alive.
Just before the Union Army takes New Orleans Wilson quickly abandons his plantation and the slaves that haven’t escaped in the confusion, and heads for Texas.  In a jealous fit, Wilson shoots Persy, leaving him for dead, and takes Chloe for his.  She is light skinned and can pass for white so he introduces her in Texas as his wife.
Persy survives the attempt on his life and sets out to find Chloe, putting in motion his years wandering the Texas wilderness, making new friendships, learning new skills.  He is captured by the Comanche, where he discovers he will be judged solely on his bravery, skills and loyalty and he comes to embrace life as a Comanche where he comes to be respected and accepted as a person, not as a black man who would never be able to live as a free man.  But always, he looks for Chloe.
Reading this I wondered just how much more a person could take but Persy’s enduring drive to do what was needed to rescue his love and keep a promise is a testament to loyalty.