Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Smells

 Well, here we are at the end of  2020,  holding it by the tail and doing some swift turning in the yard hoping to fling it as far away as possible.  Round and round we go gathering speed ready to let it go.  And hope it stays gone. We don't know what our new normal will be like, and I'm sure there will be a whole lot of  "we USED to be able to...." and I'm sure I'll be heard muttering it now and then but really, no one wants to hear it because it's quite obvious and sometimes when we look back, we see the effects of out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new.  We are always changing and bringing in the new we just normally don't do it all at once.     

    Christmas had a different look for everyone this year and if you manged to keep a stiff upper lip and carry on as best you could or found new ways to muddle through then good for you! Not being able to see friends or go to parties or open houses brought me to thinking of what COULD happen. What's left?  It brought me to thinking of the smells of this month.  

    So many smells. Fresh pine trees in the living room, scented candles lit in the evening, peppermint hand washing soap, and above all, cinnamon.  Cinnamon was everywhere in the house.  Even though it's just PH and me I do love to bake and did my fair share of it because to be real, it was about the only thing I COULD do.

I started the month with sticky parkin cake.  I noticed a small notice in a magazine from England about sticky parkin cake.  I contacted the magazine and they sent the recipe.  I also contacted Brian  and he sent a recipe even though he said he'd never heard of it.  I used his recipe.  Now, there were a couple of things I had to improvise on, but that's how I roll anyway so no problem there.  The biggest was the spice mix.  Apparently England has this blend that from the sound of it you can only get there, called Mixed Spice. Later on I looked it up and it's a mix of Cassis cinnamon (which I do have), coriander, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves all in certain proportions. Well, for this cake I read that as Allspice.  It's not the same but I used it anyway.  I improvise all of the time and it's as close as I could come.   With sticky parkin cake the trick is not to eat it till it's aged in a tin for at least five days.  The longer you wait the stickier it gets.  Well, they weren't kidding!  If you like spices and fork and finger licking this is really, really, really a tasty treat.  I savored it.
These gingerbread crispy cookies had to be kept in the freezer in the garage so if I was going to have any I had to work for it. I rolled them thinner than the recipe called for so they were crisp.  I like to dot one chocolate chip in the middle of gingerbread.  Molasses was NOT to be found on store shelves so no molasses cookies this year.  I made a few snowballs, some cut outs and chocolate teddy bears for the kids.
This stollen is one of my favorites and it makes three very large loaves ( !!! ) so I eat one, send one down the street to daughter's house and freeze one.  Next year I think I'm going to make some of  it in smaller muffin like loaves. Who doesn't like the smell of bread baking? 

So far the smells have been spicy and bakey.  But then I did this.  You have to smell  chocolate, too, right?  I got the bright idea to make hot chocolate bombs.  This was something new to me.  I thought I'd make them for the kids.  I had to order this mold first.  I ordered in November and it just came Dec. 23.  I spent the afternoon playing with the concept of a hot chocolate bomb.  After watching YouTube demos I thought, "How hard can it be? I know how to do stuff."  If you don't know what it is (and I didn't,)  it's a circle of chocolate filled with hot chocolate mix and marshmallows. Look it up.  It's all over YouTube.

Well. I can't believe I am even showing this pathetic excuse for an un-decorated hot chocolate bomb.  I learned a few things. More than a few.  I learned a lot of things!  It was recommended NOT to use chocolate chips because they aren't really bomb friendly. Chocolate chips aren't good for anything but cookies.  I have plenty of good chocolate so that wasn't an issue.  I tempered some dark and semi-sweet chocolate together.  Here's what I learned: 

    1)  wear gloves so fingers don't leave prints.  

     2) good chocolate is far more delicate than not good chocolate - I knew that but don't usually play with my chocolate.  I eat it.

    3) make the chocolate shell a lot thicker than you might think is necessary and when they say to really build up the rim?  They mean it.

     4) don't try mending a  hole by holding a spoon over a flame and then smoothing it over a small hole in the bomb.  Hot spoon + chocolate = bigger hole.  Geez. What a mess.

     5) mending isn't recommended.  Just remelt the thing. Or use it for a demo piece if you've already added the hot chocolate mix in the bottom half. 

    6)  Chocolate will be EVERYWHERE so don't wear white.  What a mess.  Chocolate was everywhere.  The kitchen looked like I gave a container of melted chocolate to a gang of hyper active toddlers.

I did get six bombes to take to the girls this evening and they will like them and I'll get better at it.  I do understand now why they sell for $5.00 each in the shops.  And I'm glad the mold didn't come till it was too late to make them for our Christmas. 

We had a plan, we had rules, we all agreed that if we had to change things up for this year so we could be together then that's what we would do. And we were able to have a Christmas with the kids last weekend. Our plan? First of all, no judging allowed or invited but this was our plan.  We ALL got tested, we were ALL negative, we then locked the doors, stayed home, away from ANYONE and thus stayed negative. PH and I did take a daily walk but we were alone, saw no one and that was allowed. There would be no overnight visit this year, everyone would wear a mask at all times unless you were putting food into your mouth, air purifiers were going in all rooms, windows open a few inches on both sides of the house for air flow, two dining tables were set up for spacing,  food was set out buffet style and ONE person from each family would fill all plates for that family. This meant we all could be safely together for a day. We all agreed, we all did it, we had a wonderful day and PH and I are still basking in the glow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Walking Granny

      For Michigan in mid-December our weather has been darn right balmy. By that I mean the high 40's F and just right for a walk.  We are isolating/quarantining ourselves so our negative covid test stays that way in hopes of seeing our grands for a few hours for Christmas.  We are all being diligent, careful, solitary and practically tip toeing to stay well.  But one thing PH and I can do and we Do do is go for a daily walk.    

     I have a broken toe that I'm nursing myself with tape and tight shoes and socks so "going for a walk" has a different meaning right now. Not far. Not fast.  But you don't let December days like this go by without getting out into them.

     This is where we like the best.  This new bridge is, I discovered after reading the sign board, over 550 feet long and is the longest timber framed bridge in North America.  It's pedestrian, nothing faster than a bicycle is allowed, and it's truly beautiful and it's OURS, right here in lil' ol' Lowell.
     We've been walking it almost every day because these December days are perfect right now.  So perfect the pickle ball courts at one end of the bridge are full and busy and in the thin cool air you can hear the thwack of the ball being hit as you walk all the way across the bridge.
     It's a favorite walk with Friend Laurie winter snow or not.  No matter when, spanning the river and watching the wildlife and visiting with a friend or PH is beautiful.  The other day PH and I just stood quietly and watched a family of muskrats building their winter home.

Today I finished the granny square quilt top.  I have to say this was more fun than I figured on having, loved the bright colors against that traditional black, loved pairing them up to make something bright and traditional looking. With just a couple of exceptions they all have a piece of gingham in them.  Now I have a quandry on how to quilt it.  I don't want to use black thread on the grannies and I don't want to use white thread on the black, so right now I'm thinking I'll use both.  Still haven't dug into the stash for a backing possibility, I finished the sewing (yes, on the machine) took it outside for the picture, folded it up and put it in the closet with the two tops from the previous post. There's time to think.  Besides I pinned five quilts to get me through this winter so all of my pins are spoken for.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020



I've been tinkering with a few things lately.  It's amazing when you're stuck at home but don't feel like dusting what you can fill your time with. Truly, I am not a prolific quilter.  I don't use the machine if I can help it but sometimes I just have to do like I do when I fix the toaster.  Shut myself in a room, put in the earplugs and go it alone.  Maybe, just maybe, what I want a project to look like in the end actually will.

I saw a picture of a quilt made with strawberries done this way and thought it was a fun thing to do so I rummaged around my scraps, again bigger pieces saved for who knows what.  I knew I wouldn't want a whole quilt from this but if I liked it then I'd get a useable piece.  I downloaded a strawberry clip art I liked the shape of, took it to the library to enlarge it, laid the pattern out and cut.  Now I'm really anxious for strawberry season.  This really was easy peasy.
Years ago I bought this piece because I loved it.  Thank goodness I bought yardage of the houses and the blue flower print.  Everytime I looked at it I smiled but I just couldn't cut into it.  So yesterday I decided not to.  Again I rummaged around for something to put between the houses and the blue to break it up and found enough sweet green.  Now it's a panel top. 
I think to quilt it I'm going to outline the houses.  I can't wait to get my hands on this one.
 I finally got the squares cut for the granny square quilt.  I'm surprised at how fussy these little buggers are  to piece.  One down,
Twenty nine more to go!  These are all paired up ready to go.

In the evening I'm quilting the sheepbunny quilt.  Have I told you about the sheepbunny quilt?  I'm a blue person and when I saw this online I was very excited to do this quilt.  I got the pattern and cut them out and appliqued them, another easy peasy.  Well, one day I was describing the quilt to friends Barb, Sally and Marilyn at retreat and I described the critters as sheep.  But it wasn't until I got in the car and was describing them in detail to Marilyn and got to the ears that I realize, "OH!  They aren't sheep, they're bunnies!"  So I started calling it the sheepbunny quilt.  As I was going through my stash what did I find for sashing?  Sheep!  It was meant to be.
This one is upside down but you get the idea, I'm doing the cross hatch in the white, marking one row at a time and working on it in the evening while we watch TV.  

Someday I'll get the  house dusted.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Memory Trees


Do you have your Christmas tree up yet? We always put ours up the day before Thanksgiving, which is the fourth Thursday in November. Our tree is not a professional decorator's.  I've likened ours to a charm bracelet. There's no rhyme or reason to the decorations, I use found objects and a few other dangly things that sparkle, or not.  It's a mixture for sure, there are silver spoons dangling from ribbons, there are small cups and there's a tea caddy and all of the ornaments received from the Secret Santa exchange Chooky organized for years. There's a key fob Jenny brought from Australia when she came to visit front and center.

The one thing I think Christmas trees should do is make us smile and remember.  Some have decorations that have passed down through the years and opening the boxes each year brings back memories and good feeling.  When our kids were little each year we gave our daughter an angel ornament and our son a toy soldier ornament. Each year the new ornament was the first to go up.  When they got married and left home their box of ornaments went with them. The year our daughter was in Scotland at St. Andrews we sent her a handmade ornament in the family plaid and had a double here at home.  Our angels at the top of our tree are the ones they made from construction paper when they were in preschool.  They are at the very tippy top and getting more fragile every year.

But the things I like most are the photographs.  One year I was missing the littles and thought if I put their photos tucked into the branches they are there every morning when the tree is plugged in and watered, saying "Good morning!"  Sometimes I tuck in birthday invitations from that year.  Sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I tuck in school photos and sometimes I don't.   It changes.  I have our son's press pass dangling from when he was honored to be chosen to be at a panel discussion with four former U.S. Presidents. He was in high school.
Some of the photos are from when the littles were very little

The Santa visits of our son and daughter from over 40 years ago
This is our Adelaide.  It's the ONE photo I have of her eating fruit.  She won't eat fruit.  She won't even eat pink icing on a cupcake because she doesn't trust that you didn't flavor it strawberry.  Well, I tell her that I have photographic proof that at one time she DID eat fruit.  But she doesn't anymore. So this one usually makes it onto the tree.
Some are when everyone was a lot younger.  In the top photo Charlie wasn't a year old yet but this year he turned 15. Below that the littles are helping grandpa blow out his candles. A long time ago.
If your tree looks like ours, a conglomeration of everything, tucking in a few photographs of your favorite people are ornaments I can guarantee will make you smile.

Friday, November 20, 2020


 I will be the first to raise my hand when asked if this techie stuff is confusing. I will be the first to ask for help. Usually, I am afraid to click the button because I imagine smoke coming from the keyboard if I do.   

So. A bit ago I was having problems with one particular blog post, getting over a hundred spammy comments and I reached out to Donna to help me.  She did. Thank you, Donna.

Today I got an email notification for another one of those spammy comments on that same blog and when I went to delete and send them away forever (I hope)  I noticed the "moderate" button and that many, many comments from many of you were awaiting moderation.  Well!  I never knew that little button was there, much less there was a whole line of you behind it who have been commenting for months and I never said "ok."   Geez.  

So, I allowed all of your comments, all from friends, that is,  and apologize for ignoring you.  I wouldn't ignore you. I just didn't know you were there.   And it's interesting that your comments didn't come to my email but they didn't.  Don't stop visiting, please! I will try to remember that little "moderate" thing is there.  


Thursday, November 12, 2020

It's Just a Big Chicken

     It's really just a big chicken but like many large things size can be intimidating so if you are the one charged with cooking a turkey and you've never done it, well, all I can say is really, it's just a big chicken. This year I expect there will be many, many first timers who always relied on someone else to cook the turkey.

    For those of us in the U.S. Thanksgiving is all about being with people, whether they are your family or not, and it's all about food.  It's not about gifts or wish lists or candy canes, it's about the turkey.  It's about walking into the house if you are the guest and smelling that once in a year aroma and if you are cooking it's all about spending the day smelling that aroma.  Whether you are the one spending the whole week ahead of the holiday shopping, prepping, making lists, setting the table and shining the silver or if you are the one who shows up with a pie, it's all about two things, your family and friends and the turkey.  It's about bringing out your best dishes, the once-a-year china.  It's about looking over recipes for new ideas that just won't fly because this is a day for traditions.  This is the one day you are supposed to have everyone's favorite side dish there for them, even if that one person is the only one who eats it. It is not a day for trying anything new.  It's about dressing a little nicer, showing up hungry, bringing an apron so you can help with the dishes.

                  The turkey is the star of the show, center stage, taking a bow,

    This year will probably see most of us breaking with tradition as we find a small frozen turkey breast at the store or warm up a frozen dinner while we Skype, FaceTime, Zoom with our families and friends.  It will be quiet.  It will be solitary.  It might be daring if you've done the homework in preparation by isolating for the two weeks ahead of time, taken everyone's temperature, wore masks and promised no hugging.  As of today, we aren't sure what's going to happen with our little family.  We are taking it day by day and in the end it will be the one who cooks the turkey who makes the call because it takes awhile to thaw out a 26 pound turkey that's really just a big chicken.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Jumping off the Bridge

    I thought the last four years was stressful but this past week has been triple that times 10.  The angst on Wednesday was beyond anything I could imagine and it's only slowly easing.  Slowly.  At one point in the day on Wednesday I told someone I was going to get my hair done then find a bridge to jump off.

    But upon reflection I realized that wasn't such a good idea.  I came to the conclusion after Jenny in Australia called me to FaceTime, FaceTiming with Dodie in Florida, getting emails from Elke in Germany and Brian in England that I have friends all over the world who are worried about me and my blood pressure maybe jumping off a bridge wasn't such a good idea. I would miss them and I can't swim.

This morning I heard from Donna in Australia wondering how Gail and I were doing.  I told her I didn't know if it was possible to be happy and heartbroken at the same time but that's about it. Happy that a decent, upstanding, man with scruples is going to be elected, and heartbroken that fully half of the U.S. voted for more of the hate, bigotry and meanness of the past four years. 

Thank you good friends for checking on me.

News just in. So is Joe Biden.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Not Much But Something

Not much happening at the end of my needle lately.  I'm taking an achy fingers break BUT I did finally finish all of the components for the butterfly quilt.  They just need to be trimmed and then connected. Hooray!  I mean really....HOORAY.
The things you find when you go through closets and cupboards looking for something else.  I'm a tote bag queen.  I love them, use them for everything and have some designated as 'clean' so only clean things can go inside, like fabric and projects and books (no corn on the cob in these.)  So the other day I found a couple of things I didn't know I had.  This stripe is a pillow.  Was a pillow.  A small cot pillow.  The inside lining is cloth napkins repurposed. Straps are long-ish for holding over the shoulder.  There were two so I made two.  Just the right size for going to the library.
This one!  I have no idea where I got this geranium fabric.  It's older, it's probably a home decorator piece for drapes or something that I must have found at an estate sale. I LOVE red geraniums and got quite excited to see I had this piece in the pile.  So, I trimmed it minimally and let it see the light of day as a tote. I can't wait till spring to use it.  This one makes me smile big.

There are more hunks and pieces in the cupboard and more totes will be happening but I think I'll wait till deep, dark winter.




Monday, October 19, 2020

Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall

 Well, maybe 90 butterflies.  This isn't all of them.  I ran out of table, someplace to lay them out.  I think this quilt is going to be bigger than I'm comfortable hand quilting but I won't send it out to be machine quilted.  I've spent way too much time nose to needle with these insects and won't give up the project for someone else to finish.  But boy, I'm getting tired of them.     I can finish about 2 in an evening so it's taken the better part of my life these past couple of months.  When these are finished there are three coneflower pieces to be appliqued but that's ok, they're different from the butterflies.   I've had fun with them, though, too.  Using bigger scraps, paring pretties.   There are nine left to go. Eighty-one bottles of beer on the wall.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

weekend wonders


 This was probably the last of the most beautiful weekends of this fall.  The leaves are stunning and bright and yes, they are falling.  The weather was blue sky bright and sunny and not cold.

 So we spent the weekend with PH's brother and SIL, quilt buddy, Joyce at their cabin and helped rake leaves. I tried counting how many oak trees they have on their cabin property but gave up.

Joyce and I did the raking, the boys did the hauling to the dump

And we burned, and burned and
burned some more

The push was to make spring raking easier by getting the acorns picked up in the fall. You might think well, leave them for the squirrels or deer.  But no, when there are seven hundred trillion of them even the squirrels and deer can't keep up.
We worked really hard but the four of us got it done and were rewarded with wine, beer and a game or several of cards in the sun.
My reward was robbing the squirrels and deer of a bag full of acorns.  I have a crafty project in mind but I am also going to try eating them. A new thing to try.  Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020