Monday, November 29, 2010

Birthday Girl Bloggy Stuff

So, today's my birthday. I've had a lot of them, but you've never really had a birthday until you've had a facebook birthday -- I could not believe all the good wishes I received from my FB friends. 99. Yes, 99 happy birthday posts. I love facebook, and I'm not ashamed to say it.

Besides fb, I also had awesome hugs from my friends in kindergarten, and a big boxful of cupcakes which we all enjoyed. Then I played a funeral, rang the bell for the Salvation Army outside of WM and made turkey pot pie for birthday supper. Clay made my favorite cake -- the Barefoot Contessa's chocolate laced angel food with chocolate ganache -- and we had a great supper together, did Tommy's homework and played Uno. Perfect. (Just a note for next year -- chocolate ganache on angel food doesn't support candles very well -- the lit 5 and the 1 slid right down the angel food well.)

So, now back to my blog basics: knitting, reading and cooking.

As for the cooking, I think I'm going to try to post my favorite Christmas cookies here in December. But, no promises -- I'm done with bloggy promises.

Reading: I finished The Fiery Cross on the long drive home from Hilton Head. I had taken two other books with me, but didn't even crack them. I did, however, read some things on my new nook, which was an early birthday present from Maggie. I really balked at the idea of an e-reader, just like I had balked at audio books. But the nook is amazing. I can dry my hair, read and turn the page with just a little push of a button -- so much easier than trying to keep a book open with my hairbrush. So, on the nook I'm reading Julia Child's My Life in France. I love her. And, Pride and Prejudice was free on the nook, so I'll always have a Jane book with me.

Knitting: Here's my pal Teresa's stocking completed:
It's a little bigger than the ones her grandmother knit, but it's a pretty close copy. Teresa was happy, so I am, too.

After I finished Teresa's, I decided to knit stockings for the boys, and I got a lot done on them on vacation. I'm using the Cascade Yarns Christmas Stocking pattern with Knit Picks Wool of the Andes. Thanks to EZ ("Knit on with confidence and hope!"), I figured out the afterthought heel, and feel a great sense of accomplishment! I did, however, follow the advice of pals on Ravelry who did not knit an extra round between the decrease rounds on both the heel and toe -- great advice!
Tommy's, in Notre Dame colors (sort of) to commemorate his first ND football game this fall:

Nate's These still need to be blocked and lined, but they were a pretty quick knit. I do love fair isle, and an seriously considering a sweater for myself. Paul's stocking is currently in progress; Will suggested I do it in Harley colors, and I think he was right. Picture soon.

I had picked up some chunky Misti Alpaca at Mass Ave. a couple of months ago, and Maggie thought it would make a great hat. So, here it is:
She, too, was right -- it is soft and warm and just looks like something she would wear. This is a single rib pattern -- I cast on 70, knit in the round until it was about 7", then started decreasing. For my own future reference, to decrease in a 1x1 rib, knit 1 then purl 3 together every other round until you get the shaping you like and get down to 6 to 8 stitches.

I also completed a potato chip scarf -- the "cast on 20, k8, turn, k8, turn, k6, turn, k6, turn, k4, turn, k4, turn, k20, repeat" scarf (once again, that's for my own reference!) It's a very popular pattern at Knit Night, courtesy of Cottage Knits, but it sure isn't quick! Well, not for me, but that might be because I knit it on #8's with a mohair/acrylic 2-strand. But, it's finally done and on its Christmasy way.

More soon. Peace.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A New Year

Today's not only the beginning of Advent and a new Church year, but it's also our 28th wedding anniversary and tomorrow's my 51st birthday -- seems like a good day to reflect and renew.

I have such a good life, a life I never expected. This is certainly not where I expected to be -- back in my hometown, 1/2 mile from where I grew up.
This is not what I expected to be doing; when I graduated from high school, I thought when I was 50 I'd be writing for a magazine, doing mission work and adopting children from around the world to live and work with me on my little farm. I could never even dream that I would have three children I adore, three grandsons I can't get enough of and a husband who . . . well, who is just beyond words. Who knew I could love him more every single day?

Life here isn't perfect, but it's so good.

And as for Advent and Christmas, I'm going to take the advice of Ann, who stumbled upon my blog and whose blog I enjoyed reading: My wish for you is that you have joy in your preparations. Do only the things that are meaningful to you and experience them with all your might.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Really? November's almost over?

How did that happen? I had such high hopes for profuse blogging this month. And, I had a lot to blog about. I lost a dear friend to cancer, celebrated my 50th year by taking a trip to Hilton Head, and tried to make a big decision about reducing my activities.

I have big hopes again, for Advent, but if you've followed this blog for long, you know to not hold your breath.

Before tomorrow, then, I leave you with my last (and 3rd) blessing/saint/soup post:

My favorite saint, who I have written about before here, is St. Therese of Lisieux, who is also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and The Little Flower. Even though she had sickness and tragedy in her life, she was a big blessing counter. I'd like to think we have that in common.

And here is my last soup recipe. Easy and delicious.

Black Bean Soup
2 - 15 oz. cans of black beans, rinsed
2 - 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes
2 - 4 oz. cans chopped green chilies
1 - 11 oz can whole kernel corn
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
4 cups chicken stock
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced thin

Toss everything in a big pot. Bring to an almost boil, turn down heat, cover and simmer for at least 1/2 hour and enjoy! This would be very easy to make according to your own taste -- IE, more corn, less chilies, etc. And, if you toss the sausage around in a hot skillet for a bit to give it a little sear, it ups the flavor.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day/All Souls' Day/Soup Day

Today, on All Souls' Day, I remember my dad, whose favorite holiday next to Thanksgiving and Christmas was Election Day. From getting donuts early in the morning for his precinct workers to driving little old ladies to the polls to spending the evening down at the courthouse waiting for results, the whole day was one great adventure.

How I wish I could talk politics with dad again. I would love to know his take on our President, Sarah Palin, Nancy Pelosi and the Tea Party. While I think I know what he would say, he studied the issues carefully; sometimes he surprised me with his views, although he would never admit to voting anything but a straight Republican ticket! So, today I am thankful for the privilege of voting, and for a dad who taught me how important it is.

Politics and elections are not such peaceful pursuits; therefore, on this All Souls' Day, I'm going to share this instead -- a quote from one of my favorite books, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

...I want first of be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact - to borrow from the language of the saints - to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible...By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony...I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God...

Purity of intention. Outward harmony. Isn't that nice?

Saint of the Day: St. Thomas More, who was named Patron Saint of Politicians by JPII in 2000. When I was in middle school, I became obsessed with English history, especially Henry VIII. (Maybe it was that Herman's Hermits song I'm Henery the Eighth, I am . . . . or going to see Vanessa Redgrave's Mary Queen of Scots with my cousins.) Thomas honored his king, but not his king's plan to claim supremacy over God. Off with his head.

And finally, soup. Clay picked up our Market Day order yesterday, put it in the freezer and texted me that we have to eat a lot of broccoli and chicken before we order from MD again. So, here is my solution, and soup recipe for the day:

"Honey, the Freezer is Full" Broccoli Rice Soup

1 onion
1 clove of garlic
2 T. olive oil
1 bag of Market Day frozen broccoli (2 pounds)
2 quarts of chicken stock (good grief, this looks just like yesterday's recipe!)
3 cups cooked rice
2 cups of warm milk

In a soup pot, saute the onion and garlic until tender. Add the broccoli and chicken stock (and water to cover, if necessary); bring to a boil and reduce heat until broccoli is tender. Using a hand held blender, smoosh up the broccoli as much as you like. (Alternately, transfer soup to a regular blender and whoosh it up. Only do about 1/2 a blender full at a time. Ask me how I know this.) Stir in milk and rice and heat until just warmed through. Serve with shredded cheese (cheddar is good, Swiss is excellent!)


Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints' Day

I love November. We start out remembering regular old folks like us who lived and died for Christ and became saints, and we end up eating turkey. The air gets nippy, we enter Advent, I turn another year older and we celebrate another year of being married. What more could one ask of a single month?

To celebrate, with each blog post this month, I'm going to write about a favorite saint, a blessing, and soup. It's the right time of year, and I'm a pretty good soup maker. Here we go.

My saint of the day: St. Ambrose. Smart guy, doctor of the church, my parish's patron. In celebration of our 150th anniversary, there's been a lot of sprucing up around our church. (I posted a little about it here.) This weekend, the stained glass windows which had been removed this summer were re-installed. While I have always thought they were the second-most beautiful windows in town (Trinity UMC has the first, IMHO), they are even more beautiful cleaned and re-leaded (is that a word?). The sun shining through them just makes the whole church sparkle. St. Ambrose wrote, "No duty is more important than returning thanks." So, I am so thankful for the blessing of St. Ambrose parish, Father Dan and my entire church family.

And, I'm thankful for the St. Ambrose Youth Ministry and Chris, our youth minister; the program has been so great for Will. Last weekend, they raked leaves for some of our older parishoners. I made soup. This soup:

Leaf-Raking Time Potato Soup

5 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
2 T. butter + 1 T. olive oil
1 pound bacon (ready bacon is just fine) fried and diced
2 quarts chicken stock
4 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a large stock pot, saute the onion, celery and garlic in butter and oil until onions are soft. Add potatoes to pot and chicken stock (add some water if the potatoes aren't covered). Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. (I like to use a hand-held blender for this next part, but a regular hand masher would work just fine) -- mash up about half the potatoes, leaving as many chunky potatoes as you would like. Warm the milk on the stove or microwave (just to take the chill off) and add to the soup, along with the bacon. When the soup is heated through and ready to serve, stir in cheese. (If you use just olive oil, turkey bacon and low fat milk and cheese, this might just be halfway good for you!)


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oh how I hate to see October go . . . *

It's gone, and I was terrible about my giveaway! But, I'll draw this week and send my little basket off to the lucky winner. I did add a pink brush, some pink gloves and a pink scarf.

Let's face it. I'm not the Pioneer Woman or Bakerella. I'm rotten about keeping up with my posts, I'm not going to be writing a book based on this blog, and no sponsors give me marvelous things to give away (like that turquoise LeCreuset dutch oven PW gave away a few weeks ago -- oh, how I hoped to win that! Me and 35,000 of her other fans!)

But I'm going to try to be better in November. I have plans. Plans for soups and blessings.


*Why yes, I did steal this directly from Father Dan's homily this weekend. Do you know how much I love that he quotes Johnny Mercer?

Monday, October 25, 2010


I realized that this is the last week of October, and I haven't posted basket pictures for a few weeks. Here we go:


Monday, October 11, 2010

Some Happy Things

Race for the Cure in Louisville
At the beginning:

Almost done:

Carly and Paul

Maggie, me and Sarah

My new kitchen light. I have wanted a pendant light over the sink for a while; the old fixture kindly obliged me by fritzing out. (Wow! It's hard to take a picture of a light, especially one by a sunny window!)

Max's fall sweater and hat. I hope he is as cute in this hat as I imagine!

And, another addition to the basket: Living Gloves for the Cure! I don't wear kitchen gloves, do you? Peace.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Antique 4-H'er -- Various Projects

A little of this, a little of that:

Freezer Paper T-shirts

Maybe the most fun you can have with paint and freezer paper. And a Cricut!
Tommy's 6th Birthday Cake - Superhero Squad!

Once again, just not as I had envisioned; this time it's cake decorating on cold medicine. The red building is a little wonky, but we decided to add a little story to the cake, and claim that The Hulk had given the building a little push. The web is chocolate I piped out onto freezer paper; it was a little warm that day, so I had to support it a little with spaghetti.

Griffin's Cupcakes

I didn't make these, but I thought they were extra cute in the cupcake holder I found at Crate and Barrel. I did make the little sign for the top, and Sharon added the army men. Team effort!

Charging Station

One day, Doug (of Love Bus fame) came into school with a load of stuff on his truck to take to a yard sale. He had a 1950's kitchen table and 4 chairs, which I bought immediately (pictures soon!) He threw in an old bread box and a beat up old side table with no bottom in the drawer. I nailed the table back together then replaced the drawer bottom with a piece of Masonite, cutting a hole in the back to let an electrical cord pass through. I sanded, painted, sanded and painted again, then used a pretty piece of scrapbook paper to line the drawer, velcroed in a power strip and now have a place to keep all of our chargers out of sight. Unfortunately, out of mind, as well; I've left the house 4 times now with my phone still in the drawer!

(It looks a little messy, but it works!)

And here's my breast cancer basket addition for today:

Yes, that is another pink cloth. One for your face, one for your dishes! Keep watching!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One Year

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which
you really stop to look fear in the face.
You are able to say to yourself, "I lived through this horror.
I can take the next thing that comes along."
You must do the things you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Knitting Challenge

I started this blog a few years ago when a friend asked me to fix/re-size a hand-knit sweater she had received from her pen pal in Norway. That was a stress-inducing success, thanks to the helpful comments of other knitting bloggers.

Since then, I have fixed all kinds of knitting for lots of knitters. Mostly, that's what I do at Knit Night anymore -- we have our show and tell, I give a little lesson and a pattern, but then it's fix-it time.

I love to tink back and pick up the dropped stitches or make the inadvertently added stitches disappear. Untangling the knits from the purls. Offering the advice I've learned through my own trial and error. And I love hearing a friend's sigh of relief when we get stitches back on the needles, ready to proceed again once the mistake is fixed.

Of course, I'm not always successful -- sometimes there's nothing to be done but rip back. I hate giving that news to a knitter; I try to keep the moment light by recounting the thousands of stitches I ripped out on my Pi Shawl, but I know I have seen tears.

Popular requests at Knit Night are the repair of a beloved piece or recreation of a vintage pattern. Knitters (and non-knitters!) often bring in a piece of work or a faded hand-written pattern and ask if I can fix it or re-create it. That's what happened last Thursday, when my high school friend, Teresa, brought me Christmas stockings her grandmother had knit for Teresa, her siblings and her children. Her grandmother has passed away, but Teresa would like to have a matching stocking for her daughter-in-law. So, because I love both Teresa and a challenge, I am giving it a try. Here are the originals:

In case I'm not around when Teresa adds to her family (and stocking collection) again, I've been writing down everything I'm doing; if I do knit another one for her, I will thank myself then! Luckily, grandma had charted out the Santa; I just worked out the ribbing and name section. I am using worsted weight acrylic yarns (Vanna's Choice and Red Heart) as I could get the right colors and feel, and a bit of angora for the beard that I found at Mass Ave. last week (grandma had specified angora!) I'm no pro at intarsia, but I've gotten through the Santa part ok; my task now is to figure out the heel flap placement. I asked at Mass Ave., and they seemed to think it would be easy: simply join the stocking sides to knit in the round and proceed from there just like a sock. I didn't tell them I'm not much of a sock knitter. But luckily, Linda at Knit Night is, and if I can't get this figured out by the 14th, I know she will be able to.

Since this is a knitting post, here's my first addition to the basket -- a pink circular dishcloth.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

October - Sharing the Pink

Last year, I did a lot of reading that made me re-think my stand on all things pink. (if you would be even the slightest bit interested, you could read my thoughts on pinking here.)
But I didn't change my stand on all things pink; I do, however, try to be a little more careful about throwing things in my shopping cart just because they are labeled in pink and just because it's October.
I will always love pink. And if a store full of pink products can make just one woman think about her health and take a few minutes to do a self-exam, make a doctor's appointment or schedule a mammogram, then it's worth it, no matter how much (or little) the manufacturers of pink rubber ducks and pink umbrellas and pink-labeled tomato soup give to the cause.

See this basket?

I'm going to put some pink things in it throughout October. If you do something for breast cancer -- do your exam, walk in the Race for the Cure, wear a pink ribbon, anything -- leave a comment, and maybe you'll win the basket. You don't have to be specific; just saying "I did something for breast cancer!" is enough. I'll use a random number generator and pick a winner on November 1. Comment as often as you want throughout the month, and check back, as I plan to post a picture of the basket each time I add something.

I don't have breast cancer, but breast cancer changed my life forever. Love you, mom.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Antique 4-H'er -- Demonstrations and Refreshments

The best parts of any 4-H meeting were the demonstrations, recreation and refreshments -- the 3 final orders of business each month. Recreation could be a wild relay or a quiet pencil game. Refreshments were always better at some houses than others; some moms put on quite a spread -- sloppy joes, chips, pop in bottles -- and others settled for popcorn and kool-aid. But I loved demonstration time most of all. Some kids went all out; my pal, Jill, did an awesome demonstration on giving yourself a manicure. 35 years later, I still think of her every time I file my nails toward the center of each finger. I loved preparing a demonstration; in fact, the summer before my senior year in high school, I won the State Dog demonstration, and got to take a trip to Washington, DC. (But, no big purple rosette ribbon. Do you believe that?)

One of my early years in 4-H, I demonstrated chocolate waffle cookies when the meeting was at our house. I think mom found the recipe in the Farm Journal or Watt Highlights; they were unique and delicious -- perfect demonstration and refreshment material!

I dug out the recipe a few years ago, and made the cookies for "T" week in kindergarten (I must really love these -- it's the 3rd time I've posted about them!) With a dollop of green icing, the cookies sort of resemble turtles. So in true 4-H spirit, I thought I would share the recipe (and also so I don't have to look too far when I need it next year!)

Chocolate Turtle Waffle Cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
a pinch of salt
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat waffle iron. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa and salt. Stir in eggs, butter and vanilla until well blended. Drop batter by small spoonfuls onto the four sections of the waffle iron; close and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove carefully (I use 2 wooden skewers) and allow to cool on wire rack. Frost with butter icing, a la the 1961 Betty Crocker cookbook ( 1/3 cup soft butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 3 Tablespoons milk and 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, plus a little green food coloring.) These are really good plain, or with a little powdered sugar sprinkled on them-- like little corrugated brownies!
Next week's treats, the return of the purple pancake. OR, maybe pumpkin pancakes!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


this is for sister Karen, who checks my blog every day. I love you, and thanks for giving me a figurative kick in the pants.

I have a rotten cold, and don't have anything bright to say, so I'll just post a few pictures.
First, here's the antique 4-H'er's Home Furnishings project for September:

I have wanted to put together a table like this for several years; I store some of my yarn in an old suitcase and love the look, and finally found 3 nice cases to stack together. The feet are just drawer pulls I found at Menard's. A little drilling, a little velcro, and finally, I have the perfect place for my teapot lamp.

When I was in 4-H, we didn't have the cake decorating project; Maggie and Sarah both took the project a couple of years, using styrofoam cakes and royal icing -- it was fun, but messy, and not very delicious.
So, our pal, Fred, came to fix our air conditioning when it went out in July. Because he is our lifelong friend, he wouldn't take any payment, but said I could make his daughter's birthday cake this year. I just love the barter system, especially when I get to make a cake for a sweet girl!

More cakes coming up, as we are planning a triple birthday blowout party for Tommy (who turns 6 today), Paul, who will be 2 on the 27th, and Griffin, who will be 4 on the 26th! We're off to celebrate with the Anderson's at Applebeast tonight.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Antique 4-H'er, Part II -- Foods

Before I tell you what's cooking, I feel it's my duty pass on a small warning about Internet recipes. I wanted to make some of my favorite soft oatmeal cookies for a bake sale this weekend; the best recipe I have found is from America's Test Kitchen. I have loaned Sarah my ATK cookbook, so I went looking on line. I found a recipe that a blogger called the ATK oatmeal cookie, and the recipe seemed right, but the cookies were not the delicious little orbs of oatmealy perfection they usually are. When I get the book back (or buy another copy!) I'm going to check. It could have been me. Either way, consider yourself warned.

I am always on the lookout for a great casserole recipe to make in quantity, freeze and share with others; I think I found my new go-to dish: The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti. I tripled the recipe, but got 4 nice 9x13 dishes for my effort --viola! Dinner for us! I did leave out the green pepper (a very bad experience with cooked green pepper has made me a hater) and added mushrooms, which I sauteed in a little olive oil with the onion for a bit, and used a can of cream of mushroom soup for one of the cream of chicken. Also, I tossed the cheese for the top with breadcrumbs and a little melted butter, because that's just how I roll.

I've always been a cupcake fan, and am trying out recipes from Martha's Cupcake Cookbook. Last week, it was her applesauce cupcakes. In general, I don't love icing, but I could eat the cream cheese/brown sugar icing on these cupcakes without the cupcake, if you know what I mean. With a spoon. All of it.

And, I accidentally developed a recipe, by opening a box of white cake mix that I thought was chocolate. I made cupcakes for the Junior Miss dinner the other week, and had already made a batch of white cupcakes with raspberry cream icing; I didn't need 2 dozen more white cupcakes. So, I added a package of instant chocolate pudding, 1/3 cup cocoa, 3 teaspoons of espresso powder, an extra egg and 1 and 1/2 cups of chocolate chips to the white mix. I dusted them with powdered sugar and espresso powder, and they were good. I am calling them Mocha Chocalatta Cupcakes. Ya ya.

My latest decorating extravaganza/failure:

Sometimes (read: all the time lately) my cakes don't turn out anywhere as beautiful as I had them pictured in my head. See that blue blob on the right there? That started out as the base for a rice krispie ferris wheel; I had seen a picture of one, and was sure I could re-create it. I could re-create it, but I couldn't make it stand up. Not even with skewers, chopsticks and a little time in the freezer. Boo. And, although they look like baby booties, those little orange and blue blobs are bumper cars. Could you tell?

Peace, cookers.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Antique 4-H'er -- Knitting and Sewing

(Sorry I haven't blogged for over a month! Our computer was on the major fritz, but it's all well now, thanks to a lot of work (and a lot of cursing) on Clay's part. I can finally download pictures, update my Ipod and print out things!)

I love having a project; I think it is because I loved my years in 4-H. In the Pine Ridge 4-H Club, the finest 4-H Club in Jackson County, to be exact. I loved the meetings, talent shows, judging and demonstrations, but mostly I loved the projects. I took a lot of projects, from Weather to Food Preservation to Garden. I was never one of those whizz-bangs who brought home a bushel of purple ribbons; I'd often have a critical error on a project and earn a red or white ribbon. Inserting a zipper made me drop out of the Clothing project; I ended my run in the Foods project when I was foiled by yeast breads. But the love of learning something new, creating something and sharing it with others is something that has stuck with me.

If I were still in 4-H, this summer I would have received an green ribbon (incomplete) on my Garden project, but I'm reasonably sure I would have won the grand champion ribbon for my Weeds. I probably could have scored a blue ribbon on my sewing, if I were in Division I or II (tote bags and skirts with elastic waists!), but I still have trouble with zippers. I've had some blue ribbon moments in the kitchen this summer, too.

And you know, blogging is a lot like keeping your green record book -- a place to record what you did, how much you spent (time and $) and what you learned.

I guess I am just an antique 4-H'er.

Here are my summer projects, starting with Needlecraft:

Hugs and Kisses Baby Afghan

Made from Knitpicks Simply Cotton Organic, worsted weight, in malted milk; size 8 needles. This was the first time in a long time that I had followed a pattern exactly and used the yarn the designer suggested (I usually opt for something much cheaper than recommended!) The pattern is so sweet, and the afghan is cute, but this cotton just didn't wash up as soft as I had hoped. And because the fabric is knit on the bias, it didn't want to block out into a nice square -- there was always one little wonky corner. But, I took it to the fair, and it got second place! This is a gift for Baby D --may he always be blanketed with hugs and kisses.

Little Red Riding Hood Ensemble

I really loved this little poncho pattern, which was a free tear-off at Michael's. Not so sure about the sizing, though -- this was supposed to be the 6-month size, and it is huge. I waited to give it to Baby Bella until the fall, and sewed up this little Red Riding Hood skirt (see? elastic waist) and stenciled the onesie to go with it ("What big eyes you have" --get it?) I took this little sweater to the fair, too, and got 3rd place. (Caron Simply Soft and Size 7 needles)

Turquoise Sweater and Dress

I made this same sweater and dress in pink last summer; this turquoise one is for Baby Gabby, quite appropriate for a little Psi Ote legacy. The sweater is knit in one piece then seamed up. I don't remember where I got this pattern -- I think is was another free store pattern -- and I have misplaced the yarn label. I do know that I got it at Hobby Lobby and that they don't carry it any longer -- I went looking, as I wanted to do a little hat to match. I don't know if you can tell, but the sweater buttons are covered with the same fabric as the skirt.

Sloane's Yard of Bricks Quilt
This may be my favorite quilt ever. No fussy piecing and happy colors! This is a reasonable facsimile of the Bricks in Bloom pattern, which I found at the Moda Bakeshop; I couldn't print off the pattern, so I sort of winged it. The fabrics are from a variety of places; I just went looking for some nice pinks and greens. I made Sloane's name applique by hand, but next time, I'm going to try using the Cricut. Pieced and quilted by machine.

I have blue material to make a baby boy's quilt in the same pattern, and I like this look so much, I am considering making another pink one, twin bed-sized, for myself. Sounds like a big project!
Tomorrow, Home Furnishings.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Cleaning the Refrigerator

My new goal is to get and keep the house ACR -- Always Company Ready. You know, so we never have to go into panic mode when someone calls and wants to visit.
Please stop laughing.

I started in the kitchen. I washed all the little kitchy stuff on the window sill, cleaned out cabinets and decided which things I could live without (do I really need to keep the kitty cat cake pan that I used for Maggie's 2nd birthday? She is almost 23. No. Well, maybe).

Then, I decided to pull out the refrigerator and clean underneath. Yikes. I took a before and after picture, but I can't post them here -- it is too shameful. Nothing too nasty, but lots and lots of dust bunnies. Big black dust bunnies.

Then, I started at the top and wiped down the whole fridge. But I had to stop and admire all the things that had taken up residence on the front and sides. Old things, yellow things, sentimental things. Things that have been up there since before I knew what "acid free" meant or had a laminator. So, I decided to scan them. And share them:
Various magnets. A Grandma Shirley Remax from 16 years ago, a St. A magnet from 1999, and a WKSU magnet from circa 1989, I'm guessing. The Pioneer magnet? Wow. That's old.
Sister Josita gave me this xerox copy about 20 years ago; she had the original hanging in her office. Not sure what I did to deserve this honor, but I bet I was in trouble.
Grandma Shirley saved this comic for us, as she said it was "Maggie all over":
Soccer magnet of little Will:
And my favorite, which I think came from my mom's bulletin board:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just a moment

for a reading update. Yes, I do like Altas Shrugged. Not so much for its political/social commentary, but for the story. And for the insights it is giving me into the way my husband thinks. Who knew?

This, along with my Outlander experience, just goes to show that I should never dismiss a book outright. Good grief -- I'm going to be reading science fiction if I don't watch out!

Peace, John Gault.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Thinking Woman's Vacation

And the only reason I say that is because driving 2000 miles in 10 days gives you lots of time to think. And listen to Atlas Shrugged (but more on that later.)

On Sunday, after we dropped Will off in Durham with the St. A group bound for their mission trip, we headed toward Charleston, SC. There's much to be said about that drive, our detour to Myrtle Beach, and the awesome 3 days we spent in Charleston; maybe I'll write on all of those later, too.

As we first drove into the city, I saw a huge line outside of Hyman's Seafood on Meeting Street; whether that signaled "tourist trap" or "ringing endorsement", we decided to try it. The meal was great -- Clay thinks he had the best scallops and mussels he has ever eaten, and that's saying something; he's been to countries where preparing seafood isn't just cooking, it's art. I had crispy flounder, my favorite fried green tomatoes and an outstanding Bloody Mary, but the food was almost a minor part of the experience. First, when the hostess took us to our table, we noticed little brass tags at each place, noting the celebrities who had sat there. It was very cool that Martin Sheen, Jodi Foster, some Senator and Bob Villa had all shared our spot, but we were thrilled to see the little brass tag noting that NEIL ARMSTRONG had sat at our very table.

When we were almost done, the owner of the restaurant, Eli, came around and talked to us. I told him how we were so happy to be seated at that table, as we were Purdue grads and Clay had worked at NASA; Eli told us that of all the celebrities who had eaten in his restaurant, Mr. Armstrong might just be his favorite -- kind, quiet and unassuming. It made me a little teary.

Anyway, on the tables at Hyman's were little inspirational cards, which we were encouraged to take. One of those listed the "40 Promises for Marriage." I won't list them all, and I will confess that we don't celebrate our birthdays in a big way (#25), send flowers on Valentine's Day (#35), set up romantic getaways (#28) or date once a week (#3), and neither one of us is much good at #36, admitting when we are wrong.

The ones we do do, and do well, I think, are these:

#4, Accept differences. Tall/short, conservative/semi-liberal, left brain/right brain, ISTJ/ENFP (for those Myers-Briggs types), fit and sporty/not so fit and not so sporty. If we didn't accept each other's differences, we'd be sunk.

#10, Laugh together. When you put "shortest route" into the GPS and find yourself in the middle of north central Kentucky between Lexington and Louisville on winding, narrow country roads for an hour and a half without much sign of human life, the very best thing to do is laugh.

#14, Encourage. While Clay doesn't really need much encouragement to do anything, without his encouragement, I would be a sad little slug. Maybe not a couch potato with 12 cats and a penchant for courtroom drama shows kind of slug, but certainly not as motivated as I am.

#16, Fix the other person's breakfast. Coffee counts, right?

#18, Call during the day. There's not much better that getting that lunchtime call, even if it's only for a minute.

#33, Reminisce about your favorite times together. The favorite phrase in this family is "remember when?" Reminiscing is almost as good as a phone call.

#34, Treat each other's friends and relatives with courtesy. I hope I am as good at this as Clay is. All my girlfriends think he is a prince, and my family is pretty darn fond of him.

#29, Be Positive and #30, Be Kind. There's no other way to be, is there?

#19, Slow Down. Clay doesn't think I can do this at all, but I think that's what we did in Charleston. I bet the last time we intentionally walked together in the rain was on our honeymoon; walking down to the Battery under the umbrella/souvenir we bought at Hyman's, peeking into gardens, was one of the highlights of this trip.

#38 is "pray for each other daily." I don't know if Clay prays daily for me. But my recent thinking on prayer follows that of Meister Eckhart: "If the only prayer you say in your whole life is 'thank you', that would suffice."

In that case, yes, I do. Not just daily, but every hour, minute and second. Thanks.


(PS -- I Googled "40 Promises for Marriage" and found this, "50 Promises"; apparently, 10 more wouldn't fit on the little card at Hyman's!)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Talk

I'll admit it -- I do love to listen. On my long drive to convention and back, I listened to Elizabeth Berg's Home Safe. She read it herself, and I liked hearing her voice -- I often wonder about that -- am I reading this sentence with the same inflection as the author intended?

It wasn't my favorite Berg book, but it was nice: a little love story, a little mother/daughter story, a little what-it's-like-to-be-a-writer story.

When I wasn't listening, I was reading -- actually holding the book -- The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.

As a writer (and I use that term really loosely, as the only things I have had published lately are letters to the editor and blog posts), my biggest roadblock has always been endings. I remember many a story/paper that was criticized for being wrapped up too quickly.

This book is great in so many ways -- her detail, characters, plot were fantastic. But from the beginning, you are looking forward to the end, as you are presented with the mystery in the first pages: a little girl is found in Australia on a ship from England, all alone with no identification. Without giving anything away, I'll just say that the ending left me a little empty.

I'd recommend it, though, and I think it would make good book club reading -- there are a lot of questions at the end, whether Morton meant there to be or not.
So, I'm back to Outlander. Clay finished Drums of Autumn at 3:50 this morning. He's more addicted to these books than I am! I'm about in the middle, and looking forward to getting back to Claire and Jamie.
We have Anna Quidlen's Every Last One loaded on the Ipod for vacation driving, and next on my list are The Shanghai Girls, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Piano Teacher and Cutting for Stone. And, I heard a great discussion of The Scarlet Letter on NPR the other day, so I'm tucking that in my knitting bag, too. I just love summer reading.
Peace, and good reading.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Personal Theology

(Warning. Rambling religious/spiritual/God post ahead. Those of you who are not of that ken may want to avert your eyes. Those of you who are might not like what I have to say here. Sorry.)

So, I serve on a philanthropic organization's national council with 13 other women. The council serves over 3000 women in 127 Chapters throughout the Midwest. These 3000 women serve countless others in their communities in the areas of speech and hearing, art, music and literacy (plus tons of other local projects) and together we raise about a million dollars every year. It's very cool.

It's not a Christian organization, per se (but I would bet that 99% of our membership tag themselves that way). We pray before meals, we do good things for others, we say, "with God's help may we advance in these fields of endeavor" in our opening verse before each business meeting.

These are trying times for groups like ours -- membership is down, profits are down. But optimism is high, especially at and after convention. Monday, at our post-convention council meeting, one of our members said that she was "convinced" that God had brought all 14 of these strong women together to tackle the challenges ahead of us.

Me, I'm not so convinced. I think it is swell that 14 women can work together so well and lead an organization successfully. I think it is terrific that despite our differences (ie, some of us are quite ladylike, classy and proper; others of us enjoy a racy joke, a nice cocktail and occasional use of the f-word) we can have so much fun together and care so much for each other.

And while I would love to think that God looked down upon my little organization and said, "Yes, I ordain that she and she and she will sit on the National Council in 2010-11; that will be a splendid mix," I would then also have to believe that He said, "Yes, I will give that woman cancer. She will die a slow and painful death and her children will be driven to their knees in despair."

"I will give that man Alzheimer's. His intelligence and strength will gradually leave him, and those who look to him for wisdom will be left lost and bewildered."

"I want that awesome child with me, so I will cause an accident in which he will die, causing his family long-lasting sorrow."

I just don't think it works like that. I can't believe it works like that.

What I do believe is what we say in the Creed each week at Mass. God made the earth, made us, sent us Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the church and words to live by. Along with those gifts, He gave us really magnificent brains so that we can use this earth and all that it contains for our survival and benefit, and that of others.

After that, I'm thinking we're pretty much on our own.

Oh, He cares about us, I know that. Otherwise, He wouldn't have given us flowers and babies and music and water and memories and friends. And I am so thankful for that.

I don't believe He's going to single me out for a lottery win, or my kid for a high SAT score or my team for the big win (no matter what you hear on TV after a game); I chalk those up to luck, hard work and determination. God didn't make the Saints win the Super Bowl -- he's much smarter than that. To choose sides would mean that He would always be failing someone -- in a war, an election or a ballgame.

Likewise, to inflict pain and suffering just so we could "learn a lesson" or "grow in faith" would just nothing short of cruel. I don't believe God is cruel to us because He doesn't need to be -- we are certainly cruel enough to each other. But that's a post for another day.

Theologically, this might not be very Catholic. Maybe not even very Christian. But is it what helps me survive, stay upright and keep loving life.

Good stuff happens. Kids graduate from college, spewing oil wells are capped, women work together.

And bad shit happens. Kids become drug dealers, wells keep spewing and organizations fail.

Our job is to be thankful for the good stuff, learn from the bad shit and move on.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Interesting Enough?

I can't blog every day. I'm sorry, I tried. I'm just not that interesting.

Well, I'm fairly interesting, but I don't do something interesting on a daily basis.

Then again, maybe I do. Today, I played at the Lutheran Home, got a pedicure, taught 3 piano lessons, and bought two pair of shoes (I know!). Interesting? Not so much.

OK, how about this: I went back to the Home at 6:30 to play a hymn sing and drew quite a crowd -- 34 of my fans were there to sing along.

Sweet, but not so interesting.

I think I have it. This will sound a lot conceited, but it is interesting to me: if I stop to think about it, I don't even know where my music comes from. Why I am able to sit down and play any hymn in any key? How do my fingers know which chords to play? Why am I able to listen to a song and play it? (Well, not Baba O'Riley yet, but it's coming along.)

If I do take a moment and think about what I am doing, and wonder how in the hell I can do it, I usually mess up. That's kind of interesting, isn't it?

And my horrible confession is, I never, ever practice. I show up for church about 15 minutes early and just do it. I show up with the band and just do it. OK, sometimes I practice with a singer if they want to, but a lot of the singers I work with are a lot like me, and just do it. I'll make up a song list before a performance or service and run a few chord changes so I am sure of the key, but then I just wing it. Almost every single time.
In truth, I am lazy. If I'd actually sit down and practice, maybe I could make something of this music biz.

Please don't tell any of my students or my nursing home fans this. It only proves my piano teacher, Mrs. Ernest, was right when she told me that I was her worst piano student/pianist ever.

But curiously, when I see her now and she hears me play, she likes to tell people how I was her favorite student.



Monday, June 21, 2010

Food for Thought . . .

This morning, I looked at the laundry, looked out the window at the weedy garden, looked at the pile of papers on my dining room table.

I had a bit of a meltdown, thinking of all that had to be done in the next few days. (Good grief -- convention is in 4 days and I still have to write my speech and find shoes, among about a million other things!)

I started to cry a little and whined, "Why do I think I can do all these things?"

Clay said, "The better question is, why do you think you have to?"


Who needs a counselor when you live with Mr. Smarty?


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Somethings

Only because I promised to blog every day do I give you the following snooze-worthy update:

- Finished a nice book today -- La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith. Now, back to Outlander #4.

- We watched three interesting movies this weekend: The Book of Eli, Gigantic and All About Steve. Very different, but my reviews in order of appearance are "wowsa", "hmmmm" and "tee-hee-hee." Clay assured me I would like Eli, but I was so ticked at him after the first hour; post-nuclear war dramas are not exactly my favorite genre. But he begged me to keep watching, and my Father's Day gift to him is to admit that he was right.

-Finished a little embroidery project -- pictures soon.

- Cuban themed dinner last night -- pork on the grill, black beans and rice and mojitos. Pretty fancy for our house, where cocktail hour is usually a beer and a glass of Oliver Soft Red.

Busy week ahead!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Another No-so-Important Life Question

Although I seldom go to the McDonald's drive-through, why it is that I am always behind the car full of people who have apparently never been to McDonald's before and just don't know what to order?

Just wondering.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Hey Look!

I changed how my blog looks! But I don't really think that should count as a daily post, so here are some quilt blocks to look at, too.

Tommy and Nate really love the stories of Little Red, The 3 Bears and The Little Pigs, although Clay and I tell them much differently -- I leave out the violence, and he adds it with gusto. You can guess which version the boys like best!

So I poked about on the Internet and found these free vintage patterns from Pattern Bee.

I just printed them off, then taped the copies to a window and traced the pattern. I like to use the DMC variegated floss; I used it on these dishtowels, and on the squares, as well:

(They look a little wonky, as I had to take these pictures from an odd angle to avoid my own shadow. They are mostly square, I promise!)
The log cabin-style strips around each square are from the Moda American Jane Collection -- a jelly roll in each of the Wee Play, Look and Learn and Recess. (Unfortunately, I don't think they are making this series any longer.) This was the first time I had used a jelly roll, but it won't be the last -- such a great way to get a lot of different fabrics in the same color family, plus, they are perfectly cut and ready to sew.
I have 3 more squares planned/in the works -- The 3 Bears, Jack and Jill (which I am going to have to draw out myself, as it's not part of the collection) and Will Willie Winkie, just because. (Have to draw him out, as well, but it's worth it to get Will on this quilt -- he was WWW for his kindergarten graduation!)
My original plan was to have this done for the fair, but I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen, at least for this year. I hope to have something for the fair, but it's going to be here before I know it, and I have a lot of stuff going on between now and then. I could finish my XOXOXO baby afghan -- it's mighty cute. Probably not 1st place cute, but that's not what it's about (she kept telling herself over and over as she dreamed of the purple rosette!)