Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012

Well done, 2011.
You took our sorrows and brought us joys.
You took my fears and brought blessed peace.
You took my pain and brought renewed health.
You took some beautiful friends with you, but left us with good memories, then brought beautiful new friends into our lives.
You took one of my dreams and brought it into the light, toward fulfillment.
You took my volunteer lifestyle and brought me an exciting and rewarding new job (that pays real money!)
You took the Rodeo and brought us . . .   not another vehicle, which I personally am very thankful for.
You took our wallpaper and brought us fresh paint.
You took 51 and brought 52.  And that's cool -- bring on 53, cause I'm not afraid of it!

And bring on 2012.  I'm ready to fill it with peace, love and happiness.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Crafty Christmas

Such a lovely Christmas.  I tried to rest and recuperate, I really did.  I didn't put out nearly half of our decorations, but the house looked festive.  I didn't go into cooking overload as I usually do, and everyone was still well-fed (thanks to my all my sweet friends who brought us meals for two weeks!)  And while I didn't get something sewn or knitted for everyone, I did get several projects done.  I made 7 duct tape wallets and 7 fun fur scarves for my friends in kindergarten, and a few other easy projects:

These Peace, Love, Christmas burlap pillows are a variation of the Scrabble pillows I made earlier in the summer (you can see the steps here).  Easy freezer paper stenciling, then I sewed them up, wrong sides together and left about 2 inches all around for a fringe.

Will's requested grey hat  (isn't he cute?)  This is just a simple cable, knit up with Lion Brand Jiffy and size 7 needles.  No pattern to direct you to -- I just sort of made it up on the fly.

Gap scarves (and you get to see all my kids -- isn't the Schlitz beer t-shirt so Christmasy?)  I really love this pattern, and want to get another one of these started ASAP (maybe for myself!).  Maggie's was knit up with 2 skeins of Loops and Threads bulky yarn  from Michael's in mushroom (sort of a camel color) and Sarah's (sorry, I didn't get a picture of hers) was 2 skeins of cream-colored Lion Brand Wool-ease Thick and Quick.  These were knit up on #13 circulars -- you cast on 130, join, then knit in a seed stitch until the scarf is as wide as you want (I think the pattern says 15", but I stopped at about 8").  This is a great pattern for knitting while recuperating in front of the TV, as the pattern is simple and easy to correct.

Not-for-TV-watching knitting:  a Christmas stocking for my friend, Ashley.  This is my 4th Cascade stocking (pattern here).  Ashley recently graduated from the University of Louisville, so I used a variation of the cardinal found in Colorwork Creations (beautiful book!)  I also learned the Latvian braid for the top of the stocking;  I think I have my lesson for our next Knit Night -- it's an easy technique that really adds some snap to the edges of knitted work.  After some trial and error, I found that the best thing to line these stocking with is t-shirt material; I found a red-striped shirt at Goodwill which made a perfect lining for this one.  I have another stocking in the works for her mom -- pictures soon!

If you've read this blog for long, you know that I inherited several fruitcake tins of buttons from my mom.  I sewed a bunch of them on this pillow for my niece, Taylor, and once again, I think I have just as many buttons as I started with!

And if you've read this blog recently, you know of my addiction to pinterest.  Several months ago, I pinned some adorable Harry Potter stylized pillows; my niece, Carly (who is addicted as well) commented that she  loved them and "knew what she wanted for Christmas" so I had to make them for her.  I couldn't locate a pattern (the pin was from a tumblr site, which I find a little difficult to navigate) so I just studied the picture and came up with these:

I started with a rectangle of cream flannel, strip pieced the scarves from gold and maroon cotton, and added the robes with black flannel.  Harry's hair is the same black, while Ron's is a piece of an orange sweater; Hermione's hair is a piece of a brown velvet jacket I found at Goodwill.  I did a little machine quilting in her hair to make it look wavy.  Eye buttons from mom's collection and a little embroidery.

I have a crafty goal for 2012:  socks.  I know, they have defeated (ha - an unintended play on words!) me before, but this year, I am going to conquer them, even if I have to drive all the way to Alabama for a lesson.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Blessed Christmas Eve

I was working on a Christmas Eve poem, but have a rhyming writer's block.
So, I offer you this, a true treasure:

And God bless you, Bill Watterson, wherever you are.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011


From the 1st Chapter of Luke:
And coming to her, the angel Gabriel said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High . . .  of his kingdom there will be no end."

It is a strange and glorious thing to realize that all I believe, faithwise, is centered on a supernatural, miraculous conception in the womb of a scared young woman.

It is a strange thing to listen to these glorious words from last Sunday's Gospel -- words I believe, words I practically know by heart, words that form the foundation of our Rosary prayers-- and feel an achy sort of longing.

It is glorious to know that soon, the pain, discomfort and worry I've been carrying around for quite some time will be just an unpleasant memory. 

It is strange to know that part of me is gone.  

Last Monday, I had a hysterectomy.  

I won't bore you with details, but I will tell you that so far, things are going very well.  I had great medical care, was lucky to have the surgery robotically (minimally invasive, less pain, quicker recovery) and have had fantastic support at home from family and friends (and one nag, who knows who he is).  

And I am trying hard not to be a sappy mess about the whole thing, which of course, for me, is quite difficult.  Facing facts, I know my uterus and ovaries haven't been doing me much good lately.  I haven't had to use them to make a baby in over 18 years; my uterus has just been hanging around, filling up with tumors, and needed to be gone.

But like Mary's womb defined her, I sometimes feel like mine defined me, as well.  At least it defined me as a mother, a title and job I have held and loved for over 26 years.  While I certainly don't feel like any less of a mother without my uterus, I do appreciate it, the miracles of conception and childbirth, and the motherhood that it allowed me.  (Good grief, that is sappy, isn't it?)  But it's true.  

And I know, like Mary, I'm blessed.  I was able to carry my children in my womb, a strange and glorious experience in itself.  I will always be thankful for that.  And I know in time (probably a short time), this achy sadness will leave, and I'll fully appreciate all that modern medicine and a great doctor have done for me.  

But for now, for this Advent, and for these last few days before Christmas, I'm thinking of Mary, and the crazy miracle that happened in her womb.  She had to be full of grace to believe, accept and glorify that miracle; I'm pretty sure I'll never be that full of grace, but I'm thankful that I have enough grace to be thankful -- for my womb and my children, my own little slice of miraculous.     


Thursday, December 8, 2011

An Enough Christmas

I love Christmas.  I do, I do, I do.
I love it so much, I get stressed.  I do, I do, I do.

But I know that's just because I think it has to be perfect.
Note to self:  it doesn't.
In fact, it's the imperfect parts that turn out to be the most memorable.
The tree without ornaments Christmas.
The sick Christmas.
The snowed-in Christmas when the X Box was just a big X drawn on a box.

So, with everything going on around here (ie, a little new job, a little choir, a little bell ringing, a little surgery, a little food pantry, a little catering), I have adopted the motto, "It is enough."

Whatever it is. Gifts, decorations, cookies.  How ever many or much, it is enough.

If there is love, if there is family, if there are friends, if there is Jesus, and if there's at least one cookie, it is always enough.


PS  Although I have given up both Coke and cigarettes, I can still chill.
PS 2  OK, so I only smoked for 3 weeks sophomore year of college, but allow me that one bad ass moment, please.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Little Holiday Sadness

Babies born at the holidays are an extra special joy.

A friend dying at the holidays is an extra special heartache.
Looking for a little peace today.

God bless Sherry Brown Comstock, a great mom, wife, teacher and friend.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Thankfulness - Always Thankful

Various and sundry things I am thankful for:

Noisy wheel bearings
Dog hair
Modern medicine
Green smoothies
Purdue University

And, of course,

Monday, November 28, 2011

November Thankfulness - Anniversary

For our 29th wedding anniversary, I thought I would write a poem (which can also be sung to the tune of Rossini's William Tell Overture, a la Fred Flintstone.)

Happy Anniversary, 
I had a colonoscopy;
Clay took such good care of me,
Happy Anniversary.

Happy Anniversary,
We got home just before three,
He made me pb and jelly,
Happy Anniversary.

Happy Annivesary,
Dinner at Tre Bicherri
Lamb and fancy ravioli,
Happy Anniversary.

Happy Anniversary,
One love letter just for me.
All I need, just G and C,
Happy Anniversary.

PS  I didn't say it was a great poem.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

November Thankfulness - Gifts

Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.  
Albert Einstein

I like presents.

Primarily, I like giving presents.  Finding just the right thing for just the right person is a true joy.

I like to wrap presents, and tie pretty bows and hand-stamp the tags.

I like to make presents.  Duct tape wallets, fuzzy fun fur scarves, purses, pictures, soap, hot fudge, cocoa mix, cheeseballs.

And I will freely admit that I like getting presents, too.  While I'd like to think that I am not materialistic, I realize that I do like things.  Not lots and lots of things, but pretty things, useful things, things that someone else has picked out for me that are just the right things.  And my tastes are simple.  Books.  Pictures.  Yarn.  Crafty things.  Antiquey things.  Basically, anything anyone gives me is deeply appreciated, especially hand-made things, which I love to display, and have even been known to frame.

But what I don't like is a present just for a present's sake.  Shopping just for the sake of shopping.  Spending money because that's what the calendar and the commercials tell you to do.  If you are one of those Black Friday shoppers, that's cool with me -- I like a bargain, too.  But Black Friday shopping is not something I am comfortable with, as it seems to consist of two of my least favorite things in the world:  crowds and conflict.

And, it falls at my least favorite time to be up -- sleep time -- on my favorite day of the year, the day I like to call Couch Friday.


Friday, November 25, 2011

November Thankfulness - Brown Friday

Today is one of my favorite days of the year.  Leftovers, couch time, a movie or two, knitting and quiet.
And today was a little more special, because Clay and I took a nice hike at the Refuge.  Take that, Black Friday -- we just created Brown Friday (crunchy leaves version.)

So, today I am thankful for a long-legged husband who will shorten his stride so that we can walk together.  (There's a metaphor for something in that last sentence - I'll work on that!)


Sunday, November 20, 2011

November Thankfulness - Pie

My, oh my, how I love pie.  (I should write a poem, shouldn't I?)

I love to read about pie, bake pie, serve pie and eat pie.

And eat pie the next day, when it is almost always better, except for meringue pie; sad but true, meringues, like yeast breads, are outside of my skill set.

Mom was a great pie baker; her best was Raisin Exquisite.
Grandma Hunley was a great pie baker; fortunately for us, meringues were her specialty -- chocolate meringue, lemon meringue, coconut meringue.
I am just an OK sort of pie baker, whose crusts still tend to shrink and often get a little black around the edges.  I do, however, have aspirations of greatness, and look toward the day when I'll have enough time and patience to cut out little pastry leaves to decorate the edges of our pies, a la Martha Stewart.  

This Thanksgiving, I think we will have about 20 pie-loving guests, so I'm baking the following:  2 pumpkin pies, 2 regular sugar cream pies (the state pie of Indiana, and everyone's favorite), 1 brown sugar sugar cream pie (recipe here -- Clay says, "Why mess around with a good thing?" but I say, "This might be the new good thing!") and 1 mincemeat (just because).  If things go as planned, I am going to make the crusts, using the foolproof recipe from America's Test Kitchen (the secret is vodka!); if things go wonky, as they are apt to do around here lately, I will rely on the Pillsbury Dough Boy and his marvelous refrigerated crust.

Piece.  Of pie.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November Thankfulness - My Girls

Craft show admission - $0
1 spoon ring -     $5.00
2 cookies -         $3.00
3 pork burgers - $9.00
Spending a few precious hours with Sarah and Maggie -- Priceless.

OK, I know that is completely cliched, but it's true.  It just doesn't happen very often, and I am so thankful when it does.

Friday, November 18, 2011

November Thankfulness - Riley Children's Foundation

Today, I was privileged to attend the Riley Children's Foundation annual luncheon.  It was a beautiful, inspiring day; I could try to describe it for you, but there is a nice video here at the Foundation's website.

I am thankful that Indiana children (and children from all over the world, actually) have such a fantastic hospital, and thankful that all Hoosiers can easily help Riley by tossing their change into Speedway buckets, dancing in marathons or buying a Riley license plate for their car.  None of our kids or grandchildren have needed Riley services, but I am so thankful that if they do, Riley is there.

PS Bonus thanks -- I got to say hi to Anne Ryder in the bathroom, and told her she did a lovely job as the MC.  Anne did the very last filmed interview with Mother Teresa before she died, and I've always been a fan.   She had closed her remarks at the luncheon with something she learned from Mother Teresa:  "It's not how much you do that matters, it's with how much love you do it."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November Thankfulness - Forgiveness

At about 1:30 today, I realized I had forgotten to call the guys in the band and tell them I wouldn't be at the Lutheran Home at 11:30 today.  I wasn't there last Tuesday, and won't be there the next two Tuesdays.

The guys will all understand, and carry on, but I know I am really going to catch it from the residents.  Here's hoping that if I play all their favorite Christmas songs nice and loud, they'll forgive me.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

November Thankfulness - Middle Age

After an evening of partying with a sweet 21-year-old birthday girl, I am thankful that bars, obnoxious DJ's, pounding music and shoulder-to-shoulder clubbing are not a part of my life.

I am thankful, however, for the introduction to Toast, Scout and NuLu -- East Market Street is now my new favorite Louisville locale.


Friday, November 11, 2011

November Thankfulness - A Vet

So I told you about my friend, Chuck, the 82-year-old Korean War veteran who is writing his memoirs.

Today, he came to St. A, shared school lunch with us, and spoke at our Veterans Day program.   He passed his Purple Heart around for the kids to see, told us to appreciate  all veterans and made me so proud.

I am thankful to have a friend like Chuck.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November Thankfulness - Busy

I have really been too busy to post anything deep or witty.

So today, I am thankful for this busy life.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November Thankfulness - Little Bites

I really needed just a little bit of chocolate today, and there is none to be found in this house.
There is, however, a jar of hot fudge in the refrigerator, and one good spoonful was just enough.

Thankful for just enough.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November Thankfulness - The Proper Tools

Monday evening my chapter made cheeseballs.  Hundreds of cheeseballs.  (need one?)

Monday morning, all the supplies were delivered to school, and that evening we all hauled our mixers into the kitchen and started the assembly line.  Proper tool #1 - a KitchenAid mixer.  Perhaps the best gift I ever coerced Clay into buying for me.  Here's mine, in pink:

I had to guard her closely -- some sisters with plain white mixers thought it would be a good idea to trade.

Unfortunately, the nuts we ordered were not chopped, so I called Will and he brought in Proper Tool #2, my Cuisinart:
which makes fast work of almost anything.

After the chopping and mixing, the forming of the cheeseballs began.  The only proper tool for this is #3 - hands.

So today, I am thankful for my hands, which are my proper tools for all the things I like best -- playing the piano, knitting, quilting. turning book pages, turning soil and hugging.


Monday, November 7, 2011

November Thankfulness - Paint

A fresh coat of paint makes everything better, doesn't it?  You know one of my goals this year has been to get rid of all the wallpaper in the house (OK, that's the one paper I don't like!)  The baby shower was just the kick in the pants I needed to finish the task, and I am proud to say that it is all gone!  We painted the living room and dining room in Martha Stewart Dolphin gray -- bright and clean.
And, I sanded down and  repainted these

to get these

I also painted some old picture frames in the same off-white, then framed our favorite song lyrics.  Speaking of painting, I broke out my watercolors for two of the songs -- I had forgotten how much I love to paint with them.
The chalkboard in the center is another pinterest idea; the sentiment on the chalkboard is Maggie's idea.  

The Norman Rockwell corner

The foyer, with a sweet little telephone desk I purchased from my favorite little shop, Claire Marie

 And I don't think I posted the re-vamped family room wall, so here it is:
We've lived here almost 20 years, but it feels sort of new.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

November Thankfulness - Paper

I love paper.

Newspaper, wrapping paper, scrapbook paper.
The paper books are printed on.
The paper thank you notes are written on.
The paper wrapped around a florist's delivery.
The paper books are printed on.  Yes, I said that twice -- that's how important it is to me.

We had a terrific party here today.  Some of my best friends came together to celebrate  a sweet girl and her soon-to-be-born sweet girl.  And besides being all about a baby, it was all about paper.

Brittany will soon be a teacher, and her mom is our school librarian, so I thought a book-themed shower would be appropriate.  Thanks to pinterest and Martha Stewart, I got all kinds of good ideas.

Here are the invitations:
I found a template of a blank library card on the internet, copied it into Printshop and messed around to get this.  The envelopes were just brown lunch sacks cut down to size and stamped.  (Isn't that fancy smudging out of my address and phone?)

And the decorations:

Cricut letters, cut with the Storybook cart.  I smudged around on the edges with stamp pads like my pal, Tonja, taught us at her card class.

And the food, with little paper replicas of children's books as menu cards:
 Joannie's Stinky Cheese Man

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie cookies

Sarah's Famous Strawberry Pinkalicious Cupcakes 

Linda's Green Eggs, served with ham sandwiches 

 A Very Hungry Caterpillar vegetable tray

I made up 26 blank scrapbook pages, each with a letter of the alphabet and had everyone choose one; they were to draw a picture or write some words about that letter (and sign their creations), then we put them all in a pink scrapbook for Brittany.  That was lots of fun, even for those who said they couldn't draw!
 And favors were, of course, bookmarks:

Everyone pitched in to make it a great time.  Special thanks to my sweet girls, the cooker and the cleaning fairy.