Friday, December 31, 2010

I finished the quilt!


My fingers are sore and I'm very tired but the quilts are finished for Harri and Cris. They have been washed and are in the dryer and if the weather permits, they will be with the boys this evening. Both patterns are from the Quilter's World magazine, Feb, 2008 and my sister, their grandmother, had purchased the fabrics before she died in 2009. It has been my great honor and pleasure to complete these quilts for her grandsons. In fact, my last conversation with Jan, a few hours before she died, was of how we were going to work together on making these quilts when she recovered. Jan has been in my thoughts every time I've sat down to work on these quilts--it's as tho she has guided my hands as I sew the patterns.

Here is Hari's "Lunch of the Penguins" quilt. Sorry it's so blurry. It looks a lot clearer in the camera--I don't know how to fix it. The quilt is a large crib sized one and since he's not yet 3, he should do just fine with it. I quilted this one with a horizontal, elongated meander to make it look like the blues are ice. In the outer border I did an ordinary meander. And the penguins I simply outlined and stitched in their bodies along their wings.

Cris's twin sized quilt is called "Arctic Adventure," and it has polar bears and birch trees in the fabrics. This is the one I challenged myself to finish between Monday night and Friday--and it's done!

This quilt gave my so much trouble because I neglected to iron the backing fabric and got a lot of pleats and tucks in it that I had to painstakingly take out and resew. There are still a few tucks in there but I think when it's washed and dried, they'll disappear in the overall puckering of the quilt.
This is a close up of the quilting I did along the inner borders and you can see some of the overall design I did in the quilt center. I repeated the center design in the outer border but added some of the spiraling that I'd used in the inner border. I'm really pleased at how will it turned out despite my screwing up on something so basic!
These are a couple of shots of the pleating I sewed in the back. There was a fold like across the width of the quilt and every time I stitched across that fold, I got a pucker, some worse than others. I ripped out the stitches and used lots of straight pins to flatten the excess fabric--like you do when you're setting in a sleeve--and then carefully stitched over the pins and hoped for the best. Most of the time I only had to do this once.













That's the saga of Harri and Cris's quilts--I hope they like them.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm going to my niece's house for a New Year's Eve party and sleepover. She told me her brother and his family will be there as well. This is the family which has the two boys that my sister, their grandmother, had planned on making quilts for. I finished the penguin quilt for Hari and also the top of the polar bear one for Cris. So I decided to stop procrastinating and get it finished so I can give it to Cris at the same time as I give Hari his quilt.

On Monday evening, I pieced the backing and took everything to work with me on Tuesday. After work I pinned the sandwich together and after dinner last night,I started quilting the center. I was in a hurry on Monday and I didn't bother to iron the backing fabric and last night, after quilting about half of the center, I discovered why the pros always recommend pressing the backing. Wrinkles! Puckers! Pleats! I was really bummed out when I turned the quilt over and discovered these. By midnight I had finished quilting the center and had fixed all the puckering on the back. Never again will I skip the ironing step!

The polar bear quilt is about twin size so it won't take too long to get finished. I'll work on it tonight and I have Thursday and Friday off work, so I'm confident that I'll get it finished. Don is leaving Thursday AM for his Florida golf trip so I won't have any distractions like finding his socks, fixing lunch, checking something that he found on the computer, etc. Just me and my machine--Yea!

I'll try to remember to take the time for pictures and will post them when I have time. I'll keep you posted on my progress as I go along. As always, no wagering on whether I finish it in time. :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas follow up

I survived Christmas again! It was a very nice weekend with both my son and daughter and granddaughter with us for the long weekend--Jo was in Texas at Aunt Doris' house along with dozens of cousins! The best Christmas gift--besides no braces--was no arguing among the kids! I think that's a first for this family. Don't know about yours but when my kids get together for too long, an argument inevitably breaks out. Ahhh, tradition!

I found myself wishing they would all leave. I know that sounds really bad. After all, I only see Dan for holidays, about 3 or 4 times a year, but I see Tessa and Lily at least once a week or more. In the middle of Christmas day, I started thinking about the time when we will be going to one of the kids' houses for Christmas and how easy that will be. Less decorating. Much less cooking. And a ton less cleaning up afterwards! Then I reminded myself of people who's children live much farther away and they don't get to see them hardly at all, and I decided it was a good thing to have them all gathered around.

I worked on the Cotton Boll quilt on Thursday while waiting for Dan to arrive and I finished making the green and neutral twosies. I know I'm behind (and I've done a little whining when I know I shouldn't have!) but I hope to have the 600 HST finished before 2010 has ended. It's hard to start such a large project, but I have to, I guess. I did take out some knitting while Tessa and I watched a movie. I'm working on a cap for Jo to take with her to Bulgaria. It's made of a fine yarn on size 6 and 7 needles and, of course, I've made a ton of mistakes. I think I've taken it out and started over again at least 6 times so far. Wish me luck that this time I'll do it properly.

Tessa and Lily went home yesterday morning and in the afternoon, Tessa called to tell me Lily had taken a fall while ice skating and had a sore wrist. It sounded like a sprain to me so I told her to ice it and give Lily some Tylenol. A couple of hours later, Tessa called again to say she'd taken Lily to Urgent Care and wouldn't you know, poor Lily has a broken wrist! Either today or tomorrow she'll get a hard cast put on for the next 6 to 8 weeks. The good thing is she's right handed and broke the left wrist, so she can still do her art work, school work, etc. She says she intends to continue skating even with a broken wrist and I was glad to hear that she's not totally put off skating.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Snow--Teeth--Christmas

My husband took some pictures of the blizzard we had a couple of weeks ago. Even now, it looks much the same and I think we will have a very snowy winter at my house.
This is the front yard and driveway looking out to our neighbor's farm. We have snowbanks along the drive (after the professional snow plower cleaned it up) about 5.5 feet high. Great snow mountains for Lily!

This is the view from my kitchen window overlooking my deck.

So, I'm having a white Christmas this year. It makes for hard driving to and from work, but we still need moisture after 7 years of both winter and summer drought. It also means that maybe my garden plants won't totally freeze out this year--I'm getting tired of replanting these "perennials" every spring. :)
I am on Christmas vacation today and don't have to go back to work until Monday. Yea!!! Have to do some baking today--finally--and get ready for my son to arrive home this afternoon. Some gift wrapping. And I'm determined to find the tree skirt I made a couple of years ago! We rearranged the storage area and now I can't find one of the Christmas boxes.
I received an early Christmas gift and I love it. On December 6 (is that St. Nickolas Day?) I got the gift of straight teeth. After 1-3/4 years of dealing with very painful and uncomfortable braces, the doc took them off on the 6th and now, instead of having a "snaggle tooth" mouth, I smile with confidence. At my age (retirement is very soon!) I truly debated over having this done. After all, I may very well end up with dentures before long, right? Well, I guess not. The orthodontist predicts that my teeth will last many, many more years. If they could withstand the wrenching, pushing, and pulling that took place to manoever them into a straight line, they'll likely withstand anything the future holds! I'm glad I had this done.
Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates this holiday, and for those of us who celebrate for other reasons, I wish you a time of peace and happiness with family and friends. For those who don't celebrate any holiday at this time, I wish you peace as well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rolling, rolling, rolling

I'm rolling along on Bonnie H's mystery quilt. Last night I finished 10 more 8.5" squares of step 3 and now I only have 10 more to go and I'll be finished with that step. While I'm doing that, I'm neglecting everything else. No cards written or sent. No cookies baked. No decorations up--yet. Friday Lily will come out for the weekend and we always need her to come with us to the tree farm to chose the Christmas tree. That girl has an artist's eye! So that's on the schedule for Saturday afternoon with decorating it on Sunday.

Saturday is our Winter Solstice dinner--only Tessa and Lily will be attending this year. I hope that Lily will help me cook and set a pretty table and generally get things ready. I think she'll be excited to help put out the nice dishes, make a fancy desert, etc--and that will be a help to me as well.

This is my last week of full time work--and it's dragging big time! The next 2 weeks we have thurs and fri off for the holidays and the first week in Jan I'm taking off thurs and fri for the trip to Chicago with the kids. I can't wait to go on the shortened work week--it's been a long time coming. And, as Al Franken's character used to say, I deserve it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Now it's the B word!

No pix today. We are snowed in and why would you want to see pix of several feet of snow that the BLIZZARD dumped in our yard? Actually, I think we got between 1 and 2 feet of actual snow on Saturday but the wind was, and is, howling so much that we have drifts that are up to 8 feet high. Poor Don spent about 5 hours in the cold with the snow blower trying to get some of it cleared out so we can get out for work tomorrow--but the wind was blowing it back at a pretty good rate. Frankly, I don't really care if I have to stay home another day--my larder is full, I have lots of fabric to play with and if the power stays on, I'll be watching movies or listening to the radio. If the power goes off, I'll turn on the stove in the porch and snuggle down with a good book. Sounds good to me.

Yesterday and today I spent most of the time working on step 3 of Bonnie Hunter's Roll Roll Cotton Boll mystery quilt. I have about half of the pieced blocks done--only 30 more to go!--and they take sooooo much time! If I wasn't so determined to clear out my scraps, I'd have given up on this quilt long ago. This is the first time I'm doing a mystery quilt as a mystery, and I'm enjoying it. I can't let myself get too far behind, tho, or it'll never get done. Bonnie published part 4 the other day so I have to get going and finish part 3.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Girl Scouting

I was reading Sam's blog this morning at "All Things Quilty and Sewey" and she included a picture of her old Girl Guide uniform. I got to thinking about my days as a Girl Scout and later as a troop leader for my daughters.

I think I joined GS as a Brownie scout when I was in first or second grade and I love it. My two older sisters were scouts and my older brother was a Boy Scout, so I knew it was going to be fun. I don't remember too much of those Brownie days except for the dance my troop put on for our mothers as part of a big dinner and ceremony for them. We had practiced and rehearsed and practiced again until we were ready. We had beautiful colorful costumes to wear, and we got up on the stage of the auditorium and performed the Mexican Hat Dance to the tune of "La Cucaracha" and it was thrilling! It was the first time I'd been on a stage and I thought this was the best thing ever. Any my mother told me that the dancing was the best she'd ever seen!

I also remember "flying up" from Brownies to Girl Scouts and how grown up I felt--at about 8 or 9 years old! LOL I stayed in Girls Scouts for 2 or 3 years before dropping out in the 6th grade. Like my older sisters, I wanted to go camping and have adventures and earn lots of badges. Unlike my sisters', my troop leaders wanted to do crafts. Every week. Week after week, nothing but crafts. I only went camping once while I was in GS--an overnight winter camp in a bunkhouse/lodge near a frozen lake. We cooked our own food and we went ice skating by moonlight on that lake--so much excitement for a young girl! We made hot chocolate after skating and we got to sleep in bunks that night. I loved that overnight and I wanted to do that every week instead of crafts.

I also went to day camp every summer that I was a scout. I learned lots of GS songs (Make New Friends, etc) and games and I learned to sing in a "round." I wonder if girls do that any more? We made "buddy burners" and cooked grilled cheese sandwiches on top. Our day camp was at a nearby lake and we did everything outdoors and I don't remember every having rain. Isn't that strange? One time I was wading in a creek with a stony bottom and a leech or, as we say in the Midwest, "bloodsucker," attached to my foot. I started screaming and carrying on something terrible, begging the counselors to take it off. They (two girls not much more than high schoolers) refused and said I should be a big girl and take it off myself! While I was screaming and they were refusing, the bloodsucker was making it's way up my leg from my heel almost to my knee. Someone finally plucked up the courage to get the thing off my leg but to this day when I see one of those disgusting things, I still feel like screaming--but I don't.

This is the kind of uniform I wore when I was a GS except I didn't have a cute hat and my dress (yes, we wore dress uniforms, no slacks allowed back then) had short sleeves. I think I may have worn my hair in that "page boy" style as well. I learned to tie a square knot from having to do the tie just right and I can still tie a mean square knot--left-over-right-and-right-over-left.


Well, this is a long post, but I got to thinking about those long gone days of Girl Scouting and just thought I'd write about them. Do any of you have GS memories? Please share them if you do, I'd love to hear your stories.


Another time, I'll write about my adventures as a GS troop leader. Just a hint--quilting was involved.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Waylon Lewis: Happy Buy Nothing Day!

I heard about Buy Nothing Day a few years ago and I really like the concept of it and this is my favorite thing to post about on this Friday after Thanksgiving.

Waylon Lewis: Happy Buy Nothing Day!

Check out Mr. Lewis' article in the Huffington Post if you're fed up with "Black Friday" craziness as I am. When did spending money and consuming stuff for the sake of spending and consuming become a national pastime? I try to avoid spending anything on the day after Thanksgiving but inevitably, I have to gas up the car or run to the grocery for a few things, as I will do tonight after work. But I'll make up for it another day when I will spend nothing at all.

Ever since I learned about it, I have tried to make a conscious effort to spend TIME with my family and my friends instead of buying them stuff. For instance, the fam agreed that we will draw names and each member gets only one gift for Christmas. The money Don and I would have spent on buying multiple gifts for each one goes toward a holiday experience that we all enjoy. Some years its been a vacation at a ski resort and other years it has been going to the movies together. The important thing is that we participate and enjoy it TOGETHER.

This year I heard about "Buy Small" on Black Friday. That means if you're going to shop, patronize your local hometown stores instead of only the big box stores. Makes sense to me.

I don't advocate not spending at all, but let's keep it sensible. Fighting and shoving and possibly injuring each other, all in the effort to get the "perfect" Christmas gift, doesn't really add much to the season of "Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward All," does it?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wishing you have a safe, happy and delicious
Thanksgiving day
with family and friends.

If you're not celebrating the "Big Feast Day" as we do in the US,
I hope you enjoy this day, and every day,
keeping your family and friends nearby.



Sunday, November 21, 2010

"I kinda think I've got my quilting groove back," she whispered. I don't want to jinx it. It just feels good to be working at my machine after such a long time away from it.

This is the quilt I made out of that bundle of 5" squares I bought awhile back. I usually follow someone else's pattern but this one I created myself. Not very complicated, but I like it and I decided to call it "Girls' Best Friend" since it's all diamonds.

It measures 50x59 inches and I quilted it on my Husqvarna Viking in a pattern of a fancy design in the white blocks, a free hand daisy in the colored diamond blocks and a vine with a stylized rose and leaves.

I didn't have enough fabric for the back and since it's an 80 mile round trip to go to the fabric store, I used leftover pieces of the top fabric to make a pieced back.

I took it to work last week to decide if I wanted to put it up for sale in the annual employee craft sale or if I wanted to save it to put in my future Etsy store. When my co-workers saw it, it was sold! On the spot! No question about it! Wow! That felt really good.
When I finished that quilt about 2 weeks ago I turned next to my great nephew's penguin quilt. Three year old Harri is my sister's grandson and she had planned on making him a penguin quilt. When we were going through her apartment after her death a year ago, I ended up with a huge box of things including the pattern and all the fabric for Harri's quilt. So, it was up to me to make the quilt for Harri.
As I was going through the box a few weeks ago, I found a bunch of other fabrics--polar bears and such--that didn't look like they fit with the penguin theme. In the quilt magazine, I found a pattern for a polar bear quilt as well as the penguin quilt, and the light bulb went on. She had planned on making the polar bear quilt for Harri's big brother, Cris!
I've finished the top of the penguin quilt and am taking it to work tomorrow to pin it together. When it's all quilted up, I'll post a picture. Then I have to make up Cris's polar bear quilt, which he doesn't know anything about.
Working on these quilts is a bittersweet task. I'm pleased to be able to finish what Jan wanted to give to her grandsons. I thought about her all the while I worked on Harri's quilt. I know the boys will love these quilts as much as if her hands had done the sewing. I just wish she could be here to keep me company as she used to do when we sewed together at each other's houses.But if she were, we'd get no sewing done because we'd be laughing and giggling so much. :)



















Friday, November 19, 2010

TGIF

I've had a very interesting day, to say the least. I had a full schedule of clients today and all but one canceled. That means I have to contact them and see if they want to reschedule, and it also means that I had time to move my office. Yes, the new employee is showing up Monday morning to start learning my job. A bittersweet day, moving my stuff. I've worked here over 5 years--that's pretty much a record for me since my husband likes to move every five years or so--and I'd really settled in to my office.

I'm looking forward to working with her and teaching her how to do the job, but it's also another step closer to the end of my working career. I'm looking forward to retirement, but it's such a FINAL thing. Does everyone feel as apprehensive as I do as the time draws near? Even though I'm only changing from full time to part time in January, my official retirement day is April 8, 2011.

Believe me, I've resigned from many jobs--because of hubby's wanderlust--but this is such a permanent thing. I know that at my age I'll never be hired again. Don't tell me there's no such thing as age discrimination in this country! If I ever want to work again, I'll have to be a greeter at the wally mart (and I have no intention of doing that!) or I'll have to start my own business (I've done that before and don't know if I have the stamina for it). So this is final.

My boss has suggested that she has other projects that she wants me to do on a part time basis and I'll do that for awhile, but it just feels strange.

This sounds like a very depressing post. I don't feel depressed, just a lot of mixed feelings. I'm sure that I'll be just fine as I progress along this journey to retirement, but I have to admit, it's a different journey than I've ever had and it certainly feels like uncharted territory. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Follow ups

I was looking over some of my previous entries and I re-read the one I posted on October 27 about the wind storm. When we checked the roof a few days later with binoculars, quite a few shingles had been ripped off. We had hoped to delay re-roofing until next summer, but now there was no choice. We had a roofer out in a few days and, luckily, there was a run of very nice November weather and they managed to complete the job before the snow fell last weekend. So, now we'll be snug in the house for the winter.

I had mentioned to Don that he might want to call the house insurance company to see if they'd pay for part of the roof--after all, we've paid for years and have rarely if ever made a claim. He didn't think so but he grudgingly called them and found out that they will reimburse us for about 3/4 of the cost! That's a nice gift! See Don, you should always listen to me and do what I tell you. ;)

#2 follow-up (or as they say in medical records--fu) Lily has lost more teeth. Last week the second upper front tooth came out and yesterday, the first bottom tooth detatched. there's another loose bottom tooth which will probably come out soon. She'll be missing her 4 front teeth for Christmas! I'll get a picture of her beautiful smile when I can.

I think that's it for today. Back to work.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where Eagles Soar

I live in a part of the US which is fortunate to have seen a resurgence of the Bald Eagle, America's national bird.

As recently as 50 years ago, it was a rarity to see a bald eagle where I live. Sometimes we would see one at the wilderness camp on the Ontario/Minnesota border where I spent my college summers, and occasionally I would see one while camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The dark wings and body soaring above--not knowing if it was a large hawk, raven or whatever--then the body turning such that you can see a flash of white and then both head and tail flashing white! Knowing for sure it's a Baldy! I always get a thrill when I see one.

And now, I see an eagle almost every day on my way to work. I'll look out the car window and there it will be, flying above me, almost as though it's guiding me on my journey. Every day I pass an eagles's nest on my way to work--high in an old pine tree, those things are massive! Sometimes, I'll see an eagle on the ground. They like to feed on deer carcasses along the roadside and sometimes there will be one in the middle of a plowed field, checking out something. When we lived in a house on a river, I saw an eagle swoop down right in front of the house to catch a fish--it was amazing!

I like to think that spotting a bald eagle is an omen of good luck, but I'm not sure it really works. Some days just seem to go better than other, eagles or not. I've never seen a bald eagle up close other than in pictures and I think they really are rather ugly and fierce looking things but up in the sky--majestic!

My favorite thing this Friday is celebrating the return of the Bald Eagle!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jack-O-Lanterns

Which is the better Jack-O-Lantern?

Lily, with her one missing tooth and very wiggly other teeth?


Or Jack, which she created last night?

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fave Things Friday

As always, I was at a loss as to my favorite thing today. Here's my thinking process: Last night I finished the pieced backing for the little throw quilt I've been procrastinating about for weeks, and I cut the batting to fit. Brought it to work today, thinking I'll use the tables in one of the conference rooms after work to lay it out and pin baste it all together. Then, it occurred to me: My favorite thing today is to pin baste a quilt on a table so I can move on to the joy of machine quilting it.

For anyone who's not familiar with pin-basting a quilt, there are good instructions here: crazy mom quilts: one way to baste a quilt. The only thing I do different is work on a table instead of crawling on the floor--those days are gone for good!

I enjoy choosing the fabrics to make a quilt, piecing it together on the machine, basting the quilt "sandwich," machine quilting it in fancy designs, and even hand sewing the binding--all the steps of quiltmaking. But I most enjoy snuggling under the finished quilt OR seeing the look of pleasure on the face of the one to whom I've given the quilt.

Whatever you do today, whether it be quilting or another activity, I hope you enjoy the process as much as I enjoy mine.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yikes! It's the S_ _ _ word!

Indeed, it was SNOWING when I left home for work this morning. Coming down, frosting the roofs, dusting the grasses in the wayside. This is one heck of a storm here in the midwest. Yesterday, Superior WI set the record for low pressure in WI. Radio said it was equal to a category 2 or 3 hurricane low pressure, but not as destructive. Last night, as I lay in bed listening to the wind howl and rip at my house, I couldn't imagine how it would be in a real hurricane. I was afraid all evening that the windows would blow out and in bed, I swear I could hear the roofing nails being pulled out. It was too dark this morning to check the roof for shingle damage, but I will tonight.

I hope all this blows over in another day or two instead of developing into another gi-normous snowstorm like the one we had for Halloween over 15 years ago. At that time, I was working in Duluth and had a 75 mile commute home. The snow started falling heavy on Thursday afternoon and I decided to leave work around 3, I think. I arrived home about 8 pm, following a snow plow most of the way. Earlier, Don had taken the girls trick-or-treating around town but after a half hour or so, they gave up and came home. Hard to run from house to house, in costume (under the parka) in foot high snow! No one went to work or school on Friday--we stayed home and tried to keep up with the shoveling--and the storm lasted until Sunday. When it was all finished blowing around, we had between 4 and 5 feet of snow on the ground at our house!

Ahhh. Life in the Northland--ain't it great!

Monday, October 25, 2010

My New Purse

A while ago I decided to knit myself a purse and felt it. I've done this before for others but, since the purse I was using was being held together by a safety pin, I decided it was time to make one that I would keep. Besides, I need that pin for basting my next quilt. :)

It was pretty large, soft and flexible. Would have made a great bulky knit sweater, I think. I washed it in hot water in my machine along with a bath towel. It came out somewhat smaller but VERY heavy and wet, so I decided to throw it in the drier for 10 minutes. I don't recommend you do this unless you're willing to end up with a teeny tiny coin purse, but this time, it worked great! After these few minutes on high heat, it had shrunk up perfectly and was nearly dry. I stuffed it with a bath towel and set it out to finish drying overnight

The next night, I embellished it with a fringe made of leftover yarns, added the knobby thing, and Voila!, it was finished! I like the way it looks. It's very thick and strong from all the wool shrinking up, and it holds all my stuff as well as the old one did. That one? It went into the garbage a couple of days ago--but I saved the pin!

Here's the finished product:
I'm being very lazy these past few weeks. I was at 2 days of training earlier this month and we celebrated 10 years of the Disability Benefits Specialist program in Wisconsin and maybe that has made my lethargic. I don't know why--I'm very proud to be one of the 70 DBSs in the state and I'm very proud of the work we all do.

I have arranged with my supervisors for my transitioning out of full time work and last week, I learned that the top applicants will be interviewed today. I was kind of shocked to hear that--it's really becoming true--I really am going to be retired before long! Yikes! That's a life changing event for anyone, I think. And today, all the interviewees are stopping by my office to meet the staff and see the office layout here and to ask me any questions about the job.

The arrangement that we have is that the new DBS will be hired this fall and there will be a couple of months where we both will be working full time. Later, in January, I'll be dropping down to half time work for a few months in order to help train my replacement and to help manage the work load. I'm really looking forward to having more time off to do the things I want to do but still, it's a big change.

Maybe that's why I don't seem to have the energy I used to have. I don't know. Last night I forced myself to make a vampire cape for Lily to wear this Halloween and that seemed to help get me started again. I found a long black velvet skirt at Goodwill that I cut up the back seam and lined with some sparkly red satin. Added a tie and it's good to go! I've been teaching her to say, "I vant to drrrrink your bloood!" and she's getting pretty good at it!

After making the cape, I realized that my sewing table was uncluttered for once, and I plan to procede with the pieced backing for the lap throw I'm working on. I also finished the knitted and felted purse that I'd started--Pix of that to follow.

Maybe it's just the fall weather and short days--it gets dark so soon after work. Nothing to be done about that except wait until winter when the days grow long again. Or, I could move to Australia for the next 6 months. I like that idea! :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Favorite Things Friday

Wow! How do I choose a favorite thing for this day? There are a lot of things I really love, like my husband, children and granddaughter. Oh yes! I just thought of my favorite thing today.

I'm so greatful that Don and I have reached the stage in our lives where we've finished raising kids, have paid off (most) of our debt and have a bit of extra cash to play with. I love to travel but haven't done nearly as much as I would like to. Don usually travels only to golf courses unless I pitch a fit and force him to go on a vacation with me--and then he loves it! The best we can do is plan a vacation where he can bring his clubs and spend some time on the course while I do what I like and then we do some things together. We spent a week in Bayfield WI (one of my favorite places in WI) a couple of years ago with Lily and while he played golf on a most beautiful course, Lily and I went to the beach and enjoyed Lake Superior. Everyone was happy!

So, this year, he's going to spend a week or so with family and friends in Florida in January, playing golf, of course! I've decided to take a trip as well and what we've worked out so far is a long weekend in Chicago with 2 of my kids coming in from Milwaukee and Austin and Tessa and Lily and I taking the train from here. It's not too often that all of us can get together and I can't wait for the trip! Lily is 6 1/2 and interested in science and nature so we'll go to the Shedd Aquarium , The Field Museum and if we have time, the Adler Planetarium. She's going to love it, and since I've never vacationed in Chicago--just passed through on my way to somewhere else--I'm going to love it as well.

So, my favorite thing this Friday is a winter vacation with my family in the Windy City! (I know, I know. Some of you are cringing at the thought of winter in Chicago, but hey, when you live in a cold climate, you have to embrace it and not let it stop you from doing what you like!)

Little Bluebell: Bliss Giveaway

Do you need more fabric? Sign up here: Little Bluebell: Bliss Giveaway for another giveaway.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

¡Hurra por Chile!

I watched the first and second trapped miners coming up from the Chilean mine last night and had tears in my eyes as they emerged. What a wonder of technology that not only have they been rescued but that they are all alive and in relatively good health! Absolutely amazing! And kudo's to the Chilean government who was pushing this rescue all the way--and allowing the world to participate in the rescue efforts. Talk about transparency!

As I write this, 13 miners have surfaced--I'll keep watching until the last miner and rescuer has been pulled to safety. Again, HURRA POR CHILE!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall Pix

The weather was nothing short of glorious this past weekend at my house. Sunny, warm and perfect for being outdoors. Lily spent Saturday night with us and she said she would like to go on a leaf hike on Sunday. So we did. We spent an hour or more prowling along the trails in the hills behind the house, gathering leaves so she can make a leaf collection. Of course, I forgot the camera but I returned later in the day to take some pix of the views from the high points on the ridge. A few clouds had begun to gather by then so these pix aren't as brilliant as in the morning, but I still want to share with you.



Most of the red maple leaves have dropped and a lot of the birch as well. What we have now are the dark red-brown oak leaves and the remaining golden birch.
The best thing about the hike--other than spending time with Lily--was how well my knee held up! I've not been able to go hiking for nearly a year, and I am so grateful to be able to be out there again.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Favorite Things Saturday

Story of my life--a day late, a dollar short. Oh well, here's my FTF entry--on Saturday.

About 10 years ago, I bought a shallow pottery dish to use as a fruit bowl, but after awhile, it developed a crack and eventually cracked open completely one day last spring. Oh well, things don't last forever, right? I've been using a different bowl but it's a bit too deep to be a fruit bowl. So last weekend when I was with my friend, we went to nearby Cambridge WI to find a replacement. None to be had at the local pottery so we went along the country roads where there are a number of small independent potters, and there it was waiting for me! And here it is --my new fruit bowl!--with fruit even!

(You might notice there are holes in the bottom of the bowl and on the side as well. That's because it's not really a bowl but a strainer! Shhhh--don't tell anyone. I say it's a fruit bowl. That's my story and I'm sticking to it)

And since I'm a day late for FTF, I'll do a second favorite thing--my baking center. We put in a new kitchen about 5 years ago and I designated one area as a baking center. This means the counter top is a couple of inches lower than usual since I'm short and have to stand on a stool when I'm rolling out dough and doing other baking things on a standard height counter. I designed the center to have enough shelving for mixing bowls, baking ingredients like soda and extracts, and so forth and below, there are pull-out shelves for bins of sugar and flour and all my baking pans. I also had some wine bottle cubbies built because you know, baking always goes better with a little wine! LOL And the final feature of this center, as well as throughout the kitchen, is under cabinet lighting--wonderful!
So, now you know two of my favorite things in my house. I think I'll go make an apple pie. ;)
















Friday, October 1, 2010

F.T.F.

My husband is having a golf weekend with his buddies and the four of them will take over the house. I'm leaving! After work tonight, I'm driving to my friend, Elaine's, house in So WI for the weekend. She is one of my favorite things and today I'll tell you about her.

Because of my husband's work--and his wanderlust too--I have lived in 9 different towns since we were married nearly 39 years ago. I've met lots of wonderful people in each community , but, ya know, it gets hard to keep those friendships going over all these years. I got caught up with my kid's activities, running my business, adjusting to each new town and sometimes, new jobs as well. People grow apart if there aren't common threads strong enough to last a long time. So I don't keep in touch with a lot of my old friends as I should.

I can count on one hand the really, really good friends I have. Friendships that have lasted many years and still seem fresh. Friends who are more close to me than my sisters were. Elaine is one of these sister-friends and I love spending time with her. She and I met when our youngest daughters were beginning orchestra in middle school. We discovered that we each needed an exercise partner and we began walking together every morning for the next several years--until I moved away from that town. We shared our triumphs and joys on those early morning walks as well as our sorrows and despair at times. We counselled each other about our "unique" daughters and what to make of them. We supported each other when our husbands seemed the dumbest men on earth. When 9/11 happened, we turned to each other for support in what seemed to be very dark days for our country.

Now I see Elaine about 3 or 4 times a year either at her house or mine. She has a very dry sense of humor that I love and her favorite saying is, "Oh well" with a kind of up-and-down inflection on the "well." Cracks me up! She's a very classy and yet casual person and people always feel comfortable in her home and in her presence. This weekend, we'll spend hours talking--over a couple glasses of wine. :) We're planning on going to a pottery in a nearby town where I hope to get a new fruit bowl--or not. We may go to the nearby state park where there are ancient Woodland Indian artifacts--or not. We may play cards all afternoon--or not. Without our husbands (hers is one of the golfing buddies who'll be at my house) we'll do whatever we damn well please.

So my Favorite Thing on this Friday is a person--my best friend, Elaine. I'm so glad you are part of my life.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My favorite season

Yesterday, it was cloudy but not raining as I drove to work, and I pondered the beauty of Autumn. Here is N WI we are seeing the leaves turning colors and when you look off at the hills that surround my house, there is predominantly green still, but clusters of reds, oranges and yellows are appearing. Sumac is turning deep red--almost a merlot color. Ragweed is brilliant yellow in all the ditches and some fields. There are purple asters blooming here and there as well. The corn fields are nearly all golden and almost ready for harvest and the soybean fields are moving into their brown color and getting ready for harvest a little while after the corn. The hay/alfalfa fields are still bright green and I think the farmers may get a bonus cutting this fall.

Even in the cloudy weather we've been having, the colors of Autumn are shining. On a sunny day, it just takes my breath away! I wish we could have Autumn all the time--clear, intense blue skies, the maple reds and birch yellows against the forest greens of the pines, crisp dry air (warm in the day and chilly at night). When I was a girl, there would be the scent of wood smoke on most days as folks burned their leaves, but that's not allowed now. I've always loved Autumn for it's beauty and for the sadness that accompanies that beauty. You know that the changing colors in the leaves and in the plants means they're getting ready for their death or dormancy and that the world will soon be barren and covered in a blanket of snow. I always feel poignant about life in the Autumn and savor each shortening day to the fullest. In this season, I want to be in my home instead of in my office, so I can enjoy Mother Nature in her last glorious days before the end.

By noon yesterday, it was pouring rain. That continued all day--sheets of rain falling ALL DAY LONG! But it was surprisingly warm while it was raining! When I got home, I checked the rain gauge and we had well over 2 inches with more coming down. I think it stopped sometime last night but this morning, everything was still wet so I don't know if it rained again over night or if that was left over from yesterday. I knw that all the trees and bushes need this rain if they are going to survive the frozen drought during the winter months, so it's really a good thing. We've had 7 years of below average moisture here so I know we need all the rain we've received this summer, but enough is enough! Soon the rivers will be overflowing--one small creek that I cross on my way to work had already broken over it's banks by this morning.

Enough of all this weather talk. Today is cloudy and warm again but windy so I'm hoping these clouds will blow out and we'll have a sweet weekend. Planning on going to Duluth on Saturday and if it's sunny and clear, it will be one wonderful day!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Goodbye Facebook

My daughter was at the house today and she helped me "deactivate" my Facebook account. She made me promise to never complain about Facebook again. I noticed that my account isn't deleted but only "deactivated." So, I guess it'll be there forever--I'll never get rid of it as long as I live. Wow, I think that's as close to immortality that I'll ever get!

I decided to get a Facebook account last winter since everyone else seems to have one and I thought I'd try it out. The problem is that I simply found the whole experience way too invasive of my personal space--it was too creepy when I got hundreds of emails from people I've never heard of, asking me to be their friend. That was just the first day! Yikes! I've never been that popular in the "real"world but suddenly I was the most popular girl in the class--virtually speaking! Occasionally I'd go to my wall and read all the one line comments my "friends" had made and I kept thinking, "Why would you ever think I care about that?" And I saw pix and read entries from my kids that I really don't think I need to see and read! When I was their age, everything I did I kept secret from my Mom!

No. Facebook just did not connect with me. Must be a generational thing--Couldn't possibly be my attitude, could it?

Peppers and quilts

Today, I harvested jalapeno peppers from the garden and put them in the dehydrator. I've never used a dehydrator before but people at work swear by them, so I thought I'd give it a try. Don planted about 6 jalepeno pepper plants in the garden--what was he thinking?--and I didn't have any idea how to preserve them, so we'll try drying them and see what happens. Now the entire house reeks of hot pepper aroma! Fortunately, it doesn't make your eyes water or anything like that. Also, fortunately, I remembered to put gloves on before I started cutting the peppers. I can't imaging how my hands would be burning if I had forgotten to do that!

I also will be drying some carrots as well--I think they will do fine in the soup pot this winter. If I had any tomatoes, I'd try them as well, but my plants all got consumed by fungus this year, the worst it's ever been. Next year, we're using plastic to try to protect them from the fungus. And I have green peppers that will go into the dehydrator as well.

I'm spending the rest of the afternoon being lazy. While I'm watching tv, I decided to make needed repairs on this quilt:

This is the sampler quilt I made in the year-long quilting class I took in 2000 or so. It was held at the local JoAnne Fabrics store in the town where we lived then and my teacher was Sandy, one of the best, in my opinion. There were about 6 of us in the class and we all signed up for a 3 month course, meeting every Monday night at the store. The youngest member was a kindergarten teacher in her early 20's and the oldest was retired and in her early 80's, I think. When the first 3 month session was finished, we took a break for a few weeks and then started another 3 month session, until we had completed the year and had finished the quilt.

Because the class was sponsored by JoAnne, I bought all my supplies and fabrics from that store and I've been fairly satisfied with how they've held up. I used a polyester batt in this quilt because I only tied it. I remember that I couldn't afford to have it machine quilted by a long-armer and I didn't think I could machine quilt it myself, so I tied it. The repairs I made today were to restitch the binding. For some reason, I used a poor thread to stitch the binding and it was all coming apart. So now it'll be good for a while longer.

What I appreciate about this quilt is that it shows how far I've come in my quilting. My points don't match as well as they should, some seams are beginning to come apart, the applique is not very good, and I don't like the colors I chose at all. I've learned a lot since then and I like to look at this quilt sometimes to see how far I've come. Then I look at other people's quilts and see how far I have to go. Always there's the challenge to improve. Regardless of all the errors in this quilt, it's still wonderful to snuggle into on a cold winter's night. And that's what it's about.












Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Folk Art store update

You may remember that last January, I met with a group of 6 wonderful women and we began to create a folk art co-operative. Here's what's happened to this project over the past 7 months.

Our vision was to offer classes in a wide variety of the folk arts, provide gallery space in our store for member artists to display and sell their creations, open a retail shop selling the raw materials for folk artists, and to provide a gathering space for artists and the community to use. As we worked on setting up the legal parts of the co-op, writing the by-laws and the business plan, and renovating the store for opening day, I began to have serious questions about one of the members' ability to work as a team member. When I spoke with her privately, she laughed and said she did things her way. When I brought up issues at several board of directors' meetings, I received very little support from the other women. Privately, some of them shared that they had concerns about this person as well, but in the meetings, they did not support me as I tried to confront this one person.

By early May, I'd had enough and realized that this person was going to run the business as she chose, regardless of the policies the board set down and regardless of the illegality of some of what she was doing. I resigned from the board of directors and withdrew my membership in the co-op. I was fortunate to get a full refund of my investment. In June, another member also resigned and withdrew her membership and she too, received a full refund of her investment.

I kept in touch with other members on the board throughout the summer and it seemed as though things went from bad to worse. More and more members resigned from the board until by early August there were only 2 members left and the one troubling member who was managing the store and therefore, not an official board member. State law requires that a co-op have a minimum of 3 members on the board of directors and our by-laws require a 5 member board.

I received word in August, that these three members had cancelled the board of directors' elections which had been scheduled for mid July and had gone further to move to dissolve the co-op. This was done without either the knowledge or consent of the remaining co-op members. Both state law and our by-laws require the majority consent of the members to dissolve the entity. When I learned that the co-op had been summarily dissolved, my first question was what will become of the store? The store is a business of the co-op and should have been put up for sale by the board. What did these three ladies do? They "gave" it to themselves. As far as I know, no money changed hands. They simply took over the store for themselves. All the fixtures were purchased with co-op money. The lease is in the co-op name. The goods for sale in the retail part of the store were purchased by the three individuals and were being sold on a consignment basis--not a very productive way to conduct business. The remaining members of the co-op received partial refunds of their investments.

Last weekend, I read an article in a local magazine about the store. There is no mention of the co-op at all and it sounds as though these 2 women have created this store on their own. The third remaining woman isn't referred to at all in the article so I don't know what happened to her.

I was very upset last May when I decided to withdraw from the whole project. I had lots of questions: Should I hang in there and keep trying? What else could I do to correct the situation? Am I crazy for thinking there's a problem since the others didn't support me? What made my decision was the realization that I dreaded going to the weekly board meetings and always came home angry and with a headache. This was supposed to be a satisfying outlet for my creativity and it was becoming a struggle over everything as I tried to hold her to the vision of the co-op and to the policies. Life is too short to spend it on this kind of crap, I thought.

I feel very angry about what this member has done. As time went on, it became more and more clear that this member's goal was to have a store of her own but without having to spend her own money. I believe she used the co-op members and their money to set up her store and in my mind, that simply thievery. To top it all off, this woman claims to have a Masters in Divinity and she goes about preaching in the area churches, while she's robbing people of their money in this way!

I am working very hard to put all this behind me. I try not to think of it because when I do, I become angry again and I don't want to be angry any more about it. When I read the magazine article, I decided to respond and send a letter to the mag to set the record straight. I'm waiting for several days before I send it off--I don't want to write this letter in anger and end up being sued for slander or something!

So, our little group of the remaining 4 women have made plans to gather together to work on our crafts and possibly to start teaching some of what we know. We may create a folk school in the future, but the lessons I learned from this experience will serve me well if we decide to go forward with another venture.

So, that's what happened to the Folk Art co-operative.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anniversary time

Tomorrow I celebrate my 5 year anniversary at work. Seems like only a few weeks ago I started there and it's hard to believe I'm looking at retirement at the end of the year. I'm very fortunate to have the great boss that I have. Char believes in hiring good people and then leaving them alone to do their jobs. Only once before have I had a boss as good as Char. I was speaking with him once about a family I was working with, expressing doubt that I was doing a good job with them. Mark just looked at me and said, "Of course, you can do this. I wouldn't have hired you if I didn't think you were capable." What a beautiful thing for me to hear--that your supervisor has complete faith in your ability! Wow! Well , Char's the same way and I have blossomed under both Mark's and her supervision.

I also have a great team of co-workers by my side everyday. All of us do somewhat different jobs, and we all do them very well. There are a couple of co-workers who irritate me at times, but, Hey! I'm not complaining! To work with a very competent team with only occasional irritants is a very good thing. There's always someone who rubs you the wrong way--we just have to deal with it, right? Most of the time, one or the other is cracking a joke or doing something to make us laugh. I've had other people who work in the building say they wish their departments did things together like we do. We've been bicycling and canoeing together, gone to theater and movies together. We have a pot luck every month and we have some really great cooks! No, I can't complain about my co-workers.

So, to celebrate, I'm bringing cake for everyone. I always make my cakes from scratch and there are several kinds that the gang at work particularly like. For this anniversary, I couldn't decide what kind of cake to bring and then it dawned on me--It's MY celebration so I made MY favorite cake. I've always liked carrot cake with pineapple and pecans and a cream cheese frosting. No calories in that cake! After my first child was born, I was breastfeeding him and was hungry all the time. I knew I had to "eat healthy" so I chose carrot cake. While I was breast feeding him full time, I consumed an entire 9x13 carrot cake every week--for snacks! The best thing is, I kept losing weight like crazy! Well, that all stopped when the baby started eating solids and I kept eating cake! To this day I love carrot cake and every year, I plan on making one for my birthday cake and I never do. So, for this anniversary celebration, it's carrot cake!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School Dresses

Monday and Tuesday I spent sewing for Lily. She wanted a couple of school dresses and I talked her into going with jumpers and blouses instead. (I have never enjoyed setting in sleeves so I avoid it whenever I can.) Here are the finished products:

I also spent some time working on that throw I'm making out of the "cake-thing" bundle of squares I bought last week. It's all together now and I've marked the more intricate quilting designs. Just have to prepare a backing and get it pinned together and start quilting.

I usually just free-hand a stiple or meander design or use Golden Threads paper with the design on it. On this one, I decided to mark the top before making the quilt sandwich. Brother, I know why people complain about marking the quilt top! Boring! Tedious! Hard on the Back! Takes waaay too much time! But. . . (and this is important) I think I may end up with a better quilt when I'm done. I'll post when I'm finished and you can be the judge.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day, 2010--Reflections

I spent the afternoon at my sewing table working on a new school dress for Lily. I always have the radio on when I sew--the "Ideas Network" of Wis Public Radio--and, I swear, every show today had some connection to labor, working, and etc. So, after 4 hours of this, of course, I'm thinking about Labor Day tonight. My family rarely does anything special for Labor Day--no picnics, ball games, weekend at the cabin, etc--that many others enjoy. We usually just stay home and try to get caught up on yard work and gardening.

Today was no different, but I want to express how pleased I am to be able to take a holiday from my job. How pleased I am to have a job at all. For all of the people who are unemployed or underemployed this year, take heart and know that these days will fade and you will be working again very soon, we all hope.

This holiday was created in the 1890's just after a huge, cruel strike at the beginning of the labor movement in the US. Over the past century, it has come to be a salute to the hard working, industrious American worker, to give credit to the laborers who made this country an industrial power, and to applaud the efforts of all those union organizers and members who risked life and limb (in the early days) in order to obtain benefits for all workers.

One of the radio shows today referred to the ILGWU--the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union. Do you remember the song they sang in their commercials asking us to buy American? "Look for the union label..." I recall seeing that ILGWU logo in the labels of blouses and and skirts I bought in the 70's. What happened to this union? Wikipedia says that there were a series of mergers with other unions and now they are part of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union. Today, these 2 unions have a combined membership of about 250,000, down from the 450,000 members of the ILGWA at it's height in 1969.

What happened to these workers? It was very easy for employers to move their factories from the unionized North to the South where unions were practically non-existent and wages were much lower. As well, employers didn't have to provide the benefits that unionized workers received. Later, even these jobs were sent overseas in order to take advantage of ever cheaper labor. Leaving too many American unemployed or underemployed.

I don't know how we can bring jobs back home. Or if we should concentrate on creating new kinds of jobs. Maybe the US as a manufacturing country is finished and we need to set a new course, but I don't know what that would be. I hope someone smarter and more creative than I comes up with something, because too many people are out of work or are working way too hard to simply make ends meet.

A hundred years ago, the unions fought for workers and obtained a lot of benefits that we take for granted today. I don't know if staying with unions is helpful in this century or a hinderance. I just hope that we start getting more jobs for Americans, jobs that pay a decent wage, and that this recession will soon end. I hope that the recesson will end in all the countries of this world as well and these unemployed people will be able to provide for their families better than they can now.

All said, I enjoyed my holiday and am looking forward to going to work tomorrow. I hope you do too.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A while ago (last May), I posted this pix of my crappy, chipped, broken-handles dishes and announced that since I had made new placemats, I needed to get new dishes.



Well, I got totally fed up with the cracks, chips, and discolorations the other day and ordered the new ones. They arrived Friday and I love them!



This is a place setting and it comes with this MUG instead of cup and saucer! I'm in heaven!



With the old dishes, my tables linens were restricted to colors that would go with the brown and green stripes. With these creamy white dishes, I can use any colors I like! My mind is a whirling rainbow of ideas for placemats and napkins and table runners and quilts--Oh, My!

Now I have to clear out the old dishes and take them to Goodwill for someone else to use and to make space for these beautiful new ones. I believe we will have a FINE dinner on these plates tonight even if it's just mac and cheese. ;)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Quilting news from Wisconsin

Yes, I sat at my machine last night and began stitching a throw quilt.

I had extra time between home calls yesterday so I stopped in to the LQS and found the prettiest packet of pre-cut 5" squares by Moda. I think the packet is called something--layer cake, cup cake, pancake or something like that. So last night, before I could take a picture of them, I was stitching the squares to plain cream colored 5" squares that I'd cut and was turning them into 1/2 square triangle blocks. I will make the quilt center with rows of these blocks, add a three-strip narrow border with some coordinating fabric and then a 5" or 6" border of a large print coordinating border to finish it off.

Why am I making this quilt? Well, the little squares of fabrics began whispering my name as soon as I stepped foot in that shop and by the time I got to where they were displayed, I could hear them so clearly shouting, "Take us home!" So I had to.

Our neighbor's son is getting married in November and I think this will be a nice quilt to give as their wedding gift. I'm so glad I worked on this project last night. I was beginning to think I was never going to get back to quilting. It felt really GOOD to be sewing again--I think I've got my groove back again--quilt-ily speaking, that is.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday afternoon

What a beautiful part of the week--Sunday afternoon. It's quite warm and breezy here and I'm waiting for Lily and her mom to arrive for swimming and playing all afternoon.

Last week was full moon week and it was absolutely crazy at work! After reading a few other blogs, it sounds as though a lot of people had wicked crazy weeks as well. We all managed to make it through ok and I, for one, have embraced the weekend. Friday night, one of my best friends and soul sister, and her husband arrived for the weekend and it started off great. For dinner, I made a penne pasta dish with chicken and green beans, from the garden, in a mild cream sauce and chopped hazelnuts for garnish. Yumm! It reminds me of my last trip to Mt Ranier in Washington state where the menue liberally included hazelnuts as garnish.

On Saturday, the rest of the visitors arrived--2 additional couples--and the party really got started. We were swimming, playing water volleyball, visiting, eating and drinking, etc. all afternoon and evening. Into the hot tub after dark but the mosquitoes chased us inside the house. Brunch this morning and more visiting and they were all on their way by 11 o'clock.

Since Don and I had worked like banshees preparing for this weekend house party, we have no yardwork, housework, gardening, or anything to do today. He suggested a day of R&R and I agree.

Yesterday, before the other couples arrived, I managed to finish the table runner I'd started in June. This was made with fabric I'd purchased in April when I was shop hopping with my friend--I got the fabric that she seemed to particularly like, planning to make her a gift of this runner. Started sewing it in June when I was laid up with my knee surgery and only managed to finish it now in the nick of time. She likes it, and I'm pleased.

The four women here this weekend made plans for a quilting weekend in the end of January since 2 of them want to learn how. This will be great fun, I think, since it's going to be at someone else's house--not here! Now, I'm putting on my swimsuit and going into the water to cool off.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My daughter has rediscovered the library. She takes Lily there and she remembered that she used to love to read but for some reason, stopped. She had finished a book she checked out of the library and on Sunday, was looking around my house for something else to read. I recommended one of my favorites, "Snow Falling on Cedars" by David Guterson, which she took home with her. Yesterday, she said she loves the book and can't put it down! I'm amazed--one of my kids is enjoying the same book as me!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Joy, Joy, Joy

http://theripplesproject.org/

I learned about the Ripples Project several years ago and I get an email from Paul every Monday morning. There are a couple of quotes and a paragraph or two from Paul giving some advice to carry throughout the week. This week, I want to share with you, part of what he has to say.

"We don't always get to choose what happens in our day, we don't always get to choose the people we are around. We can always choose how we respond to these events and people, and we can choose joy even when that isn't our first reaction. Anger is the right choice sometimes and so is sadness, and all the other emotions as well. Just remember that joy is also available to you, waiting for you to choose her. She can transform any ordinary moment into a miracle!"

Sometimes I have to look very hard to find it, but usually, there's something that's positive, even in the worst of times. A frivolous example: I thought I would finish my shawl last night and I was binding off the last row when I realized the I'm short about 10" of yarn to finish the thing. So this morning, I learned how to "unknit" a bound off edge, something I'd not known before. I'm also learning--AGAIN!--to be patient and persevere.

I heard a folktale about a man who arrived at a village riding a donkey. They stayed the night and in the morning, he discovered that his donkey was missing. The entire village searched everywhere, high and low, for hours to find the donkey but there was no sign of him. When they returned to the village, they found the man dancing and singing that he was such a lucky man. The villagers asked him why he thought he was "lucky" since he'd lost his donkey. He said he was lucky because he could have been riding the donkey when it got lost and he would have been lost too!

Joy. Find some today.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Family time

Lily is here for the weekend since her mom had to work Saturday am and then decided to spend Sat night with us, and son, Dan, came, home from Milwaukee for the weekend as well. Now, let me clarify that under normal conditions, even though my "kids" are all in their 20's and 30's, when they get together under the same roof for more than 2 or 3 hours, an argument of gigantic proportions usually breaks out and there's tension for the rest of the visit. This time, however, all is going smoothly! I guess there really are miracles! On the other hand, we still have a few hours to go before one or the other departs, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

It is hot here again! Those few Fall-like days we had earlier were just teasers! BBQ ribs on the barbie for supper with the last of the sweetcorn--Yummmmmm. Flies all over the place--especially inside the house. YUCK! That's summer in Wisconsin!

After supper last night, we all watched a PG rated movie, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." What a gem! It's rated PG since there's lots of cussing in it--the characters say "cuss" instead of the other words. "What the cuss are you doing?" for example. It was hilarious and I highly recommend it.

No quilting, but I did look at some fabric and read a quilting magazine, looking for ideas. I'm knitting my fingers sore working on that shawl--which I will post when it's finished, I promise--and have only 2 or 3 more rows to complete. Maybe tonight I'll get it done. Then, I have no excuse for procrastinating any longer on quilting.

For today, it's outside to pull weeds.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Give Away and Quilt-along

Sewbernie left this button on her blog so I checked it out and decided to sign up for the giveaway and join the quilt along. You might want to as well.


The quilting giveaway and Quilt-along starts on the 21st. The Quilt-along is about FMQing which I've been doing for many years now, but I seem to always do the same patterns. I think with this quilt-along, I'll learn some new techniques and new patterns. I'm really excited about this--she says it will take less than an hour a week to do it. I'll post and let you know how it goes--as it goes along.

Monday, August 16, 2010

There's been a change in the weather...

And a change in me. I'm not nearly such a grouch as I was the past week when we had terrible weather--hot, humid, cloudy, rainy and stormy every other day. Friday night, the system finally moved out of here and we had a weekend of sunshine and warm, dry weather. What a joy to be able to open up the house after a week of keeping it closed so the AC would do it's thing! I have a theory that some of us are "allergic" to hot humid weather. Don't know if that's really true, but I get physically ill when I have to function in 90 degree temps with 80% humidity. My husband and one daughter, on the other hand, absolutely love that! I think they have some kind of heat tolerance gene that I lack. Well, that's why I insist on having a swimming pool--it cools me off better than any shower or AC can, and it helps me survive in these wicked Wisconsin summers. Winter, now, is my time of the year. The cold, dry weather does wonders for my temperament, the aches of my arthritis disappear and I overall feel very, very healthy. The spouse and daughter cry and complain all winter about the cold and can never seem to get warm. I love winter sports and probably spend more time outside in the winter than I do in the summer. Snow shoveling?--bring it on! Enough of this--suffice it to say that I'm enjoying this warm dry spell and looking forward to Autumn coming soon.

This weekend I didn't do much, other than the usual housekeeping and garden chores. Eggplants are haunting me and I will spend this evening making Rigatoni with Eggplant and Sausage.


One pan to eat for dinner and two or 3 more to go into the freezer for another time. The recipe is available at foodnetwork.com. Corn is also calling me. We have friends who grow corn for us to take for free--can't pass that up--and the ears are ready for picking this week. That's tomorrow night's job--pick the corn and start getting it into the freezer and turning it into corn relish, one of my husband's favorite things. He's done about 20 qts of dill pickles so far with about 20 more coming on the cucumber vines. Yesterday he put up about 15 qts of sauerkraut--the best in the whole world, I think--so the freezer and pantry are getting full of goodness to see us through the winter.

No quilting, knitting, or other needle work this weekend--the garden takes precedent.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Update

Last weekend with Lily was great! She absolutely LOVED the county fair, went on all the kids' rides, had her first sno cone, and won a toy at a carny game. Whoo Hoo! Me?I was a bit disappointed. Haven't gone to a county fair for many years and and the fairs from my childhood seemed quite a bit better and larger than this one. Is it my faulty memory or have county fairs become not much more than 4H exhibits and a carnival?


After the fair, we got home, set up the tent, hiked in the hills behind the house to get firewood and cooked our supper over a campfire. Lily's first weenie roast! She only lost one in the fire and she thought her hot dog was super! After a couple of hours in the pool to cool off, we "slept" in the tent. She slept and I tossed all night trying to get comfortable. I told Don later, my tent camping days are finally over. I've always been a tent camper--the more primitive, the better, in my opinion, but now the ground had become way too hard for me. Despite the fierce thunderstorm during the night which Lily slept through, she thinks camping is great! So I guess all told, we had a very good weekend.

Monday, I took off on a 6 hour drive to Milwaukee along with 2 co-workers, for 6 hours of training on Tuesday. Good material, but it could have been done on a webcast. It's so irritating that people in large cities have no idea how inconvenient it is for us to get there. I don't mind going but the training had better be worth it and this wasn't. I got home last night at midnight and decided to take today off.

I got green beans, broccoli and peas in the freezer, as well as blueberries from the store. Got some laundry done and am making great progress on the shawl I'm knitting. Overall, a day well spent.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Eggplant Friday

Hooray! The end of the work week is in sight! This morning I picked eggplants to bring to work for my co-workers who requested them. Of course, no pix, sorry, but believe me, those suckers were more than ready to be picked! With some luck, I'll be in the kitchen this weekend making eggplant dishes to go in the freezer for later on. It's the only way I know of to preserve the darn things.

I also make a dish I got from foodnetwork.com: Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant and Sausage, which is soooo good! I'd like to have a few pans of that in the freezer. As well, there are beans, cucumbers, peas, and beets to be taken care of. I think I'm going to be working harder this weekend than during the week. LOL!

Actually, Lily and I are planning on camping in the back yard this weekend and making as much of a vacation weekend as we can. Tomorrow afternoon we go to the county fair--Lily's never been before and it's been years for me. I want to check out the needlework and sewing exhibits, if there are any, and she wants to see the aminals and check out the rides--not too high, she says. Then we sleep in the tent Sat night after roasting hotdogs for supper over a campfire. On Sunday, we have some hiking and swimming to do before I take her back to her house. I've been promising to go camping with her all summer and I reaized I didn't have to drive to a campground when we have everything in our own back yard! Should be fun.

Last night, I actually sat down at my sewing machine, not to work on the table runner that's begging me to give it some attention. No, no, I was good and did my sewing chore instead. Jo left 2 pair of jeans that need patches and I took care of that and will ship them to her today. The runner is still begging but I feel good for getting that annoying chore done and out of the way.

So I just have to get through this day and then the "fun" begins for the weekend. Hope you all have a good one as well.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Changes

I had a very quiet weekend. Lily has moved out. But a lot of her things remain--reminding us of her. Despite how glad I am that she's now with her mother, I'm a little lonely without a laughing, dancing, singing, excited-about-the-world six-year-old in the house. Fortunately, she's only about 25 miles away so we will see her often. Now the task is for Don and me to figure out how to do this empty-nesting thing. It's been over 30 years since we've been only a couple (if you don't count the 6 months we had before Tessa and Lily returned).

So far, the past 2 days, it's gone okay. Saturday, I bought a couple of steaks for our dinner--I rarely buy beef and more rarely steaks! We grilled them and Don fixed a salad and we dined at 9 PM. With Lily here, dinner HAD to be at 6 sharp in order to have time to get everything done with her before bedtime at 8. So we truly enjoyed having a lingering evening with the late dinner.

Don has been picking cucumbers in the garden and he tried making pickles for the first time Saturday. I resurrected my mom's dill pickle recipe and he finished up with 10 jars. The goal is to have about 20 or 25 jars of, hopefully, delicious dills.
Sunday he picked green beans for the first time and I'll be getting them in the freezer tonight. I guess you can say the garden is starting to come in.

Quilting continues to remain on hold for the summer, it seems. I haven't been able to resume my enthusiasm for it since I finished the auction quilt even though I started a table runner--it's still on my table, half finished, covered by my knitting things. Knitting, however, threatens to become my new passion! I'm nearly finished with the cardigan I started in June and Saturday I picked up some really great light weight worsted yarn and started working on a triangular shawl. Today, I brought it to work and will keep it here to work on at break time.

I have to keep this knitting thing in balance--if I stop quilting, what will I do with all this fabric I have? If I'm really self disciplined, I think I can manage to do both--time will tell.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Soap Box

From time to time, I have expressed my opinions on various political and social issues of the day. This is another.

As usual, I was listening to National Public Radio this morning as I was getting ready for work. I caught part of a story on the immigration law that went into effect yesterday or today in Arizona. The story explained the ruling of a Federal Court judge as to various parts of that law. One part I wasn't aware of (and which was fortunately struck down by the Court) was a provision making it illegal for an illegal alien to work in the US.

I got to thinking about this. Isn't it already against the law for a business or individual to employ illegals? Instead of making life more difficult for the individuals who come here illegally from other countries, why don't the state and/or Federal governments penalize those who hire them?

I've been of the opinion for some time that folks wouldn't be so eager to cross the border illegally if there was less work for them here. Actually, I heard something last year that, after the US entered the recession in 2008, the numbers of illegals crossing into the US from Mexico had declined dramatically--like half or fewer of those who had come in the previous years.

I don't live in an area that has significant problems with illegals. Here in Wisconsin, we do have a large number of people from Mexico who come here to work on the farms in the summer. We also have large numbers of immigrants from Somalia and Laos who live and work here. All these people come here to work--and they get jobs of various kinds, usually jobs that "native" Americans decline to do. If there weren't jobs here, I doubt that these people would have settled in this state. I mean, who would enjoy leaving their tropical home to spend winters in Wisconsin with months of freezing weather!

At any rate, I am of the opinion that "cracking down on illegals," building fences, mass deportations, and enacting laws that infringe on the rights of US citizens will do little to solve the problem of illegal immigration. The people come here to make a better life for themselves. If the opportunity to work isn't there, the illegals would stop coming. How about punishing the employers instead of the employees?

Despite not being a supporter of George W Bush, he did come up with a proposal that I thought might have value: the guest worker program. Unfortunately, that never got off the ground. This idea would provide Mexican workers with temporary work permits so they would be entering legally for a specified period of time to do a particular job. Then they would have to return to Mexico. I think they would have been allowed to become guest workers more than once so they could return again and again to work. To me this is the same as what they are already doing under the table and this plan would have legalized what is already happening.

It's time to be creative about solving the problem of our leaky border instead of relying on punitive and restrictive measures that have failed in the past and likely will fail again.

That's my opinion.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another wild weekend---

and I'm getting too old to be a wild woman except in my mind. LOL. Saturday Don and I went to Duluth for the wedding party of my best friend's daughter who was married in Colorado last week. So much fun--it was held in the Great Lakes Aquarium and we got to watch the fish swimming in their tanks as we dined. A very unique setting for a party and we loved it.

We couldn't stay for the dancing--I don't trust my knee yet and we had to get home and prepare for the party at our house on Sunday. A couple of months ago I offered my house as a site for an office retreat of sorts and that was held yesterday. It was pot luck so we only had to do the grilling. Before anyone arrived, Don and I were going like dervishes, trying to get a handle on the weed situation. It's hopeless! But we got quite a bit done anyway. The weather was perfect--warm, sunny and breezy--and I think the whole thing went off okay.

Now, I'm relaxing until the end of August when we have 3 couples coming up to camp in the yard and spend the weekend with us. Until then, my duties are to keep on weeding, do a little knitting after dark, and finish the table runner I started after the knee surgery and which is a gift for one of the gals arriving for the August weekend.

Lily moves out next Friday evening--boy, is that coming up fast! Much as I'm looking forward to being an empty nester, I'm feeling more and more sad at the thought that I'm not going to see her daily--only every other weekend when she'll be at the house while her mom is working. Such is life--change is inevitable.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Amazing Day!

As soon as I posted the long comment today about what a hard time I was having getting back into the groove of my work, my attitude changed completely! I got more done today than I have in the 2 previous days combined, and it felt soooo good to be back. I guess I just needed to voice my feelings in order to get over the hump. Thanks for this blogging opportunity.

I'm in a mental slump.

Since I returned to work after the knee surgery, I've not had any energy for work and I don't like feeling like this. I dream of the day 5 months from now, when I'll be finished with this job. It all depends on whether I can get affordable health insurance.

That's really the only reason I'm working at all at this stage of my life, to be insured. Don has the VA to cover him but that doesn't extend to cover me, so I'm still at work. I have a lead on a health insurance plan that's specifically for people between ages 62 and 65 but I'm not sure how many riders will be attached. If it doesn't cover any of my pre-existing conditions, I'm screwed and will have to continue for another year until I can get Medicare.

If that happens, I'll be absolutely crushed, mentally. It'll be really hard to stay on top of things here when I'm so hoping to be at home, doing the things I enjoy and really want to be doing. If that's how it goes, I'll have to cope with it somehow, but it'll be hard. I owe my clients too much to let them down, but it will take just about everything out of me, I think, if I have to continue for another year.

However, I realize that it will be only Don and me in the house. Lily will have moved out to her mother's house and that means less work for me at home. Maybe it won't be so difficult when I'm relieved of Lily's care. She moves out the last weekend of this month, so we'll see if I start feeling more energetic and excited about work after that. I hope so, since I really hate feeling like this.

Sorry to have posted such a depressing thing this morning. I think if I can get it off my chest I may start feeling better about being here. Another thing that's on my mind is my hand. I saw the doc yesterday and now I need to see a surgeon to repair a painful ganglion cyst that developed on the back side of one of my knuckles. It's apparently in a tricky spot and there may be damage to the tendons and if there is, I'm looking at some physical therapy to get it back to functioning.

I've been to more doctors' appointments this summer than in the past 5 years total. On the positive side, none of these conditions are permanent things. All will be repaired and I'll be back to normal--or close to it. And the other positive thing is that I'm able to access doctors and hospitals to have these things fixed. I often think how different--and painful--my life would be 100 years ago or even if I lived in a different country and didn't have access to all the medical treatment we have here.

Thanks for putting up with my pity party. I'll be all right, I know. I come from tough German-Bohemian stock and we are a hardy people who can cope with all sorts of adversity. When life throws a curve in my path, as it will if I have to work another year, I'll have to focus on the positive, make the best of it, and continue on my journey. What else can a person do, right?

In an attempt to end this on a positive note, I checked on the monetary stats yesterday on my caseload. I have to attribute a monetary value to the benefits I've secured for my clients and each year I usually run right around a million dollars in benefits, give or take a few humdred thousands. So, yesterday, with 5 months yet to go in the year, I'm at $825,000! I should top a million easily this year! I always feel good when I look at those numbers which are a very tangible statement that the work I do every day is worth all the effort that goes into it.

Time to get on with the work of the day--I have to get over that million dollar mark!

Monday, July 19, 2010

I had a weekend of parties at my house. And it was all good. Saturday, Lily had a couple of her girlfriends over for swimming, playing and a fancy tea party. Not as fancy as Fancy Nancy likes, but these girls thought it was just fine. We used the bone china cups and saucers with the pretty little flowers on them. We had mini-muffins, PB&J sandwiches cut in fancy shapes, and red jello with blueberries. "Tea" was chilled apple juice. When they were finished, not a crumb or drop was left. What fun for all of us!

Yesterday, I had a crowd of people over for swimming, visiting, and for supper. There was a total of 18 and we had a couple of quite vigorous water volleyball tournaments--my team only won 1 game. :( The weather was stormy looking in the morning but cleared out in time for the party and it became warm and humid--the pool felt very nice when I got in! Dinner was a smash! Don and I did a turkey on the grill--I had brined it overnight and it turned out fantastic. If you've never brined a turkey, don't be afraid to try it. I use the instructions from Alton Brown which you can find here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe/index.html. The turkey comes out so moist and flavorful--mmmmmmm. Only the carcass was left--split pea soup is in my future!

We celebrated 3 July birthdays as well and I used the opportunity to make my favorite from-scratch German Chocolate Cake. I only make it once a year, usually for my husband's birthday so this was a treat.

Jo left home today to spend a few days in Milwaukee with her friends before flying to Austin on Wednesday. Job interview on Thursday and then we'll see. I'm so hoping she gets offered this job--and she is too! Plan B is to get a job serving as she did while she was in college, but Plan A is much better.

I'm hoping this week is a quiet one--my gardens need tending and my body needs some resting! My sewing machine is getting dusty and I hate when that happens! My fabrics are calling out to me--"See me. Feel me. Touch me." I think I'll call my next quilt "The Who" no matter what the pattern. Help! I don't know where to begin!