Saturday, December 27, 2014

Post Christmas happenings

Don and I had a quiet and quite nice Christmas. For the first time since our first child was born, 37 years ago, we had no children home for the holiday, and frankly, it was nice and relaxing.  Don't get me wrong--I would have loved to have a houseful of my kids and their partners and the grandchildren, but it was nice to have a quiet day as well.  Of course, we Skyped with everyone on Christmas day and it looked as though all 3 of the kids were having good times with their new families. And isn't that what we, as parents, should be grateful for?  That our children have moved out of our family and are happy with the new families they've created?  I think so anyway.  

Don and I did have a conversation that next year, if we're alone again for the holidays, we will be involved in some project to bring more meaning to the season. Maybe helping at the food pantry or the homeless shelter or something like that. 

Since I didn't have much work to do, I've been in my sewing room finishing up a few things.  I finished Johanna's Christmas quilt that she requested. I'd pieced the throw sized top several years ago and when it was finished, I didn't like it so I just put it away. When Jo asked for a Christmas quilt, I showed her the top and she liked it a lot, so I quilted it up for her.  The more I worked on it, the more I liked it!  It's like an argyle sock pattern with all the diamonds in there.  I found a piece of fabric in red, green and aqua that I thought worked out well for the backing. 

 I just made up quilting designs as I worked on it, making some dots to mark my place and I free-handed the stitching. I'm quite satisfied with how the designs came out.  One very good thing that came of this quilting is that I began using a red and greed variegated thread that was left over from another project I did years ago, and I thought I'd have enough.  Well, that was wrong!  In all, I used 5 spools of similar variegated thread that were leftovers from other projects!  I am so happy to see my thread drawer cleaned out a little!  Looking at the quilt, you really can't tell I used different threads since they all are variegated and they blend in with the colors of the fabrics.  Jo's coming home on Sunday and she can take it with her then.  

Today I did some work on my Etsy shop, Jolly Ruby. A few weeks ago, I discovered several table runners that I'd made last year and never listed in the shop.  By the time I found them, it was too late to put them in the shop so I did it today.  I also slashed prices in the shop by 50%  and am having a 3 week sale to try to clear out things and make way for new things that I'm working on.  If you want to pick up an item for a very good price--and contribute to a very good cause--take a look at Jolly Ruby. Even better, let everyone you know that now's the time to get a terrific handmade quilted item for their home.  Not only I but all the people with disabilities who benefit from this shop thank you with all our hearts.

I made this table runner with a cartoon Santa and reindeer fabric in the center framed with a candy cane border.

I made this runner with the same Santa fabric alternating with plaid fabrics and bordered with coordinating plaid fabrics.

I also made this chevron table runner using a snowflake patterned red fabric with a cream contrasting fabric. I stitched a few glittery snowflake buttons on it as well--there's one right by the snowman's base.  

And all the other items in the shop are marked at 50% off as well.

Today, I woke up to a beautiful snowfall! This is a view of my side yard through the window.

We'd had snow in November followed by mild temps for the past 3 weeks, resulting in a brown Christmas here in the Northland. So the beautiful snow was a wonderful sight to see this morning. Of course, if I'd had to drive anywhere, I'd not have thought it was so pretty, I suppose.  And if I had to shovel it, I'm sure I'd not be so pleased, but Don said he'd get out the snowblower and take care of the driveway so I'm free to get downstairs and work on a quilting project.  And I'm going to do that right now!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On the eve of Christmas Eve

At my house, we're celebrating Christmas a few days early since Jo has to work on both Christmas Eve and Day. She's arriving this afternoon to bake some sugar cookies to take to the shelter where she works for the kids to decorate tomorrow.  

I'll be making a huge pot of Choucroute Garni, our traditional Christmas Eve dinner.  If you've never made it, please give it a try. People who say they hate sauerkraut find that they love this dish. It comes from the Alsace region of France so it's a little bit French and a little bit German, and a lot bit good!   Here's a link to one of several terrific recipes you can try,,

I found a recipe for Choucroute Garni in a cookbook I got over 30 years ago free from a sausage company--Hormel or Armour maybe.  Quite a few years later, we were living in a very Scandinavian area of Minnesota and from Thanksgiving until Christmas, all the women at work talked about the Scandinavian foods they were making for the holidays.  Don't get me wrong--I like Scandinavian foods as much as the rest of you, but I got a little  (all right, a lot!) irritated when it was assumed that everyone was enjoying lefse and lutefisk  (maybe "enjoy" isn't the right term to use in the same sentence with lutefisk!) and not considering that some of us are of different nationality, like German as I am.  So, in protest, I began making Choucroute Garni for Christmas Eve dinner and have done so for the past 30 years.  Sometimes, I try to beg out of it, but the kids always insist.  So, even though it's only Jo with us this year, out comes the sauerkraut and the sausages!

Over the years, I've simplified my version of Choucroute Garni.  I take a jar of my husband's homemade sauerkraut and add some chicken broth (although white wine would be good too), some chopped onions, juniper berries, coarsely ground black pepper, and some sliced carrots.  I mix in a package of Little Smokies cocktail weiners (my kids' favorites) and a variety of sliced sausages--Polish, Kielbasa, bratwurst, etc.. Sometimes I may add some ham or smoked pork chops or spare ribs--whatever I feel like.  Then the whole thing cooks on very low heat for several hours--2 to 4 depending on how much I'm making.  When everyone's home, I use 2 to 3 quarts of kraut and it has to cook for 4 hours or more. Today, with just 3 of us, I'll make much less and cook it for only a couple of hours.  Using a slow cooker would work fine too I think.

Along with the sauerkraut and meats, I serve boiled potatoes with lots of butter and a dark rye bread. Typically, I'll have an apple based dessert to finish this meal, but today, it'll be a freshly baked cookie.  It's a basic, peasant-type meal that I love to make and my family loves to eat.

Other than some cooking today, I have everything ready for the holiday.  We had a weekend visit with our son and his family last weekend, have visited with old friends, and gone to a holiday play at the Mabel Tainter theater here in Menomonie, one of the 15 most beautiful theaters in the world!

We were able to get tickets for the local production of "It's A Wonderful Life."  And I must say, this beautiful theater must bring out the best in the amateur theater guild we have here because every show I've seen at the Mabel has been exceptional!  

In between having holiday fun, I've been trying to finish the quilting on a Christmas quilt Jo asked me to make for her.  I had made the top several years ago and all I had to do was quilt it up. It's nearly finished but I don't think I'll have it ready for her to take with when she leaves tomorrow. I guess I'll have to make a trip to her house after Christmas and personally deliver it!  I like that idea!  I don't have a pic of it but will try to remember to take one when it's finished.

I did get this huge quilt finished and delivered to my friend who made draperies for me in exchange.  

Elaine had been with me at a quilt store and she fell in love with this quilt on display in the shop. She bought the pattern and fabrics and then it sat. When I moved house and needed draperies--her specialty--she offered to make them and I offered to make the quilt.  The draperies are beautiful and she's very satisfied with the quilt, so all is well.  The picture is the finished top laid out on the floor of the sewing room at retreat last October. It measured 96" by 106." Elaine had me add extra borders so it would fall over the side of the bed but that meant that it really was too big for my domestic sewing machine to quilt up as well as I wanted. So I took it to my neighbor who has a long arm and she did a beautiful job on it.  And because it is so big and I wanted to deliver it to Elaine before Christmas, I machine stitched the binding, using a decorative stitch on the top side.  I was quite pleased with this first attempt at machine stitching down the binding and I may do this again on large quilts.

What a large post!  I've been way too busy since November to continue posting daily or even weekly and it likely will continue this way while I work this temp job until April. But I still read my blogs every day and will post when I have some extra time, like today.

I hope everyone who reads this has time to relax and enjoy the winter holidays and can spend good time with family and friends.  If you are traveling, be safe and warm.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

And I have a finish!

I've been working on this little table mat that I embroidered and today I finished stitching on the binding!  I really like the bright colors in this piece but it won't stay at my house long, I hope. I put it for sale in my Etsy store and I hope it sells quickly.  Here's the link if you want to take a look.  Jolly Ruby.  

At my last guild meeting, I happened to win a fat quarter of the red-white-blue striped fabric and I think it looks perfect in this piece.  Then I wanted to use some snowflake fabric and stopped at the quilt store the other day. No snowflakes there but the one I found has little stars in it and looks kind of like snowflakes.

Then, how to quilt it?   I stitched in the ditch around the inner border and did some outline stitching on the embroidered center. Then I found a tutorial here that was perfect for what I needed in the border.  I'd never been on this gal's blog before so I  took a look around while I was  there and found some great quilting in there so I think I'll have to visit her more often.

Then this morning I stitched on the binding and called it done!  I like this one so much that I think I'll have to make another one for myself--assuming this one sells! :)--but I don't have enough of the striped fabric so I'll need to use something else.  I'm leaning toward something in aqua and lime green rather than the red and blue I used for the snowmen and the borders.  What do you think? 

The rest of this day has been spent fooling around with crumbs--I think I must have about 60 of the little blocks now and I really need to begin sashing them and putting them into a quilt of some kind.  It's just so much fun playing with them instead of making backings as I swore I would do today!  Well, maybe tomorrow will see me wrestling with backings.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

I've jumped into my new work with both feet and am really loving it!  So far, I've just worked at home, reading records and such, but today, I've scheduled several appointments and am looking forward to each of them.  I knew it was the right thing to do when I accepted this job offer!

Consequently, not much has occurred in the sewing area.  I hope to spend some time in the sewing room this weekend and get several backings finished so I can get 3 small quilts pin basted and ready to go under the needle.  I also have a large quilt that needs a backing so I can take it to my neighbor who does long-arm quilting.  

This is the quilt top I made for my friend who is making draperies for me in exchange.  It turned out to be nearly kingsized since she wanted a long drop on 3 sides so it covers the sides of the bed. I've done a king sized quilt on my domestic machine before and I don't want to do any more that size!  And, she's such a good friend that I want the best work on this piece and I don't think my quilting is quite up to that standard.  

So, it looks like the weekend will be filled with quilting "chores" ( I never like working with the large pieces of fabric that it takes to make backings!) and next week I'll get some actual quilting done, I hope.  But now, into the shower and off to work!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

Today I began working on the temp job I agreed to do, and it seemed quite strange.  Negative strange because I had to sit there at the laptop and concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing instead of running off and doing whatever I wanted. And positive strange because it felt soooo good to be getting back in the groove of doing my life's work.  I did what I needed to do and finished up by 12:30 and then took the afternoon off.

I spent several hours in the sewing room working on this. Its a little embroidery by Crabapple Hill that I've had for e-v-e-r!  I've taken up the habit of trying to have a bit of handwork to do while I have my 2 cups of AM coffee with my husband.  I got the idea from Barbara at Three Cats Ranch and you can read her blog here.  She has the same outlook on life as I do and I thoroughly enjoy reading of her adventures every day.  And sometimes, her cat, Smitty, posts an entry on her blog so we get to see the world from his view as well.

Anyway, when I'd finished the wool penny trivet and the bindings on my 2 pumpkin table runners, I had to come up with something else. and here it is.

You really can't see anything on the fabric except the stitching I've done.  The piece finishes at 6" or so, square, and I'll be putting a patchwork border on it and making a pillow cover out of it.  It'll be for sale in my Etsy store when it's finished.

Last night, I had a great time at the guild holiday party!  When I arrived, I took my sweet potato dish over to the buffet table and thought it was the dessert table, it was so full of cookies, cakes, brownies, and even an apple pie!  Well, it was a potluck so you never know what you're going to get for dinner, and last night, we ate dessert first, middle and last!  And a few sweet potatoes thrown in as well. LOL!  Everybody had a great time opening our boxes filled with someone else's scraps and each box had something nice tucked in along with the scraps, so I think everyone was happy about their gift.

I'm going off now to make some turkey soup using the stock I made yesterday from the carcass, and we'll have a (hopefully) delicious supper in an hour or so.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fitness update

Back in mid-November, I wrote about new information about exercising and aging here and I thought it was time to post an update.  In the 2 weeks since I began exercising, I've done pretty well, I think.  I've only rode the stationary bike and not done any Wii boxing due to a shoulder injury I gave myself when I enthusiastically boxed 2 weeks ago.  Small price to pay for scoring a knock out on the Wii guy, but still.

Anyway, I've been on the bike nearly every day--even Thanksgiving. The first time, I pedaled for about 20 minutes and went about 4.5 miles. I know I should have made note of these things but I didn't, so kick me, all right?  Well, I've been gradually increasing the time and the effort and today I pedaled for about 45 minutes and went over 9 miles!  I should go back on the Wii and see if it shows any improvement, but I'll leave that for another day.  So, I'm quite happy with my efforts so far. Of course, the scale hasn't budged a bit, but I have faith that eventually it will.  I know that 2 weeks is just the beginning, but since I can see progress, that's very encouraging.

Today is going to be very full.  After I exercised, I machine stitched the binding on the 2nd pumpkin table runner and hope to finish it this afternoon.  I have some cleaning to do--shouldn't take more than an hour--and have to make a quick run to the store to get the ingredients I need to make the sweet potato dish I'm bringing to the pot luck tonight.  And if there's still time, I should sit down and see if I can get my laptop up and running so I can begin doing my new temp job.  Maybe I should rig up my bike like this:  

Computer powered by an exercise bike.

I wrote the first part of this post in the morning and now I'll show you the fruits of my day's labors. No, the housekeeping is still waiting for me. Darn!  

Here are the ingredients for my sweet potato dish. I used long skinny potatoes since I'm going to slice them into rounds, 2 cups of OJ, couple cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup fresh cranberries and a handful of pecans.  

I peeled the potatoes and cut them into 1/2" rounds and then cooked them until they were just getting soft.  It took about 10 minutes, I think. While they were cooking, I mixed together the OJ, garlic, and cranberries and cooked it down into a syrup. I tasted it at the end and added 1 T of brown sugar to sweeten it up a little. Drained the cooked potatoes and covered them with the sauce. Oh yeah, I salted the cooking water for the potatoes and added ground pepper to the orange sauce.  The cranberries gave it a bit of a rosy color and then I topped it all with the chopped pecans.  

And here's the finished product.  I think it looks nice and it tastes pretty darn good too.

I also took the turkey carcass from the frig and it's in the pot making stock for some turkey soup for tomorrow night's supper. And I did get the binding finished on the 2nd pumpkin runner!  Now I'm all ready to go the the guild meeting tonight and PARTY ON!  

Monday, December 1, 2014


I was so tired by the time dinner was finished that I sat down to watch a re-view and pre-view of PBS's Downton Abbey and totally blanked on writing the final November blog.  I had vowed to post every day for a month, but didn't quite hit my mark. I'd missed a day previously, my November entry didn't post as I'd wanted it to, and then yesterday.

I have to say that I've enjoyed writing this blog (which is like a diary to me) every day.  I've had to come up with things that were a little more interesting in my life and that's hard to do since I think my life is pretty blah!  But, having to find something to write about forced me to look closely at the things I do every day and realize that life isn't as dull as I sometimes think it is. Just wait--someone will be reading this and say, OMG! Her life is totally boooooring!  But, boring is in the eye of the beholder, right?

So, I think I'll continue to write every day with an occasional miss, if I may be allowed.  Not too many people are reading this blog and that's ok. I never intended to be one of the blogging rockstars. (I am in my own mind, so that's all that matters.  ;0)  )  I do wish that people would leave comments, though. I love to hear from you and get to know you a bit but I can't do that if you don't let me know that you're really out there. As a consequence, I've begun to be better about leaving comments on the blogs I follow and responding to those who leave comments on mine.  But, as I said, this is more a diary for me, and if someone wants to comment, that's great!  

Yesterday, I got a couple of finishes.  Here's the completed pumpkin table runner and the second one is waiting for it's binding--maybe tonight. 

 Here's a close up of the swirly design I quilted in the background.  I did an outline of the applique and stitched a couple of curved lines in the pumpkins to make them seem a bit more like real pumpkins.  In the second runner, I stitched a 1" grid in the background instead of the swirls.

This is the fabric I used for the backing. I bought about a yard more than I needed so I'm thinking what I can make out of it for next year's "Fall Collection" :) in my Etsy store.

And here's the pattern I used from Shabby Fabrics.  They also make an apple table runner with 2.5" patches in red, and a pine tree design using green patches.  These things look so much more interesting that using a solid piece of fabric--much richer, IMHO.

The other finish from yesterday is this little card wallet I made for Dan and Erin, to hold their Christmas gift cards. I don't think Dan will want the wallet so it'll go to Erin, I suppose. If he whines, I'll make him one of his own. :p)  The wallet looks brownish in this pix and actually, it's more gray.

Here's the inside of the wallet--three pockets made out of leftover batiks I had from a previous project.

And here's the pattern I used.  I've made several of these wallets and I carry 2 in my purse. One for my quilt shop punch cards and the other for my business cards.  Erin's is the nicest one so far--love those batiks!

That's it for the first day of December. I have to go to work this afternoon--Bah! and Yea!  While I may not have always been happy to have to go to work, I've always been happy (and grateful) to have had work.  So I'm off.  Maybe some stitching when I get home.