Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Still Here, Pluggin' Along

We continue to do our sorting, cleaning and organizing.  If we're working in an unheated storage area, we dress warmly and keep moving.  (No problem with the moving part.  Shuffling items from where they have been stored to another more logical area has been a big part of our attempted reorganization so loading up the garden cart, pushing it to the new location and then unloading it [up or down stairs more often than not, it seems] keeps us puffing.)

The weather has been cooperating in that we haven't had snow to plow through.  I think that very fact has urged us on because it's remarkable how much more effort it takes to push a wheeled cart (or even walk!) through snow.

Papa Pea wants to be done with everything by the first of January.  I would be pickled tink if we could reach that goal, but as you all know, life seems to interfere when a whole day has been plotted out to a specific job.

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We've never done much decorating for the holidays outside other than a wreath on the side of the house and a couple on doors.  Having always lived in the woods or down a long driveway, we're used that as an excuse to not go through the trouble (and frozen digits) of hanging lights and such outside.  And then having to take them down . . . in even colder weather.  Ugh.

Perhaps because we've had mostly gray, overcast days since putting the inside decorations up right after Thanksgiving this year, we've enjoyed the lights and color inside more than usual, it seems.

I have a small collection of lighted ceramic Christmas trees that were popular many years ago.  One of those on a table or shelf here and there adds a bright charm with their colorful lights.  I think I mentioned earlier we purchased some of the newer LED strings of lights for our Christmas tree on sale last year after the first of the year.  Wow, they are indeed brighter and we've even been keeping the tree lights on during most days.

A good friend gave us this colorful wreath made with huge jingle bells, the largest ones I've ever seen.  Each bell is nearly the size of a tennis ball and, yes, they do jingle.  We hung it on the mirror over the couch in the living room and I've told hubby I'm really going to miss the burst of color it adds to the room when I take it down at the end of the holiday season.

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I've been working on my new "after Christmas/up 'til spring" quilted shower curtain for the bathroom.  Next comes the outer border, then sandwiching and quilting.  I've kinda lost interest in this project because it's not looking very colorful to me.  I made it in lots of shades of blue and beige . . . and am now questioning the wisdom of my choice.  But I keep telling myself it will look fine when finished and hung in the knotty pine and yellow bathroom.  I keep telling myself.

I'm hoping to head for the quilt room yet this afternoon.  But first I have to strip the bed and get the sheets into the washing machine.  And sort out my over-stuffed refrigerator and figure out what to have for dinner tonight.  And clear my desk and pay a couple of bills I meant to have ready to go to the P.O. this morning, but didn't.  And do breakfast and lunch dishes.  When you think about it, all these things I "have" to do are caused by the bounty in my life.  I am so thankful I have an automatic washer and dryer in my own home.  My refrigerator is full of wonderfully nutritious food we are so fortunate to have access to.  I have enough money in the checking account to pay those bills on my desk.  There's a copious quantity of running water from our own good well which is heated in our adequate water heater and I have a good audio tape to listen to while I wash the dishes . . . all the above things for which I am grateful and of which I am so very appreciative.

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The End

P.S.  I want to give credit, again, to the lovely photograph by my daughter which is my new blog header.  This picture has been used as the front of Christmas cards.  So simple and yet so striking.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Humble Beginnings

Recently, Mollie, one of my readers and commenters asked what was the first quilt I ever made.  I can answer that by telling you about the first quilt I ever completed.

A little background . . . 

Our daughter graduated from high school in 1989.  I wanted to make her a quilt to mark the occasion.  (What was I thinking?)  Although I had a strong background in sewing, I had never quilted.  But I jumped in with both feet and selected a pattern I thought looked simple enough (hahaha!) and the two of us picked out fabric.

I didn't know all of the fabrics should have been 100% cotton.  Two of the three pieces were, but one was polyester.  (Big mistake.)

The pattern called for templates to be made which were then placed on the fabric, traced and cut out with scissors.  What a chore!  Considering this was the way all quilting was first done, I quickly gained a huge amount of respect for the beautiful works-of-art quilts those dear, old gals of days gone by turned out.

Long story short, I had no idea what I was doing and shortly found myself way over my head and had to abandon the project.  Nothing was going right and I didn't know how to fix it.

A year or so later, I made my second attempt at quilting.  This time I started smaller and tried to make a simple nine-patch baby quilt for a good friend's daughter who was pregnant with their first child.  All went fairly well until I tried to quilt it.  I chose to do so by machine because hand quilting doesn't hold up very well if a piece is going to be laundered frequently.

I didn't have a walking foot for my old clunker of a machine and every line of simple, straight stitching I did smooshed, smashed, and wrinkled the fabric and made a terrible mess of the top, batting and backing I was trying to put together.

That effort ended up in the trash.  Is it a wonder I tried again?

Well, I did.  In 1994 I joined a quilting group, some members of which were much more talented than I and were a big, big help.  

So to finally get to my first (completed) quilt, Mollie, here it is in all its (long since lost) glory.

It's about the simplest patchwork one can do and the only fabrics I had were pretty ugly, but I think it's passed the test of a (utilitarian) quilt because it's lasted all these years.

I still didn't have the proper tools for quilting it by machine so I tied it.  One can tie a quilt using yarn or embroidery thread on a stout needle.  You go down through the front to the back and then through the back to the front again and tie a knot with the two ends of yarn or thread showing on the front side.  I used several strands of an ecru embroidery thread to tie my quilt.  You can see that not only are the blocks of fabric faded now but the thread is worn and much shorter than it originally was.

This little floral fabric I used as one border is also what I used for the backing.

Where does this first quilt of mine live now?  In a box of emergency supplies in the back of our Suburban truck.  We figure it could be spread on the ground if we had to change a tire or had other vehicle problems.  In the winter it could provide warmth should that be necessary.  It's been used as packing for moving furniture and appliances after it was replaced as a couch quilt, extra warmth on our bed in the winter, picnic cloth and floor covering for visiting infants.

Because I've had it and used it for twenty years (and it's still hanging together), I so wish I had made it with more attractive fabrics.  But if nothing else, I can truly chalk my first quilt off as a humble beginning to my quilting endeavors.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Another Day Come and Gone

Boy, did my day ever go haywire!  Last night as I was about to flop into bed (this was around 8:15, and I know I was asleep way before 9 p.m.), I promised myself that first thing this morning I'd get dressed, make my morning latte, bring it back here to my desk and tackle the mess that is covering the surface.  I needed to pay some bills, order some supplements and answer some long overdue e-mails as a first priority.  

Never happened.  

The only desk business I got accomplished was doing a three-way conversation with my husband and three different companies trying to figure out how (and if) we could get our lovely living room wall clock with the chimes to . . . well, chime again.  It still keeps perfect time but no longer chimes.  Did we manage to get the problem resolved?  Yes, with (we have been assured) the installation of a new movement that we can order and then put in ourselves.  (Better than sending the whole clock back to the factory.)  Love those chimes, but am just not sure I want to pay the money to have them made operational again.  (When we asked what the life expectancy of a new movement would be we were told by the three different companies "two years," "eight to ten years," and "somewhere between ten and twenty."  (Exasperating?  Nah, not much.  Sigh.)  

A delightful happening which kept me away from my good intentions of the day was a visit from our daughter and the two darling, adorable, nearly 13 month old twins she cares for during the day.  They are both walking (like two little wind-up toys) and I find them so fascinating to observe.  I swear you can see the little wheels in their little noggins turning and storing away data while they observe, explore, interact and experiment.  Also, I find being able to watch twins so very interesting.  They are beginning to interact with and mimic each other and I can't help but think they are and will continue to be advancing a little faster than a single child would with no one else around of the same capabilities and age.  Call it bragging if you want, but my daughter is an amazing caregiver for these two little urchins.  She makes everything fun, even changing a very messy diaper, along with ensuring so many of their daily activities are pleasant learning experiences for them.

So, heck.  Who would rather have spent time paying bills and tapping on computer keys than rolling a ball back and forth with a smiley wee little guy and gal?  I know which one I'd pick.  Any day.

Oh, and one last thing.  I got a lovely Advent Calendar at the end of November made by Chicken Mama (aka our daughter).  

I had to promise not to blog about it until other special people in her life received theirs, too.  I wish I'd thought to photograph it before I started opening the little doors.  I tried to fold them shut so you could get the full effect, but that didn't work very well.

Across the top it says, "Chicken Mama's 2014 Advent Calendar."  The bottom lettering reads, "May Christmas bring you everything that you are wishing for!"

I wish the little windows had hinges on them so I could reuse it year after year.  Maybe if I'm a good girl, I'll get a new one next year.  Ya think?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Decked Out For The Season And I Learn Something Every Day

I did it.  I finished the Christmas wall hanging I started more than a year ago.

No, it wasn't that complicated that it took that long to complete with me working day after day on it.  This pieced and hand appliqued wall hanging was started in the fall of last year with the thought it would be done for the holidays of 2013.  As so often happens with my good intentions (but unrealistic time sense apparently), life got in the way and the quilt was nowhere near completion then.

I worked on it a very little bit this past summer (very being the operative word), but mostly it lived on my design wall while I tried to decide how to quilt it.

For the past week or so, I have been like a demented squirrel dashing in and out of my quilt room to work on it every chance I could, and I'm happy to report I was successful in finishing it and hanging it yesterday.  I think it looks good in the spot I made it for, and I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.  (Yay, score one for our side!)

Now I can start on something new!

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Have you ever done something really clever that makes you feel really stoopid?

A couple of weeks ago I had a portion of a loaf of bread (homemade so I didn't want to toss it to the chickens . . . sorry, girls) that was getting a little stale.  Both Papa Pea and I like croutons in some of the soups I make so it dawned on me that I could cut the bread into cubes, freeze them and pull an amount out when I needed croutons.

Well, duh.  Why had I never thought of that before?  Tonight I took some from the freezer, heated them up in some butter in a skillet, seasoned them with garlic salt and served them with our homemade Cream of Tomato soup.  How super-easy and convenient.

I suppose now I'm going to find out that all of you have done this forever, right?  Oh well, some of us are a little slower than others.  (Maybe a lot slower.)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum . . .

Most likely, we all erect the annual Christmas tree in the same spot in the house each year.  In the house we had before this one, there was actually a very good spot for the tree if I rearranged the living room furniture in a certain way.  (That was no problem for me because I frequently rearranged the furniture.)

We've been in this home for coming up on twenty years and even though we've added on a room that is now our living room, there's no way I can fit a tree in that small, but cozy, room.

So the tree (and a small tree it must be . . . although this year it turned out to be smaller than usual) remains in the kitchen perched upon the top of a cabinet.

This miniature version of a tree is okay with me as I'm not particularly fond of decorating the tree (and taking it down!) anymore, so the smaller the tree, the less time it takes.  Our daughter still hassles us a smidge nearly every year about when are we going to again get "a real tree" (i.e., regular sized one that stands on the floor) because that's what she grew up with, but I don't think it's ever gonna happen.  Unless we move to a bigger house.  And I know that's never gonna happen, because we've got too darn much stuff to ever move!  Besides, we're firmly entrenched here and love it.

Anywho, back to Christmas tree placement.

Where does the tree reside in your home?  Is it in a convenient place, or does it halfway block a doorway?  Or main entrance?  (Oops.)  Or take the space where the dog's bed usually is?  Does its placement keep you from accessing the kitchen sink?  (Now there's an idea . . . )  I'm assuming it doesn't block the view of the TV/DVD screen?  Do you have to rearrange furniture to fit it in?  Does hubby's favorite chair get relegated to the garage during the holiday season?  (Let's hope not.)  I'm curious.  Is it a problem making room for your tree or do you have the ideal spot for it?

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Day After The Day Before

Even though our Thanksgiving Day yesterday was a lovely, calm, relaxing day (yes, it was 'cause I cooked and baked everything I could on Wednesday which really, really helped me not feel like I spent the whole holiday yesterday in the kitchen), it somehow feels as though today I need to spend the day in my old, comfy, around-the-house cords (with the elastic waist . . . ahem) and have a regrouping and getting back into the regular routine kind of day.  (Geesh, was that whole paragraph one sentence?  I need to hire a blog post editor.)

All the turkey bones, bits of scraps and pieces, are simmering in my huge stock pot on the stove.  Although I make tons of chicken bone broth to use in my cooking, there's something about turkey broth that I think has an extra oompf of flavor.  The broth, plus leftover and now frozen turkey, will provide us many, many good meals.  I've never understood folks who get tired of turkey meat and don't know what to do with the leftovers.  (Send them to me, I'll pay the postage!)

Anyone else getting really irritated with all the Black Friday hype on the Internet and in local papers?  It bugs me that it all exemplifies and amplifies the materialistic spend! spend! spend! society we live in.  I remember the times years ago when there were no sales on anything (!) until AFTER the first of the year and stores returned to calmness after the holidays.  Money to purchase Christmas gifts was saved all year long and the only reason you had extra cash to use for the sales in January was because you were perhaps fortunate enough to have gotten some money from your grandparents or favorite aunt as a Christmas gift.

I feel we're the wealthiest of people to have such bounty in our pantry and root cellar.  This red cabbage straight from the cellar is a thing of beauty to my eyes.  To think it came from one tiny seed, not even an eighth of an inch round . . . now there's a miracle for you.

Swing over a couple of feet from the cabbage on the counter and you'll see on my refrigerator door in the upper left hand corner a colorful heart outlined in sparkly glitter that I received in the mail from a 5-year old sweetie who lives in the Ozarks.  The picture along with a note from her mom came via snail mail this past week.  Kudos to all of you who take the time to sit down and pen a handwritten letter.  (Especially when the cost of one itty-bitty first class stamp is starting to feel astronomical!)

Time to give some assistance to Papa Pea who is bringing wood up to the wood box on the porch.  Then to fill the two wood holding racks next to the two stoves in the house.  Then to sweep up all the debris from said wood.  Whoever said heating with wood warms you twice was way off base.  By my count, it's more like 10-12 times!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Day To Be Thankful

I'm giving thanks on this holiday for all the blessings in my life.  There are many, and I count all of you among them.

Best wishes for a holiday spent doing exactly as you wish.  And may that include just the right amount (no foolish over-indulging bringing on tummy aches!) of delicious food!