Friday, December 20, 2013

Gifts, Glitz, Greed and Ice

Well I am finally ready.  I wrapped the last gift of the second batch of wrapping last night.  What a relief!  This year I didn't have to mail anything which is probably why I was so slow getting things done.  Next year I am going to go back to my old routine of doing the bulk of the shopping in October.  This year I basically started the day before Thanksgiving and did some of my shopping on Black Friday and on-line.  So I was really upset to hear about how Target stores were tapped into and the customers accounts compromised because I made several trips to Target during that time frame with my trusty credit card.  So far we have found nothing amiss. 

I don't understand the greed and corruption of people who think nothing of stealing from others, whether it's money, your identity, or as in the case of the woman at the Des Moines Airport, a costly diamond ring grabbed when the owner walked away and left it on the table.  But just because it's the season of love and good cheer doesn't change human nature I guess.  My sister will never purchase anything on line and now it appears that it's not safe to buy from the store at the cash register either.  I have decided maybe it's best to buy local at the small shops and pay cash!

This season I have really enjoyed listening to my grandchildren play Christmas songs on the piano, guitar and violin.  There is just something about the sweet old melodies of favorite Christmas songs that is uplifting, whether it be Silent Night, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, or Rockin Around the Christmas Tree.


Liam plays the violin beautifully and is now learning the electric guitar.  He will soon be excelling in that instrument also.  But the sweeter sound for Christmas songs definitely comes from  his violin.

 This picture of one of our violins didn't turn out well.  I didn't want to open his case and pull out the one he usually uses.

 And Shannon has been baking Christmas cookies!  I love it when the sweet smell of sugar cookies fills the house.  This weekend we will move on to fudge, toffee and chocolate covered peanut butter rolls.


 This was the sight that greeted me this morning when I looked out the window.  We had rain last night and a solid sheet of ice covered everything.  It was going to be a challenge to get to my last day of work until January 2nd!


Maybe it would be better to just stay home and make some nice tea! But no, I had to get dressed and ready to brave the fun of the drive.

Meanwhile, Polly and Oscar are wondering if it's not too early to open their Christmas presents.  Such sweet dogs.  They give such love and affection.  Polly is thirteen, overweight, settled into her stubborn ways, but loves us unconditionally.  Oscar, only two always has a bright outlook on life and a mischievous gleam in his eye.

And I have finished three knitted Christmas gifts.  Here's a scarf just before it went into it's gift bag.

 I love the glitter, music and beauty of the holidays.  I love the simple beauty of snow on branches and the crunch of it underfoot as I head out to the birdfeeders.  Frost on the windowpane somehow makes things look magical and serene.  There might be greed and corruption in the world but my prayer is that I can keep the peace of Christmas in my heart all year long.  And no matter where you are I wish the same for you too!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Slow Down and Enjoy the Moment

Oh my gosh.  The Christmas cards aren't done.  Nothing is wrapped and my Christmas shopping is barely started.  The quilt border is still in pieces across my dining room table.  Should I put it away now before Christmas or just keep on plugging away at it?  I haven't made any fudge yet - or cookies!  Christmas can't happen without those two important items.  We have our holiday table here at work next week and I have to plan the food for that.  These were just some of the thoughts scittering through my brain as I placed a few of my little Christmas decorations on my desk here at work.

I really shouldn't be spending eight hours here at my desk when there are so many things at home that need my attention.  But if I stay home then I worry about everything at work that needs to be done.

And I wonder why there is stress during the holidays.

The years will go by regardless, one Christmas melting into another, changing the lines and contours of our face and bodies.  No matter how we stress about the lack of time, things somehow manage to get done.  Here are my little sisters and I at an earlier Christmas (at least 45 years ago) when things were simple.  Or maybe it was just that our parents had the role of making the  holiday happen.  

And here we are again, stress free on a sunny spring day in Key West two years ago with our friend Barb. I'm the one in the straw hat and my sisters are in the dark blue.

No matter what we do or how we fuss and worry time goes on.  So I have decided to try to enjoy the moment this Christmas.  Not fret and gripe when things don't turn out exactly the way I planned.  Who put me in charge anyway?   I just want to enjoy the magic of the season, the love of family and close friends and the beauty of nature while we celebrate the wonderful gift to the world.  
The birth of the baby Jesus.

And I have decided to steal my friends Lynnette's recipe for one of my contributions at  the holiday table next week.   A wonderful light combination of red pepper hummus, plain yogurt and chopped celery, onion, green peppers and tomato served with crackers.

 I hope you all can enjoy the moment in the next few weeks and have a wonderful Christmas season!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Holidays, Knitting, Threads and a Safe Homecoming

The last few days have been a whirlwind of wonderful activity.  I started and stopped dozens of things but managed to entertain myself well in the process.  I have made a little progress on my pieced border.  Below are stars that will be worked into two corners of the pieced border  Actually there are six stars but only four show in the picture.  I hand pieced two of them.  That was fun as I had not hand pieced anything for quite some time. 

Since my sister had Thanksgiving dinner I didn't feel the need to clear off my dining room table until I realized I also wanted to put up the Christmas tree and I use the table to lay all the ornaments out as I take them out of the boxes before they go on the tree.  I was amazed at all the tiny threads and fabric dust covering the table when I moved things around. 

Thank goodness for Thanksgiving dinner leftovers so that I didn't have to cook the last couple days while I turned my attention to decorating and doing a little shopping. 

 We haven't had a fire yet in the fireplace and I still need to order in a new pile of wood but the lights, greenery and village make it a cheerful place.
 I love getting out the nativity set.  This one has survived forty years now without a break.  Each year when I unpack it I love it just as much as I did when it was new.
 It was special this year because my Mom came over and stayed part of the afternoon on Saturday and helped me decorate the tree.  Dad was sorely missed but his memory surrounded us with a feeling of quiet peace.
 This is one of two wallhangings that I used the crazy quilt pattern.  You can't tell by the picture but each stocking is nicely embroidered and stitched in various patterns. 

 Not fancy at all, but the decoration that I love the most is the green china Noel sign.  This belonged to my Great-Grandma.  The letters are candle holders and she always had red tapers with them, but I don't like that look so I just use it the way it is on the shelf above my quilt.  Each time I look at it, I think of her and smile.   She was a most wonderful Grandma.  She has been gone for over thirty years but her love, sense of humor and wisdom are with me still.

In the midst of the decorating I pulled out two knitting projects to keep my fingers busy.  These are a couple of easy scarves to use as Christmas gifts.  Since I don't have a hand quilting project in the works right now I have to keep myself busy.  This way I can watch the Hallmark movies and get something done at the same time. 

But the best thing was the homecoming of my grand kids Dad.  Home safe from his second deployment in Afghanistan where he can spend peaceful holidays with the ones he loves.  The kids were ecstatic.  And you can tell by the big smile on his face that there is no place like home for the holidays!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Stitching toward the Holidays

A sure sign the holidays are approaching is that my Christmas cactus is in full glorious bloom.  Below is one of them that I snapped last night while searching for a ruler in my sewing room.

My grandson has taken over my wonderful sun room/sewing room for his bedroom and I have been relegated to one corner of it.  So since I am in the middle of creating a pieced border for my quilt I have carried the machine and piles of fabric to the dining room table.  I have quite the mess but am loving the creative energy. 

Last night while searching for a certain scrap of fabric that was hidden amidst the piles of fabric in assorted colors, scissors, rulers and pattern books, it occurred to me that possibly with Thanksgiving approaching this wasn't the best time to be creating such a mess.

But maybe it's time for my sister to host Thanksgiving this year!   
Enjoy a weekend of fun and accomplishment, wherever you are in your creative process!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Imagine a New Border

Last night found me surrounded by fabric, rulers and several quilting pattern books.  This is the first time in a long while that I don't have something that I am currently quilting.....SO borders must go on my next quilt top so I can get started.  I didn't want to use the border that the pattern shows on the quilt.  I wanted to use my imagination and figure out something different.  Several fun and complicated borders caught my eye in various books.  But I just wasn't sure.  So I brought a book to work with me this morning.  I think I have narrowed it down to a combination of two different patterns in various sizes.  I will keep you posted. 

Now I just need to get home from work tonight so I can get started.........

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sunshine and Stitches

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."  Nathaniel Hawthorne

My goal this weekend was to get the binding sewn on my Robbing Peter to Pay Paul quilt.  This quilt top was done back in the eighties.  I think this is the only two color quilt that I have ever done.  My quilts tend to be multi-colored and scrappy.  I was cheerful as the machine started humming and I knew that this quilt that had waited patiently in a drawer for many years would soon be on my bed.

I had made my binding a few days earlier and in order to keep it free from tangles and easy to use I got the idea of using this Rice Krispies box.  Worked pretty slick.  I just unrolled it as I needed it.

I had brought my machine upstairs and was sewing at the dining room table.  The deck door was slightly ajar and the room was awash with warmth and sunshine.  I couldn't stand it.  I wanted to finish what I was doing but the lovely autumn day was calling me and the little owl on the table seemed to be telling me to go out and enjoy the last days of autumn warmth.  It was time to go outside and play.

Soon I was at the quilt shop down in Valley Junction for a little needle threader package and some inspiration.  With my purchases of needle threader, two hand quilting stencils and several fat quarters,  I headed into Nan's Nummies across the street for some of her wonderful cookies.  A few stops into antique stores and gift shops to look for a present for my sister was not productive.  I saw several things that caught my eye, especially the cute fall decorations.

But not finding the perfect gift that spoke to me, I decided to head back for home.  After all, I had a quilt to complete.  

Back at the house I was tempted again.  I could rake.  I could walk through the yard and listen to the leaves crunch beneath my feet.  I could just bask in the sunshine and enjoy the gift of a lovely day.  But the quilt was calling and I was soon back at the machine.  The rest of the day was spent sewing on the binding and watching football with my husband.

As I stitched and enjoyed the feel of the soft cotton beneath my hands I realized that this was the last quilt I had that was completely done by hand.  I had cut the templates out from cardboard cereal boxes.  I had cut each piece out separately.  This was before I had my first rotary cutter and mat.  It was entirely pieced by hand.  Since then I have moved on to doing my piecing by machine.  I thought of the hours spent stitching this quilt.  Hours that I enjoyed as I would sit in the evening while my husband watched television or the kids worked on their homework.  I enjoyed the entire process of bringing this quilt to life.  At this point in time I will probably never piece a quilt by hand again.  The machine is so much faster.  But they will all be quilted by hand.  That part will never change.

And on the bed.......

Oh, and it was a good thing I took some time out of the day to play because the very next day we had a change in the weather and my mum's were shivering under a thin sheet of snow!


Monday, November 4, 2013


I conjured up the man from Key West last night.  The man whose blog I read who walks the streets of the island city with his portly old lab.  In my dream he stood beside the fence gazing up at our house, the moonlight reflecting off his pink crocs.  His dog was nowhere to be seen as he shivered in the cold and damp beside the creek.  What made me wake at 4:00 this morning thinking of him?

Possibly because our own two dogs had crept up into the bed sometime during the night and were threatening to catapult me onto the floor.  Or maybe I was still mulling over his last post about the passage of time.

This time passage in our family has been a hard one for me this year.  With the split up of my daughter and son-in-law last year right after Christmas, I have spent a good part of the last few months mourning the fact that the upcoming holidays would not be the same without the son-in-law that we love so much.  I had no idea that last Christmas was the last one we would spend with my Dad also.  Although not totally unexpected due to so many health issues, his passing two weeks ago left a huge gap in our lives. My sweet handsome grandsons accepted the role of pall-bearers, a hard role for any young man to have to do.  But they did it with love and honor. 

With the passing of this year and all the emotional stress that was involved, my garden suffered from lack of attention.  During spring and early summer I diligently took care of my blooms but as summer wore on and the dry heat and my own exhaustion took over I was just too worn out to baby things along like I should have.  

But my garden is forgiving and even now it is rewarding me with glorious color for a few more days.  I hardly noticed the changing color during the first week of October until the day of the funeral when I realized that my world was alive in wonderful shades of russet, gold and orange. 

Since the leaves are falling quickly and winter is just around the corner, I am busily back at quilting.  I enjoyed a wonderful quilt retreat with my quilting buddies last week and was able to get the binding sewn on the quilt that our son-in-law asked me to make for him.  Quilting this one has been bittersweet because I feel like it is the one last gift I can give to him.  But it did turn out rather well.  Oscar certainly approves of it as he poses here for a photo opportunity. 

I pulled out my Robbing Peter to Pay Paul quilt which has been on hold for several months.  I am quilting the last border on this one so it is soon to be finished also.  
And how amazed I was to win the quilt top at our quilt retreat.  We had all made a block for this one.  So my December project will be to add borders and get this one quilted during our long winter months ahead.

Time passes into the future and loved ones come and go out of our lives.  As I type this my bedroom has taken on a golden glow from the sun shining through the maple leaves in the tree outside my window, filling me with warmth and hope.   Though my mother, sisters and I are mourning a wonderful man, I look forward to enjoying the promise of another garden and the feel of another quilt beneath my hands. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pathways to Beauty

 Emerson said "The earth laughs in flowers."

  There was plenty of laughter this weekend for my sister Laurie and I as we attended the Master Gardener tour.  This wonderful tour happens every year and this is the first time I have gone.  My cousin Karen has her garden on the tour this year so that was my incentive. 
Bursting blooms, riotous color and delicate scents captured our attention as soon as we stepped into the first garden.

The humidity has been great for all the hostas this year.

 Wandering through mulched paths into tiny garden rooms we came across small touches of flower amidst the lush greenery. 

 Obviously this gardener does not have male dogs who seem to delight in my yard in changing the color of the hostas.  Is it only in cartoons that the dogs only prefer trees and fire hydrants?  At my house, Oscar prefers the hostas.

 Laurie and I both have shade gardens so it was enjoyable to see the way bursts of color were woven into some very deep shade. 

 Some delicate maidenhair fern that Laurie had to touch to make sure it was real! 
 And garden rooms complete with chandeliers and touches of whimsy.

 I wrote down the name of this lovely tree but of course lost my paper.  The leaves were cream colored with a touch of pink.  The sun shining through made it look more pink than it actually was. 
 Looking at this wonderful display sent us into fits of giggles because it was while standing here I realized that the reason i couldn't become a master gardener wasn't because of lack of imagination, or desire....... or even hard work.  It was the one thing that I saw evident in all these gardens.  MONEY!!!  These wonderful urns, pots and yard art had to have cost a fortune.

 But wait!!  This next garden was beautiful with only rocks, succulents and cacti.  No yard art in sight.  OK....maybe there is hope for me yet.  But the fact that I have no large patches of sun in my yard will probably defeat this idea.
 Beautiful water features meandered along the paths on our tour. 
 The clematis was in bloom everywhere in wonderful colors both in shade and in sun.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that a pesky vine that I rip off my fence every year and last year finally killed, was indeed an autumn clematis.  If I had left it alone it would have bloomed beautifully in August and September.  Thankfully my cousin took pity on my ignorance and sent me home last night with a nice section of one of hers so I can start again -  and this time have patience for the bloom!
 More clematis
Fairies guarded the gardens.  Apparently they come in all varieties.

 Bird baths in all shapes and sizes were tucked under trees and into corners of the garden.
"I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck."  Emma Goldman

The fragrance of climbers, shrub roses and tea roses perfumed the air.  There is something sweet and nostalgic about the rose.  Many yards had the wonderful David Austin rose with a fragrance so sweet that I must find it for my own yard!

The fairies in this yard had their own front door at the base of a tree!

And later we found their little village!

One of my favorite gardens was situated on two acres.  The top part of the yard was planned and contained but the back part had paths winding down the hillside, over a bridge and along a delightful creek.  It was hot, the air was humid and even though the trudge back up the hillside was exhausting the narrow path through the woods was still inviting!

Laurie can't resist the lure of the rose, even though several bees were there before her!
My favorite garden belonged to my cousin Karen.  These beautiful roses and larkspur bordered her whole back yard and were the backdrop of her lovely swimming pool!

There was even a little fairy peeking from the flowers and guarding the swimmers 
in her garden!

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead
where there is no path
and leave a trail."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

And so it was a wonderful day, full of beauty, ramblings and laughter.  But most importantly enjoying God's gift of my beautiful sister and the world he made for us!