Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to you all!

It is very strange to NOT have Christmas festivities today, 12/25. The original plan had been to "do" Christmas with my children and grandchildren on the 24th and then stay over until today and see what Santa brought the children. The snow and ice was too much for this very hilly town. Our roads are "kind of" plowed, there is some sanding but no salt or de-icer is used. So it can be doggone treacherous to take on some of the streets. The only smart choice was to postpone until travel looks to be easier.

So, Saturday all the troops will be coming here for Christmas. Presuming that everyone can get here safely. In the meantime we had been emailing with the kids and sending pictures of the house and getting ready:

Nana is heading toward lemon tarts:

As well as making sure our feathered friends are not going hungry:

All of this change of plans has allowed me some unexpected time at the sewing machine. Three of us in my RV group are making and exchanging easy blocks. December is the third month, so three groups of blocks so far.

I finished up one Crazy Exchange item to mail off - so I can't show you, but I received an exchange yesterday later in the day. Perfect timing:
Carol does really beautiful needlework, lovely finishes (there are little gold beads all the way around) and is just prolific. So it is a treat to be the recipient of one of her pieces.

We may be a bit "tardy" but we are sure gonna have us some fun. And hey, why not stretch this out over several days. Such fun.
Happy Holidays to you and yours

Monday, December 22, 2008

"God Bless us, everyone"

Well, like much of the entire country, we are covered in snow. I know - you've heard me comment on this several times. But for a city that normally get 3 inches of snow in an entire year, we have had over 8 inches, just at our house, in the past 10 days. And with all our hills, it makes getting places mighty dicey.

But as I cannot get out, it means that I have been able to finish up a number of items that have been "calling my name" (from out the sewing room). In fact, I have finished up 5 tops for Christmas next year (a bit too late, now.) I have finished the tops for two different four patch posey table runners (my new favorite size - bed quilts take TOO long.) The wider of the two will be a gift; the long, skinny one will hang around here until the april Quilt Guild show.

Next week it is my dear friend Ronda's birthday - how many is this????? So I made her a little wall hanging, using the new (to me) technique that Caroline taught me on Skype.


Did I ever show you the quilt that our Stashbusters group made? Each year we make a quilt (together) that is then auctioned off. The proceeds from that quilt auction "cover" our rental for the space in which we meet during the year. It really is quite gorgeous and I wish my tickets had won it. I understand it was a woman from Pennsylvania. I was part of the team who selected this pattern. Not sure what we'll do for next year - but I'm just a worker-bee for this next one.

I'm a little anxious about getting to my daughter's for Christmas. We are supposed to be there on the 24th, so that we can have Christmas with her family and my son and his wife. We then stay overnight and see, the next morning, what Santa left for the children. While they don't live that far, in miles, it requires a ferry ride. There is a long, steep hill down to the ferry terminal, boat for 30 minutes, then a short-ish drive on a small, two lane road to get to their home. I feel sure that the county hasn't sanded that road. Hmmmmm. I do hope we won't have to delay our celebrations.

I hope that your celebrations are timely and joyful.
Good Holiday wishes,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thanks Jacq

Jacqueline had a link posted to find a new background. I really liked this one - so if you wish to do the same, check this out.

"Baby it's cold outside"

As you can tell from my little weather girl, it is doggone chilly outside. In the midst of our Christmas wrapping party (for our adopted families) it started to come down. It has stayed mighty cold, thus the snow has not gone away.

Carol S. (crazy exchange) said they were out of power for quite a while, with their ice storm - much worse than we suffered here. But still, I don't want to go outside. What shall I do???? Perhaps I could sew?

Soon it will be my dear friend Ronda's birthday, so I cannot show you what I'm making (she has been known to peak here) but have been working to finish up my table runner, in-the-making. I forget the actual pattern name, four-patch flowers - but they are such fun. You start with a less than perfect fabric:

Stack up four repeats of the pattern, exactly matched, and cut them into squares. Mine are 3 1/2" squares, and then reassemble them into different "flower" shapes. It is astonishing how different they look.

Add a bit of sashing and you would hardly know it was the same fabric. Our quilt guild has decided that as we have all made our own version of this pattern (four patch whatever) we would show them as a group at the big quilt show in the spring. Just kind of a peak into what you can do with the same pattern but different fabrics (and settings). Should be quite fun.

Stay warm!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Check-In

Greetings on a very gray, windy day. The TV weatherman says we might even expect snow overnight. I do wonder about that little weather pixie sometimes. She is showing a bit of sunshine behind a few clouds. Nothing like that at my house. We did get all the outside faucets wrapped up, just in case it really does get cold over the next week. There is even the possibility of overnight temperatures in the teens and twenties - that's really cold for us. This is the moderate northwest with winds off the ocean (Puget Sound) to keep things neither too hot or too cold. Still thankful that furnace is back with us. :-) [I know that I read this this morning, but can I find the exact citation? NO! Did you read that a Russian has copyrighted these little smiley faces - although he won't go chasing after folks like me who use it in emails and such?]

Wednesday and yesterday I managed to find some dedicated sewing time. Hurrah! I'm working on finishing up bits and pieces in the sewing room. I still have a couple of Christmas table runners in the works. Guess I'll have those for next year - ready really early. My daughter asked for a tea cozy for Christmas - she complained that with a quilting mom, she should surely have one made especially for her. I did that yesterday, but I've already wrapped it and forgot to take a photo. Here is the fabric I used, though: (tea bags for the outside and cups for the lining)

I also managed to finish up a 5" charm squares table runner (still be be bound, of course)

(I didn't actually hang it sideways, but you know how that goes.)

And I finally put together some 8 1/2" squares that I bought years ago at Hilo Hattie's (in Honolulu). They are a Hawaiian shirt fabric - so I'm thinking they are rayon. But it might make a very nice summertime coverlet. Anyway, getting fabric out of the drawers feels so good.

Tomorrow night is our annual wrapping party. For the past 10 (?) years a group of friends have gathered at Christmas. We adopt a family (or 2, this year) and each buy gifts for one person and then bring them to see what each other has bought and to wrap them. I make some sort of main course and the others bring things to share. I will make a cheesy chicken and wild rice soup, this year. Other donations include salad, bread and dessert. It is such fun and a marvelous way to really begin the holiday season.

Happiness to you all.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Oh thank Heavens

Gracious but it is good to have some heat again. Our furnace had problems starting last Thursday and the gas company turned it off. On Friday the serviceman arrived to tell us that we had to order the part and it wouldn't be here until Monday. Fortunately we do have this gas fireplace and so the living room was comfy, but the rest of the house - NO! It turned out that the furnace service company couldn't get the part to Seattle until late last night, so they have only just left (1:30pm, on Tuesday). I might be a bit more forgiving if they had even a modicum of sympathy for our situation - no "gee, I'm sorry" or anything approaching that. You can be sure they are crossed off my list for any future service calls. And if you live around here, I'll tell you the name of the company so they can come off your list, too.

Meanwhile, there are some bright parts of our life, too.

I realize they are "forced" but they add such cheer to the house.

Here are a couple of photos from the CTA Christmas party I forgot to put up. Isn't this shoe just the cutest thing. They bought baby shoes at the thrift store and stuffed them to make pin cushions. What a clever idea.

Also, for your 'drooling' pleasure, the chocolate fountain was a big hit at the party as well.

Today the Somali ladies and I had a potluck (new concept for them) lunch to celebrate the last class until the first of the year. They made marvelous food - lots of food.

Meat pies and rice. We also enjoyed some raw vegetables, a quiche made by the other teacher and I made a cake. One member of the office staff is Cambodian and she brought shrimp spring rolls with peanut sauce. We feasted well!

Well, a pretty foodie post today. Stay well, stay warm.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's that time of the year. . . . . .

Life is starting to speed up, I think. It's hard to imagine but fun things are happening almost every day. Last Saturday Ronda and I had a "play date" and decided that we would teach ourselves how to make a shopping bag. Ronda's is a light blue corduroy; mine is the Debbie Mumm sunflower fabric.

I know that I have told you about how much I love Skype. It is such fun to talk with folks all over the world. I probably talk with my friend Caroline in the Netherlands once or twice a week. Last week she taught me, via Skype, how to make little squares. See her blog, where she talks about this and shows her very creative project. Mine is pretty small stuff in comparison, but fun to think about what else I can do with the technique. Tomorrow is the CTA Christmas meeting and among other things we are having a handmade ornament exchange. So I took two of the squares and sandwiched them with a piece of batting. Put a bell on the bottom and ribbon on the top to hang it. Viola!

The other part of the Christmas meeting is a cookie exchange. I made the most fabulous cookies, recipe from my friend Janis-

Coconut-Cranberry Chews

1 1/2 cp. butter
2 cp. sugar
1 tbsp. grated orange peel
2 tsp. vanilla
3 1/4 cp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cp. dried cranberries
1 1/2 cp. sweetened flaked coconut

Beat butter, sugar, orange peel and vanilla until smooth. Mix flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to butter mixture. Stir to mix, then beat on low speed until dough comes together, about 5 minutes. [I suggest a stand mixer. I used a portable hand mixer and it was difficult as the dough is stiff.] dough should be a smooth, homogeneous mass, not too crumbly. Mix in cranberries and coconut. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on a buttered baking sheet. Bake at 350` until the edges begin to brown. [The recipe says 8-11 minutes. My oven took almost 15 minutes.] Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Makes 5-6 dozen cookies. FABULOUS.

Finally, we brought the Christmas tree inside tonight. We got lights on it and a very few ornaments. I love its simplicity. This is a sheared dougles fir, from a tree farm down in Oregon, sold as a fund-raiser through the church.

Don't let the days go by too quickly without noticing what's going on.
Joy to you!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving and cold bugs

Sorry - I have been a bit under the weather since turkey day and have been laying mighty low. Wander around with my "best friend" - the tissue box, under my arm. I usually manage to avoid these but somehow this one caught up with me. Turkey day was very nice. My poor SIL had to work as he is a cook short. He is the food services manager at a rehab. facility. Poor guy. Hopefully this does mean that he will be able to be free and clear for Christmas. Brother, wife, his oldest son, friends, us-n's and of course, the world's cutest grandkids who were just as cute as could be. A swell time was had by all. Oldest GD made little appetizer/decorations for the table:
Cute little penguins. Not sure where she got this recipe, but of course Nana thought they were terrific. Black olives, stuffed with cream cheese on top of carrot slices. Faces are made from carrot shreds and tiny pieces of cream cheese. Cute, huh?

Brother Henry (for whom I made the muffins)
was deposited at the airport this afternoon and on the way home we made a number of stops, including a local fabric store, with post Thanksgiving sales. I needed some dark Christmas green and some 'interesting' black. Managed to find both of those and added a yard of each to my collection - didn't I show great restraint? I have completed a return gift for my crazy exchange partner. She might look here so I cannot show you all of it, but eventually you'll see it. So that is in the envelope ready to go to the post office and on its way to Finland. And then, this afternoon, I received a return exchange for one I had sent a while ago to Simone in the Netherlands.

Oh my gosh, so cute:

I got Max. I have loved a sheep that Simone had made and shown on her blog, so now I have the latest family addition. Lucky me. She also sent me some very cute Debbie Mumm 12 Days of Christmas fabric, as well as the fabrics and bits to make a little Welcome hanging.

I have to produce some Christmas ornaments. I'll show you when I have something worth showing. Blow..... blow.....blow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Autumn has arrived with avengence

Oh, it is blowy and stormy and wet. A true northwest fall day - just in time for Thanksgiving. Henry arrives from Dallas on Monday - I hope he brings his warm raincoat. I have been vacuuming and dusting and trying to generally tidy up my messes. Sewing machines and fabric and bits and pieces seem to have migrated all over the house - do they do that while we sleep? Actually the big machine (Pfaff 7550) has gone in for a sewing machine "lube, oil and filter". It hasn't been done in a while and it was time as my tension seemed to be all off. I have been working on finishing up the handwork part of the binding on Christian's Hawaiian quilt. Today is his 50th birthday - poor dear and the quilt won't be totally complete but enough that I can mention it in the card. (he knows about it, but doesn't think it's done).

In preparation for our houseguest, I'm making my favorite Bran Muffin recipe which I thought I'd share. You can tell its age by it's official title: Ice Box Bran Muffins. [Who has an ice box any more?]

2 cups boiling water
2 cups Nabisco 100% Bran cereal
4 cups Kellogs All-Bran cereal
Pour water over the cereals and set aside.

1 cup Crisco
3 cups white sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 quart butermilk
5 cups flour
5 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Cream crisco and sugar. Add eggs and buttermilk and bran cereal mixture. Sift the dry ingredients and mix with moist until well moistened. Store in the refrigerator for up to nine (9) weeks.

Just before baking, you can add raisins, nuts, dates, etc. Bake at 400`, for 10-12 minutes for muffins.

I got this recipe in the early 1960's from my friend Terry Horrigan - so thanks to her.

Luckily my brother is hosting Thanksgiving, so I simply have to come up with my two contributions: winter squash and a dessert - don't know what yet. And Henry is a great wine purchaser, so our pieces of the event will be fairly simple.

Stay warm. Stay dry.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The wanderers have returned

[Photos at the end]
Hello! We returned from New Orleans late on Saturday night, after a busy, fun, frustrating, challenging 10 days in N.O. The first four days we were tourists, with 4 others of our group. What a time. We had chosen to rent a car, so we got to visit two plantations, with very thorough and interesting tours. We spent a day on foot, walking through the French Quarter, along the waterfront, along Bourbon Street, until our little legs could move us no further. We had ridden into town on the marvelous street cars that are now up and running, and then after coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde (apologies now for all spelling errors) REQUIRED, walked and walked. The French market captured our interests and some of our money, a visit to the beautiful cathedral, an al fresco lunch with some enjoying boiled crawfish. It was an adventure. Sunday morning we were really moved to worship at Beecher Memorial United Church of Christ. Beecher was almost totally destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. They are making some progress, but still are not returned fully to their sanctuary. Folding chairs on concrete floors, lights but no ceilings and a simply astonishing zeal to keep on.

Sunday evening we joined the rest of our laboring troops at the church where we would stay for the work week - after St. Paul's UCC made the needed repairs post Katrina, they built some dormitories above the "hall" for the use of groups like ours. We used their kitchen to do our cooking (a couple of meals out) and ate in the hall. Our group of 21 was divided amongst three homes and we worked in those homes for the week. I worked in Mr. and Mrs. Washington's home. They were evacuated for 9 months and then returned to live in a FEMA trailer, where they have lived ever since. Their house is still several months away from habitation. We learned that there are still 4000 FEMA trailers in N.O. Amazing to consider.

In fact, there is so much to consider and ponder in this city of contrasts - many, many poor people, much fewer middle to upper income residents, a school system that is struggling to improve, a police force roundly criticized. Some people told us that the city cannot "come back", others hope it will but are doubtful - and new disasters continue to occur (Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, for example) which stretch resources even thinner. (for example, in NO, the Red Cross and Salvation Army have stopped funding for Katrina housing rebuilds. Now what?) Disaster relief? Urban renewal? The desperate need continues, but the "will" and the resources?

I don't mean this to sound like a depressing lecture, but it surely is sobering to consider. And it certainly says - Love your friends and your families, enjoy them, appreciate them, tell them how much they mean. We are truly the lucky ones.