Friday, December 28, 2007

Catching Up -- Part Three, Secret Santas

When Donna decided to be an elf and run an international Secret Santa swap, I just knew I wanted to participate! It turned out that the woman who had received my name was not someone I was familiar with. Nemo was so thoughtful in her package! First, she made me the most adorable blue stitchery quiltlet and even put in a picture of the inspiration for the colors she chose. She sent along postcards of her area of Norway, and some fantastic Norwegian cooky cutters, too! She also sent two candy bars. You may notice that there is just one candy bar in the picture. My dear friend Carol who is Scandinavian was here when I opened Nemo's package, and I felt compelled to share one of the candy bars with her. I was and am totally delighted with Nemo's package and her generosity and lovely stitching.

I also enjoyed tracking down her blog and getting to know this wonderful gal who was so kind to me.

I was given the name of Little Mysteries to be a Secret Santa for. This, too, was a blog that I wasn't familiar with, so I went to her site and went back to the very beginning and read every post she had done so I could get to know her. It was apparent that both owls and violets were important to her, and I went out to the fabric shop in search of one or the other. I didn't find anything that I liked there, but did find some Alexander Henry owl fabric on line. As time passed and the deadline for mailing approached and the owl fabric did not arrive, I learned that Little Mysteries is a William Morris aficianado! Such luck! I dug into my considerable WM stash and picked pieces to make her a tote bag. I also sent her a pin of a U.S. postage stamp with a basket quilt block on it that my friend Emily made. The owl fabric ultimately came, after I'd mailed off the package, and I plan to send it on to Little Mysteries after the first of the year.

It was a lovely experience participating in this swap.

Catching Up -- Part Two, Christmas Gifts

I have two dear, close girlfriends who both like chickens. Well, actually, all of the Good Guys like chickens, but Carol and Elaine are my particularly close friends from that group, ones I generally have a Christmas gift for. This year I found some great big, oversized linen dish towels with enormous chickens stamped on them to embroider. And so I did.

Carol's kitchen has blue in it, so I embroidered her two chicken towels in two shades of blue. It was amazing how quickly the project was completed.

Elaine has a little weekend place down in Chestertown, Maryland, and her kitchen motif is roosters. Over the years I've provided her with some rooster pottery to use there, and this year I decided she should have a couple of the towels, too. I embroidered Elaine's in red and black.

I gave Carol hers on Christmas Eve, but haven't seen Elaine yet. That will happen on January 2, when three couples get together for dinner and a celebration of Carol's birthday.

The Stack and Whack quilt that I made and Kat quilted for me can at last be revealed! Andrew has a passion for pirates and about a year ago when a couple of manufacturers came out with new lines of pirate fabric, I couldn't resist.

I bought the fabric up at Heartbeat Quilts in Hyannis in August and started working soon after that. I thought it turned out well, and I really like the quilting that Kat did.

Andrew was quite surprised and he also seemed pleased. Amy told me that the quilt I had made for him when he was a little boy had begun to show wear and had been retired from use, so she believed he was happy to have the new one.

This is the pirate fabric that I cut up to make the diamonds for the kaleidescope blocks.

My belief is that if you click on it you can enlarge it so that you can see how cute it actually is!

Catching Up -- Part One, Christmas

Thanks to so many for your prayers and good wishes for Bodacious, who is once again acting almost normal. He's well enough now to bite the hand that pills him (is there, she asked rhetorically, any less gratifying task than pilling a cat?). During the holiday period, with a visiting dog and a visiting toddler, we thought it best to keep him confined to our bedroom. We used the carry-case to make a little nest for him and put it in my closet. He seemed very comfortable. Now that everyone is gone, we've moved the nest into the kitchen (love that radiant heat floor!) where Bo still spends much of his time. Last night, however, he saw fit to wander into the living room to entertain my visiting cousins. Tomorrow morning he goes to board at the vet's for a few days while we are away (more about which later on). Bo has now apparently used up two of his nine lives. Let's hope he slows down in this regard!

We talked about not getting a Christma tree this year, but of course we did. I like a skinny sort of a tree, and was pleased to find one at Whole Foods. The angel at the top was made by Andrew or Sherry during 4-year-old nursery school. I've never been able to bring myself to put anything else up there.

If you look down at the base of the tree, you can see a wonderful gift I received! For 40 years we had draped a piece of red fuzzy fabric around the base of the tree, frequently vowing to get a tree skirt. We don't have to do that any more! Bonnie made me a beautiful hand appliqued skirt with a hand-embroidered Dickens quote on it. I'm so pleased to have it. I noticed this year that the tree photographs better without the lights on!

The table set for dinner on the Friday before Christmas. We'd invited two couples from church to come over, and I was so happy when the head of school gave my a Christmas gift of a cyclamen! It makes, I think, a very pretty centerpiece.

In the background are my little Swedish Christmas people and straw bucks.

I collect glassware with twisted stems and have put wine glasses from that collection on the table along with some candlesticks that also have twisted stems.

Another, closer look at the cyclamen. In this picture you can see the table runner Bonnie made for me several years ago. I think she meant it to be for Christmas use, but the purple fabric goes so nicely with my dishes and my candlesticks that I leave it on the table most of the time. I'm lucky to have a sister who makes me beautiful things. She made me a mantel scarf for Christmas a few years ago, too.

Our dinner party was a success, and was the start of much entertaining. We had a crowd of people in for brunch on Sunday, and the seven of us for Christmas dinner, and then last night my local cousins all came to dinner and to laugh. We have one more dinner to do, and that one will be on January 2, when we return from the trip alluded to in the first paragraph. We'll be spending New Year's with Tom and Anastasia in Richmond.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Christmas Eve service at church was very lovely, and we enjoyed spending time at Carol's afterwards. We came home close to midnight, to find Bodacious still in the nest we'd made for him in the kitchen (the warmest room in the house and a favorite of all furry friends because of the radiant heat in the floor). He hadn't touched his water or his food. But he looked at us a little more brightly and wasn't crying.

On Christmas morning we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. He'd roused himself enough to use his box, and by later in the morning he was drinking a little water. The drugs that we were giving him were beginning to work. Expecting a full and busy day, complete with a toddler and a dog, we moved Bo and his nest, box, and dishes into our bedroom.

We so appreciate the prayers of so many readers on behalf of our kitty. He is doing well! Still isn't eating, but is drinking water and wandering around more. We are confident that he is going to recover from his pancreatitis. The challenge now, of course, that he is feeling better, is completing the course of antibiotic pills that must go down his froat a couple of times each day. While we don't really appreciate the hissing, scratching, and biting that accompany the administration of same, we are thankful that he is doing all of these things. Because on Tuesday, he was not.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bless the Beasts and the Children

A picture of Bo taken last Christmas. He was a proud and happy cat that day.

He started being a little sick a few days ago. We thought perhaps it was the ever popular hairball. We thought it would go away.

Yesterday afternoon, however, it became clear that it wasn't going away. It was, in fact, getting worse. Much worse. We went to bed last night knowing our kitty was pretty sick. This morning, we couldn't find him for quite a while. Eventually we discovered him hiding under the extra refrigerator downstairs. His eyes looked sunken, his nose was messy, he was ungroomed and ill kempt and listless. We phoned the vet right away.

A good bit of time today, time that was intended for last minute baking, was spent supporting Bodacious, taking him to the vet, and treating him. Far from a hairball, Bo has pancreatitis. "Many cats recover," said the vet cautiously. She gave him some subcutaneous hydration, a shot of antibiotic, a pain medication. She provided three drugs for us to bring home. He's in a sort of a nest in the kitchen now, the warmest room in the house. And a little while ago Joe got him to eat a little catfood from his finger. He doesn't look quite as bad. It is touch and go. Probably by Wednesday or Thursday we'll know if he's going to make it.

Somehow the last minute baking doesn't seem so important. We're leaving in a few minutes for church, where our prayers will include this little member of our household, who seems littler than before.

Bless the Beasts and the Children.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What's Left?

Some people we know have caused me to ponder, to wonder about something. They aren't Christians; they are very clear about that. They don't attend church and their children were not baptized. So there is consistency, and I applaud that. Neither are they Jewish, nor Muslim, nor Wiccan, Hindu, Sikh, Baha'i or any other form of religion.

During the years that I was in seminary, they were visibly uncomfortable when we got together, as though they thought I might engage in prosletyzing. They never inquired about my studies and changed the subject whenever I spoke about what I was up to. Church, religion of any kind, is something they want no part of. Again, consistency.

We've exchanged Christmas gifts with them for some time and have always felt that they put a lot of thought into the gifts they chose for us.

They've announced, however, that they will no longer be giving us Christmas gifts. The reason? "We want to take the commercialism out of Christmas."

So what remains? I mean, if there is no theological underpinning to the holiday (which I completely understand), and the giving and receiving of gifts is ended, what is Christmas about for them? Take the Christ child out of Christmas. Take away the consumerism. What's left?

Thursday, December 20, 2007


. . . A person knows she has reached a new level of Tired when she gets slightly sick and doesn't even mind because it means she can have a night at home! Bonnie and I went to the cemetery today for the annual meeting of the AFTBOTGOOGD. But first we had a delicious lunch at the new Asian Fusion (whatever that means) restaurant in town. We were nearly to her house on the way home when I realized that I really was not feeling well at all. I was supposed to go to the book club tonight where some new form of amazing beverage was to take a higher priority than the book. I had the good sense to phone the hostess and tell her I did not think that I should attend. I like the women in the book club very much, but tonight it was not the worst possible thing to have to be home.

. . .The book to be discussed, River, Cross My Heart by Breena Clarke was an easy read and I'd give it about a C+. An Oprah pick, it is yet another about Black oppression. Recent reads for the book club have been less than totally cheerful, centering on the life of women in Afghanistan, life in Iraq, etc., and I guess I was just ready for something a little more upbeat.

. . . My girlfriends, the Good Guys, a group that has been together for more than 25 years, gathered one night last week to have dinner and exchange gifties. We don't get together as often as we used to, and this particular night was so comfortable and nice. I made a lasagne and everyone brought something to contribute. The gifties were varied and delightful. I had bought everyone an olive wood spatula when I was in Greece this summer. My favorite of the gifties I received was Kathy's, a pair of the softest imaginable socks by Life Is Good. Made me think of You Know Who!

. . . A nice surprise this week was the receipt of a Barnes & Noble gift card from the Upper School Director. She was appreciative of the things I do to help keep her division running smoothly. For once, I know exactly how to use the gift card! About fifteen years ago my friend Bill gave us a copy of Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It was a wonderful book -- if you read Rutherfurd at all, you'll understand when I tell you this book is like one of his. It is about the building of a cathedral over many, many years and generations. Now I have learned that Ken Follett has written a "sequel" to Pillars. I'm going to get it -- yes, in hardback even -- and put it on the nightstand. Then in January I'm going to re-read Pillars with the hope of getting to World beginning in February! What a delightful thing to look forward to for one of the hardest months of the year!

. . . The purses that I'd placed in the school store back when school started did not sell. So I retrieved them earlier this week. One of them is the popular chocolate and aqua combination that Vera Bradley is showing. I'm going to give it as a Christmas gift to a young woman from our church. I've long enjoyed her sweet nature, her pretty smile, her charming demeanor, and was just tickled when her name was the one I drew for an Advent prayer partner. We are supposed to tell our partner who we are close to Christmas, and I have decided to give Sarah the chocolate mint purse as a little gift.

. . . The Christmas shopping is finished, the wrapping nearly so. The cards are in the mail. Now comes the baking and cooking and entertaining. Which starts tomorrow. It will all get done. It will.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

God in the Midst

God in the Midst

In the somewhat
frenzied aspects of
the season,
and wars and
rumours of wars
and pestilence and
hope and despair
and engaging
the powers
I keep a supporting
image of God
coming to us
as individuals,
or stepping into the
midst of conflict,
holding out a
swaddled infant
to us and saying
"Here, hold this
for me,
will you?"

~Cam Watts, pastor, Aylmer Baptist Church in Aylmer, Ontario.
Taken from Baptist Peacemaker, Vol. 27 No. 4, pg 1

This lovely poem was borrowed from my friend Greg's blog. Sounds to me like something Frank would have written.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Are You the One?"

I'd received word from Penny's mom that there were other girls at the eating disorder center who wanted Communion on Sunday. Penny, it seems, has not been at all timid about sharing her faith with her peers. I arrived on time, with abundant wine and bread. Communed five young women who looked healthier than those I'd glimpsed the week before. As we shared the Peace, a Chinese girl who appeared to be in her mid-twenties clung to me; she was so appreciative that I'd come.

Penny is doing well enough that she's being discharged this coming Friday rather than the anticipated discharge date of 12/27.

When I was leaving, we were standing in front of the reception desk saying goodbye and it was taking a while because Penny is such a chatterbox.

Out of the corner of my eye I see that the person at the reception desk is irritated at us and I can't think why. Penny talks on, the reception person glowers, and finally interrupts to say, "I'm sorry. You can't be here. Visiting hours are not until 3:30. I just had to chase a father away." I quickly apologized, saying I didn't know the rules, that I'd just come to bring Communion and I would leave immediately.

"Communion?" she interrupts. "Are you the one?"

The day's Gospel lesson somehow echoing in my head, I affirm that I am, indeed, "the one."

With that the tears form in her eyes. "Can I have some?" she asks and then goes on, "My father is dying and I have been so busy trying to do Christmas for my kids and I wanted to go to 7:00 Mass this morning and couldn't. Oh, can I have some?"

I tell her, of course she can, but she needs to know I am Lutheran, not Catholic.

"Oh, I don't care!" she exclaims. "Just let me have it."

And so I do.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jim Purton's Wassail Recipe

When we lived in Ohio, we enjoyed a friendship with Jim and Michele Purton. They were originally from North Dakota (the first people we'd ever met from North Dakota), and eventually moved to Missouri. We lost track of them when they left Redstart. A loss, as they were such delightful people. Michele worked in management at the post office, and Jim was a police officer.

At Christmas time, Jim made and served a mean wassail. Last week I served it to a group of friends, and they asked for the recipe. So here it is. And if any reader knows Jim and Michele Purton, please direct them to this blog so we can reconnect!

Jim Purton's Wassail

1 gallon of cider
1 cup of brown sugar
1 can 6 ounces frozen lemonade
1 can 6 ounces frozen orange juice
1 tablespoon cloves
1 tablespoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Tie the cloves and allspice in cheesecloth. Put everything else in a great big pot. Simmer 20 minutes. Discard spices. Add rum to taste when serving.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Birds

As I go through my daily blog reads, I find that many of us are feeling the pressure that the holiday season brings as we try to Do It All (and Do It All right). It occurs to me that I, personally, need to focus on what Christmas is all about, and why we are doing all of the things we do to make it special, make it right.

Many years ago, my dear friend Frank shared this poem with me, a poem I love more than any of his other works. It has become an important part of Christmas for me. Last year I shared a link to it, but this year, I want to reprint (with Frank's generous permission) and share the entire poem with you. It helps me to focus on the mystery that is the Incarnation.











(a twice told tale)


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Treading Water

It's a busy time, of course. Everyone knows that.

A busy time at school, where in addition to all of the seasonal celebratory festivities, we're launching a capital campaign and running a search for a division director. I love it, of course, as I'd much rather have too much to do than not enough to do. Last week I was out for two days attending a professional development workshop, so this week there is all the more to do.

A busy time at home. Nearly all of the gifts are purchased (and about 90 percent were done on-line since even under the best of circumstances I prefer not to go to the mall, and certainly not ever during November and December) and those purchased are wrapped. The cards have been ordered (but the labels aren't printed and the letter isn't composed). The tree has been purchased and the lights are on (thank you, Joe!), but not the ornaments. The baking is an idea that flies in and out of my brain, but hasn't been planned yet. The entertaining has been figured out and commitments made and received, but menus still are up in the air.

So, while much is done, there is much to do. And although the transcription work that I took on a couple of months ago is going far more smoothly than I'd dared to hope, it is still another ten hours out of each busy, full week.

I want to write about the prize I won from Amy's give-away. I want to tell about the international Secret Santa Swap that Donna organized. I want to revisit a lovely evening with the Good Guys. I want to show the Coffee and Cream blocks that are on the wall, the rearranged Jacob's Ladder blocks that are on the floor, and the go-withs for the Hot Summer Hearts.

But right now I'm treading water.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Take and Eat"

Even though it isn't her real name, let's call her Penny. And the picture to the left isn't a picture of her either. Unfortunately, that is a photograph of a professional model.

Yesterday I visited a place I'd heard of but never been to before. It is the Renfrew Center, near Philadelphia, a treatment center for people with eating disorders.

A young friend of mine has been an inpatient there since just before Thanksgiving. I went after church as a Eucharistic Minister, to bring bread and wine to Penny.

Bulimia and anorexia are incomprehensible to me. My own issues with weight are far to the opposite end of the spectrum. I'd been worriedly watching Penny as she became thinner and thinner, and then for a while she was looking better, healthier, and I stopped being concerned about her. Then all at once the process reversed and Penny began looking gaunt. When something went wrong with the family's furnace, Penny's mom phoned to see if she could come stay with me after school that day instead of going home -- Penny simply didn't have enough natural insulation to protect her in the unheated house.

When I saw Penny yesterday, she was talkative and open about her illness. She showed insight into what was happening to her. She spoke of being goal-and-accomplishment oriented and how this had played into her weight loss; she is learning how to handle this facet of her personality in a healthy way. She's progressing well enough to have earned passes to spend some hours at home each weekend. If she was being honest with me (and I realize that this is a very big if), with the proper support after her discharge in a couple of weeks, she's going to be fine. Penny is a lovely young girl, and yesterday I could see her natural beauty returning to her face, which had looked so gaunt the last time I had seen her.

Being at the Center was an eye-opener for me. Everywhere were young girls, incomprehensibly thin, with sunken eyes and many with angry expressions. It was apparent that some of them did not want to be in treatment, that they were there against their will. Most of them had long, dull-looking hair, and were walking around wrapped in a blanket to keep warm. Worried-looking (oh, what is a stronger word than "worried" -- for it just doesn't do the job here), heartsick moms and dads were there, too, since it was visiting hour.

I was there to bring Food: Bread and Wine, Body and Blood. Spiritual Food that Penny asked for, Food that she knows she needs as much as she does the meals that are served in the cafeteria. She asked me to come back next Sunday, and indicated that another young woman might want to join us, asking if that would be okay. Of course it is. There is plenty for all.

Take and eat, Penny. Jesus said, "This is my body, given for you." And for every one of those young girls.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I'm Back

I'm back. It's far too long since I've posted, this admitted despite my "Blogging Without Obligation" banner.

I've got some catching up to do. I could tell you about the wonderful prize I won from the give-away that generous Amy ran a few weeks ago. I could write about the truly worthwhile two-day professional development seminar that I attended, the outcome of which was that I agreed to co-organize the next annual meeting of the group. I could review the book that I managed to get read in my down-time this week. I could even show an picture of where I am with the Jacob's Ladder blocks (where I am is quite the windblown look -- I lined them up on the rug in the lower level, and Bodacious apparently did not care for the arrangement, and has strewn them all over). And at some point, hopefully before too long, I'm going to catch up on all of that.

But what is on my mind today is something I've not read about anywhere else (granted, I am not that well read), nor have I heard anyone talk about it. I was sure my buddy Chez would take this issue on and perhaps with a bit of nagging he will.

Does anyone have any opinions about Oprah and Obama? And their new relationship? I need to tell you that it worries me.

It isn't that I don't like Obama. I do. He strikes me as a decent human being (probably an outright contraindication to White House occupancy). I've not decided who my particular candidate is (although when Andrew was home at Thanksgiving I asked him to spend a little time giving me some things about Hillary to feel good about since it looks as though she has it pretty well wrapped up -- or at least at that point that was my impression).

My problem is Oprah's endorsement. I don't have any feelings one way or another about Oprah as a person. Frankly, I've never even once watched her program. But I know that a lot of people -- even supposedly intelligent and supposedly sophisticated ones -- do watch it. And I know that any book that she endorses skyrockets to the Best Seller List within a week, be it decent writing or tripe.

Oprah is a powerful and influential person, the likes of which I've no recollection of, apart from folks like Jim Jones. My belief is that she has a huge piece of the Black community in her pocket. Similarly the afternoon TV watchers.

Barak Obama may not be the best candidate for President. Then again, he may well be. As I said, I'm undecided at this point.

But if he gets the nomination, if he wins the election, don't you think it should be because he is the best person for the job? And not because "Oprah said so"? Is anyone else at all concerned about this?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Two Recent Reads

I haven't written about a book for a little while. Last Night at the Lobster, by Stuart O'Nan, was a quick, easy, enjoyable read. In it, Manny, our "hero," who is the manager of a Red Lobster restaurant has learned that his particular branch isn't doing well. Actually, it's doing so badly that it has to close, and he and five employees of his choosing will be offered positions at a nearby Olive Garden. The book takes place on the last afternoon/evening that the restaurant is open, beginning with Manny's arrival shortly before noon and ending with his departure a little after ten o'clock at night.

Not only do we get to meet and know and even like this earnest dweeb of a guy, but we learn a few things about the operation of a restaurant. There's a scene involving a family and their utterly impossible child that is so memorable. Meet Manny, see how he juggles his relationships with his on-the-job girlfriend as well as his pregnant at-home girlfriend; see how he does whatever it takes to make the restaurant function smoothly, even on its last day when a lesser man wouldn't give a damn. Read the book, already. It's a scant 200 pages, large print, generous margins, you can polish it off in an evening when what's on the television isn't worth watching. A surprising B+.

Amy Bloom is a new author to me, though obviously not to all. Her book, Away, is about a young woman who has been through a terrible ordeal and becomes a survivor at all cost. Not the least bit credible, but oh-so-readable!
Lillian arrives in New York City with only the meagerest of possessions, rents half a bed in her cousin's apartment, and sets out to make a new life for herself. Not unlike Manny above, "whatever it takes" is Lillian's motto, and -- quite frankly -- sometimes it takes a lot. Watch Lillian jockey to get a job that rightfully should have gone to her friend. Marvel as Lillian becomes mistress to her boss -- and his father, at the same time! Follow Lillian as she makes her way across the country, heading to Alaska where she hopes to somehow get back to Russia where, she has learned, her little daughter whom she'd believed killed is actually alive. I don't do books on tape (my commute is 7 minutes, 8 when the traffic is bad), but if I did, this would be an ideal choice. A solid B, perhaps even a B+.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

3 and 6 for the Captain

December's monthly block is for Captain Nancy in California. I've "known" her for five or six years through our Fat Quarters group, and at one time knew why she is called Captain. That time has passed . . . .

She sent the most wonderful indigo and a lovely WOW and asked us to make a 3 and 6 block (or two) for her for December. I made two this evening and if I had more fabric, I prolly could have kept on going for quite a while! It was a fun and easy block to make.

Tomorrow I'll be heading to the post office to send off:
(a) 3 and 6 for the Captain
(b) My Secret Santa package from the swap that Donna organized
(c) The components for my March blocks for the Birthday Runaways group

I've been working on the Jacob's Ladder again, deciding to go from dark in one corner to light in the diagonal corner and getting better results. These blocks are on the floor downstairs. The Hot Summer Hearts are piled on the cutting table next to some delectable hot summer batiks that Bonnie picked up for me yesterday at Sauder's. Have decided to do log cabins as the alternate blocks. The thirteenth block that I need for this project is bonded and will be hand stitched tonight. I also have the Coffee with Cream Churn Dash blocks up on the wall. Peculiarly, I seem to actually get more done when I have several things in the works at one time!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Baskets and More

Last night I had the time to finish the last of the Branky blocks, before my December blocks-to-make arrive. Karrin had sent three different pieces of "Rhapsody in Blue" by Bonnie Benn Stratton, from back when the "Quilt For A Cure" fabrics were a new idea. I had lots of those fabrics and made lots of quilts for friends dealing with breast cancer. The fabrics were so pretty and had such a nice hand; I wish they were still available, inasmuch as friends are still getting breast cancer . . . .

Anyway, Karrin asked us to make an 8" or 10" basket block. Which I love to do. Of course, as you know, the thing about basket blocks is that it is usually just as easy to make two blocks as it is one. So that's what I did. They are going in the mail to Karrin today.

I was so happy with the positive comments about Jacob's Ladder that last night after Karrin's baskets were finished, I went back to completing the blocks! I have to wait until after Saturday before I can do more on the Hot Summer Hearts (would you believe I have to get some fabric already?), so I'm going to see what I can do with Jacob in the meantime.

Oh, and I got my sporadic newsletter from Pinwheels. The fabrics that Amy had shown are finally available on line, and I'm afraid I might have to indulge . . . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hot Summer Hearts

A wonderful swap called "Hot Summer Hearts" yielded this dozen blocks. We tried to incorporate as many as possible of the wonderful colors that we find in the summer sunset.

Carol and Debbie's daughter Jill will be graduating high school this June and it's really important that I make a quilt for her to take to college.

You see, the baby quilt for Jill was the first quilt I ever made to give away to someone outside our household. Pink and green, it was also the first project I ever hand-quilted -- up until then the handful of quilts I'd made had all been tied. It seems impossible that so many years have passed since the night I sneaked into the hospital after visiting hours, emboldened by my chaplaincy badge, and held little Jill when she was just a day old. She's grown into a tall, artistic, athletic young woman who loves color. So I think these hearts will be fine for her.

Haven't decided exactly how to set them yet; am thinking of making either Log Cabins or full-size HSTs for the alternate blocks. I'll need to make one more heart block for the lay-out I'm envisioning. They were a lot of fun to make, and certainly are brightening up my wall these days while I ponder the options.

This is the third of the four blocks I'm helping Branky with. It's for Jan who sent the focus fabric and requested a nine-inch block of the maker's choice with WOW background and any color but orange for the contrast. When I made my block, I used a pink for the contrast; this time I dug into the batik box and found the precise shade of green that was needed.

I have one more Branky block to do; it is a blue and yellow basket for Karrin and I plan to get it made and in the mail before this week ends.

Monday, November 26, 2007

November Nesting, Near Philadelphia

From the time we moved into our house, nearly eight years now, we've been aware that the principal residents of the property are not ourselves, but rather the birds. That first summer, there was a window airconditioner in the kitchen window, and some enterprising sparrows had built a nest on the sill under the unit. Somehow we never got around to removing it at season's end, and the following summer some sparrows (the same ones?) moved right back in and raised at least three broods there. We have a screened porch off one side of the kitchen and before we built the deck, we ate most of our warm weather meals out there. The sparrows spend their nights in the eaves just outside that porch.

Once we got the deck up, we erected several feeders that we can see from where we eat in the kitchen.

We also have birdhouses. After the deck was built, I asked Joe to mount a birdhouse on the deck support so I could see bird activity from my sewing/computer window on the lower level. He did, and it was quickly occupied (location, location, location!). Last winter I noticed that birds were taking refuge in the birdhouse during the winter.

A very few weeks ago, Joe placed several more birdhouses on the deck supports, and this weekend there was a fluttering flurry of activity! Not only are the birds roosting on the roofs, perching on the perches, and popping in and out of the entries, but yesterday I noticed them taking twigs and other nesting material inside! Clearly, they are claiming spots and making them comfy cosy for the winter! I quickly cleaned out the dryer lint trap and spread some of the fuzzy matter on the bush nearest the enclave.

The greatest hub of activity concerns the double-decker house, but I couldn't get a good picture of it. This photo, admittedly of dubious quality, is of the house closest to the window. When I sit at the downstairs computer, the birds are about eight feet away and every nuance of activity is visible.

Yesterday I laughed out loud as a bird who had gone into this particular house discovered at the time of egress that s/he was a bit stout. Several face-forward attempts to get out failed; an about-face appeared to occur as the tail section popped out the hole a few times; then another pause for a turn-around, and finally the birdy burst out, shaking its head in disbelief, "What was I thinking!" I could almost hear him say.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Remembering Thanksgiving, 2007!

It was, of course, a splendid Thanksgiving. The kids from Virginia all came up, and brought a couple of guests along, so there were ten adults and the baby for dinner. Then we were joined by Bonnie and her family, ten or so more, for dessert. My daughters and nieces each brought a dessert to save me some work, but I had to make a pan of cherry chocolate bars nonetheless. A wonderful surprise was Kristin's offering -- she made spectacular turkey-looking cupcakes. One is pictured here in front of Amy's signature cookies: Lemon White Chocolate Chip.

We were so happy to all be together, and it was wonderful to see how grown up Bonnie's granddaughters are getting to be. Her grandson Ben had brought along his girlfriend; Bonnie had told me earlier that she had an unusual name and even told me what it was. For the life of me, I couldn't remember and I told my crew that Ben was bringing his girlfriend, Gumdrop. They were all delighted. Turns out her name is Asia, not Gumdrop, but she's as sweet as a gumdrop could be and even gave me permission to call her by that name. Abby and Juliette had a wonderful time entertaining Sam.

At various times during the weekend I actually found some time to sew. These Jacob's Ladder blocks have been on my while for a few weeks. They are made from various Diwabo taupes and a nice black batik. I had the thought of having the lightest ones in the center, and have them get progressively darker as they came out to the edges, and was feeling pretty good about my progress.

The people who got to preview it seemed pretty underwhelmed, and I've begun to feel my own enthusiasm for it fade. So today I took the blocks down and put them aside for another time.

I'd made Amy a Jacob's Ladder quilt several years ago, using "Japanese prints" and cream and it turned out beautifully. This time, I don't know . . . . Perhaps it just needs some time? Or perhaps new previewers? Whatever. I put some different blocks up to ponder for a while. And will revisit Jacob's Ladder in 20008!

Branky is a member of my Fat Quarters on-line quilting group and she's been going through a tough time and has fallen behind on her monthly blocks. She's a fine machine quilter who just finished a project for me (more about which later), and she seems so frazzled and stressed that it occurred to me that she didn't need the additional worry about getting to her late blocks. So I told her to send them along to me and I would make them and get them out for her. I've finished two of the four. The one for Molly looks remarkably like the one that I made for her, so I won't post a picture of it. But here's a picture of the one for Becky. There are two more to go and then Branky should be caught up!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Anticipating Thanksgiving, 2007

At some point last summer, Julie posted a "Pay It Forward" on her blog. I joined, and was the fortunate receipient of a wonderful hand-crafted case for a rotary cutter or a pair of glasses. Since my glasses are always either on my face or on my nightstand, I now have the best-dressed rotary cutter in town. As a participant in Julie's challenge, my obligation was to post a similar challenge, with a promise to deliver within a year. My Dancing Ladies blocks have been finished for several weeks now, and today they will at last go in the mail to Deb, Jan, and Debbie who were the first to comment when my challenge was posted.

The timing seemed appropriate. Thanksgiving Week. I'd been thinking over the past few days how glad I am that I became a blogger and how thankful I am for the wonderful relationships that have come from the world of blogging.

My Dancing Ladies were drawn by my dear husband, and are based on some cave drawings that were discovered someplace in Spain. Somehow they have become my emblem, my logo, my symbol. I've used them to recognize friendships, and I've used them to illustrate the verse from Psalm 30: "You have changed my mourning into dancing." And today I'm delighted to share them with three dear blogging friends!

This blog is likely to get a little bit quiet as my house gets a little bit noisy in the next few days! Thanksgiving, of course, is the very best holiday. It is about many good things, and one of them is family. We are blessed that all six of our kids (the three we birthed and the three we acquired) will be with us for most of the weekend. This only happens every two years, and we savor every minute.

As pictured to the left, Joe has the outside ready to welcome our guests. I did much of my grocery shopping on Sunday. Tonight I want to start the preparations, and tomorrow afternoon pick up my turkey. We'll have our crowd on Thursday for dinner, plus Amy's dad; after dinner we'll be joined by Bonnie and her entire family for dessert. Then on Saturday Joe's brother and his boys will come to spend much of the day. It's about family, all right. And we are very, very thankful for ours.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Secret Santa Situation

My Secret Santa gift is nearly ready to send off to far away [name of country omitted]! I'm waiting to find out whether my partner would like me to show a picture of what I have made for her. Elf Donna has asked us to share our preference, and I'm here to say that if the person who has my name wants to show a picture on her blog, she should go right ahead. Just don't mention it is for me!

I've thoroughly enjoyed being part of this project. It has been fun to read the blog of someone I hadn't known before, and to get to know her without her having any idea! I'm thankful to Elf Donna for setting all of this up for us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Be Still, My Heart

I'm awfully glad today that I didn't take The Pledge. You know, the one about not buying new fabric. Because the morning email brought a link from Sistah Kathy in California, a link that caused palpable palpitations. Take a gander:

Yup, just when I'd given up on ever seeing William Morris fabrics readily available at less than scalper's prices (check Ebay if you want a hint), none other than Moda comes out with this delectable line. Kathy points out that it isn't available until January. I can wait that long. In the meantime, I'll take the opportunity to plan a project or two. Or three. Or whatever. O, William! O, Moda! O, Joy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monthly Blocks

One of my internet quilting groups, Fat Quarters (no comments, please!) has a monthly project where we each take a turn sending out a fabric of choice with a specific request for a block. Sometimes it is "any block of this particular size using this fabric." Sometimes it is "this particular block using my fabric for the HSTs and WOW for the background and fabric you add for the rest of the block." I enjoy this each month because it stretches me. There are times when I need to make a block I've never made before and sometimes it is a complicated block that I learn to do. This month Molly did something different: She sent all of the fabrics for her block (the name of which escapes me at the moment!) and asked us to put it together. Took a while. Was fun, though. I enjoyed making one of it. Prolly would find it tedious to make twenty or thirty of them!

Similarly, another internet group, the Birthday Runaways (don't even ask) has a process where each month we receive a specific request from a member or two. It pretty much works the same way as the Fat Quarters group's project does. Again, sometimes I find myself working with orange, a color that doesn't generally occur to me as a starting place. Other times I learn about a new block I'd like to make again and again and again. That was the case this month, when Linda sent us two different yellows and asked us to add six different navy blues to make Fireflies in the Moonlight blocks for her. I so enjoyed seeking out the fabrics and putting this block together for Linda. Was thinking it could also be stunning in Christmas colors on cream or WOW background. Can't wait to see Linda's finished quilt!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Who Knew?

I got my flu shot. It's an employee benefit that's even better than the two dollars a day credit in the cafeteria. I go every year.

This year, the nurse giving the shot told me to relax my arm. "More," she said. So I let my arm hang limp at my side. And I barely felt the needle stick!

She told me that especially for flu shots the impact is lessened with a greatly relaxed arm, but this also applies in general, to any kind of a needle stick. It's easier when the limb is limp.

I wonder why it has taken 62 years for someone to tell me this.

Quilt Show in Chestertown

When we were in Chestertown last weekend, I was delighted that the local quilt guild -- Olde Kent Quilters -- were having a show. I don't know when I last went to a small show, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to attend this one. Unlike the big shows -- Quilters Heritage, Mancuso, etc. -- which are filled with entries that are amazing and gorgeous and totally beyond anything I could imagine ever producing -- the little shows generally have wonderful real quilts made by people like me and like people I know.

There were two rooms in the show. One was filled with exquisite Baltimore Album offerings. I didn't spend much time there. Although I appreciate Baltimore Albums and the amount of effort that must go into them, they just are not my particular thing. The second room was for other quilts made by guild members. People like me and like people I know. And, golly, did they make nice quilts!

I'm aware that most of the ones I photographed are brighter colors than I normally use. I seem to have some sort of lack of confidence that keeps me to the subtle shades, the quiet colors, other than batiks on blacks. I'm ready to branch out, I think, and try something like a red background, and having these photos will help me to do that.

This is a detail from a quilt where each block was different, but featured the same Asian print.

I've never made a quilt with a great bit center like this one. I liked it so much!

This was my favorite quilt in the show. The colors are just wonderful! I'd love to try something like this quilt.

Such liveliness! So many little pieces! And somehow it all works. Another inspiration.

This is the raffle quilt made by the guild. It was just exquisite.

This quilt, my second favorite in the show, is one of three made by a man named John. He was present and people were making quite a fuss over him. Each of his quilts was totally different from the others, and he really knows something about color.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I Couldn't Have Said It Any Better

Greg's blog appears in my sidebar. I don't read him daily, but thassokay because he doesn't post daily. Many of his posts relate to the struggles he experiences as a gay man living in a society that's not always tolerant, frequently suspicious, and often downright nasty to "his kind." If you've ever scrolled all the way down my sidebar, you may have seen my rainbow flag and deduced that equal rights for my LGBT sisters and brothers is an important issue for me.

On November 2, however, Greg's post wasn't about the possible disconnect between being gay and being a Baptist. This time he's taken on something that is even more important, and has produced a succinct, sincere, and well-written piece about something that's been troubling me, something that I just hadn't had the opportunity to document. Now I don't have to: my friend's done it for me. You can read it here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

November: Bring It On!

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be here for the second time. Last year, shortly before we went to Chestertown, someone from the Quilting 4 Pleasure Blog Ring (I'm so sorry I can't remember who it was!) had posted a brief review of the L'il Country Shoppe in Middletown, Delaware, on her blog. We were ahead of schedule on our drive down to Chestertown, and I persuaded Joe that he looked tired and needed a "quilt shop nap" so he'd be fresh and ready to roll when we arrived. I have such a nice husband! He pulled into the parking lot, let me out, and started his snooze.

I loved the shop and am eager to return to it. They have a lot of wool and brushed fabrics and penny rug patterns and primitive things. Just the kind of thing that I love to work on. But here's what's funny: These primitive things do not belong in my house which is partly Arts and Crafts and partly contemporary. Definitely not country or primitive. So I make these wonderful primitive things and give them away because, I suppose, I'm a journey rather than a destination kind of person. Does that make sense? Anyone else out there like that?

So, anyway, October -- which has not been a good month for me on several fronts -- is gone and November is here. And it is starting off just fine, thank you. Tomorrow we head out to Downrigging Weekend in Chestertown for the fourth consecutive year. I just learned that there is going to be a quilt show in town on Saturday, too! What could be better than a fall weekend in a beautiful small town with good friends, sailing on tall ships, and a quilt show? Ah, November -- bring it on!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Additional Gems from CNN Today

  • Man Gets Jail for Throwing Pickles
  • EMT Gives Cat Mouth-to-Nose After Fire
  • Cheerleader Trampled by Players at Game
  • B+ -- 3 Stars -- Britney Album Ain't That Bad
  • Old Prostitute Left Streets, Needed Walker

I swear, they are driving me to the BBC.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm Okay

Thank you to those who have asked. I'm okay. I'm fine. Just uncharacteristically quiet for a bit!

Had a house guest or two. Been doing a lot of weekend traveling (with one more coming up real quick). Been very busy at work with some unexpected turns of events. Been training for a new part-time job that starts this week (the sewing and selling didn't work out). Been supporting hubby with some issues on his plate. Been low-grade sick for going into the fourth week.

Just too darned much going on. So something had to go. And it certainly couldn't be sewing -- that is how I keep body and soul together (almost literally). So it had to be da blog.

I hope the next post comes soon. I've been working on a new project and the blocks are up on the wall waiting for show and tell. It is Jacob's Ladder with a black batik for the darks and assorted Daiwabo taupes for the lights. I'm eager to show it off . . . . .

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

God Help Us All

Of the fourteen "Latest News" headlines on the CNN website at this moment, included are:

. . .Woman guilty of slicing fetus from womb
. . .NASA mum on plane data that would scare you
. . .Man allegedly killed wife with skin patch
. . .Worms gobble up toxic waste
. . .How the Dalai Lama fell in love with grits

I'm inclined to view grits and toxic waste as one and the same, but that's not my point today. is no better. They have seven headlines, including:

. . .Woman guilty of slicing fetus from womb
. . .Parrot imitates alarm, saves family
. . .Britney's friends 'Boycott her album'
. . .Osmond collapses on 'Dancing'

I despair. I thought I was sitting at my desk, about to read serious news. But no, I seem to be in the check-out line at the supermarket.