Saturday, September 29, 2007

Holly

The last of the twelve outside blocks is finished! Actually, it has been finished for a week or longer, but I didn't have an opportunity to photograph it before now. I like this one more than some of the others. And I've no idea why the photo has a sort of moire texture. I imagine if I were trying to do that, I wouldn't be able to!


The large center panel was begun during the summer, and I've been working on it again since I finished Holly. It is going quickly, and it is enjoyable to have the frequent changes of thread colors.


It won't be long now until I'm sewing the blocks together and then doing the decorative embroidery on the seams.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Breakthrough

For weeks now, when he comes to the house, or when we go to visit him, his arms reach up, even if Joe is nowhere in sight, and he exclaims, "Pap! Pap!"

Truth be told, one of my greatest joys is watching him and Joe together. Their mutual adoration is blatant; it is obvious; it is ongoing.

Sherry and I have both been trying to get him to call me by name. Any name, actually. We tried Gramma," "Grandma," "Nana." But all this yielded just a shy smile, a sweet wave, and "Hi."

It changed on Sunday. Joe wasn't in front of the house when they arrived, and when he saw me coming to meet them, Sherry pointed and inquired, "Sam! Who's that?"

And the blessed boy replied, "Grunmum!"

Monday, September 24, 2007

GIPP

Reader, you read it here first!

A certain friend and I have been complaining about someone we know who brings "obtuse" to a whole nother level.

How do we explain? He's dense. He's self-focused. He's somewhere else. He's oblivious. He's this, he's that, etc.

And then my dear friend nailed it.

This guy -- this dense and self-righteous fellow of whom we speak -- he's been seen in a very public setting on more than one occasion wearing pink pants. Yup. Pink pants. And he's not a preppie or even a pseudo-prep. He's an ordinary guy, prolly close to 40, straight, well-educated, and not known to be color blind.

He's a Guy In Pink Pants.

I bet you know one too.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Our church has been participating in the Natural Church Development program, which is designed to help a healthy church assess which area is its weakest and then to develop strategies to strengthen that "weakest link." Like most Lutheran churches, our weakness is in "passionate spirituality." Lutherans, by and large, are just too reserved about their faith, deep though it certainly may be.

We've spent a year and a half on this project, meeting approximately monthly, and coming up with projects to accomplish our goal. Among them are a class on prayer, reconstitution of our Eucharistic Ministry program, a prayer shawl ministry, spiritual gifts assessment, devotional blog, efforts to bring newcomers to our worship service; there are others. Today is NCD celebration Sunday, where we rejoice in what we have accomplished, and draw all of our efforts to the attention of the rest of the congregation.
Kathleen and Joan were in charge of the celebration and came up with a "sunflower" theme, based on the piece of Scripture about a seed falling on fertile ground. They've made a banner, too, with sunflowers and amazing thready roots. I like sunflowers a lot, so I was tickled by their choice. I offered to make a prayer shawl from sunflower fabric. I finished it Friday night. You know, we don't want to let these things go until the last minute!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Be Kind . . .

. . . for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." This wisdom is variously attributed to Philo, to Plato, to other thinkers. I have heard it many times, and most recently encountered a variation of it on Mz. G's blog. This was a couple of weeks ago.

Someone I know is fighting a hard battle. It is a terrible battle indeed. She doesn't talk about it at all, which is unfortunate. There are so many of us who would be willing -- honored, even -- to listen, to support, to hug. But perhaps the pain is too great at present to be shared. It comes out, though, in behavior, in actions, in attitude. And sometimes it is difficult not to take it personally. Sometimes it is not pleasant to be in her company.

I need to remind myself that she is fighting a hard battle, a harder battle than any I've fought. And I must be kind.

The Mouse



SEE THE MOUSE STRUT BOLDLY ON THE STAGE
NEVER A MORE DASHING ROMEO THAN HE
ESPECIALLY SINCE THE OPERA HALL'S DESERTED
THE SHADOWS STAND TALL
AND SILENT IN MEMORY
NO ONE CARES FOR OUR ROMEO FRIEND
NOT EVEN THE NIGHT WATCHMAN
WHO SITS IN THE CORNER
HOLDING THE OLD SCRUB WOMAN'S HAND


FRANK A. VOLLMER
Never one to miss an opportunity, Frank wrote this offering in response to my current plight.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Mousebusters, that's who. The weather has turned just a wee bit cooler Near Philadelphia and this has brought some of the outdoor population indoors. Last night was Back to School Night and some mouse or another ran across the floor of the Latin teacher's room no fewer than three times. Science Department claims they have one, as well.

We'd been hearing rumors of them for about a week. This morning one has decided my space is his space. I disagree. The Maintenance guys showed up very quickly at my request; they've installed some sort of a sonic mouse-frightener in an outlet and promise to return later this morning with some good old-fashioned traps with a fine Gouda tidbit inserted.

Meanwhile, it's hard doing my work while standing on my chair!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time


They all do, though. Don't they? And they prolly are good ideas. It's just that there are too many of them.


When I read about the challenge to read award winning books -- just twelve in one year -- I thought it was not just a good idea but a superb idea. I quickly signed up, made a first selection, and boasted on my blog. Others read my post and they, too, thought it a good idea and have signed up.


And it still is a good idea. Except, frankly, on reflection, I don't need this challenge. I don't really need any more challenges in my life right now. Maybe never! I have lists of quilting projects -- some of them with deadlines -- and an excellent book to read each month for the book club, and presentations to prepare and deliver, and meetings to attend, and -- well, I imagine you know exactly what I'm talking about and can fill in your own list of obligations and challenges.


I don't want a reading challenge. I don't want to have to feel bad if I don't manage to read twelve award winning books in the space of a year. I'll hang onto the link to the challenge, and use it as another source of recommendations, but for my own sanity, I need to take the logo, the link, and the list off of da blog.


Phew.

Two Outstanding Flicks

Bonnie and I first subscribed to Netflix a year or more ago. With television the way it is anymore, it is a delight to have those red envelopes appear in the mailbox or between the doors. If Joe and I are both going to be home for an evening, we have the option of watching something that is likely to be good, and "without commercial interruption." Bonnie's subscription provides one movie at a time and ours provides two, and since we share, there is almost always something good waiting in the wings.

I've written before that we have been working our way through the old "Upstairs, Downstairs" series from Masterpiece Theatre. This has been wonderful. From time to time I wonder what the Bellamys -- or Hudson -- would think of some of the stuff currently on television! But we watch other flicks, too. My queue has about 65 titles in it, and I've no idea how many are in Bonnie's.


I always do the rating of the movie after we watch it because this has led to some of the best things we've seen, things we wouldn't have know about otherwise. Rating a movie prompts Netflix to suggest other titles that we might like. Most of the time I add them to the queue. I'd never heard of "The Choristers" until Netflix suggested I might like it. And, by golly, they were so right! Although foreign films with subtitles are fine at the theatre, they aren't my first choice at home because I'm always handsewing while I watch. The night we watched "The Choristers," I didn't sew quite as much. What a nice movie, and the music was spectacular!


Another movie, "Copying Beethoven," showed up on Bonnie's queue and was another wonderful surprise. Beautifully told, sensuous, superb acting, and again with the lovely music.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Zeggy the Biscuit

When Sam was a "bun in the oven," before he was born, his nickname was "Muffin." I asked Sherry who this second baby is, and it seems that this baby (gender to be known at birth) is a Biscuit.

Last night I had the following dream:


I was out somewhere and Joe had received the call that the Biscuit had been born, and was a boy. The dream opens with the two of us in the hospital lobby where there are two different lines: one for Dunkin Donuts Coffee, the other for Dunkin Donuts doughnuts. Joe decides before we can go up to visit the new baby he has to have a cuppa coffee. The line is horrendous but he persists. He asks me to go get in the other line to get him a doughnut. This line is even longer and I refuse. Finally he gets his coffee (I could see the steam) and reconsiders the doughnut. I tell him he doesn't need the doughnut. With a wistful look, he agrees and says, "Okay, let's go see Zeggy." "Zeggy?" I reply, incredulous. "They named him Zeggy?" "Yes," smiles the love of my life. "Zeggy. Z - E - G - G - Y." Proud that he can spell it. I'm amazed, and off we go, coffee in hand, to meet Biscuit Zeggy.

Reader, I swear the only thing I had before going to bed was a piece of Andrea's torte!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Domestic Day

That initial nothing-short-of-exhaustion that had set in with the arrival of faculty days and the opening of school has passed! Each year, as I come home from the end of a full and tiring day and crawl into the recliner for a nap before rummaging in the fridge to see what I can pass off as dinner, I'm afraid this condition will be permanent. So far, each year I've been wrong.

The middle of the past week saw the change, if not in the weather, in me. I came home and did laundry (oh, you should have seen the pile!) and fixed a really nice meal and promised myself to get to the bills (gotta do that later today). Then, this morning, the air Near Philadelphia, if not yet chilly is at least cool. My Weather Pixy says it is 66 degrees here! So I've had a domestic sort of day. More laundry (please, God, let it come to an end), a full grocery shopping (six bags full), and then to the stove. Saw this wonderful tart recipe on Andrea's blog early in the day and added the needed ingredients to the shopping list. It's in the oven even as I write.

Knowing there will be a couple of long days in the coming week, I moved right ahead to making a pot of the Good Guys Vegetable Soup, which is a-simmering on the stove now. I'm so proud! Might actually make a loaf of bread to put aside to serve with it if that there laundry doesn't finish me off.
Feels good to be domestic again!

Good Guys Vegetable Soup
2 pounds of beef stew meat cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 Cup salad oil
1 10-1/2 ounce can condensed onion soup
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 Tablespoon basil (I used 2 Tbps fresh)
2 Cups sliced celery
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
8 carrots, sliced
1 16-ounce can wax beans (I've been known to substitute garbanzo beans)
1 16-ounce can kidney beans
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese, add at table
About 2-1/2 hours before serving, in the dutch oven over medium high heat, in hot oil, brown the meat well. Reduce the heat to medium; stir in the undiluted soup, 5 soup cans water, tomato paste, basil, salt and papper. Simmer, covered for 1-1/2 hours. At this point you can take it off the stove and save it in the fridge for the night you plan to serve it. Then, or now, proceed to add all vegetables, reheat to boiling, and then simmer, covered, 30 minutes or more until meat and vegetables are fork-tender. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Golly, does my kitchen smell good right now!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Winterberries



The "Time Began In A Garden" project continues. "Winterberries" is the penultimate of the twelve smaller blocks. "Holly" is bonded and begun. I still have the large center block to do, as well.


I'm glad I didn't have any kind of a deadline in mind when I began this project many months back. My progress has been slow, but I've enjoyed the process so much. I like to have a couple of the blocks bonded and in a basket in the living room so that I can do handstitching in the evenings, especially if I'm watching television or Netflix. Tonight my monthly hand-sewing group met and Winterberries was finished and the first few stitches of Holly were put in.


The large center panel is all bonded and some of the lettering is begun. I think it is likely the entire top will be finished by spring.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Books

I was looking at Juliann's blog today and discovered this terrific reading challenge! It's not that I really need or even have room for one more membership, one more commitment, one more challenge. But -- oh -- it sounds wonderful to have lists of books deemed good enough, important enough, to have warranted a prize!

I've always been a passionate and eclectic reader and over the years been in and out of a few different book clubs. Amazon has recommended some pretty good books in the past seven or eight years since I've been using their recommendation system, but they've also recommended some books that are clearly not my cuppa tea. So I'm going to go ahead and do the challenge. Anyone wanna join me?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sailboats In The Making

We're home from our weekend with Honna and George at Lake Wallenpaupack; we're a little bit hot, a little bit sticky, and a lot tired and a lot happy. The cabin that Honna inherited from her dad is comfortable and charming and a tad rustic. There's a huge deck that demands to have meals served there. The beds are comfortable and the setting just lovely. The house also has a slip at the lake, which Honna hasn't been using, since she doesn't boat.

We hauled Windspirit up with us on Friday night, arriving sometime around eight o'clock, I think, after stopping someplace for a bite to eat. Saturday morning we got the sailboat into the lake, packed Joe a lunch, and off he went, not to be seen or heard from again for hours. George had commitments at the local hobby shop and Honna and I sewed. She's working on an autumn-toned Disappearing Nine Patch and I finished up my Hot Summer Hearts and my Pay It Forward and even did some work on my Time Began In A Garden remaining blocks. We had a wonderful time together. Mid-afternoon, she mentioned having found a tiny quilt shop about twenty minutes away and did I want to go? Hah!

Someone I Know is going to need to be moving out of his crib into a big boy bed sometime in the next year and I'd had the idea of making a sailboat quilt for his new bed. Now that there's a new baby on the way, that move might take place sooner rather than later. There at this tiny little shop (that doesn't have a website, unfortunately), I found exactly the right fabric! A pale blue mottle for the background and eight terrific coordinated homespun plaids for the ships. I have plenty of "sailcloth."

Tonight when we got home I had Joe look through the various sailboat quilt block patterns and he pronounced "Tall Ship" to be just the right one. Hence another project enters the queue.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ordinary Time

In the Christian church year, the period between Pentecost Sunday (sometime in May) and Christ the King Sunday (late in November) is known as Ordinary Time. The Sundays are counted as Sundays following Pentecost, for example, this Sunday is the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost. This time is also known informally as "the long green season," for the appointed liturgical color is green.


Unlike the other liturgical hangings I made for my home, this one is not the proper color for the season. The design was made as part of a quilt block challenge we had some years back -- two people each picked a fabric (the orange and the blue) and all challenge participants were given a piece of each. The instructions included the size the block was to be, how many additional fabrics one might add, and the requirement to have the block represent a Bible verse or story.


I had recently acquired a book of Bible story quilt blocks (and I gave it away, or I would tell you which one it was) and had appliqued the Jonah picture on a sweatshirt for a seminary classmate who lived with cystic fibrosis. She said she always could identify with Jonah, and I could readily see that being trapped in a place where it was hard to breathe would bring that identification.


When it was time for the challenge block, I decided to make Jonah again. The fabrics seemed to lend themselves to that picture.


As I worked on the block, I realized that I identify with Jonah, too. There is a stubborn streak that often does not want to go where God wants me to go, to do what God would like me to do. The analogy doesn't carry so far as to my needing to spend time inside a whale in order to come around, but sometimes it almost seems as though that might speed things up!


I'm hoping that clicking on the picture will make it large enough for you to see that the boat is the SS Tarshish, and the mile marker indicates "Nineveh, 3 Days," both interesting details from the story (which you can read here, clicking the arrow to continue to subsequent developments in the narrative).

Miscellaneous Musings

It's been a busy couple of weeks, with things planned and things unplanned. School has started, and things are just a bit more quiet at present. It is nice, too, that this first week of school is just four days long.

Farewell. Our wonderful houseguest, Anna Maria, has the opportunity to do a bit of traveling, and will be leaving us today instead of Sunday. It has been great having her live with us. She and Bodacious have formed an intense bond; he will miss her very much.

Ethical Thinking. I'm taking a class! One of my goals for work this year is to get more involved in the life of the school. This will include continuing my relationship with the Pre-K class, attending Meeting For Worship each week with one of the divisions, and taking a class in Upper School. Philosophy/Ethics is being offered for the first semester, and the first class was yesterday. The class meets four days per week and we'll be studying Plato/Socrates, Aristotle, Kant, and Mill. I've never studied philosphy before and it looks as though it is going to be provocative.

Flicks. When did I ever post a movie recommendation on this blog? Never, I think. This past weekend we saw "Death at a Funeral" and laughed ourselves silly. It is a short film, and very, very funny.

Books. I tried to read "Peony In Love" and didn't like it. So back it went. Somewhere I heard that you should give a book as many pages as you are years old to see if you were going to like it or not. I was generous with Peony, and still didn't like it. Anne LaMott has a new one out; I started it last night and it is very good. This woman really knows how to turn a phrase -- I loved a reference to an individual with a "mustache disorder." "Born on a Blue Day" wasn't particularly spectacular writing, but the content was fascinating; the author is an autistic savant and he has a marvelous ability to share how his mind works. I'm glad I read it.

Outta Here. Since we unexpectedly have the weekend available, we've accepted Honna's longstanding invitation to come back to the cabin in the Pocono Mountains. We'll be leaving Friday after work and hauling Windspirit along as well as some handsewing, wine, and goodies. We'll be back sometime Sunday.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Surprise

Last Sunday afternoon our children surprised us with a party in honor of our 40th wedding anniversary. We had chosen the date of our trip to Greece to coincide with our actual anniversary date so that our kids would not feel as though they had to do something for us. With four of them living in Virginia and the two living Near Philadelphia having a Toddler underfoot, we didn't want them to feel burdened with feting us. Obviously, we were wrong.

They started planning way back in April, they told us. Tom, Anastasia, Amy and Andrew arrived at Sherry's home on Friday night and began preparing. Chris had taken Sam to the Grange Fair. Here are Anastasia, Amy and Sherry hard at work in Sherry's kitchen on Saturday. We had no idea the Virginians were in town -- we thought that Sherry had gone to the Grange Fair as usual.

On Sunday, thinking we were going to a small family picnic at Bonnie's for the purpose of sharing vacation photos, we were greeted by about fifty of our favorite people!

The cake was made by a colleague of Sherry's. The woman had been told that one of us was a quilter, one of us was a sailor, and that we had recently returned from Greece, where everything is blue and white.

There was so much yummy food including barbeque, chicken salad, deviled eggs, cookies, veggies, coleslaw, cheese, crackers, dips, cookies, hand-made candies. Sherry made her famous limeade, Anastasia put together a wicked Sangria, and Amy made calligraphy labels for everything.

Everyone said, "Your kids sure do know how to throw a party!" Everyone was right.

Some of the guests found the centerpiece surprising. We didn't. Among the guests were the Good Guys, a group of women and their husbands/honeys who have been together for more than twenty years, supporting each other, celebrating special occasions, throwing amazing theme parties, and laughing a whole lot. Early in our history together, one of us received a rubber chicken as a surprise, and the chicken (and many subsequent replacements) has been part of our events ever since, often being dressed in an outfit suitable to the occasion. He's been a bride, a bridesmaid, a Santa, among other things, and when I went off to seminary, he was dressed in a little black shirt with a clerical collar to honor the occasion. Of course he would be at our party, and look how happy he is to be aboard ship!
We were, as I said, totally surprised. We had no idea we had so many friends! And that they would all be available to be with us on an August Sunday. Andrew had prepared funny door prizes. One was a bag of "things Mom likes" and included quilt blocks of cats and Swedish fish; the complementary bag was "things Dad dislikes" and held Kellogg cereal and a squirrel mug.

If it weren't enough to have all these wonderful people present, some brought gifts. We were just amazed and thrilled. Above all, we felt blessed.

If you were wondering if that cake tasted as good as it looked, take a look at Sam's clean plate!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cornbread Salad

Mary has invited us to a picnic tonight and I said I'd bring the Cornbread Salad. Linda is one of the best cooks I've ever known, and she shared this recipe several years ago, saying "Trust me." By gosh, was it ever wise to trust Linda on this occasion! People always ask for the recipe, so I thought I'd spare you the trouble.

Linda's Cornbread Salad

Serves 6 or 8 or 10 or so

1 package Jiffy Cornbread/Muffin Mix, prepared according to package directions and crumbled
1 pound bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
1 large green peper, cut into 1/4" pieces
1 medium onion (I use a sweet onion), cut into 1/4" pieces
4 medium tomatoes, skins on, cut into 1/2" dice

Mix the sauce together using the following, and set aside:
1-1/2 Cups mayonnaise (I always use Hellmans)
2 Tablespoons sweet relish
2 Tablespoons sugar

In a bowl (a 3-quart Dansk casserole is perfect) layer:
1/2 of the crumbled cornbread
all the peppers
1/2 of the tomatoes
all the onions
all the bacon
remainder of tomatoes
all of the sauce
remainder of cornbread

Cover with plastic and chill for several hours or overnight before serving. Can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.

Trust me.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Entertaining an Angel

Do not neglect hospitality, because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2). Joe and I have never, in our forty years together, invited someone we did not know to stay in our home. From time to time one of the kids would bring home a college friend, and that was always fun, but we never until this summer hosted someone that none of us knew before.

One morning in church the announcement was made that a young theology student from Europe was going to be spending three months this summer on a field placement in this area. She would be serving at our church and at a nearby retirement center. The call was put out for families to house her during that time. It struck us both at the same moment: "We could do that." With just a bit of apprehension, we offered our home for two weeks.

Anna Maria moved in with us last Sunday. It has been such a joy to have her here! She is just delightful. Her home is in a village of 2000 people (approximately 1800 of whom are Lutherans) in Serbia; it is called Hlozany and is pronounced "Hello, Jonny." She is a theology student in Bratislava, Slovakia. Eager to help, eager to learn, she has fit in beautifully. Even our cat, who sometimes doesn't seem to like even us, is smitten with her, crawling into her room to share her bed for an afternoon nap.

She had to give a presentation on Hlozany to the residents of the retirement center. She practiced it on us. We learned a lot about a part of the world that is totally unfamiliar to us. She has to give her very first sermon to the same retirement center residents tomorrow. She practiced on us; we were reminded gently but emphatically that humility is more acceptable than pride.

Anna Maria will be with us for probably one more week. We'll be sorry to see her go.

Survived My Busy Week

My busy-busy week is over, and I have survived. It turned out to be even busier than I had expected when on Sunday evening, a small picnic at my sister's home turned out to be a huge surprise party for Joe and me -- there were about fifty people present! Tom and Anastasia and Amy and Andrew had come to Philadelphia on Friday night and had spent the entire weekend working together with Sherry on the food and decorations for this wonderful event. I will share some pictures in another post soon.
. . . .
For three of the five week nights, we had commitments. I was so thankful that at work everything was in order so that I could have yesterday off.
. . . .
Our house guest, Anna Maria, has been wonderful, and I hope to tell more about her soon, too. She was admiring the bags I was making and I offered to make one for her, as well. So yesterday morning we went down to the LQS where -- wise young woman that she is -- Anna Maria headed straight for the batiks. While she was making up her mind, I saw a wonderful giraffe fabric that made me think of Bonnie and right next to it was fabric from Ghana, so I bought some of each and made her a bag after Anna Maria's was finished. I can now make one from start to finish in two hours flat. It has been wonderful. But I think now it is time to return to some of my UFOs and put the bags aside for a bit.