Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Year End Review

Yesterday I did something I've never done before: I went through my calendar and I went through my blog and looked at what the past year held

2008 was a year of good things. We celebrated its start together as a family in Richmond. I had the good sense to end a part-time transcription job. Joe had a grand opening of a new affordable housing project. Our church finally called a new pastor who will begin on February 1. Four of us had a private quilting getaway at White Oak. Anastasia performed an amazing solo in Harrisonburg. Caroline joined the family on March 1. My great nephew Scott married.

2008 was a year of difficult things. The economy. Joe's heart attack and the adjustments this brought. My cataract surgery, times two. Stress at church with a difficult interim pastor. The loss of our good friend Steve. The worry over our friend Caeli's liver failure.

2008 was a year of new things. I finally got a cell phone. We visited Niagara Falls. I joined a group at school that studies equality and diversity. We joined the YMCA. I finally made a jewel box quilt (two of them!). I became a political activist and worked on a campaign.

2008 was a year of intense sewing and quilting. I completely finished fifteen quilts. I brought fourteen more quilts to Flimsy stage. I abandoned one project that I wasn't enjoying. I traded away two projects that held no interest. Amazingly, I finished "What Was I Thinking?"

2008 was a year of deep thinking about priorities, about how to spend our time and our money. It was a year to focus on the family and to cut back on the overgiving at Christmas. It was a year of visiting with long-time friends and new friends.

2008 was, like every year, a mixed year. 2008 was, like every year, unique.

And it comes to an end.

For better or for worse.

Naively, I wish my readers only good things in 2009. Would that it could be so.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Attack of the Stealthy Shellfish!

It hasn't happened in a long time.

Went out with Elaine and Carol to celebrate Carol's birthday last night. A restaurant that we've always liked had closed for a few months to redecorate and rework their menu and had reopened recently to excellent reviews.

And we could see why. The new decor is gorgeous. The menu is even more tantalizing than before and everything was delicious. Generous portions, but not over-the-top. Excellent service. Good wine, good meal, good friends. A splendid evening.

Until six hours after the food was served. Giving in to my weakness for risotto, I had the wild mushroom verson, and it was scrumptious. There was also a shrimp version on the menu, and apparently something went awry in the kitchen. Though there was no evidence of shrimp in my meal, apparently some mixing, some contamination occurred. For I was very, very sick all night, beginning precisely six hours after the first bite of food.

My type of shellfish allergy isn't the fatal kind, the one where the breathing passages close up or anaphalactic shock sets in. Mine is the other kind, the drawn-out gastrointestinal version (I'm sparing you the details). Suffice it to say it turned out to be a night spent mostly out of my bed.

I have a call in to the manager of the restaurant. Not to be ugly or nasty or to sue them, but because they need to know how important it is to keep shellfish spoons out of other dishes, and to tell diners if there is seafood broth used in a preparation. And because I'd like to be able to go back.

As I say, it hasn't happened in a long time. And -- with any luck -- it will be another long time before it happens again.

Yours for full menu disclosure,


Monday, December 29, 2008

A Lovely Story at Year's End





Christmas Is a Season, Not a Day

Someone admired this tree-topper. She or her twin sister has graced our spire each year since 1980. I've no recollection whatsoever of what we used before that. Sherry and Andrew each made one of these angels when they were in nursery school and we don't know which was made by whom. Doesn't matter.

We're still playing the Christmas CDs. I know that the radio and the malls and the everywhere play Christmas music ad nauseum starting around mid-November. And somehow I just tune it out. I'm usually very busy and can't just sit and listen and absorb the music. And besides I much prefer the versions that we have. And so from Christmas Eve on through New Year's Day, I continue to play them. And listen. And think about the words, the meanings. This year I've been particularly captivated by Enya's "Christmas Secrets," which is just beautiful and relaxing and inspiring. I'm going to listen some more late this afternoon while I work on my mitten applique swap blocks.



Sunday, December 28, 2008

Great Gatsby!

Remember the bride-to-be whose taste was hard to define? I wrote about her here.

Well, the more I thought about it, the more I knew that Big Jake really was not the right quilt for Emily and Drew. I wasn't sure what was, but it wasn't Jake.

And then, in an odd moment on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, it came to me. I have a lovely stack of Gatsby FQs. A photo went out to Em's mom who confirmed: Yes, that is right for Emily! And so another top is in progress and moving right along. I'm doing a very simple framed square pattern and hope to have something to publish within a few days. Actually, I really want to have the main part of the top together very soon because on Friday I may well be going to Sauder's where I hope to find the border fabric.

Another flimsy is finding its rightful home. Tom and Anastasia's friend Ken is to be married in the autumn, and I offered them their pick of the flimsy stack. The deal is that they'll pay for the machine quilting. I'll bind it and have money to reinvest in stash! Pretty good deal, eh? They went for the batik snowballs and as we looked it over, I realized I never put the final two sides on the border. I'd initially planned this quilt for Jenna to take away to college next year. Guess she'll be taking something else!

It felt so good to spend some time at the Bernina today. So very good, indeed.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Family for Christmas

It has been a wonderful Christmas season. And it isn't over yet.

Amy and Andrew spent two nights before Christmas with us, and then they moved over to Amy's family's home so Tom and Anastasia could move in here. We've had many times that all ten of us have been together. And it has been wonderful.

Added to this has been brunch for Joe and me at Bonnie's on Christmas morning and a visit here from her on Christmas night when all of our kids were gathered. And yesterday Joe's brother and his family from afar came for a visit -- last night we had fourteen for dinner and ten for breakfast this morning.

Joe has spent a lot of time setting up and refining a train yard, something he's considered for many years. Six of us have played two rounds of Settlers of Catan, a game Andrew introduced some years back that most of us love.

I'm getting a little eager for some sewing time; that likely will come tomorrow. I did get the binding and sleeve on a round robin and it will be ready to be mailed on time. I have a new project on the wall, and some applique to get ready (should have done that earlier so I could be hand-sewing while the guests have been here).

It's been wonderful. And it isn't over yet!


Friday, December 26, 2008

Images of Christmas 2008

Justify Full




We have saw-whet owls in our area and in the summertime when they are calling, Joe goes out and calls back to them. He's been able to find some of them with a flashlight, and once illuminated a mother owl with babies. I was delighted to find a bird house for him, especially designed to be hospitable to saw-whet owls.




Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Her Hair's Come In!

Once I got the image of the dolly's being a chemo patient with her bald head and the blue lines on her scalp for the placement of her hair being all too reminiscent of the kinds of markings that indicate radiation, I got all grandmothery towards her. Nothing would do but that she should have a little quilt to keep her warm at night. After all, she's been through so much!

She's finished, as is the quilt (machine pieced, hand quilted), and so is the last of the baking and the food preparations for tomorrow. Joe and Amy have the ingredients for a big pot of Swedish glogg and I have herring and smoked salmon and other goodies for Scandinavian appetizers. The ham is in the fridge downstairs along with the pineapple stuffing, the broccoli casserole and the tomato pudding -- my work for tomorrow is minimal.

The weather Near Philadelphia is iffy; there was nasty rain forecast, but there is some blue in the sky and I doubt the rain will deliver. Which is good, because in our area around dusk on Christmas Eve the luminarias appear out by the curb and burn until after midnight, welcoming the light of the Christ Child into the world.

We're ready for Christmas. In o so many ways!

Someone asked if I had embroidered the heart with "I Love You" on the dolly's chest.

Of course.

Peace and joy to you. And you and you and you.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

"I Love You"

I've spent several hours this weekend making a Christmas gift for my granddaughter. When I was talking with Sherry a little while back about what I could get for Caroline, she said, "You could get her a dolly. Her other grandmother won't do that." Well, once I had the idea, nothing would do but for me to head off to Ebay for a duplicate of the Raggedy Ann and Andy pattern I had purchased when Tom was a tiny boy. I made him a Raggedy Andy and although it was 34 or 35 years ago, I have no recollection of it's being this difficult! The pieces are so small, the directions in some places are so awkward and the construction of the dress is downright preposterous!

The plan for the dolly was to give her Caroline's coloring -- a blue-eyed blonde. None of this red-red hair with black eyes. She's nearly done. Tonight I'll sew the snaps on the back of the dress. And tomorrow I'll get to Michael's for yarn to give her some hair. Right now she looks like a very pleasant and cheerful chemo patient. Makes my head cold just to look at her.

Stay tuned for a pic of the finished dolly. Tomorrow or the next day, depending on the ice situation outside.


We Should Have Had Some Popcorn

We had a thought-provoking experience on Friday evening. Early in the week, Joe had received an invitation to attend a "presentation" and in return he'd receive two round-trip airline tickets to any international airport in the United States. He was invited to bring a guest. Guess who he chose.

The thing is, see, we both would like to visit San Francisco. I have a quilty buddy there who's been after me to come out. Her no-blog friend has also mentioned it. Some of our kids tell us it is a wunnerful place to visit. We envisioned a little getaway to look for Tony Bennett's heart and perhaps visit a winery or two (or three). After all, the gift also included a rental car, $150 in gas, a couple of nights at a Marriott and -- oh, thrill of thrills -- a $30 gift certificate for the Olive Garden! How could we resist?

We've received these kinds of "deals" in the mail before and always immediately consigned them to their proper place. Yup, the circular file. But this time, on the off chance that it could be legit, we figured an hour and a half of our time wouldn't kill us. And we just might get to go west.

Five Points Travel is a spiffy, newly painted, sparsely decorated, large office in an industrial park close to the Pennsylvania Turnpike exit. When we went in, there was a large popcorn cart with an enticing fragrance, a waiting room with a plasma television, coffee maker, and sodas. We were sent into the waiting room with a form to fill out and then invited in for the presentation. We expected we were going to get a pitch to purchase a time share.

It was far worse. A membership in this "travel club" costs $8,999. They told us that right up front. They profess to be a large volume purchaser of all kinds of vacation types. And because they purchase in such quantity, they receive up to 65% discounts and pass those savings right along to their club members.

A couple of times they offered us popcorn. And soda, too. We were fresh from dinner at the local pub, and accepted cold water and nothing else. Darn.

'Cause it turns out, while there's no free lunch, there is free popcorn. And free soda.

By the end of the evening the price -- for us -- was down to $999 for a one-year trial membership. Even this great bargain was something we had to pass up. After the third person made us this final offer, we were able to escape with our free gifts.

I had the chance subsequently to check out the Five Points Travel website. Except I couldn't find it! What I did find was this and also this. We went over the vouchers for our "free gifts." The fine print about the restrictions took up almost as much space as the details of the offer. And they wanted a $100 deposit (for what?) within three weeks or the entire thing was null and void. Checking out Millenium Travel, the provider of the "package" yielded this and this.

So, if you get an invitation similar to the one we received, decide for yourself if you have an hour and a half to kill. If you do go, be sure to have some popcorn. And then have some more, for us.



Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Program


At the day care center that Sherry uses for her children, each December they have a -- gasp -- Christmas program. Not a Holiday Festival. A Christmas program. Nothing even remotely politically correct about it. One of the real benefits of a day care center that is affiliated with a Mennonite church.

This year's program was on Tuesday night. It was about all of the stars in the sky and which one would have the honor of being over the stable in Bethlehem. It was wonderful. We laughed and -- truth be told -- we cried. If nothing else gets you in the Christmas spirit, I recommend a Mennonite day care Christmas program.

If you are interested in getting up close and personal with the two most gorgeous children Near Philadelphia, you can click on the photo. Sam, wearing a striped sweater, is in the center with his hands together. And Caroline is the shoeless miss on the floor in front.

Yours for manger scenes and Christmas stars,


The Birds

An important part of Christmas for me is my friend Frank's poem. I shared it last year, and I share it again this year, and -- God willing -- I will share it next year and the next and the next.

If you like Frank's writing, you can read more of it here. It's in my sidebar as Camp Loony Muse.





THE BIRDS




IT WASN'T THAT HE DIDN'T LIKE CHRISTMAS

HE ENJOYED THE HOLIDAY FUN

ALL THE BRIGHT COLORS AND SUDDEN GOOD WILL

AND THE CHILDREN'S HAPPY SUSPENSE



BUT HE COULDN'T BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS

IN THE INCARNATION I MEAN

GOD LIVING A MAN-LIFE LIKE HIS? WHAT FOR?

IT JUST DIDN'T MAKE SENSE TO HIM




HE SAT BY THE FIRE

WARM IN HIS HOME

ON CHRISTMAS EVE ALONE

THE FAMILY GONE OFF TO MIDNIGHT MASS




HE HEARD A THUMP AT THE WINDOW

AND THEN ANOTHER

SOME MISCHIEF BOY OUT FOR FUN HE THOUGHT

HE WENT TO THE WINDOW TO CHASE HIM WITH A GLANCE




BUT FOUND NO BOY

BUT A SPARROW FLOCK

LURED BY THE LIGHT AND SIGHT OF WARMTH

HAD TRIED TO COME THROUGH HIS WINDOW



THEY HUDDLED NOW IN THE SNOW

WITH NO PLACE TO GO

AND HE FELT COMPASSION FOR THEM

HE PUT ON HIS BOOTS AND JACKET AND SCARF

AND OUT HE WENT TO OPEN THE GARAGE

TO GIVE THEM SHELTER



BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME

SO HE TURNED ON THE LIGHT

BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME


HE WENT AND GOT BREAD

AND THREW IT MANNA LIKE UPON THE SNOW

A PATH TO FOLLOW

BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME


HE TRIED TO HERD THEM IN

SHOUTING AND WAVING HIS ARMS

BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME




I'M SCARING THEM HE THOUGHT

I'M SO BIG COMPARED TO THEM

AND DIFFERENT




IF BUT FOR A MOMENT I COULD BE A SPARROW

I COULD LEAD THEM THROUGH THE DOOR

I COULD LEAD THEM THROUGH.....THE DOOR



FRANK A. VOLLMER



Yours for trying to comprehend the Incarnation,

Coffee Spewing Warning

Go here.

Don't argue. Don't wait.

Just go here.

And swallow your coffee first.


Yours for cleaning up the pearly gates,


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ludwig!

Today's Beethoven's birthday and I looked all over for an image of Schroeder at the piano with Beethoven's bust on top, but it wasn't to be had.

Joe and I have a Philadelphia Orchestra subscription, and six times each season we go with our [good friends and trusted] neighbors Maggie and Frank to dinner and then to the concert. We've been known to trade in tickets for other concerts in order to maximize our exposure to Beethoven and Schubert. This year we've been attending chamber orchestra concerts as well, and I became smitten with Beethoven's Seventh.

During the day, I keep the local classical station (WRTI Temple Public Radio) playing as background music. Besides being lovely company, the music prevents me and anyone else in my office from accidentally overhearing anything that may be said in the adjacent office of the school's head. Occasionally, usually in the afternoon, the connection gets weak or filled with static or quits playing altogether. When that happens, I tune in WKSU from Kent, Ohio, where we lived for much of the 1970s, and listen to their classical programming. The weather in Kent is vastly different from Philadelphia, and once in a while, I'll forget that I've changed the station, and be very startled by a forecast of "eight to ten inches of snow followed by freezing rain" as early as November!

ADDENDUM:

This just arrived in the mail! Thanks, Leslie!

Yours for making beautiful music,




Monday, December 15, 2008

Moo-ry Christmas

Polly and I like cows. And so does Helen.

This is supposedly a Christmas cow strolling down the street somewhere in India. Most likely it is photo-shopped. I don't care. I like it a lot.

Yours for an udderly wonderful holiday,


Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Milestone!

Hey! It is nine o'clock at night and for the first day in five -- count 'em, five -- weeks, I have had no medicine of any kind today! My froat is sore and I'm thinking the ibuprofen might be in order as I get ready for bed. Which will be pretty soon, because I did a lot today.

A whole lot of laundry. Church. Brunch at church. Cleaning up after dinner guests last night. Making the main course for a pot luck dinner on Wednesday.

And sewing! Got a Christmas present entirely finished today! Can't post a picture for a couple of weeks, but trust me, it turned out well. The only remaining Christmas gift is the dolly I'm making for Carrie, and I believe that will get done with no trouble. I'm using an ancient Raggedy Ann pattern, but instead of those black eyes and red hair, this dolly will be a blue-eyed blonde. Like her mom.

Yours for progress on many fronts,


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lucia Day, 2008


December 13 is the Festival of Santa Lucia, celebrated in Sweden and in Swedish-American homes and in Lutheran churches.

This year it was also celebrated at the preschool division of the school where I work.

It is always wonderful.

Yours for illuminating the darkness,

Recession Got You Down?

Recession got you down? Well, you're not alone. Everybody -- let me repeat -- everybody is impacted by what's going on economically. It isn't just you. And chances are, what's happening to you isn't as painful or horrific as what is happening to many, many others.

Recession got you down? Your portfolio has diminished? Your 401(k) not worth what it used to be? Worrying about having to touch your principal? Guess what: You're not special. Everyone who has any savings or investments is affected. And then there are all those people who are not even in a position to have investments and savings.

Recession got you down? It's got all of us down. So, please, let's make a pact not to talk about it. I'd much rather hear that your grandson is starting to crawl than whether your principal is intact. I'd like to know that you got a good report from the doctor and not from your broker.

And one other thing. Instead of talking about your diminishing 401(k), you might want to contact the Visiting Nurses Association to find a family you might help make Christmas for. Or pick up a name of a disadvantaged child in foster care who will have a brighter holiday as a result of your gift; this just might help you worry less about your principal. Providing a grocery basket for a widow who is scraping by on Social Security could take your mind off the old portfolio. Even for just a few minutes.

Yours for giving during hard times,



Friday, December 12, 2008

Bounty from Oz

When I was in elementary school, the report card system spoke to our academic achievements and our behavioral traits. I did well on academic achievements. Behavioral traits were another story. To my mother's despair, more than once I brought home a report card with an "X" by the dreaded statement: "Does not follow directions." In the eyes of the third, fourth, fifth grade teachers, this was a terrible flaw indeed. Those of you who know me today are muttering, "Some things never change." A terrible, terrible flaw.

Except in the case of Lorraine. As my SSCS partner, she was instructed to create a hand-made gift. And send it to me.

Do you see what the woman has done? The bounty barely fits into the camera's window! And there simply wasn't room for the darling little hand-made package decorations. First and foremost is a gorgeous, exquisite hand-stitchery which will go up on the wall without delay. A darling bag, too, which has at least a thousand uses. And a needle book and a stocking, each sporting amazing hand stitchery that I find so challenging. But it won't be challenging for long, as Lorraine has also sent me two small projects of my own to do! Friends, I kept unwrapping and unwrapping. And smiling and smiling!

Isn't she lovely and generous? And wasn't Chookyblue marvelous to match us up together? I feel so blessed. And spoiled.

Yours for ignoring directions,



Healthy Hearts In The News

I honestly intended for this next post to be the pictures of the wonderful gifts that Lorraine sent to me.

But there is news to report, news too good to keep.

Yesterday Himself visited the Cardiologist, who proclaimed that he is doing well and that the stents in his heart now have a 98% likelihood of holding indefinitely. There was an incident a few weeks ago, a brief period of light-headedness that resolved quickly. But Dr. Cohen wants Joe to wear a monitor for two weeks. Just to see. Which is fine.

There's another peculiarly wonderful piece of news. Twenty years ago, at the time of opening his own practice, Joe developed a spot of eczema on the palm of his hand. Various treatments have had no effect. The dermatologist was not optimistic.

When Joe took sick in May, he was put on a raft of medicines (or medications, as the case may be!). Blood thinner, cholesterol-lowerer, platelet-coater, and I can't think what else. And all at once, the hand rash cleared up, never to return. He mentioned to the doctor yesterday, who had never heard of such a thing. That's okay.

But he's going to tell the dermatologist when he sees her next. Perhaps something can be figured out that might help someone else!

And I promise to post the pictures of Lorraine's bounty next time. Honest.

Yours for healthy hearts,