Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Memorable Lunch

We went to the movies yesterday afternoon and Himself purchased a "large" popcorn for our consumption. It smelled wonderful so we ate some before the film started, and I had one of those oh-olfactory-take-me-back-in-time moments.

For years, Sears Roebuck had a big store in the neighboring town. Close enough to bicycle to. The main thing everyone remembers about that store is that at the ground floor entry, there was a popcorn machine. And the smell of that popcorn was enticing beyond measure. As a kid, I so wanted some, but in our family popcorn was for making at home (putting the oil in the Revereware pot, adding the kernels, covering with the lid, and shaking shaking shaking slowly and steadily over the burner), not for buying at the store.

For a few years, my Aunt Mae worked at that Sears store. This was back in the day, as they say, when  the catalog would arrive in the mail a couple of times each year (and don't get me started on the Christmas Wishbook) and I'd sneak it from its resting pace in our den up to my bedroom and imagine the possibilities. Aunt Mae worked in the catalog department, which meant that if someone in our area called in an order, chances were excellent that my relative would be the one taking that order.

Our nuclear family got along well enough with the other branches, and always had pleasant get-togethers. But they didn't happen often. We were not the kind of family that was in and out of each others' houses, sleeping over, sharing meals regularly.

One summer when we were having one of those infrequent dinners together, my aunt invited me to ride my bike over to Sears one day and she would take me to lunch. I must have been thirteen or fourteen, old enough to have regularly ridden to the orthodontist who was situated very close to Sears. My mother gave permission and the invitation was accepted.

When the day came, I wore my nicest shorts and shirt and pedaled over. I parked my bike outside that ground floor entrance and found my way to the catalog department, where Aunt Mae welcomed me and introduced me to her colleagues, "This is my niece! She's come to have lunch with me!" as though I were someone important. We went out to the nearby Woolworth's lunch counter. Afterwards, we walked back to Sears where Aunt Mae bought me a small bag of that wonderful popcorn to take home in my bike basket.

It was, by today's standards, a very ordinary occurrence: an aunt and niece going to lunch. But this kind of thing didn't happen in my world nearly sixty years ago. It was a most unusual happening and I don't know what prompted it, but she made me feel so special.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Feelings Wo-o-o Feelings (Insert Musical Notes Here)

My daughter and her family came to visit on Sunday afternoon and I gave Sam and Caroline the immense set of markers I had bought at the beginning of the Great Coloring Book Craze about six months ago (for the record I did complete two postcards and part of one page in a coloring book). Joe brought up a stack of paper; they were delighted and set right to work. Sam started with a man in serious need of a haircut but unwilling to get one, reminding me of someone else I know but that's another story. When I left the room to get the dinner on the table, Caroline was working on a wallpaper-type design with hearts, flowers, and squiggles in all the right places.

Between dinner (choose between regular cheeseburgers and sage-apple-turkey burgers) and dessert (Sherry's offering of decadent peach and raspberry cupcakes with creamy lemon frosting), Caroline left the table for a while and returned to bring me a new drawing. "These are the six feelings," she explained, and I looked them over.

Feelings and I go way back, back to when I was a child and was not really permitted to have any apart from guilt, shame, and remorse. In my mid-to-late twenties I was a volunteer at Help Line, the crisis intervention center in the college town where we lived. I'll never forget that first class which was on Feelings. "You can't solve their problems," Mark told us. "But you can validate their feelings." When I taught the Feelings class to my Stephen Ministry students, I always gave everyone a big green paperclip to mark the page in their book that listed scores of feelings, pointing out that for many people in crisis, the most helpful thing is for someone to understand how they feel. And as a hospital chaplain, probably the single most important thing I do is acknowledge feelings of patients, family members, and staff. Feelings matter.

I cannot tell you everything I love about Caroline's drawing, but here are some of them:

  • Even at the age of eight she can identify six feelings, and they are varied
  • The facial expressions reflect the feelings
  • As does the wallpaper for each vignette
  • The colors for some of the feelings are so appropriate (mad, sad, discusted)
  • Silly is included as a legitimate feeling
I can also tell you some of the feelings I have as I contemplate the work of art that now graces my fridge:

  • Proud
  • Moved
  • Warmed
  • Impressed
  • Dazzled
  • Hopeful

Charcoal Pinwheels

I feel like this flimsy doesn't look like my quilts, but at this point, as Honna might point out, there's really no telling what my quilts are supposed to look like.

I had a packet of various colored F8 hand-dyes that had been sitting around for a couple of years and then Waterwheel sent me a packet of FQ spots and somehow they ended up together. Nearby was a piece of Essex linen and I just started making Louisiana blocks. I had some different spots left-over from It's A Girl, and they insisted on being the cornerstones with that nice light grey lattice. I was kind of "meh" about this quilt until I got that border on and then, all at once, I loved it.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Block Seventeen

I'm surprising myself by staying current with the Project 48 blocks. One of the participants asked me to show all of my blocks so far in one picture, so I put them up and they looked like this. I posted the photo last week and remarked that although there will be a total of forty-eight blocks in the series, I'm about ready to be done with the current theme, Word Salad.

The blocks finish at 9" and it seems to me that twenty of them with some nice lattice might make a cute snuggle quilt. We'll see when I get those next four done; it might turn out that I need to go to twenty-four blocks.

Here's this week's block. I knew I needed more of those nice sage greens, so I used them here and prolly will use them again next week. I might have had more contrast in this block, but as I said to the Project 48 group, most of the other blocks are so straightforward that I kind of like the idea of having to look at this particular block for a few minutes to see just what it's about.

For reasons you possibly can guess, I need to have the final name for this quilt chosen before I put it together. Word Salad is too reminiscent of You Remember Who for me to use it on this quilt, much as it's been a nice working title. I'm considering "You Don't Say"! and "Oh, My Word!" at this point and am completely open to your brilliant ideas. Please do share them.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Build A Barn, Part Three: Update on Bonnie, Giveaway Winner

I was touched by how many of you expressed concern and good wishes for my sister. The accident was in late December of 2014, nearly a year and a half ago. Bonnie spent several months at home with her back door uncharacteristically unlocked to allow for regular and frequent visitors. She was feisty in her efforts to obtain a full recovery, and she succeeded. The latest Fitbit report shows me that last week she put down 77,062 steps.  I wouldn't be surprised if next week she told me she was taking up mountaineering.

I love this close up of the quilting that Chris did on my barn and really am eager to see it "live." I had pieced the sky with stars here and there, and look how Chris quilted the stars amidst the clouds!

Here's the book one more time. And here's the link to the SSOBB page because you prolly should see the diverse and gorgeous barns that the other members built.

This week as I've been thinking about the whole experience of the SSOBB, an out-of-the-barn notion occurred to me: I could use Julie's technique to build a church! The more I think about it, the more I warm to the idea. A summer project, perhaps.

My own earliest barn experience came from when I was a little girl. My grandmother would spend a few weeks visiting her brother who lived on a farm in Maryland. When it was time for Nana to come home, our family would drive down to pick her up, my sister and I in the back seat looking for the sequential letters of the alphabet on signs we passed. Once we'd arrived in Rising Sun, Bonnie would go into the farmhouse to inspect Florence's collection of pitchers for new additions, while I'd head straight out to the barn to visit the cows.  There were usually a dozen or more gorgeous girls with the bull all alone in a pen at the far end of the barn. Perhaps that's where/how the whole COW thing began!

As I said earlier in the week, there's a give-away of one copy of Julie's book, direct from the author, for one of you wonderful commenters. Kat Scott, listen up! It's you, who wrote: "The striped siding on your barn is perfect! Well worth the pain it may have caused in the construction process... I spent my tween and teen years in the country with sheep, horses and pigs. The barn was a haven while I was growing up. I have often thought of doing a "geography of my life" type of quilt with the houses and barns I remember, hopefully the book will provide the techniques and tools I need! "

Email me your postal mailing address and I'll send it along to Julie who will directly mail you your book. And I want to see your first barn! Really!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Build A Barn Part Two: Bonnie's Barn (Very Long)

My friend Julie lives, quilts, and blogs in a state I've never visited: Tennessee. Oh, we've cut across a corner of the state on our way to Brevard a couple of times. But never visited. That just might change next year. But I'm getting way ahead of myself!

Here, to the left, is the cover of Build-A-Barn, Julie's book. The cover features 3/4 of her wonderful quilt, See Rock City. But the book does not teach you how to make that particular quilt. Rather, the author describes her lengthy process of creating the quilt and then teaches the reader/quilter to make four different free-pieced seasonal barns.

Along with the other charter members of the Secret Society of Barn Builders, I independently tested Julie's instructions for building a barn on my own. I found her directions to be not only clear, but numbered (always a plus IMNSHO). And there are about a bazillion illustrations (the third barn goes all the way up to Figure 44!). So you can't go wrong.

As the charter members built our barns, we shared progress notes with each other, we provided Julie with feedback about her instructions, we got to know each other a little more. It was a fun four-or-five months! Julie had asked us to provide just flimsies of our barns; she would take over from there. So we built our barns and, with a bit of apprehensive trust in the postal system, sent them to Tennessee where Julie raided her stash to choose backing and binding fabrics for each barn and then turned everything over to her gifted machinist, Chris.

Photos of our barns were shared with us and I was just itching for mine to come home as I've already designated a hanging spot for it in my dining room. But, no, Julie had a great surprise for us! Our barns are going to hang together in a special exhibit at the AQS quilt shows next autumn in Chattanooga and DesMoines, and then again one more time at a venue near Julie's home. While my calendar won't permit me to go to either of the AQS shows, I'm seriously thinking we just might try to get to the third showing in Memphis late in November.

Would you like to have a copy of Build-A-Barn? You can get an autographed book directly from Julie, you can purchase it from Amazon, or you just might win one! Julie has offered the SSOBB members the opportunity to give away a copy through our blogs. So, listen up, if you would like to build a barn (or two) (or four), leave a comment below. I want to make sure you're serious about building a barn, so please have your comment have something to do with barns and your connection with them. Winner will be announced on Friday.

And now for my own personal gallery!

The photo from Google images that inspired my barn. It reminded me of an October night my sister and I got lost in Lancaster. 

Bonnie's Barn, named to remember an evening with my sister in Lancaster County; Bonnie also generously shared her wheat-field color scraps. Photo of finished flimsy before quilting.

A close up of the field after Chris worked her magic.

A close up of the sky with the clouds and stars.

Bonnie's Barn by Nancy, Near Philadelphia, Winter, 2015.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Near Philadelphia is Changing

No, our town isn't quite Grover's Corners, but you don't have to look far to find George and Emily more than once. It's a classic small town, the kind of place where the moms tell their kids, "Now remember, if you do something you shouldn't, I'll find out."

Growing up, the movie theatre had Saturday matinees for twenty-five cents; these included not just the feature film but usually a cartoon and newsreel. There was a dime store in the block next to the elementary school and also in that general vicinity two drug stores that featured soda fountains (chocolate coke for ten cents, oh my!). The flower shop is a landmark, having been there at least as long as anyone now living can remember. The grocery store is a place where more than once I was "trusted" for a day if I ran short a dollar or two. It's a wonderful place. A classic small town, as I said.

My parents sold their row home in Philadelphia in 1950 and moved here. I lived in the house they bought until I married in 1967 and moved far away. My husband (from another town) always had "return to Near Philadelphia" as a goal, and after thirteen years in the south and midwest, we achieved that goal, living in our first house for twenty-nine years and our present one for seventeen.

Near Philadelphia's July Fourth celebration is legendary, featuring morning activities, parade (count those fire engines!) and outstanding fireworks. Our kids all had their first jobs with local merchants. They walked to and from elementary school. Small, locally owned shops in the village area came and went from time to time, but there was seldom a vacancy. We walked to the bank, to the grocer, to the pharmacy. If we needed to buy more than a bag of groceries or the weather was bad, we'd drive over and park in the big, free lot behind the theatre.

And now change has come to Near Philadelphia. It's a first-ring suburb and on the other side is a large, attractive mall, luring people from the city. For a while, people were worried that the town would change, would be subject to whatever the opposite of gentrification might be. But that didn't happen and now our problem is quite the opposite.

It seems a couple of newcomers got the idea to make our town a "destination." An upscale shop opened (I went in one time and was put off by decadent, expensive dog beds and Christmas tree ornaments priced at forty dollars apiece). A supper club with live entertainment is scheduled to open soon. An investor purchased the huge block of shops and began rehabbing the apartments above to make them luxurious. The parking lot was resurfaced and a cash-or-credit kiosk installed.

And that's the problem.

Because that lot has been free to all comers since time began. When there's a show at the theatre it fills up and cars need to park in the neighborhood. And during the day, it's where one would park if she needed a half-yard of Kona Ash, a week's grocery order, a mani-pedi, or any one of countless other errands.

People don't think they should have to pay to use the lot when patronizing the local merchants, many of whom are the tenants of this new owner. They don't think they should have to come up with a couple more quarters when  they want to get a birthday card. Or pick up an order of dumplings for tonight's dinner. Or a cupcake for a special occasion. We don't think we should use our debit card for fifty cents if we are stopping at the new soda fountain for a treat.

One of the shop owners told me personally that since the charge for the parking lot began business has fallen off. There are some meters on the street and many people -- myself included -- would rather the township get my quarter than this new lot owner. The more stubborn of us are willing to park a couple of blocks away and walk to the nail salon or the windows-and-doors place. There are a handful of free spaces for users of the bank and another half dozen or so for quick trips into the grocery store. But other than that, everyone has to pay to use the lot, no matter what time or for how long. Sheesh, even the meters don't cost anything at certain times.

Last week the word went out on the quilters' grapevine that the fabric store is closing this month. Someone said that the greeting card shop has also sounded the death knell. I wonder who will be next.

Nothing stays the same. I know that. But I'm blaming that investor and his glorious parking lot for the loss of a couple of fine shops that have been around much longer than he has.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Build-A-Barn, Part One

Back in December of 2014, when Julie formed the Secret Society of Barn Builders and invited a dozen of us to make barns, I felt intimidated. Free piecing is SO not my thing. But sometimes others know things about us that we don’t know about ourselves, and I was eager to try something new and to learn. And also pleased by Julie’s confidence in me. 

There aren’t many barns in my part of Near Philadelphia. But there sure are a lot out in Lancaster County. I began looking on line for barn photos similar to the Lancaster ones, and put  candidates on my newly-created Pinterest board. There were some nice barns, but not THE barn. Then, just a few days before Christmas, my sister Bonnie was in a terrible accident, a pedestrian hit by a pick-up truck. She was brought into the hospital as a Level 2 trauma, and my work as a chaplain in that very same hospital has taught me that this is a serious designation. With multiple fractures, she was kept in hospital until shortly after Christmas and then discharged to home for a long recovery. I had to stop thinking about barns for a while.

When I got back to hunting for THE barn, I discovered it. THE barn took me back to a night several years ago when Bonnie and I had driven out to Lancaster County, become lost (as is our custom) and wandered around trying to find our destination. It was full moon night in October, and the harvest moon in the dark sky over the Amish barns was just gorgeous. And immense. Just like in the picture. So I knew I’d found my barn. I got right to work!

I made my process more complicated than I needed to by choosing striped fabric, but it really seemed to be the right thing. I had the inspiration to piece some stars for the sky. Most fun was piecing the wheat field. When my own stash didn’t yield enough varieties, I knew exactly what to do: I went over and raided my sister’s stash!

I'm going to share more about my barn building in a couple of days. In the meantime, you can go here to get acquainted with the other barn builders, buy a copy of the book, and learn more about the project in general.  Oh, and did I mention that the the author, Julie Sefton, has generously offered me a give-away copy of Build-A-Barn? Please check back later in the week to find out how you might be the winner! For now, here's a preview of my finished barn:

Saturday, May 07, 2016

A Morning Moo

COW* here, with the following report:

The Executive Committee had a breakfast meeting this morning at a familiar venue. It is under new management, according to the waitress, and this was apparent. We would wish them luck if we weren't so dissatisfied.

The problem started when we placed our order. We all were having the same thing:

Southwestern Quesadilla  Scrambled eggs with peppers, onions, and mushrooms, served with melted cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, tomato salsa and hash browns  9.99

The last time we met at this place, Judy had this meal and had the hash browns swapped out for some fresh fruit. We asked to do that again.


The waitress said we could swap for grits but not for fruit. We said we had done this in the past. We were told again, "No." She went on to say, "A lot of people ask to do that but they won't do it." The menu stated hash browns and grits cost $2.99 if ordered separately and fruit was $4.99. We suggested we each pay $2 additional to sub the fruit for the hash browns.


Helen said she would swap for grits. Judy ordered a side of fruit. Judy, Honna and I said we did not want the hash browns and please not to bring them. The waitress then vanished. We watched expectantly as groups seated later than us ordered and received food.

Thirty minutes later she reappeared with Helen's, Honna's, and my quesadillas and Judy's fruit. A while later she delivered Judy's quesadilla and disappeared again. All but Helen's had half the plate filled with unwanted, unordered hash browns. Helen did not receive her portion of sour cream and eventually she flagged down a different waitress who took care of it.

The quesadillas were okay. The fruit was okay. The coffee was good. So was the orange juice, which certainly should have been at $3.75 for a medium-sized glass.

In reviewing our experience, we found the service poor, the management inflexible, and the food so-so. Judy declared it showed "all aspects of suckery." Helen and I and even mild-mannered Honna  concurred. The high point of the event was noticing that a Corner Bakery has opened directly across the street. We're sure they'll want to host our next breakfast meeting.

*Cranky Old Woman

Friday, May 06, 2016

What's On the Wall

I'm still staying pretty much up to date with the Project 48 blocks. You may recall that my theme is "word salad" and I'm using mostly text and letter graphic prints. I've thoroughly enjoyed seeing what block comes out each Thursday evening and many weeks I've made the block that very night. 

One of the participants asked me to put up all of my blocks together and take a photo. I'm so glad she made this request. It's enabled me to see what I have enough of (big chunks of bright yellow and red) and what I need some more of (the greens in the lower right and the print with the valentine theme [row 4, column B]). I started block 17 using the greens. 

The blocks are each 9" finished and although Project 48 calls for making 48 blocks over the course of a year, I'm thinking that this word salad theme has pretty much run its course for me. My current plan is to make one more row (blocks 17, 18, 19, and 20) and then put it all together as a snuggle quilt.

I was really pleased with the quilt that I had made for the school's fund-raiser and thought it would be fun to make a similar, smaller one in a more feminine color scheme.

Over the course of the past two weeks I've put together "It's a Girl!" which will be a gift for an expectant mom. I usually let a quilt tell me how it wants to be finished, i.e., hand-quilted, machine quilted, tied. This one is not forthcoming as yet as to its preference. I don't like to pay to have baby quilts done by the machinist, but my own machine quilting is pretty much limited to stitching in the ditch. I'm thinking that's what I'm most likely to do with It's A Girl!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

Thank you to all who entered my giveaway celebrating my tenth anniversary as a blogger.

I read every comment and was tickled to learn that some have been following since the very beginning. I'm unable to respond to the comments individually.

I drew a name at random, and the winner turned out to be Kathy B out in California. She's not a blogger, as far as I know, or I'd provide a link.

A packet of autumnish fat quarters will go in the mail to Kathy on Monday.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

May 4

It has been forty-six years but I remember as if it were last week.

We were living in Virginia; Joe was more than halfway through his four-year break from college, thanks to the Vietnam War. We were just a year and a half away from our return to Kent State. We were -- literally -- counting the days

And then this.

It's been forty-six years, and we don't hear so much about the Kent State tragedy any more. May the Fourth has turned into a celebration of Star Wars movies.

That makes me sad.

But a lot makes me sad lately. Today I read hateful, racist comments about the President's daughter who will be pursuing her education at Harvard. Today a horrible man running for President insinuated that his chief opponent's father had been involved in the Kennedy assassination. And as of today, it seems, a misogynistic, egotistical, racist boor of reality television fame will be the Republican nominee for President.

It is another horrible May 4. Very sad indeed, but -- incredibly -- not as sad as 1970 when the lives of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, William Schroeder and Sandy Scheuer were senselessly taken.

It has been forty-six years but I will never forget what May 4 is about. And it's not about Star Wars.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Anniversary Date

May 2, 2006, was the date of my very first blog post.

Ten years. What a ride it has been!

Sam was three months old. He's since been joined by Caroline, Nate, Eli, Aberdeen and Miles in the grandchild department. Several cats have gone and come. Two sons have married. Himself survived a scary heart attack and became even more beloved. Our neighbor was on the verge of turning eighty-five (and he's still going strong up for an evening out on the town from time to time). Our other neighbor has turned into a friend. My employment situation has changed a couple of times. I've completed dozens of quilts. Read a bazillion books. Traveled to marvelous places. Acquired new friends; shed some acquaintances. Visited countless blogs and even met some of the wonderful bloggers. And more.

I started a blog because

  • I like to write
  • I had time on my hands at work
  • I thought perhaps someday Sam (and any subsequent grandchildren) might want to know me better
  • I enjoyed reading and commenting on other blogs
  • I like the idea of a sort of journal
Hoping for another ten years, it's time for a small give-away. Leave a comment, please and I'll draw a name. Oh, and please don't publicize this give-away; it's just for The Regulars. Like you. If the winner is a quilter, the give-away is a fat quarter pack with a somewhat autumnal theme. If the winner isn't a quilter, then it is something else. I'll draw the name on Wednesday.

This would be post 2033, by the way. But who's counting?