Thursday, June 30, 2016

Small Accomplishments

It's been a busy and productive morning here Near Philadelphia. We're nearing the end of the two weeks that the school for autistic kids is closed for a break, and I have so many irons in the fire that I thought that I would tackle a few of them today. It's not yet ten o'clock in the morning and so far I've made progress on three small projects:

Here are a pair of hearts, one blue and one purple. Philadelphia Modern Quilt Guild is supporting Orland Modern's effort to make quilts for individuals injured and families who lost a member in the Pulse attack. I signed up to make these two hearts and also to bind a completed quilt later this month or early in August. The blocks were so easy to do; I wish I'd signed up for more!

The Donkey Project is underway. We have seven participants and are trying to turn these donkeys around quickly so we each have time to make our project by the time the Convention starts. My donkeys are all bonded and will be hand-buttonholed, beginning this afternoon!

These two pieced potholders have been hanging on one side of the design wall waiting for another layer of batting, the backing, and the quilting. This was accomplished this morning and they go into the hand-stitching-someday pile. I cut my potholder foundation (usually Insul-Brite) 8" square and my backing 11" square. Then I trim the backing so there is 1" on all sides, double-fold them in, and hand stitch this self binding down. There are other ways to do pot holders, but this is my method.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sharing the Gospel

The most important sermon I ever heard was one my friend Lloyd preached more years ago than either of us would like to admit. It was about sharing the Gospel. Lloyd said that one can't expect a person to hear the Good News if that person is hungry, if that person is homeless, if that person isn't adequately clothed. Meet those practical needs first was his message. Today I was delighted to spend a couple of hours among people who live out my friend's sermon.

My neighbor and my sister attend the church next-door to the one I belong to. They are both active members of the Peace and Justice Committee and recently they have been going downtown to center city Philadelphia to do some work with homeless men. When a family emergency called Maggie out of town this week, impulsively I asked my sister if an untrained volunteer might be able to fill in for Maggie. Yes, she might.

So we took the train downtown (and wandered around a bit savoring the enticing aromas in the Reading Terminal Market) and then reported to St. John's Hospice which is located very close to the beautiful new Convention Center. The brief orientation tour provided by Becca, one of the few paid staff members, provided a wealth of information about the services this hospice provides. And the services are multiple and varied: clothing, showers, beds, food, private rooms for medically fragile individuals are among them. The hot lunch is served five days a week, year-round. Thousands of casseroles are prepared by participating congregations, and every last bit is consumed. In addition to casserole, guests can choose among fruit, vegetables, and dessert. Juice and water are amply provided. The smells coming from the kitchen were wonderful.

There were more volunteers than anticipated (turns out Wells Fargo grants some employees time off from work to provide community service) and I was assigned to tray set-up. Others were on the line serving casseroles or on the floor, refilling beverage options. There is room for sixty-four men to eat at a time and the service is offered from noon until one o'clock. Some days as many as 300 men come for lunch (we fed 236 today) and for some, this is the only meal they will have today. Clad in the provided apron, gloves and hairnet (and feeling a bit like Gladys Ormphby), we put disposable cup, plate and cutlery on blue trays and handed them to the guests with a smile and a greeting. I was surprised at how many of the men made eye contact (I did not anticipate this) and nearly every one said "thank you." Most preferred to have the tray handed to them, but some liked to pick the tray up from the table. A second plate was provided upon request. Some of the guests appeared to be dressed too warmly, wearing sweaters or coats, but I realized that storage of possessions is a problem.

Homeless men come in many colors and many ages. Every one that I met today was pleasant and polite and appreciative of a good meal. It felt like a privilege to be serving them. I'd love to go back and do it again.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Hee Haw!

This morning I read this article that tells how the City of Philadelphia is going to be populated with decorated fiberglas donkeys in connection with the Democratic Convention to be held there next month. I was very excited! Not to sound at all Trumpish, but it's going to be great! There will be donkeys! They will be colorful donkeys! They will be great!

I think that the Convention is going to be a good thing for Philadelphia, much as I felt that way about the Papal visit last year. A couple of people I know who work in the downtown area grumbled about the Pope's visit and I imagine they'll grumble about the Convention. Disruption in the commuter's routine is tough; I get that. But I'm glad the Convention will be in Philly and I'm tickled red, white, and blue about the donkeys.

Once again, history will be made in Philadelphia when the Democratic Party nominates Hillary Clinton as the first major party woman candidate for President. Back when President Obama was elected the first time, my friend Ruth made a wall quilt in celebration. See where this is headed?

I haven't organized a block swap in a long time. I guess I thought those days were over for me. But I'm thinking a smallish wall quilt celebrating July of 2016 is in order for me. Anyone else? I'm thinking blocks of any size, any color, appliqu├ęd, pieced, paper pieced, a great diversity of donkeys, much like the 57 that will grace the City. I'm thinking said blocks would need to reach me in two weeks, by July 8. If there are four or more people interested in donkey swapping, leave a comment below and be sure I have a way to contact you with further details.

Update:  Welcome Amy, Kathleen, and Liz! Details will be emailed later today. As of now, sign-ups are closed because we need to get going!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Cleanest Cat of All?

The reader may recall that on more than one occasion I have affirmed that, truly, I would rather give a cat a bath than paper-piece.

Over the past year, thanks to a Guild mate or two, I've become somewhat more comfortable with the technique, but only somewhat.

The twenty blocks from Project 48 that I've been calling "word salad" are all finished and most of them are latticed. Before latticing the top row, I thought it was time to piece the letters to make the name of the quilt at the top. I don't know why I feel compelled to do this, but I have to do it.

It takes me about a half of a day to get back into my paper-piecing groove when I start up again. So here I am on day three, with five false starts leading to five discarded letter parts, with four letters finished and five to go. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and print out yet another copy of the patterns for "d" and "r."

See you on the other side . . . .

Saturday, June 18, 2016

They Don't Know I'm a Blogger

"They don't know I'm a blogger," is what I said to my husband after we came home. While I was still seething.

A couple of years ago I had an unpleasant experience when I thought I was going to replace my car. I had seen exactly what I was looking for on the website for the kind of car I was looking for. The price, the color, the mileage: all were right. I cleaned out my car and drove forty minutes to the dealership only to be told that the car had been sold and would I like to look at something else. I would not. I came home, irritated that the car had been listed on the website after it had been sold.

I settled down, kept my car clean and spiffy and decided I wasn't ready to replace it yet after all. That was a couple of years ago. Now it really is time to replace it and I was reluctant to go back to that Lexus dealership after believing that they'd lied to me previously. I spent some time looking at websites for other dealers for a really nice used car. And -- by golly -- I found one! Once again, the color, the price, the mileage all were perfect. And it was a more luxurious vehicle than I was used to. Rather than drive to Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington only to be told that it had been sold they way it had the last time, I phoned. The car, it turned out, wasn't at the nearby dealership but at a sister property more than an hour away. But, not to worry, they would bring it out to Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington! How accommodating! Michael at 877-458-2377 could not have been more helpful. He said he would call me back to say when it would arrive. He did call back a little later, but said that there was an appointment to show it to another buyer at one o'clock. He get back to me again after that showing to let me know whether it was sold or whether it was coming east. And once again, he did call back, to say it had not been sold to this party and he was having it driven to Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington and he'd phone when it arrived. Which he did! I was pleased. I was to go there at the appointed time and meet with Frank, whose telephone number I do not have or I would give it to you.

Because when Himself and I got to Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington and met up with Frank, he was sorry to tell me that the car had been sold. But Michael didn't know that until fifteen minutes ago. Michael had tried to call me but apparently I was already on my way. Frank wanted to make it up to me; he had many cars he could show me, of newer vintage with fewer miles for the same money! Imagine!

I didn't ask to see the car that Michael had had driven to Fort Washington because I pretty much knew  that it wouldn't be there. I told Frank this had been a colossal waste of my time and we drove home with me muttering "What kind of a person buys a car and leaves it at the dealership for them to drive to show to another buyer?" "What the heck kind of a bait-and-switch is this?" "Are all used car salesmen liars?" And finally, "They don't know I'm a blogger."

I'll settle down in a little while. And before too long I'll replace my car. But the new one won't come from Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington. That's for darn sure.


Monday, June 13, 2016

He Sees Green, I See Purple

It's almost as though I woke up one morning and found that this flimsy had grown on my wall overnight. I don't recall planning or starting this quilt. I do know that I was piecing nines when someone dear phone to say she needed inspiration to make a quilt in a hurry and I told her 6" blocks with nines. So this quilt is kind of a mystery. It needed to be made -- why, I don't yet know.

Once I had the blocks all up on the wall the way I wanted them, Joe took a look and said it needed some narrow lattice. I wasn't at all sure about that, but he seldom makes a suggestion, so I went ahead and started cutting. I decided if I were going to do lattice I'd just go ahead and do cornerstones (they finish at 1/2") and that led to arranging said cornerstones in a diagonal pattern going down from left to right. It needs a border, and I'm going to let it rest a bit before making that move. If I were going to do it now, I'd try to track down some of that green-background floral (column 3, row c). Himself thinks its a mostly green quilt. I see purple.

All opinions will be considered.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

A Gastronomic Adventure

When we decided to take our trip to Hyde Park, in addition to all of the Roosevelt sites, there was another -- totally unrelated -- purpose. We wanted to visit the CIA!

The Culinary Institute of America is a very famous school where food professionals study. We had heard that a meal in one of their restaurants was not to be missed.  We decided to have dinner our first night in Hyde Park at the CIA and booked a reservation.

Our choice was Ristorante Caterina d'Medici, the Italian site. Our first impression was that there were more waiters than there were diners! But that changed as things went along. The menu was wonderful and it was difficult to choose. Joe began with the marinated trout and I selected the buffalo mozzarella. Both were delicious, and the portions were just the right size. I'd had what I'd been told was buffalo mozzarella before, but this was something very special indeed -- so soft, so flavorful! Next I had the roasted duck and Joe the veal; again, our tastebuds were delighted. For dessert, Himself enjoyed warm chocolate cake and I chose the cheeses. We went home pleasantly satisfied with the meal as well as the experience. We'd engaged our waiter in conversation and he told us that he was close to graduation, had just spent three weeks cooking in this restaurant and would spend his final three weeks as a waiter.

Friday was a cool day with intermittent periods of rain, and after our morning at Springwood, the Library and the Visitors' Center, Joe thought we should go back to the CIA for lunch before our afternoon tour. I didn't argue.

The Apple Pie Bakery and Cafe is informal and doesn't require reservations. One orders at the counter and the food is delivered to the table. The array of gorgeous sweets was mind-boggling; we settled on a gigantic oatmeal cookie and a salted caramel macaron. We both wanted the quiche but it was sold out so we had to make a quick decision: one chicken club sandwich with a salad and one mac and cheese, possibly the best mac and cheese on the face of the earth. While we had our lunch, we discussed dinner. We'd made a reservation at what sounded like a nice place in Poughkeepsie. Munching on that cookie, Joe wondered if it might be possible to return to the CIA instead. While I perused the bookstore (to my credit, I made no purchases though I was tempted), he went to the reception desk and I came out to learn that we were dining at the Institute's French venue, The Bocuse.

The Bocuse is svelte and modern in appearance with a magnificent menu. Again, it was difficult to choose. We shared the artichoke salad and followed this with salmon for Joe and lamb for me. Everything was scrumptious and we were so glad we had decided to change our plans. A gimmick at this restaurant is table-side preparation of ice-cream with a mixer and some kind of hydrogen, but we chose, instead, mascarpone ice cream and a small assortment of French cheeses. Our waitress was very personable and didn't call us "guys," always a plus in my book. She went out of her way to confer with the chef as to whether the pinot noir I'd chosen was a good match for the lamb (it was).

On Friday morning, after our private tour of Val-Kill, we went up the road where Joe toured the Vanderbilt mansion. By the time he emerged, it was noon and nearly time to start for home. But we'd need lunch . . . and as long as we were still in the area . . .

. . . . though with no reservation . . . but that turned out not to be a problem because the American Bounty Tavern found a spot for us right in the middle of things. We shared a single patty version of this burger with garlicky fries and a nice green salad, topped off with a "small plate of cookies" that were served warm and wrapped in a napkin.

Alas, the campus bookstore was open as we were leaving, and yielded a couple of cookbooks, some very nifty decorative toothpicks, and a carrot stripper for our use at home.

We headed for home, happily satisfied, and vowing to eat nothing but vegetables for at least a month!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Eleanor, Franklin, Sara, Lucy, and Daisy

Until I was ten, I don't remember there being any photographs displayed in the house where I grew up. When my sister graduated high school, her commencement portrait was placed on top of the piano (and joined by mine eight years later). But there were no other photos on display.

There was, however, a very large print of a painting in our den. It was the unfinished portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, my parents' hero, in the place where an ancestor's portrait might normally be found.

When I was thirteen, the play "Sunrise at Campbell" starring Ralph Bellamy tried out in Philadelphia before opening on Broadway. I did not come from a family that patronized the arts at all; yet, that year my father purchased tickets for the whole family, including my sister's fiance, to attend a performance. My father read Roosevelt biographies, and so did I when I got old enough. I've read every one I could get my hands on, and have seen all of the movies and PBS specials on the Roosevelts. I felt duty-bound; in some odd way, it seemed this was my own family I was learning about. I also was captivated by their story.

Joe and I have talked for a few years about taking a little trip up to Hyde Park and this past week we did just that. On Friday we toured Springwood, his boyhood home, and spent a long, long time going through the Presidential Library. We attended the film at the Visitors' Center and wandered around there. With another couple, we took a shuttle to Top Cottage, the private retreat FDR had built for himself as a place to get away from everything. Our guide there was very knowledgable and let the four of us show him what we wanted to learn about. On Saturday morning we had a private tour of Eleanor's retreat Val-Kill and the Stone Cottage.

Everywhere I looked, there were reminders of the home where I grew up. I was fascinated to note a "what not" shelf on the wall at Val-Kill that was identical to one my mother had in her home, and intrigued to see that Eleanor had the same china pattern as my sister.

Later on Saturday morning, Joe wanted to tour the Vanderbilt mansion nearby. I urged him to do that, though I chose to wait in the shady parking lot with my sewing, reflecting on all we had seen. I had come to be immersed in the Roosevelt story, and didn't want to confuse myself.