Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

My short trip to Chicago was so much fun.   We did a whole lot of nothing and froze our butts off, but it was fun.  We ate at some great little restaurants, laughed a lot, enjoyed the city lights, drank hot cocoa and wine, and saw the amazing Terracotta Warrior exhibit at the Field Museum.    I hadn't realized that, in addition to thousands of amazing Warriors, each one a unique individual, the excavation in China is revealing a complete terracotta kingdom, including an entire government, and landscaped underground rivers with wildlife.  Truly amazing!
Despite the (bitter) cold,, we walked a lot, and I was grateful for my warm and waterproof Vasque boots -- the ones I got when my bloggy friend Kim reviewed them on her blog!
I didn't take many photos because they fogged up and froze my fingers when I tried, so you'll just have to imagine the good times we had.  It was so nice to get away from the normal routine and just enjoy 'us' time.  We came home fat and sassy and then bam, my honey came down with the dreaded Traveler's Yuck, so our Holiday plans are on hold until we see how quickly he bounces back (and whether or not I follow him down the Path of Sickness.  My plan is to stay healthy, though, because I come from hardy folk!)  

So I spent Christmas Eve Eve alone, with my presents wrapped and under the tree and my menu planned but unprepared, and it is quite possible that I will spend Christmas Eve the same way.   Oh well, we are flexible to a fault here and accustomed to going with the flow, so will have a celebration whenever it happens.  Meanwhile, I am counting my blessings.   And looking forward to the mornign when the Grands will arrive for brunch and presents!  Today, left to my own devices, I am  making lists of projects for when I unpack the sewing machine again on Monday.   Meanwhile, I will spend the morning baking un-needed coffee cakes and preparing for tomorrow's beignets.   This extra, unplanned time alone might even inspire me to start cleaning up that landfill I call a craft room -- that would be a Christmas Miracle indeed!

However your own plans turn out, I wish you all a happy and loving Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Countdown to Christmas

We've got snow, plenty of it!   The sun is shining and the morning is beautiful, with bright red spots of cardinals digging in my yard for the bird seed that they mostly ignored before the storm hit.   And it has been bitterly cold -- minus 3 degrees right now -- so I will put out extra rations again today.  I can see that the bunnies and squirrels have been visiting, too,  as there probably won't be much wild food available for the next day or so.   If the very, very fat and very, very furry squirrel is any indication, the critters have been preparing for this time.

My primary goal this weekend was to finish my sewing projects so that I could put away the sewing machine and get the house clean for Christmas!    I have taken to sewing on my dining table because the room is brighter and the view is less restricted than it is in the corner of my 'craft' room, but that means that my sewing takes over my house unless I am careful to restrain it.   And with family planning to come over for Christmas brunch, restraint was the order of the day.     It was no hardship since I was pretty much snowed in yesterday by our last winter storm, so there were fewer distractions than usual.  My last sewing tasks included holiday napkins, several men's scarves, and a couple more pillow cases.  

All simple projects, so the sewing and finishing was easy, and the housework was no big deal  -- the HARD part was not starting the many new projects that are on my mind!

But I had an incentive not to immerse myself in something new, since my fella and I are planning to go to Chicago for a quick 2-day trip.    It's just an impulsive couple-of-days away, with no visits to the people we usually want to see, just some relaxation and maybe a little shopping.   I'm thinking of it as my reward for a clean house and completed projects, and I'm looking forward to it, although it looks like we DID pick the coldest couple days of the year!   But we are hardy folk, and it will be fun to ride the train, fun to have a little space to pay attention to each other, and fun to enjoy the city lights.    Whatever you are doing this last week of advent, I hope you are also having fun and spending time with people you love!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Snow and More Snow

Christmas plans are moving right along.  Where possible, I am wrapping my gifts in pillow cases that I've made for the recipient, with a French theme, or a Math theme, or a Chemistry theme, depending on who they are for.   This  has been fun, and I'm sorry that I already gave the Grands their pillow cases instead of saving them for Christmas!

We had a winter storm this weekend, it seems like my house got maybe 10 inches or so.   I shoveled twice and, although I do not mind shoveling (much), I somehow wrenched my left arm on the second go-round.  As a result Shovel #3 did not go as smoothly and Shovel #4 was out of the question.  I've decided to let the last couple of inches lie, at least for the moment.  Meanwhile, I am plying myself with ibuprophen and heat.   Not much to be done for it since the warranty on that arm is long expired. 
I used yesterday, home alone, for laundry and wrapping and baking.  It was a good enough day but I am so spoiled, not used to being alone all day, and can't pretend for a minute that I want to make a habit of it.   Still, I kept busy.   I made my first "Spritz" cookies, using a cookie press.   They were fun to make although they are not all that tasty, at least to my taste. I also made a batch of cheese straws, which were a major pain to make but kind of interesting.   Sometimes I wonder if that's the formula: the more aggravation a thing requires, the better it tastes.  No wonder I'm not that great a cook any more.   I take a lot of shortcuts these days.

I also got another table runner top done, but now I need to find fabric -- hopefully in my stash -- for the backing.  
I'm glad I got a lot done yesterday since today my bum arm is slowing me down.    Since I am spending a lot of time with tea and a heating pad, this might be a good day to turn off the news (depressing!) and turn on the Christmas music instead as I send out hopeful wishes for a peaceful Advent and a Holiday that truly represents good will to all.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Counting Down

Not much is new even though the days are so full that they seem to be flying by.  This is such a busy time of year and it doesn't help that it is colder than heck.   When the air is frigid, it's hard to force myself out of the house especially since retirement (oh how I love thee!) gives me the option of Putting Things Off.   Besides, isn't making a list almost the same as actually doing the thing?    I seem to be living my life on that principle!   Even so, little by little, things are getting done, gifts are being wrapped, cookies are being baked . . . it's all good.

I am still sewing although I am losing track of who I am sewing for.   I've been using my stash of 5" squares to make table runners -- I have several "charm packs" in my cupboard that I haven't gotten around to using, and I am trying to work my way through those neglected fabrics.  I have potential runners laid out on the floors of my house and when I have a spare hour I stitch them together and add them to the pile.   I figure if I am invited to any more holiday dinners, I can take one along as a hostess gift since I am accumulating quite a supply of them!
I am also still making cute little purses for no one in particular.   I love these little 30-minute projects!   I participated in a cute "Santa Swap" with  The Peach Patch, and received a lovely group of fat quarters that I immediately turned into another purse.   It was so much fun -- I received fabric that I don't think I ever would have chosen, and I absolutely loved the result.   If I ever get to the point where I can justify buying fabric again, I will make some different choices!   (Okay, we know that part about not buying more fabric was a lie, since my internet shopping carts are always full and JoAnn thinks I am part of her immediate family since I am there so often!)
My guy wants me to take the little bags to local shops to see whether there is a market for them since I am making more than I need, and,  although I think it's a worthwhile idea, I haven't done it yet.   He sees more value in my work than I do, and is sweetly supportive.  We have toyed with the idea of renting a booth at a craft fair next summer, mostly just for fun and, in a perfect world, to help support my 'habit'!  But those ideas can be shoved aside until the holidays are over.    I still have a couple of pillow cases and a scarf to finish and wrap in the next week or two, and then maybe I can start to think about the next plan.

As I've mentioned before, I am an amateur radio operator and this year, when I renewed my tabs, I finally indulged myself by applying for a license plate with my call sign on it -- finally, I have a license plate that I can memorize!  
This is also the season of Christmas concerts and kids' school activities and I do love to see the  Grands all dressed up and performing.   They had their strings concert last week and the oldest will have a band concert this coming week,  and in both cases my job is to proudly listen (and usually cry).    The Littles are growing up way too fast.   This is the last year before the oldest enters his teens.    I have so many things to be thankful for.     Now if I could stop being such a slacker . . .   I had hoped to have my house listed for sale by now but I still haven't gotten the basement cleaned out and now other houses on the block have been listed.   Sigh.     Maybe the new year will bring me a whole new energy, or maybe I will relax even more into inertia.   Either way, life is good.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Better Than The Alternative

I do not like birthdays.   I remember my 50th with great joy, a day when my newly-adult kids surprised me by arranging a little breakfast for me, but I have dreaded every one since.  And 50 was a long, long, very long (ouch) time ago.  I know it's childish, but I am not a fan of being old.  I resent the waning energy, the loss of looks, the limited future.   And now, when I have the things I've always wanted, when I am genuinely happy, I resent the passage of time even more.  And yet here it is; my birthday.
It has been cold and dreary here this week, but it has been a lovely time inside.  My guy and my family got together for our third Thanksgiving celebration this year, this one at my house, and we ate ourselves silly.  My fella brought me the first birthday cake I've had in many years, made by his son, a pastry chef.   Everything was delicious, but even more,  I loved every minute of having them all together.

I am not happy being old.  But I am happy.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sew Sew Sewing and Still Thankful

I am still busy sewing but things should be winding down soon.  My pillowcase 'wrappers' are almost done, the fluffy pillow (by request of my granddaughter) is finished for my Grand Dog and the catnip mouse for my Grand Cat.   I made another table runner, finished one last tote and zipper bag set, and one more little purse tonight but I still need to put backing on my table runners since the fabric I ordered hasn't arrived yet.   I want to make a nightshirt and I have put that off until I'm able to clear away all the other projects since I will need the whole table to layout, cut and pin, and I need the table for Thanksgiving dinner in between the small projects and the nightshirt.  So the end of the to-do list is in sight -- I need to put backing on 2 table runners, which will be done in an afternoon once the fabric arrives, and make one (or two) nightshirt(s), which might take a bit longer.  And then, unless I add more projects, which wouldn't surprise anyone who knows me, I'll be done!   Well, I'll be done with the Must Do sewing part, anyway.  There is still a stack of unfinished sewing projects that need my attention.
It continues to be a busy month.  Last week my guy's daughter was in town for a visit, which meant that he had all three of his adult kids here at the same time, an event that gets more rare the older they get.   We had an early Thanksgiving together, and of course that was fun.  My Michigan kids will be with in-laws for Thanksgiving, so we will have our family's turkey feast the weekend after.   Clearly, like it or not,  this is going to be a month with LOTS of turkey.  I'm already planning to freeze some turkey pies, because we have already eaten our way through pots of turkey tetrazzini, turkey-cheese-bacon melts and turkey soup!

Our search and rescue group was called out on another search this week, for another 2-year old boy who was, thank goodness, found safely about 4 hours after he wandered away.   The day the child went missing, in only a diaper, we had sunny 70 degree weather, a rarity here in Mid Michigan in Mid November.   The temperatures plummeted later that day and it snowed the next, so it was the best possible missing person event.

My grandkids had their strings concert today -- one plays violin and the other plays cello -- so what a lot of fun!  It is truly amazing to me to hear how much these young kids have learned in their few years of study.  And my grandson just turned 12!  The years go by much too fast.  But I have so much to celebrate.    During these challenging times in our world, it is good to remember those blessings and to hold close the warmth of family and loved ones.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fear Less

So many things have happened since my last post.   Lots of surprises -- Good things, frightening things, ordinary things, all jumbled together.
On the happy and totally unexpected side, I received this lovely surprise bracelet gift from my friend Kim's Snug Harbor Bay etsy shop -- is there anything better than a surprise gift in the mail?!   Hardly anything, for sure.  I mentioned the "pig" bracelet I bought from Kim a couple of posts ago, and I've given more than one of her custom bracelets as gifts.    This is not a great photo -- I am not a great one-handed photographer -- but it says "find peace, find happiness, find yourself,'  words that I'm holding especially close these last few days.   Sweet Kim.  Bloggy friends are the best.
In another mail surprise, I won a whole set of the Windham "First Blush" fat quarters and a matching assortment of aurifil thread from the First Blush blog hop -- before it's even released in the shops!      Whoo hoo!   New projects!!
On the more ordinary side, I have actually gotten most of my sewing projects finished and am ready to begin on a new pile!   So many projects that I don't even have photos of most of them!    I am well on my way to making at least one sewn gift for everyone on my close-family list.    I just need to keep the momentum going.

And I've had the opportunity to spend some good quality ordinary time, including time outdoors (my favorite kind) with people I love.  Nothing ordinary about that.
On the frightening side, like so many of us, I woke up this week to evidence and a whole new mental image of how a good many of my acquaintances and neighbors apparently think, and it was sobering.   I have responded in my usual  fashion, hunkering down and taking comfort in my close friends and family, people I know to be loving and inclusive and rational.   Turning to the traditional comfort food cure, I have also enjoyed more than one Starbucks hot cocoa with almond milk this week and there is a good chance that I will indulge in a few more over the next, say, four years or so.     As I keep telling myself and my peeps, we will be okay, we just need to hold onto one another, breathe, and hang on.     Let's be the change we want to see.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sew Sad

My sewing machine turned on me this week and used its Jaws of Death to clamp down on a piece I was sewing.  I am inclined to blame the machine (or the fleece fabric I was sewing) but my guy says I am hard on my toys.  Try as I might, I could not get it free, so I took it into the dealer for a free cleaning and release.   To my horror, they said it would be several days before I can have it back.   Good grief, does this mean I will have to actually do one of the thousand household chores to fill the time??!!  Horrors.  But  no, I am more resourceful than that.

Every year I give my Grands an advent calendar at Thanksgiving.   They have had pretty much every one I could find and, although they don't want to give up the tradition, none of them appeal this year to them or to me.   So I decided to make one --
I found these adorable paper maché boxes at Hobby Lobby and decorated the outside of them.   Now I am putting stickers on the insides to show how many days are left.   The plan is to fill each box with some little surprise or treasure.   For sure some of them will contain riddles and jokes, but I still need to find several dozen little treats and treasures, so the search is on!
Before my machine jammed, I was able to finish another little minky-backed throw.   Like the first one, it is not even within spitting range of perfect, but it is a cozy little thing.  

I will be happy to get the machine back, my list of projects is endless -- another minky throw, several charm tote bags, slippers, pillow cases -- all little projects that I can easily get done before the holidays, if I have a machine to work on!    I am even wondering whether I really need to own two of them -- or really three, since there is also one just for me to use at my guy-friend's house -- just for emergencies like this?!   What a change from the last machine I had, where I dreaded even the slightest project.   Maybe good tools, like weather appropriate clothes and a good attitude, really do make all the difference!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mid October

October is going by too quickly, although I try to slow it down by being mindful of the beautiful autumn weather and colorful fall leaves.  
It has been glorious here, chilly nights and sunny days, just perfect.   Sock weather, and I am always delighted when it is cool enough to wear some of my happy socks. :) 
My honey is out of town so I am sewing.   I should, by all rights, be cleaning my house which has metamorphosed into a hoarder's dump, but instead I am sewing.

As I am sure I have mentioned before, I am not much of a sewer, but I like the activity, it calms me (until I screw up) and I like making things.   I made a flimsy quilt top from a jelly roll that I didn't much like in the first place and decided to turn it into a throw, figuring that it would give me some practice and that I could donate it somewhere when it didn't turn out.   It started out as one of those marathon jelly quilts and then, when I hated it,  I cut it up into squares and sewed it again.   I finished it yesterday.   I don't know how to quilt, but I made the requisite 'sandwich' with a flannel faux-batting layer in between the top and a minky backing.   Then I sewed, not straight but straight-ish lines, back and forth, until it was pretty much covered.   I machine sewed a binding -- badly -- and I called it done.   It honestly turned out better than I had any reason to expect, although it would not dare to call itself a quilt.   It is a cozy throw, to be used by someone who doesn't know any better.  
I plan to do another throw in the same fashion, again using straight-ish line 'quilting' and a minky back.   And then maybe I will try making an actual quilt top and taking it to a longarm quilter to see what they can make of it.   That seems like cheating to me, but the conventional wisdom is that it's allowed, so I'll give it a try.
I have been busy, and not only with sewing, of course.    Our Search and Rescue group was called out last weekend to help in a search a little north of here.  Although it was not a happy outcome, it feels good to be able to help provide closure for families who are dealing with the terrible unknown.

And I have been cooking this week for my kids, which has also been fun.   When my guy is in town we pretty much get lost in just being together, and I treasure (and miss) that, but I love time with my family, too, and I haven't been doing a lot of cooking for them this year so it was long overdue.  Although I don't cook as often as I should, I do go to the Littles' swim lessons most every week  -- this week my grandson went off the high diving board for the first time, which amazes me, since I have never had the nerve to even jump in off the edge of the pool.   Thank goodness the Littles aren't major sissies like their grandma!
I also bought myself a sweet little gift from my friend Kim's Etsy shop; Kim is currently taking a bloggy break at Snug Harbor Bay, but she has been a bloggy friend for quite some time, and she is still active in her creative work on Etsy.  Kim made me a bracelet with a current favorite phrase of mine, "be the pig;" a reminder to myself to be a giver in my relationships, not the "chicken" in a bacon and egg breakfast who is able to give just a little and walk away.  It makes me laugh, but it is a nice reminder to myself that I need to be aware of my own part in making things work.  Kim makes custom bracelets of all kinds, and I wear my "pig" bracelet, as well as one with my amateur radio call sign, ALL time time!  :)   It's fun to be able to have (and give) something that is both reasonably priced AND truly personal, so I really appreciate that she does custom work!

Lots of Search and Rescue training and service activities coming up this weekend, including the annual Zombie Run -- hopefully I'll get a chance to enjoy the local ghouls while I'm helping out!  Nothing says October like a zombie apocalypse.     Hope you are all having fun!

Getting Crispy

There is a definite chill in the air these days, and night-times are cuddle weather with me allegedly hogging the wool blankets.  September has been busy.   We canned a bizillion jars of tomato juice and diced tomatoes and tomato soup -- over 60 jars at last count.   I used the last few pounds to make fresh tomato sauce for Zoodle lasagna and zoodles with meatballs, both of which were delicious.  We are planning to can applesauce next, although Lord knows whether we will get to it before I bake up stuff with all the apples.   It has been a very good food month, as one would expect for harvest time in the mid-west.   Michigan is said to be second only to California in the scope of our fruits and vegetables, and I am enjoying as many of them as I can while they are fresh and plentiful.
And, to my utter amazement,  I am still sewing!    I finished the table runner that I won from Missouri Quilt, what a fun prize that went together in just a couple of hours -- just about the length of my attention span!   Kits make it SO easy!
I made a few more pillow cases, I think they make sweet little gifts and they are another super quick sew, so I make them whenever I think of it and need something mindless to work on.  So many cute fabrics out there, I pick up a couple of yards whenever I see something that shows a particular interest of some family member, and that makes it fun for me, too.
I am working on place mats, too, another quick and easy scrap buster that, despite its quick and easiness, I haven't gotten done yet -- of course, scrap busting only works as well as my own self discipline, and I am an expert at slacking and a sucker for a fun new fabric so the 'done' pile isn't getting any bigger and the scrap pile isn't getting any smaller.  And this month's purse club is next week, so there will no doubt be more purses coming soon.

On the personal front, I am happy.  My guy and I spend most of our time together, a bonus of being retired, enjoying each others company.  I never imagined life could be so sweet, so late.   And I am fighting the urge to wonder when the other shoe will drop -- happy is a place I haven't visited much,  I hope I get the chance to get used to it.  :)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sew Far Sew Good

 We are having the most beautiful late summer here in Mid-Michigan.  Sunny days, blue skies, and nights cool enough for a wool blanket or two.   I love this time of year.   The leaves are just beginning to turn, and the bumble bees and chipmunks are frantically trying to stock up for the winter.  The skinny bunnies are eyeing me hopefully.    Lots of sewing going on here in my world.   The tuffet is finally and truly done, legs and all.    The photo doesn't show size and it looks a little wonky, but it sits sturdily enough and better yet,  it's done and it's cute and it's going to be a gift, with a little accompanying throw, I hope.
I've made a bunch of little purses and I've just gotten a new pattern so I will be making more - hopefully I'll find someone to give them all to!
I pieced a couple of quilt tops, which haven't been photographed yet, and I finished the pillow I made as an engagement gift.
I won (yay!) a table runner kit and made that, and will try to remember to photograph that, too, before I pack it away in the Gift Box.    I know how to sew a little, but I have no practical knowledge of quilting, so I used the pillow and the table runner to practice my stitch-in-the-ditch technique.   A better seamstress (which is to say, almost anyone) would have torn it all out on both and started over, but I did not.  I have adopted Jenny Doan's mantra, "finished is better than perfect," and I don't intend to budge from that.   They are not perfect, but they are finished.

I performed one last wedding for the summer, a lovely couple who had traveled together for the past several years after their relationship first took them through college and graduate school.  They were not at all phased by the fact that their dream outdoor wedding was rained out and had to be held in a small banquet room, both were just thrilled to be taking this step, and I loved that about them.

My friend will be traveling again in the next week or so and I will miss him, so I am taking every advantage of his presence right now.    We have been canning tomatoes together this weekend -- I was gifted with the chance to pick SEVERAL bushels at a friend's house and we have been busy!   He made and canned a veggie soup and is working on a veggie-mix juice right  now with beets and peppers and celery and tomatoes and much much more.   Meanwhile, I have been canning jars and jars and jars of sauce.  Tonight we had zoodles (zucchini noodles) with fresh tomato sauce and local veggies for dinner.     Truly delicious -- I don't know why we don't do the zoodles more often, they are that good!

And the same day as the tomato bonanza  another friend brought me a bunch of eggs from her flock of hens, so there's going to be a lot of baking once the canning is done.  And I am loving it all. 
 Life is good here in the middle of the Mitten.   Perfect weather, loving family, good friends and harvest time, a happy combination.     And how about you?  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Little Miss Muffet

I am not a fan of spiders, but I signed up for a tuffet class.    What a fun project -- much faster and easier than I had expected and cute as the proverbial button.  It still needs legs, which have not yet been delivered, and it is intended as a Christmas gift.   My guy friend says it has no practical use at all, but that won't stop me from making another -- I just won't make one for him!  He's right, too, it would be no support for his big feet!
He and my grandson spent a day doing a soldering project, the second they've worked on.   I love seeing my 11-year-old grand develop skills I hadn't even discovered until I was in my 60s.  He is a quick learner and a good student, it makes my heart swell.  And I love watching the big and little hands working patiently together.
I performed a couple more weddings in the past week, one Bride happy and relaxed, the other less so. It is always amusing to me to see what mountains can be made of molehills.  I wish them all the very best and hope they all find contentment once the stress of their wedding day is past.    And our search team was called out this week to look for a local man who had gone missing.   We were not there long, and it was not a happy ending, but we know from experience that it helps the family a little to know that they had the support and encouragement of strangers and that they did everything they could.

In between it all, I am working on the usual hodgepodge of sewing projects, trying to use scraps in order to justify buying ever more fabric.     In honor of the impending birth of my latest great niece, the daddy's sister organized a quilt circle.  When older sister Frannie was born a couple of years ago, the aunts and uncles and grandparents all joined together to make the building blocks of a baby quilt, and now we are doing it again for the new baby.  Frannie's square, two years ago, went so quickly for me and turned out exactly the way I'd hoped. 
But this time, inspiration was slow to strike and, even after I decided to make a bunny square,  things did not go well.  Bunny Number One looked demented, a bit like a bunny serial killer.  
But thanks to a few suggestions from my granddaughter and guy friend, I ended up with a bunny I could live with even if I didn't exactly love it.   I hope the new baby will be forgiving.  :)
If you could see the mess on my kitchen table you would expect me to have a lot more to show for the effort!  It is time to get serious about Christmas sewing, and the list of projects is getting longer every day.

Summer is quickly drawing to an end.   The Littles go back to school next week and it won't be long before most of my time will be spent indoors.   Hopefully that fabric pile will shrink a bit then.  In the meantime, I am enjoying as much outdoor time as I can.   We are hoping for one last canoe trip next week, fingers crossed for good weather.   I hope your end of summer is as happy as mine has been.   There is much to be grateful for.  :)