Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, Emily

It's been a long journey from Lu's Learning Center to Washington and a fun one.

We love this girl and are very proud of her strength and maturity. Hoping it will be a happy day.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Castle Stairs - the Ups and Downs

I've had this Castle Stairs pattern in mind for several months now for twin boys expected to arrive in a couple of months - I hope not sooner!

My first thought was to make 2 little quilts, but I'm waiting to see if I get one finished first.

It's the most interesting and satisfying project I've done in awhile. This is how it looked after 2 rows.
The designer of the quilt, Kelly from Kelby Sews, has written a wonderful tutorial. She warned about what would happen if you make the same mistakes she did and emphasized pinning and paying attention so much that I followed her advice, and so far it's been a dream to sew.

Every time you sew a strip, it has to be trimmed off. Kelly recommended lining up the 2-1/4 inch line on your ruler with the last seam, and every time I hold my breath that it's going to be off. So far, it's been perfect, and that means a lot coming from me!

Now for the downer.

I had found some of this Riley Blake fabric when we stopped at T&C Pharmacy in Opp, Alabama. Don't let the name fool you. It's not only a pharmacy but a Radio Shack dealer, a Christian bookstore AND a beautiful fabric shop. The people are so nice, and the shop is just full of colorful fabrics. I bought a few pieces of the Mod-Tot line and then saw this pattern, so I ordered a jellyroll (for non-quilters, a roll of 2-1/2 inch strips of all the patterns in a particular line of fabrics). Unfortunately, even though I thought I had read the directions well, the pattern designer's jellyroll had 35 or so fabrics in it; mine had 21. I was happily pinning and sewing and pressing and trimming, and my pile of strips kept getting smaller and smaller. At some point, I came to the realization that I was not going to have enough.
I thought about going to Opp next time we go to Andalusia and get a few more fabrics, but then I wasn't sure what they would have so went ahead and ordered another jellyroll. This might even give me enough fabric to make a companion quilt - something like this.

So here we are waiting for the new jellyroll to arrive. Five rows done, and there are supposed to be 12 rows in all. I miscalculated pretty badly, although I might not do that many if it's looking big enough after 10 or so.

I think the little boys will love the bright colors and funny little animals.
I've gotten quite attached to them myself.

I've just finished a book that I can actually recommend as being one of the best books I've read lately. It's Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah. I almost stopped reading during the fist half because the characters didn't seem to interest me enough. But I kept on. It is a heartbreaking story within a story of a Russian family in Leningrad during the German invasion, and it's very hard to read but such a good story you have to keep on reading to find out how it ends. It sure makes me treasure a warm home and food and a safe place to live.

Mama just showed us a laptop in a sales paper and expressed an interest in it. How can that be? There probably aren't too many laptop users about to be 89 years old. Or maybe there are. I still don't have one!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Little Bits of Sewing

That's all I have to show for this week unfortunately. We had some nice rain and warm temperatures. I played mind games with a runaway dog on Thursday, bought groceries on Wednesday (saved about $60 at Publix and Wal-Mart), finished one book and started another.

Talked on the phone and e-mailed some. Better yet, cleaned out one e-mail and deleted bunches of old e-mails.

Worked 20 hours.

We watched Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs and discussed with Emily and Elise.

The week sure passed quickly.

Pinterest has been good for me, if for nothing else than to make me feel guilty enough to do things. I have a "Things to Make" category, and I pin the things I like and might make in the future to that board. Several times a day I notice that someone has repinned my idea to their boards or "liked" it, and I feel like everyone is making these things but me.

I guess that's as good a reason as any to make useless things just because they're cute. So here goes--

I finished 4 of these purse organizers. It didn't even make it to Pinterest, but I had made one earlier and really liked it.

So I did 3 more, varying the heights and lengths. Very easy and fun to make.

I'm sending these to the girls to see if they like them or to give away. One is snuggled down in my purse and not going anywhere.

Then I made this cute little thing from some leftover fabric.

I read about these when Emily was doing a lot of playing in the snow, and I know how much trouble she has with her hands getting cold, so I planned to make some of these for her birthday. On second thought, the snow is gone now. Maybe they're really for her patients!

The first one was really teeny but just what I was looking for. Mama noticed it, and I asked her if she would like some bigger ones for warming her hands in the mornings. She has circulation problems and can hardly hold a cup of coffee in the mornings. I thought she could heat these in the microwave while her coffee is heating or just any time she needs them.

They were a big hit. So---

I made some more.

I had these charm squares of Fandango by Kate Spann which I really love but had never used. I made each side different and a size somewhere between the small one and the large ones. (Did I notice on that link that this fabric was ON SALE? Hmmm)

I think my favorite part is filling them with rice with a funnel and watching them plump out like little pillows. I think the bottom 2 could use more plumping.

My last thing was this grocery bag or tote. I can't say it was easy! I think I started over from the beginning 3 times, but once I got the hang of how it was supposed to be (and stopped forgetting to "yarn over"), it was great, especially for car trips.

I did learn a new technique called an I-cord. I had never heard of it and nearly gave up on it. I just couldn't see how it was going to work. So I looked at the video on You-Tube and had the AHA moment, and it was downhill all the way after that.

A pretty neat way to made a border and especially a handle. Mine is not as neat as I would like it to be, but at least I understand it and can do better next time.

So there's a little feeling of accomplishment, but you should see my sewing room. Next week will be for cleaning it up. I have a feeling the weather is not going to be so nice from now on for awhile, but it will make us appreciate spring when it gets here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snoqualmie Pictures

As we enjoy our unseasonably warm weather, I've been getting pictures from Emily. She was so afraid there wouldn't be enough snow to cancel work, but it sure looks like there was.

There may be more today. I'm looking forward to more pictures when they get through enjoying it.

I tend to enjoy snow like Jack.
He was born in South Dakota and spent the first 4 years of his life there, but living in Alabama for 3 years spoiled him. Emily bought this cute basket for yarn, but Jack had other ideas.

Speaking of keeping warm, I stole this picture of Gus from Debby's Facebook page. Just trying it out for size.

And while I was stealing pictures, I decided to get a couple more. I knew I could find cozy kitties on Sherry's blog.

Here's Nicholas enjoying the snow last winter. I'm not sure they've had any snow in TN yet this year.

The ultimate snuggling picture. Finnegan and Bentley. Sweet boys, all of them.

What I'm doing today - well now that it's half over.

I spent the morning organizing coupons and grocery lists and buying groceries. Pretty successful. Spent just over $100 and saved $41. It would have been more, but Mike and Mama kept adding things to my list that weren't on sale.

We also did one more chore that's been bugging me. I had the easy job of sorting through the various bottles and boxes, and Mike did the actual cleaning. Sounds fair to me. Maybe under the cabinet needs a little attention too.
The knitting is a project that I pinned on Pinterest. It's not quite as quick as advertised or as easy. You sure have to pay attention!

Here's a nice take on Pinterest. I thought it was a little silly at first too and still am not sure how it works, but it sure does keep my to-do list more organized. I tend to want to read all the books on my list and do all the projects faster since someone's looking now. The first thing I ever pinned was a knitting needle caddy, and since then 40 people have repinned it to their boards and 7 have liked it. I have no idea how these 47 people found my Pinterest board. Mine is pretty much bare and unimaginative, but every day I get emails saying so-and-so has pinned or liked or commented on something I have.

I left some dishes in the sink when I decided the cabinet needed cleaning. Then I stopped to check my email. Then I thought about blogging and taking some pictures and stealing some pictures, so now an hour later I'll creep back in and finish those dishes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Small Accomplishments

I came to the computer to start my grocery list for tomorrow and ended up 2 hours later writing this - with no grocery list in sight.

I tried to remember how I ended up getting so sidetracked but can't even remember that. I went to the kitchen for something and saw the dishwasher needed to be emptied, and then the mail came. I mentioned again about how nice it would be to hang the grocery bags in the garage near the car so I wouldn't forget them as much.

This is where they usually stay - in this overcrowded section by the garage door.

Now with one simple hook, they are neatly out of the way and able to be seen from the car if I forget to take them.

We've done so many things - or Mike has since he's been home. Mama now has a bird bath and bird feeder in front of her window and loves them. The back yard beds are all cleaned out and ready for spring flowers. All the cabinets in the kitchen open and close smoothly, and the scuff marks have been touched up. And we still find time for reading, watching movies and sewing(me)and computer time.

I completely finished a project this morning, sewing the last of the binding on. Now to put it somewhere where I can find it next Christmas.

We (I) want to plant a tree right outside the kitchen window but aren't sure what kind. I want a star magnolia. I've loved them ever since we had one in Thomaston, but I hardly ever see them.

It seems perfect for blocking the kitchen-window-to-kitchen-window view of our neighbor's house. Except in the winter time when it's bare, but there's something comforting about looking out your window in cold or rainy weather and seeing the lights on across your yards.

Speaking of reading, Emily mentioned that she couldn't read a book I recommended until she read her 100 Best Novels. I asked for the list, and she said to Google it. Cheeky child. I did, and there are many lists, but I found one I like and will try to get a few of those in. (Nothing like tailoring your list to suit you!) I like Radcliffe's 100 Best Novels List. It looks like I've read a lot of them, but I'll see if I can't reread them. Most are probably free on Kindle. Ulysses will go to the bottom of the list. It's on every list I see, and I can never understand why. I've tried too many times to read it.

My mind is too full of things I want to do and not enough time to do them. I'm also hearing hints of a trip to Washington in a couple of months. Fingers crossed it will work out soon.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Little Sewing, A Lot of Doing Nothing

I love days like this with no place to go and no expectations. It helps that it's really cold with no temptation to leave the house for anything.

It's nice to get bring Darby and Stella into the den and let them entertain us while we drink coffee and read, although that's pretty short. They'll play and interact for a few minutes the best a dog and cat can do until one of them gets mad and bites too hard or goes off in a huff.

We're trying to teach Darby some more tricks since she's a good student, but we can't think of anything she needs to know. She refuses to obey "Stop escaping and running all over the neighborhood," and everything else seems a little frivolous. She will sit, shake hands. She'll change paws if you say "other one." She can sit up on her back legs, roll over, let me put a treat on her nose and wait for the signal to get it. She brings her "puppies" to you and is in the process of learing to put them on the blanket - but only for a treat. She does pretty well with "get on your blanket" with most of her body, depending on whether there is a cat taking up some of her room.

Lunch was a bunch of good leftovers and easy to make. I did boil the leftover rotisserie chicken for soup later, and it smells so good. Mike's in there doing something with the mixer. I heard him grumbling about where the cinnamon was, so it sounds like maybe ginger snaps.

After I worked about an hour, I decided to do a little sewing. Since the first 2 purse organizers worked out so well, I thought I would make the other 2 but a little larger. I've gotten the interfacing ironed on and ready to sew.

and have started putting the binding on the Advent calendar I did earlier.

That will be 2 (or 5) completed projects the first 2 weeks of the year.

I started Tenth Circle by Jodie Picoult, and despite a depressing subject, it's very interesting and readable. I love going to the library and having a nice stack of books just waiting for me.

I was planning to read while the football game was on - some sort of NFL playoff or something - but Mike says it's over in the 1st quarter. Oh well, maybe it will get more interesting. If not, we have all those movies recorded.....

I think we may be enjoying this no-schedule life too much. Or maybe not. We slip a little housework in here and there. Mike did wonders for the hinges on the kitchen cabinets and touched up the paint. I may not have done as much, but cleaning the bathroom counts double. And working for an hour.

It WAS ginger snaps.

Yum. I need milk.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rediscovering Lee Smith

Twenty years or so ago, I discovered the author Lee Smith and read everything I could get my hands on that she had written. I'm not sure that I liked every one of her stories, and no one title stands out as being especially wonderful, but I really was crazy about the way she wrote. When I was working in the library in Thomaston, I read everything we had there and later on bought some of the paperbacks or checked them out of other libraries.

Mike and I were in our library earlier this week looking for a few books I have on my list to read. I found one of them and a couple of other ones that looked interesting, but as we started to leave I saw the shelf with the Lee Smith books on them. One of them, Fair and Tender Ladies, didn't ring a bell, so I brought it home and started it that same afternoon. I could do nothing else but read that book!

It's amazing, and I didn't want it to end today. I've sat there and forced Mike to listen to excerpts, so I'm sure he's glad it ended.

It's written in the format of letters from the heroine Ivy Rowe from the time she was 14 years old until she is an old lady to family members and friends. The author knows and portrays the dialect of the area and the era so well.

It definitely made me laugh and cry and broke my heart thinking of things families like hers had to go through trying to keep farms going or work in the coal mines 100+ years ago, just trying to survive. So sad.

I now have a list of all of Lee Smith's novels and am going to try to go back and read and re-read as many as I can find. Ob-session!

I was looking through our bookshelves to see if I might have one of the books on the list, and I remarked that I could spend years just reading and re-reading the books we already have.

It used to make me sad when I worked at the library that I would never be able to read all the books I wanted to in my lifetime. Although I have given it a good try. I now have too many other interests to read like I used to, but I'm going to make more time for it instead of spending so much time on the computer - like right now.

We also recorded 3 movies on our magic new cable thing, and I have one waiting for me now. Retirement is not so bad!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Carrying On

It seems like weeks ago that I wrote about losing Maddy, but it was only yesterday, and there are so many reminders that make me just catch my breath.

I halfway complained about what a tremendous appetite she had the last 6 months or so and still weighed only about 5 pounds, if that. I was buying Fancy Feast Seafood Classic in boxes of 24, and they would be gone in a week. Of course Stella helped her eat it, but it was mainly Maddy's favorite. It was strange not going to the catfood section at Publix today.

I walk through the living room and look for her in one of her favorite places - on the table by the front window so she could have a view of the neighborhood or on the dining room table so she could catch whoever walked by and ask for another bowl of food.

I loved the way she would run in front of me when I picked up the paper and mail with her little bow-legged trot and then roll on the driveway for me to pet her.

It will get better as the days go by, I'm sure.

On a brighter note, a picture of the sky as we drove back home last week.

I think the balmy weather is over for awhile. I kept hearing the words "bitter cold" in the weather report today. Strange times. Emily said that Ryan's folks in South Dakota have never gone this long without snow. I know when she lived there, it would start snowing in October and not let up until February.

My winter mantlescape. It was complicated to do. Find some dried things in Michaels and stuff them in a vase and then vacuum up all the mess it made on the floor.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Hard Thing

Today we lost our Maddy Cat.

Maddy with the black velvet feet and the loud purr. The one who has moved with us to 4 different states. Also known as Baby Cat and Mississippi Cat.

We knew she was getting older and that something was different with her. She asked for food all day long and never seemed to be full, but she seemed content to just eat a lot and sleep a lot and spend a little time purring beside us, so we waited for a sign of what was wrong.

She woke me up about 6:30 this morning crying from the sunroom where they sleep. She always does it, and I usually put her off a little bit, but this morning she was persistent and got louder and louder. When I checked on her, she was panting and trying to walk but not able to move her back legs. I tried to comfort her, but I could tell she was in distress, so I woke Mike up and tried calling the vet's office. I got Dr. Golden's home, and he agreed to meet me in 30 minutes at the office. He said that he suspected a blood clot and that it wasn't usually a good thing.

It was tough to wrap her up and get her into the carrier, feeling like she was in pain and scared. She calmed down a little though in the car.

We're go glad it was Dr. Golden who met us. He diagnosed her with arterial thromboembolism or saddle thrombus and said that it was maybe treatable but that she would still be left with a serious heart condition and more than likely paralysis. She's such a no-nonsense cat and has been so dependable and comforting to us that I didn't want to cause her a lot more pain and fear if there was no real hope.

You never know whether you've made the right decision, but Dr. Golden said that this was nothing that could have been prevented and really not much do for it. He gave her a sedative, and she was calm and sleepy within a minute. I had a few minutes to pet her and talk her to sleep, and that makes me feel a little better - that she was peaceful at the end.

We do miss her though and will for a long time.

We've been married for 44 years and have had a gray cat for every one of them.

Nadine 1967 to 1985.

Chappy 1985 to 1996.

Lili 1996 until 2006.

Maddy 2000 to 2012.

Well-loved and long-lived kitties, all with their own peculiar personalities - some more peculiar than others. What memories we have of them all.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sewing Day

A good sewing day - at least the morning so far. I finished something - totally and finally finished a project down to clipping all threads and taking pictures. I have to say my sewing might have been better than my photography today.

First I had to stop and do some pressing and taking pictures of the little clothes I mentioned earlier. I'm still going to get some stain remover and do a little patching, but I wanted to stop and see where they stand.

The bonnet! It's just perfect with hardly a flaw - except for the fact that I don't think any amount of starch is going to make it stand up enough to frame a baby's face. It's almost like netting it's so thin.

Perfect little tucks along the brim.

The ties are not in good shape but what detail at the ends.

This is a bad picture of the embroidery on the crown, but it's beautiful.

This is the dress that supposedly goes with the slip from earlier.

There are some bad stains and tears, really shredding, and it probably can't be fixed too well, but I can still enjoy the work.

The bottom with the lace and entredeux.

The sweet little open sleeves.

I even like the placket and little buttons.

There are several reasons that make me think these clothes might have belonged to Mike's mother. First, they were in her cedar chest. Second, she didn't have any daughters, and third the little apron below has an E, and her name was Eleanor. The puzzling thing is why we never knew about them. I'm thinking maybe she received them from someone who discovered them and returned them to her after she was under the effect of the Parkinson's disease and she didn't understand what they were.

The apron with the embroidery on the bib and gingham binding and ties.

I love the little monogrammed pocket and the embroidery on the bib.

Now to my totally different sewing.

I bought several pieces of the Andover Fabrics "Meet the Gang" when I thought I was going to be making twin boy and girl quilts for expected twins this spring. It turns out they're both boys, so I needed to use my girl fabric (and totally need to start on the boy quilts - but never mind - first things first).

Emily and Elise both liked them, so I decided to do us a purse organizer just for fun.

I used the tutorial from The Giving Flower blog. This is just the first one I saw, and it looked easy (which it was), but doing a search for this tutorial, I saw many more and different versions of the same thing. I would maybe make this one an inch or so taller and an inch or so longer since I have a long billfold.

Here it is in the main fabric and a coral one with the little birds. I won't go through my steps. I don't sew "pretty," and no one wants to see pictures of the broken needle and scraps and thread all over the floor. Just see how I finished something. One down, 2 - maybe 3 - to go!

But I'm proud of the way this turned out.

I used the measurements suggested, but you can make the pockets any size. My main needs were for my phone, pens, and hand lotion. All the addresses and phone numbers from that address book are in my phone, but that's my security blanket, so I still carry it.

Standing up without the billfold in the middle. Stiff interfacing makes it stand up well.

It needs to be a little longer for me.

When you change purses, you can just pick up the whole thing and transfer. I do well to find one purse I like, so I change only with the seasons - and that's even iffy sometimes.

This is down in my purse. Fits nicely. I'll probably use one pocket for my camera since I'm always groping around for it and my phone at the bottom of my purse. And there are still extra zipper spaces in my purse for lipstick and keys and all the other stuff that collects.

So there! I did it. I've made this MY day. I do nothing I don't want to, and Mike doesn't have to do anything he doesn't want to either. I hear him clinking and banging in the kitchen, working on some wayward cabinet hinges and touching up some paint - and occasionally bursting out with a self-congratulatory sentence or 2. No modesty there. Like me.

No telling what we might get done this afternoon after a lunch that neither one of us is going to volunteer to make. I did breakfast....