Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Year Is Upon Us

You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself,
any direction 
you choose.
                                                - Dr. Suess

Take hold of the reins and CHARGE!,
full steam ahead!
                                                 - Mama Pea

Wishing all of you a totally magnificent New Year of 2015!!  Let's all do what we can, in our own way, to make it so.

Monday, December 29, 2014

What Are Those Gray, Fluffy Things Skittering Across My Kitchen Floor?

Heck, I'd settle for the Christmas tree being taken down and outta here.  Right now, all anyone has to do is look directly at the tree and a shower of needles falls.

Our cleaning and organizing storage areas is still going on (for two more days . . . the end is near!), but oh my, has the general state of my house suffered.  Yesterday, I laid hubby's most heavily insulated winter coveralls on the kitchen floor to fold them before putting them in his "Coverall" tote box and the result was that they got covered with . . . I don't know exactly what all the debris was.  Dust, dirt, grit, grime, multiplying dust bunnies . . . geesh, I could have sworn I swept the floor just . . . oops, when was that?

One last task to do tonight before we can go to bed.  The surface of said bed is piled with all of Papa Pea's dress pants and sport jackets we took out of the closet where they've been stored since he retired.  Seems his outfits these days around ye ol' homestead don't call for the same spiffy wardrobe he wore for forty-some years.  (His dress these days runs more to those coveralls I successfully wiped up the floor with.)  He wants to try the old teacher-type clothes on, decide which sport coats to keep (probably one for winter and one for summer) and send the rest on to our local recycling resale shop.

Today we took six cardboard boxes full of clothes there plus about half a Suburban full of household stuff to a fairly recently opened second hand shop in town that takes furniture, dishes, lamps, dressers, linens, etc. plus a sundry of other things. 

We were very impressed with the second hand store . . . it was our first time there.  There were several items that we both could have bought, but since that would have kind of defeated our purpose . . . we are trying to downsize and get rid of stuff, remember . . . BUT we did come home with four things.  Windshield wipers (new, in the package) for our Suburban, a folding card table as we have been discussing how handy it would be to have a table up in our storage loft off Papa Pea's office and the other two were items that grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

The Pyrex measuring bowl is a two quart capacity.  I'd never seen one bigger than one quart and thought this one would be very handy for mixing and pouring.  It was brand new and you can see I'm going to have to soak it some more to get the label completely off. 

The pitcher with lid was kind of a splurge for me . . . I spent a whole $5 on it.  At first I thought I would use it for decoration in the kitchen in the summer, but it will be perfectly serviceable for a big batch of lemon or limeade, too.  Or iced tea.  Or sangria!

Now hubby is done with his clothes style show and we've cleared off the bed, so it would be wise for me to get my jammies on and settle down on the couch for a short time before hitting the hay to insure I'm well rested for another fun day tomorrow.  Hope your week between the end of the year holidays is going well for you.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

These Are The Last Days of 2014

I found this image, and thought some of you might be able to relate, when I was searching for an Anne Taintor calender for 2015.  I always get one of hers for my desk area.  I love her humor and may have to include some of her other creations I came across that tickled my funny bone.  Maybe I'll have an "Anne Taintor Week" coming up!  

But, this isn't me this year.  We've intentionally planned our holidays so that they would be low-key.  Christmas was and I expect New Year's to be also.  It will be a good way to slide into January which we intend to make a relaxing, rehabilitating, restful month.  I can hardly wait.

Today Papa Pea and I hauled twenty-some heavy, large tote boxes down from our uninsulated (colder than a son of a buck it was up there) storage room.  We spread the boxes out in the kitchen where it took us all day to sort through them.  We now have six big cardboard boxes of clothing to take to our recycling resale store tomorrow along with some miscellaneous household items we sorted through last week.

After going through all the totes, just to have more fun, we re-packed and re-labeled them all and hauled them up the stairs and back into storage.  I will not be working out on my StairMaster tonight.  Nor will I be doing any weight-bearing exercises.

Our temperatures finally fell to more December-like weather two days ago, down into the low 20s.  Now the forecast for the coming week is high daytime temperatures barely over zero.  But the fantastic news is . . . wait for it . . . SUNSHINE is also forecast for the whole week.  How welcome that will be!  (Still no snow even though the mid and southern part of our state got dumped on a couple of days ago.  None here in the north.  What's wrong with this picture?)

Although it's not a New Year's Resolution (honest, it's not), come January 1st Papa Pea and I are going to purge our bodies (said in a Julia Child voice) of all the not-so-good morsels we've allowed to pass over our lips during this food and confection-laden season.  We need to straighten up and fly right . . . and hopefully lose a few pounds in the process.  We'll be eating lots of apples and healthy smoothies, probably our good eggs for breakfast but no toast, dinner will be a couple of veggies (heaven knows we have plenty of them from the garden stashed in the freezers) along with some protein.  Few or no carbohydrates (I will personally need lotsa help in this area), especially no sweet treats (hubby's downfall).  We'll be reminding each other to drink a lot of water to keep our systems clean and pure.  I know these are all high and noble plans, but we're both on the same page with it and want to shed some of the winter hibernation fat we absolutely don't need.

The seed catalogs started arriving here before Thanksgiving this year (didn't like that . . . way too early), but now I'm getting itchy to pour through them and get my seed order(s) in early.  I don't think I'll do anything radical or too different as far as the vegetables I plant this year, but I do want to plant more flowers.  I believe it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who is credited with saying, "The earth smiles with flowers."  I like that.  Yes, I wanna plant lots more flowers!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Sending you wishes that your home
be filled
with Christmas cheer, joy and love.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Brief (Wet, Gray) Check-In

Mother Nature is not doing much to dress our landscape for the holidays.  We have had rain and drizzle and fog for days and days.  And days.

Our garden beds are saturated and many of them have standing water on the top.

Above are some of our apple trees.  Not much snow left on the ground after all this rain.  Our yard area and driveway are solid ice with standing water over that.

These pictures are straight out of my camera.  That's as much light as we've been having at mid-day.  I think the dreary days are starting to get to me.  Good thing we have lots of lights and colorful decorations inside to create a bit of festiveness.

So, so different than last year when we had tons of snow at this time of the winter.  I'm hoping Santa brings our little area of the country some SUN for Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Calm Countdown

Although it hasn't always been so, this year these last days before Christmas have been relatively stress-free for me.  (Is it possible I'm becoming wiser with age?)

I've wrapped all the presents except for a couple that are still scheduled to arrive.  (Eeep.  My fingers are crossed, yes, they are.)

The decision has been made (and I can hardly believe it myself) not to bake any more Christmas goodies to have on hand.  I did make a batch of Spritz cookies last weekend for dinner company.  Other than that, I'm not baking any more this year.  Why?  Well, because I received some wonderful treats in the mail from a friend in South Carolina (many thanks again for your thoughtfulness, You-Know-Who!) and a local friend brought over a fantastic assortment of her own baking endeavors.  Anything else produced here would be overkill.  (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

We finally got a few more inches of snow this past week.

Now we're hearing the coming week will bring quite a bit of snow to our area.  Just in time for Christmas, but not so nice for folks who have to travel.  Here's wishing safe travels for any of you who will be on the roads this next week.

Gosh, we've been eating so much good food these past couple/few months.  I don't mean this in the quantity sense but rather in the quality sense.  Our freezers and pantry are stuffed with the fruits (no pun intended) of our labors, and I know all this good food will keep us big and strong.  (And able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.)

Papa Pea did not get his deer this first season that he's hunted in many years.  No matter, as he truly enjoyed spending the time out of doors.  That doesn't mean we don't have venison in the freezer.  Our good neighbor got his deer along with a bachelor friend of his who came to hunt on his property.  We went to their house one night and helped them process the deer.  Good Neighbor is an expert at it, and we wanted to take lessons.  They insisted we take home some of the meat for ourselves, plus we were also given a big bucket of scrumptious scraps to give to Chicken Mama for our granddog's eating pleasure in the next month or so.

Time has been allotted today for working on my new winter quilted shower curtain I'd like to have completed and ready to hang right after the first of the year.

I made the backing (just plain muslin because it will never be seen) and sandwiched it this morning.  After I mark the quilting lines (sooo time-consuming, whine-whine-whine), I'll be ready to begin the machine quilting.  No batting in this particular project; if I do put batting in a shower curtain, which gives the quilting more "definition," the curtain ends up being heavier than I want to deal with.

There's no floor space in our house large enough to lay out a quilt for sandwiching without moving furniture so I do mine on the kitchen table.

I make sure all layers are straight and wrinkle-free, then I start pinning across the center of the quilt and work my way (toward me) to one end.  Then I turn the quilt and work on the other half.

Being able to work on the quilt at this level, rather than on the floor, really saves on the knees and back.  Although even doing it this way, I'll admit my back muscles are happy when I'm done.

I'm eager to get back to my project so I'll sign off here.

Hope your last week before the big holiday is going well and you can find a little time to spend at your sewing machine, or to sit and do handwork, or to read and relax.  A tall order, I know, but it's important to take care of yourself!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Still Here, Pluggin' Along

We continue to do our sorting, cleaning and organizing.  If we're working in an unheated storage area, we dress warmly and keep moving.  (No problem with the moving part.  Shuffling items from where they have been stored to another more logical area has been a big part of our attempted reorganization so loading up the garden cart, pushing it to the new location and then unloading it [up or down stairs more often than not, it seems] keeps us puffing.)

The weather has been cooperating in that we haven't had snow to plow through.  I think that very fact has urged us on because it's remarkable how much more effort it takes to push a wheeled cart (or even walk!) through snow.

Papa Pea wants to be done with everything by the first of January.  I would be pickled tink if we could reach that goal, but as you all know, life seems to interfere when a whole day has been plotted out to a specific job.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We've never done much decorating for the holidays outside other than a wreath on the side of the house and a couple on doors.  Having always lived in the woods or down a long driveway, we're used that as an excuse to not go through the trouble (and frozen digits) of hanging lights and such outside.  And then having to take them down . . . in even colder weather.  Ugh.

Perhaps because we've had mostly gray, overcast days since putting the inside decorations up right after Thanksgiving this year, we've enjoyed the lights and color inside more than usual, it seems.

I have a small collection of lighted ceramic Christmas trees that were popular many years ago.  One of those on a table or shelf here and there adds a bright charm with their colorful lights.  I think I mentioned earlier we purchased some of the newer LED strings of lights for our Christmas tree on sale last year after the first of the year.  Wow, they are indeed brighter and we've even been keeping the tree lights on during most days.

A good friend gave us this colorful wreath made with huge jingle bells, the largest ones I've ever seen.  Each bell is nearly the size of a tennis ball and, yes, they do jingle.  We hung it on the mirror over the couch in the living room and I've told hubby I'm really going to miss the burst of color it adds to the room when I take it down at the end of the holiday season.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I've been working on my new "after Christmas/up 'til spring" quilted shower curtain for the bathroom.  Next comes the outer border, then sandwiching and quilting.  I've kinda lost interest in this project because it's not looking very colorful to me.  I made it in lots of shades of blue and beige . . . and am now questioning the wisdom of my choice.  But I keep telling myself it will look fine when finished and hung in the knotty pine and yellow bathroom.  I keep telling myself.

I'm hoping to head for the quilt room yet this afternoon.  But first I have to strip the bed and get the sheets into the washing machine.  And sort out my over-stuffed refrigerator and figure out what to have for dinner tonight.  And clear my desk and pay a couple of bills I meant to have ready to go to the P.O. this morning, but didn't.  And do breakfast and lunch dishes.  When you think about it, all these things I "have" to do are caused by the bounty in my life.  I am so thankful I have an automatic washer and dryer in my own home.  My refrigerator is full of wonderfully nutritious food we are so fortunate to have access to.  I have enough money in the checking account to pay those bills on my desk.  There's a copious quantity of running water from our own good well which is heated in our adequate water heater and I have a good audio tape to listen to while I wash the dishes . . . all the above things for which I am grateful and of which I am so very appreciative.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The End

P.S.  I want to give credit, again, to the lovely photograph by my daughter which is my new blog header.  This picture has been used as the front of Christmas cards.  So simple and yet so striking.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Humble Beginnings

Recently, Mollie, one of my readers and commenters asked what was the first quilt I ever made.  I can answer that by telling you about the first quilt I ever completed.

A little background . . . 

Our daughter graduated from high school in 1989.  I wanted to make her a quilt to mark the occasion.  (What was I thinking?)  Although I had a strong background in sewing, I had never quilted.  But I jumped in with both feet and selected a pattern I thought looked simple enough (hahaha!) and the two of us picked out fabric.

I didn't know all of the fabrics should have been 100% cotton.  Two of the three pieces were, but one was polyester.  (Big mistake.)

The pattern called for templates to be made which were then placed on the fabric, traced and cut out with scissors.  What a chore!  Considering this was the way all quilting was first done, I quickly gained a huge amount of respect for the beautiful works-of-art quilts those dear, old gals of days gone by turned out.

Long story short, I had no idea what I was doing and shortly found myself way over my head and had to abandon the project.  Nothing was going right and I didn't know how to fix it.

A year or so later, I made my second attempt at quilting.  This time I started smaller and tried to make a simple nine-patch baby quilt for a good friend's daughter who was pregnant with their first child.  All went fairly well until I tried to quilt it.  I chose to do so by machine because hand quilting doesn't hold up very well if a piece is going to be laundered frequently.

I didn't have a walking foot for my old clunker of a machine and every line of simple, straight stitching I did smooshed, smashed, and wrinkled the fabric and made a terrible mess of the top, batting and backing I was trying to put together.

That effort ended up in the trash.  Is it a wonder I tried again?

Well, I did.  In 1994 I joined a quilting group, some members of which were much more talented than I and were a big, big help.  

So to finally get to my first (completed) quilt, Mollie, here it is in all its (long since lost) glory.

It's about the simplest patchwork one can do and the only fabrics I had were pretty ugly, but I think it's passed the test of a (utilitarian) quilt because it's lasted all these years.

I still didn't have the proper tools for quilting it by machine so I tied it.  One can tie a quilt using yarn or embroidery thread on a stout needle.  You go down through the front to the back and then through the back to the front again and tie a knot with the two ends of yarn or thread showing on the front side.  I used several strands of an ecru embroidery thread to tie my quilt.  You can see that not only are the blocks of fabric faded now but the thread is worn and much shorter than it originally was.

This little floral fabric I used as one border is also what I used for the backing.

Where does this first quilt of mine live now?  In a box of emergency supplies in the back of our Suburban truck.  We figure it could be spread on the ground if we had to change a tire or had other vehicle problems.  In the winter it could provide warmth should that be necessary.  It's been used as packing for moving furniture and appliances after it was replaced as a couch quilt, extra warmth on our bed in the winter, picnic cloth and floor covering for visiting infants.

Because I've had it and used it for twenty years (and it's still hanging together), I so wish I had made it with more attractive fabrics.  But if nothing else, I can truly chalk my first quilt off as a humble beginning to my quilting endeavors.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Another Day Come and Gone

Boy, did my day ever go haywire!  Last night as I was about to flop into bed (this was around 8:15, and I know I was asleep way before 9 p.m.), I promised myself that first thing this morning I'd get dressed, make my morning latte, bring it back here to my desk and tackle the mess that is covering the surface.  I needed to pay some bills, order some supplements and answer some long overdue e-mails as a first priority.  

Never happened.  

The only desk business I got accomplished was doing a three-way conversation with my husband and three different companies trying to figure out how (and if) we could get our lovely living room wall clock with the chimes to . . . well, chime again.  It still keeps perfect time but no longer chimes.  Did we manage to get the problem resolved?  Yes, with (we have been assured) the installation of a new movement that we can order and then put in ourselves.  (Better than sending the whole clock back to the factory.)  Love those chimes, but am just not sure I want to pay the money to have them made operational again.  (When we asked what the life expectancy of a new movement would be we were told by the three different companies "two years," "eight to ten years," and "somewhere between ten and twenty."  (Exasperating?  Nah, not much.  Sigh.)  

A delightful happening which kept me away from my good intentions of the day was a visit from our daughter and the two darling, adorable, nearly 13 month old twins she cares for during the day.  They are both walking (like two little wind-up toys) and I find them so fascinating to observe.  I swear you can see the little wheels in their little noggins turning and storing away data while they observe, explore, interact and experiment.  Also, I find being able to watch twins so very interesting.  They are beginning to interact with and mimic each other and I can't help but think they are and will continue to be advancing a little faster than a single child would with no one else around of the same capabilities and age.  Call it bragging if you want, but my daughter is an amazing caregiver for these two little urchins.  She makes everything fun, even changing a very messy diaper, along with ensuring so many of their daily activities are pleasant learning experiences for them.

So, heck.  Who would rather have spent time paying bills and tapping on computer keys than rolling a ball back and forth with a smiley wee little guy and gal?  I know which one I'd pick.  Any day.

Oh, and one last thing.  I got a lovely Advent Calendar at the end of November made by Chicken Mama (aka our daughter).  

I had to promise not to blog about it until other special people in her life received theirs, too.  I wish I'd thought to photograph it before I started opening the little doors.  I tried to fold them shut so you could get the full effect, but that didn't work very well.

Across the top it says, "Chicken Mama's 2014 Advent Calendar."  The bottom lettering reads, "May Christmas bring you everything that you are wishing for!"

I wish the little windows had hinges on them so I could reuse it year after year.  Maybe if I'm a good girl, I'll get a new one next year.  Ya think?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Decked Out For The Season And I Learn Something Every Day

I did it.  I finished the Christmas wall hanging I started more than a year ago.

No, it wasn't that complicated that it took that long to complete with me working day after day on it.  This pieced and hand appliqued wall hanging was started in the fall of last year with the thought it would be done for the holidays of 2013.  As so often happens with my good intentions (but unrealistic time sense apparently), life got in the way and the quilt was nowhere near completion then.

I worked on it a very little bit this past summer (very being the operative word), but mostly it lived on my design wall while I tried to decide how to quilt it.

For the past week or so, I have been like a demented squirrel dashing in and out of my quilt room to work on it every chance I could, and I'm happy to report I was successful in finishing it and hanging it yesterday.  I think it looks good in the spot I made it for, and I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.  (Yay, score one for our side!)

Now I can start on something new!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Have you ever done something really clever that makes you feel really stoopid?

A couple of weeks ago I had a portion of a loaf of bread (homemade so I didn't want to toss it to the chickens . . . sorry, girls) that was getting a little stale.  Both Papa Pea and I like croutons in some of the soups I make so it dawned on me that I could cut the bread into cubes, freeze them and pull an amount out when I needed croutons.

Well, duh.  Why had I never thought of that before?  Tonight I took some from the freezer, heated them up in some butter in a skillet, seasoned them with garlic salt and served them with our homemade Cream of Tomato soup.  How super-easy and convenient.

I suppose now I'm going to find out that all of you have done this forever, right?  Oh well, some of us are a little slower than others.  (Maybe a lot slower.)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum . . .

Most likely, we all erect the annual Christmas tree in the same spot in the house each year.  In the house we had before this one, there was actually a very good spot for the tree if I rearranged the living room furniture in a certain way.  (That was no problem for me because I frequently rearranged the furniture.)

We've been in this home for coming up on twenty years and even though we've added on a room that is now our living room, there's no way I can fit a tree in that small, but cozy, room.

So the tree (and a small tree it must be . . . although this year it turned out to be smaller than usual) remains in the kitchen perched upon the top of a cabinet.

This miniature version of a tree is okay with me as I'm not particularly fond of decorating the tree (and taking it down!) anymore, so the smaller the tree, the less time it takes.  Our daughter still hassles us a smidge nearly every year about when are we going to again get "a real tree" (i.e., regular sized one that stands on the floor) because that's what she grew up with, but I don't think it's ever gonna happen.  Unless we move to a bigger house.  And I know that's never gonna happen, because we've got too darn much stuff to ever move!  Besides, we're firmly entrenched here and love it.

Anywho, back to Christmas tree placement.

Where does the tree reside in your home?  Is it in a convenient place, or does it halfway block a doorway?  Or main entrance?  (Oops.)  Or take the space where the dog's bed usually is?  Does its placement keep you from accessing the kitchen sink?  (Now there's an idea . . . )  I'm assuming it doesn't block the view of the TV/DVD screen?  Do you have to rearrange furniture to fit it in?  Does hubby's favorite chair get relegated to the garage during the holiday season?  (Let's hope not.)  I'm curious.  Is it a problem making room for your tree or do you have the ideal spot for it?