Saturday, November 28, 2009

Still tired

I love Thanksgiving, but I've got to admit I am still a bit tired from the festivities. And it is Saturday. Holidays are so much fun, but what wears you down is all the preparation. It doesn't help that I have a cold.

I don't usually host Thanksgiving. After our parents died, Thanksgiving was always at my brother Mark's house. He and his wife Hester  had a large house with a huge kitchen that included two ovens and lots of counter space. But he and Hester divorced this year and sold the house. My house is the next biggest house in the family and so I offered to host. My house is a decent size and the kitchen is fine for average family dinners, but it is a bit small for cooking holiday dinners.

I started shopping for supplies on the weekend. On Tuesday I did the bulk of the shopping. My nephew Trevor works at QFC and his company gave him a coupon for a turkey up to 24 pounds, which he gave to me for the dinner. I found a turkey that was 23.55 pounds, which was the largest I saw under 24 pounds. As I was wheeling my cart around the store with my 23.55 turkey, three pounds of green beans, two gallons of milk, three quarts of heavy cream, three pounds of onions, and various other items, I saw this young couple with their cart.  In their cart was the smallest turkey I have every seen. It was barely bigger than a chicken. And they had all the smallest sizes you could find of holiday items. She was pregnant and they looked excited and happy about shopping for the holiday. I assumed they were spending the holiday alone. In a way I think that was very sweet, but I could never imagine celebrating the holiday without at least a dozen people. This year we had 16 for dinner and that's a small dinner for us.

On Wednesday after I got off work my sister, brother Mark, niece Jessi and I started baking pies. This year we made four pumpkin, two apple, and two pecan pies. We also brined the turkey and made the first phase of Hester's grandmother's apple peanut salad, which involved cutting up the applies and making the dressing and putting them in the refrigerator. We got off to a late start and didn't get to bed until 1 a.m., but it was good to have that all done.

On Thanksgiving day we relaxed for a bit in the morning before we got to cooking. Here's a picture of all the pies. Notice that half a pie was missing. That was the Quality Control team, which declared the pie fit for company.

Then the cooking began. We got the turkey in the oven. My brother Kirk and his wife Jolene were the first to arrive and were immediately put to work snapping beans and peeling potatoes. As the day wore on all the dishes came together--the yeast rolls, scalloped corn, sweet potatoes, and green beans. All our favorite dishes that we only make one or two times a year.

Our goal had been to have dinner ready by 6:30 and miraculously we had it ready by 6:45. That's the closest we've ever been to our goal. I think about my mom who insisted on preparing the entire dinner herself and managed to get it done earlier. I can't imagine preparing the entire meal by myself. But maybe our team will be able to improve on our time at Christmas. Or not. The important thing is to enjoy the process. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, which was also important.

I'm just glad the next holiday isn't for several weeks. I might recover by then.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Do I have to?

My sister and niece Jessi have been telling me that it is time to take down my Halloween decorations. I don’t know why they are in such a rush. It is still early November. And I am still enjoying having the Halloween decorations displayed, especially since they aren’t displayed for that long. And Jessi did such a great job of decorating.

The fireplace niche displays my collection, of, hmmm, I guess you would call them baskets since they have a handle. I'd never use them for a basket. The sconces are also decorated.

Here's a closeup of the "baskets."

The sconces are decorated with black cat napkin rings I bought on sale from Pottery Barn years ago. And one has Count Sockula.

I also have a porcelain "basket" with a collection of glass pumpkins.

On the piano are the Halloween candy boxes I bought on a trip to Whidbey Island. I was going to give one to a friend for her birthday, but couldn't part with any of them.

The candlesticks are decorated.

So is the lamp.

This year Jessi also used Martha Stewart Living patterns to make some decorations. I think they turned out great.

And don't forget this couple. I found them a few years ago at Safeway. I didn't expect to find something so cute at a grocery store.

I will miss all the Halloween decorations. Until next year.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering September 11, 2001

Today I am reminded of the events of September 11, 2001. On that day I was home recovering from the surgery I had two weeks prior. My sister and her kids had moved in with me in July. Normally I don't watch television in the morning, but my niece loved to watch Good Morning America and had it on. I was in the kitchen when I heard her say, "what the..." From the kitchen I asked her what happened. When she replied that an airplane had hit a building, I came in to watch the television with her. We thought we were watching a replay of the airplane hitting the building and then realized in horror that it was another plane hitting a building. As we watched we heard about the unbelievable details. We were stunned.

My niece and nephews went to school and that left me at home alone to watch the events as they unfolded. Because of the surgery I was supposed to be resting, but eventually I became so agitated and upset that I had to do something. I turned off the television because I needed a break from the horror. I felt the need to create something beautiful to counteract the ugliness of the day. I had been working on a folk art quilt that was in red, white, and blue. I had already finished the top, but decided that I would make a block for the back of the quilt to help me remember the day. So I made this flag block.

I have since embroidered "In Memory" at the top and "09-11-01" on the bottom, but I don't have a photograph of that yet. This block is in the upper left of the quilt back. The quilt isn't done yet, but when it is I plan to add quilting that is significant for the block.

I will never forget what happened that day. I hope to never see another event of that nature.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My first quilt

Carrie and Camille have issued a challenge on their blogs—to show a photograph of your first quilt and your most recently finished quilt. I’ve enjoyed the stories I’ve read so far and want to offer my own story.

The story of my first quilt is similar to that of Laurie Simpson. My mother and my Aunt Mary were both excellent seamstresses, especially my Aunt Mary. I loved to go fabric shopping with them and would consistently beg them to buy me the little bags of scraps that I would use to sew doll clothes. But neither my mother nor my Aunt Mary made quilts. I didn’t know of anyone in my family who made quilts.

I was about 14 or 15 when I saw a quilt project in Seventeen magazine and fell in love with it. I was surprised to see a quilting project in Seventeen, which usually focused on fashion and hair and makeup. The quilt featured an appliqué block in a star setting. I thought it was beautiful, but my mother said she didn’t like appliqué (I’m not sure she had done much appliqué previously, but if she had it had been a bad experience) so I started drawing designs for embroidered blocks instead. By that time I had been embroidering for about 9 years and it was my favorite hobby.

We didn’t have much money and I really wanted the quilt to be like the one in the picture—which was in three colors—and not scrappy. I kept pestering my mom to get the fabric and while I was waiting I thought about color schemes. When she was finally ready to buy fabric I had decided on the color scheme I wanted—cobalt blue, apple green, and taxicab yellow. I even painted my bedroom furniture the same colors to match. This is the quilt.

Although my mom had never quilted, she attacked the project with her usual enthusiasm and determination and learned everything she could about it. She helped me cut the pieces with scissors. I wish she had been around long enough for me to show her rotary cutting. I’m sure she would have loved it.

She taught me how to sew the blocks together. And there was no question that points would match. One of the best things my parents taught me was to do something right the first time. And one of the worst things they taught me is to do something right the first time because if it isn’t right I will rip out the work and start over. That’s one of the reasons it takes me so long to finish projects.

I worked on embroidering the blocks over the next several years. The designs started out simple.

But became more complex.

And even more complex.

I finally finished all the blocks and we began assembling the quilt. Then we started tying it. But it wasn’t quite finished when I graduated from college and was ready to move up to Bellingham for my first job. My parents helped me move and my mom had a surprise for me--she had finished the quilt by tying it with yellow thread. Notice there is no binding. It had been nine years since we started it.

I had this quilt on my bed for over 20 years, even though it was made for a twin bed and after college I had bigger beds. But finally I couldn’t take the colors anymore and it has been retired. The colors have faded and it needs some repairs to both the embroidery and the seams. But I will always love this quilt because I learned so much about quilting and I had the opportunity to work on it with my mom.

My most recently finished quilt is one I made for my nephew Tegan. This was a solo effort. I was inspired by the Simon the Puppy pattern.

I didn’t like the pointed head in the original and modified the pattern. After I started piecing the block I could see the advantage of having the pointed head—it was a challenge to match the points on the ears with the head. I also changed the sashing to one I thought was more appropriate for the reproduction 1930s fabrics. I quilted it myself by machine.

I have several WIPs that better illustrate my preferences in quilting, but both these quilts hold a special place in my heart.

This was great fun. And it got me to write another post. I look forward to reading stories from other quilters. Thanks Carrie and Camille for the inspiration!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Presto chango

My aunt Mary gave me this tablecloth. It was one of the first vintage tablecloths in my collection. At first I didn’t like it because of the colors—it is a very vintage palette with the red, greens, and gray.

But I love the strawberries and soon it became my favorite. I used it just about every night. And then, sadly, it started showing signs of wear.

I didn’t want to throw it away. So I started thinking about what I might do with it. I cut it in half, but I had no idea what to do next.

Then I got an idea. I decided to make an apron out of it. I’d never made an apron before. And I didn’t have a pattern. But I saw an apron at Anthropologie and took some measurements.

Most of the wear was on one-half of the tablecloth, so I cut around that half for the top and used the good half for the skirt. I didn’t want to cut the good half, so I used the entire half on the skirt.

I’m very happy with the result. The skirt is a bit blousy, but I like it. What made me very happy about this project is that this is the first time I have made something without a pattern. I feel inspired to do it again.

The model, by the way, is my niece Jessi, who agreed to model on one condition--that I not show her face. I mentioned the skirt was a bit blousy? No way I wanted to be in the photograph. I think the apron looks much nicer on Jessi's slender frame.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Starbucks oatmeal

I am ridiculously happy about having Starbucks oatmeal for breakfast at work this morning. I know that for the price of a Starbucks oatmeal I can buy a 12 bag box of instant oatmeal and bring it to work, but then I need to also bring in the brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and milk. And I did try that, but it didn't taste as good as the Starbucks oatmeal. What can I say? When I buy the oatmeal at Starbucks they know that I like to have some steamed milk to add to it and they make me a small cup. And I can add the cinnamon while they are making me my grande latte. In these economic times I am trying to cut back on expenses. But I think I might just splurge on Friday and get Starbucks oatmeal. Because it tastes so good and it makes me ridiculously happy.