Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back

2010 was a good year! I did a lot of soul searching, lots of reading, I retired, and I'm still re-designing myself every day. Let's look at the nitty gritty:

January: we celebrated Father-in-Law's 90th birthday. His birthday is early Feb., but we held the party a few days early. He hosted and made his own birthday cake! Also in January the Haiti earthquake shook the world.. the good part was the response of compassion and care from the rest of the world. I participated in Craft Hope for Haiti which raised about $20,000 for Doctors Without Borders!

February: in the early months of the year I did a lot of sewing. But in February I also re-visited knitting. I learned knitting LONG ago, but didn't do much with it until this year. It has been fun to expand my knitting prowess bit by bit.

my most recent knitted project - I love how the top of this hat turned out

March: I began to realize that my retirement date of mid-June was not that far off. I started thinking about how I wanted to plan and handle my new life as a retiree. Our son's friend, J, started his walk from Minneapolis to Miami, to raise money for Haiti. We attended his send-off.

April, May: busy! Work and church kept me busy. Thinking and planning my future life kept my brain whirling. I was knitting a LOT of dish cloths to be ready for our mission trip in June.

June: I retired on June 10! My co-workers hosted such a nice party. Looking back at my career in the schools, I feel very blessed to have had such a great career. I attended my third mission trip to Tree of Life at Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota (with a group from my church). We took along over 100 knitted dish cloths as gifts to the people there. Loved the work and bonded with the people on our team. It's a very special place. Two dear quilter friends died in June. They are very much missed! In June I helped coordinate a quilt to give to K, a woman who lost everything in a massive tornado.

one of the dear (and silly) children we met at Rosebud

my pal came all the way from Georgia to help celebrate my retirement!

July: two fun reunions -- my 40th high school reunion, which confirms that I really am getting old, and a reunion of cousins on my dad's side. We had a blast. Really glad we started this reunion tradition four years ago. Family ties have been strengthened.

lots of Crazy Cousins

August: husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary! We're more in love with every passing year. What a gift! We took a fun and relaxing vacation in northern Minnesota.

Charles at Jay Cooke State Park

September: we bought new washer, dryer, and dishwasher. Feels so luxurious to have brand spanking new appliances! School started up again, and I did not return. This is when retirement felt real. I had a very happy fall, loving being retired.

October: started my new role as a sub in two different school districts. It's a fun, new life for me... working hours are similar to what I used to day dream about (i.e., sporadic and optional). In October Father-in-Law had a life-saving heart valve operation. His vim and vigor came back, and he's doing very well.

Rochester (Mayo) saved his life!

November: I realized that I have felt burned out with quilting and that I need a major overhaul in how I approach my quilting tasks. For now I'm concentrating more on knitting. I made four hats for homeless people, a few scarves, hats for family members, and zillions of dish cloths. I am now branching out into "real" garment items, with trepidation and excitement.

December: Christmas was so much fun this year! We had three family parties. All were happy, cheerful times. I got sick for the first time in many years, but managed to feel better just in time for the holidays. New Year's Eve -- watched "Monk" on TV with my husband, and now we're just hanging out. He may have already fallen asleep (90 minutes 'til the ball drops).

I attended a quilt retreat in Wisc.. one of the few times in the second half of 2010 that I felt motivated to sew

Son and DIL at Christmas party #1

Daughter and faux SIL at Christmas party #1

All year: continued my work at church. It keeps me busy, and I am driven by my belief that we need to help others and each other. We can always do so much more, and I am happy that my church provides an outlet for me to learn and participate. I'm president of UMW (man, do I have a lot to learn in that role!), participate in mission work as much as I can, love my friends at book group and love reading with them, try to keep my eyes open for more opportunities to serve.

I added up my reading list: I read 40 books in 2010. I do plan to continue my A-Z reading challenge in 2011, this time by author's last names, A-Z. Should be another fun year of reading some great books!

That's my wrap-up, dear readers! I am honored if you choose to stick around and continue to read my blog. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 - Very Odd!

Recently I discovered that both my kids have preferences for even numbers. For example, while using a remote to change the volume on the TV, they want to stop it on an even number. My daughter has asked me to click it one more time if I left my volume on an odd number. She was happy when she got to move out of an odd-numbered apartment and into an even-numbered one.

There are four members of our immediate family. We were all born in even years, on even days. We all have five letters in our first names. That's an odd number, but at least we all have the same, and four of us with five-letter names makes 20 letters. See? It works out great.

I never really paid much attention to odd/even numbers myself. I've paid a little more attention to them since my kids told me about their preferences. Since they told me, I usually leave my TV volume on an even number, in their honor, I guess you could say.

All of this is just leading up to my original thought for today: we are soon to lose our even-numbered year and move into an odd one. Here is where my number preferences start to show: I don't like writing the numbers one and eleven, in digits. I often don't get them as straight as I want them, and the two digits in eleven usually are not parallel. Sometimes I try to make them straight, but they still slant the wrong way. That bugs me! If I'm asked on a form, how many "whatevers" do you have, and the answer is one, I'll write the answer "one" instead of writing the digit 1. That digit, 1, all by itself, looks too lonely and too easy to misinterpret. I'm already thinking how happy I'll be when we change from 2011 to 2012.

Maybe my kids come by their number fixations honestly. Who knew? I know I have some other weird secrets about myself, but I didn't think it had much to do with numbers.

Did you know that I secretly count things? And now that I think about it, counting is related to numbers! I count objects in clusters, and I count body parts on people. Weird!! Maybe I'll explain that one in a future post.

What do you think? Do we all (in my family) have OCD? If so, I hope it's an even number of us who do.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Party #3

Party #3 on Boxing Day: Hubby's side of the family celebrated at nephew's new home. He is a new resident at a nearby hospital. We're so proud of him! After all his years of study, he was able to begin his career at a wonderful institution and to buy his first house. He graciously hosted on his one day off.

She just got a Yahtzee! :-)

Since this is my third post focusing on Christmas parties, I think I should include some thoughts in addition to the photos.

I loved all the family time. At each party we enjoyed lots of cheerful, happy, laughter and fun with each other. We ate great food, opened gifts, played games. At my sister's house, the younger generations played outside in the snow for a long time, grooming a sledding run and thoroughly enjoying the excitement of snow play. With hubby's family we played a couple of long Yahtzee games full of laughter and good-natured teasing.

Sometimes I look around and am shocked at how time has passed. The youngsters have grown so much that they are now the parents and the young adults that used to be the role of my generation. It is an odd sensation to see that happen, yet fun and heart-warming, too. It makes me think of the family heritage, our now-departed ancestors, and all the family times we enjoyed over the years... the memories the youngest ones are now making.. all that lovely family stuff that runs so deep. Love it.

My mom had a short diabetes-related incident. She was sleepy and had a hard time waking up. We realized she needed to get a quick snack. It took her a while to perk up. It was a little alarming. Niece had a story about an incident she witnessed recently, also. Later we had a group discussion about how to keep a better watch on our mother and her medical needs. She is almost 90, and it appears to be time for us to be more attentive and involved.

All in all, the family ties were kept intact, strengthened, and appreciated. I guess that's a big part of what I hope for at Christmas time.

Party #2

Party #2 on Christmas Day: celebrating with my side of family at sister's house.

The snow was beautiful. Kids and younger adults went outside and sledded down the hill for a nice, long time of play and fresh air.

the younger generation

What could be better than... ...a Harry Potter calendar...

...a truck...

...a pink tutu?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Party #1

Party #1 on Christmas Eve, 2010: Celebrating Christmas at home with our children and their families.

I love the inventive way my hubby wraps gifts. On this one he used a leftover piece of yarn I had left on the wrapping table.

He and I opened gifts to each other before all the company arrived.

DIL's enthusiastic response to one of her gifts.

This quilt is for our daughter. She knew about it long ago, in fact she picked out the fabrics; I've been working on it for 3 or more years. It was a surprise to her that it is actually (almost) done.. and that the quilting was done absolutely beautifully by a master quilter/friend of mine. I still need to get the binding done. I put it off 'til the last week, and then got sick, so it didn't get done.

another view of the beautiful quilt

As you can see, we were cheerful and happy and had a good time.

The favorite gift was probably that Student Thesaurus. And I am the Queen of England.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blame it on the Strep

I felt better long enough to write that last post, and to go out and enjoy a fun evening. Then I got worse again, and today went to the doc only to find out that I have strep. That explains why I was so low on energy and not really getting any better. Today my sore throat was really bad. Doc said I have "tonsils of a 5-year-old."

But who wants to dwell on those icky details?! Not me.

I have one more gift to wrap... oops. Two. I just remembered one that I'm making that isn't quite done. Food is planned. We're kinda ready for Christmas. I have not been in the "magic mood" yet, but I think being sick has hindered that. Hopefully I'll get into the mood as I feel better (I'm on meds that should help soon.. hooray!)

Yesterday I did my Christmas toy drops; both the toys were found, and the receivers reported back in! Usually the receivers don't report in, so I was lucky to get word on where both my toys ended up.

Last week I was interviewed for an article in a local paper. After it was all done I thought of all the clever and profound things I should have said but didn't. Maybe the reporter will make some up for me. I should have told her to go ahead. I wasn't thinking straight. Blame it on the strep.

I finished reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. At first it was entertaining, sweet, and I was interested. By the end I was tired of it. I don't like it when a book contains a young character who thinks and speaks like a grown, mature adult. That's what I felt about the main character in this one. I can see, if one wasn't picky about that, how the book might be highly enjoyable. That was too big a stumbling block for me, though.

Now I'm reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Now there is an author who can put together a good sentence! I love a good piece of writing.

I think I'll go back to the sofa and curl up in my quilt again. It has been my second home this week... but, wasn't I trying not to dwell on those icky details?

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. Hugs to all who are missing loved ones.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ready for a Toy Drop

I'm feeling better! Wheee! I'm not back to 100% health yet, but I'm able to function. Just in time, because I have a "date" tonight with my book group to celebrate... everything-- being friends, reading good books together, and Christmas. Our group probably will not meet for a while. People's busy lives are interfering with their ability to commit to extra reading and time for our meetings. I'll miss it, but I agree that it's a good time to take a break and find new things for our energies.

I have a couple of toys ready for a Christmas toy drop over at Toy Society. Here's one.. a little doll with her own blankie. And here's the other, a robot toy. I plan to drop them later this evening or tomorrow. Haven't decided where yet. Toy drops are such fun!

Have a great week, everyone. Don't eat too many Christmas cookies!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Feeling Bleeccchhhhy

Sunday I woke up with a sore throat. As the day progressed I felt worse, even though I slept most of the afternoon. Today I am still battling the sore throat and a little bit of head stuff. It's not terrible, but my energy is in the basement. And I just hate sore throats! I can't even swallow! I'm trying to be patient until recovery, which I know will come. I just hope it happens in time for final Christmas preparations.

I've been parked on the couch for a couple of days. Once in a while I work up enough energy to do a little knitting. This is going to be a lap blanket made from leftover yarns. It's bound to be a long-term project as I don't have that many leftovers, being relatively new to the knitting craze. The leftovers will come as I make more hats and other lovelies.

Meanwhile, I'm very happy to have found our Ricola (throat lozenges) and to have a nice couch on which to crash. Now if only I could do something about the quality of day-time TV.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Busy December

Well, we made it through the big storm. We must have had two feet of snow in our driveway. It was a HUGE job getting our driveway shoveled. It took all day on Sunday, working in shifts. We still have half the driveway covered in snow.. it was just too much doing it all by shovel. Daughter and her BF plan to come over this next weekend with their snow blower and help us finish the job. Meanwhile, more snow is on the way! Oh, boy. That's all we need.

It was even a big job for the snow blowers.. this is our neighbor. (We use shovels.)

our mailbox was buried but has now been revealed

Christmas plans are firming up, and I'm almost done shopping. Have been wrapping for a bit this evening. I used to love to wrap Christmas presents. After all these years, I'm starting to feel a bit tired of it. So I do it in an extended fashion over many days.

I've been working almost full time the last couple of weeks! It has been really fun, but I don't like being that busy. However, I've had a nice mix of jobs between my two school districts. (And soon I'll get the same winter break that the schools get, so I'm not feeling overworked by any means.)

This week I'll have two days in my old district, and I worked three days filling a vacant Teaching Assistant position in the other district. I just loved the schedule and the kids. If I were in the market, I would definitely apply for the job. I hope I'll be able to fill that position again before they hire someone... although it would be in the best interest of the students to get the vacancy filled.

Today I cried at the end of the day! I felt so filled up with wanting things to go well for those students and with my full respect for all the fabulous teachers I got to work with there.

Maybe it's just this great state of Minnesota, but I'm not seeing the disaster in the public schools that Oprah and others are crying about. I know things can definitely improve, but let me say this publicly: there are far more fabulous teachers out there than bad ones. I've been so lucky to work in the field of education!

Last night I attended the monthly meeting of my local quilt guild. It was a Christmas party, and we had a good time, ate lots of good food, and saw some great quilts.

This woman is wearing a small crazy-quilt-cape made by her great-grandmother (in the picture). It was recently discovered among her mother's things after her mother's death.

I haven't done much sewing or quilting lately, but I've been knitting now and then. I made this hat for me, and another hat which is a gift for someone. Notice the preponderance of blue yarn? Yes, I purchased many skeins of the blue wool while it was on sale. I'll be using it for a while.

One final note: while working these last three days, I was placed in a junior high English class which is reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. The discussion was so interesting that I got excited and ordered the book for my Kindle. It cost a whopping 99 cents. I'm sure I've read Tom Sawyer in the past, but it was a long time ago, and I'm excited to read it again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An Old Fashioned Winter

This is a winter like you read about in pioneer stories, when storms raged for days, and they had to tie a rope from the house to the barn so they wouldn't get lost in the white-out conditions.

I'm happily snuggled into my warm house, watching the storm from a safe vantage point. This is a biggie! It has been snowing hard all day, and next will come the wind (to make big ol' snow drifts and snow packs that are impossible to drive through). And the temperatures are going to plunge.

This is a yard stick on my deck. That first number you see is 20, as in 20 inches! And it's still coming down!

view of our neighborhood

This bush is in our front yard... at first I had Christmas lights in these bushes, but the lights stopped working, so I pulled them off. If I'd left them on the bushes, they'd be totally buried.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

More Books!

Update on my previous post, Quilt For Sale: the current high bid is $100.00

I'm on a reading kick again! Too fun!

I just finished an interesting book called Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt. Helga Estby was a pioneer woman, originally from Norway. She lived in Minnesota for a while (in a sod house) until they re-located to Spokane, Washington. In 1896 she walked from Spokane, WA to New York, NY! She did it to win a $10,000 pot to save her family's farm that they were close to losing. This is a true story, and just amazing. One sad note: along the way, Helga kept careful notes of her adventures, and years later she began writing a book about her walk... but she didn't finish it, and her descendants threw it away!! So the book that exists had to be re-constructed from the remaining records such as newspaper articles. I kept finding myself wishing we could have heard her own first-person account. She was such a FASCINATING woman, way ahead of her time in many ways.

I am currently reading News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist by Laurie Hertzel. She worked for the daily newspaper in Duluth, Minnesota and is currently books editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I'm not too far into it, yet, but it's an interesting tale of how she made her way from an unsure, timid young woman to a successful 20-year career in Duluth. In the early and mid-70s being a career woman was tough. Men were not very welcoming.. I remember those days, too. How far we have come, thank goodness!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Quilt For Sale - Silent Auction

Quilt for sale! Recently this quilt was donated to the local United Methodist Women's unit of which I am president. It is being used to raise funds to further our work in supporting mission.* We are offering it for sale via silent auction.

The top was hand quilted by a group of women in 1988. The quilt is approximately twin size (a large twin, possibly a full size quilt). I'll measure it on Dec. 5 to get the exact size and will add that info here.

As a reader of my blog, if you would like to own this quilt, you are invited to bid on it! To bid on this quilt, send me a private email with your name and bid amount. Minimum bid is $50. If you win this quilt, I will ship it to you free (in the U.S.A.) Leave a comment here, and I will send you my e-mail address.

Silent Auction closes on December 12, 2010 at exactly noon (Central Standard Time).

High bids will be posted (numbers only, no names) periodically so you can see where you stand in the competition for this warm and lovely quilt. You may re-bid at any time until the auction closes.

Bid generously to win, and also to help UMW support local and global mission work.

* UMW supports a lot of mission work such as a housing project right here in Minnesota that helps women who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.. giving them support to get back on their feet and be self sufficient. UMW supports similar work to help women and children around the world.

Further details: This is a pretty quilt, and a nice, large size and is warm. I believe the batting is polyester. The original owner says the top was made in the 1930's, but I believe there are several fabrics that are newer and are repros rather than actual 30's fabrics. There are some authentic 30's pieces, I believe, but not all. Check out the bright red that pops out in the photos. I don't think those are from the 30's.

It is hand quilted by a group, therefore stitch consistency is what you get from a group. It does not have traditional binding. Here is a picture showing that detail:

My impression: a nice, cuddly, warm, pretty quilt. Not super-well put together, but it's not terrible. You could probably own this quilt for an affordable price. Don't expect it to turn into an heirloom, but it should give you many hours of happy, warm cuddles.