Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sorry So Late

I made a quilt for my nephew for his high school graduation. Hahaha! He's in his second year of college now (or is it, heaven forbid, his 3rd year?? Now I can't remember). I finally got it finished, and I wonder if he even remembers that I promised him a quilt. I once showed him the unquilted top, and he said it was "nice, rich colors." I hope he wasn't really thinking that it's too juvenile or too un-manly or something.

If nothing else, if he gets married in the future, his wife can use it as a lap quilt.

Here it is: not very long (I should have made it longer for his tallness), but a good size for a lap quilt. I hope it's acceptable on the manliness scale. It was machine quilted by Diane S. who always does beautiful work. I finally finished the binding today.

Happy graduation, A.C.! At least I got this finished before college graduation came along.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Recipe - Easy Vegan Meal

Per request, I am posting the recipe that I mentioned in yesterday's post.

Hey! Give me a break! It's a small plate! Alright, yes, I did pile it on that time... but I was hungry and knew it would be so tasty!

Our son taught us this quick and easy dinner idea one night when he was at our house and needed something to eat. I guess I'll just call it Easy Vegan Meal. Quantities are up to you, but I'll put down what I usually use.

Easy Vegan Meal
from son of Giraffe

rice, 1 cup raw
olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 to 1 jar of salsa (eyeball this.. for the amount of liquid you want/need)
1 can of black beans, rinsed
spices to your taste

Cook rice following directions on box. While rice cooks, saute onion and green pepper in olive oil. When onion is clear, add salsa and black beans. Add spices you may enjoy (cumin? chili pepper? use what you like; experiment.)
Stir and simmer 'til rice is ready.

Serve with the rice.

If you are missing something like a green pepper, you can improvise. I've had to fill in with various things a few times, and it's always been good. (Don't tell, but once I even added browned ground beef!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Random Thoughts

1) On my last tank of gas I got 40 mpg.

2) Our son moved back home today; his plan is to stay here for one month.

3) We stayed at a cabin in Wisconsin for one overnight. The sunset was gorgeous.

4) I hate cleaning refrigerators.

5) Our son taught us an easy, yummy vegan recipe. It's my new fall-back plan when I don't know what else to make for dinner.

6) I am enjoying the book I'm currently reading.

7) I have not sat down at my sewing machine in several days.

8) Welcome back home, Scotchie!

9) I won a prize at a recent Book Shop Hop!

10) I will always love my ex-DIL.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Books

This is Lily.. she and her daddy are reading a book that I sent to her. Sweet!

I'm going to try to remember to use Friday as my "talk about books" day. I expect I'll forget sometimes, but I'll try to be as faithful as my failing memory will allow.

I am currently reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. My one-book-a-year book club is reading this one. We'll meet in October to discuss it. It's my annual cousins' retreat where we eat, laugh, and discuss one book. Once a year. It rocks. So far I am enjoying the book, and I know if I could just get myself to sit down for an extended period and bury myself in it, I'll get hooked. I am only 9% into the book so far. It's good, but I've been distracting myself a lot.

At goodreads(dot)com I joined a "Senior Citizens" group (we still feel young) that decided to do one book per month. We just wrapped up discussion on our second book. It has been so much fun! I enjoy hearing what the other women have to say about the book. Even if it is a book I wasn't crazy about, I enjoy hearing what they came up with and what they think about various characters or plot lines. (Men are welcome,too; they just haven't joined the group yet.)

I find it hard to set the proper timing for when I should read books. I just requested two books from the library; they are for September and October for the above on-line group discussion. But I am also reading Cutting for Stone which will be discussed in October. Cutting for Stone is over 600 pages long! So if the two library books get put on hold for me too soon, they'll be due back before I get to them, and I don't like to re-new, knowing that others are waiting for the same book.

Also, when do I fit in the book for church group? AND the whole congregation has TWO books that we are encouraged to read starting this fall.

Oh, problems, problems. I know. I have really serious ones. Here are the books I need to read in the near future:
Amish Grace by 3 authors whose names I have forgotten: for book discussion group at church in September
Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen for on-line September discussion
Gravesavers by [I forgot] - was the first book chosen for on-line September group, but it is hard to find (out of print, maybe?) - so only those of us who were able to find it are going to read and discuss it.. AND will read the new September book which is Peach Keeper.
Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Z-something - for on-line discussion in October
Cutting for Stone by Verghese - for cousins' annual retreat/book discussion in October
Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian - to fit my need for an author whose name begins with X, for my A-Z author challenge which ends in December
and the two books that our whole church congregation has been offered.. one is fat!

I need to turn myself into a hermit and just READ for a solid two months, don't you think?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hypocritical Me

OK, I'm a hypocrite. I'll admit it. I probably am hypocritical in more than a few ways. But this is the one I'm going to share with you today: HOT GUYS. I still have eyes.

Here's where I am a hypocrite: I won't allow my husband ever to admit that he notices beautiful women, and I won't let him talk about any "crushes" he may have. Yet I get to have crushes. See? I'm a terrible hypocrite. He plays along with my rules, though. He's a trooper. (And just remember, I'm crazy in love with my hubby. These guys - below - will never change that!!!)

Confession: I have a crush on Adam Beach. Do you know who he is? Here's his photo. Isn't he dreamy? My niece has a crush on him, too, so we share him.

Today a Facebook friend posted this guy, Sendhi Ramamurthy. Whoa! He's another hottie. I never know who any famous people are, so I'll admit I never heard of him before, and I've never seen him anywhere. But I think my FB friend and I are going to have to share this guy, too.

Whoo! Isn't it fun to use one's eyes (and be hypocritical) every now and then???

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back From Quilt Camp

I sent myself on a solo quilt camp retreat. I went to the lake and stayed at the cabin alone. The idea was to use extended time to concentrate on making a particular quilt that is coming up on being overdue.

The four days alone were lovely, except for the times when it was TOO quiet. Luckily two of my cousins were at their cabins, too. We had time to visit and had dinner together Saturday night. That was nice.

I worked on the quilt. Made some progress. Not as much as I could have, but it's impossible to stay inside a cabin, sewing, while the weather is gorgeous and perfect for being outside. I swam once. After that it wasn't hot enough to feel tempted. I sat on the deck, reading, more than I had intended to, which cut into my sewing time. But I didn't worry about it. Who can resist perfect deck-reading weather in a lovely setting? Not I. (I finished one book and got halfway through another.)

my sewing station

One day I went into town to check out a couple of bookstores and to get some groceries. I did a toy drop at one of the bookstores. I was also lucky to discover a quilt show going on in the local museum! That was a nice little diversion and was a good show.

dropped at Beagle Books in Park Rapids, Minnesota

Quilt camp came to an end, and I had to leave Paradise. On my way home I stopped at my sister's bookstore, then did another toy drop a little further down the street. Visited with my mom briefly, and then got back on the road and returned home. (Over 300 miles driven yesterday - long day!)

As always, being at the lake was restful and lovely. One day the lake was sparkling with diamonds; another day the lake was still like a mirror. Skies were blue with puffy, white clouds, and temps were cool. Just gorgeous. I did make some progress on the quilt, though I could have made more. Not to worry. It'll get done.

toy dropped at Travelers Inn Restaurant in Alexandria, Minnesota - I forgot to take a photo of the toy before he went into the bag. Bummer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer Sewing and a Birthday

I'm finally enjoying a carefree summer without job obligations and schedules that send my mind reeling. So I have enjoyed hanging out at the sewing machine. I have had fun making blocks in the last couple of days. Some have specific destinations. Others are kind of "speculation" blocks that will find a home eventually.

Today is my husband's birthday. We had such a nice, quiet evening of conversation and some ice cream. Sometimes the simplest celebration is the most fun. I'm happy and so lucky.

If summer could go on like this for a while longer, I'd be quite satisfied.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Letter to RB

If you are RB from Czech Republic, this note is for you:

For others of you, FYI: I have had a pen pal in Czech Republic for 20+ years! Is it really that long?? Yes, because my son was four years old when we started, and he will soon be 25!

Occasionally we send each other an email. Infrequently we send real letters through snail mail. We used to write letters quite regularly! I never thought I would say this, but in these modern times I think I prefer the newer ways of keeping in touch. I have always LOVED getting real letters in my mailbox. I still do. But lately they seem harder to write. I have to feel excited about it and inspired to write something. They're still fun to receive, but not as fun to write any more. Sad! I'm surprised I have come to this conclusion. I never would have predicted this strange turn of events in myself.

Emails are easier. Don't you agree, RB? Plus, I'm aware that you read this blog, so I know you are up-to-date on my crazy thoughts and mundane activities. Maybe you should get a Facebook account. Facebook reflects even crazier moments in a person's life. I enjoy keeping up with my friends at Facebook.

RB, your most recent letter almost made me laugh. I could tell that you were just writing it to write it, maybe to please me. I think you would have preferred to send an email! From now on, I give you permission to write to me electronically. I think that's what you want, anyway. Let's be women of the 21st century and see how that goes. What do you think?

Your old pal, slowly changing with the times,

Friday, August 12, 2011

Time for Happiness

flowers at Glacier National Park

Time to stop being sad! After my latest meltdown (see previous post, if you must), I have felt much better. Son answered a bunch of my questions. I sure appreciate his patience with my journey through the doldrums. I really think I've gone through the worst of it and am on the mend. Son's answers to my questions have a lot to do with that.

Now he's planning to move to California which is bittersweet. I'm going to miss him and hate having him so far away! But he's going there because he's so happy and feeling hopeful... AND California is a great place to visit come about January!

Other things I'm grateful for:
1) great weather; relief from humidity
2) a.c. and fans
3) finishing a book that took me forever
4) those funny ladies on "The Talk"
5) great movies! ("The Help" - loved it!!!)
6) flowers
7) my family

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Music Hurts

Mary J. Blige

My son got married two years ago, and it was one of the happiest days of my life. Then things went really wrong; he and his wife have decided to get a divorce. This has been very painful for me.

I know it has been the same for them, of course. I think my son probably did most of his grieving before I even knew anything was wrong. I gradually learned about the problems and found myself grieving like nobody's business. I probably was in shock for a while. Then I started accepting it, but with difficulty.

Lately I have thought I was doing better. In general, I think I am. My son, once the decision was made, felt much happier and at peace after a long time of struggle. It has helped me to see how happy he is now.

Overall I do OK, but every once in a while I get blindsided by something that touches that raw spot in my heart, and I have a meltdown. It usually has to do with music! They used several Beatles' songs for their wedding, and I still can't listen to that music without bawling.

Today I was taken by surprise. I went to the movie, "The Help." What a fabulous movie! It was just as great as the book! At the end, as the credits rolled, a song came on that poked at my sore spot, and I lost it. I sat in the dark, alone, having a meltdown. Crying my eyes out.

I don't remember the name of the song; it was a Mary Blige song. It's something like this: "life has been hard, I've been struggling, now I'm recovering, and I'm going to be OK." It's a great song! But it struck me as terribly sad as I thought about my DIL. I don't know how she's feeling, but at least part of her must be thinking about the loss. So I feel broken-hearted on her behalf. (After all, she has lost my fabulous son.. who wouldn't be broken hearted?!)

For all I know, she may be feeling happy and at peace, like my son seems to be feeling. But I, for one, am still on the recovery road. Luckily these meltdowns are becoming less frequent.

Just don't ask me to listen to the Beatles for a while. And that Mary Blige song, whatever it is.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Finished Quilt

This is a very simple quilt that I finished today. I have NO idea where I got the inner fabrics that I used for making 4-patches. They seem a little "old-ladyish" to me, so I made sure the borders are kid-friendly. This quilt will go to Bundles of Love through my guild. It's one of our community service projects for the year.

Today I finished the borders, then quilted and bound it. Sometimes I like to just sail through all the steps and get'er done. Other times I set the top aside and wait for months before I get around to quilting and binding it. I'm glad I was motivated to get this one done today. Feels good to finish a project.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Ugly Quilts

Tonight at quilt guild we had an Ugly Quilt contest. I entered one, but alas, I guess it was too "pretty." I didn't win.

Jackie won. And before I show you the picture, I must tell you that she is a FABULOUS quilter. Everything she makes is beautiful. So this one was quite a shock. When I saw it and saw who made it, I said incredulously, "that's a Jackie quilt??" I could hardly believe it.

She once did a presentation for us on quilt embellishments. It was funny and entertaining, as well as inspiring. She encouraged all of us to try embellishing (with buttons, plastic flowers, beads, bells, whatever we felt adventurous enough to try to use on a quilt). Several of us did try; I was rather sheepish about it but did some little tiny beads on a quilt which was all I could imagine doing. Jackie herself is an expert at quilt embellishing. As I said, everything she makes is gorgeous. Perfect. When I grow up I want to be her.

So this "winning" quilt was quite surprising. Note the beautiful little dots. Those are buttons. The Queen of Embellishment used nerdy little buttons. I guess she had to start somewhere. Here's the Ugliest Quilt --

We were invited to wear ugly outfits tonight, too. I would have, but my extended family went out for dinner just before my guild meeting, and I didn't want to embarrass them at the restaurant. Jackie probably would have won for Ugliest Outfit, too. We didn't have a contest for that, though.. just the fun of looking like a dork for the night.

Jackie, thanks for keeping us entertained -- and surprised!

[p.s. my camera battery died, so these are the only photos I got for the night]

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Thoughts on Helping

home-made shorts, pillow-case dress, and a skirt that I will send to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota (a program for kids in foster care)

Recently I was with a good friend of mine, telling her about a community service project I had done with my church... only two of us had shown up, but we decided that was OK, and we did the best we could and had fun. My friend said "when I grow up I want to be you [give of myself to community]. I have it in my heart; I just don't get around to doing it." I felt surprised, but also a little sad. There must be a lot of people who feel the same way. They have a pull in their heart to DO something, but just don't do it.

Now don't get me wrong; I understand that being a good person and treating people kindly as you go through your day is a service, too. And my friend certainly does that. She's a loving and wonderful person! She just doesn't do the "more" that she has in her heart. And I think a lot of people are in her same shoes.

I always had a strong tug to help, and used to do it to an extreme with my money. I have gone broke and run up credit card debt in my attempts to help the whole world. Thankfully I have come to my senses in that score. I can't "save" everyone from their poverty and despair! Once I took up quilting (11 years ago) and also got a renewed interest in knitting, I have been able to help a lot more without going broke. I love to give away quilts and knitted items. I know fabric isn't free, but I have found many ways to do this without breaking the bank.

Life is so hectic these days. People feel pulled in so many directions and time is limited. However, I can't imagine MY life without time devoted to the helping things I do. I think more people could fit some small service projects into their lives. For example, I rarely leave the house without some knitting. When I'm waiting for an appointment, or visiting someone in the hospital, or at home watching TV.. these are perfect opportunities to pull out the knitting and whip up a hat or a pair of booties. There are always babies who need booties or blankies and homeless people who need warm hats.

Another thing I've done is start a small crafting group at my church. We meet once a month for a few hours on a Saturday and knit together. We are making prayer shawls which our minister distributes to people suffering from various crises. We also make hats and booties for preemies, babies, and homeless people. It's not a huge time commitment, but has been a fun little activity with a few great women. We have fun chatting and learning from each other. Sometimes we include going out to eat! It's fun AND helpful to our world.

At home I make sewing time a priority. I know some people can't fit this in. I tend to ignore the housework and sew. I announce to my husband "I'm helping the children!" Then I spend hours sewing some quilts or clothing items. The house does get neglected, but that is not one of my priorities. Others can't do that, and I understand. I sure wish I could have a perfectly clean house like they have! But when it comes right down to it, I'd rather sew. For me this is important, and it feeds my soul.

I just think that if people really WANT to do something extra, the time could be found. It wouldn't have to be hours and hours like I do. I'm just a little nuts that way. But most people could find some extra time to take a meal to a family with an illness, knit or crochet a hat, or deliver some library books to a shut-in. There are zillions of ways to help, and if you have it in your heart, tugging at you, maybe you should answer.

A couple weeks ago in church our pastor said something about being a friend of God's. It made me think: when I have a human friend, I appreciate and want help from my friend, but I also give them my time and attention. How does God, as my friend, want me to do that giving part of our friendship? I can't just take God's help and stop with it as a one-way street. I think the way I need to be God's friend is in answering that tug that is in my heart. That's God asking me to be a friend to others, in God's name.

I guess that's why I feel called to give and donate and help. Maybe, if you feel that tug in your heart but have ignored it, you would find some joy in exploring how you can answer and respond to the tug. It's the other half of a friendship that makes it a full, two-way street. At least for me, this has been a source of joy.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

More From Atlanta

The official photos from my recent conference in Atlanta have just been posted, so I'm sharing a few with you, to show more of the work part of my recent week in Georgia; well, except for the first photo which is a party focusing on food.

Opening reception with lots of yummy treats; I didn't get to go, but I met the woman on the right (Erin, from Alabama)

Another woman I met, Donna from Georgia, was in a workshop asking a question

Every day we had free smoothies!

One super-fun thing about these conferences is that everywhere you look, there is cool ASL going on (American Sign Language).

It is such a beautifully expressive language!

Richard, from Minnesota

David, from Minnesota

Wink, performing at the entertainment portion. He was fabulous and is coming to Minnesota on Aug 19. I might go see him again.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Reading ARCs

Crazy for Books blog sponsors a Friday book blogger hop and a question we are to answer each week. Check out Crazy for Books here, and visit all the book blogs!

Book Blogger Hop

(BTW, mine is sometimes a quilt and sometimes a knitting and sometimes a life in general blog, in addition to being a book blog.)

Here's the question for the week:
“What is the one ARC you would love to get your hands on right now?”

For those of you who don't know, ARC means Advanced Reader's Copy. It's a pre-publication copy of the book that publishers send out to booksellers and others who can read, review and begin to promote the book. So when publication date arrives, those who have read the ARC can more effectively sell the book.

Since my sister owns a bookstore, Cherry Street Books, I have been lucky enough to get my hands on several ARCs. Sometimes, however, I don't get them until the book is already published. That is the case for the one I want to read next. One of the workers at Cherry Street Books offered me the ARC for State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Turns out it was in use and not available, so I didn't get to grab it. Hopefully I'll get a turn at it before long. I'm eager to read that book.

I don't live in the same town as Cherry Street Books, so I'm not always current with which books are about to come out and am not right there to get hold of the newest ARCs. I just feel lucky to get to read some ARCs, no matter how new or old they may be.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Book Reports

I went to visit my mom and my sister. On the way, I stopped at a booksellers' warehouse and picked up several boxes of books for my sister's bookstore. Was that ever fun! I got to look through the boxes and take some books as my fee for the delivery service!

There were so many good ones! I decided to quickly read one of them and return it to my sister, because I didn't want to be such a book hog and take all of what I really wanted. I brought home three, and I read one and returned it right away. It was written in verse style, so there was sparse print per page and was therefore easy to read quickly and finish in less than a day.

The book was Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. It was written for kids, I think. I don't know for sure, though, because I loved it, too! It's a story about a boy who comes to America (Minnesota, to be specific) from Sudan and tries to figure out a new life for himself. Many of his family members died, so he is dealing with grief and loneliness in addition to figuring out a new culture and climate. The book is so touching! I just loved it and was sad I had promised to give it back! There are many people with whom I wanted to share this book. If you run across it, read it! It'll be quick, and it will touch your heart.

Sometimes I like to buy kid books at my sister's store, then I send them to Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Today I bought two:
50 Below Zero by Robert Munsch (they'll be able to relate to this weather at Rosebud)
Smelly Socks by Robert Munsch.

Here's what the back cover says about Robert Munsch: "R.M. is a storyteller and bestselling author of many books for children...He doesn't even write down a story until he has told it a hundred times or more! R.M. wrote Smelly Socks for a girl named Tina who came to a storytelling wearing brightly colored socks -- and got in a book!"

I bet being in an audience with Robert Munsch is a stitch! Good storytellers are priceless.

Oh... and one fun note about Smelly Socks... the illustrator, Michael Martchenko, drew the book to depict native people. It will be perfect to send to Rosebud for that reason! I love to find books with characters that look like the people who will read them. The book is dedicated to Tina F, Hay River Dene Reserve, Katlodeeche First Nation. What a great find!