Monday, December 30, 2013

Low Volume Quilt - Done!

I finally finished my Low Volume Quilt and gave it to my niece for Christmas. Long ago she had asked for a quilt: "white and lacey." I wasn't sure how to do that, so I sat on that idea for several years. Then when the low volume idea started popping up in BlogLand, I knew what to do... this is made of whites and lights, obviously, with some lace added here and there. I got the top made quite a while ago and then finally quilted it this winter, just in time for our Christmas party.

She appears to like it. :-)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Update on MIL

Whew! It has been a tiring few days. MIL went into the hospital on Christmas night. She had a bleed in her brain: a small stroke. While they were testing and determining where the bleed was coming from, she slipped into a deep slumber and could not be awakened. It was very scary. The neurosurgeon was called in, and they decided to do a temporary shunt to relieve pressure in her brain. The surgery was done right away, and she responded well. She was temporarily on a respirator, and so they decided to put in a permanent shunt before taking her off the machine.. that surgery was a little more extensive and took longer, but again she responded well. She was able to be taken off the respirator. We were very happy to see her wake up and recognize us, speak, and respond correctly to questions.

Next step is evaluation and recommendations by the rehab team. She will probably stay in the hospital for another 3-4 days. Then on January 2nd we can celebrate her 84th birthday!

We are very happy and relieved that she appears to have come through these serious events. Thanks very much for your thoughts and prayers!

This is MIL a couple years ago at a birthday celebration for FIL. Silly hats were the fashion du jour.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Books: a Five and a Three

1) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Roswell -- loved it! I give it five stars. This is the story of two kids in high school who meet by dint of "only seat left" on the school bus. They very gradually begin to be friendly, and the book takes the reader through the evolution of their friendship. It's hard to put this book down. It's very engaging, and the characters are real, believable, and lovable. (Some of the characters are not exactly easy to love, but the two main characters definitely are.)

2) Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott -- these are the three prayers she says will cover everything you need in your prayer life. She expands on the three prayers as they may happen in one's daily life. As always, she is honest about her own doubts and her own failures, as she sees them. She is very humble and yet inspiring. Despite that, I found this little book a tad boring and can only give it three stars.

P.S. I just found out that there was big controversy over Eleanor & Park in a large school district in my state. OMG!! What are they thinking??!! It is such a beautiful book! Read about the controversy here, and Rowell's response to it. She responds with class. I'm ashamed it happened in my state.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Mother-in-Law and My Son

My MIL is in the hospital with a potentially serious condition... doctors say it's not immediately life-threatening, but she has some heart and kidney concerns that complicate any treatments. We are all watching carefully for updates.

Here she is, pictured while leaving our family gathering last Sunday, with my Son's Santa hat strategically placed in the background:

I have not yet taken my turn at Hospital Sitting, as we are calling it. Family members get to sit and sit and sit while waiting for news which comes very slowly in dribbles. I'll probably show my face tomorrow (with my current knitting project).

Today I took Son back to airport for his return flight to the West Coast. It was hard to say good-bye, because I may not see him again for over a year. He is hoping to get an overseas job and be on his way there by February. I am so happy to see him excited and enthused about his future! He has struggled with some depression over past hurdles in his life, so happiness for him is way overdue. I have prayers for lots of happiness in his years to come.... but am feeling sad that he is far away and hopes to go even farther! Moms and Dads have it tough, sometimes, while we enjoy our kids' successes.

Here are my two kids in their last moments together for the next year or more:

Here is Hubby with our youngest Great-Nephew at our Christmas Party #3. I forgot to take along my camera and only had my cell phone which I find much more awkward and less satisfying for picture taking.

And circling back to my Mother-in-Law. She is one of my most regular blog readers, so if you feel like leaving her a cheery note, I'm sure that would be something she would like to read. I'll make sure she gets any note that is left for her. Her name is Shirley. Thanks to all for your kind thoughts and/or prayers.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merriment All Day and All Night

Husband's family gathered at our house for Christmas Party #1: 23 people in all! We don't have a huge house, so it was a tight fit... but was cozy and fun and FULL of laughter. We had so much fun.

Party #2 was much quieter, with only six people in attendance, but very special and fun, too. Daughter and Son may not see each other for a while, depending on what happens with Son's job search in another country! He is happy and full of hope about his new prospects, therefore I am happy for him and squashing my sad feelings about him potentially living so far away. One day at a time, right?

One more Christmas party to go, then we can look ahead to the New Year and hope for Happiness and Good Health for all.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Oh, Happy Day!

Hooray! Son came home for Christmas!

We'll have a full house on Sunday.. could have up to 24 people here! Fun times ahead!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Books: Slavery

good photo for this time of year...

This week's book is All Different Kinds of Free by Jessica McCann. Excellent story! The book is fiction based on a few true events. A court case, Prigg vs. State of Pennsylvania, really happened, and the name of the main character, Margaret Morgan, was the real woman whose life was greatly affected by the actions of Prigg and the ensuing court decisions.

My advice is to not read any summary/review that accompanies this book (except for this one, of course). It gives away too much. I hate it when the entire plot and any surprise therein is revealed in reviews. So I am not going to tell you many details except that it has to do with slavery in the 1830s, before the Civil War. There are heartbreaking events; awful things happen. You know that when you read a book on slavery. But it's not all bad, and the story really grabs you so that you may have trouble putting this one down.

Really good.. take a couple days off and read this book.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Successful Auction

Here are my two silent auction items at work, the smallest silent auction in the history of humankind:

But don't bash Small! It did well.. $15 for the blanket and onesie on the right, and $12 for the table topper on the right. That's $27 for a food shelf collection our office is doing. Not bad, eh?? Next year, if I get my act together, I can see if other people want to contribute, and we could do a bigger one! Fun!

Here's a hat I recently knitted. I'm starting a scarf to go with it, and hopefully some mittens, too. I got lots of this pretty yarn at a sale when a knitting store went out of business.

Here's our humble little tree. It's a fake one that I got at a garage sale for $10. I love bargains!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I Give In -- I'll Join the Tea Towel Challenge

Tea towel challenge!! I guess I'll try again. I did one over at Bumble Beans, Inc., and never finished, because I wasn't happy with what I created.

There's another one going.. here:

I'll try again. I don't have a towel at hand and have no particular design in mind, so this will be a complete mystery and adventure. Stay tuned!

a restaurant in San Diego... totally unrelated to tea towels, as far as I know! Maybe they sell giraffe tea towels there. I better go check.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Spontaneous Auction

I had a couple of home-made items and wasn't sure what to do with them, so I decided to create a "silent auction" at work. They let us do fundraisers as a community-building activity. So I created a bidding sheet and set out two items. One I did not photograph.. it's a really cute baby blanket that I bought at our church bazaar, along with a onesie that I dyed.

The other item is this, a mini table topper:

Both items had bidders, and a couple of people were competing for one of the items.. I'm happy. The money will go into our current campaign for the local Food Shelf.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Books: Me Before You

I read Me Before You by JoJo Moyes and loved it! Definitely 5 stars for this one. This was an excellent story. I loved the character, Louisa. She was a breath of fresh air, so unique and interesting! Will, a young man at the prime of his life, suffers a debilitating accident. At first I didn't understand why Will had not returned to work, but later I decided it was because of on-going health challenges and living with pretty much constant pain.

This is one of those stories that makes you question beliefs about a big issue (won't say what it is, because that would be a spoiler). Love and grief and questioning are so well portrayed in this book! It is going to stay on my mind for quite some time. I'm not happy about a decision that one of the characters makes in the end... but it was well covered from a couple of different perspectives that make the reader think deeply about the issue. Being a human being is very complicated.

Wish I could say more, but I don't want to include any spoilers here. This book was so good, I couldn't put it down; I stayed up late a couple of nights in order to keep reading and finish it.

Today, Dec. 13, would have been my dad's 98th birthday if he were still alive. Miss you and love you, Dad!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Already Revealing a Christmas Gift

This little doll is for my great-niece who is just under a year and a half old. I don't think she's going to be reading my blog and getting the surprise spoiled before Christmas. Haha! And my niece, her mother, is also too busy to read my blog, I'm quite sure. So I am showing you the little doll I found for great-niece.

She had an ugly tag on her chest, which I removed, and in the process I accidentally made a little slit in her 'skin' fabric. I sewed that up by hand and am calling it her appendectomy scar. But she wanted to wear a dress to cover the scar, so I made one.

The other part of this gift is a cute little sweater that I found for my great-niece when I was shopping in Paris, France! Ooh, la-la! I have never been able to say anything that exotic and fun before! (I even got it at 50% off.)

I believe I am all done Christmas shopping, and I'm even done mailing off all the packages I had to mail. Now I can bake some cookies. Yum!

Monday, December 09, 2013

I Feel Like Secret Santa

This is the story of collecting gifts for families in need. I am the coordinator (at church) of the donations to Food Shelf and other items that our local service agency requests for families. Lately it has been so much fun to be "in charge." I get to see all the goodness flowing from our church to people who need help.

The little tree contains gift requests ... red tags are for the family that we "adopt" and white tags are general gifts for families who do not get adopted; the agency we work through tries to fulfill their wishes and needs as much as possible. Only about half the families who apply to be adopted actually get adopted. There are not enough volunteers to serve all the needs.

the gifts assembled at the altar for a special blessing before they depart

We put them into my car; I felt like I was driving Santa's sleigh

Here they all are in my living room. I had to sort and assemble into groups for two different programs.

I was really impressed with the wonderful and generous gifts that people at my church provided.. lots of toys ranging from stuffed animals to craft and science kits to jewelry items for teens, electronic stuff, remote control cars, AND 23 sets of pajamas! Twenty-three kids will get to be warm and snuggly in bed because of all those pajamas.

Husband and I packed it all back into Santa's sleigh...

...and delivered it all to the agency today. The three boxes contain lots of wrapped gifts for the family we adopted -- three kids and two parents. Without our help, they would not have been able to afford gifts for their kids. Now their tree is going to be full and happy, and the kids will get what they want and need. Parents get a couple gifts, too, along with a grocery store gift card to provide a happy Christmas dinner.

I LOVE BEING INVOLVED IN THIS! It is so much fun. We don't know who we are helping, and we won't see their shining faces on Christmas morning, but we have shown them some love from strangers, and I feel blessed to be a part of it.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Quilt Binding Question -- Can You Help?

I made this octagon table center thingy. I'd love to make more, but I need help with the binding at the EIGHT corners! How do I turn the binding to make that 45-degree angle on these non-90 degree corners? When I get them to work well, it's always a happy accident which I don't know how to reproduce.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!! Pictures would rock, as I'm a visual learner.

The corners actually look decent in this photo, but they're bumpy and obviously done by an amateur.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Friday Books: What I'm Reading

Still no book report. I'm not done with my current book, Red Earth White Earth by Will Weaver. It's good but not great, so I don't feel motivated to grab spare minutes and bury my nose in it. Hopefully I'll have it done by next Friday.

Meanwhile I'm going to start another one. I don't like to read two at once (though I've done it many times), but I suggested a Buddy Read at my Goodreads group, Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, and it's supposed to be going on right now. So I'm going to take a detour from Red Earth for a bit to participate in the Buddy Read.

The above photos were taken yesterday after work. I sat down on a bench to arrange all my stuff, my hat and gloves, zip up and get ready for the brutal cold outside, and a reader sat down opposite me. How could I resist? I snapped a few shots. I love to catch people reading.

Today I'm staying indoors. It's about -3 F (3 below zero) outside.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

A Fun, Sew-y Weekend

Thanksgiving: fun and good food. We stayed home and had a quiet meal with Hubby's parents. After that I sewed and read. That's pretty much all I did. I felt inspired to sew, and I'm reading a good book. What could be better? Fun exudes out all my pores.

These blocks will be for the December Lotto at Sunshine. I plan to make more, at least until I use up all the green soccer fabric.
The quilt top is made from scraps sent to me by Joann. Borders will be added soon. I have made three tops from her scraps so far. I think I have another bag full of semi-assembled blocks to play with. She was prolific at one time, but unable to finish them. I am glad she shared with me. My feet are in the picture as my way of waving hello to you!

This is for the bathroom at church. I'm not sure, but I think one of my bathroom quilts was stolen.. or borrowed for a really long time, maybe? It seems to be missing, and no one knows where it has gone. Sad! This is for the empty space where my missing one once hung. It's not my fave, but it's OK for a quick replacement. I put that little bow on, but now I don't like it, so I plan to take the bow off. This quilt isn't going to look so great on that bright blue wall (see photo below). Maybe I should make something else....

Here's a photo of the missing quilt. If anyone sees this around the neighborhood, please let me know where it is! I miss this little pal that I created from my own little heart and brain. No pattern - it's a one-of-a-kind creation! Can you imagine stealing something that says "Faith, Hope and Love" on it?? I hope I'm wrong and it'll show up in some odd corner.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Friday Books: Another Week

This is another week without a Friday Books report (not to mention that I am posting this on Saturday). I couldn't find my Kindle for the longest time, and I wasn't inspired by any of my hard copy books. Sometimes I get in reading slumps. A couple of days ago I did finally start a book, and then (hooray!) I found my Kindle! I should be back in the game soon.

Meanwhile I'll show you this little doll quilt I made this weekend. After Thanksgiving I have taken time to sew, and I'm having a blast. First, I splurged and bought a Christmas outfit for one of my dolls. She wears size Preemie.

And the other doll, who loves pink, models the pink doll blankie.

Keep on reading!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Quilt for Margaret's Hope Chest

This quilt is going to Margaret's Hope Chest, to the program for women overcoming post-partum depression. It was a long time in coming.... I saved floral fabrics for a couple years, then about two years ago I made this top. Then I eventually had it quilted by Diane S. who volunteered to do some of my charity quilts for free. Then it sat around for another many months, and I finally got the binding on it this week. I promised it to Margaret's Hope Chest for November, and I barely have days left in November in which to get it posted in the mail. Sometimes a deadline is a good thing! Hoping whoever gets this quilt loves it up.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Some Thoughts on Goodwill

I just watched a clip at Facebook regarding Goodwill and the low wages they pay some of their workers, while the CEO and regional managers rake in high salaries.

First, I was not impressed with the CEO and his comments. He called his critics "elitists," a very patronizing attitude while trying to sound professional. And he spoke in gobbledy-gook without really answering some of the reporter's questions.

However, even though my experience with Goodwill is VERY limited, it has been positive: when I worked in a public school, we had training programs aligned with Goodwill. Our students would get training at Goodwill for various types of work, then they would do job try-outs. During this job trial period, they would get paid a stipend. It was very low... about $2.00/hour. BUT, it was for a limited time, and it was considered to be part of the training experience. First they would be trained, then they would be put into the job to learn hands-on; the bit of pay was considered part of their training -- how to earn paychecks, how to deposit into the bank, how absence or illness affects one's pay, etc. Because we were a non-profit, we did not have deep pockets for paying a full salary, and the stipend was an experiential learning tool.

I believe that SOME of what the reporter was looking at was a similar thing. I noticed the very low pay rates were listed as "under contract," which to me implied that they were in a training period similar to what I just described. It seems, however, that some Goodwill locations are taking advantage of this and paying skilled workers for too long at this lower pay.

Here in Minnesota I did not ever see or hear of workers being taken advantage of so blatantly. It could be happening, but I wasn't aware of it. Many of our students, after receiving training, were then hired as regular workers at a variety of places such as Target, Goodwill itself (at minimum wage or higher), and other retail locations. They also had a banking training program which led to excellent jobs in banks, a forklift training, and an auto detailing training. Every staff member I met at Goodwill was kind hearted and interested in helping people learn. The training programs were quite good and were important stepping stones for our students.

After watching the short clip on Facebook, some readers announced, "I will never donate to Goodwill again!" I don't think this is the right response. The people affected by a dip in inventory are guess who... the disabled workers you are trying to protect. Without supplies and donations, how would they keep people employed and continue to run their training programs? I agree that the CEOs (and their board of directors, if there is one) need to take a serious look at the problem, but I urge us regular folks to continue to support Goodwill (at least here in Minnesota where I think it appears to be working well). Take other steps to communicate your dislike of the low pay situation. Contact the National Federation of the Blind to see how you can jump on their bandwagon and help create change. Don't take a drastic step of hurting your local Goodwill stores which may be far removed from the problem you saw portrayed in the Facebook clip.

That's my take on the story. Remember that a reporter's story must be short and by nature leaves out a lot of the ins and outs of the real situation. What must be done is not always so clear-cut. Learn more about it before you abandon Goodwill entirely. And definitely, if a change is needed (which it appears to be, at least in some areas), work for that change while protecting the rights of the currently employed.

That's my two cents worth!