Wednesday, April 30, 2014

One Little Quilt

I machine quilted this panel quilt.. (I only added the checkerboard top and bottom.) I did wavy vertical lines.. they don't even show up! But that's fine with me. The back is a piece I got free at a recent retreat where they had a huge pile of "free" stuff.. what a treat to find a piece large enough for a quilt back! This quilt is 39" x 52".

This one is going to Wrap-a-Smile, to wrap a child after cleft lip/cleft palate surgery.

Last weekend I had a blast in Iowa. My next post will tell you all about it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Books - a Plane Crash

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
A plane crashes in a vast wilderness area. The pilot dies, the two passengers, a man and a woman, survive but with injuries. Luckily the man is a surgeon and knows how to help keep the woman alive and healing. They experience various adventures, and it's one of those quick reads where you want to keep reading to see what happens next. I enjoyed the book... until the end. I did not like the ending. It cheapened the characters, especially the male.

A good beach read when you want something entertaining but not too deep.. and if you can look past a mediocre ending.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

World Book Night - Planning Makes the Difference

World Book Night takes place on April 23, when volunteers all over the country give away free books. I have been a book giver since the beginning of World Book Night here in the U.S. This year I had the most fun of all.

In the past I have wandered through the city, giving books to people in random venues such as near a homeless shelter or to people getting off a city bus. I had mixed reactions, some enthusiastic, some not.

This year I decided to plan more carefully. I contacted a teacher at a local adult learning center. We agreed on a time for me to come. I showed up and was pleased to discover that the class had talked about the book I was to give them, After the Funeral, and had learned a bit about the author, Agatha Christie.

There was a lot of excitement about getting a free book, both from the students and from the teachers. The teachers told me that they often use their own money to provide a classroom set of books. I talked about World Book Night, explaining that we were celebrating William Shakespeare's birthday, and some details about how it works through a large network of volunteers. They seemed impressed.

The class plans to read the book together, and as I have not yet read the book, either, I later purchased a copy for my Kindle and plan to read it along with them. Making this connection was a lot of fun!

If I am a giver again next year, I definitely will plan ahead. It makes a big difference when the recipients are prepared and excited.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sweet Great-Niece!

Here is Great-Niece with the quilt I sent her. She's waving and probably kicking, too... that's why she's all stretched out looking so long. Isn't she adorbs?? Sadly, I haven't met her in person yet. I imagine I probably won't get to until Thanksgiving or Christmas... or if I'm lucky, mid-summer. She lives 1,000 miles away.

Here's an oldie, from last Christmas.. I don't know if I showed you this pic before. This is another set of great-n's. Great-niece and great-nephew who are cousins to the above sweetie. I bought these sweaters for them in Paris, France! High fashion babies.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I Love Quilts!

Newsflash: I love quilts! Surprised?

These first two are my Hands2Help Challenge donations this year. I have decided that this first one, which is completed, will go to Quilts of Compassion. It is 39" x 54".

This next quilt, which is not yet completed, will go to Happy Chemo. It is about 56" x 80". This quilt is made from a block I made up. I call it Minnesota Nice. I don't know if it really is a new block design; it's very similar to existing blocks, and is made of traditional block pieces, but I like to pretend it's my own invention. I got borders on it today, and a friend has volunteered to machine quilt it for me. (She herself is a cancer survivor so felt moved to do this as a donation to Happy Chemo.) It won't be done until close to the deadline, June 1st. (I'll definitely post it again when it is done.)

Here are more quilts!

It looks fancy, but it's a pre-printed panel. I just added the checkerboard top and bottom borders.

This is a doll quilt made in the Quilt As You Go method, which I did not enjoy enough to repeat.

...a doll blankie that I knit, and another doll quilt, front and back.

... not a quilt, but it was a fun idea I learned from another Carol. It's "get well soon prayer flags." I sent this to a former co-worker who is in the hospital with two brain aneurysms! I sent it in that home-made envelope.

This is a quilt I made for my newest great-niece, now 2.5 months old. I'm hoping to get a picture of her with this quilt.

I made a pie from scratch, using my new book, Ms. American Pie by Beth Howard. This pie is delish!

Go here and scroll down past the tutorial to see more quilts (in progress and/or finished) being made for the H2H Challenge.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Gift from Nigeria

A woman recently heard about the work that Wrap-a-Smile does. She loved the idea, but is not a quilter, so she couldn't help make Wrap-a-Smile quilts. She did travel to Nigeria recently, and instead of making quilts, she brought back a bunch of fabric purchased in Nigeria, for others to use in making quilts for kids.

I was lucky enough to be the recipient of two pieces of this fabric. I'll be contemplating the fabrics and studying my books and patterns to see what inspires me. I hope I do the fabrics justice! There are several of us all over the U.S. who received Nigerian fabrics. It'll be fun to see what we all create.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Books - Two Books

Ms. American Pie; Buttery Good Recipes and Bold Tales from the American Gothic House by Beth M. Howard
Ms. Howard wrote a memoir about recovering from grief by making and sharing pies. Since that time she moved into the American Gothic House and began selling pies on weekends, writing about it on her blog, and managing to become quite famous through it all. This is her second book, full of pie recipes and her own essays. I received it in the mail, sat down and started reading and finished the entire book in an afternoon. I love it! Her essays are refreshing and clever, and the range of recipes is fabulous! I have never seen so many pie recipes assembled in one place: the usual like apple, peach, berry and then the unusual such as butterscotch, pumpkin goat cheese, macadamia nut, quiche and even chicken pot pie, which I have always wanted to try from scratch. There are also mini pies, pies in a jar, hand pies, and cobblers and crisps. A person could be kept busy for a LONG time, making all these delicious pies. I think I've died and gone to heaven!

Singing in the Rain: Weathering the Storm of Dementia with Humor, Love, and Patience by Vicky Ruppert and Ann Henderberg

Two women who met in an Alzheimer's care-givers' support group wrote this book which is a compilation of their shared e-mails and journal entries during several years of caring for their ailing husbands. This is an eye-opening and touching look into the world of dementia, the caregiver's role, including the fears, frustrations, and love they feel as they watch their life partner decline and ultimately die.

At the end of the book they have compiled much information on how to prepare your home, safety tips, tips to help endure the chaotic lifestyle, where to find help in the community, tips for helping your loved one through a hospital or ER visit, etc. Very helpful ideas.

I especially felt touched while thinking of my dad who had Alzheimer's, but was spared the worst of the disease when he died before the real decline hit. Recently my mother told me of a few things that were starting to show, such as bursts of criticisms he made of her which he would not have done in his healthy state. I'm glad that's the worst she had to endure. I also have a cherished uncle who has dementia. I am hoping to share this book with my aunt and/or cousins.

I'm glad these authors have shared what they learned through their ordeals. It will help ease the burden for others who need the reassurance while in the caregiving role.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Knitting and Other Stuff

Recently I decided that most of my day-time hours (when I'm home) will be for quilting, and evening will be saved for knitting. This is a flexible rule which I can break as I see fit, but having it in my mind gives me a nice routine to follow, which I am enjoying.

I finally finished a prayer shawl for my church. I'm not crazy about it, but it could be worse, I guess. At least it's done. I have started on a pretty red one now, which I will enjoy working on much better.

Here are three dish cloths I have knitted. I want to have a bunch of these ready for Christmas 2014, and at the rate I'm going, I won't have very many. Better increase my production rate!

While I sew, I save scraps and put them into a home-made bag such as this. When it is full, I sew up the final end, and it will become an animal bed for the Humane Society. A woman at my new guild will deliver it for me. This one, being small, will be for a cat, I assume.

This is a pillow that I sewed a long time ago, and finally hand-sewed the closed end together. I'm not sure what this is for.. maybe for my own sofa, or maybe I'll donate it somewhere. It's not gorgeous but is utilitarian and will last forever (strong fabric).

And there is even some quilting to add to this post. Yesterday I spent the day machine quilting and binding this quilt which I only made last weekend. It is rare for me to finish one that quickly, though I wish I would make a habit of that. It feels great to make one from start to finish in a short time! This one will be donated through the Hands 2 Help Challenge for which I have a button in my sidebar. Read about it and tell me which of the three charities you think I should donate this one to! Here it is, front and back. It measures 39" x 54".

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

This, That and the Other Thing

It has been a while since I came here to just chat. So, let's see.. what shall we chat about?

First I'll tell you that my mom is doing SO WELL. We still are not 100% sure, but it now looks like she does not have cancer. In any case, she is experiencing no symptoms at all, and even if she does have it, she probably would do nothing about it, so we're taking life a day at a time and are happy that she is feeling good. She did see the gynecologist who thinks the mass on her ovary is "nothing to worry about." We'll take it!

Her pain from the palindromic rheumatism is being managed with medications (that is, as far as I know she has had no reoccurrence of the pain attacks). She is going to see a rheumatologist next month. Gathering more information will be a good thing.

She "graduated" from physical therapy and was told it would be a good idea NOT to use her walker! It was just messing with her proper walking technique.

My mom is amazing.. 93 years old and still sharp as a tack! Maybe a dull tack, but still a tack! I'm very happy with these outcomes.

As for what I've been up to, I made two more quilt tops:

I have been back to my guild's quilt show a couple of times and took more pictures. I love this quilt with the lopsided boxes!

Somewhere, I think Facebook, I saw this idea called Dear Photograph. You hold up an old photograph in the same place where it was taken. I tried it with this one.. my daughter when she was 14. She'll be 34 later this year! I definitely will be doing more of this with other photos and other times/places in my life.

I'm still reading lots, but feeling very frustrated, because I can't find my Kindle! I know it has to be in my house somewhere, but I've looked everywhere. I haven't given up hope yet, but it's frustrating, and I miss my Kindle!

Last night I stayed up to watch the moon eclipse. I saw the eclipse, but not the "blood red" that happened. I got too tired and went to bed before the red showed up. Others have captured some really nice pictures of it, though (SIL: WTG!).

And for the last bit of good news, guess what is happening in Minnesota tonight and tomorrow! SNOW, AGAIN! We are being tested.. how long can we hang on without going completely bonkers. I think we're getting pretty close to the edge of bonkers land.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

This Message is Being Delivered by Stage Coach

"Oh, oh the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin' down the street, oh please let it be for me!" You may recognize that song from The Music Man. Well, yesterday I learned a bunch about the old Wells Fargo Stage Coaches used in early American history. We "pals" of second graders (it's a volunteer thing I do) got to accompany our kid-pals to the Wells Fargo Museum in downtown Minneapolis. (My pal is the kid in the green T-shirt.) It was quite interesting!

Here is an actual former stage coach. This one was used in the Upstate New York area, refurbished in South Dakota, and now stands in the lobby area of the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Minneapolis. We were told that Wells Fargo owns about 20 of these actual stage coaches (around the country) from back in the day. The original stage coaches were all painted red and yellow by order of some guy who was in charge at the time, and that is why Wells Fargo still uses red and yellow for their colors today.

1. Do you know how much a one-way ticket from the "east" (let's say Ohio) to California would cost back in 1840s (Gold Rush era)?
2. Do you know how many people would ride in a stage coach? How many bags could they each take along?
3. How often would they stop for a refreshing stay in a hotel, to freshen up and rest before the next leg of their trip?
4. How long would a trip from Ohio to California take?
5. Who rides up front with the driver? What is hidden behind the driver's feet?
6. What was carried on the stage coaches that was even more important than the passengers?

See answers below. I'm making you wait.

If you try, you can see a special box tucked in behind where the driver's feet would be. See it?

How many people do you think can fit in this stage coach?
What is that sloped thing in the back called? (Hint: it's the trunk as they call it in England.) You're right, it's the boot.

Below you see a reproduction stage coach. The inside is exactly the same size as the real one we saw downstairs. The wheels and driver's seat and the boot are removed. The kids got to sit inside and then... the guide rocked the stage coach hard, and it rocked back and forth wildly. This reenacted what it felt like to sit inside the thing while traveling, trying to read, trying to sleep, trying to keep your lunch down, etc. It was amazingly uncomfortable, but of course the kids loved it!

OK, now I will answer the questions.
1. A one-way ticket was $300! Back in the 1840s this was a LOT of money.. equivalent to several thousand dollars now.
2. Get this ... 18 people would ride in one stage coach! Whoever got there first got to sit inside. The late-comers had to sit ON TOP. They all paid the same rate, no matter where they sat. 9 would sit inside and 9 on top. They were told to bring rope, in case they had to tie themselves to the top. I cannot imagine how uncomfortable that must have been. Inside, they had to intertwine their knees so they'd have enough room to sit. Ugh. Each person was allowed one bag.
3. The trip went round-the-clock, straight through. They would only stop at Wells Fargo stages (hence the name, stage coach) for a 15-minute potty break, get fresh horses, and maybe grab a bite to eat (usually black beans in a kind of mush soup that would cost $1.50). If you were slow in the potty or slow eating your lunch, the stage coach would leave without you!
4. The trip took 3 weeks!
5. Behind the driver was the Treasure Box. Inside the box was gold! When miners found gold nuggets, it had to be melted and minted into gold bars and coins, all of which was done back east. Therefore the gold was carried back and forth on the coaches. It had to be kept as safe as possible and out of reach, behind the driver's feet. They also had another person sitting next to the driver. That person carried a shot gun, and his job was to protect that treasure box from bandits! This is where we get our still-current phrase of "riding shotgun" in a car - it means, next to the driver. Funny, yes? I never knew where that expression came from until today.
6. In the boot, the coach carried the U.S. Mail. The mail system paid a high price to have Wells Fargo carry the mail. It was considered even more important than the passengers, because of the money the postal system paid, and because it was important to protect and deliver the mail. (People waiting eagerly for mail would maybe sing like in The Music Man, "oh please let it be for me!") If the coach needed to carry lots of mail, it would take precedence and get room in the coach before a person!

Well, what an educational day it was for me! My little pal is full of energy and loves to always be first in line for everything, so he was often way ahead of me. We got to sit together on the bus to and from the museum, so then we chatted. I don't know if he learned as much as I did, but he sure did love riding in the bouncy reproduction stage coach!

Here's a picture of the beautiful ceiling above the refurbished stage coach.

Thanks for attending today's history lesson!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Books: Amnesia

I Forgot to Remember: a Memoir of Amnesia by Su Meck. Su Meck is only 22 years old when she suffers a traumatic brain injury which wipes out all her memories. She is a young wife and mother; this book is her tale of stumbling through life, trying to make sense of the world around her. She admits that her children raised her as much as she raised them. She coped by watching others and copying them, doing what she thought she was expected to do.

It is hard to imagine living with no memories, and a new life, beginning with a blank slate at age 22. I am amazed she coped as well as she did. It's an interesting saga, with many ups and downs as she figures out her new person-hood. You may be surprised with some of the things she endures and some of her triumphs; this book is one of them.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Here's the Scoop

I guess I was exhausted... but let me back up.

Recently I posted pictures of the quilting retreat I went on. I had a lot of fun, but came home tired. Then the next day I went up to see my mom. I stayed with her for three days so I could take her to doctor appointments and help her around the house. She is doing quite well and feels good, but is tired and weak. I didn't sleep as well as usual, because I wasn't in my own bed.

And here's the scoop on my mom: we don't know much more. The biopsy they did on her liver was inconclusive, so we don't know officially if she has cancer. She does still have this large mass growing on her ovary. At her age, ovaries are usually shriveled up.. so I guess it is significant. Mom has a few options; she chose to have the local gynecologist check her out and give an opinion on the ovarian problem. That has not happened yet. She says that as long as she still feels good, she doesn't see a need to do any radical, invasive procedures at this point. So I guess her choice is to not address the possible cancer until it becomes necessary to do so, and then probably just to ameliorate the pain. I am jumping the gun a little, but this is the upshot. More waiting, and meanwhile, life is beautiful -- let's enjoy it.

I came home from mom's in a hurry, because a big snow storm was brewing. It hadn't started yet when we left the doctor's appointment, so I decided to pack up and leave and try to beat the storm home. I just made it, as the snow started to fall as I pulled into my garage at home. Whew! We got over 8 inches; I was so glad I had come home before the storm. Mom was fine and was snug and comfy in her own place.

Today I went to church, but not my own. I had heard about an artist's exhibit happening at another church, so I went. The paintings were displayed around the church, and after the service she gave a little presentation about her work. Here's one picture. I feel hesitant to show them all at my blog, since they are her work, not mine, so I'm showing you only one. I really loved her paintings! One interesting fact is, the artist is blind and only started painting after she lost her vision! She has a blog and her name is Annie Young. If you're interested, go ahead and Google her.

After all that, and I guess the worry about my mom over the last month or so, I was pretty darn tired. I took a nap this afternoon and slept for 2.5 hours!!!!! I didn't know I was that exhausted!

This is what I did after today's nap. Lotto blocks for May! (I sent April's blocks to Tammy without photographing them.)

Put this Wrap a Smile top together from blocks my sister gave me. I remember these blocks. They are from a block lotto that I used to be in charge of, years ago, and my sister apparently won the "florals" month. I have many more of them... more tops to follow.

And another week begins...good-bye, weekend!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday Books: Mississippi

This week I read Ever is a Long Time: A Journey into Mississippi's Dark Past by W. Ralph Eubanks. Eubanks grew up in Mississippi. He was very young during the Civil Rights movement and so was only slightly aware of what was going on around him. Eubanks met Medgar Evers when he, Eubanks, was only 5 years old, for example. It wasn't until years later that he realized the importance of some of his early experiences.

When he grew up and left Mississippi, Eubanks had fond memories of the farm and the town where he grew up, having been mostly happy during those years.

Of course, as an adult Eubanks is aware of the violence that took place during the Civil Rights Movement. He goes back to Mississippi to research archives and explore the place that he remembered so fondly, attempting to find a link between his fond memories and the society as it was and is in the state of Mississippi. He finds horrendous acts which were perpetrated both covertly and openly by the government. The attitude of the times encouraged violence against anyone, white or black, who worked toward integration. He finds lists of "agitators" who were being spied on by the government as well as names of informants. He is shocked to find his own parents names on those lists of agitators, and at first he is not emotionally ready to dig deeper and figure out why. Eubanks takes a long, hard look at all of that difficult history, and also looks at the current times and measures the changes and successes he observes in Mississippi.

I give it 3 stars.. a good story of a life lived in the midst of very historic and turbulent times.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

I Retreated and Found a New Guild!

I went on a quilting retreat this last weekend and had a blast. The retreat was with a new (to me) guild, which I promptly joined: Minnesota Contemporary Quilters. I felt right at home with them. The first thing I saw and loved was a variety of supplies with a sign: "make your own name tag." Cool! Right away we're "allowed" to be creative and unique! I loved it!

Here are some photos from the weekend. First, another Carol with her name tag. Don't you just love her already??

The quilt on the right is by the Funny Carol. The others are projects I worked on. And I also worked a bit on my Verbs Quilt.

We did an Ugly FQ challenge in which you had to create something in about ten minutes. This is mine:

Another quilt of mine, and the friends I hung out with. Yes, AJ, you ended up on my blog! :-)

First item is something I made from the pile of free fabrics at the retreat. This was a Spoonflower fabric that I thought was so pretty! And the second item is a quilt made by a woman who works at Target, and it's for another Target employee.

The rest are pictures of the creativity and beauty that was surrounding me all weekend. What an inspirational group of women! I think I'm going to really enjoy this guild and find it challenging as well. I'll try to be challenged rather than intimidated. Oh.. among these pictures there are a couple of some puffy things lined up on a banister. Those are dog/cat beds filled with scraps we created during the weekend. Aren't they beautiful?? The woman who makes these delivers them to the Humane Society. She has a big container, makes a bag, puts the bag in the container like a "liner," and just fills it up with scraps, then removes it from the container and sews it up. Great idea!

I wanted to show you my name tag, but I temporarily can't find it.