Thursday, December 22, 2011

Some Holiday Thoughts

Blogging has been difficult the past few weeks.  As I mentioned, my room is being used as a bedroom so I'm relegated to the desk in the laundry room.  This is a high traffic area and everyone who comes through finds it necessary to check out what I'm doing making the writing a bit difficult.  But I'm glad for the busyness of the season this year.  Ironically I have more time to enjoy the activities surrounding the holidays but we won't have a full house of children around us this year.  I knew this day would come and honestly I thought it would have come sooner than this.  Even now, five days before Christmas, plans are not settled.  It appears as though we will have a sort of drawn out holiday with different groups coming at different times between Christmas Day and January 5th!  We are going to try to keep our live Christmas tree up for the entire time, but I have a feeling it will be little more than twigs by the end.  I like our tree this year.  It's symmetrical, narrow and fragrant.  However, the male members of my family (that would be ALL the rest of the members) feel that if a tree isn't so big that you have to wrestle it into the house and into the stand and then cut a substantial part off so that it will fit, then it isn't big enough.

Gifts:  I'm satisfied with the gifts I've purchased this year.  My only regret is that I'm seldom able to find a "wow" gift for my husband. There are a tremendous amount of presents under the tree awaiting the great unwrapping.  Most of them, I hope, will be useful to their recipients.  We started early and bought and bought and bought.  Then we wrapped and wrapped and wrapped.

Baking: I will make our traditional cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning breakfast, but I don't think I'm going to bake cookies this year.  We won't have enough steady company to use them and with my diet and my husband's Diabetes, we don't need the added temptation.  But there will be pumpkin pie for Christmas dinner desert.

The house is decorated.  The cards are sent.  The only shopping left to do is for groceries.  The boys are all in good places  in their lives for this year and that is truly the best Christmas present I could have although I know I will enjoy the many boxes my endulgent husband has placed under the tree addressed to me as well as those thoughtfully picked out by my sons.

So, Merry Christmas to all my mythical readers out there and to my one special reader in New Jersey (you know who you are!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Table Runner: Branching Out

The holiday season has taken much of my time lately.  This is the first Christmas in my adult life that I wasn't juggling a job or a house full of children along with the holiday activities so I've had time to actually enjoy the decorating, shopping and wrapping.  Along with that, my sewing room is now being used as a bedroom for son #3 home for the college break.  But he took a short trip to visit his friends last week and I decided to work on a small project that I had planned.  I wanted to make a table runner for son #1 using signal flags to spell his name.  He has had a sort of nautical theme to his decorating so I thought it would fit in and provide a little color to his place.

I've learned a few design things on this project:  It's hard for me to make anything small.  I don't think this is too big, but it turned out much bigger than I planned.  Even though I tried to make the whole thing un-frilly the quilting alone sort of adds a feminine quality to it.  I think it will still be OK. 

And a few lessons learned about construction:  It is difficult to make reversible even when you are working with the multiple layers of quilt construction.  Making the binding the same color as the border helped camouflage a bit of unevenness.  Try as I might something became uneven in the quilting.  You can see what I mean in the pictures.  I don't think it is too unsightly and might only be noticed by another quilter.  The points will hang vertically so they won't be very visible.  I got to try my hand at applique for the black circle in the yellow box. I used the iron on stuff to stick the fabrics together and then used a blanket stitch around the edge.  I would rate my effort as not bad for a first attempt, but there is room for improvement.  And since the piece is reversible and to be used on the table, I sewed the second side of the binding by hand.  I used a needle with an open eye (sometimes called a cheater needle) and was very pleased with it's performance.  It was easy to "thread" even for my old eyes and pulled through the fabric nicely.  I don't know why these needles are not more poplular. Overall, I'm pleased with the project and I hope son #1 will like it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

3D Fish Quilt - Done!

I've been trying to finish this quilt for Christmas.  And it has been SO many things to me:  the most difficult quilt I've made, the prettiest, the most "artsy", the least well executed, the most fun and the most frustrating.  I've learned about a variety of techniques and I've made mistakes that I didn't know existed.  The quilt appeals to me because it ISN'T perfect and is unique in many ways - including the mistakes!

I started with this pattern.  I actually saw this in my local quilt store.  But....they didn't sell the pattern, just a kit to make this exact quilt in a very small size.  That presented me with two problems:  I didn't want to use an aquarium fish pattern, I wanted big ocean game fish.  And I wanted to make a full sized quilt.  I found my fish print fabric online and then went to my favorite quilt store to pick out the fabric colors that would coordinate with the colors in the new print.  I've never done this kind of thing, so I was grateful for the help of the people at the store.  I choose mostly batik prints to add texture and that brings me to the first thing that I would do differently:  I would have made a few different choices in the fabrics themselves, particularly some of the blues.  I've never worked with batiks and so my question is this (answers are welcomed): how do you keep track of the front and the back or does it really matter?  The fabric is so similar on both sides.  I finally used tissue paper between the layers as I cut out the pieces to help me remember which was the "right" side until I made the first seam.

Everything was cut on a 30 degree angle making the piecing a bit more challenging than simple squares and 45 degree triangles.  And there was very little tolerance for error.  If you were off a smidge here or there by the time you put the larger pieces together you were off by a LOT.  I also thought that some of the assembly directions were weird.  I tried it "their" way for a bit and then just did what made sense to me.  The end result was the same, I just pieced the sections in a different order.  I'm really amazed that the overall look is as nice as it is.
Then there was the back.  I found this fabric that I really liked for the back.  It reminded me of the deep sea with it's greens and blues and flowing pattern.  What I didn't consider was that I would have to piece it horizontally and a random pattern is next to impossible to really match.  I struggled with this and had plenty of extra fabric to work with but this is the best I got:
I decided to use the extra fish print on the back to make it look like fish swimming in the ocean.   I like the idea and it's probably the pretties quilt back I've made, but I wasn't pleased with the lack of fabric match particularly in the center section.

Then there's the quilting.  I wanted to try my hand at some free motion quilting.  I'm inspired by this website and the artisticness of this technique.  I wanted to do edge to edge quilting in the center that was wavy like the ocean and then a curvy pattern on the border to remind you of seaweed or ocean plants.  After practicing just how to accomplish this, I settled on using my walking foot for the edge to edge quilting.  I did use gloves this time to help me manage the fabric and found that very helpful.  The challenge was keeping the randomness within bounds.  You want the stitching to be fairly level with the quilt borders and the spacing somewhat even while still being free form and random.  I used pins as guides.  Keeping a smooth flowing line was also a bit difficult.  My success there was only fair.  The borders proved to be difficult in other ways.  I used a darning foot and a Supreme Slider for this part. Again, a big part of the challenge is getting even stitches and an "organized randomness".  I did find that the faster I ran the machine, the better my stitches looked since the machine isn't advancing tha fabric - I am. The speed made essentially for smaller, neater stitches.  I don't think my pattern looks like seaweed but once you commit you pretty much have to follow through.  I would have done a more random pattern if I started again.  Here's a look:
I should also mention that I decided to use a variegated thread with blues and greens - again the ocean theme. 

Now, a few of my success:  I made the best mitered corners on the border in my quilting career.  And the best binding attachment I've ever accomplished.

And my biggest failure:  When I got to the end of the border quilting, the border didn't lie flat.  I was going to rip out a whole section of quilting and was pretty depressed and disgusted by the whole thing, but instead, I cheated.  I hid the extra fabric in the quilting itself by just stitching it down.  The colors of the thread helped me hide this a bit and close examination will reveal my errors but I'm hoping that these mistakes don't take the appeal away for the recipient.  This quilt is going to a teenager who loves to fish in the gulf stream.  This past summer his big catch was several dolphin fish which are well represented in the fabric.

So, it's time to wrap this one up - really wrap it up - along with the other Christmas presents.  It's been a fun first year of quilting and I already have my ideas forming for next year.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Old and the New

There seems to be this unspoken feeling that new editions of a given item are an improvement over the old.  And sometimes this is very true.  But more often, there is a trade off on features.  Some that we like may not be continued on the new item and others that offer us better options or functions are added.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I upgraded my cell phone.  I was anxious to be done with my RIM Blackberry.  This company has had some innovative ideas but they seem to focus more on the businessman than the casual user.  It was sort of slow, the interfaces were boring and there weren't many apps, or not as many "fun" apps available.  I love my new Android phone and it is so much more readable to my old eyes.  It is even smart enough to conserve its battery and shut down when I'm not using it.  But I have to admit that I miss the little light that used to tell me if I had new email or a new message without turning the whole phone on.  And I'm still figuring out how to deal with the email rules on the new phone.

So, I definitely like the switch, but it was not without a few (minor) sacrifices.  And those are no big deals except for my expectation that I would get a lot of new features without giving up any of the old.  It's a bit like the "motherism" of "Appreciate what you have.  You'll miss it when it's gone."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Red Days

A lot has been written about the start of our Christmas season.  It is slowly starting sooner and sooner each year.  Thanksgiving gets pushed aside and lost in the shuffle.  Except for food, there is not much shopping surrounding Thanksgiving so merchents seem to slide from Halloween to Christmas preparations. And now, even Black Friday shopping is part of the creep.  This year stores seemed to be competing over who could open the earliest for Black Friday sales!

Call me old fashion (or maybe just old), but I like the way it was.  I was reminded while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year that the parade was a celebration of Thanksgiving itself and only at the end did Santa arrive to usher in the Christmas season.  Four weeks is plenty of time for the hype and preparations.  If we can't accomplish it in that time, perhaps we are making too much of this commercialized holiday.

More importantly though, we need to dig out our holiday garb.  You know....those Christmas shirts and sweaters that we love but truly can only wear for four weeks of each year!  I have a large collection of red.  Now, I know that I can wear red other times of the year, except for the ones with pointsettas or other decorations.  And February gives us a chance to wear red for Valentine's Day.  But, these are truly The Red Days!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quick Blogging Thoughts and the Pirate Quilt

I still watch the stats for this blog.  I still (in almost a year) have yet to receive my first comment.  But one thing I have noticed is that my pirate quilt gets the bulk of the hits and searches.  So, I'm thinking:  What if I name each entry "Pirate Quilt" and then a consecutive number?  Just kidding - but apparently that is quite a draw.  Who would have guessed??

Secondly, I like to limit my posts to one per day, but sometimes I will have a bunch of ideas for posts, but try to hold back to spread out the publication.  By the time the next day comes around either I don't have an opportunity to post or just forget to write.  But, google in their wisdom has allowed me to schedule posts!  So now I can post my heart out and just schedule them each a day apart.  Thank you Google!

I've also discovered that even a hot number like "pirate quilt" comes up differently on different search engines.  I haven't devoted the time yet to figure out why my posts show up better on some search engines rather than others.  Perhaps that's a task for a long, cold, middle of winter day. 

So, for all you people who came to THIS post looking for my pirate quilt, sorry....try here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Daytime TV

Here's a story I often told my boys when they were glued to the TV.  When I was growing up we had one TV.  It was only turned on after dinner.  We only had three channels and my parents decided what we were going to watch.  I was welcomed to join them, but they were in control of the programs.  When there was a special children's show that I was interested in they would turn that on, and my opinion was sometimes asked, but the ultimate TV decisions were made by my parents.  There was no DVR.  Everyone had to decide on one program and if you missed it, you had to wait for the reruns at the end of the season.  The only time I watched daytime TV was when I was sick or when there was a major news event like the launch of a spaceship or the assassination of a president.  Period.

I still don't watch daytime TV as a rule and a TV on in an empty room or when a group of people are visiting still drives me a little crazy.  But lately when I sew I've turned on the TV to have something to listen to.  And, I haven't missed much.  My life is not less rich for those years without daytime TV.  There are basically four kinds of daytime TV:

  1.   News shows - or sort of news shows.  Most of them are more like news magazines because lets face it, how much news REALLY happens?  And how much hype can you put on those happenings?
  2. Soap Operas - I don't even bother.  Too much to follow when I'm sewing.
  3. Talk shows -  These are basically a host trying to express outrage at people who are yelling at each other on the show. OR they have a group of people all talking at once over each other and making it really impossible to figure out what anyone is saying (ie: The View)
  4. Judge shows - Basically a judge trying to express outrage at people with mostly silly complaints. Honestly, these cases are almost unbelievable....but entertaining and the perfect compliment to sewing.
Here's what I've learned from my sporadic daytime TV watching:
  • If you accept a gift from a man he will think you like him and maybe even that your relationship with him is exclusive and when he finds out that it's not and you don't he will take you to Judge Judy or Judge Alex for leading him on.
  • Some defendants will plan there defense according to Google information on the judge's sexual orientation.
  • When parenting gets out of control, there are always judges to explain to your offspring that they are adults and DO need to pay you back.
  • And most of all, I've learned that Regis and Kelly really have been a bright spot in the dismal land of daytime TV.  I watched his last show and he will truly be missed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

133 Has Arrived!

I'm starting to see 133 pounds now and again on the scale!  As always, it's not consistent, but 135 seems to have been banished!  I'm very glad for the change since I feel like I'm approaching a dangerous phase of weight loss.  First of all, I've lost enough weight to feel good about the process and a bit like I've "arrived".  And indeed I HAVE arrived at the first goal, but not the ultimate weight loss goal.  But the feeling of accomplishment can make me less vigilant about the quality and quantity of my intake and cause a small backslide of sorts.  Actually an occasional look into those dressing room mirrors that always make me feel fat is a good thing about now to keep me motivated to continue to lose. Secondly, we're entering into the cold weather here.  There are two problems with winter weather:  I'm naturally less active and the cold seems to make one craze heavier, richer foods.  I also shy away from cold foods in the winter like fruit out of the refrigerator or salads.  I want to put something warm into my stomach on cold days.  So I'm not doing too well on the vegetable front lately.  I need to come up with some way to eat vegetables that is not a salad but is still healthy.  And perhaps I can counter the lower activity with a little time on my husband's treadmill.  I'm hoping to keep the momentum going through the next year.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Diet Blahs

It's time that I write about my dieting again.....which is sort of boring even to me.  On the good side, I'm not gaining weight.  On the bad side...I'm not sure that I'm still losing.  If I am, it is incredibly slow; too slow to be motivating.  I'm a fan of slow weight loss.  I truly believe that the best way to lose weight is through lifestyle changes and that it takes time for those changes to become established and add up to pounds lost.  And I know that I've made significant improvement in my overall health over the past 10 months.  But when I look in the mirror, particularly when I try on clothes, I see an overweight body.  Now, let me just say that I've always wondered why I look bigger in the dressing room.  It's as if those mirrors are from the carnival house and you would think that a dressing room would want you to look better, not worse.

I've read over some old posts about my dieting (and this, in truth was one of the reasons I started to have an account of this journey) and I was reminded about a few things.  I mentioned early on that 100 calories a day will equal 1 pound a month.  I think I've forgotten the importance of saying no to the "little nibble".   At first I reminded myself to only eat if I'm hungry.  That may sound basic, but sometimes I get so caught up in eating my 2 fruits or 2 vegetables that I forget that if I'm not hungry, just skip them.  If I AM hungry - go for the healthy food.  But even healthy food eaten when your not hungry is unhealthy.  I also need to get better about throwing food away.  We tend to accumulate leftovers and I somehow feel obligated to eat them.  The problem isn't the calories.  I don't overeat on leftovers, but it leaves me eating the same thing for days in a row which makes me want to add variety with something unhealthy.  I freeze what I can, but I have a hard time throwing perfectly good food away just because I don't want it.  I really need to get over that, but that is a pretty deep seated practice established when I was growing up and reinforced during my "poor days".  It's an area where I need to find balance.

So, I'm holding at 135 with an occasional reading of 134.  This is on my new scale, so if I was to compare that to the old readings, I would be right around the 131/130 area.  I'm only a few pounds from my original goal and I would love to get there by the year's end.  Realistically, we have the holidays sitting in the way and the winter season tends to be more sedentary, but I think if I keep just a few basics in mind, I can stay on track.

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Recap

October in this part of the country usually consists of crisp, sunny days slowly declining in temperature and length and gently ushering in the holiday season.  This year, however, was the most unusual October I remember.  We started with some very sudden cold temperatures making our arts and craft festival on the first weekend of the month less enjoyable than usual. That was followed by a week or so of rain, rain, rain.  Then we had the more normal crisp fall days that are so pleasant you don't want them to end and you don't want to come into the house.  But you can't ignore the fact that the days continue to get shorter and shorter. 

October saved the craziest for last this year, though.  We ended the month with a snow storm!  Snow often doesn't appear here until January although a late November snow is not unheard of.  I've been told that this was the first October snow since 1979.  It looked like was got about five inches and most of the accumulation was on the grassy areas, although the roads became slush covered.  The trees took a big hit, though.  Many of them are still bearing leaves so the heavy wet snow made for heavy, wet and eventually broken branches around the neighborhood.  Our electricity flickered a bit but never went completely out.  And we had our first overnight frost of the season. 

I love the change of seasons and I love them even more now that I'm retired.  I can enjoy the days as they come without regard to weather it's a work day or not.  I can spontaneously change my plans according to the weather from a gardening day to a quilting day or whatever.  I can enjoy the snow from inside my house without worry about having to drive to work in it and I can walk the dog whenever the conditions seem the best for a walk, not at a particular time.  But it IS time to stock up on some hot chocolate!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Diet Check In

Well, with the year 5/6ths over, it's time to evaluate my diet.  The weight is still coming off, but very slowly now.  I love my digital scale.  It's not only more accurate, but I can see progress in smaller steps.  For instance, I haven't seen the number "136" for many weeks.  And I'm seeing "134" more and more often.  In between there I see 135 and change.  I know that weight fluctuates during each day but as long as the higher numbers become less frequent and the lower ones more common, I figure I'm still headed in the right direction.  The first time the number 133 shows up, I'm going to be excited.  I'm not sure that I will reach my goal by the end of the year but the change in scales (remember my old scale measured 4 pounds light) makes it a bit hard to determine.  In any case, though, I will end the year in better health than I started it.

The pretty fall days have been good for increasing my exercise.  I've taken my dog out on afternoon walks at some local parks in addition to our regular morning walk.  I wish I could have gotten out on some hiking trails with him this fall, but I didn't accomplish that.  We do have some nice local parks and a lake near town with a trail around it that we visited recently.  We also tried a trail around our new hospital.  They have been advertising it as a "park like" setting.  It's totally oversold.  It's just a sidewalk around the hospital...not very park like to me.

Food choices are always a challenge.  I've learned that salads and fruit are important to keep me on track.  They're filling but low in calories.  They also seem to control my carb and sweet cravings fairly well.  I've also noticed that being involved in as activity - even a sedentary one like my sewing - helps simply because I don't think about eating when I'm concentrating on something else.  I'm also much more aware of portion size, particularly for calorie dense foods and try to limit my servings of them.  I've also learned to notice when I feel full and to leave the rest on the plate.

So, I"m already thinking about 2012 and goals to set there.  If I had to give myself a grade for 2011 I think it would be a solid "B".

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why Do Blogs Stop?

So, I know that blogging about blogging is the most boring thing I can do, but since my audience is small or maybe non-existent (I sort of feel a bit like Russell Crowe in "The Beautiful Mind" talking/writing to people who really aren't there) I'm taking some liberties here and expressing my wonderings.  I sometimes browse through blogs or happen upon them when searching for something and am surprised to find so many that just seem to end many years ago.  People were writing regularly and then just stop.  What is written is still interesting to read but the ending is abrupt. It's like watching a movie and having the DVD freeze up in the middle.  Or reading a book and losing it somewhere before you finish.  It always causes me to wonder why the person stopped.  Did life just get too busy?  Did they become ill or have some tragedy befall them?  One woman was blogging in January about a flood near her house and then another post in April and then....nothing.  A few are blogs that I try to follow because they write about common interests.  Are they no longer interested in these interests? And, I also wonder, just how long will blogspot keep an inactive blog online?  In any case it doesn't seem like a conscious decision to stop blogging.  It seems more like it "just happened".  I miss the "closure", but I suppose that's my issue.  I AM one of those people who likes to watch a movie from the first frame to the last without leaving for more popcorm or a trip to the rest room.  Hopefully when I stop blogging it will be with purpose and with a heartfelt farewell to my audience....real and/or imagined.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Memory Quilt - Done

This quilt was made for my Uncle and Aunt.  He is the last surviving sibling of my mother's family.  The quilt is meant to highlight their life together.  He is Italian, signified by the "pasta" print; she is from Germany, the beer print (I couldn't find anything else that seemed to represent Germany), they lived much of their life in New York and now live in Las Vegas - the top and bottom prints.  I added some pictures to tie it together.

I was anxious to try the strip method again - like used on the cuddle quilt.  I think it is a good option when the prints themselves are telling the story of the quilt, but it works better with the nappy fabric of the cuddle quilt.  I overquilted because it just looked too plain without some additional quilting.  I'm still not too good at binding, but I keep trying.  The funny thing is, I found a quilt that I made 30 years ago before I knew anything about quilting and my corners on the binding are perfect!!  How did I do that?  I discovered how to use some of the decorative stitches on my machine and used one to attach the binding and another for decoration.   So, again, another learning experience.

I've recently discovered some new things about quilting.  This is probably old news to anyone who has quilted for awhile.  There is another way of piecing a square called "paper piecing".  There are several patterns listed here. I may try this on my next quilt for a few blocks if I can figure out how to increase the size of the pattern.  Also at this blog there are nice hints on how to do free motion quilting using just a regular sewing machine.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Motherly Trifecta

I had a mother's trifecta this weekend.  I spent Saturday with son #1 and got to see his new rental in D.C.  It was a very nice visit that I hope to repeat soon.  Driving to Northern Virginia, I received a rare call from son #2 asking me about a hiking trail that he hoped to do with his wife later that day.  And on the way home I received a call from son #3 who was visiting his girlfriend in Lexington and wanted to stop by to visit on his way back to Columbus!  So, in the space of 24 hours I had contact with all three offspring!  Now, if you are the parent of only girls, you may be thinking, "So, what?!?"  But, for sons, or at least for my group, any contact is a cause for celebration.  And to have 100% contact....well, that's usually saved for holidays.  Merry Christmas me!!!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Not Dead" Day

Yesterday was October 6th.  Every year this day is special to me.  Thirty years ago on October 6th two things happened:  Anwar Sadat was shot and I cheated death.  I have vivid memories of that day.  I had just left a patient's house where we watched the news about Sadat's shooting.  I attempted to turn left out of their driveway onto a twisty two lane road and was hit broadside in the driver's door by a large truck.  It's amazing that I'm still here and even more amazing that my oldest son is alive.  I was pregnant with him at the time.  My injuries were extensive and I was told to expect to miscarry.  The "compassionate" doctor told me not to worry- that 33% of all first trimester pregnancies miscarry.  What he failed to understand was that this pregnancy represented 100% of MINE.  The discipline of trauma medicine was in it's infancy, MRIs were not yet invented and uterine ultrasounds were so new that they were performed by doctors as a procedure.  But, despite all that, seven months later I gave birth to a healthy baby boy who is the only other person who truly owns this "not dead" holiday.

So much could have changed that day.  I was fortunate to have survived the initial impact, to apparently have been small enough not to crush my unborn, to get good emergency care at the scene and then later at the hospital, to recover without consequence.  I have a few scars to remind me and sometimes I think my word finding difficulties might be related to the injuries, but none of this has prevented a full and productive life.

I'll go on celebrating "not dead" day on October 6th with a thankfullness for life and resolve to make each day count.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Visiting the Family

When I was growing up (way back in the dark ages), Sunday was the day to visit family.  And most Sunday's found us on the road traveling to my aunts and uncles and then as I got older to my married brother and sisters.  When I think back on these visits what I find most interesting is that my father was the one who insisted and orchestrated these visits. It was as though he had a mental list of the family members that he felt responsible for and cycled through visits to their homes each time his schedule allowed for a visit.  Most of my extended family lived in New York City or the surrounding areas, so a visit was an all day affair from our New Jersey home place.  There was a particular etiquette to these visits also.  You never went empty handed.  We usually made a stop at a bakery and brought some type of pastry.  You never visited over a meal time although if an invitation to stay for a meal was extended you accepted and you always accepted the invitation to have coffee or a drink.  Occasionally you actually brought a light meal with you if you felt that feeding you would be a hardship for the family.  Sometimes you brought an item that you thought might help the family in question.  And there is no doubt in my mind that my father probably slipped some cash to certain family members who were having difficult times financially.  Most importantly you didn't overstay your welcome.  Now once these visits extended to my own siblings, the rules changed a bit.  You still brought something but often you stayed longer and usually a meal was prepared for us.  These visits had more of a parental feel to them.  After my father died my mother continued to visit us all.  I lived a days ride away but she visited me faithfully about twice a year until she was 79 years old.  Then she felt that the eight hour drive was more than she could safely handle.

Family also visited us at times.  So there was a lot of visiting going on and a lot of opportunity to get to know the extended family.  My mother was always ready for company and felt that she had to have something to offer should someone decide to drop by. 

I sort of wish we still visited like this.  I hope my sons develop into "visitors" of each other as they get older.  But, they live pretty far apart and they didn't see this modeled for them (except by their grandparents) while they were growing up.  But it was a simpler time back then and it seems like we had the time to sit around and talk and get to know each other.  Truth be told, I was sometimes bored with the whole exercise as a child since it meant countless hours in the car driving to a household that often didn't have any members my age and where conversations sometimes happened in a language that I never learned.  But looking back from the vantage point of my years, I'm very glad for all the visiting that we did and feel fortunate to have had a father who felt it was important to maintain relationships with his family.  Too bad I didn't realize the significance of this earlier on.  Perhaps I would have done better at passing on the tradition of family visits.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cuddle Quilt - Done!

I recently wrote about purchasing a Cuddle Quilt kit while visiting in Indiana.  Well, I finished it in about two days.  I was originally attracted to both the fabric and the method used to construct the quilt.  The fabric is a very soft fabric and it is put together using a strip method.  Turns out that this is not a new construction method, just new to me.  You attach each strip to both the backing and batting and the previous strip so when you are done there is no further quilting to do (although I've seen these done with traditional fabric and people have added additional quilting).  All you do is add a binding.  It seemed like a nice method to use when your quilt focus is primarily the fabric - for instance if you are using a novelty print.  Of course I learned a lot (as always) while making this quilt.  First of all, the adhesive is not as easy as the instructions make it seem.  The fabric itself has some stretch to it and the advise to use 1/2 inch seam allowances is important to make up for the stretch and the nap and be sure that you are catching all the layers.

So here it is:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How Long is 20 Years?

Sometimes 20 years seems like a long time and sometimes it seems like no time at all.  This morning I was thinking about what my life was like 20 years ago.  I was in my mid-30s and had a 9, 6 and 3 year old.  We had just moved to Virginia to the nicest house I had ever lived in during my adult life.  By this time I had moved so many times that I was determined to die in that house.  (I've moved again since then).  During the last 20 years I've watched by boys grow into men; attended countless sports events, plays and ceremonies for them including 8 graduations and one wedding, gotten divorced, remarried, lost my mother, a nephew, both my new in-laws, and two beloved aunts and saw my sister cheat death twice. As I said, I moved again -- to an even nicer house.  I've visited Hawaii and travelled outside the US for the first time in my life.  I've changed jobs from one that worked best for a Mom to the best job situation of my career and then left that to try the life of retirement.  It was an action packed 20 years.

Fast forward ahead 20 years and who knows what my situation will be...if indeed I will even still be here.  I will most likely move again if my husband or I develop physical problems that make our two story house difficult to access.  My beloved Golden Retriever will no longer be here.  I will undoubtedly lose other loved ones.  And perhaps gain others.  I still have one more graduation for son #3.  My "Places to See Before I Die" list still has quite a few destinations on it.  But, the most important thing at this point is to not assume that there are 20 years left.  Do it now.   That should be my new motto.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dog Swim Day

Once a year my town hosts a swim day for dogs at the local pool.  It's always during Labor Day weekend and the end of the swimming season.  After the canine party they drain the pool for the season.  We went last year and had a blast!  Owners are allowed in the pool with their dogs and that's what makes it so special for me.  We let our Golden Retriever swim in local lakes but they're not places that I would get into myself.  He also likes the ocean but only ventures past the surf when one of us is in the water.  We tend to visit beaches with rather strong undertows and rough surf and as I've gotten older I've decided that I'm no longer a match for the strength of the Atlantic Ocean.  But the pool.....that's another story.  I love the opportunity to be in the water with my best companion.

Last year I learned that not all dogs naturally can swim.  This year I learned that my dog will not only swim out to retrieve a favorite toy, but will swim just to be with me.  He will swim out to me or just swim with me across the pool.  Apparently he loves being in the water also and the experience is enhanced by being able to share it... a sentiment I have expressed about many of lives experiences.  He swam and swam until his body was tiring but I'm sure that if I had suggested another go at the water he would be right beside me.

This year I took a few underwater pictures just for fun.  I love the color of his coat as he swims under the water.

I wish there was a place to swim with him regularly and (I think I've blogged this before - but since I have no readership I'm not too worried about repeating myself)  my dream would be a doggie wellness center where you could join your favorite companion for a swim whenever you please.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Fish Quilt is Finished!

I've finished the fish quilt and it is boxed and ready to send to my step-son. 

As with every other quilt I've made, there were many lessons in this one.  Most importantly I learned that I need to be more careful when cutting stripped fabric on the bias for the binding.  I ended up with cuts going across the stripes in two directions.  I also need to find a neater way to apply the binding.  I'm not real pleased with how that turned out.  But, otherwise, I think it came well.  Some of the features sort of developed along the way.  I decided to add a Pig Fish:

a yellow fin Tuna:

and a Marlin.  The marlin is an iron on patch.  It was a late edition because he caught his first Marlin after I had pieced the top of the quilt:'s the back:

So, on to the next project which I think will be the cuddle quilt. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Special Gifts

Lately I've been thinking about my three boys - or I should say, men.  They are all in their 20's and my contact with them is sporadic and infrequent.  I was the same way at their age so part of me understands.  The other part sort of wishes we had a closer relationship.  We don't share a lot, but I hold onto the belief that my mothering has been an important part of their life and that underneath what seems like indifference is a thick layer of caring that they find difficult to express.  Every so often, though, along the journey of parenting, you get a glimpse of that caring layer.  Over the years each boy has given me a gift that is special to my heart.

Son #1 lived through more of the poor years than any of the others.  He would often accompany me to craft fairs at his school or in the community and he actually seemed to enjoy them.  Twice when he was young (about 12 or so) and we were at a craft fair, I admired something but wouldn't buy it because our budget was so tight that I didn't feel I could splurge on anything that didn't have function, especially for myself.  But each time he snuck back to the fair and bought the items with his own carefully saved money.  I still have the fish made out of a painted rock - even though the fins have not stood the test of time too well - and the flower pot painted with my favorite lilies of the valley.  Thanks son #1 for first of all recognizing that I liked those items and for using your savings to see that I had them. 

Son #2 saw me admire a bonsai tree at a vendor in the local mall.  I wouldn't buy it because my gardening skills are not the best and I was sure that I would kill it.  But he believed in me and wanted to see me have the tree without regard to my success or failure in keeping it alive.  That meant a lot to me.  The tree lasted several months but then eventually died under my unskilled hand.  I kept the pot it was planted in for a long time and am a bit distraught that I don't know where it is just now.  Hopefully it is safely wrapped in one of the boxes in the garage.  He also bought me on another occasion a special necklace declaring that I was a #1 Mom.  It seemed like he genuinely wanted the world to know that he considered me a good Mom. Thanks son#2 for believing in me and for wanting to let the world know.

Son #3 saw the mother in me and had to endure perhaps more mothering than the others.  One Christmas he bought me a special locket, had it engraved and filled it with his picture and a piece of his curly hair.  I wear that sometimes when I'm especially worried about him or wondering how he is.  Another year he made me a basket, but wanted to add to it and fill it with something he knew I would enjoy.  He picked out chocolate candies and a nice blue sweater.  I thought it was so special for him to want to enhance his gift with things he knew I liked.  I may never get rid of that sweater no matter how worn it becomes.  Thanks son #3 for knowing what I would like and for wanting to enhance your gifts with the picture and lock of hair.

I hope my sons hold on to their gift giving skills and use them in their relationships with their future families.  I hope they cultivate that caring and thoughtful side of their personalities and don't let it get buried under the busyness of career and everyday life.

I love you guys. It is a privilege to be known as your mother.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Diet Update: My New Scale

My diet has gone well thus far with me hitting my midyear goal last month.  However, since hitting that goal I seem to have lost my vision and sort of plateaued.  I've mentioned before that my old scale did not agree with the doctor's scale and I suspected that mine measured a bit light.  I decided it was time to upgrade to a digital scale.  The bad news is that indeed there is about a four pound difference in the two scales with the new one measuring heavier.  The good news is that I'm still on track and can in fact reach my end of the year goal if I keep focused.  In fact, if I use this new scale as my reference I will have a more accurate weigh in.  Also the exactness of the measurement helps with motivation.  So, I have 8 pounds to go in four months - two pounds/month; 1/2 pound a week.  That should be attainable.  I have been eating better and part of that is due to my husband's change in eating habits. 

Here's hoping for a skinnier 2012.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Where Have I Been?

If I were a dedicated follower of my blog I would wonder where I have been and why I haven't posted recently.  So, to all those readers who have wondered about my whereabouts recently, let me assure you that I'm fine, though busy, and have been away from home for awhile. 

My trips included Charles Town Race Track and Casino.  This was an enjoyable visit and sort of educational.  I understand the whole horse betting thing better and now realize that there are times when it is more lucrative to bet the odds than to bet the horses.

Our next stop was Canonsburg, PA where there is also a race track and casino, but the horses weren't running when we were there.  The casino was very pleasent but the machines were set tight which really cut down on the entertainment value. 

Next we went to Fort Wayne, Indiana where my husband had business and I spent some time with my brother and his wife.  We went shopping at Shipshewana and I discovered the wonder of cuddle quilts!  I bought the fabric to construct one and can hardly wait to start it.  I have to finish my fish quilt first.  The recipient of the fish quilt had another big catch this week, and a "fishing first" for him - a marlin.  So I'm going to try to add a marlin to the quilt to commemerate that trip.

On the way home we stopped in Columbus, Ohio to check on the new grad student in the family.  He seemed a bit stressed but I know he will soon have things under control and be more at ease with his new situation.

Now I'm trying to rearrange my office/sewing room and get back on track with my own projects.  But, the rest of my siblings are all in the path of Irene.  Two sisters live in the projected hurricane path and my brother is driving into it!  His son lives there and they had this visit planned for awhile. It seems like driving into an area that is being evacuated doesn't seem too smart.  I guess time will tell if the projections are overstated or if he has underestimated the situation.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I think disappointment is perhaps the hardest thing in life to deal with.  And maybe (although I haven't thought this through) many other issues could be subcategories of disappointment.  For instance: when a loved one dies, we are disappointed that our relationship with them has ended; when we gain weight (and no, that is not the inspiration for this post) we are disappointed that we no longer look and feel as we once did; ditto for when we realize that we are growing old; or when something we make does not turn out as nice as we envisioned; or when we are not chosen for a job, or rejected by a friend.  And it starts with the little disappointments in life like when a parent promises a trip to the store but then has to cancel due to a work obligation or when we anticipate a visit from someone who either comes late or stands us up. And it seems that even as we get over the little disappointments, they leave behind a hole and each subsequent disappointment, big or small, makes the hole bigger until we dread any disappointment at all because it causes a disproportionate bad feeling that is really the cumulative hurt from many disappointments.

And maybe you (those mythical "you" who don't really seem to be there) are thinking, "Oh, please....just deal with it".  And indeed I try and most of the times I succeed, but this time I feel particularly worn down, this time the disappointment seems bigger, deeper, greater and harder to move on from.  It makes me want to hide my head in the sand in an attempt to prevent any other disappointments.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Return of the Hummingbirds!

We moved into this house in the fall of 2003.  Shortly thereafter we noticed hummingbird activity and became almost addicted to watching the delicate birds circle and feed on flowers around the house.  I went out and bought several varieties of feeders and put them all around the house near windows where we could watch them.  We had daily activity at all the feeders.  The next year I was excited to again watch their activity and put the feeders out once again, but there were NO customers.  Each year I put out at least one feeder hoping to attract them back without success.  BUT last night we were sitting outside in the evening and noticed several birds flying around the patio area and stopping to "check us out".  This years feeder had fallen down a few days ago and I had only recently put it back outside.  I was thrilled to see the little hummer visit my feeder!  In fact I was so excited that I went inside and hung yet another feeder.  He hasn't taken a liking to the second feeder.  It may be too close to the window for his comfort.  But he has returned faithfully to the first feeder all night and again this morning and afternoon!  There appears to be about three birds.  They take turns at the feeder and fly off together to visit other areas and circle back again to us. 

What a nice little gift at this time of year when summer is waning!  I hope they stick around for awhile and make this an annual stop.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Mother's Garden Quilt Completed!

It's been very, very hot here this week.  That combined with a lull in other activity has allowed me to return to my quilting projects.  I decided to finish the quilt made with parts of an old hobnail bedspread of my mothers.  When I was growing up we had several of these bedspreads and I came to love them.  While trying to decide just how to work this into a quilt I came across some fabric with hydrangeas on it.  We always had these showy flowers in our yard when I was young and they also remind me of my mother.  The quilt features that fabric on the front and a lily of the valley fabric on the back - also one that we had in plenty around the yard.  I filled it with a high loft batting and free form quilted around the hobnail design to highlight that.  This is the first quilt that I'm keeping for myself.  I still have a lot of the bedspread left and hope to find ways to repurpose it into some sort of gifts for the rest of my family.  I've titled this "My Mother's Quilt".

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wanders with Winkie #4: the Cruise Ship

We cruised with Royal Caribbean on the Liberty of the Seas ship.  The ship was HUGE and our stateroom was fantastic.  The staff was attentive and helpful and I couldn't go without giving attention to our stateroom attendant.  Each night when providing turn down service he would leave us the newsletter for the next day along with a towel sculpture.  They made us smile as soon as we walked in the door.  If my sunglasses happened to be lying around he would put these on the towel animal for added effect.  Here are pictures of my favorites:


I will say that most of the activities were well organized and they certainly knew how to efficiently move large numbers of people.  And there WERE large numbers of people.  This particular cruise with all of the excursions was not a kick back and relax kind of vacation and it was not the type of vacation that provides solitude - unless you stay in your stateroom the entire time and what fun is that?  But for a fun, activity filled vacation it was great.  I had lots of sister time and extended time to spend with my nephew and his wife.  I can imagine that a cruise would be a nice way to spend a family vacation.  There is opportunity for everyone to do what they want and then opportunity at the end of the day to come together again and share with each other the events of the day.  Would I do it again?  Yes. 

Wanders with Winkie #3: Italy

In Italy we felt warmth, comfort and welcome - in fact a complete contrast to France.  My sister and I wondered if this was because we were familiar with the culture and people of Italy (our grandparents were Italian immigrants) or if indeed there was a difference in the atmosphere in this country.  I have to believe that it was both.  We indeed were more familiar with the social norms but also, there was a much more relaxed, accepting, welcoming feel to the country.  We visited three ports:

Tuscany:  I fell in love with this part of the country.  We visited Pisa. this was built as an elaborate bell tower to attest to the affluence of the area.  We climbed to the top and "touched the bell" and took in an awesome view.

We also visited a small winery where we got to sample an assortment of wines.  I wish I had brought some home, but I was unfamiliar with the procedures both on board the ship and going through customs.  This place is on my list for a re-visit.  They have apartments to rent on the property.  I could SO stay here...maybe even live here.  As I said, I fell in love with the place.

Rome/Vatican City:  These cities were both way TOO crowded to enjoy.  Perhaps it was the day we chose to go, but both places were a total body crush of people.  We spent more time trying to "follow the paddle" of the tour guide to prevent getting lost than we did enjoying the place.  The best part of this day was the lunch we had between the two major stops.  We were taken to an Italian restaurant and served a great meal.  I also enjoyed St. Peter's Basilica.  Any return to either of these places would be under much different circumstances such as a less busy time of year!

Sorrento:  I also liked this city.  We drove along the Amalfi coast::
And then visited a farm where they grow olives and lemons and make cheese.  We had a cheese making demonstration:

We had samples of their cheeses, oils and lemon cello.  They sold a lemon flavored olive oil which I thought was fantastic.  Dipping it in bread was almost like having desert.  Apparently the Sorrento area is known for their lemon cello.  Many stores were offering samples of their version.  It is a sweet liquor that is served ice cold.  Some small bottles came home as souvenirs. 

After the farm we had time to spend in the town looking at the shops and finding lunch.  We opted for a pizza place.  My nephew and his wife ordered a seafood pizza which came with clams as the seafood.  Our surprise was that the seafood was still in the shell! 

Next we visited Pompeii.  This was fascinating.  It was hot and we were tired so again, we just hit the high spots.  You could spend an entire day or more walking through this restoration.  It is very well done and gives good insight into life during that era.  One of the most visited places is the brothel complete with explicit pictures of the services available and beds....stone beds....ouch.  This is a picture of a pizza oven!

So, that concludes Italy!  I hope to get back some day and maybe have the chance to visit the little town our grandparents came from.  After all, now I'm an experienced international traveler!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wanders with Winkie #2: France

I feel a bit bad titling this with Winkie's name since he didn't accompany me on this trip.  His friend Smokey came instead.  Smokey is a much more compact pig and worked better for this trip.  If this pig talk is confusing, catch up with some past postings.

Smokey came with me on my Mediterranean cruise. We visited two towns in France and three in Italy.  France was beautiful, colorful and picturesque but the French people seemed a bit snobbish and judgemental to me.  I've been told that this is not an accurate - that although they give that impression, they are not truly like that.  To that I can only comment that often "perception is reality".  If you are portraying judgement, then in fact you are judgemental since the perception defines the characteristic.  On the positive side, our visit to several medieval towns finally helped me understand so many of the books and movies I've read and seen.

This made me laugh and made me wonder if the French were making a comment beyond what the sign says:

France was OK but I don't think I would purposely go back there.  I was glad to have seen it but just as glad to have left it.  Sorry, France.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fabric Stores In and Near Columbus, Ohio

I spent this last weekend in Columbus, Ohio with my husband.  I love the shopping in Columbus.  They have about every store you can imagine and we visited many of them.  On the top of my shopping list was finding a fish print fabric for my next quilting project.  I wasn't just looking for any fish.  I was looking for game fish, preferably salt water.  I visited many fabric stores on this quest and while I bought some fabric and added yet another quilt to my list, I came up short on the fish fabric.  I've learned that when I have such a specific item that I'm looking for, it's best to look and buy online.  I finally found the perfect fabrics at  But along the way I visited some great fabric stores and thought I would list them here:

Red Rooster Quilts:  This is actually in Dublin, Ohio which is northwest of Columbus.  But it is well worth the trip.  They have a great collection of quilting fabrics, a large clearance room and a lot of patterns and kits.  The staff is both friendly and knowledgeable.  I ended up buying a collection of Wizard of Oz prints since (as already established earlier) this is one of my all time favorite movies.

Sew to Speak:  This is a small store with a great blog.  Their fabrics were bright and cheerful.

Hobby Lobby:  This is a chain that I had not heard of before.  They don't have any stores around my home.  They are sort of a cross between Michael's and Jo Ann Fabric.  They had quite a bit of variety and would be certainly worth a visit.  Of course there is not the small store atmosphere of individually owned shops.

The Glass Thimble:  This store goes on and on and on.  It also has a great variety and a staff that knows their stock.  Best of all, they have a great "man couch" and a stock of magazines where my husband could wait for me to browse through the maze of rooms. I found the perfect fabric to bind my garden quilt here.

Quilt Beginnings:  This is another great quilt stores in Dublin.  I believe they have two stores, but the Dublin one was where I visited.  Another great assortment of fabric!  Every one of these stores could rate as better than my local options for variety.

Quilt Trends:  And yet again, great variety, great service, and very inspiring. This one tied with the Red Rooster as my favorite with the Glass Thimble right behind.

My husband often goes to Columbus for business and our son will be starting at Ohio State next month, so I expect to have reason to return to the area. I put my name on several lists to receive email and snail mail about what is going on at the stores.  While Columbus doesn't have much geographical attraction, it seems to be a very livable city.  The people are friendly, they are free of the religious self righteousness that is prevelant in my area and they have a dynamic infrastructure that provides many opportunities for activities and interests. 

On the last day of my visit we went to the Columbus Zoo.  It was one of the nicest zoos I have every visited.  It was well planned, clean, and resonably priced.  We planned on making a return visit there soon also.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Communication has changed so much over my lifetime.  When I was young, a long distance phone call was something reserved for special occasions or emergencies.  There was no email, no instant messaging, no cell phone texting.  When family members were apart we wrote to keep in touch.  And we ALL wrote in my family.  I have a cherished collection of letters from my father from my one summer at camp and from my first year in college.  They are so precious to me that I bought a fireproof box to store them in.  When I took mental inventory of what I would miss if all my belongings were lost in a fire, those letters were at the top of the list - hence the box. We don't write letters anymore.  Emails are written with less thought and then get deleted.  We often have no written record of our relationships to return to.  We are missing so much.

This week I very unexpectedly had another box of letters returned to me.  Most of these were written by my mother during my late college and early (first) married years.  Reading them again after so long is somewhat bittersweet.  Being older now allows me to see her through different, more adult, more compassionate eyes.  During this period she was a recent widow.  Until my father died she had never lived alone.  She grew up as the oldest in a large family and lived with her birth family until marrying my father.  They then lived just a few blocks from her family for about ten years before moving away.  As I read through the letters I could see that my mother secretly hoped that I would return to her home after I graduated and again provide some company for her.  Once I married and it became clear that my own plans did not include such a move, that hope died for her and she was faced with yet another change to adapt to.

My own path never took me back to the area where I grew up and never allowed me to have a relationship with my mother that was not complicated by the many miles between us.  When I was younger I didn't appreciate my family relationships enough.  Now I am close to my mother's age at the time of these letters and I see history repeating itself in my relationship with my children.  We are not separated by miles as my mother and I were, but neither are we close.  My son who recently married lives not five miles from me and yet I have not heard (even a phone call) from him since his wedding a month ago. I see a connection here.  My mother and I both emphasised independence, educational success, adventure, and maturing even in the face of personal challenges. (In one letter she commented that certain situations that required independence were difficult for "insecure people like us".  Interesting. I never considered her insecure.)  But when you push them out of the nest, you can't make them come back.  You just have to wish that they want to.  And I think that happens.  It just takes a long time to cycle around again to an appreciation of your childhood and a desire to return again to that place.

Monday, July 4, 2011

So, How About that Diet?

Well, I actually started this blog to keep track of my diet progress and to provide a certain amount of accountability in my weight loss endeavor.  Of course my lack of an audience sort of negates the accountability, but it is still nice to be able to keep track of my progress and to be able to set and reach goals along the way.  My initial goal was to lose 20 pounds during 2011 by lifestyle changes.  At the end of June, I had accomplished just over 1/2 of the goal with a 12 pound weight loss.  I was concerned about a cruise I took with my sister last month since I have heard that cruises are just one constant buffet.  Although it IS true that you can pretty much eat what you want whenever you want, I was able to keep that under control.  The daily excursions also helped with exercise and calories used each day.  Sightseeing can be pretty energy intensive!  The tower of Pisa has 294 stairs and the coliseum has just under 200.  And the bus never parked anywhere close to where we were going so there was often a significant walk to the sites.

I didn't do as well though in maintaining my dietary changes.  I did try to eat my 2 servings/day of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables but some days that didn't happen.  The fruit on the cruise was especially good, though and it helps that it was cut up and just waiting for me to put on my plate and eat.  Once I got home it was harder to return a good diet.  I was out of practice for preparing my own meals and lets face it, fruits and especially vegetables require more preparation than grabbing a granola bar.

But, all things considered, I'm happy to have accomplished my 1/2 year goal.  I think the next ten pounds may be even harder, but I'm going to forge ahead.  I like fitting into my clothes better (and even having some be too big).  I feel better overall even though I'm still a ways from the suggested weight for my height.  If only I could grow a few inches taller all would be fine!

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Passport is No Longer Empty!!

I'm back from my cruise with my sister.  This was my first time out of this country (except for several trips to Canada over the years).  I managed the international travel, immigration and custom checks as well as airport transfers and different currency.  I'll soon post some pictures, but in overview:  I liked Italy much better than France and Tuscany best of all.  The crowds in Rome and Vatican City were overwhelming and made those visits difficulty.  The cruise itself was very nice in most every way.  We kept busy so there wasn't much time for real relaxation.  But we saw alot and for me everything was a new experience.  I missed home and talks with my husband, though and was very glad to get back after the week was over.  Stay tuned for pictures.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Do People See Me?

So often we portray a different image to others than we think we do.  I would have described my high school self as quiet and reserved, somewhat out of the main social stream, but social enough in small groups.  Years later I had contact with a man who had been in several classes with me and lived across the street from me for a short time with his girlfriends family.  He felt that I had a rather sharp tongue that sort of kept people away.  In my defense, I think this was a sort of coping mechanism for times when I felt inadequate to the situation, but apparently it had, at least to him, a negative effect. 

In later years I've often used sarcasm as a substitute for direct confrontation feeling that the indirect approach was a bit easier.  And for some reason when I've stated my feelings straight up they havn't been heard.  Am I not direct enough?  Sincere enough?  Convincing enough?  Sadly, my fall back position has always been to say nothing and just keep it all to myself.  Of course, this doesn't work either, just leading to a lot of internal stress, dissatisfaction, and sadness.  In the end I often sacrifice what I would like for what causes the least confrontation I spend a lot of time trying to make everyone happy.

I'm feeling this more this week since we are coming up on the wedding of son #2.  Everyone seems to have an agenda: where to be, what to eat, when to meet, what's to happen at a given portion of the event.  He is my first child to marry and I've truly had little time to reflect on the event itself.  But, we will pass seamlessly into a new chapter of life and readjust accordingly.  He called last night to ask me what song I wanted to dance to with him at the reception.  I choose Bob Dylan, Forever Young. I know, not the easiest to dance to, but it says what I wish I had the chance to say to him.

"Forever Young"

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

If a Blog is Written.....

...and nobody reads it is it still a blog?  (aka....If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it does it make noise?) I know that posts about blogging itself are the most boring of all.  And I know that towards the beginning of this blog when I was learning how to manage the task I had several blogs about my following, or lack there of and the total absence of comments. I've sort of put that to rest and have enjoyed chronicling various aspects of everyday  life. But.........I have to there anyone out there?  You know, blogspot automatically keeps track of visits to pages and I've noticed some occasional traffic.  I wonder if these are evidence of actual people reading a post or do they represent accidental stumbles onto my pages?  Or are they just automatically generated by search engines? 

So, if you're out there, raise your hand, give me a shout, send a comment, leave a note, ask a question or just tell me to be quiet.  Thanks.

Graduation #2 for 2011; #8 cumulative

Thursday son #3 graduated from Washington and Lee University.  It's a beautiful campus with a rich history.  In some ways it's a world unto itself.  He had a good four years there and truly benefited from the small close community.  He enjoyed fraternity life as a member of Sigma Nu and graduated with majors in math and science.  At the end of the summer he will be off to Ohio State for graduate school.
W&L holds their commencement outside so the weather is always a factor.  Thursday was HOT.  I had gone to the Baccalaureate Service the day before and sat in the hot sun until I finally decided to move to the shade rather than pass out.  Thursday we sat in the shade of one of the canopies.  It was still very hot but at least tolerable. The event is held on the lawn sandwiched between representations of their namesakes: the Colanade which has a statue of George Washington atop it and the Lee Chapel where General Lee is buried.

I didn't visit son #3 often during his four years at school but still I'm going to miss Lexington. It holds a special charm unto itself.  The tuition payments, however, I won't miss.  While this son graduated with twice the undergraduate debt of his brothers, he received a fellowship for grad school and should graduate with half the total education debt.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Graduation #1 for 2011; #7 Cumulative

Let me explain.  I have three boys and counting their high school graduations, yesterday was the seventh I've attended for them.  Don't get me wrong.  I love seeing them attain life goals and only illness, injury or death could keep me away.  But honestly, I've decided that graduations are probably the most tedious of life's ceremonies.  We think of them as solemn occasions, yet seldom have I experienced one that truly was able to attain that atmosphere.  The room or stadium is filled with excited people, many of whom had a difficult journey to the event and most of whom are armed with cameras trying to catch the moment forever.  If it's outside, it's often hot, especially for the graduates wearing dark colored robes, or rainy (several years ago we had a torrential downpour during one of the outdoor graduations).  And the event is always filled with speakers who are usually difficult to listen to or have little of interest to say.  Each graduate deserves to be recognized and we all are there to hear the name of our own loved one called out.  We are focused on our offspring, but honestly, that is the extent of our focus.  So if your name begins with A, you then sit through the entire rest of the class after your child has had their moment.  If it begins with Z, you first have to watch all the others before you get the satisfaction of seeing your child handed his diploma that probably cost you more than the price of your house.

Anyway.....all my complaints aside, I was delighted to see son #2 graduate yesterday.  The day was not without it's stressful events.  I had to drive into Richmond and a city driver, I am not.  When I made it to the location of the event, the parking garage was full, so this required yet more city driving to locate a parking garage.  We (myself and his fiance) found one about four blocks away.  This required a walk through a less than desirable city to get to the venue.  I reverted back to my NYC days growing up where the survival tactics were: don't make eye contact, walk like you have purpose and maintain a death grip on your purse.  The ceremony was all I've come to expect from graduations and afterwards we went out to eat to finish the celebration.  I'm very proud of all my boys and I love the opportunities life offers us to celebrate their lives.....even if it means listening to boring speakers and battling city traffic.

Son #3 graduates Wednesday and Thursday (a two day event to extend the opportunity for memorable occurrences).  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just Checking In

Life is progressing through the anticipated craziness of this month.  The first graduation is Friday and then events come in quick succession.  I've been trying to get the house and yard in tip-top shape both for guests and because I won't be able to care for the yard and house for several weeks during our upcoming graduations, wedding, visits, surgery and travel.

So, I've been busy and I've been able to maintain my walking schedule.  I think my eating is on track or close to on track, but the scale continues to refuse to budge.  I still weigh about 138 pounds (142 on a recent MD visit....but we've already discussed the scale discrepancies and my desire to continue to pretend that my scale is correct).  In any case I'm mainly looking for a decrease in weight and not particularly concerned about the exact number.  My clothes all fit better (some are even too big!) and I'm enjoying that.  But, truly, I would like to get back to seeing the scale register a bit lower.

I'd like to try to add an evening dog walk each night.  From now through the summer the days will be long enough to allow me to walk in the light.  But right now we're having a bit of a monsoon.  We've had almost two and 1/2 inches of rain in the past 24 hours.  Today I"m working on inside projects and being thankful that I'm able to just sit home and watch the weather.  I'm falling in love with retirement!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pirate Quilt

I decided to get this quilt done for a variety of reasons.  The recipient is in a "pirate phase" and I figured I should get it done before the stage passes.  He is also coming to visit in a few weeks and I wanted it ready by then.  The schedule is very full from now until July with: two graduations, a wedding (and all that goes with that), a surgery for my husband, a visit from his son and grandson and a trip with my sister.  I get tired just thinking about it.  So, I decided to finish this quilt and close up shop until this craziness is over.  Also, my sewing room becomes guest sleeping quarters, so half finished projects can't be left out strewn about.  Here it is:

I used a treasure map pattern for the back:

I had a lot of fun with this quilt.  I especially liked making the sailboat blocks and the quilting.  I started out thinking I would use the "Turning Twenty" pattern, but it didn't accommodate my center "flag" or the end size I wanted, so I have some blocks that follow that pattern and some just plain pieces.  Then I "stitched in the ditch" using a clear thread on top.  That didn't provide enough quilting for some of the blocks, so I put X's on the individual blocks.  Finally I did a diamond pattern on the flag.  That turned out to be SO much easier than I thought and in hindsight I should have just used that pattern all over the quilt in the traditional manner.  But, I'm not a traditional gal, so I have to do it my way first, I guess and then decide that the traditional way has merit.  What can I say??  I also made a bias binding for the edge...another first for me.  I didn't do so well at the corners, so I'll have to work on that next time.  I had some leftovers, so I made a pillowcase using the "inside out" pattern.  This pattern is all over the Internet, but here's a link (Is anyone really reading this blog?)  It was a lot easier than I expected and I liked the result.  In fact I'm thinking, "Pillowcases for everyone"  for Christmas!