Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The 9/11 Quilt - Twelve-Plus Years Later

During those awful days following the attack by terrorists on the U.S. in 2001, I pieced a quilt. Unsettling days and nights when, like most Americans, all I wanted to do was watch the television coverage of the aftermath Not wanting to see it, but not able to resist.

As the hours passed I felt I need to be doing something other than sitting there, so I decided to make a quilt. It wouldn't be a quilt with a pattern, but would consist of disjointed pieces and colors - a tapestry to represent the many lives impacted by that terrible day.

My sewing area is next to the den where the television was going, I could cut and sew and still turn around to see the screen if I wanted to. But listening always, and thinking.

Not about the quilt I was making so much as about the events and how it might change all our lives. It did. Forever.

I simply began sewing. Bits and pieces were fitted together. A few pieces were trimmed from previously unused lengths of fabric, but the shapes are primarily pieces I took from the scrap bag and sewed together. On and on, larger and larger.

What I ended up is a rather dark and depressing quilt top, just as I had planned it. No cheery yellows or bright colors here to speak of. Just a patchwork that will forever remind me of that time.

I made it put it away.

But this winter I have been a quest to complete some of my many unfinished projects, so I spread the quilt out and decided it's time to make it a usable item.

I do not want to hand quilt it. Too daunting a task. Too large a quilt (king size).

I have found a lady who does commercial quilting in her home. She will do the quilting on her machine. Yesterday I purchased the batting (filling) and backing and I'm taking it to her today.

I'll be very happy to have this one project completed and it will make a cozy cover for the bed. And it will always remind me of the several days I spent making it, grieving for all the losses that day brought on all the families directly affected, upon the nation, and upon the world.

In past years I've handmade items to commemorate a birth, an anniversary, a birthday and even a needlepoint picture to commemorate the U.S. Bicentennial back in 1976. But this was the first time I've made something to remember a sad day.

Have you ever made commemoration items to mark certain days or events? 

Monday, January 27, 2014


I was up early and stood in the early morning stillness gazing in awe at the crescent moon hanging low in the eastern sky. It was quite comfortable outside when compared with some of the recent cold weather.

Two hours later, the wind picked up, which will soon bring another Arctic blast.
Winter has not been kind to us this year.

Yesterday's reprieve from the cold presented an opportunity to get outside and give the dogs a good brushing. They seemed energized and came inside to romp around a bit more.
An old sheet gets thrown over the sofa so the dogs can crawl up and watch me while I knit.

The scrap yarn throw grows. A wooden bowl full of choices is at standby.

Recent photo of baby Katie in her beautiful white dress.

Time to throw another log on the fire, brew a cup of tea and get the knitting needles clicking.

Can you identify with the cartoon below?

Can you identify with this?

How are you spending your day?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Embarrassing Moments

We've all experienced those times when we did or said something stupid and wished the ground would open up and swallow us.

Walking out of a bathroom in a public place, looking down and seeing you’re dragging a piece or tissue with your shoe – or worse yet, your skirt tucked into your underwear. 

Sheer humiliation.

Or how about admiring photos of young children display in an older man’s office and innocently asking if those are his grandchildren, only to be corrected in a stern manner that those are HIS children. Oops! Lesson here: never ask such a question.

Then there are some things from long, long ago that caused you embarrassment or humiliation, things you should have long since forgotten and yet they are burned into your memory. The incidents in your young life that aren't important at all now. But at the time, you thought you’d die from the pain!

One such thing has remained in my mind after all these years.

I was 16 and had begun my sophomore year at a new high school. Of course, at that age, one of the first things a girl might notice is the cute-factor of the boys in her classes.

There was one boy I picked out as the one I wanted to know. He was blonde, cute, a football player and had the dreamiest blue eyes ever. Time passed and we talked a few times and he seemed interested in me as well.

Finally, the day came when he asked me for a Saturday night date to go to the drive-in movies. We were to “double date” with another couple.

Now my parents were quite strict about my curfew. 11 p.m. No exceptions.
The movie was not in my town, but in a larger one about 25 miles away. As the magic hour was creeping up I became nervous, knowing full well I needed to say I must get home. But I was a rather shy girl, and I dreaded having to spoil the evening for the others because the movie was not finished.

So I let it ride, but dreading the moment I arrived home, hoping my parents wouldn’t be awake and know.

I should have known better, though, because my mother always waited up for me.

It was about 11:30 when we arrived home. Just as we were emerging from the car, I heard the front door open and there stood both my parents.

It was not pleasant. They were not “ugly” to my date, but their harsh words were directed at me for being late.

My date hurriedly said goodnight and left.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

At school on Monday morning, as students were congregating in the hallways, slamming locker doors, laughing and talking about their weekends, a group of boys – friends of my Saturday date – walked by me and started singing the lyrics to the song, “Wolverton Mountain,” which was a popular hit of the day.

Nothing was said – just those friends of his singing these lyrics with a large grin on their faces.

YouTube video
I could have died. When you play the video you'll know why!

Looking back on that incident now, it seems so small and insignificant. But at the time it was major. That boy never asked me out on a date again.

This guy still lives in my community. I have not seen him in years, but have seen him on Facebook and have thought I should send him a message and ask if he remembers the incident.

And of course he doesn’t! And even if he did we’d both have a good laugh.

But just the same, I think I’ll just lie low and let the past stay in the past.

Do you still remember embarrassing moments from your past?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thursday Miscallany

I admit that I'm sometimes a sucker for new products that promise the world, Sometimes, that is, unless the cost is too dear.

When I saw these house slippers that clean the floors while you walk, I had to indulge. For only $6.00 they seemed worth a try.

I have already test driven them and they do indeed perform as advertised -- picking up dust and hair -- hair being a constant challenge when you own Golden Retrievers.

They also are comfortable and warm. They are machine washable and to be air dried. The user is cautioned not to use if one's balance is not stable, not to slide or run in them and they are not to be used for washing floors, only dusting them.


I mentioned in a post a few days ago that I wanted to start knitting again. I did, but instead of finishing a project I decided to start a new one.

Using various and sundry yarns accumulated over a period of time, I decided to make a coverlet. Quite unconventional, it will contain many types and colors of yarn. I'm knitting on U.S. #15 size circular needles. Circulars are the only way to go with this many stitches (175); conventional needles wouldn't hold that many stitches and the weight of the project would be tiring to the hands and arms. With circulars, the weight of the knitting rests in your lap.

I have many stitches and many colors to go, but I'll picture it here when completed.


And finally, kale. Known as one of the most healthy foods in the universe, it is said to reduce the risk of cancer, lower cholesterol, and to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification benefits. Kale also is quite tasty. I've enjoyed it in stir-fry and soup, but recently found a recipe for kale chips -- a substitute for potato chips.

This is too much kale on the pan. I rearranged this amount onto three baking sheets.
It couldn't be simpler to make. A bundle of kale, 1 tablespoon olive oil and  1 teaspoon salt.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  1. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.
  2. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.
A couple of cook notes from me if you decide to try this super-healthy recipe.
  • Don't over-crowd the pan; use two or three baking sheets if needed. If the pieces overlap they won't get crisp.

  • I find that a teaspoon of salt is too much for my taste; I reduce salt to 1/2 teaspoon.

  • Watch the oven carefully; there's a fine line between crisp and brown around the edges and overcooked.

  • The dryer the kale is when it goes into the oven, the better the results.

After the oven time was complete, I rearranged the pieces and placed them in the oven with the heat turned off so any remaining moisture was removed.

Do they taste like potato chips? Well, no they don't. But they are a tasty alternative we can feel good about eating.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

High Steppin' Mama Blues

My dad played the mandolin as a young man. Along with his brother, who played guitar, they were invited to entertain at square dances held at homes in the community. This was a common form of entertainment in the country during the Depression.

"The Musicians" Roy, at left with his guitar, and Henry with his mandolin. 
They also sang along with the music, and had quite a repertoire I'm told. I don’t ever recall hearing my dad play the mandolin, but I did hear him sing! Around the house, anytime he was happy. He also was one of the song leaders at church.

Mother related a story today about his mandolin-playing days.

The brothers were performing “High-Steppin’ Mama Blues,” a 1929 hit by Gene Autry, at the home of a neighbor. The lady of the house for some reason took offense at their choice of song and promptly asked them to leave. Perhaps she thought the song was directed at her? Who knows? But I thought it was a funny story!

Gene Autry performing his 1929 hit, "High Steppin' Mama Blues on YouTube

We know that my dad requested in a letter to his mother in 1938 that his mandolin be sent to him when he was at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Oregon. In a letter to my mother, he wrote he had received it -- stating his mother told him she was sending it against her better judgement, because if she did not send it, his return home was reassured!  Apparently, the mandolin was a prized possession and something he didn't want to do without for long.

In other letters, we learned he played the instrument regularly at social functions at the CCC.

For some reason, however, my dad didn’t take the instrument from his childhood home place when he married. At a later time when he went to retrieve it, the instrument was gone. Perhaps it was lent out and never returned. He always lamented the loss of his mandolin.

I wish I had asked him, when we still had him with us, how he had come to own the instrument, how much it cost, how he learned to play.

Photo of a 1918 mandolin. I searched images and this is the one that more closely resembles the one he's pictured with above.

But most of all I wish now we had bought him another one. Why didn't we think about doing it?

I posed the question to mother. Had he lost interest in playing, was the instrument too expensive to purchase, was he too busy raising a family and making a living to pursue his musical enjoyment?

What I wouldn’t give to hear my dad play the mandolin now. But when I hear that twangy, bluesy sound I never fail to think of him.

Daddy as a young man
I didn't inherit his curly locks!
Thank you, Daddy, for the music you once made and for passing on to my sister and me your musical abilities (as limited as mine are).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Joys of Knitting Yarn, and Knitting (Maybe)

Each winter when the cold winds blow, when the ground is frozen solid and spring is just a distant dream, I get inspired to knit.

I checked out my yarn stash and imagined the lovely things I might make.

No shortage of materials here! I have the habit of purchasing yarn when I see it for sale, most often with no thought in mind of what I might make. It's a bad habit, I know.

I imagined all the eyelash novelty yarns above being made into a lightweight throw/afghan. A coat of many colors sort of thing.

These novelty yarns (below) attracted me, although I can't begin to imagine how tedious it would be to work with them.

 See what I mean?
 Wait, that's not all. Here's another boxfull of yarn.
I have all the necessary equipment, too. Several years ago I bought this neat book of knitting needles.
 Any size needle you'd ever need for knitting that attach onto the plastic lengths. Perfect for knitting in the round, or not.
 Tools of the trade.
 And a book or two.
I found a sweater that I started several years ago. The pattern is from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Without Tears. She's an advocate of knitting-in-the-round. Sweaters are knitted from the bottom up, ribbing is added later. Sleeves are knitted up and the whole mass joined onto one set of needles where the sleeves meet the bodice at the underarms. No seams to weave; I like that!

The yarn is a fine New Zealand wool and was quite expensive. I need to finish it!

The front is almost complete. 

I need to finish the sweater before I tackle socks - something I've wanted to try.

Several weeks of cold weather are ahead, so perhaps along with reading and other indoors endeavors, I'll get back into knitting.

How are you spending the cold winter months? Or if you're in that part of the world experiencing hot summers, how are you cooling off?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Moving Up in the World

It had to happen, knowing me and the way I am about pets.
Front to back, Myrtle, Murtie, Carl
They were born in the barn almost two years ago. There they lived there until cold weather set in at the end of 2012, at which time I moved them to the car garage. They would be warmer and it would be more convenient to look after them.

The three kitties were quite contented in the garage, but in late summer of this year I decided to move them into the conservatory, where they would be closer still, with a small electric heater to keep them warm on cold winter nights.

What's up, guys?
And then…..About two weeks ago I decided they should move inside – to be a part of the family.

I must say they have adjusted quite well. And the dogs, for the most part, are accepting of them.

Murtie, Myrtle and Carl. They are now "mostly" in the basement and have a room of their own. They have wandered up to the main floor but don't stay long. 

Their room in the basement is the same little room where I placed them in the summer of 2012, to recover from their surgeries, when they were five months old. They were quite naughty little kitties back then and wrecked the room. You may recall I posted a photo at the time; see it here.

Of course there were five of them back then. Two mysteriously disappeared one weekend more than a year ago. We were very sad.

But the three remaining kitties are all grown up now and not at all naughty, although curious.

Carl checking our the mysteries of the washing machine.

Carl and Murtie trying to help with a repair being made in the family room ceiling.
I will still allow them to go outside at intervals during the day -- if they want to.

The only one unhappy about this new arrangement is the kitties' Mommy, Sox.
But she, too, will adjust.
What accommodations do you make for your pets?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reads for the New Year

I stopped in at my favorite used bookstore, Arianas Book Exchange, a few days ago.I can't pass by without checking out their stock. The staff is very knowledgeable and the selection is quite good for a used bookstore.

It isn't as if I need anything new to read. I received a Kindle Paperwhite, the newest version, as a Christmas present, and was able to transfer the library on my previous version (Kindle Fire), onto my new one. Plus, I've already ordered a few new titles.

Arianas was having a year end sale - 75 percent off everything. Naturally, I found several books I wanted. All are "old," just books I never got around to reading at the time. 

The three books at the top of the stack are from a $1 bin, so I got quite a bit for my money. I've never read Fern Michaels, so at only a dollar each, I thought it might be a good time to try her.

I never read The Prince of Tides, although I think I saw the movie years ago. Seabiscuit is supposed to be really good and I don't know about the other two. But the covers looked interesting.

I'm more than halfway through The Language of Flowers and am captivated by the story. It's a tale about a girl who spent her childhood in foster-care. Now a young adult, she is unable to get close to anybody, her only connection to the world through flowers and their meanings.

I read the reviews when it came out last year and thought I'd enjoy it. It received rave reviews and was on the New York Times Bestseller list.

The weather makes it feel as if winter has truly arrive. The temperatures didn't make it above the freezing mark today, and we're headed for nighttime lows in the single digits in a few days.

Time to cozy up in front of a wood burning fire, cover up with a homemade quilt and start working my way through the stack.

Have you read anything interesting lately?
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