A visit from the Christmas baking elves

It had to be the elves because there's no way I did all that work over a weekend.  If my back and legs weren't so sore, I'd believe in those elves, you betcha!

This weekend, I decided to do a cookie bake and share with our friends and neighbors.  It's such an easy gift for people we know, but we don't really know well enough to know what they want for Cmas.  Everybody wants a Christmas cookie!  Well, almost everybody.

I baked oatmeal cookies and lace cookies and spritz cookies and frosted sugar cookies, and yesterday, the weirdest batch of fudge ever that got hard and grainy in the pan while it was cooling and I had to re-melt it to pour it.  

More than 22 dozen cookies in total.  Rob brought me a sandwich for lunch and by 1:30, the oven was off and the first round of dishes were washed.  Then, came the frosting.  I took over the dining table.  

Rob took a candid shot of me, focused on that piping bag.  I'm getting pretty good at it and I learned a lot about frosting and frosting consistency and piping bag tips.  I did the outlining in a thick frosting that held it's shape and then filled in with a thin frosting that spread out and filled the shapes.

And, I frosted cookies all afternoon and well into the evening while we watched a movie, and then started again early yesterday morning and by 10 a.m. the frosting bags and food coloring were put away and the dishes had been washed...for the thirty thrill-ianth time and I was able to get around to some other chores.  

I bought some green plastic leftover type containers at the store and packed about 3.5 dozen cookies in each one and while I made dinner last night, Rob distributed them to the neighbors.  

This kind of Cmas cookie baking was not my family tradition.  We didn't do a lot of frosting and after frosting all those cookies, I can see why.  (but I'll do it again!)  Our holiday baking was things like the oatmeal cookies and cookie bars and candies that didn't need frosting...but if you think about it, a batch of divinity takes as much time as frosting cookies does.  I'd like to get a group together to set up multiple stations and bake cookies, where everyone brings their ingredients, we get together and do the baking, then everyone takes home a dozen of each kind of cookie.  That would be fun!

In a sudden change of direction, I was sad to see the Camelia blooms are fading.  Usually this is blooming up a storm at Christmas, but I lost so much of it last year in that hard freeze and got a lot fewer blooms this year.  They were beautiful, tho!  

Sydney's Cmas cactus is going like gangbusters.  I wouldn't have chosen this pink, but she did and when she moved, she left it here.  The squirrels got in it one year and ate all the roots and I had to start over with cuttings.  This is the first really good year since.  There are several pots of these in the greenhouse, including one that's almost purple.  I hope to bring in those smaller pots to put around the house on the big day.  

Even Bella is getting into the Cmas parade.  Who could resist that cute face??  

This is for all of us grown-ups.  I've got some kids I work with that I might actually share this with.

Everybody have a great week!  I'm busy buying last minute gifts for people I forgot about earlier.  Because there's nothing like trying to pick up leftovers after 350,000,000 people have shopped on Amazon.  Today, I get my booster jab.  Tomorrow is going to be iffy, but I know I'll be recovered by Christmas.  And, if I'm not, they can bring my gifts to my bed with a helper to open them.  

Be well.  Love your loved ones.  Celebrate the holidays in whatever way you enjoy and remember that you don't have to do it that way just because you've always done it that way.  Make some new memories instead of trying to re-create the old ones.  And, most important, find a room with a good lock on the door and sit yourself down in it and take a breath.  The holidays are a marathon, not a sprint.  Run too fast and you'll fall down.  

Happy Holidays!
Lane, Rob and Sydney


The highest priorities

I'm definitely having to prioritize this holiday season.  Not only am I trying to do the regular holiday stuff, but I also had to re-plant the garden.  Decisions have had to be made about what gets done and what does not.  Rob and I always pick one Saturday to go shopping together and we knock out all our shopping in a go. We've already picked up all the things we need and these trips are for things we find and decide we want.  It's always fun and we shop at places where you never know what you're going to find, which adds to the excitement.  

I found a piece of fabric to bind the hand quilted Christmas quilt.  I wanted a red binding but could not find that shade of red, so settled for a gold/beige that will look nice.  I got the binding made and am hand sewing it to the quilt.  I had to mark the straight line on the quilt and also mark my 1/4" stitching line on the binding.  I'll get there, but like everything done by hand, it takes a while.  

Most of the week was spent studying plants.  I made a list of most of the plants in the garden and started learning about where they'd be the happiest.  A few that weren't dug up for the fence got moved, plus everything I'd already dug up and was trying to get back in the ground before it gets cold.  As I learned, I started moving pots to new locations and figuring out how much space each was going to need and I slowly filled in around them with smaller eye catchers that will grow in most conditions.  I still have a few evergreen structural plants, like liriope and cast iron plant (aspidistra) that I'll use to fill in some spaces at the end.  I also have some specimens that I intend to leave in pots so I can try to show them off a little.  I have plenty of brick to build some small pillars to display special plants on.  

Since I started gardening in this yard, it's been mostly shady.  But next year, there's going to be very little shade so I had to create a bit of a shady spot for some shade loving plants.  We'll see how it goes.  It's the only spot in the yard where I stand a chance of creating any shade.

Anyway, everything I've moved seems to be doing well.  A nurseryman acquaintance of our family when I was a kid said you can transplant anything, anytime if you give it enough water, so I've been watering the heck out of everything and it seems to be paying off.  

Still lots of cleaning up to do, but I'll get there.  I'm going to be decreasing my surplus of violets and using them for a more specific purpose and not letting them spread like ground cover.  Once those root balls get established, they're the devil to get out.  I plan to use violets as a border along the stone pathway.  I'll focus on that when I pull up the stones and rebuild that pathway.  That's definitely winter work, but I have to do it before it starts to rain in March and the garden turns to a large clay pit that tries to steal my shoes.  

We had a slight freeze Saturday night, so the firebush started to turn purple.  It will turn purple/red and be beautiful for a while, then all the leaves will fall off and it will die to the ground.  With all the sun the yard will get next year, this will get big as a house.  

I also did some baking.  My mom mentioned making tea cakes (a sort of sugar cookie from my childhood) while I was there and while we didn't make them, it got me thinking, so I made a batch of Aunt Ruby's tea cakes.  I couldn't remember the whole oil the bottom of a glass and press the cookies.  I couldn't get them to not stick to the glass and finally gave up and mashed them with a fork like peanut butter cookies.  If I'd made them with my Mom, she could have shown me again how that works on this particular recipe.  No matter, they're delicious!!

And, I finally made poor Rob that apple pie that I promised him the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We hate a soggy pie bottom so I studied par baking the bottom crust and tried it on this pie.  I can share that as of last night (day 2), the pie bottom was still flaky and firm, so I'll be doing that going forward.  Around the edge of the pan, I pinched the bottom crust at the edge and then lined it with parchment and filled it with pie weights and beans.  That kept it from sinking into the plate and when it was partially baked, I loaded it with the sliced apples and a top crust.  I also did some things to reduce the amount of liquid that would cook out of the apples and that affected flavor a little bit, but I can do that better next time.  

This neighbor always does a big display at the holidays.  He has a whole set of "when pigs fly" Christmas decorations and this year, he expanded to a full set of Star Wars Christmas inflatables.  It was so cute that I had to share it.  

I also wanted to mention the passing of Anne Rice, author of so many books that kept the hell scared out of me when I was younger.  I still love her books and re-read my favorites every so often.  I think I'll have to try something from her that I haven't read, as a memoriam to a great author that played a predominant part in my younger years and gave me and my friends so much to talk about.  

Everybody have a great week!  Remember to relax.  Holidays are marathons, not sprints and you need to take care of yourself, especially if it feels like you don't have time for that (the more it feels like you don't have time for it, the more you need it!)



A day late

Did you miss me yesterday?  I was in the car, driving home from a quick visit to see family.  All of last week was focused on trying to find ways to help them and the last section of fence, so no fun quilt progress.  

I got a few color changes on the afghan.  I'm still not a fan.  It's nice and I hope some youngster will enjoy it.  But, there's no 'keep or donate' debate going on for this one.  Now I know the pattern, I think I'd enjoy making another one in some of my favorite colors.  But, afghans are not conducive to dogs and cats that like to climb on you and we will always have pets and I hope they always want to climb on us for a nap.  

The builders installed the last section of fence along the back of the yard, between us and our new neighbor.  We'd just found out the builders would be there Thursday, and Wednesday night we saw someone at the house flicking on lights in a way that only a new owner would, so we walked over and knocked on the door (they weren't expecting visitors so it took them a long time to answer the door).  We introduced ourselves and told her the fence was coming down on Thursday and ended up standing there and having a very nice chat for 10 minutes and then, because we're not intrusive, we said good night and went back home and waved at them from our dining room window because you could see straight in that house after the remodel.  The fence fixed that.  We went as high as we could legally go.  

My fence coordinator, Rob.

When I was home, I did a little drive around to see what's changed.  I ended up by the high school.  I sat in the parking lot where the church I grew up in had stood and the only thing that I recognized about the school was the auditorium.  It's been that way since my Mom went to school there.  The only thing that's changed is the doors.  

My folks really do live in a beautiful place.  But, goodness the stories they tell about the wildlife around them sounds like they're still carving a homestead out of the wilderness.  Every kind of creature I can think of, some dangerous.  We dug a couple starter plants out of her flowerbeds and pulled some undesirable plants out by the roots. Her dirt is so soft.  I've been digging in my yard for weeks to get everything out for the fences and my soil is hard compacted clay that was dry and digging in it was work.  No matter how much organic matter I add to the soil, it's always going to be clay based.  When I stuck the shovel in my Mom's flowerbed, I did it with the force I'd have used at my house and the shovel sunk all the way to the handle.  I looked at her kind of embarrassed and we laughed and I complimented her very nice dirt.  

When I got there, I found that everything was not as dire as I'd thought it was.  In fact, my Dad's organization was inspiring.  He let me look at his filing cabinet where everything is in a labeled folder with an instruction page on top with helpful phone numbers and what to do and who to talk to and which folders to start with.  And I was ashamed because I thought he needed help and because my own paperwork is not nearly as organized.  He talked to me about his personal business and how it's set up and honestly, I couldn't find anything I knew enough about to try to help with.  And, he has an appointment with an attorney today in case there's anything he forgot.  I have made a lot of important decisions in my life and made some of the same choices my Dad made.  They're safe and fiscally conservative and I don't regret any of them.  And, now there's something else I can model after the way my Dad did it.  

My family's favorite pastime is bickering.  (And, waiting until everyone is standing up with their keys in their hands and who's riding with who has been decided and then making a totally different plan.)  I've never seen anything like it and it makes me very anxious because when Rob and I talk to one another like that, we're mad.  But, they don't appear to be mad.  It's just the way they communicate.  And, unfortunately, in the last 15 minutes of my visit, I let my anxiety get hold of my mouth and I was not my normally nice and jovial self.  Because it was the end of the visit, it's what everyone will remember.  It's unfortunate and I regret it.  

I remember being like that.  Rob remembers me being more like that than I am, but not as much as I was at my worst.  I was the master at snarky comments.  But, living in a bigger city, I learned pretty quick that people that aren't raised around bickering won't put up with it and I had to change how I addressed the world.  It's taken a long time and the biggest changes came at the beginning, when an older co-worker named Betty sat me down and told me in no uncertain terms that I couldn't talk to and about people like that, and after Syd came to live with us and I started to hear my words come back to me.  I like myself better and the world likes me better too.  I walked around the hotel I stayed at and everybody was so happy.  Smiling, speaking, chatting in the elevator, talking to and about small kids over breakfast, making jokes with the housekeeping staff.  That's the world I'm used to interacting with now, and that's how I interact with it.  

They say you can never go home again because you go back as a different person.  I can say that for me, that is true.  I go back as a different person and have trouble finding my place in their day to day interactions and familiarity.  But, I keep trying.  

Be well.  Hug someone you love today, even if it's virtual.  


And everyone enjoyed themselves

I realize how lucky we are that I can say that so often.  We've created a holiday environment where everyone can be relaxed and take what they want from the day and enjoy being together and the good food and the good visit and usually a movie.  

Hey look!  Sydney cut all her hair off!  She cut it off the night before.  We've never seen her with short hair.  I played all disappointed that I didn't get to do it after threatening to so many, many, many, (many) times.  She looks good with short hair.  She doesn't have it to hide behind and I think that's a very good thing.  

It's a good thing we don't eat like that often.  

And, yes.  We used the good dishes and the good silver and it took me two hours to clean up the kitchen after we ate.  And, it was worth every minute.  They left me alone and I took it slow and kept hydrated and powered through it in a very organized way.  Holidays are a marathon, not a sprint.

And, while I cooked, Rob put up the outside Cmas lights, so there's another holiday started.  

On Friday, we started decorating the inside of the house.  We're pros at this.  This is a new tree.  Rob bought it to highlight the LiBien ornaments we've collected.  72 of them.  There's at least one for every year since 1997 with the exception of 2000 and 2020.  (don't do the math...we have a LOT)

And, on Saturday, the swag went up.  That's years and years of collecting red ornaments.

And, on Sunday, the main tree.  And, there is an ornament on dang near every branch.  

My Mom started an ornament collection for each of us kids and gave them to us when we were adults.  The earliest one I can find is 4 years old (1966).  I hung it on the tree first and next to it, an angel that Rob brought into the collection from his life.  

On the family front, I've spoken to my sisters and gotten a feel for how things are going for them and I'm planning a trip home soon to talk about business.  And, to get my own read of the situation.  I've studied and taken notes and written down questions and feel confident that we can work our way through figuring out how we can support my Mom and my Dad through this next chapter.  Thanks for your supportive words last week.  They meant a lot and helped me feel stronger about my ability to help.  

Be well.  It's not a holiday if you're uptight and struggling.  Find a way to relax.  Pick the parts you enjoy and skip the parts that make it feel overwhelming.  If you enjoy it, it won't feel like work at all (he says after doing dishes by hand about 14 times in the last week).  



In times of trouble

My Dad told me one time that when my Grandmother had troubles and couldn't sleep, she'd get up and scrub the kitchen floor on her hands and knees.  In the past, I have actually gotten on my hands and knees and scrubbed the kitchen floor with a brush until I forgot my troubles and was able to make a plan.  Now, I start a new project.  It's much more fun than scrubbing the floor,  but it has the same effect (except I still have a dirty kitchen floor).  It gives my hands something productive to do and frees my mind up to think through whatever problem I'm having and come up with a solution.  To the untrained eye, I knitted almost all day on Saturday, despite it being a beautiful day outside.  But on Sunday, I woke up with a plan.  

A co-worker wanted to learn to knit and signed up for a class.  And, she hated it.  I think she had a bad instructor and that the project she picked was too advanced (a baby sweater) and she got frustrated with not being able to do it and every time the instructor walked by, she'd look a the work, take it off the needle and pull out yards and yards of yarn.  At least that's how my friend described it.  Anyway, she gave up and gave me all her stuff.  It was four skeins of yarn, two multicolor and two that were chosen from the multiple colors.  There was a beginners book and some sets of needles and a "starter kit".  I incorporated it into my supplies and looked through the book and found a pattern for a ripple afghan.  Now, I didn't think you could knit a ripple afghan, so that got my attention and I bought a couple more skeins to go with what I'd been gifted and packed the project up with everything I'd need and set it in the studio closet for "some day".  And Saturday was that day.  

Like all ripples, you add stitches on the hill top and take stitches away in the valley, but on the needles, you're working with a straight line.  I have to admit that this beginners pattern stumped me, and I had to start it over a couple of times.  That let me vent some frustration in a healthy way and in the afternoon I got it figured out and I was off to the races.  It's not something I'd normally have picked as a project, but for a stress project, it's working out pretty good.  When I'm done, I'm going to offer it back to the friend that gave me the yarn and if she doesn't want it, I'll send it to Project Linus.  

Yesterday, I was even more productive and tired my body out as much as my mind.  

I cleaned up in the greenhouse.  I''m going to need to fill it with plants soon and over the summer, I'd covered every inch of space with "stuff".  I took this opportunity to bring everything back together, finding a place for the tools and clearing out and throwing away a lot of junk and trying to get all my trays in one place so I'll be able to find them when I need them, and lots and lots of sweeping.

I found this in the greenhouse while I was out there.  It was a very pleasant surprise.  

I came in and we had lunch and I baked bread.  I kind of needed a success.  I baked bread last weekend and it didn't rise right and it's very thick and dense.  Not being willing to waste, I was eating it, but not enjoying it so much.  I'm going to dice that bread for this week's stuffing.  It should be perfect for that and yesterday's loaves came out perfect.

October for me is "doctor month" or "Doctober".  I see them all.  Well, except the optometrist and I need to schedule with her.  Except for my dentist, all my doctors are women and I feel very comfortable with them.  This year, there were conflicting and unexpected lab results.  Nothing serious.  Just a little "out of whack" and it was different than the normal "all's well, see you next year!" that has been my office visits for years.  I also found out that my Mom's dementia is progressing and I'm likely going to need to get more involved in helping her out.  I'm not sure what form that's going to take since I'm 450 miles away and not "boots on the ground".  I'm not sure what I have to offer that my family will accept.  And, I'm not sure I'm looking forward to being more involved in their lives and they in mine.  Their lives are so different than mine and it's like walking in a mine field to keep from offending one or another or all of them...or them offending me.  But my sisters are going to need help and I'm going to offer it and they'll have to decide whether to take it.  This is what "adulting" is all about.  And nobody "adults" better than Rob and me.  In a crisis, we work in tandem, like a well trained team of show horses, helping one another and pulling whatever load we have to bear.  Together.  

I'm not worried about being able to do what needs doing.  The things I've done make me confident that I can do what I'll need to do.  And, the first step is making a plan.  And, that means getting my thoughts out of the way so my brain can figure stuff out.  And, if that means I start 17 things and leave them all unfinished, then that's what it means.  And it's okay.

Be well!  Hug someone you love.  Take care of yourself as much as you take care of others.  



And, then they rested

On Saturday, we cleaned in prep for the holidays.  Now, we can have guests.  Our house is normally clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy, but today, you could perform surgery here.  

Okay, maybe not, but it sure smells good.

I set my mind to finish the hand quilted Cmas quilt yesterday afternoon and I think I got within about 30 minutes of being done.  There are a few little short segments to put in one corner and it will be ready to bind.  By hand of course.  

The quilting doesn't compete with the fabric or pattern and I am very happy with it, and to be finished with it.  I wondered if we'd be able to hang it this year, and barring anything awful, I believe we will.  

I love that feeling when a long project is finished.  Now I need to get in that sewing closet and figure out what I can finish next.  I'd love to piece something new, but I'm holding myself back from starting a new project.  

I took off another couple days last week and one of the things I did was to fix this shirt.  I made it many years ago when I was learning to make garments.  It was for a shirt making challenge where we did a little every day and added a lot of features, like my name embroidered in the collar stand and my monogram on the inside of the cuffs and the host did a good job of making sure we all ended up with something to be proud of.  Of course, with me working full time, it left me doing a lot on a weekend to catch up.  The host suggested a vintage pattern, so I used one from the 70's or 80's, so it had huge cuffs and an extremely wide collar and I don't think I ever wore it.  If I did, it was only once.  I could live with the cuffs, but the collar made it hard to wear.  It hung in my mending pile for a long time...a really long time.  Last week, I opened the collar stand and took out the collar, pulled all the top stitching and turned the collar wrong side out, re-cut it and finished it and sewed it back into the stand.  It took a couple hours but now I have a new shirt to wear.  A really nice one.

Of course, that makes me want to dive into that mending pile and get something else done.  

Weekend before last, I did another plant giveaway.  I gave away about 40 plants.  Lots of seedlings and divisions.  There were a lot of echinacea, iris, and society garlic, plus some one offs that I'd dug up or grown from seed to see if I could.  It was going so well that on Sunday, I pulled out some more things I had been waffling about and put them out there.  By mid-afternoon, it was all gone, even the sign, the box the sign was taped to and the stake that held the box up.  Later, I found those things, except the sign that described the plants.  And, I found this little note written on a corner they'd left.  That felt pretty good and when we walked the dogs this weekend, I saw pots all over the neighborhood that had come from here.  

The garden is looking rough right now and behind the greenhouse looks like a nursery because of all the plants I've dug up and potted.  The garden will have a different layout next year.  It will be like a fresh start.  But,for now, the green zinnias are putting on a nice show.

And, the nasturtiums are putting on a late show

It's a good thing I got this picture of the maple tree on Friday because it lost most of its leaves over the weekend.  It happens really fast here.  

Things at work are a little rough right now.  My boss is kind of "unraveling".  His new job takes organization he doesn't have.  My peer and I are trying to help but instead of reaching out, he's withdrawn in and I'm not sure he can hear us.  When I took this job, I was told it would be like standing in front of a firehose, and it is, almost all the time.  My old boss helped prop me up against it and I'm trying to do the same for my new one.  But first, he will have to realize he needs help and can't do it all alone.  Time will tell whether he's a boss that relies on his team to succeed or blames them for the struggle.  I've worked for both kind.  

Everybody have a great week!  Can you believe it's nearly Thanksgiving?  I'm thinking of roasting a hen or a turkey breast instead of a full size turkey this year.  A nice fat hen is more than enough to feed us all on the big day.  I think this every year.  And, every year I put ten pounds of turkey in the oven and then struggle to eat the leftovers before they go bad.  I hate to waste food...which probably comes from being reminded of the 'starving children in Africa' my whole childhood.  What you say to your kids sticks with them for a lifetime.  

Be well and find something you enjoy.  Make some finishes to mark the time.  



Time for finishes

Last week, I felt a pressure to finish some things I had going on.  The holidays are approaching and things are changing around me and I had too many projects going on.  

I picked up my unfinished glove Saturday morning and decided I'd let it sit long enough.  I got bored with it when I was making the third one (first was too small and had to be taken apart), so I powered through and by mid-day, I had the last fingers knitted and the threads were tucked in.  They're okay.  They have a few problems, but they'll keep my hands warm.  I think gloves must take a lot of practice to get really good at and I'm not sure I want to put in that practice, although I'm pretty sure I'm going to make Rob another fingerless pair.  He loves the ones I made him a few years ago.  

I also pressed fast forward on the Christmas quilt border.  I am so close to the finish line on this one. Just a few more hours of hand quilting to go.  I'm around two sides of border and half way down the third side.  We'll see if I can push myself all the way to the end, or whether this one ends up having to "rest and sit a spell" before I can get to the end.  Hand quilting is "thinking" work.  I can try to watch TV, but mostly I'm looking at where the needle is going.  I can listen to a book, but my mind drifts.  I end up thinking...I've solved all the world's problems in the time it's taken me to quilt this little quilt.  I even solved a few of my own.  

I took off on Wednesday last week and am taking a couple days off this week.  I'm using that time productively around the house.  One of the projects I'd been gathering supplies for was a wind chime that a friend gave me more than 20 years ago.  The wood was dry and gray and in really bad shape and the chimes were spotted with something like rust, but not rust.  I sanded and added a couple coats of polyurethane to the wood parts, which brought out a beautiful walnut stain that I had forgotten was there.  I polished the chimes with steel wool and re-threaded the whole thing with a nice bright green nylon string.  It came out perfect.  Looks just like new.  I can't wait to hang them back in the yard so we can hear their soft melody again (I walk by and give them a tap every so often, just to hear them).

Friday was Syd's birthday.  She came for dinner.  I made pot roast.  Last Tuesday, she asked for a chocolate pie, so on Friday morning at 6am, I was rolling out a crust, then making the pudding from scratch using my Grandmother's recipe, and topped it with a perfect meringue.  She asked when chocolate pie came with meringue and I answered 'since my Grandmother made the first one for me back in 1969'.  She and Rob both said they didn't remember me putting meringue on pies.  I think they've both lost their memories.  Anyway, she took the meringue off her slice and I took it onto mine and enjoyed it twice as much.  She didn't take the leftovers home, maybe because of the meringue, which honestly fit me fine...I love chocolate pie.  I used to beg anybody that made a good one for a pie (no instant pudding for me).  I used to mow my Aunt Maxine's yard for a chocolate pie.  We ate the last slice last night and the crust wasn't even soggy.  It was a perfect pie.

We were invited by our neighbors to see their house post-remodel last night with some other neighbors.  We had drinks and appetizers and tons of laughs and conversation.  It was really nice.  We need to have people over, but we have to clean carpets first.  We're talking seriously about next projects now, and I realized I need to do whatever I'm going to do in the kitchen and then we can get new floors and I'm ready to get on that.  I love my kitchen and I love the way it's laid out and the only thing wrong is that I have too much stuff for my storage space.  But, I'm willing to consult with a professional kitchen designer and see if there's another configuration that would give me more room to work...but I'm afraid it means giving up the separate dining room and I'm having a little trouble doing that.  

Everybody have a great week!  If you're like me and in the mood to finish projects before end of year, then good luck!  Let's see how much we can bring to a conclusion before the year concludes.  


P.S. We watched Tom Hanks in Finch this weekend.  Great movie!  We enjoyed it so much, but be sure you have your tissues handy.  Pretty sure Tom Hanks can do anything.  


A good time for hand quilting

 Happy Dia de los Muertos!  Here in TX, the day of the dead is a pretty big deal, with friends and relatives celebrating the people they've loved and lost.  Not a day of sadness, a day of remembrance where they enjoy things that they enjoyed with their departed.  It's actually very nice, once you get past the dressed up skeletons and understand it for what it really is.  

The handmade Christmas quilt is starting to feel like a quilt.  That feeling is hard to describe, but in the quilting process, there's a point where it stops feeling like three things being sewn together and starts to feel like one thing, a quilt.  Maybe it's like reaching critical mass of stitches or something, but when it gets to a certain point, it "feels" like a quilt, it feels weightier and solid.  This quilt is there.  

I finally finished that narrow border I was quilting three straight lines in...there's nothing harder than quilting a line that looks straight and I took it out a lot and put it back in again.  The border itself isn't straight so I had to quilt a line that looked straight and centered, whether it is or not.  Then, I could focus on the border.  I ran into trouble with the original echoed half circles and  tried a couple other ideas, but then figured out the original idea and proceeded with it.  I had to pull out a fresh water soluble marker to do it tho.  And a small compass that has a holder large enough for the pen.  But, once I had everything I needed, marking moved fast and I can quilt one of those in about an hour and a half.  I'll fill in the V shapes along the outside with more echoes that come to a V shape.  And, I'm probably going to have to get back into the quilt center to fill in some V shaped spots that I left empty.  You can see some of them just inside the red border below.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to put there, but anything other than more echo would likely look pretty odd, so that decision is made.    

Halloween is kind of hit and miss at our house.  We hope for the best and usually eat more candy than we give away.  This year, we decided to set up a table outside like we saw people do last year.  Of course, putting candy on a table means monitoring it.  We made bags with candy and a small wind-up toy in each one.  We probably had more fun than anybody that walked up.

This is what we looked like after dark.  

This was the hit of the evening.  Rob had this plastic cauldron and he drilled a hole in it and put a string of small orange lights inside and covered it with white tissue paper.  Everybody was curious about it and reached out to touch.  

I made chocolate chip cookies for us and fresh bread and the best chicken salad I ever made from a couple of leftover pieces and we had sandwiches on warm fresh bread.  Then we went out and waited for the children.  When the children got taller than me, we turned off the light and went inside.  We might have had a dozen kids.  

I'm getting ready for the next phase of fence and am digging up the back garden.  There are holes everywhere that will get filled and trampled and rained on and will flatten out and I'll forget where everything came from and am planning to re-design the whole thing anyway.  It is both discouraging and exciting.  

But, I'm still getting flowers.  The nasturtiums I planted this year are still going.  It's the only time I've had this kind of success with them.  And, one of the hibiscus is giving me the occasional flower.  The green zinnias are really putting on a show and even my poor, sad Mr Lincoln rose gave me a flower this week.  

I got the nicest surprise this week.  My boss sent me a fruit basket as a thank you for a project that's just wrapping up.  I was very touched.  We haven't created the relationship I'm used to enjoying with my managers.  We're not close and we don't "chat" and it's all business between us.  That's okay.  We'll figure out our way.  And, you don't really know a manager until they write a performance evaluation anyway and a fruit basket is kind of a performance evaluation, I guess.  I never think to take a before, so here's an after picture...after I took out two pounds of crinkly brown paper that jumps and escapes and ends up EVERY where.  

Y'all have a good week!  Find something that makes you happy and let it.

Be well!!  Lane