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