A beautiful, wonderful, no stress Christmas (almost)

Nice as it was, I'm glad it's in the rear window.  We had some new traditions this year and some really nice moments in the kitchen laughing and talking.  Everyone was happy with their gifts.  Then there were naps and the dishwasher was run several times and then it was over.  And, all that's left is a big pile of pots, pans and dishes that live in hard to reach places.  I refused to crawl around on the floor or climb a step stool to put them away.  

I worked a full day on Monday...sort of.  Mostly I unpacked my stuff at my new desk.  I brought home two large boxes of personal stuff that there is no room for.  The team had lunch and I got home around the same time Rob did and called it a day.  I worked half days Tuesday and Wednesday and spent every spare minute working on the quilts for the greenhouse, which were finished on time and I believe have kept the greenhouse warm during this hard freeze.  Thursday, we finished our freeze prep and Friday, we went out for a last minute shopping jaunt that we both enjoyed very much.  Saturday we took a quick trip to the grocery and I did as much cooking as I could and yesterday, we had a nice relaxed day.  

It started with pull-apart, or monkey, or bubble bread, depending on where you are.  

And, then lunch

And, cake.  

And, that's why we needed naps.  I was blessed by the cooking gods and everything came out right, nothing burned, nothing under done, and most important, it all came out of the oven at the right time.  Relatively speaking.  Because lunch was an hour late.  But, they should be used to that as it happens almost every big meal.  

Unfortunately, the cake (4 layers of orange sponge with an orange curd filling and slightly orange flavored American buttercream frosting) was dry.  As Rob said, it wouldn't get me sent home, but I wouldn't be star baker.  Still a lot to learn about baking.  Every year I set a bigger challenge for the Christmas cake and see how close I can get to it.  I'm pretty happy with what I'm learning about frosting, but have to get back to the basics of baking a moist cake.  

This is what the greenhouses look like with their covers on.  The small one on the left is completely enclosed in four basted quilts made from old fabrics and batting scraps.  There was not time to get them quilted before this freeze, but I'll be doing that and will hopefully have them finished for the next hard freeze.  I believe they worked but I'll be opening it up today to make sure.  

I'm only working two half days this week.  The rest of the time will be spent relaxing, enjoying myself, and eating leftovers.  Sydney brought back the shirt I made her not long ago.  The cuffs are too tight, so I'll replace them.  I bought an online shirt making class a couple weeks ago and it will give me a chance to watch it with a shirt in my hands.  Or maybe I'll cut a new one out.  Or maybe I'll just sit on my behind and knit the week away.  Rob gave me some new wool yarn for Christmas that's itching to be a hat and scarf.  

I hope that your Christmas was happy and relaxing and that your food was good and you were surrounded by laughter and fun.  And, I hope you're getting some time to feel peaceful and relaxed now it's over.  In a week, it will be a new year and we will see what challenges and joys it brings.  

Be happy.  Lane


The big week

 It's a big week because of the holidays, of course, but it's also a big week because we're having our first freeze.  Rob and I both spent time working hard and we're both a little achy this morning.  Not too bad, but it's one of those days I'm reminded I'm 60 years old.  

I finished the Christmas cookies.   Just in time to give them away.  If we can stop eating them long enough.  I love having them to give away, but I need to remember they take a lot of time.  But ain't they cute?  Now, we're just eating the ugly ones and while they do have calories, they're 'good deed' calories.  If we eat the ugly ones, we save the neighbors from having to look at their horror.  Good deed calories wash away in the shower.  

I think I've shown you most of our decorations, except the Santas

And, the quilts.  This was a block of the month from a few years ago.

I made this one when I was into the tiny detailed quilting.  It's truly one of my favorites.  

The designs in the corners aren't a print.  They're the quilting.  

And, my very first Christmas quilt.  I'm reminded how long ago I made this and how far above my skill level it was at the time.  But, I love the end result.  

Yesterday, we packed all the plants in the greenhouses.  We have a forecasted 15* night, so the greenhouses will get their covers.  I'm making what Rob has come to call a greenhouse cozy for the small greenhouse.  With a light inside for heat, it should keep the plants inside nice and warm.  I'm using all the old fabrics from our bedroom; the roman shades, bedskirt and bed spread.  There will be four quilts (two sides, front and back).  They have to be small enough to launder.  Eventually, there will be button holes so I can lash them together along the edges, but for this year, I"m going to be lucky to get them finished, so they'll be sewn together around the edges with large hand stitches and a heavy thread, because I didn't start this project early enough either.  The batting is old poly batting scraps and leftovers and a couple of twin size cheap battings I bought.  The backs are lightweight curtains and sheets that were on the way to being drop cloths.  The edges are serged together instead of bound.  We're going to see how that goes and if it doesn't work, I'll bind them.  

Here's the inside of the big greenhouse.  Lots of plants packed into a small space.  This greenhouse is easier to warm, so it only needs a tarp for a cover...I'd hate to be making quilts big enough for it!

And, my thought for the day.  

Everybody have a wonderful holiday.  I know there are several this time of year.  If you're celebrating Christmas, may Santa be kind and your family be nice and whatever you're baking, roasting or deep frying come out perfect and delicious.  Most of all, may you be surrounded by people you love and who love you back. 

Peace, Love and Joy to you this season.  



The Christmas village

There are a lot of meanings of "village" at this time of year.  There are the neighbors and the friends I've made online, my work team and then there are Rob's Christmas villages, where nothing ever goes wrong and they sing carols into the night with wassail and fruitcake to sustain them.  

He built this stand this year so he could display his victorian village better.  It looks WONDERFUL and I know he's very proud of it.  

Here are some close-ups.  The neighbors came over the other day and saw it and he told them stories about what the characters were up to.  

And, here is his Retroville village.  With the availability of cars, these folks really get around.  

Let it be said that no one likes a diorama like my husband does.  We go all out for holiday decorating.  

Rob's been out of town this weekend, so I decided it was a good time to bake Christmas cookies.  What a maroon I am.  Not only did I have all the regular chores and the weekend chores, and paying attention to the animals so they wouldn't feel abandoned, but I was trying to make 10 dozen cookies.  Even taking Friday off, there was not time.  This was as far as I got.  I spread a clean table cloth over the whole thing and walked away.  Everything is outlined so just needs to be filled in and I need to come up with a brown food coloring for the gingerbread men.  Then, it's just details, like buttons and eyes and striping the candy canes.  I've got one more night to see how much progress I can make and how much table I can clear off before he gets home.  

A friend has been posting pictures of the most delicious looking small pizzas and I wanted to give it a try.  I made veggie pizza two nights in a row.  The second night looked much better than the first, but both were delicious.  And, the crust was perfect!!  That's always our complaint about take out pizza.  

He shared his dough recipe and said it made a great bread and sometimes he adds cheese.  Well, that was too tempting, so I made it yesterday afternoon.  I let it rise twice and should only have let it go once (doesn't follow directions well) so it's not very big and pretty, but it was so good that I ate half the loaf last night.  I love bread.

The camellias are in bloom.  They're so beautiful, especially on these grey cloudy days.  They remind me of the camellias that bloomed in front of my Grandparent's house.  I do enjoy having something in bloom almost year round.  

And, there was this late rose, which I cut and brought inside to enjoy.  

We've got neighbors that decorate as much as we do.  Maybe more.  This is just their front yard.  Who knows what's inside.  

I had to go to the office on Thursday to pack up my desk to move to our new location.  I'll have half the space at the office, which means half the incentive to go there.  And, since there was almost no incentive before...  I packed up what was at my old desk and carried a box of personal stuff to the new desk.  Needless to say, it's not going to fit, so next time I go up there, it will be to unpack a few things and re-pack all the stuff I'll need to bring home.  Anyway, I hope the lady that complained about where we sat is happy.  Very, very happy.  

Everybody have a great week!  I hope you're enjoying the build up to the holidays.  And, next year, right around Thanksgiving, can someone please remind me that I DON'T NEED TO MAKE 10 DOZEN COOKIES EVER AGAIN!!  And, if I do, the broken ones are not really calorie free?




Holiday prep

 This was shopping weekend.  We did our usual trek out together to shop.  We didn't buy many Christmas presents, but we sure did have a lot of fun.  Just the two of us, relaxed and happy and enjoying ourselves.  We managed to buy things for one another without the other one seeing.  That kind of secrecy is always fun.  There weren't many shoppers out and we think that's a combination of less shopping this year and the fact we were out early in the day.  It was also cloudy and cool and that might have kept some people home.  Always glad when it's cool enough to Christmas shop in long pants.  It just doesn't seem like the holidays when we're shopping in shorts.  

I promised more pics of the house.  Here are the Christmas trees.

The big tree.  We have an ornament collection...several in fact.  We have ornaments from my Grandparent's tree, my parent's tree, a collection that my Mom started for me when I was about 3, and our friend Linda's collection.  I would say we have everything but the kitchen sink, except there's an ornament made from a dollhouse kitchen sink.  

Every year, the tree looks the same, but every year it's different because I place the ornaments I'm interested in that year where they can be seen the best.  This year, the ornaments from my Grandparent's tree are at eye level, even though they're not as bright and shiny anymore, they still mean so much to me.  

This is the LiBien tree.  These are all hand painted ornaments.  Pier 1 used to sell them and now World Market does.  We have at least one from every year since 1997.  We've filled the tree and added ornaments to the center and still bought more ornaments this year that we'll have to find a place to hang.  They hang in order by year, oldest at the top because yes, we are those people.  

without the lights so you can see the ornaments.  

And, the ceramic tree.  Everybody probably remembers one of these.  They seem to be making a comeback.  My Mom's was solid white, but I can't remember whether the bulbs were white or multicolor.  I think multicolor.   Anyway, Rob shopped and shopped for one, but they were very expensive.  We happened to stop at a garage sale one summer day and they had one for like $10.  He paid them more and explained that it was worth so much more than what they were asking, it would have felt like taking advantage of them.  

I decided I wanted a fruitcake this year.  Without a recipe, I bought dried fruit in the grocery; cherries, pineapple, apricots, dates, raisins, black currants.  Rob can't eat nuts, so I left those out.  To me, the problem with fruitcake is it's so heavy and dense so I spent about an hour reading fruitcake recipes and about what makes fruitcake dense (not enough liquid in the batter).  I found the recipe I wanted to try.  It seemed like it would make a very light cake, but when I put the batter together, it was heavy and thick.  I added buttermilk to interact with the baking powder and help it rise, and a half cup of rum.  I didn't realize that there weren't any spices in the recipe until I was started making it, so I added some Christmas flavors like nutmeg and cinnamon and clove.  It came out perfect, so I wrote down the recipe!  We couldn't resist, so we cut the smallest one last night.  Light, moist and even though the flavors haven't combined, it was delicious!  I'll wrap the other two and give them a drink now and then and these will be perfect by Christmas week.  

We are getting great fall color in the yard.  We don't always.  Sometimes, the leaves all fall in one day and it's over before you know it.  


Just one thought today.  

Everybody have a great week.  Remember that the holidays are about the fun you have, not the number of presents under the tree or the size of the feast.



Who else is tired of leftovers?

 Last week, in the US, we celebrated Thanksgiving.  It's a celebration of our abundance of food and we generally go all out.  We went all out at our house because that abundance may not be there forever.  I wanted to be sure we celebrated abundance without waste, so poor Rob has eaten leftovers until he gets a little green around mealtimes.  But, it's not like he ate the same old meal, over and over.  We had turkey sandwiches and turkey pot pie and turkey taco soup.  And, before the big day, we had jalfrezi chicken curry and gumbo so he had other flavors under his belt (hahaha, I crack myself up) before the season of leftovers began.  We finished all our leftovers and tonight, I'll make him something that is not similar to poultry in any way.  

Last week, after I finished that thread crochet square, I decided I wanted to try tatting again.  I've tried once or twice before and never got the hang of it.  I started two really complex pieces not designed for beginners to try to learn.  I cut those off the shuttles and tossed them and started with a heavier thread and a pattern that I watched a lady make on the internet.  I threw away a lot of thread before I got it.  One night, I sat watching TV, huddled over my work as my fingers fought with the knots, putting them in, taking them out, getting discouraged and starting over.  After a bunch of false starts and one long chain, just to learn the hand movements, I managed to make a snowflake.  It wasn't very good, but at least it was a complete pattern.  And, then I made another and another and another and now, I have 15 not so great snowflakes, but each one is better than the one before it.  I'm still struggling with tension, but I'll get the hang of it, if I keep trying.  This is definitely a beginner pattern.  The one in the lower left corner is a different pattern.  More complicated and while the snowflake looks ok, it has a lot of errors.  (yes, I stacked them so you couldn't look too close.  There's supposed to be 6 rings in each one.  But some have 5 or 7, depending on how much attention I was paying)

Yesterday, I starched and blocked them and since I had all that out, I also blocked the square from last week.  I managed to get it to a 12" square (sorry for the angled photo), so I guess those rectangles aren't as hopeless as I thought they were.  Of course, I took a UFO apart before I realized that.  

As our tradition dictates, we decorated for Christmas over the weekend.  I'll give you a sneak peak, but then show other photos over the month.  Every year, I dread putting up the swag, but when it's done, it's beautiful and I can start to dread taking it down.  

Last week, someone used the word woke in a derogatory way.  I wasn't in a position to call it out, but later, I wondered if the speaker even knew what "woke" meant.  And, I wondered if they realized I think of myself as very woke and whether they would have said it if they did.  

Now, woke isn't something I woke up one day and became.  My 'woke-ness' started as a child.  My parents did their best to instill in me a belief that the prejudice I saw all around me was a bad thing, an example I should not follow.  When I was in high school, we had many conversations about prejudice and my parents set an example of kindness toward the Black people we lived among.  They are human and they grew up in a different time and prejudice peaked out once in a while, but they were setting a different example for me to follow and were careful that the message didn't get mixed.  That included inviting the first black person they'd ever had as a guest in their home.  Today, that sounds like a big nothing, but in 1978 in Louisiana, that was a big freakin' deal!  

The world was changing radically during the 60's and 70's and my Dad especially encouraged me to keep up with current events.  I doubt he realizes the example he set by reading the paper and watching the news every day.  (We were a Cronkite household.)  

Being woke is really no big deal.  I know MAGA has made it out to be a big deal, but it's all about kindness and empathy and understanding and trying; all the lessons I learned in church.  It's not about seeing Blacks or Mexicans as equals.  It's about seeing EVERYONE as an equal with an equal right to succeed and an equal right to exist and an equal right to love who they want and live the life they choose for themselves.  It's also about presenting everyone with a range of options for how to live their lives and not locking them onto one path that they and their children must follow for life.  It's about helping one another and caring about one another.  

It's about trying to be a better person, every day.  Today, I will be more accepting and better informed than I was yesterday, and tomorrow I will be better than I am today.  

Okay, that's enough for me today.  Follow those who seek the truth.  Run from those who claim to have found it.  



TV distractions

I'm not one to sit still, even when we're watching TV.  We don't watch much TV with subtitles because I'm always looking at my work.   My favorite things to do watching TV are knitting and crochet.  I can knit sock rows without looking down...mostly and the same with crochet for things like afghans.  Anyway, I decided I wanted to do some thread crochet and for me, that means filet work.  I haven't done a lot of it, but my head understands it and I can follow the patterns easily.  And, it looks a lot easier than pineapple doilies.  This is supposed to be one square in a tablecloth, but I followed the pattern in reverse to make it a doily (yeah, right.  I did NOT realize I had reversed it til near the end when I realized it didn't have the open weave of the tablecloth in the picture.)

My goal is to make the work square instead of rectangular.  This piece is better than the last one I started.  I've had it in my head that I could block it square, but I don't think that works like I thought it would.  I can't get this one to stretch to square, at least not yet.  

This is the first piece I made, several years ago.  The squares in it look more square.  I made it long enough ago that I can't remember which stitch I used.  It's never been blocked either.  

Filet work is about open and closed squares.  The open spaces form a square and the closed spaces should be square.  If my tension is too tight, the stitches that fill a square are too short.  The most recent project used an extended double crochet, but I think the first project used a triple.  I plan to try a triple next time.  

There are a couple other UFOs lying around, but they'll likely have to be restarted.  I used a double crochet and they're extremely rectangular.  One was a huge project and after many hours, when I was about a third of the way through, I ran out of thread and before I shopped for more, I decided to learn more about filet work and found out I was mostly doing it wrong.  All those hours of work will need to be balled back up so they can be used in another project.  And, I've bought new thread to start that project over.  But, only after my squares are square.  Too big of a project to do it badly...again.

We cleaned carpets this weekend.  It's a holiday tradition.  The dogs were like 'we just got it to smell like we like it and now you're washing it away.  Stupid human.'  At one time, the cat was on the sofa with them.  It was the only safe place to lie about.

Thanksgiving is upon us.  There was some prep yesterday.  I decided to make my own bread for the stuffing and I made Rob's copper penny carrots, which have to sit a few days to achieve peak flavor.  And, the turkey is thawing and I hope yours is too.  Today is the only day I'm working this week...well, if you don't count kitchen work.  I plan to spend part of it in the yard, moving plants into the greenhouse.  The fight for space has begun out there.  We're not near freezing weather yet, but better to be prepared.  

I spent part of the week moving to a new social media platform.  I'm not so worried that Elon will crash twitter, but I'm also not sure I want to be using an Elon owned product.  And, the ads he's selling now are pretty objectionable and don't have relevance in my life and it can be surprising when you're scrolling and there's an advertisement from a preacher saying that if God says the moon is made of cheese, we should get our crackers ready.  Except God never said the moon was made of cheese.  And, why would anyone follow someone saying stupid stuff like that?  

Anyway, I'd let my twitter account get away from me and I'd become an excitement junkie.  I'd read for the latest "breaking news" and whether it was true or not, I'd get all twitchy about it.  And, when something bad happened, I'd be depressed.  I followed the mood of the people I followed.  This time, I'm doing it different.  I'm following lots of gay men like me and a few trusted political accounts that have proven accurate over time.  And, some people that are just interested in the same stuff I'm into or want to talk about how their day is going.  Less doom and gloom.  More food and pets.  


I am heartbroken about the shooting in Colorado Springs.  People should not die just because they want to go out and dance and have a few laughs.  But some MAGA asshat thinks that if he can't have fun, no one else should get to either.  I can't get over the feeling that these guys want to touch other men in that special way and are too afraid to let themselves do it.  I know it's a cliche, but there's a lot to be said about "doth protest too much."

But, they get encouragement to act out from MAGA politicians trying to outlaw us and our trans brothers and sisters.  By speaking bad about us to excite their christian nationalist base, they endanger us.  And, they don't give even half a...well, you know what.  (we're trying to swear less)

As a gay man, it's impossible to look on MAGAts and christian nationalists as anything but an enemy to be avoided at all cost.  
Thank goodness there are good people like most of y'all out there.  Keep reading about it.  Keep talking about it.  Keep objecting, even if you can't turn it into a big deal.  A simple 'I don't think that's true' and walk away is enough.  

Everybody have a good week!  May your turkey be moist and your stuffing flavorful and your gravy turns out just the way you like it (or that the jar is easy to open).



Quilting mojo

It's been a while since I did any machine quilting, but that's the next step to move most of my UFOs to FOs.  I've been having a little bit of quilter's block.  From the beginning of my quilting journey, I wanted to learn to quilt feathers.  And, I did.  And, I have done so many feathers that now I want to move in other directions, but I'm having trouble trying to figure out how to fit other shapes into my spaces.  Saturday, I pulled out a small top and put together the sandwich and did the ditch work.  Then, I started to look at pictures of other people's quilts.  How are they filling space?  I saw some beautiful examples and then I got started.  

My process has been to pick one block at a time and figure out how I'd like to fill it.  Each design has to compliment the others.  I picked spools of thread that I had plenty of and there's been plenty of it picked out as I tried things and didn't like them.  And, even tho those long blue shapes just scream for a feather, I'm going to try not to put feathers there.  No promises.  

I took the Barbara Brackman block apart early one morning and ironed it all and marked my match points again and Saturday morning, I put it back together...the right way.  I think it came out well and will be a nice addition to the other 9 blocks from this series.  Two more to go.  

I had to go to a meeting at the office the other day.  My team sits in a dark corner at the back of the building where it's quiet and there's no traffic.  Perfect for me.  Someone complained about it being a dungeon and they've offered us new desks.  

The desks are 2/3 the size of our old desks.  And, they're in a high traffic area just inside the main entrance of the building.  But, it has a window!  I expressed a reluctance to move, but deferred to the person most likely to come to the office.  My thought is for the few days I plan to come to the office, I don't care where I sit.  If it's too loud there, there are plenty of places I can go sit that will be quieter.  Including my old desk.  😁

We've had a cold snap.  It was beautiful outside, but too cold to work in the yard.  I enjoyed the time inside, quilting and sewing and working on a small crochet project that I'm just learning to do and will share later.  Beautiful views through the windows, tho.


Finally, the mid-term elections are nearly over.  Civil war did not break out.  And, other than a little whining and sniveling, I haven't seen too much controversy.  The people have spoken and the clear message is that we have to get along.  No red waves, no blue waves.  Half the people that bother to vote feel one way and half feel the other.  And, we are going to have to find a middle ground.  

If the politically motivated violence can be stopped, that is.  And, if the prosecution of illegal actions continues.  Without those, there is no moving past the dilemma we're currently in.  

That's what I think anyway.  

Everybody have a great week! I hope you're enjoying your autumn weather as much as I am.  We just realized in the grocery store yesterday that it's only a week and a half til Thanksgiving.  Oh, my!



Progress and not so much

Feeling very anxious about tomorrow and still picking up new projects instead of finishing old ones.  This is what I do.  We went to Michael's for embroidery floss so I could finish this project.  The instructions say to quilt one line a half inch outside the design, bind and add a hanging sleeve.  I think I can do something more fun than that, but I don't know what yet.  

These next pictures are a cautionary tale about paying attention to what I'm doing.  I was in the last few seams before I realized it wasn't going together right.  I tried to block it square, but it was never going to do that and thank goodness I didn't take an iron to it to try.  

I'm not quite sure when I went wrong, so I don't know how much I'll have to take apart, but this is what it's supposed to look like, except the center where I varied from pattern.  It says something that I was able to put it together so wrong and still get it to come out somewhat square, I'm just not sure it says a good thing.  

In other news, the maple in the front yard is turning.  Silver maples are rare in this area and this is an old one.  Because of the fickle weather here, some years the color change only lasts a couple days before the leaves fall off the tree.  We had a few cold days and the leaves at the top of the tree started to change and fall, then it warmed up and it all stopped, but last week we had some cold days again and we're getting a second show.  

Book club met last week.  This was a really strange book and while we spent 2.5 hours together, we hardly talked about the book at all.  It was good, but it was strange and moved through time and it was very much about pandemics and I think it was just too soon for that.  We did sit and talk and laugh and disagree and talk over one another and laugh some more and order too much food.  All the stuff good friends do.  

I have nothing to say politically except please vote if you're a democrat.  If you're a repub, your dear orange says elections are a rigged waste of time, please stay home.  

Everybody have a good week.  I hope to be here next week too.