Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Day Book Entry - Good Bye October

I have enjoyed the Day Book entries of my "Canadian neighbor" Honora on her blog - Pondside.  Do stop over and visit - she always has something interesting, gorgeous photos and thoughts to make us ponder.

Outside my window  it is dark and chilly.  The weather has changed to our autumn pattern, rain and rain and rain. It is a good thing I love the rain. I grew up in Southeast Alaska (for those not from around here, that is the chain of islands that runs down along the west coast of British Columbia, Canada)  We played out in the rain when I was growing up; if we didn't, we would have spent a lot of time indoors.  I love the sound of rain plinking on a rain hat and rain slicker and love the splish splash splish of boots in the rain.

I am thinking about the Johnny Jump Ups in my railing planter boxes.  They are growing and blooming and sopping wet from our autumn rains.  They still hold up their smiling faces, no matter what comes their way - it reminds me to be happy more often.

From the kitchen comes the smell of toast, it just popped up in the toaster and my tea water is hot.  Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea.

I am reading   The Garden Letters, by Elspeth Bradbury and Judy Maddocks.  This is about my fifth or nineteenth time reading this wonderful book.  Two friends live and garden in New Brunswick, until one of them moves to the other side of Canada - to Vancouver Island.  Their letters share their  love of gardening and the plants they grow, the weather, their families and lovely sketches.

I am thankful for the warmth of my home and the safety of living here.  When I see the homeless people on the street corners I want to give them enough money for a house of their own so they can get back the feeling of safety that they hopefully had at some time in their life.  It saddens me to think that someone's brother, sister, father, mother, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin or even grandparent is standing in the rain - holding a sign and hoping for a little bit of money to ease their discomfort or their hunger for just a little while.  I have so much and share with them whenever I can - it makes me feel good and I hope it makes them feel a little better too - and I always give them a smile at the same time - for it might be one of the few smiles they will see that day.

I have just finished folding several baskets of towels.  Fresh and warm from the dryer, towels give me the feeling of happiness. I like my linen closet organized - by color and by size of towels, sheets, etc.  I have a lovely stack of vintage embroidered pillowcase and for fun I sometimes take them all out and iron them, fold them back up and put them in their proper stack, until it is their turn on the pillows.  A lovely linen closet - sigh.

I am smiling because of three little boys, all wearing their Candy Corn hats that I crocheted for them.  Well, I guess I have to say, two little boys and one young man, Jahn-Zyel is now 11 (and humors his grandmother - thank you Jahn).  In the first frame can you see Jahn standing behind Ben?  It looks like Ben has on two hats.

I am planning our Thanksgiving dinner.  Now you might think that takes a lot of time and effort, and while it does entail writing down the foods we will eat and the serving dishes I'll use, the menu remains about the same every year - for about 45 years now.  

Our  3 year old daughter decorating cookies for our Thanksgiving company.

I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner for Don's family when we lived in Wisconsin.  We had only two children then, a 3 year old and a baby (cutest children you ever saw).  The family gathered,  and I think there were 19 of us - but I'm not sure.  

I had baked 6 pies, everything was cooked and ready to serve.  The house smelled wonderful.  The family came up the outside stairs to our apartment in the upstairs of a big old farm house, and our 3 year old daughter came out of the bedroom with baby cream all over her face - she didn't miss one single spot (I told you they were cute kids, I didn't say they were angels) everyone thought it was hilarious - but that wasn't what was going through my mind as I wiped her sweet little face clean.  We sat  down to eat, and it began to snow.

Not your ordinary snow - but Wisconsin blizzard snow - thick and heavy flakes - so much snow that you couldn't see the yard light just outside our window.  Everyone was nervous - I was anxious - we ate our dinner and the family gathered up their coats, hats, scarves, boots and gloves and off they went.  No one ate the pies.

 It took the local people well over an hour to get home (usually 15 minutes), and those that lived an hour away had to spend 3 treacherous hours on the road (they had animals at home that needed tending to, so couldn't stay the night).

Almost as soon as they left, our electricity went out, so we gathered up the babies, snuggled them into our bed and went to sleep.  It had been a disappointing day, but everyone got home safely and we had a gas stove to keep us warm - and pie to eat for a week or more.

Thanksgiving menu

Appetizer - our son-in-law Jason Davies' famous cheese ball 

Stuffing - onion and sage
Mashed potatoes - piles of them
Gravy (my cousin Penquin taught me to make the best gravy - it is our family secret) - yes, his name IS Penquin
Cranberry relish (this has changed - it used to be cranberry sauce - but our youngest daughter makes the best cranberry relish, which is always requested by her dad)
Bread and Butter pickles - sometimes I forget them
Deviled eggs - two platters - one spicy, one plainer
Celery stuffed with cheese
Homemade rolls

Pies - pumpkin, mincemeat, apple - or whatever strikes our fancy

We set the table with fancy dishes - this year - the Loon Dishes or Desert Rose that belonged to my grandmother?

Serving pieces - green depression glass, crystal bowls and crystal gravy boat, vegetable shaped dishes (carrot, radish, corn), green water pitcher - lots of vintage silver for serving up the food, cloth napkins to match the dishes.

And so I say - Good Bye October - Welcome November!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lone Star Quilts

I started a project in early 2008. I decided to make every member of our family a Lone Star quilt. But I wanted it to be a secret, until every quilt was finished. Now keeping a secret from people not living in this house is easy - well, sort of easy, if I don't leave any projects lying around for them to see, but hard to keep that big of a secret from Don - though I must say - he is one of the easier members of the family to fool. But since I needed him to occasionally hold up the quilts for photographing - I decided to let him in on the secret.

I had to start the project with deciding colors for the Lone Stars. The main decision was to make each quilt a different color - and only use one color in each one - all blues, all greens, etc.

Then I had to gather fabrics - and plot the quilts. I used color swatch cards, which I carried in my purse at all times. Looking for a pattern was another thing I had to do. Every pattern I found was for small Lone Star quilts - wall hangings - and weren't the size or number of colors that I wanted, so I drafted my own pattern. Then I marked on the pattern where each color would go - marked my color swatch cards with the number of pieces I would need of each fabric - and began cutting.

The first one I made was for our son - Rusty. He loves blue so that was an easy color selection.

After the center star was finished - I had to decide on borders - the hardest part of the quilt for me, as my friends will tell you.

I wanted a checkerboard border for Rusty's quilt - so I made lots and lots and lots more of three inch nine patches - for the border.

To make the borders come out even at the corners was often a problem - I solved that problem on the blue quilt by not having the checkerboards meet in the center - making a frame of them.

I would audition borders. Curved flying geese seemed like a good idea - but didn't seem to fit my idea of how the quilt should look.

I made flying geese with the paper piecing method - it is accurate and simple to do - and I like the look when finished. You can make the flying geese any size you choose.
Straight line flying geese fit better . . .

The flying geese go from light to dark and back again - all around the quilt.

Then the quilts had to go to a long arm quilter, as one or two were finished, I sent them off to Julie in Idaho, along with batting and backing, and she began machine quilting them.

After the tops were quilted, she sent them back,and I had to hide them.   At first it was easy - a few quilts hid away in the back of the closet - no problem - but as the stack grew, it became harder and harder to hide them.

My plan was to give out all the quilts at the same time, when our whole family was together.  Our daughters and their families live just down the hill from us, not 5 minutes away, but our son and daughter-in-law and grandson Donnie live in West Virginia.

They were scheduled to come out for a visit in June of 2012 - and two days before their flight, Donnie came down with the chicken pox - so of course they couldn't travel.  I had been rushing to get the last three quilts done before their arrival date - and I had them done three days early - and then - no visit because of the chicken pox.  

So I made some gift bags for each quilt - out of flannel backed plastic tableclothes - bagged them all up and hid them - some in the back of the closets and some under the guest bed - it took some doing, but all were hidden away - and we waited.

Finally, in early September, they were able to get reservations and vacations coordinated, and they flew to Bellingham from West Virginia.  We had a glorious visit with all of the kids here - and on a Sunday, after we had a family portrait done, I gathered the family in the living room and began to give out the quilts.  It was an emotional time for me - to finally see all the quilts finished and given to the family.

Rusty's Lone Star center - quilted .  .  .

Close up of border .  .  .

Rusty with his quilt - and Jahn-Zyel 

More to come .  .  .