Archive for November, 2010

‘A Shopping We Will Go…


I hear about the rest of the world running from store to store at 3:00 a.m. looking for incredible Christmas deals and wonder if there is something wrong with me. There is no desire to join in on this type of shopping. I don’t deal well with large crowds and frenzied buying. Those individuals are made of much stronger stuff than I. As much as I love fabric or chocolate, even if it was being given away, you would find me snug at home listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter singing “Hot Buttered Rum.” The last few years have found me comfortably settled in at our desk, shopping online and loving those words – View Your Shopping Cart…Check Out Now? Or Continue To Shop? Because this method of shopping frees up so much of my time (yah, right!)

I can make another weekly loaf of bread…

Replenish our 3 girls  (shelties that is) raw food diet for the month…

And make yards of quilt binding –

The sewing room continues to be in a chaotic state and is an embarrassment to me if someone drops by for a visit. Mr. Outback has asked what I would like for Christmas this year – my reply came quite quickly – could you give me more shelving in my sewing room and add another section of track lighting? He has said “Sure” so we will venture out soon to look at what might be available – guess we will end up at a brick and mortar store after all – just not at 3:oo a.m.! I can picture the improvements all ready…and it is something that makes me happy. Do I need another object to dust when we have a lifetime of memories all ready? I am blessed with lovely dishes of our own and pieces handed down from family no longer with us. Mr. Outback enjoys carved birds from natural materials such as wood or antlers. We have found a piece here and there on our travels and it only takes a brief glance to bring back where we were at that time and place – one of the rare times we both actually “shop.” I was in a large, well stocked gift shop a few weeks ago and it was Christmas Open House – the colors and lights were dazzling with lovely things stacked everywhere…within 5 minutes I was overwhelmed and began to shut down. It was more than I could take in and could not justify even one item that needed to come home with me.  I did find a glass cardinal Christmas ornament for my Mom though. After purchasing that, it was a relief to walk out the door into the fresh air.

When I was little, my Grammy and Aunt Ruby would take my cousin Pam & I shopping as a special treat.  We would head to Baltimore and a grand department store which I cannot recall the name of. We were given the most wonderous treat of picking out a new dress and then taken to the big dining room on an upper level. It was reached by elevator and a real live person operated it.   Linen tablecloths covered each table which was set with china and heavy flatware. At each place setting, a glass finger bowl was placed to keep our little hands tidy. We felt so grown up. When I grew up and left college to find my first job, I would eagerly await each new paycheck and shopping became  a magical experience . Working in Washington, D.C. in the early ’60’s offered countless  little shops and boutiques to choose from in addition to large department stores such as Garfinckels,  & Woodward and Lothrop (“Woodies”) Once I stood quietly looking on from a distance while Ella Fitzgerald tried on fabulous hats in the Hat Department. How convenient it was for the shopper to be assisted in each department. The salesperson was usually knowledgeable about her own area and you completed your transaction right there rather than searching out a centrally located and impersonal cash register counter.  A Saturday trip to Georgetown was heavenly – Pappagallo’s for shoes and a lunch at some quiet little nook. My first car was a little yellow Corvair convertible with black interior…up and down M street over the old brick-covered roadbed (is it still there?) I felt like the world was my oyster. About that time, the cookie cutter “Shopping Malls” began to rise up out of the ground – overnight it seemed. Bulldoze old stands of hardwood trees, demolish rundown neighborhoods, put in new infrastructure to “make  your shopping experience more enjoyable.” And say goodbye to any hardworking independent business owner who offered one of a kind goods or services….I think that is when shopping began to lose its appeal and has never really returned. Where is the charm in entering a storefront and seeing dozens and dozens of the same item? Perhaps that is yet one more reason why quilting is so appealing to me. Oh, I may use a design such as log cabin, churn dash or 9 patch that has been around forever, but what I do with it represents me – how I place the pattern, the colors I choose and the realization that it is one of a kind. Now if I could just get into my sewing room to “shop” for what is needed in the next project that would be great!

Have a good week and wishing each of you a no-frazzled shopping experience in the days ahead – 26 shopping days left until Christmas…



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A Cold November Sunday…

There is a cold icy rain falling outside. It has left a glaze on everything and you are invited to step inside for a visit. You can use our boring little door bell button…

…or the more interesting chickadee door knocker…

Most fun of all is to use the chain pull on our vintage Italian bell…

(found at the market in Arezzo in 2001 – brought back in my carry-on, lugged through the Rome airport and cleared customs to the US – try to get that pass those TSA guys these days! – But I digress) which will announce you in royal fashion!

Take your coat off and warm yourself by the fire. Can you smell the turkey soup bubbling away on the stove? With the cold November weather this weekend, it has been a good time to putter in the kitchen. A good soup making weekend. And with Christmas all ready in the air, it is time to make the traditional Plum Pudding.

This is Mr. Outback’s favorite and has been a part of our holidays for close to 30 years. The origins of this particular recipe have been lost, but my in-laws traveled extensively while Mr. Outback’s Dad was in the Air Force. They knew a Canadian Air Force couple who shared this recipe and it has been handed down to me. Old Fashioned Traill Christmas Pudding…2010, and something that doesn’t happen every year…this time a perfect unmolding! Yippee! Now to let it mellow in brandy soaked cheesecloth for a month.

I still can’t show you what is happening in the sewing room but things are moving along….

And having no will power, Block #2 of the Beyond the Cherry Tree Quilt has just been started…

If you promise not to be put off by the state of disarray in our basement, would you mind helping wrap all these ornaments for shipping? Every year for 33 years, our son has received a special Christmas ornament from us, my folks, other family members and his own friends. Now he is planning to celebrate Christmas with Jena in Alaska and all these treasures need to arrive safely.

Yet to be unwrapped and rewrapped in bubble wrap

Maybe we can talk a little about each ornament as the memories will be returning piece by piece.  Each reflects his childhood, growing up and interests…from a tiny gum ball machine and little red airplane to a batch of outdoor camping novelties and fragile glass eagles…as these are carefully placed in bubble wrap, another little piece of my heart goes with it and a prayer for his happiness and a good life. We will miss not having him here at Christmas but are so happy that he can begin to make his own memories and traditions. Included in the packages will be his stocking, made a number of years ago and a new one for Jena – I used the same Thimbleberries stocking pattern for both and just added a little ribbon and tiny bell to her moose – afterall, it has to have a touch of femininity, right!?

We had better get to work – time is of the essence…but first let’s enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and watch the Packer game…they just have to win this one against the Vikings…it is the principle of the thing! Looking very good…

Have a good week preparing for Thanksgiving and remember to…

Always take time to stitch…


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“I” Is For Inscribe

Hello there – I have joined everyone over at Jenny Matlock’s (please click on this link – WordPress is not letting the button above work right now) for her Alphabe-Thursday. The letter for this week is “I.”

Inscribe – defined as to write or engrave…or dedicate.

Beautiful handwriting has long been something I have admired. My own handwriting has never been much to speak of and has deteriorated over the years.  Recent statistics indicate that future generations will probably not even have this basic skill. Their thumbs will develop to be better able to text at higher speeds. Will they even be able to hold a pen or pencil? If you are of my generation (WW II babies) then you will recall those early years in elementary school…can you picture the lined tablet paper – not a true white if I recall – more ivory. There were 2 sets of lines, one in bold for capital letters and the lighter, shorter line for lower case. There was always a large chart attached to the top of the blackboard and could be pulled down like a shade. It would reveal well -rounded script which we would attempt to duplicate on our paper. The pencils were thick allowing little hands to hold onto the shaft easily and the lead must have had a “BBB” rating for very soft. We had to be careful so it did not smear as our hands moved across the page.

Austin Palmer’s approach was to enable penmanship students to write more clearly and with less effort. He introduced his method around 1888 and it became the standard in schools for many years.

My own Dad, who is 92, was taught the Palmer Method and to this day, his handwriting is elegant and legible.

It is the incredible artistic writing style of  Platt Rogers Spencer that draws me in. Spencerian Script was popular in America from 1850 to 1925. Talk about “Ruffles and Flourishes” – this writing had it all!

I am a quilter and find the history of quilting to be a fascinating exploration. I can get lost for hours when looking through books that feature exquisitely made quilts from the 1800’s. Many of these works of art have elaborate inscriptions on the blocks. Often they are accompanied by lovely drawings – flowers, birds or houses. Carefully composed sentiments were of great importance and became an integral part of each block.

An example of an inked inscription on such a quilt –

Like the fragile inked names in this quilt block, the art of handwriting is disappearing too. What will happen to all the “well-appointed desks” and lovingly made writing instruments? Will future generations visit a museum and marvel at how written communications were handled in the 21st century? Think about that the next time you sign your own name – and perhaps add a little flourish to the letters – leave an impression – and Inscribe your work.


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…looking for “a soft place to land.”  Ta Dah! Block #1 in the Beyond the Cherry Tree Quilt can be shared…

I like the way the reds and greens are working together – I tend to favor the cranberry to reds with a hint of brown and warm greens. But I noticed when looking at the photo, there probably could have been a better balance of the medium to darks.  I should have remembered that basic fact…I also chose to make the gold centers raised on this block rather than doing reverse applique, which I don’t mind. I just felt like doing it a little differently.

Relating to this block, while at a recent small stitching group, one of my friends had a pattern from an earlier Elly Sienkiewicz book – it was almost identical to our Block #1 – placement, leaves, buds and stems…the only difference was the shape of the “cherries.” Elly’s pattern had a more flower-like applique instead of the round circle. Knowing the BTCT quilt dates to about 1850 or so,  it is curious as to where Elly’s originated from…that’s a whole other area – being a quilt “detective!”

At any rate – on to preparing Block #2 for the BTCT quilt…which will, no doubt continue to be a slow process until after the Holiday sewing frenzy is over…

We took a long overdue road trip last Wednesday – ended up in Denmark – the Wisconsin town, not the country.

Kindred Spirits is a sweet little shop with a very friendly and bubbly staff.

This rustic willow tree was so appealing but had to stay put on display…

Then a stop for lunch in Green Bay and on to The Quilter’s Connection.

With the holidays approaching, I kept pretty close to my projected budget…

We have had an incredibly beautiful Fall here in the Northwoods. Spoiled and quickly forgetting in the past few weeks what a typical November could be like,  this past weekend, we were brought back to reality…

And in closing for now – about looking for “a soft place to land…” I always try to keep my blog upbeat and looking forward as much as possible. Many of you out there can relate to watching a beloved parent experience memory loss and a personality change. So it is with my Mom. We have seen a definite decline this past year…forgetfulness, repetition, uncharacteristic flare ups and an almost child-like behavior on occasion. Gone are those days when we could talk about anything and everything, with humor and understanding. I don’t know how to approach Dad and suggest the possibility of exploring medications, etc. Dealing with Mom, who becomes very upset and defensive, calls for patience – something I am learning the hard way. I am left with a sadness in my heart – of what use to be and is going slowly and what is yet to come.

That is one reason why quilting comes to be so much more than just “making something.” It soothes the soul & helps to put things into perspective as you quietly arrange colors.  Every stitch includes a thought, a promise or a prayer…and sometimes a little tear…so

Always take time to stitch…


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“A veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life. That is beyond honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer remember that fact…”

(From a Vietnam veteran who went through flight school with my own husband – both served tours overseas)

Remember the day…


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It has been another hectic week and I had hoped to post a photo of my first completed Beyond the Cherry Tree block – but you will have to put up with an “almost” done block. At least it is a start! I have been faithfully downloading patterns each month from the Sentimental Stitches site with promises to begin working on it. I can’t explain why this antique quilt keeps tugging at my stitching heart and hands. I so admire the more formal Baltimore Album style of appliqued quilts but those seem so far above my skill level and patience. The Beyond the Cherry Tree quilt has just the right touch of folk art whimsy with wreaths not quite round or a vase of flowers a little tipsy. And the fact that it is red and green speaks for itself. I finally ran out of excuses this month when the discovery was made that Sharon had organized a special blog (click on the special button on my lower right side bar)  for quilters who are doing this quilt. I sure don’t want to miss out on the fun either…so here I am – partially done – Block #1 – out of oh…how many? 25 total I think I read some where… I must be nuts.

In the meantime, the pressure is edging up on Christmas projects. Secret things are afoot in the sewing room…and the final row was sewn together tonight on a special gift…and then off it goes to the Long Arm Quilter.

Realizing the year is swiftly flying by and come January, 2011, major changes will take place in our (and probably for many of you) health insurance coverage, I decided to catch up on doctor appointments…a total of 7 were scheduled…mainly because after 30 some odd years, I changed physicians. It seemed like no one was listening at the old clinic. Apparently I was right as things are sure hopping now! The right hand received a cortisone shot which was a rather brief but uncomfortable experience. The very tiny lady doctor who administered it – complete with 4″ high heels, warned me before hand with a very unfeminine description – “it is a son-of-a-gun going in…” Oh so true…she said I did really well but I didn’t see a jar of lollipops nearby. Now looking forward to 6 weeks of hand therapy too. But if I can regain my grip and strength and find some relief, it will be time well spent.  There are just too many quilts to be made and garden season starts in 5 months or so…

That is about it for tonight…have been listening to the Packers waltz all around the Cowboys…oh yesssssssss….

Have a good week everyone and

Always take time to stitch…


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