Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas in Michigan

The grandsons were still in school for the week before Xmas, which meant we didn't get to spend as much time with them as we'd have liked.  But Christmas weekend was packed full of fun with the boys.  We played lots of board games and a few Wii games as well, chiefly after Santa had arrived and brought new games.  Our son came from St. Louis with his dog Zeno (a Border Collie) to spend the holiday weekend with all of us. Ace, the family's Labradoodle, has "territorial" issues, so the dogs have to take turns having time-outs in their respective crates.  

The week was capped off in fine style by attending the Little Caesar Bowl game with the grandsons, our daughter, and son-in-law.  The game was between Western Michigan and Purdue.   Our son-in-law teaches at Western Michigan.  WMU lost the game, but it was a close and exciting one, in many ways almost as much of an "offensive show off" game as was the Baylor/Washington Alamo Bowl game!

I went off and left my "memory stick" from my camera in my computer, and thus I took NO pictures myself of our fun time in Michigan for Christmas!  My daughter did, though, so I have a few from her to share.

Saying good-bye to the grandsons

Xmas Eve--two happy brothers!

Uncle Rob and the labradoodle Ace

Granddaddy reading The Night Before Christmas to the grandsons

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book Buddies Christmas Meeting

I went to two back to back Christmas parties with two of my favorite groups--the Book Buddies book club and our Supper Club.

I hosted the book club, and it is this group I'll write about today.  We read the wonderfully refreshing and happy book A YEAR IN PROVENCE, such a good choice for this time of year!  We usually have snacks or desserts, but in honor of the occasion I prepared a light supper.  I made a Barefoot Contessa Provencal Vegetable soup and a Joy of Cooking French tart, Apricot and Almond.

After the meal, we discussed the book, and Thelma did a wonderful job of leading the discussion, bringing in much background information as well as sharing her own experiences of living in a foreign country, in her case, Brazil.

Three of the members presented us with little gifts!  I had old fashioned English "crackers" for the women, which contained paper crowns.  Here are photos from this occasion:

The gifts--the little Peace ornament from Genie, a bag of rosemary from, who else, Rosemary, and a
lovely beaded book mark that Thelma made for each of us.

Here are Monda, Jo, and Sharon, in their paper crowns.

And now Ibby, Judy, Thelma, Genie, and Rosemary

I joined Mona, Jo, and Sharon

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Spring in November?

Here it is just days before Thanksgiving, and you'd think it was spring!  The weather is springlike--not unusual in Texas in the fall.  But so many flowers are blooming!  One of my quilting bee friends says that she thinks because of the severe drought and intense heat of the summer, many plants went dormant.  With the return of cooler weather, a bit of rain, and regular watering, the blooming plants are out in all their glory.

Of course, in Texas we plant pansies in the fall anyway.  They can survive temperatures below freezing, unless it gets terribly cold and stays cold for a protracted period of time.  But for just brief cold spells, pansies thrive.  Below are first the pansies I have recently planted, and then some photos of other plants that have surprised me by blooming still in November!

I've always loved the little "faces" of pansies!

The only day lily with a bloom

"knock out" roses--these don't make good cut flowers,
but they are wonderful in that they take so little care

I can't recall what this perennial is.  We had so many in our old yard!
There, it bloomed profusely all summer, then went
dormant but stayed green all winter long.  This shrub can get quite large.
In our new house, this past summer, no flowers, but now they are finally
blooming.   It could be that this
is one of the Mexican sages--so many varieties exist.

Esperanzas--I accidentally purchased a late-blooming variety.  Next year,  I'll replace these
with one that blooms all summer.  After the first hard freeze, they will die back, but if you
cut them back to the ground, they will return.  I'll dig mine up, however, and replace them
with the ever-blooming type.  This window is in my studio.

The next-door neighbors knock roses look better than mine.  I think she dead heads
hers, whereas I don't bother!

More of what I think is Mexican sage.  This is in the
front flower bed; the two windows here
are also in my studio.

A friend came over for lunch yesterday.  She asked me if I ever used these
Esperanzas as cut flowers.  I said I never had but would for her!  I love
the trumpet look of their blooms!  I put them in a Spode Pink Tower pitcher,
my mother's "every day" china which one granddaughter inherited,
 but my sisters and I each choose several pieces to keep for ourselves and for our daughters.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The UFO I Got Back!

In my last post, I wrote about the UFO (unfinished object) that I assembled for our Halloween Trick or Treat, Brown Bag Challenge for our quilt guild.  Last night was the Big Reveal!  Good friend Patty, my co-chair of programs for guild, was in charge of MCing the Reveal.  She was standing right beside me, and imagine my total surprise when I saw that SHE had MY brown, Halloween-decorated, bag!

As soon as she held up the quilt that she had finished, there were many oohs and ahhs from the assembled group.  I then asked the group, "Who is this girl in the center panel?"  There was a pause, and then several called out, "Alice in Wonderland!"  And so then I said, "That's right, and this quilt is mine!"

As you can see the results are spectacular!  Patty did so much more with this little panel than I had planned, and her vision for it was world's better than mine.  Too, after seeing all the finished UFOs, I felt somewhat chagrined.  The UFO that I worked on was completed in by far the simplest fashion.  It ended up with its owner--another dear friend, fellow China Doll Bee buddy, fellow Material Maven, and former Dear Jane teacher--Rita!

The challenge was so much fun--my first ever in Guild.  I look forward to the next brown bag project!

Here's a close-up of the panel, which also shows
off the little triangle squares that Patty bordered
my quilt with, as well as the squares in a square
blocks that she made and attached.  When Patty got the quilt
I had added only the green and blue borders.
I included fabrics--including the stripes used in the triangle squares and
the multi-colored one for the on-point blocks.  I love
the way these look as if they are pieced with many
tiny little squares!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

UFO Finished!

In the quilting world, a UFO is an unfinished object.  Alas, most quilters have more UFOs than they like to admit!  

Our quilt guild is having a "Treat or Treat, Brown-Bag UFO" challenge.  We were to bring in July, in a Halloween-decorated trick or treat brown bag, one of our small (wall quilt sized) UFOs.  Also in the bag we could put any fabrics that we might like added to our quilt and any instructions or suggestions.  The bag I picked up had only the "stain glass" type blocks in the little quilt above, along with already cut sashing or lattice strips for joining the 9 blocks.  There were no suggestions.  I decided that after joining the blocks with the sashing, to add two borders.  

We were to complete only the quilt top--we will leave choosing the backing and quilting the small quilts to their owners.

I had no fabrics in my stash that really "fit" the styles and colors of this little quilt, so I purchased the green polka dot and the floral fabric, which seemed to work well with the quilt fabrics.

Next Monday at our guild meeting, those of us who brought and then took brown bags will be bringing them back in their bags.  I can't wait to see mine!

This is a close-up of one of the blocks, showing as well
the two border fabrics.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Flowers of Norway

I'm trying out the "new Blogger interface" because I think many of the members of our Materials Mavens group might possible be using this interface.  Already I don't like it!  Using the old one, when I go to the compose page, I have a choice of getting from there to my Dashboard.  Using this Interface, I don't, and I can't figure out how to get there other than going to my Profile, which seems awkward.

Now I'm going to try working with photos, as several of the MMs seem to be having trouble doing  that.  Well, actually the photos seem to work the same way!  So now I am really puzzled why people are having problems!  Anyway, after this, I am going back to the old interface, as I just like it better.  Or probably just because that's what I am accustomed to using!

I wish I could tell you where this photo was taken!

But without going back to my original folders,
I just don't know which picture was taken where!

I have a folder called Flowers of Norway, and these are just a few of them!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hope in the Midst of Drought

This brave purple wild flower lifted my spirits this morning!
Texas is suffering from the worst drought in many years--maybe the worst one ever.  All summer long we had only two rain showers, and those were all too brief.  The countryside is dry and brown, and of course everyone has heard of the horrendous wildfires that have ravaged our state.  For two months or more, we had temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees.  Farmers and ranchers are suffering, with failed crops and cattle that have had to be sold because of the lack of grass and other feed.

The last few days the temperatures have been more moderate and bearable.  This morning, for the first time all summer, I walked in our neighborhood.  It was in the high 70s and there was a pleasant breeze.
I was amazed to see signs of hope in my walk.  Wildflowers and green weeds poking up bravely amidst all the dead, dry, and brown wild grasses.

We have battled to keep our landscaping alive all summer.  Thankfully, Lake Waco supplies our water, and so we've not had stringent water rationing--unlike nearby communities, where everyone's grass and gardens are dead.  Our water company has encouraged judicious watering, urging us to water only early or late, before the broiling sun is high and water evaporates almost as soon as it leaves the sprinklers!

But thanks to our diligence, our yard is looking better and the flowers I planted early in the summer--before I knew it would be the Summer from Hell--have chiefly survived.  This morning, after my walk, I spent over an hour "dead heading" various plants, pulling up others, and generally cleaning up the patio. Here are some pictures of some hardy survivors of the drought:

The zinnias keep on producing, but I pulled up the marigolds that were looking
as if spider mites had gotten to them.

This tree or shrub--I think it might either be an Althea or a Rose of Sharon--
blooms periodically, and now is one of its blooming times.

After looking bad all summer, after its early spring blooming,
these "Knock Out" Roses are blooming again.

One plant we had all over our former home, but in pots, is this one whose name I have forgotten.  I thrives on
the heat normally, but most of this summer the flowers have gone dormant.  With the temperatures
somewhat moderating now, it has decided to bloom!

Crape Myrtles are ubiquitous in Texas, and most summers, all over town, they are a welcome
bright show of color.  I was concerned about the health of these earlier, but now they, too,
 have decided it is okay to bloom!

On our front porch, which gets the Western sun,
I planted two pots of zinnias.  They are on their last legs but still blooming!
In the background you can see the Coopers' house and its
lovely Crape Myrtles.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

California Doings

I'm now in CA while the parents are traveling and the two grannies are baby sitting the two children, Lia (10) and Locke (8).  School started today, the day after Labor Day.  We've had a fun-filled several days prior to the start of school.  Grandma Marie and I sat down with the children the first morning for a "board meeting," and the four of us planned fun activities and outings for the days prior to school beginning.

Marie did a paper craft with them, and I had them do some fabric painting with fabric markers on a tote bag and apron for their mother's birthday in October. Locke attended his last soccer day camp, led by a young soccer player just Lia's age!  Lia had a friend over for a sleep-over the first night.   We've gone to the library,the farmers' market, shopping for school clothes,to church,  one movie, out to eat twice, and so we've filled up the days.

Locke at soccer camp with friends--the camp leader is the young man in the middle
Here are a few highlight photos to show our doings:

Dad left Locke responsible for watering the pots front and back

Lia modeling one new school outfit

Locke paper crafting with Grandma Marie

A closer look at the paper craft

Ready to go the the Farmers' market

Choosing flowers at the market

Having fun after church, jumping on the amphitheater seats

painting with fabric markers

Lia decorated an apron

and Locke, a tote bag

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hot Texas to Cool Michigan

Daughter Susan and family drove to Texas for a two-week visit.  Scott had to return earlier to go back to work, so I volunteered to accompany Susan and the boys(7 and 10 years old)  on the trip back home.  We had such a super time!  As as we crossed the state line into Arkansas, the weather started improving.  Hot still, in the 90s, but the farther East and North we went, the cooler and greener it got.

We went through Little Rock, husband Bob's home during his growing up years.  We showed the two boys  their Granddaddy's boyhood home and school and ate frozen yogurt in the shopping area where he roamed as a boy.  Then we went on to Memphis, where we spent the night, visiting Graceland the next day.

We had lunch in Nashville, across from the Vanderbilt campus, and saw the lovely replica of the Parthenon in a park nearby.

Our next overnight was in Louisville, where Bob and I lived for three years in our early-marriage days.  We saw the school where I began my teaching career, and then visited the campus of the seminary where Bob studied.  Next we visited the fascinating Louisville Slugger museum, which the baseball playing boys loved! The next day we journeyed on to Portage, MI, where they live.  Temps were in the 70s!

Granddaddy's home in Little Rock

The boys with Granddaddy's elementary school
behind them--right across the street from the house.

The school, still in operation!

Graceland, with the boys in red and white and Susan in green walking in
Elvis's grave at Graceland

The Parethenon replica in Memphis

The grandsons in front of the school where I taught English for 3 years--a junior high then, now a middle school.

Behind these 4 windows on the 2nd floor was my classroom!

I was so happy to see that THIS old school, too, was in good repair and still in use!

The boys in front of what was once our front door!

The first 4 windows, starting at the corner, on the ground floor,
were in our apartment.

the seminary chapel

Louisville Slugger Museum

The boys beside a statue of Babe Ruth, who batted with a Slugger bat!