Wednesday, December 31, 2014

what I've been reading

I am hooked on the books in this fictional saga written by Elizabeth Jane Howard.

I hesitated before getting the first book in the series, " The Light Years".   It had mixed reviews on Amazon. I think  the thing that made me decide to try it was when a reviewer  mentioned what a beautiful  and descriptive style of writing the author has.

In this first book we are introduced to the Cazalets..three generations of a large, well to do family living in London and Sussex in the years before WWII.

Fortunately,Ms Howard included a chart with the family tree in the front of the book and also a reference page that lists which family members live in which household...and the names of their servants, gardeners, chauffeurs, etc.  There is an enormous cast of characters   and I was constantly referring back to that helpful info.

All through the first book, there isn't really anything major happening. Instead we get to know the family members  including the children and servants,  Some of their past life is revealed and also their thoughts and feelings.  It is so well written, that you get lost in their stories and don't really mind that the book meanders all around without ever bringing things to a close.

The second book ," Marking Time.", begins when the war has broken out and for safety's sake, the entire family moves to the grandparent's estate in the country...away from the air raids happening in London.
Even though this book is fiction, it gives us an idea what it must have been like for the English living through that war time...the rationing, the attacks, the death of loved ones in the fight.

Now, I have started on the third book, "Confusion". The war is still going on. The children are growing up but in the mean time babies have been born and more characters have been added to the story.

There are two more books to complete the chronicles, after this one!

I am really enjoying this series.  Good bed time reading.  Although there are sad parts, there are no graphic or violent scenes to leave you unsettled.
 For the most part, the author keeps it " clean" .  Sex is alluded to, but not written about in detail. No bad language.

I would say that you would have to read these books in the right order...I think it would be difficult to keep things sorted out in your mind, otherwise.

After I read the two remaining books, I will look for other work by this author.  Wish there were more like her!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

working on group charity qulits

My quilt group, Mt. Washington Quilting Bees, makes quilts for a charitable organization each year.
This time we have voted for 2 organizations...Hospice and Project Linus.  Both request smaller quilts which works well for our group...more manageable when it's time to do the quilting.

Looking for ideas for blocks that each Bee could make using her own fabrics...which would then be joined with other Bees blocks for a scrappy look,  I came up with this "16 Patch Block".

They are made with 2 1/2 inch squares, which can be cut from scraps...but a quick and easy way to make them is by using "fat quarters",  which is an 18" x 22" cut of fabric commonly sold at fabric stores.

Take a dark and a light fat quarter and place them right sides together. 

Cut lengthwise into 2 1/2" strips.

Sew these together in sets of two and then join those together into sets of four strips.

Cut these sets crosswise into 2 1/2 " segments.

Flip every other segment to form a checker board pattern. Sew together in sets of four. There you have your 16 Patch.

The clock is there because I was timing myself. Using this method, I had 7 blocks finished and pressed in less than an hour and a half.

Here they are with other blocks I have made from smaller scraps (not all joined together yet).

I think it makes an interesting scrappy quilt. These blocks finish at 8" probably 7 rows of 5 blocks would make a nice small quilt.
 I will present it to the group and see if they would like to try this block for our charity quilts.

Monday, December 29, 2014

my new rain gauge

My older son gave me this nice rain gauge for Christmas.He picked it out!  It is named "The World's Coolest Rain Gauge" and I have to agree that it is.

I love how it looks...the copper tube in the iron spiral.  It is made in the USA!

It is interesting how it works. The blue inside tube is marked with measurements. 
In the bottom of the blue tube is a porous sponge-like plug.  As rain water is collected, the sponge causes the blue tube to float up to show the marked measuring line that corresponds with how much rain has fallen.
(I know,  so scientific).

There were instructions on how to do a test to be sure it works accurately. It said to pour 1.2 ounces of water in the tube and it should show 1 inch.   Yep! It works perfectly!

I placed it where I can see it from my kitchen window. Even if I can't quite read the numbers from there, I will have a pretty good idea how much rain we have had by how much of the blue tube is showing (or I can just walk across the porch and look at it).

This will be really handy in the summer time to help with knowing if it's rained enough for the flowerbeds or if I need to water. And it's just pretty to look at!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

baked mixed fruit

This is a good dish to serve with breakfast or brunch, but it also makes a good dessert.
It needs to be served warm.

Baked Mixed Fruit
29 oz. can sliced peaches
2 - 11 oz. cans mandarin oranges
20 oz. can pineapple tidbits
16 oz. can dark sweet pitted cherries
1/2 cup butter
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 or 2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
dash cinnamon

Drain fruit, reserving the pineapple juice plus enough of another juice to measure one cup.

Stir together the cup of reserved juice with cornstarch and brown sugar in a sauce pan. Cook until thickened (this is only a few minutes).
Remove from heat, stir in butter, then extracts and cinnamon.

Gently toss fruit together in a 2 quart baking dish.
Pour cooked mixture over the fruit and fold in until well mixed.

Bake in an preheated 325° oven for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

We had this on Christmas morning, along with pigs in blankets, bacon and cheese fritatta and monkey bread.

Friday, December 26, 2014

last minute sewing

When I woke up on Christmas Eve, I had a task that had to be checked off my list...sewing a Christmas gift.

It was way different than the sewing projects I usually work on. It was putting together a nylon tarp that my younger son wants to use with his hammock. He requested this as a Christmas gift.
Since it is to use while backpacking, it has to be very lightweight.

Above are the materials, 5 yards coated nylon, heavier reinforcing nylon, webbing straps and plastic D rings.
All was ordered online from DIY Gear Supply, a website that sells supplies to make your own outdoor gear and has instructions on how to do it.
I have had the stuff for about a month, but kept putting off working on it until the day before Christmas. I work better with a deadline.
This coated nylon was so slippery! Like sewing together live eels!

Lucky for me, my machine has a setting for hard to handle fabrics.  See the red line and the shapes above it?  When you choose that setting, a tiny pin comes up with the feed dogs on every stitch and helps grab the fabric to advance it for the next stitch.

I never thought I would need that setting but it really helped out on this project.

Now sewing reinforcements in the six corners...the white lines are chalk lines I marked to follow.

Hemming the sides...

Sewing on straps and D rings. From what I understand, this tarp gets strung up above the hammock, making a sort of a tent-like cover.

I did take several breaks but finisned up in plenty of time.

It's a huge thing!  

He was happy with it and I enjoyed the challenge of making it.

This is unrelated...It had rained early in the day on Christmas Eve, but later the sun broke through for just a few minutes. It lit up the bare tree branches and they were so beautiful against the dark sky. 
The camera just can't fully capture it (or maybe the photographer).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Years ago, when I read the book "Jane Eyre",  which takes place in the early 1800's , poor orphaned Jane suffered with chilblains on her fingers.  I wasn't really sure what chilblains were, but I assumed it was a condition that no one would get in modern times.

Well, take a look at The Sasquatch's fingers....CHILBLAINS  !      In the 21st century!

He is very frugal and doesn't really heat his house in the winter.  He said he started noticing raised bumps that were painful and sore..first under a toe...then on his fingers...and he had a really painful one on the back of his heel.
Hard to see it here on his heel, because the skin is thicker and it was healing...which causes the chilblains to itch intensely.

He looked online and diagnosed the problem...then turned his furnace up to a whopping 55 degrees.

The chilblains aren't exactly caused by just the cold, but more by warming up cold extremities too quickly.
Here is the explanation from Mayo clinic website...

"Rewarming of cold skin can cause small blood vessels under the skin to expand more quickly than nearby larger blood vessels can handle, resulting in a "bottleneck" effect and the blood leaking into nearby tissues."

So, I guess jumping in to a hot shower with cold fingers is the wrong thing to do. Who would have thought it would be such a problem, though?

At least it isn't frostbite!

Monday, December 22, 2014

family gathering


We had a Christmas gathering with my husbands side of the family.  I  prepare mostly the same foods each year for their visit....soups, sandwich makings, pasta salad, appetizers, and cookies and candy for dessert.
I lay everything out on the peninsula counter and everyone helps themselves.

We have a few short relatives on this side....

 A two, a three, and a four year old.
G-pa asked them if they wanted to ride a horse. I think they were expecting something a bit more exciting.

you guide them with their ears

overwhelmed with excitement

We opened gifts....Nerf guns for everyone!

  Big brother,too.

I said, no more photos!

After laying down the rule of "no shots to the face", there were Nerf bullets flying everywhere. Lots of chasing and hiding...they all had fun.  They soon were tuckered out and their mamas gathered up all the ammo and jackets and sippy cups and headed for home.

The house seemed awfully quiet after they had left!

Saturday, December 20, 2014 it ever end?

I have to apologize for showing more food...but that's all I have been looking at.  I've been getting things prepared ahead for a family gathering here at our house.
I've made chili and chicken & dumplings.

My cookies and candy have been giving me problems this year.
I tried a new recipe for pistachio cookies that turned out to be a little disappointing.
My chocolate fudge isn't exactly as firm as it should be.
I used  a bargain brand butter in my sugar cookies and they flattened out (it was that Kroger "Pssst" brand, hope I never have to ask for that one by name!)

I tried a candy recipe that my husband remembered his mother making when he was a kid. I never really wanted to make it, but then my friend, Sandy was talking about making some, so I decided to give it a try.

It involves making a dough with mashed potatoes and powdered sugar. You roll this out and smear with peanut butter, then roll it up and slice it.  That's it. Seriously. Candy?

Sure, I took pictures... Before it all turned into a nightmarish, sticky, oozing blob.

It was a complete failure. Maybe it picked up on my bad attitude. The whole mess is now in a ziploc bag in the bottom of the refrigerator. Later on I might try heating it up a little and stirring in some rice krispies, then shape it into balls or something.

Anyway, I believe we have enough sweets around the house. Lonnie's brother, Don, sent us a FOUR POUND box of candy!

We will definitely be sharing some of that with our guests!

Friday, December 19, 2014

more Christmas fun

My quilt group that meets at the extension office, Crazy Quilters, has a little party at Christmas time too.

This year we were short a few members ...but here is part of our group...

It wouldn't be a party without good things to eat. We pitched in and bought chicken , then everyone brought a dish to go with it. 
Salad, rolls, potato and macaroni salad, meatballs, veggies, a relish tray...

And a staggering amount of desserts!  For the sake of politeness, one must try a little of each!

We talked and ate...very enjoyable with a smaller group...everyone can participate in the same conversation.  Then we had a gift exchange of one yard of fabric and an additional gift. 

Here is my loot!   Fabric with trees, which was in the red plaid bag, a gift card to JoAnn Fabrics, and a package of truffles.

Some gloomy day later this winter, it will be fun to take my gift card and pick out something at the fabric store. It will be a good cure for the post holiday 'slump".

Thursday, December 18, 2014

a gift from a friend

My friend, Isolde, who is in both of my quilting groups, handed me a little wrapped gift at the last meeting.

I opened it to find this....

It is adorable and handmade.   Do you know what it is?  Maybe not, if you aren't a sew-er.

It is a sewing organizer to fit on the arm of your chair!   Pockets on each side to hold tools and supplies...or even glasses and tissues.
A pin cushion and a clever loop to hold a spool of can pull off a length of thread without it rolling across the room and going under the furniture.

It's perfect for keeping my supplies handy and ready to use when sitting and doing hand sewing or hand quilting.  No more scissors lost in the chair cushions or sticking needles in the chair arms !

So cute with the Bee fabric (since we are Mt Washington Quilting Bees)!
Thank you , Isolde!  I love it!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nashville - final part

The second day in Nashville was meetings in the morning. Lonnie attended  but I just hung out in our room...sewing and enjoying the view.

That evening was the main event, dinner and awards.

I forgot to take a picture of my dinner plate, but I do have one of my handsome very own Hunt Brother.

He was called up on stage a couple of times. Here to give an award.  The professional photographer kept getting in the way when I was trying to get photos...hmmph!

After the event we stopped in the hall to look at this Nascar car that the pizza company had primarily sponsored a while back. They parked it right in the hotel. Unfortunately it didn't win anything major. That's all I really know about it.

The next morning there was a nice buffet breakfast at the hotel.

Here are brothers Jimmy, Don and Lonnie. 

As if we hadn't eaten enough over the weekend...Jimmy told us he was stopping at a place called Hattie B's Fried Chicken, to get a carryout order to take Lonnie decided we'd follow him over and get some too.  Imagine smelling fried chicken for an entire 2 1/2 hour drive.  We should have put it in the trunk!

A nice weekend,  but we were glad to get home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nashville - part two

The first evening in Nashville was a company event at Wildhorse Saloon.  They took us over by bus even though it wasn't very far. There were 3 floors with a food buffet set up on each one. Bars on each floor too.

A big crowd...all pizza company employees and was ours for the evening.

The dinner buffet was substansial. They had BBQ pork, brisket, salad, mac & cheese, green bean casserole, potatoes...some kind of cobbler dessert.

On stage, there was a group of performers that did a little skit about delivering pizza ingredients and making a pizza.
They were tossing boxes and tapping on everything with drumsticks....sort of singing and rhyming as they did so. It was funny and clever.

Kevin Harvick and his wife made an appearance. They answersd questions, signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans. He won the Nascar Sprint Cup Race this year in a car partly sponsored by Hunt Brothers Pizza.

I was just horsing around and I met this tall dude at the bar!  He didn't talk much...he must have been a little hoarse!

Later there was live country music and line dancing. We watched for awhile but we were tired out and hopped on the bus back to our hotel.

Oh dear!  I still have a lot more photos...I am going to drag this out one more day...more tomorrow!