Monday, March 31, 2008

Impromptu Party Plan

Plans have a way of changing themselves. Originally, Diann and I were to be basking together in the warm sunshine of California for her birthday. I pictured the two of us walking side by side along the beach, sipping cooling beverages, wearing fancy flip-flops (I bought both of us a pair of beaded ones), leisurely shopping ventures, eating when we wanted to, laughing over silly memories, and just relaxing together away from our full schedules. But, that was not to be. What did happen though, was every bit as sweet. Even if it was on a cold, drizzly raining Sunday afternoon in Chicago...we got together in spite of plans changing. For the first time, Larry and Anne witnessed our sister ritual of themed gifts. It was a lovely, memorable time.
Nothing like an impromptu party. Nothing like Irish music. Nothing like a sister. I guess an Irish blessing might be appropriate here:
A sunbeam to warm you, Good luck to charm you,
A Sheltering angel, So nothing can harm you,
Laughter to cheer you, Faithful friends near you,
And whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you.
Happy Birthday to the best sis in the world!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Armchair (Reading) Journeys of Late

Go anywhere, learn anything, meet new people: it's all there for the taking when you open the covers of a book. With this l-o-n-g winter, books have been a great help in mental survival this 2008! Thus far, I've read many books, but these are the standouts: #1:This book, My Lobotomy - A Memoir is my latest find. It was wriiten by Howard Dully and talks about his lobotomy at age 12 at the hands of Dr. Freeman in the late 1950's and early 1960's. His story was also told on NPR, and I would love to have heard Dully interviewed to hear his voice live. I will be haunted by his story forever, but also have been inspired about the amazing strength and resiliency of the human spirit. #2:The Bookseller of Kabul is the latest selection in my Book Club group. It gives a fascinating glimpse into what it is like to be in this culture where men reign supreme and women are considered to be property. Not exactly light-hearted fare, but the reader is left with much appreciation for the freedom that we have right here right now. Read it to become more thankful. #3:Okay, so I have a weakness every now and then for a completely "fluffy" book and Eat Cake is just the ticket for me. It is the perfect beach read and what I read in Hawaii on our recent trip. A housewife has a penchant for baking exotic cakes (recipes included - I need the book back sometime, Anne!) when her world falls apart: her husband loses her job, her divorced parents end up moving in with her, and throw in a moody teenage daughter into the mix! The humor in survival is what got me hooked on this easy, breezy, foodie book. #4:My sister gave me this book The Friday Night Knitting Club for my birthday. The main character, Georgia, is a single mom with a passion for knitting. She owns and runs a knitting shop with charming - but quirky - staff and customers. There's a lot of drama in Georgia's personal life as well. The reader follows Georgia's unexpected journey with cancer near the end of the book when everything is on the upswing. I couldn't put this book down.
#5:The last book on this little list is a children's book. I am madly in love with this spunky little pig,Olivia. She's saucy, creative, inventive, imaginative - but has a bit of an attitude. This is the latest book in the four (and spin-offs) written by Ian Falconer. A dose of Olivia is wonderful for what is ailin' you. Makes me smile and laugh out loud every time I turn the pages. I personally think that the world would be a better place if everyone read more children's books no matter what chronological age the reader might be!

Monday, March 24, 2008

They Didn't Think We'd Do It This Year?

Times change. Kids grow up. Parents/Grandparents age. Traditions change. What is a celebration of Easter changes, too. I sit alone on the church pew and watch the young families sit together in their Easter finery, not long ago that was us. We won't be able to have dinner guests in our home this year; it is our turn to go out to Mom's nursing home to be with her. I am touched that John decided to come "home" to our church to play with the brass group for one last time before graduation. The atmosphere in church is one of celebration with the resurrection of Christ. However, I am getting calls from Mom via my cell phone. The emergency (for her) is the confusion of when we will be eating dinner...she is sure they are not going to be serving the meal at the noon hour and we won't be able to feast with her. I need to assure her that it will all work out. I leave church early to go out to be with her, and I am in tears...this is not how I thought Easter would be. But, this is how life can be here on earth, isn't it? I am thankful to know there is a bigger plan out there. This brings me to why joy needs to be found when you can find it. Family matters so much to me, and being together with Wes, John, Anne and Jed makes me joyful. Which is why Wes and I keep doing silly things with them, such as our annual Easter Basket hunt. Though Wes' prose is nearly illegible and rhymes are sometimes painfully penned, the "kids" seem to want to keep this tradition going. John even commented to Wes this year that it was too bad the Bunny hadn't come to our home Easter morning - little did he know the Bunny would stop by Windsor Park to find the family somehow!
Dinner was almost finished when a "distraction" happened and there was a note plopped into the floral bouquet in the center of the table. Whatever could this be?
Anne is to be commended for her determination in finding the clue hidden underneath the piano!
Whew! This is getting tricky! Fortunately, John is a strapping young buck and could lift up a plant to find a clue hiding underneath the pot. (Jed appears to be letting John do all the work!!)
Too bad the last clue was missing from the hot cocoa machine. Apparently, someone had spilled a cup of cocoa and threw away the clue that was hiding underneath the cup dispenser. Luckily the Bunny and Her Assistant could tell hunters to go to Grandma's closet to look for the final treats!
Mom was having an especially confusing day , yet she was thrilled the "Bunny" got her a garden thermometer for her room - she's thinking her wall thermostat isn't working properly nowadays.
She also loved her box of tissues, permanent markers, muffin treats and toothpaste.
Here's our goofy group posed in Mom's room. You'll note the one with the bunny ears? Guess we haven't lost our touch just yet after all! Who knows what next Easter will bring? We'll keep looking for joy where it can be found. And, maybe joy has a way of finding us even when we least expect it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Long-Lasting Eggs (and Memories)

When it's Easter decorating time, I always take out these eggs and smile over the memories of making them with Anne and Alli. Every year until college graduation, Alli joined us here at home for Easter - along with her future husband Luke (though they weren't dating then). Dyeing these eggs is quite fun, and time-consuming to boot. Meaning you can laugh and talk and even complain while making them. What you'll need: fresh eggs, spool of thread, pot (and water), white vinegar, tongs, silk ties (Thrift Shop Queen appears again!)
1. Make sure you are using a tie that is 100 % silk. Check the label. Anything else just won't "take" on the egg!

2. Cut a large square out of the silk tie, large enough to wrap around the egg. Discard the lining and interfacing. Hold the tie in place over the egg shape.

3. This is the truly tedius part, and best to do when with someone else because you can chat a LOT while wrapping thread from a full spool COMPLETELY around the egg so that not even the tie is visible in the end! (Martha Stewart recommends using a piece of white fabric secured over the silk tie on the egg and securing it with a twist tie, but I think that thread wrap makes for a tighter, clearer, crisper imprint on the egg.)

4. Place the egg(s) in a pot of water and make sure the water adequately covers the egg(s).

5. Add 3 T. white vinegar to the water, and boil water (on low) for at least 20 minutes.

6. Remove egg(s) from water with a tong. Let cool.

7. The fun part comes now! Unwrap the thread from your egg. The colors are always different from the original silk tie, and that's the thrill of it!

8. Enjoy your eggs. After Easter, place them back in a cardboard egg storage container to save for next year. The eggs will last a l-o-n-g time. You will be able to feel the yolk rolling around inside for years to come. Not recommended: breaking the egg...they are a bit stinky once aged.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

March Birthday Shout-Outs

My goodness but lots of family and friends have birthdays this month! So to Larry, Carol, Grace, Karl, Nicole, Maddy, Melissa, Samara and Diann, I wish you all much happiness, health, great memories and happy times as you celebrate another year added to your life! You make the world a much brighter place! (If I have missed you and you wanted to be added to the list, let me know. You can also wish a Happy Birthday to anyone here in my comments box!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tiara? Check. Sash? Check. Scepter? Check.

Somehow I was voted in at work as Ms. Millennium after submitting a childhood picture, writing an essay, and performing in the talent contest as Marilyn Monroe. (I blogged about that in the late fall.) What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. Just a way of welcoming in our new computer catalog system. Just thought you would like to know. No curtsies necessary. No special throne or dwelling, no increase in income. But, if I wave at you with that special wave of royalty - palm out, fingers together slightly swaying - you will understand.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Give Me an "M"!

M is for mother/mother-in-law Muriel. Anne sent up this sweater she picked out this past week for her Grandma. What is interesting about this particular sweater? I own one just like it and Anne didn't realize that. So, if you see me in it, you'll know this secret, too!
I is for incredible dessert. Does this Black Forest cake look yummy or what? We shared it with Elder and Muriel, singing quietly (of course) the HAPPY BIRTHDAY song to celebrate their increasing years on earth.
N is for our Nuvi 260 navigation system. Never will we take a road trip without our girl, "Gertie." She is amazing and remarkably dependable, but she does say the word, "Recalculating" with a bit of an edgy attitude!
N is for nice, new plasma TV. The family gave this as a gift to their parents for Christmas, but it was finally picked up and set up this weekend. We enjoyed watching their new favorite sports genre, as well as the movie QUEEN featuring Helen Mirren. Bring on the popcorn!!!
E is for Elder. Wes' father stays very active with writing pieces for the PIETISTEN and family history. Here they discuss his latest work.
S is for Starbucks with Samara. How fun it was to go to THE Starbucks where Samara met her future husband, and where Jeff would later propose to her! Following our beverage consumption, we went to the bakery her in-laws own and I was treated to a fantastic donut as well as a personal tour of the family bakery.
O is for outfits. For the day, I became Muriel's personal shopper for new outfits. We spent time in her closet and I made a list of things needed to pull her wardrobe together for Spring. Then, Elder and I went out to power shop in the shortest amount of time possible! It was pretty amazing that all the things worked out...only one item needs to be switched for a smaller size.
T is for table. We went to the Bavarian Gasthaus in Stillwater, Minnesota to celebrate Wes' parents birthdays which are about a month apart. A is for ale. Wes loved his small glass of German beer. You should have seen how large the regular stein was! Put it all together and what does it spell? Minnesota! We've just returned from a very nice weekend there visiting Wes' folks. It's a great place, but not exactly balmy. Fresh snow this morning!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Announcing: The Pitter Patter of Little...

... P - A - W - S !
Yes, Anne and Jed have just added to their family this week by adopting a four month old kitten. Does this make us Grandparents now in some sort of way? We know we can call this our Grandkitty, but what will we be referred to in turn - guess we don't have to worry exactly because everyone knows a cat can't really talk! However, there should be some word that designates a Grandparent to a cat (or dog). But, I don't know what that word would be. It hardly seems right to be called the same word used by a real grandchild.
So, here he is...our new Grandkitty. The new "parents" are reportedly thrilled with this adorable addition to their little family. They are learning to cope with a little less sleep, finding out how much fun it is to come home every day after work to be greeted by their little bundle of "fur" and discovering that a dependent can be a source of finding new ways to spend that hard-earned cash on food, potty-training supplies and toys.
I say, Bring it on! because someday they will be even better parents to their future children as a result of working out many of these care issues now. Welcome to your new family, Oliver!!!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Wooly Wooly

As a recent gift, I received a gift card to Border's. While there, I spotted the most delicious book by betz white. All about recycling old wool sweaters to make cute new things from them. As a self-proclaimed Thrift Shop Queen, I knew I was on to something here!
Above: Two sweaters before and after the felting process. You can tell how much shrinkage is going on.
How to "felt" wool sweaters? Pop them in the dryer with really hot water and 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid soap. The sweaters need to be at least 95% wool. Let them agitate for a couple of cycles, and take them out. They may be dried in the clothes dryer, but I hung mine out to air dry in the house.
On the left side is what the wild sweater looked like as the wearer wore it...isn't it jazzy? I toned it down by using the inside on the outside.
Once I got the pattern all cut out, it was time to sew, sew away. This wool is so soft to work with. And I also like to feel I am being "green" by using something old in a new way. It had been quite a while since I used a tissue paper pattern, and it challenged me to read a Simplicity pattern again...Their patterns are sometimes anything but.
Front and back view of the new backpack. That new mini spool knitting machine really made the green cording a was done in no time.
However, the large eyelets placed around the top of the opening were a huge pain. I hammered away as directed on the package containing the silver anvil and tool, but the eyelet just wouldn't get tight enough. Thank goodness for an antique metal marble coming to my rescue.
Can't wait to used my new wooly backpack on my next trip out when I need my hands free and don't want to lug around a purse that falls off my shoulder, and might be left behind when I get distracted. (Which easily happens!) Now that I know that I can do this, it's on to prettier sweaters that can be transformed into mittens, scarves, hats, cupcakes and such.