Monday, December 26, 2011

Reflections and Resolutions


So...2011 is nearly over. For me, the last week of the year has always been one of reflection and planning. I look back at the highlights and significant happenings of the past twelve months. How did I spend my time? What fun and exciting experiences did I have? Did I try something new? Which part was my favorite? What do I want to change for next year? What did I learn from any challenges or negative experiences? What gave me the most happiness, peace, and satisfaction?

I recently read this enlightening quote from Charles Richards.

"Don't be fooled by the calendar.
There are only as many days in the year as you make use of."

Makes you think, doesn't it? Whether or not you use each day wisely is your choice. You can mindlessly trudge through life or you can meet it head on with enthusiasm. That doesn't mean going full throttle every minute, though. Everyone needs to recharge batteries, assess where you've been and where you want to do next. The key is to think positively and actively pursue the things that make you happy.

2011 has been a good year for me. I realized some dreams, learned new skills, and met some goals in my second full year of retirement. I started this blog and have written fifty-two blog entries. Jerold and I spent over sixty relaxing days in our vacation home on wheels; a retirement goal for both of us. I enjoyed time with my mama and gave her the peace and quiet of our home while we were on the road. I designed and created forty-five items: quilts, crafts, home décor items and clothes. I loved staying home, planting flowers and walking in the woods with Rowdy dog.

I hope 2012 will be as satisfying and fun. The resolutions I make will be guidelines to continue a happy and comfortable life, making use of every day's opportunities.


One resolution I have made, and try always to keep,
is this:  To rise above the little things.” 
~John Burroughs


Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Favorites


Wow, can you believe Christmas is only a few days away?  I have lots of fond memories of exciting, crazy, and peaceful holidays. Besides the twinkling lights, fragrant candles, cheerful decorations, and mouth-watering smells coming from the kitchen, here are a few of my Christmas favorites.

Traditions:  Since I was a kid, I've always made (or helped make) Christmas sugar cookies and Chex mix.  

Foods: Pecan pie, my grandmother's white candy - made with Eagle Brand milk & walnuts, Archway Nutty Nougat cookies, homemade hot cocoa

Gifts:  I love presents!  Nothing beats the delight of giving or receiving a special little surprise.
 
Songs: White Christmas, I'll Be Home For Christmas, I Believe in Santa Claus (Kenny & Dolly), Nuttin' for Christmas (Sugarland) 

Movies/TV: Christmas Vacation, Polar Express, A Charlie Brown Christmas

Snow: It's wonderful when we get a white Christmas, but it doesn't happen often. I love snow anytime, so I'd settle for flurries. 

Santa:  I believe!  Whether I've been naughty or nice, he always manages to leave me a little something.


 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Handmade Holidays: A Little Something Extra


I believe that Christmas is a time of doing special things for others, especially the ones you love. On Saturday I baked old fashioned sugar cookies and made a floury mess in the kitchen. It was great fun, the cookies were tasty, and Jerold loved them. 

I have been playing with quilt designs to use up my huge stash of fabric.  I came up with a pretty one in yellow and pink for a little girl. I don't have kids or grandkids, but I really wanted to sew this child-size quilt. It's reversible with one large log cabin block on the back.  A family member has a three-year old grandchild, so I'm making this for her as a surprise...so don't tell!  It will be wonderful to see her face when she opens it, since she won't expect a present from me.

I nearly always handcraft a gift for someone during the holidays, usually the women or children. I'm glad we have a small family! I remember macrame Christmas tree wall hangings, quilted place mats, monogrammed napkins, embroidered pillowcases, crocheted scarves, lots of clothes, journal covers, and house shoes. 
 

Useful Notion:  Experience the joy of Christmas this year by sharing yourself with others in whatever way you can.  It will surely make you smile. 



Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone. -- Charles Schulz 
*****


Monday, December 5, 2011

Simple Christmas Decorations


I love Christmas but I've never been one to use elaborate decorations in my house. I don't completely redecorate, have a lavish theme, or drape every square foot of surface with tinsel and lights. Our life is simple and casual; our home is a comfortable ranch style, so I use items that blend into my decor. 

This year I sewed something new for my ceramic Santa Bear and Missus to stand on. Using scraps from my earlier Christmas stocking project and some narrow black cotton strips, I pieced a kind of stained glass effect. They now happily reside on the sofa table in our living room. Aren't they precious? 

I like to add something special to every room, just a bit here and there to make the season beautiful. To keep things from becoming cluttered, I put away some regular items to have room for holiday pieces.  I bring out old favorite decorations and supplement them with fresh flowers, along with pine cut from our trees.

A small metal tree with sleigh bells and rustic ornaments sits on our kitchen counter bar. This year Jerold added lights to it and I love the look. We're eating our meals by Christmas lights!  Who knows, I may keep it out for a while.  I could decorate it for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's, Easter...



Useful Notion: Here are a few ideas to add quick and simple Christmasy touches to your home.

  • Switch out sofa pillows and throws for ones with Christmas themes.
  • Add spicy cinnamon, evergreen, or peppermint candles to set a sensory holiday mood.
  • Put a pretty bow on a mirror, lamp, or candelabra.
  • Hang a Santa hat on a coat rack.
  • Sew or buy holiday aprons, dish towels and potholders.
  • Pine cones in a basket make a simple table centerpiece.
  • Drape twinkle lights on top of a china cabinet or bookcase.
  • Tuck little Santas, wrapped gifts, or stuffed animals on benches, chairs or tabletops.
  • Fresh greenery, candles or snow globes work well on bathroom counters.
  • Substitute framed holiday photos for your regular family ones.


"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." -- Norman Vincent Peale 
 --------------
 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sam's Not Too Square

After a busy Thanksgiving week of cooking and cleaning for our guests, I was ready for a few hours of quiet escape in my sewing room. We spent Friday and Saturday outside in the sunshine and wonderfully warm weather--blowing & mowing leaves, pulling dead flowers and spreading pine mulch on flower beds. Work, but still fun and it was nice to be outdoors. Yesterday it rained so I retreated to my favorite space for a much needed sewing fix.

I've had several projects in progress for a while now, so I chose the one that had been waiting the longest and dove right into it. The wall hanging was already pieced, so I cut the backing and began to machine quilt. I love the sound my Singer makes as it smoothly runs along. It's music to my ears!

I designed Sam's Not Too Square for my mama, from scraps of the quilt, pillowcases and curtains I made her last year. She's going to hang it above her bed. Now that I'm done with that, today I'll finish binding the teal computer bag, or maybe something else from my unfinished project bin. Whatever I choose, it'll be another relaxing rainy sewing day.

Useful Remnant: I've started cutting some of my cotton scraps into four inch squares and three inch strips when I'm finished with the project. Stored in a box by color, I plan to use them for an easy charm quilt or sashing for other designs.

When life throws you scraps, make a quilt.  ~Author Unknown

Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel.  ~Author Unknown

******

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mixing Things Up


It's been an unusual Monday, windy and quite warm for November. So, instead of writing this morning I decided to enjoy the outdoors before the predicted rain arrives tonight. It was nice to change my routine even to take care of a few errands and chores. I realized that being flexible and adapting to change made my day more interesting. I'll still get most everything done that's on my list, just in a different order than normal. And, if I miss something, so what? I can do it tomorrow.

I read somewhere that routines are good for you. I know they are comfortable to fall into and give you a sense of stability. But I wonder if it could be important to consciously stimulate your brain with change now and then. It mixes things up, causes you to stop and think, adjust your schedule, and consider options. 

Life's all about change. It's inevitable. Maybe if you challenge your brain with new ideas, it might keep you from being so afraid of change as you grow older. I think I'll try mixing things up a little more often and see how that works out.  It's sure to be more fun!


Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” - William Somerset Maugham

The less routine the more life.” – Amos Bronson Alcott

^^^^^^^^^

Monday, November 7, 2011

Closing Down The Campground


Today we got home from our last camping trip of the year, nine wonderful fall days at Cordell Hull Lake. Although Defeated Creek Campground was full over the weekend, we were one of the fifteen or so who stayed over to pull out right before they closed the gates. We started our season there back in April, so it was fitting that we'd end it there as well. At least this time we weren't running for cover during a tornado warning.

What a fabulous first year in our Sabre 5th wheel. We've had a good balance of camping and being at home.  I'm thankful for safe trips, mostly great weather, and the perfect traveling partner. I appreciate Sam, my sweet mama, for house sitting while we're away. She considers it a relaxing retreat, and spoils our Rowdy dog with long walks and snacks.

We're busy planning next year's itinerary, and already made reservations for Defeated. I think I'll search for campgrounds near my favorite fabric stores. Next spring's a long time to wait, though. Our traveling feet may get itchy enough this winter to take off for the warmer climates of the Gulf. 

And, the best part is, we can if we wanna! 
Oh my, how I love retirement!
Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations.  When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.  ~ George Carlin



Monday, October 31, 2011

Best Memories of Halloween


 Any holiday that involves large quantities of candy, especially chocolate, ranks high on my favorites list. Dressing up in silly or scary costumes only adds to the excitement. Whether you're a child or an adult, this is one fun time of year. When I see the expressions on the faces of little goblins, memories of Halloweens past are vivid in my mind.

Years ago, my best friend Pam and I got out early and covered nearly every house in our neighborhood, an area 5 blocks square. I remember the crunch of leaves as we dashed from house to house. We knew which people gave out the best goodies, so we tried to hit them early. We decorated paper grocery sacks to carry our loot at first, but changed to pillowcases that held more and avoided the loss of precious candy when the bag ripped.

Choosing a costume was so much fun. I remember being a pirate, ballerina, hobo, princess, cowgirl, bunny, 20's flapper, witch, and cheerleader. Sometimes I had a store-bought costume with those awful plastic masks...I wore glasses so the masks never fit right and made my glasses fog up. Other times I helped my mama sew one or we'd piece together something out of her closet. Some years we had to wear coats or rain gear over our costumes, which absolutely ruined the effect.

We'd drive out to my grandparent's after trick or treat so they could see us. She made the most delectable popcorn balls and chocolate fudge candy. Even if we didn't go on Halloween, she made sure we got those yummy, sticky snacks sometime that week. We got huge hauls of candy, and got to eat what we wanted. My mama always filled the candy dish in the living room so not much was left over at our house. My favorite candy? Nearly all of them, but creamy delicious chocolate is the best, hands down.

When I had my own business, we chose a theme and went all out decorating the office. We served treats and our customers stopped by to see our secret costumes. Memorable themes were: western, gypsy, 50's, favorite animal, Gone with the Wind era (Miss Scarlett here), pirates, coven of witches, and pajama party. Favorite candy was fun: our pregnant receptionist was a peanut M&M, I was a Hershey's kiss, the two others were Baby Ruth and licorice.

The best year was Addam's Family—we won the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce prize for best costumes. I was Morticia, the other three were Uncle Fester, Pugsley, and Wednesday. No one was tall enough to be Lurch and we decided that Gomez was out of town. Thing sat on the front desk, and our office was transformed into the creepy Addams Family mansion. We laughed all week and got very little work done that day, but it was great fun!

As you prepare to dole out treats this year, remember your favorite Halloween with a smile, and save a few dozen extra pieces of candy for yourself. 

Trick or treat!



Monday, October 24, 2011

Paying More But Getting Less


I just got home from grocery shopping, one of my least favorite tasks, particularly on a pretty Monday morning. I've been noticing that food packaging seems to be shrinking more and more. Nearly everything I purchased today was smaller than the same product a year ago. However, the cost of food is rising significantly.

A large can of coffee, originally three pounds, is now only two pounds, two and a half ounces. The small package, which used to be a pound, is now only eleven to thirteen ounces, depending on the brand. A pack of bacon isn't a pound anymore, and a half-gallon of ice cream is long gone.

Canned goods, cereal, cookies, cleaning and laundry products...most brands have cut the size of their packages. Unfortunately, their pricing has stayed the same or increased, so the cost per ounce has gone up.

Downsizing may be popular, but I really don't like this trend. Especially when the redesigned packaging boasts “NEW LOOK, SAME GREAT TASTE” or “VALUE SIZE” on the label. They just pretend nothing else has changed and hope shoppers don't notice. But we do notice when we run out of something that used to last all week because there aren't as many servings included.

Even with coupon clipping and shopping sales, many folks on fixed incomes have been feeling the pressure of rising food costs for a while now. Some switch to store brands to save money, but those can be even smaller sizes with fewer servings. To get the most value from their ever-shrinking dollar, people today have to spend more time looking for bargains.  It's a challenge, and sometimes it's fun to score a great discount.  But I'd rather be doing something else!

Useful Notion:  Here are a few ideas to help combat the higher cost of food and household items:
  • Don't buy it if it isn't on sale – it will likely be on sale later
  • Plan your weekly menu around what's on sale this week
  • Clip and use coupons – and don't forget to take them to the store
  • Compare cost per ounce or serving, not just item price
  • Buy extra of sale items when possible – use the freezer or pantry for storage

Inflation is taxation without legislation.  ~Milton Friedman



Monday, October 17, 2011

October Camping

October is a wonderful time of year for camping!    And, evidently a lot of people agree with me.  Over the weekend, Dale Hollow Dam Campground was full of people.  We saw everything from tiny tents to luxury motor homes.  People watching is an interesting activity...kids, dogs, bikes, elderly couples, bubbas, and fishermen.  

Dinner fare has been delicious.  Saturday night we dined on charcoal and mesquite grilled lemon pepper steak, peaches and cream corn on the cob, and baked steak fries.  Sunday night was a mixed green chef's salad: ham, cheese, pecans, and avocado with homemade honey mustard dressing.  We toasted marshmallows over the fire for dessert. 

What a beautiful place on the Obey River.  A few leaves have fallen, but some still haven't turned.  The temperatures are perfect, the sun is shining for now. We're going outside to play!

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. -- Norman Maclean

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quick and Easy Fall Sewing Ideas


Our Tennessee autumn weather has been way too pretty lately to stay indoors. Except for a couple of cool mornings, it's been beautiful and I've been outside as much as possible. Camping and yard work at home have occupied most of my time. 

Although I haven't been in the sewing room, project ideas and color combinations pop up all around me. I've been making notes and sketching design ideas. Until I get back to my stitching, here are a few simple ideas from my collection. These won't take long and will brighten up your home during your fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving celebrations.

Boo! To You Pumpkin Wall Art: Find a fun embroidery design like this cute pumpkin and put it on a light or medium colored background fabric. Add a back lining and loops, then finish the edges. I used a small stick as a hanger. If you don't have an embroidery machine, try applique or fabric painting a Halloween design.

Autumn Glory Reversible Table Runner: Choose a fall print fabric that coordinates with your dining room or kitchen, and a neutral solid like muslin, osnaburg or linen for the reverse side. Apply interfacing to the solid, then embroider or applique a fall design on each end. Bind them together with a two-inch border of the print material.  The small fruit design is repeated in the cornucopia embroidery and is perfect for the kitchen.

Napkins Aplenty: Hem 16 or 18-inch squares of the extra fabric from your table runner project. For solid colors, add a decorative or zig-zag stitch to add interest. You don't even have to sew if you don't want to for this one. Look at discount stores for colorful cloth napkins to match or contrast.

Rich Autumn Pillow Covers: Sewing simple pillow covers is fast and easy. You can change them quickly to bring beautiful fall colors indoors. Try dark red, ripe persimmon, warm brown or deep gold textured fabrics to create a warm, inviting living space.

Useful Remnant: Cloth napkins add a nice touch to your table and help the environment. Either catch them on sale or make your own. Buy some new dish cloths that match your kitchen and designate them as napkins for daily use. 
 

"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn." ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

******

Monday, October 3, 2011

Backcountry Camping and Wild Critters


We've been camping at Land Between the Lakes, at a boat ramp camping spot on Kentucky Lake. No electricity or water, just a picnic table, a fire ring and an awesome view of the lake. Of course we have the generator to charge our batteries and watch TV at night.

The weather has been nearly perfect. The leaves are beginning to turn. Only the wind and a dip in overnight temperatures made us search for warmer clothing. Most of the time we've been out exploring, cutting firewood, or sitting outside in the sunshine. I read a couple of books and we had a nice visit from a friend who lives nearby.

One benefit of being in the woods is seeing and hearing wild critters. Some closer than you would like, others that you'd like to stay around for a while. The first one we encountered was a skunk. Evidently a family of them live under a tree by the shoreline. They aren't particularly afraid of people, this one just sauntered by as we were sitting by the fire. They came by every night, looking for food scraps, and one night they got into a tent camper's trash.

The next day I was picking my way through the rip-rap toward the shore, looked up and saw a big bald eagle. He was only 20 yards away, perched on a rock in the water, watching for fish. I signaled Jerold to bring the binoculars, and we watched him for a few minutes before he flew off. That made my day!

On Friday, as we drove around a curve on a back road, we saw something crossing the road. We eased to a stop, and it turned to look at us. It was a beautiful tan bobcat, with black and white tufted ears. She hesitated a moment, then padded off into the woods. I didn't have time to get my camera and I wish she had posed for a little longer.

I love camping and having our own vacation home on wheels to take us out to the woods, the beach or the mountains. It's nice to have my own warm soft bed instead of a lumpy sleeping bag on the ground. I'm spoiled, I admit it. But I'm still a country girl who doesn't mind getting dirty, cutting wood, or being outdoors. Nature gives me peace, happiness, and keeps me grounded.

Colorful sunsets, the soft hooting of an owl, waves lapping the shore, a cool breeze off the lake, hot chocolate, twinkling stars and a smoky, crackling campfire...almost perfect. Just have to keep an eye out for those skunks. Stay tuned, we have more adventures planned.


Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.  ~John Muir

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.  ~Eleonora Duse

Monday, September 26, 2011

What I Love About Fall


The first day of fall arrived last Friday...finally. I love to experience the changing seasons and this is one of my favorites. When I was working in tourism, autumn was our busiest time of year. With so many meetings, events, bus tours, tournaments and festivals, I really didn't get to enjoy the season. Now I have time to experience the things that make fall so wonderful. Here are a few of my favorites.

Warm Days, Cool Nights – Windows open kind of weather is fabulously refreshing. Highs in the 70's and lows around 55 are the best. I air out the house, sleep with windows open, and let the air conditioner rest after a long hot summer. Sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee in the mornings is just perfect!  And it's time to pull out a quilt or two.

Football – I haven't always been a huge fan, but as I've learned more about the strategies and rules, it's fun to watch some college and NFL games. Having the DVR gives me control of when I want to sit down to enjoy with a big bowl of popcorn.

Festivals & Events – There are many options when it comes to fall events in Tennessee. This year I'm adding a few new ones to my itinerary, like last Saturday's Handmade Harvest in Bethpage. (It was a great first year event, plan to go next year.) Quite a few of them are scheduled at the same time, which makes it difficult to choose. You simply can't attend more than one or two in a day!

Nature's Color – Observing the changing leaves is one of the best things about fall. Sometimes I think they must have done it overnight. Bright reds, yellows, browns and oranges decorate the landscape and create beautiful photo opportunities. Some flowers wilted by the hot summer sun perk up again for a last show of blooms, and happy mums begin to show their faces.

Sweaters & Flannel – I'm an absolute sucker for a pretty sweater, even though I am sort of warm natured. It must be the textures and rich dark colors that get me. I love soft flannel shirts, comfy hoodies and quilted vests too.

Yummy Fall Scents – Cinnamon, cloves, apples, hot chocolate, crushed leaves, moist air after a rain, mums, and more give my senses a treat. On a recent country drive, the smoky scent of tobacco being fired in a barn took me back to my grandaddy's farm.


Useful Notion:  Don't get so busy in your life that you forget to notice the beauty and peacefulness of fall. Use all your senses and take it in!


I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air. 
Nathaniel Hawthorne

####

Monday, September 19, 2011

Distractions Can Be Good For You


When you're trying to focus on a goal or project, distractions are usually the last thing you want. You have to stop what you're doing to catch the phone, answer a question, run an important errand, or whatever. Getting back to your previous train of thought can be difficult and it takes time to refocus your mind.

Sometimes, however, a distraction is exactly what you need. It allows you to take a break and focus on something new. Instead of getting upset or stressed, use the interruption as a reminder to relax, clear your mind, and enjoy the moment. It's the small things that can make a difference.

My routine has been interrupted some lately. Mostly good ones, including a nice lunch with friends and a relaxing visit from my mama. I'll take distractions as they come. I believe stepping out of your normal routine every now and then keeps things interesting. If you live every moment and give your best to each opportunity, you add value to your life.


Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans”
 John Lennon


Monday, September 12, 2011

Listen People: Life Doesn't Owe You Anything


Let me rephrase that: there is no free ride. You have to make your own way in life, earn your own money, and pay your own bills. If there's something you want or need, save for it. Don't go running to mama or expect the government to take care of you.

There's no law, written or unwritten, that says your parents have to provide for you forever. They don't have to give you money when you run out, buy you a car, pay your rent, or leave you anything in their will.  Their responsibility for raising you ends when you become an adult. Sure, most parents are happy to assist their children and grandchildren occasionally, when they can. But that generosity doesn't mean they are obligated to do so until the end of time.

Grow up! You're supposed to leave the nest. Act like an adult, go out and provide for yourself. No matter how old you are, stop blaming others for your problems. Stop waiting for someone or something to make life easier for you.  How can you demand support from someone if you barely acknowledge their presence?  You can't take advantage of, mistreat, or cheat others and expect something nice in return.

Take responsibility for your own life and for your own happiness. You can choose to make your situation better by changing your attitude. Be realistic about your wants and needs. If you want to just get by, that's fine, but don't expect others to carry your load. Take a good look at your life, evaluate what isn't working, then make positive changes toward improvement. 

Life doesn't owe you anything...you owe it to yourself.


The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide 
your problems are your own. 
You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. 
You realize that you control your own destiny.  ~Albert Ellis


Don't take advantage of family or true friends, 
because in the end they're all you've got. 
~Anonymous

^^^^^^

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Life Full of Color

Labor Day is here and I'm happily working in my sewing room while much needed rain falls outside. The inspiration that struck me earlier this summer continues to bring new design ideas and color combinations. I've sketched and made notes for a variety of projects, including purses, computer bags, quilts, home décor, and clothing.
 
Here's the one I finished yesterday: This and That and the Other is a bright, cheerful wall quilt with a surprise... 
it's reversible.  Bali Colorwave, the other side, reminds me of a tropical sunrise. I had intended to use one print panel on the back, but couldn't resist these pretty pink and purple Bali blends. 

I shopped online at Fabric.com and Hancock's of Paducah for the gorgeous fabrics that I combined with a few of my own scraps. (Yeah, I know that I should be using more of my fabric stash, but who can resist new fabric that is just a click away?)

Color can affect a person's mood and I could be proof that bright colors stimulate creativity. Painting my room purple has sparked a flurry of activity. Some hues bring happy, passionate, warm and creative feelings; others invoke thoughts of reflection, peace, and simplicity. Even dark, gloomy, dull colors have their place. My life is full of color and I love it!  

I'm retired, but I'm not sure there is enough time to sew all the designs that are spiraling around in my head. And even if I did, what would I do with all this stuff? It may be time to start an online storefront. We'll see. Meanwhile, it's still raining and I want to play around with some of those fabric scraps...I have another idea.


Useful Notion: Some crafters sort fabric by color, others sort by light, dark, and medium hues. Either way you choose, organizing fabric scraps saves time.

Life is about using the whole box of crayons. ~RuPaul

^^^^^^