Thursday, December 31, 2009

Can it really be 2010?

I've been mulling over that number all day.  It just sounds so "futuristic" to me; not like a real year at all.  More like a movie or song title.

Anyway, Happy New Year to all!  I hope that you take time to celebrate today with friends or loved ones, say goodbye to 2009, and raise a glass of bubbly to the hope that a new year always brings.

My family is fortunate that 2009 did not bring us the economic hardships that many endured and continue to endure.  No one lost their job or their house, thankfully.  The 30-somethings still have time for their 401Ks to grow, the 50-somethings may have to rethink retirement age, and the 60-somethings (that would be us) are grateful for the conservative approach we've always taken on investing.

No one is directly involved with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Everyone is healthy - even me!  Yup, that blessed pain seems to have disappeared for no apparent reason.  A little like the way it showed up for no apparent reason!  My doc refers to me as the "mystery woman."  Friends encouraged me to go through with the physical therapy that the doc ordered, which I will do.  I'll just have to explain where it "used to hurt" instead of where it hurts!

We celebrated the election of the first Afro-American as President of the United States.  Regardless of your political leanings, this was certainly something to celebrate.  Now, if we could only get around to electing a woman .... not just any woman, either.  A woman who is strong, decisive, confident, as well as qualified, experienced, and competent.  I think that pretty much rules out Ms. Palin.  Sorry, I just couldn't resist!

By far the best part of our year was the birth of our third grandchild, Natasha Jade.  She is turning out to be quite a beauty with striking blue eyes and ash blond hair that can't be matched by the salons of Beverly Hills.  She has the cutest way of furrowing her eyebrows from time to time.  My guess is that she's trying to figure out how the heck she's going to deal with all these grownups.

2009 also brought me:
  • new friends in The Oasis Quilt Guild
  • into the world of blogging
  • a trip through the Panama Canal
  • hiking in 5 National Parks
  • attempts to expand my sewing and quilting skills
I thought about doing a resolution a day for the past week, but life always seems to get in the way of my plans.  I do have a few resolutions to share with you over the next few days not necessarily in rank order of importance - just in the order that they pop into my head.

Since this blog actually started out as a quilting blog, Resolution #1 is to practice free motion quilting every day until I either learn how to do it or give up!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow, we leave to spend the next 5 days with our family in Ventura County, California.  I will be away from blogging for a week or so.  I can hardly wait to visit with our 3 wonderful grandchildren as well as our adult children.  Isn't Christmas the most wonderful time of the year?  Hope to take pictures of the grandchildren playing on Santa's gift - and hoping, hoping, hoping that it survives the onslaught of preschoolers!

I've been thinking today about the new year and my resolutions, but I won't bore you with what I've come up with!  I think I'll do one resolution per day from Christmas until the New Year.  Come join me - let's make a list!

It has been a wonderful year.  Our family greeted a new grandchild, Natasha Jade.  Nothing is better than welcoming a new life into your family.  Our country welcomed a new president, Barack Hussein Obama.  On any level, this was an historic event.  I am forever grateful that I was able to witness this.  As a young adult growing up in the 60s, I could not imagine seeing an African-American being sworn in as President of the United States.  Let's hear it for us!!!  We did good.

On a personal note, this was the year that I started blogging.  Not a big deal on the world stage.  Not such a big deal with my family and friends.  But for me - a really big deal!  I love blogging.  I don't know who is out there reading my blog; I don't know who may come forward in the future to read my words; but I do know that I am enjoying the process.  I enjoy learning about new technology, expanding my horizons, and challenging myself.  And, I may be the only one in my family who actually knows what a widget is!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  Enjoy spending time with loved ones; worship the season as you choose; sprinkle a little fairy dust on someone less fortunate; hum a Christmas carol; watch "White Christmas" for the 20th time; remember that the world would never be the same unless you were in it!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Through the eyes of a child - the magic of Christmas!

I don't know who had a better time on Saturday - Talia, Tati, or Oma.  The three girls went to see Disney on Ice at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.  Talia knew that she was going to have a special outing with Tati and Oma and that she was going to see a "show."  She'll be 4 in February, so a show to her is a movie in the living room!  When I picked her up at 9:30 a.m., she was all dressed up in holiday finery, excited, and ready to go.

We had a wonderful day of experiences for a 3 & 3/4 year old (she insists on the 3/4), a 50-something, and a 60-something (we insist on the "somethings").  We drove through LA Christmas traffic talking about how a show differs from a movie.  How do you explain these things to a preschooler?  All of a sudden, Talia shouted "city!" as we first caught sight of the tall, tall buildings in downtown LA.  She's a gal from the suburbs - cities are pretty exciting!

We parked and asked Talia if she wanted to walk to the Staples Center (a short 1/2 block) or take the shuttle.  She opted for the shuttle and delighted in the "crazy driver" who turned corners a little too quickly for her to maintain her balance.  The giggles and grins were enough to make my day .... and there was more to come.

You can enter one hour before showtime and visit the Disney princess exhibit.  If you are lucky enough to have a little girl in your life between the ages of 2 and 14, you know that Disney princesses are all the rage.  We saw Belle's dress (from Beauty and the Beast), Show White's costume, and - ta da! - Cinderella and Tiana (The Princess and the Frog) were actually there!  They smiled, they waved, they blew kisses - and brought delight to all the little girls and boys, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors who were enjoying this holiday treat.

Talia caught sight of the popcorn booth and insisted on popcorn.  The box was half as big as she is!  She wouldn't let me carry it for her, so lugged that box halfway around the Staples Center until we found our seats.  Tati went to buy lunch, and Talia and I settled in for the start of the show.  They announced a countdown to showtime and Talia stared at my watch intently waiting for the time to click down - 5 minutes, 3 minutes, 1 minute until showtime.  Tati brought lunch, the lights went down and ----- Mickey and Minnie Mouse skated out to great us!

I don't have the words to describe the look of wonder on Talia's face as she experienced her first live show with characters that she knows and loves.  Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck, Ariel, Flounder, Sebastian, Simba, Tinkerbell.  We almost skipped a potty break at intermission because she was afraid she would miss the start of the second half!  She laughed, she cried a bit (why did they choose to do the stampede scene from The Lion King?), she waved at Sebastian, shouted at Skar, and jumped up and down when Tinkerbell flew!

I know I'll get gifts on Christmas from my wonderful family.  They'll be thoughtful, beautifully wrapped, carefully chosen, and given with love.  They'll also understand when I say that no gift that I receive this Christmas will be more precious to me than the look on Talia's face when she first saw Ariel skate onto the rink.  There is no gift greater than the look of joy, wonder, and magic on the face of a child, especially a child that you love!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Something Special for the Kidlets!

Months ago, I bought snack holders from The Sewphisticated Stitcher to give to the kidlets as Christmas gifts.  Of course, I waited until the week before Christmas to do this project!  Isn't that typical of crafters?  It was so much fun looking for appropriate designs that matched each of my three sweethearts to embroider on inserts along with their names.  Trains for Jackson was a given, and our little princess (otherwise known as Miss T. the Elder; Talia; or T. Rex!) definitely needed something girlish.  Her snack holder has stylish pink highheels and a matching purse.  Tasha's personality is just beginning to show, but she is sweet, sweet, sweet as the cupcake design on her snack holder.  Unfortunately, I wrapped the gifts in a gift-wrapping frenzy yesterday before taking pictures!  I carefully unwrapped Jackson's today so you could see at least one of the finished projects.

I was tempted to put something good to eat in the holders, but Christmas will be filled with enough goodies to get Talia and Jackson on big-time sugar highs!  I reluctantly stopped myself from being the indulgent grandmother and just left them empty.  Sigh.

By the way, if you are looking for a really nice selection of mini-designs that stitch out very well try Bunnycup Embroidery.  (I like to link to sites that I especially enjoy.  I have no affiliation with any of these sites except as a happy customer!)

Spent the rest of today wrapping gifts, working on embroidered Christmas ornaments (another late project), and trying to get ready for a short weekend trip to see the family.  Doug will be helping Brian put together the kidlets BIG gift (it's a surprise!)  Tati (my sister) and Oma will be having much more fun - we're taking Talia to see Disney on Ice at the Staples Center on Saturday!  Whoo hoo!!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

How sweet it is - a project day!

Once in awhile, a day crops up when I have nothing, or almost nothing, on the calendar or the to-do list.  Aren't these just the most wonderful of days?  Of course, I have a mental list of all of the things that I'll get done during the day.  I can usually count my total progress at about 50% of what I actually think I can do.  No matter - these are still sweet, sweet days.

Here's a picture of the finished tablerunner actually on the kitchen table.  I decided not to add the Christmas tree applique that the pattern calls for.  Maybe next year I'll do another one in better fabric and add the applique.  I still like it, though, as simple as it is.  I made beef stew on one of our rainy days last weekend and spilled some of it on the tablerunner the first day we used it!  So, now I'll get to see how it behaves in the wash.

Doing the binding totally by machine did not work out as well as I had hoped, so I added a decorative stitch in gold metallic thread.  I haven't used metallic thread often, but I do like the effect it gives to the right project.  I used Sulky.  Although my 640 does not like the regular Sulky embroidery thread, it did very well with the metallic thread.  Several years ago, I learned at a class to put difficult thread in a coffee mug behind the machine to give it an extra-long path before it winds through the tension disks, etc.  This works like a charm for me!

One of the reasons that it took me so long to finish this tablerunner was that I had to put it aside to work on a TLC quilt for our Oasis Quilt Guild.  A downside of living in a senior community is that people get sick - seriously sick - on a regular basis.  Our Guild keeps a supply of small lap quilts on hand so that we can gift one to a resident undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment.  We were quickly in need of two quilts suitable for men, so I was tasked with adding borders to a quilt which someone started who knows how long ago and just stuck in the Guild closet.  I scrounged around our stash and found some red prints that livened it up a bit and did a piano keys border for the first time.  I enjoyed learning how to do this border design, and I definitely like the effect it has on the quilt presentation.  It's hard to see in the picture, but the small border is a black & white pindot print which is repeated in the piano keys.  Someone else in our group gets to quilt it - I'm done!

And I finished personalized snack holders for the kidlets for Christmas!  I purchased the acrylic holders from The Sewphisticated Stitcher.  The designs come from Swak Embroidery, one of my favorite sites for children's designs.  This was a fun project to do and another learning experience with the embroidery software.  Pictures tomorrow - DH needs the computer!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Infrequent Visitor

I've lived in Southern California since 1976.  I was happy to get here.  I had definitely had it with ice storms in Detroit and commutes to work ranging from 45 minutes to 2 1/2 hours during the winter.  Gifting the snow shovel to our neighbors as the moving van pulled out of Carrie Drive was a sweet, sweet moment.

I will not complain about the weather here at all, even though there are days (usually the fifth day in a row of 105+ temps) that make me want to get on a plane to anywhere else.  Incessant wind is a fact of life; firestorms announce that fall has, in fact, arrived.  And rain, any amount of it, is always the lead story on the nightly news.  Rain was actually the second story tonight, after the "Fall of Tiger."

Over the past week, we have had an abundance of rain by Southern California standards.  On Monday, it poured all day.  We've had 3 waves of storms over the past two days increasing the chances of mudslides in the fire areas and causing multiple road closures and fender benders.  As I write this blog entry, I'm dry and warm in my nice little home with no plans to venture out onto the freeways of Southern California.

We really, really need this rain.  We just don't need it all at once in downpours that threaten the hillsides and urge neighborhoods to form sandbag brigades.  Temperance, Mother Nature, haven't you heard of temperance?

I thought today would be an wonderful day to stay inside, listen to Christmas tunes, and start to wrap the Christmas gifts.  Unfortunately, I soon realized that my list from last year was inadequte - I desperately needed more wrapping paper, more ribbon, more tissue paper.  So, I ventured onto the wet streets of Menifee, California.  I should have stayed home.

One and one-half hours later, I am the proud owner of one roll of somewhat-acceptable wrapping paper for toddlers.

'Tis the season!

Friday, December 11, 2009

This is a pain in the gut - Final Chapter?

After waiting over 3 weeks for my appointment, I finally got to see the pain management doc today or, as Doug calls him, Dr. Pain.  My appointment was scheduled for 10:15 a.m., but they called just before 8 and asked me to get there as soon as possible.  They had a few cancellations, and the doc had to leave the office early.  So, we were there by 9:15.  Did I feel a little rushed?  Slightly.

Not much to the appointment.  Dr. Pain feels that I have "nerve irritation," a condition extremely difficult to pinpoint and diagnosis.  He offered a spinal injection which would deaden the area.  That didn't sound too appealing!  Since my pain has subsided over the past 3 weeks with the proactive steps that I have taken (no bra, avoiding the tasks that compress the painful area and trigger the pain, etc.), I wasn't too enthusiastic about such an invasive procedure.

He'll recommend a course of physical therapy subject to insurance approval.  That's not always a given these days.  He also recommended that I stop the pain medication.  The rest is basically up to me.  He'll give me one of those scary shots into my spine if I call him up and make an appointment.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the worst is behind me and that I will continue to make slow progress towards normalcy.

While waiting to see Dr. Pain, three people left his office who could hardly walk upright, obviously in pain.  Made me grateful that I seem to be on the road to recovery.  Chronic pain is a pretty gruesome way to live.  My mom used to say that you could always find someone worse off than you - how true.  I need to remember how stressful it was to wake each morning knowing that I would be in pain by mid-day.  I need a gratitude check on a daily basis!

This afternoon, I finally finished the Christmas tablerunner.  The experiment with machine binding was less than successful - I wasn't happy with the sloppiness at all.  So, back to hand stitching the binding to the back of the quilt the way I've always done it.  To cover the "boo-boos," I decided to use gold metallic thread and use a decorative stitch around the finding edge on the front of the tablerunner.  I'll post a closeup tomorrow of the finished binding and also share more of why I was disappointed with the machine binding technique.  I think the decorative stitching adds a cute and festive look for the holidays!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is there a letter, a letter for me?

I was listening to NPR yesterday while trying to avoid traffic collisions in the mad rush to finish Christmas shopping (why do we do this to ourselves?).  Anyway, I love NPR.  At least 70% of the time, the programming is riveting and fascinating to me.  Diane Reym interviewed Thomas Mallon, author of a new book entitled Yours Ever, in which Mr. Mallon discusses letters written by world leaders, famous writers, and ordinary people.  The art of handwritten letters is dying fast, much to my (and Mr. Mallon's) dismay.  I was enthralled by the topic and the interview.  This was definitely a broadcast in the riveting class ... I was transfixed.

Mr. Mallon addressed some very famous correspondence - John and Abigail Adams (a love affair for the ages), King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson (oh, my - he was besotted, wasn't he?), Woodrow Wilson and Edith Galt (another besotted male).  Fascinating.

I couldn't help but think about the letters that have played an important role in my life and how sad it is that my grandchildren may not know the thrill of receiving a letter in the mail, handwritten, addressed just to them, very personal and full of news, love, warm wishes, and sometimes sadness.  In this age of instant worldwide communication, will we lose forever the joy of opening the mailbox and retrieving an envelope addressed to us in a recognizable and well-loved hand and anticipating the words within?  Oh, I hope not.

Here are a few of the more memorable letters in my quite ordinary life:
  • A dear-Jane letter from a boyfriend who left for college before me and fell out of love with the girl back home.
  • The long letter from my first serious boyfriend telling me that his mom didn't think my letters to him sounded like a "woman in love."  What was she doing reading my letters?
  • All of the letters that I wrote to my parents while I was in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Niger, West Africa.  My mother saved every single one of them and carefully preserved them in a notebook for my return.  Instant diary!
  • All of the letters that our daughter, Sara, wrote to us during her college years which I saved, carefully preserved in a notebook, and presented to her on her graduation day.
  • Letters from my future husband while he was serving in Vietnam.  Newsy, friendly, revealing, then loving, longing and full of hope. 
  • My mother-in-law's letter to us as young parents criticizing our parenting skills and including a laundry list of action items!  I still can't throw it away - it is a reminder to me of what not to do as a mother-in-law and grandmother!
Today, we e-mail, blog, send text messages and twitters.  Just doesn't feel the same, does it?  I think I'll spend part of the weekend - which is supposed to be cold and rainy - writing a real letter to my oldest granddaughter!

I'd love to hear about letters that you remember receiving!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Santa, Baby .....

If you are obsessive about sewing, quilting, and/or machine embroidery the way that I am, your holiday wishlist leans a little heavily on supplies, notions, magazine subscriptions, scissors, thread (LOTS of thread), rulers, books --- whew!  One can never have enough goodies to support this hobby!  I really try to explain exactly what I want and even add websites and links to help all the Santas in our family.  It's a little like my DH explaining to me about dremels and bits and routers and why he still needs more of them, whatever the heck they are.

I have my perfect sewing machine in the Bernina 640 with embroidery module, so I don't lust after the 830.  Truthfully, I do sometimes daydream about a longarm machine.  But then I force myself back to reality.  We don't have the room!  Ahhhh, room.  Now, that is what I'd really like Santa to bring me - more room!

In our last house, I had a dedicated sewing room on the second floor.  Could anything be better?  A room to myself with a door!  Heaven on earth.  I could sew (or scrapbook) all day long and then just turn out the lights and shut the door.  No cleaning up, no search for lost pins that might be discovered by DH, no worrying about putting all the project pieces together in one place that I'll be certain to remember.

Here's a picture of my current sewing room.  (You can see the table runner which I am still working on.)

Sadly, it isn't all mine and it isn't all sewing.  It's a combined craft/sewing/computer/office that is wide open to the entire house.  I love the built-ins, of course, and feel lucky to have something so nice.  Notice how neat things look?  This is done purely out of necessity.  I want room!  Room to make a mess ..... room to work on more than one thing at a time ..... room for more storage (i.e., more goodies).... room for a real, honest-to-goodness worktable!  Ah, Santa .... I've been really, really good this year.

I have, on occasion, been a little uppity with Santa.  One year, I clipped pictures from the Zales catalogue and slipped them into Santa's lunchbox.  I think that was the year that Santa left me and my DH matching sweatsuits and running shoes.  Hmmmmm ...

So, if Santa is still listening to me after all this time, this is what I really want for Christmas:  a sewing room that looks just like this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Who needs the gym?

Being a grandmother is just about the best thing that has ever happened to me.  Actually, I'd probably place it #3 after falling in love and having my own two children.  There is nothing I'd rather do than spend time with these three small humans.  They make me smile on the outside and the inside.  Their hugs fill me with joy; their laughter makes the most ordinary day extraordinary.  But ...

... they wear me out!  Where did all this energy come from?  I can't remember being this exhausted when my son and daughter were growing up, but I was 30+ years younger.  I suppose that might make a difference!  I awoke this morning at my DD's house around 7 a.m., quietly unmade my bed (2 sleeping bags and an exercise mat carefully placed among the toys and the Christmas tree on the floor of the living room), turned on the coffee, checked e-mail (I am a thoroughly modern Oma), showered and dressed.  The day officially began at 8 a.m. when Talia, Jackson, and Tasha were awake and ready to be dressed and fed, simultaneously.  Then began the very serious task of figuring out how long Oma can play before something vital starts to hurt!

One Lego town built; 6 Christmas books read; 2 diapers changed; 1 baby cuddled; favorite Matchbox car recovered from under the Christmas tree; a timeout or two; brown barrettes replaced with red - whew, temper tantrum avoided! - more milk, please.  Hooray!  It's 9 a.m. and time for Oma to meet her friend for coffee.

Love comes in all shapes and sizes.  For me, love is a face covered in mashed bananas, a red-headed 2-year-old learning the power of the word "no," and a blue-eyed blond who loves Ariel - and her Oma.  Well worth a few sore muscles at the end of the day, don't you think?

Monday, November 30, 2009

I think I like this process

I wasn't sure that I was going to like the process used on the Christmas table runner.  Essentially, you are quilting and piecing at the same time.  I'm sure there is a better way of explaining this!  Anyway, I had not done this type of quilting before.  Super easy ... and one that I will definitely use again.  I have the table runner completed except for the binding and the optional tree appliques.  I may (or may not) add the tree appliques.  I'm afraid the appliques might make the table runner too busy looking.  This pattern could easily be adapted to any season of the year.  It might also look fantastic in one color palette with machine embroidery.  Endless possibilities!

As the years go by, hand sewing becomes more of a problem because of arthritis in my thumbs.  Since I have not invested a lot of money in this project, I decided to try putting the binding on completely by machine.  I used a great tutorial on the Red Pepper Quilt blog.  I sewed the binding on from the front and pinned it in place.  Now the hard part!  According to the tutorial, you sew with a walking foot from the front of the quilt in the ditch which - supposedly - secures the binding just over the edge on the back.  We'll see.  I'll finish this up next weekend since I decided to visit my daughter and family until Thursday to help out with babysitting chores.  I'll keep you posted on how it works!  I've got my fingers crossed since doing binding totally by machine will make my enthusiasm soar for making more quilts! 

Thought I'd show a closeup of the fabric, too.  I really like the border fabric, which is ivory with hints of gold metallic.  Very Christmasy!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Some years, Thanksgiving has a very special meaning

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  The family arrived safely; the turkey was almost perfect (I need to "tweak" the recipe - too salty); my sister only drove me half crazy; and the grandchildren had a great time searching for colorful leaves, riding a tricycle on the patio, and just being children.  My daughter actually took time to eat dinner!

For me, however, what made this Thanksgiving extra special was that we welcomed a brand new life into our extended family.  My daughter's closest friend gave birth on Wednesday night (at 11:13 p.m.) to her first child, Joel William.  Joel was just a little late in his arrival (eight days), but we'll forgive him his tardiness because he represents a joyful addition to our lives.

When I became pregnant with our second child in the 70s, Doug and I signed up for Lamaze classes.  Our first child, Matthew, was born using the Lamaze method and, since all had gone well, we decided to go that route once again.  We met a really nice couple during our series of classes, Bill and Judi, and shared notes on practicing breathing exercises, raising our almost-two-year-old sons, and life in general.  We had no idea that our lives would forever be linked - our daughters were born on the very same day in the very same hospital in the very same delivery room!  In fact, I went into labor when my husband was out of town on a business trip and Bill ended up serving as labor coach to both Judi and to me - an almost-stranger from Lamaze class!  Sara, our daughter, was born at 1:52 a.m. and Natalie Laura followed later that day around 8 a.m.  I remember hearing Natalie's first cries as I was eating my very soggy eggs.

Our families became fast friends.  Our sons met while standing tiptoe on stepstools to look through the glass window at their new baby sisters.  Judi and I spoke daily on the phone sharing the ups and downs of being young mothers with infants and toddlers -- were the toddlers gifted or just incorrigible?  How fast could we go back to work without being labeled unfit mothers?  (Remember - this was the 70s!)  We talked ourselves through childhood illnesses, the challenges of marriage, economic woes - in short, we supplied a lifeline to one another via the telephone.

We had cherished traditions.  Together, we trimmed Christmas trees and sang carols.  Together, we made latkes and lit the Channukah candles.  Judi's mom became "Grandma Esther" to my children.  We always, without fail, celebrated the girls' birthday together and and listened as Bill retold the story of the night they were born.  The girls became closer and closer friends as they grew up.

Sara and Natalie went to high school together, graduated on the same night, selected the same college, and became college roommates.  Together, we moved the girls into that tiny, tiny room at Humboldt State College and tearfully left them alone.

Shortly after they started their second year of college, Sara noticed a lump on Natalie's neck and urged her to get it checked out.  Natalie was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease; Judi and Bill brought her home for her surgery and treatment.  Part of Natalie's treatment involved removing her spleen and undergoing radiation.  In order to increase the chances that she would be able to conceive children, the surgeons somehow protected her ovaries from the dangers of radiation.

Natalie came through her treatment with flying colors; the girls completed college and both became elementary school teachers.

Sadly, shockingly, unexpectedly, we lost Bill to a massive heart attack in his mid-50s.  We hugged, we cried, we grieved.  I remember Sara asking me, "Mom, what do I say?  How do I talk to Natalie?"  Just hug her, I said.  Just tell her you love her.

Happily, the girls each met the loves of their lives.  Natalie was Sara's maid of honor in 2003 when she married Brian; Sara, at 7 months pregnant, was a beaming bridesmaid when Natalie married her Percy a few years later.

I watched Natalie lovingly hold each of Sara's three babies.  We celebrated joyfully when we learned that Natalie and Percy were going to become parents.  And, on the eve of this Thanksgiving, we welcomed Joel William into this crazy world.  I can't quite get the smile off of my face.  I can hardly wait to hold him and tell him I love him.  There are 32 years of family stories that I want to share with him!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Traditions - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

My family loves the traditions surrounding our annual holidays.  My mom really was the impetus behind most of these traditions because she loved holidays, parties, fun and merriment.  Thanksgiving is certainly one of the most traditional holidays in the U.S.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie - what would the 4th Thursday in November be without them?

In our household, there are other traditions surrounding Thanksgiving that aren't quite as yummy as homemade turkey stuffing!  It's a pretty sure bet that my brother-in-law will arrive late in the morning and immediately make himself a pastis!  Over the freeways and through L.A. to Oma's house we go -- well, it certainly makes a man ready for a cocktail.  My 89-year-old father-in-law, John, will corner our son and son-in-law to preach the "Business Gospel According to John" - i.e., invest for the future in small companies that haven't a chance to make a profit for 20 or 30 years!

Our grandchildren will go on a walk with Grandpa to find "pretty leaves" to decorate the table.  Talia will insist that the leaf highest in the tree is the prettiest one and the one she just has to have for the table!

My husband will tell me to relax, take a break and stop stressing.  Sure.  With the people I love most in the world waiting for me to put Thanksgiving dinner on the table.  Sure.

My son-in-law will roust his family as early as possible in order to be at our house in front of the tv for the kickoff of the Lions football game.  The Lions will, of course, lose the game.

I will fail, once again, to make good, thick, turkey gravy.  My sister will tease me, once again, about my crappy gravy.  This year, I swear, I'm going to have her make the gravy.

My sister, once again, will tell me that she and her husband do not drink water with dinner so do not need water goblets.  I will bite my tongue, once again, and refrain from yelling, "It's my house, dammit, and I will set the table the way I want to!"  Did I mention that she's my younger sister?  Why is it that my sister, whom I absolutely adore and could not live without, drives me insane??

Everyone will say they don't want to ruin their appetites for dinner, but we will still eat too many appetizers.  We will promise not to have appetizers next year.

My sister will say grace and remind us of those who are no longer with us.  She and I will glance at one another and know that we are both thinking of Mom and Dad.

Our daughter will sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner but actually will not eat any food because she'll be trying to keep her 3 babies happy and cheerful so the rest of us can enjoy our dinner.  That's okay - our son-in-law will go back for thirds!

Everyone will offer to clean up the kitchen and do the dishes so that I can relax.  Collapse is more like it!  We'll all be comatose and overstuffed until the first person says, "Who's ready for pie?"  Miraculously, we'll all want "just a sliver" of each kind of pie!

My husband will open all the windows in the house and turn the fire on even though it will still be in the 70s outside.  The whole gang will relax in front of the tv with the fire blazing until someone, probably my sister, says "Let's talk about Christmas."

Aren't families wonderful?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I will not panic, I will not panic .....

Things are going pretty well as we prepare for the Thanksgiving Day feast.  Because of my as-yet-undiagnosed pain, I can't really stand for long periods of time without discomfort.  So, I moved up the timetable for turkey day prep and asked Doug to do more kitchen work than he usually does.  He's always willing to help, but he spends lots of time getting the backyard in shape for visitors.  We're lucky in Southern California that we can count on the weather in late November being nice enough to enjoy the great outdoors.  (It's due to be 77 here on Thanksgiving!)

Doug picked up the rental tables this morning and set the table.  Looks nice!  Talia, Jackson, and Tasha will go out with Grandpa on Thursday and find some colorful leaves to add a bit of color.  The mashed yams are done; all the veggies are washed and chopped for the dressing.  Things seem to be under control.  Hmmmm .... that's a bit scary, don't you think?

I even had time today to start a new sewing project, a Christmas table runner.  The pattern  is the Flip 'n Strip Table Runner from The Quilt Company.  This is another new process for me.  You layer the batting and backing fabric then place 2" strips down the center of the layer, right sides together, and stitch 1/4" seam, adding strips one after the other.  Basically, quilting and piecing at the same time.  Am I explaining this right?  Should be fun and another stretch for me - keep that gray matter from going limp!

I'm not too happy with the fabric that I bought for this project.  By the time I decided to make it, the quilt shops were getting thin on Christmas fabric.  I was hoping to do it all in ivories with gold trim but settled for the traditional green and red.  If it comes out at all decent, I'll make another one for next year - and start earlier!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A promise is a promise

Here's the final product - the pumpkin pot holder!  I'm glad I did this project because I learned a lot about paper piecing, but I don't think I would do a large project with this process.  My brain just does not work this way.

Today was our quilt club meeting, and it was really fun to see everyone's finished pot holders with the variety of fabrics.  Isn't this part of what makes quilting and sewing so enjoyable?  One project, one layout, one pattern can have multiple results depending on individual choices.   A little like life itself, I suppose!

I hoped to have time to start on my next project (isn't there always a next project in the sewing/quilting world?) today, but Thanksgiving prep got in the way.  I managed to get the turkey washed, dried and coated with a glorious mixture of salt, fresh ground pepper, and sage, and the stock for the gravy made and Swiss cheese shredded for the corn casserole.  Also washed (and hand dried - am I nuts?) all of my crystal (service for 8 - white wine, red wine, water goblets, and champagne).  Tomorrow, Doug picks up the rental tables; then we iron the tablecloths and set the tables.  Also on the agenda is making the yam casserole.  I know all of the food should be freshly prepared, but I have to give in to age at some point, right?

A few years ago, I thought that the Thanksgiving menu was getting a little stale so I added a new vegetable recipe - Swiss Corn Bake.  My son-in-law went crazy over this recipe!  If you're looking for something new and different (and pretty easy) to add to your Thanksgiving table, give this a try:

Swiss Corn Bake (serves 8)

16 ounces frozen corn, cooked and drained
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
2 5-oz cans evaporated milk
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
3/4 cup soft whole-wheat bread crumbs
2 tablespoons margarine, melted

Cook corn according to package directions; drain.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, 1 cup of the cheese, evaporated milk, onion salt, and papper.  Stir in cooked corn.  Turn mixture into an 8-inch round baking dish or a 9-inch quiche dish.  Place dish on a baking sheet.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Toss bread crumbs with remaining cheese and margarine; sprinkle over the corn mixture.  Bake 5 to 10 minutes more until golden and bubbly.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

If you decide to make this, let me know if your family likes it!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The awesome power of the Internet

I don't know about you, but I'm regularly awed by the power of the Internet.  Since I went public with my blog just a few days ago, I've had readers from all over the world.  It's been an exciting adventure and also a geography lesson!  I've had lots of fun looking up the names of cities, and even countries, that I've never heard of before.  Thank you, thank you, to all of those who have taken the time to visit.  Please come back!

How does it happen that my words can be read from these distant lands? Beats me. But I'm glad that this wonderful technology is available. I'm also glad that I'm not one of those seniors who avoids learning new things - or at least trying to learn!

There is some disagreement about when the Internet was "born." Most experts point to 1969 as the birth year.  (You can read a little about it here; for a more indepth history, go here.)  National Public Radio had a really funny piece last month on Morning Edition called "An Ode to the Internet's Big Bang." You can read the transcript or listen to the actual broadcast.  I think it's funnier if you listen.  After you listen (or read), see if you can figure out what all the terms actually mean.  Funny stuff.
Speaking of 1969, it was a really interesting year.  I Googled "what happened in 1969."  Here is what I found in less than 2 seconds on this amazing Internet:
  • Richard M. Nixon becomes President of the U.S.
  • 1/4 million people march on Washington, D.C., to protest the Vietnam War
  • Neil Armstrong becomes the first human to step on the surface of the moon
  • Ted Kennedy & Chappaquiddick
  • Charles Manson & Family
  • Woodstock
  • Pontiac Firebird introduced
  • First ATM installed in the U.S.
  • Test flight of the Concorde
  • microprocessor invented
  • Sesame Street debuts
  • The Beatles' "Abbey Road" released
  • Brett Favre is born (sorry - remember, I'm a football fan!!!)
And that's just a partial list.  Quite a year - I remember it very well.  It was the year that I fell in love with my best friend.  He's still my best friend, and he cooks for me every Sunday.

Men Watch Football and Women Cook - Not Necessarily!!!

I am a huge NFL football fan.  My friends and family do not call the house on Sundays or on Monday nights.  Some weeks, Thursday nights are off limits.  I allow myself this obsession because I:
  • do not watch soap operas
  • do not watch afternoon talk shows
  • do not watch reality tv shows
If you calculate all the hours that I've spent watching grown men run around grassy fields, I should be a football expert.  Sadly, I am not.  My son-in-law tried several years ago to teach me how to play John Madden's video game.  I was a complete dunce!  It's the excitement that I crave and the chance that the next play will be one for the highlight reel like Dallas Clark catching Peyton Manning's throw today in the end zone - with one hand!  Now that's fun.

Doug is not a sports fan at all.  He'll watch the World Series or the NBA championships - maybe.  He watches the Super Bowl only because it's a party!  Years ago Doug offered to make dinner on Sundays during the NFL season.  Works for me!  Not only is he a good cook, but I get to spend my favorite day of the week doing one of the things I like best - watching grown men run around grassy fields!

Now that's love for 'ya.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another busy Saturday ....

I am well on my way to finishing the pumpkin pot holder.  I only have the binding left to put on, but the light in my sewing room is horrible after sunset and I dare not tackle binding without good light.  Plus, I like to handstitch the binding to the back of the quilt (or in this case, pot holder) and I definitely need good light to work on the dark brown fabric that I've chosen for the binding.

Lest you think that I've been frittering away the day instead of sewing, I was pretty busy:  read two newspapers (admittedly, I am a news junkie); shopped for potatoes (I insist on Yukon gold for turkey day mashed potatoes); bought a flash drive to back up my embroidery design files (horror stories about computer crashes finally scared me into action); picked up a book at the library (Beautifully Embellished Landscapes by Joyce R. Becker - way beyond my abilities, but the pictures are pretty); had a pedicure (I enjoy being a girl); made place cards for the Thanksgiving table (I'm the only one who really cares who sits where - my house, my rules); read 50 pages of the newest James Patterson book (I, Alex Cross - mindless entertainment that relaxes me and keeps me coming back for more).

But I usually make time for sewing, and I loved seeing the pot holder take form.  Bernina is well known for the quality of their presser feet.  One of the things I most enjoy while sewing on the 640 is choosing the correct foot for the job.  If you own a Bernina, I encourage you to look at the videos on this Bernina site which demonstrate what you can do with each foot or attachment.  I'm a visual learner; even though I have the Feetures books (all 3, lucky girl that I am), these videos speak to me.

While working on this simple pot holder project, I managed to use three feet - seriously!  For the paper piecing itself, I used the #34 clear foot.  Being able to line up the marked line on the paper with the red line on the foot was heaven to me since this was my first attempt at paper piecing.  Foot #57 (patchwork foot with guide) is a favorite of mine for getting those 1/4" seams to behave.  Then I pulled out my favorite foot of all, the walking foot, for the actual in-the-ditch quilting and the lines on the pumpkin (you'll see those tomorrow when I post a picture).

When I first started sewing on my mom's Singer in the 50s, I think there was a standard foot and, if you were fortunate, a zipper foot.  How lucky we are to have such a variety of specialty feet and attachments to make this hobby so interesting.  What are your favorite accessories?  What foot would you absolutely not do without?  Are there feet and/or accessories that you purchased and now wonder, "What was I thinking?"

Friday, November 20, 2009

When life interferes with the "to-do" list!

Our quilt club at The Oasis meets every Monday. I joined about 6 months ago and have really been enjoying it. Some of the ladies are quite prolific and have a project or two (or three or four) to share every week. Some members come just to chat! It's a fun way to start the week.

We've been trying to have small projects to work on after the business part of the meeting so that we can sew together. Last week, one of our members taught paperpiecing. I had never tried this before. My brain has a hard time working through the steps, though. If I slow the process down and really concentrate, the lightbulb eventually goes on! Our project was a pumpkin potholder. Here's a picture of my potholder only 1/2 done. Finishing the potholder was on today's "to-do" list along with shopping for Turkey Day.

About 10 a.m. we got a call from a friend who had been trying to reach my father-in-law for over two days. The phone was constantly busy. Dad is 89 and lives alone, so we were immediately concerned. Several hours and many, many phone calls later, we learned that he had inadvertently left the phone off the hook! Doug had just arranged for a police cruiser to go to the house to do a "welfare check." Fortunately, we were able to contact the police before they actually got to the house.

I did go grocery shopping, but the potholder might not get finished today.  Now we have a goal for Thanksgiving Day .... get my very private and self-sufficient father-in-law to give us telephone numbers of neighbors in case this happens again!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Love, love, love my Bernina!

I finished making Christmas ornaments for my 3 grandchildren today. A friend from our quilting group at The Oasis gave me the idea to personalize the ornaments with their names and the year. A perfect idea for a doting Oma!

They were really fun to do and quite a learning experience. I still consider myself a newbie at machine embroidery; each time I tackle a project, I experience a "teachable moment." This design, from Dakota Collectibles, is a combination of free standing lace (Santa's hat) and applique (face and beard). I've used both techniques before but not in the same project.

I really struggled with making the changes in the software (Editor Plus v. 5). It's clear that I need to work through the manual page by page and spend some time with this software - it's pretty powerful! Anyway, the original design had a swirly thing on Santa's beard which I removed in order to make room for the lettering. Then somehow (little elves running around windows XP????), the lettering changed color and I could not get it to be red. I searched the on screen manual and followed the directions, I thought, to no avail. I finally gave up and just stopped the machine and changed the thread color when it stitched out to the lettering part. Did you notice that Santa's nose is black in one of the ornaments? Haven't a clue how that happened.

I'll run small red ribbon through the loop so the kidlets can hang their ornaments on the tree. I actually feel the Christmas spirit creeping into the house ... .

The world as we know it did not come to an end!

I've been blogging for awhile now and only my husband and daughter were aware of it. I gave the web address to my daughter several months ago just to get feedback on the blog. Being the kindhearted kid that she is, she offered some constructive criticism about the "look" of the blog but seemed to think I was going in the right direction.

It took a "martini day" like last Tuesday to get me off the bench and onto the playing field. So I let my immediate family and one very close friend know about the blog. My husband was positive, my sister's response was "you've gone insane," but I've made it to my friend's list of favorites! All in all, not too bad for a newbie in the blogosphere.

The combination of the new recommendations for mammograms and learning that my last test was perfectly normal just sent me over the edge and into the very public world of blogging on the Internet. Now I'll look for more ways to let people know about my blog. Let's see .... I can use Facebook, my yahoo chat groups, e-mail addresses, sign up for blogrolls like Quilting Bloggers, etc.

I was half expecting to see lots of comments once I "came out of the closet" but nary a one has been posted. Glad I'm not particularly sensitive about things like this! I blog because I enjoy it. I also think it's a healthy exercise in keeping my writing skills and aging brain cells active.

By the way, a "martini day" in our household is one that is a little more stressful than normal. This concept started about 5 years ago when my mother-in-law first because ill. Several times a week, I would make the 1 hour trip from Menifee to Carlsbad to visit with her, take care of her, shuffle her back and forth to various doctors, etc. I'd call Doug from the front gate of our community to tell him it was time to mix the martinis!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How furious can one woman get?

Okay - I thought all day about this post. I heard the story on NPR, I read the newspaper, jotted down notes, remembered not-so-nice episodes in my life, and really planned to write a scathing indictment of the U. S. Preventive Services Task Force announcement that recommended regular mammograms for low-risk women begin at 50 rather than 40
years of age. I've been seething all day -- how dare they?

Talk to all the women you know. All of us know women who have fought this disease. Many of us know women, fine women, who have lost the battle. We have the tools to help us detect and fight this dreaded disease. Now some panel tells us to delay diagnosis and treatment? I don't think so.

I've read the reports. I understand the concept of weighing the risks versus the benefits. A little voice in my head is also saying that this panel wants us to weigh the "costs" versus the benefits. Can't prove it .... but it does make a little bit of sense.

Find a woman in your life who has not had breast cancer touch her life. She has a friend, a relative, a co-worker who has met this disease head on. I lost a dear friend to this disease at the age of 42. 42 42 42 42 42

Think about it. 42 42 42 42

I'm 64. I've lived 22 years longer than my dear friend. Life is cruel. It didn't have to be this way.

What galls me most about this report is the insensitivity of it. Quoting the article in the L. A. Times this morning:

"Screening 1300 women in their 50s to save one life is worth it, but screening 1900 women in their 40s to save one life is not." Just whose life isn't worth the cost of a screening? I want to know whose life is expendable?

Another quote: "Women in their 40s have more aggressive cancers, have higher risks of death and recurrence, and more difficult cancers to treat," added Dr. Alice Chung, assistant director of the John Wayne Cancer Institute Breast Center in Santa Monica. "When you are weighing the benefits and risks for them, the benefits clearly outweigh the risks."

Is there someone out there willing to step up and be the sacrificial life? By the way, the article also noted that 17% of breast cancer deaths in 2006 were among women diagnosed in their 40s. How many breast cancer victims SURVIVED because they were diagnosed in their 40s?????

We've spent decades educating women about breast cancer, encouraging them to have routine mammograms and look for signs of breast cancer. This is a treatable, curable disease if caught early. How many women will hear of this "recommendation" and put their mammogram - and their health - on the back burner? I shudder to think about it. Give women an opportunity to put others first, and they will jump at the chance. We sacrifice, we martyr ourselves, and then we lose ourselves.

I want my daughter, and my granddaughters, to have better health care than I have had, not worse. Why are we taking a step backward? Okay, I'm a reasonable person and a fairly intelligent person. I understand that science moves forward and accepted practices from one generation become antiquated and no longer necessary or recommended. Remember blood letting and leaches? But come on .... mammograms? Mammograms that save lives? Are we nuts?

So tonight I plead with my daughter and all of her generation .... take responsibility for your own health. Insist on those mammograms. Step up to the machine and lay out those boobs! Do not permit a "panel of experts" to dictate your future health.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This is a pain in the gut --- Chapter 5

Today I learned firsthand about nuclear medicine. In the ongoing quest to find a reason for my gut pain, my gastroenterologist ordered a HIDA Scan with CCK, which is basically a really fancy (and probably expensive) CT scan. I was told to be at the imaging center at 8 a.m. for paperwork, with the test scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

No food or drink for 6 hours prior. No problem - I awoke at 2 a.m. and stayed awake staring at the ceiling until 6:10 a.m. when I decided I could get out of bed and settle my nerves by showering and dressing in "comfortable, loose-fitting clothes." Again, no problem - that's all you wear when your gut hurts 18 hours a day.

Unfortunately, there was some kind of mishap and the concoction that they were planning on injecting into my veins was not at the imaging center. So I waited for an hour past my scheduled appointment for the test to begin. The technician, George, started the IV about 9:15 a.m. and waited patiently with me for another 15 minutes or so until the medicine arrived from Loma Linda. A knock on the door, and a delivery man walked in the door with a small, zippered parcel labeled "biohazard." Oh, boy! Radioactive material on site ....

I know I should be more proactive and assertive. I expected George to give me a little info on the procedure, so I didn't ask questions. All of a sudden, I was encased in a large circular device with an IV started in my right arm and George was gone. There was no sound, no movement, only soft jazz music playing. I assumed George would tell me that we were starting the test. No. After a couple of minutes, I decided that we must be going forward and then just tried to relax and stay still.

Do you know how hard it is be motionless when your brain is telling you that you have to move? Every muscle in your body is screaming "I need to move!" So it is truly an exercise in mind control. I kept telling myself that one squirm = do this test over. I did not want to do it over!

After about an hour and a half, George permitted me to squirm and stretch (although I was not allowed to use the restroom - bad, bad, bad), and then he took a few "side views" and got ready to start the second half of the test. The "special delivery medicine" was injected into my veins and I was cautioned to stay very still and not to take deep breaths. Okay, mind control once again. I really fought this time to stay still picturing each of my grandchildren in turn and focusing on their great smiles!

I'm glad this is over, and I really hope that the test shows some kind of problem so that I can get to the next step - fixing this!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Forgotten "Veterans"

We celebrated Veterans Day today in a handful of ways. The flag was up before 7 a.m., of course, and we participated in our community celebration at the clubhouse. A local color guard presented the flags, our choral group sang patriotic songs, we heard stories from resident veterans, and we all sang and cheered to the various corps anthems as veterans stood at attention and received grateful applause - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard. I loudly applauded my dear husband when he stood to be acknowledged for his service in the U. S. Army in Vietnam. I once marched in protest of that war; I will always be proud of the men and women who answered their call to duty.

I was a little nostalgic today, though, for my dad. My dad was born in 1914 and would have been a prime candidate to serve in World War II. He looked like a healthy American man, ready and able to serve his country. He was, however, 4F, due to a childhood accident. At the age of 12, he was hit by a hardball during a baseball game. He had continued vision problems, infections, complications, and his eye was eventually removed at the age of 18; he wore a glass eye for the rest of his life.

Dad "served" during WWII by working for the Pratt-Whitney Company, assembling airplane motors. According to mom's stories, he even tested the motors occasionally which was not in his job description!

We hear a lot about "Rosie the Riveter" - those women who filled in for men who served overseas during WWII. We don't hear a lot about men who stayed at home and also served their country by working on the assembly lines to supply the fighting forces with the tools they needed to fight the enemy.

My dad was my hero. He was a gentle, quiet man. If he had been eligible, I have no doubt that he would have joined the armed forces and served gallantly across the seas to defend our country and fight for the freedom that all people deserve. I imagine that Dad had a few painful moments wondering what people thought when they saw this outwardly healthy man living with his family on the homefront when others were under enemy fire in distant lands.

So, on this Veterans Day, I say "Thanks, Dad" for serving our country.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This is a pain in the gut --- Chapter 4

I've spent most of the last 6 weeks or so since I last posted in daily pain. There is still no answer to why I have continued abdominal pain. A few weeks ago I had an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (yup - that's what they call it!). Fortunately, you are sedated during this procedure and don't realize that they are shoving a tube and camera down your throat to look at most of your digestive system ....

The results were basically normal. Good news, of course, except that I am still left with the pain and no diagnosis. Last week, Doug and I headed off to my primary physician because over-the-counter meds (ibuprofen) were no longer getting the pain to a manageable level. She prescribed voltaren. Some days it works, some days it doesn't work.

If I manage my activities (i.e., no long drives, periodic breaks during the day to sit and relax, going bra-less), I can get through the day. Late afternoon and evenings are the worst. I'm usually in a great deal of pain from 1 to 2 hours every night before bedtime. This is certainly a mystery!

On Monday, I am scheduled for an HIDA scan with CCK. This is a second go-around on the theory that the gall bladder is the culprit. Apparently, there are diseases and/or malfunctions of the gall bladder that do not show up on an ultrasound. So off to the imaging center we go once again. They'll insert various substances into my veins, take multiple images, and see what they can see. I've got my fingers crossed that this test shows something! At least if it is the gall bladder, they can just yank that sucker out!

If test shows no abnormalities, then the assumption is that it is musculoskeletal. In that case, I get a referral to a pain management clinic. I have reservations about treating something without a true diagnosis, but the pain is really having a negative effect on our lives. Reminds me of what my mother-in-law said when she was in pain: I want my life back! Do I sound like I am whining? You betcha ....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Win some, lose some ..... vacation stories!

Okay - back to our vacation.

We love staying in B&B's whenever possible. I don't think we've ever been disappointed even when we were shipped off to what appeared to be the basement! Often, we are ecstatic about the accommodations. We've met some extremely interesting people. Other guests staying at Bed and Breakfast Inns are anxious to share their travel stories and suggestions with you, and the hosts are extremely knowledgeable about what to do and see in their little corner of the world.

It would have been nice to stay within Bryce Canyon National Park at the lodge, but we're trying to be a bit frugal while the economy is still in the dumps. So, we searched the Internet and found the Buffalo Sage Bed and Breakfast in Tropic, Utah, and signed up for two nights. It really IS minutes away from the park, scenic, comfortable, and quite reasonable. There are only four rooms, so booking in advance is a must. Breakfasts were fabulous! One dog, four cats, warm & friendly hosts - a nice find. If you stay, request one of the rooms upstairs. One of the attractions at Bryce is to see the sunrise which means guests are rising early (5:30 a.m.) in order to get into the park in time to see the sunrise.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is much less visited than the South Rim - hence, there are fewer places to stay. We chose the Kaibab Lodge which is a good 30 minutes from the entrance to the park. Although the drive back and forth is beautiful, and wildlife plentiful, the accommodations were "rustic" at best. You don't have a lot of choices, but be prepared for surprises and disappointments. Internet reviews ranged on this place, and I can see why. There are old cabins, new cabins, and cabins that should have been raised years ago. We were in an older cabin, which was really comfortable, except for the people adjacent to us who took 30-minute showers at all hours of the day (and night). You are also a captive audience as far as meals are concerned. We had a terrific meal the first night (substantial spaghetti & meatballs); the second night, we arrived at the main lodge and saw about 30 people waiting for dinner. At 8 p.m., we gave up and went to bed without dinner. Lots of unhappy people there.

Best meal of this part of the trip was at the Jacob Lake Inn, Jacob Lake, Arizona. It is even farther from the North Rim than the Kaibab Lodge, but the restaurant is fantastic! Have the whole wheat pancakes if you go .... super, super, super.

In case you think that this whole trip was about food, here's a glimpse of Bryce. More later...

Friday, October 2, 2009

This is a pain in the gut --- Chapter 3

If any of you have been reading this (except my family), you know that I've had an unexplained pain in the rib area directly under my right breast for about 3 months. I've had an ultrasound of my gall bladder (doc's first diagnosis), an x-ray (doc's second diagnosis), a preliminary dose of prednisone (doc's third diagnosis - pinched nerve something or other). All of the tests have been negative, and I am still experiencing the pain on a regular basis - both day and night. Last night was pretty typical. I had pain around dinnertime, went to bed early, and was awakened around 2 a.m. with pain that kept me awake for several hours.

I'm trying to track this thing. Some days, I can get through the morning pretty well without much discomfort. Once the pain sets in, it is pretty intense until I take an ibuprofen and wait a half hour or so for the medicine to kick in. As the doc said, serious problems are not solved by ibuprofen! That's the good news. The bad news is that we can't figure out what is going on. I'm leaning towards the nerve damage that should have been helped by the prednisone.

Anyway, tomorrow I go for a CAT scan of my abdomen and chest. If that comes up negative (which I really expect to happen), my plan of attack is to meet with the doc (with Doug in tow) and have all my points mapped out. Do I tough it out for another couple of months? Do I go with the nerve damage theory? If so, what is the treatment? I'm nixing the idea of a psychosomatic illness. Not my type of thing.

It sure does impact one's day. I get into a project or an activity and then WHAM - I'm in so much discomfort that I can hardly stand up. Makes me sympathetic to those who know they are going to deal with pain on a daily basis.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm back .... or I'M BACK !!!

We've been "meandering" for several weeks now across the beautiful southwest. We headed first to our timeshare in St. George, Utah, and spent a wonderful week exploring the area. We hiked in both areas of Zion National Park - the main park itself and the Kolob Canyon entrance. It was especially nice to hike in Zion this year without the effects of fire - when we were here two years ago, there was a massive wildfire which colored the river a nasty shade of gray.

If you are ever in St. George, Utah, you absolutely must go to the Tuacahn Theater. This is an outdoor amphitheatre located within Snow Canyon State Park. Seeing wonderfully performed musical productions under the stars in this heavenly venue just can't be beat. We were privileged to see a production of Elton John/Tim Rice's Aida - breathtaking. Believe it or not, the stage actually gets flooded twice during the show. How do they do this?

As if Zion National Park wasn't fascinating enough, we headed north towards Bryce Canyon National Park. I have a difficult time explaining my reaction to this park. It is spectacularly beautiful in an austere way. Unlike Doug, I do not spend a lot of time researching the areas that we plan to visit so I was unprepared for the hoodoos and the colors of Bryce. Two weeks later, I am still seeing scenes in my mind as I fall asleep each night. My first view of Yosemite Valley years ago was unforgettable - my first view of Bryce rivals that experience. We even were able to hike down the Queens Garden Trail seeing the hoodoos from many vantage points. Believe it or not, we spotted a sweet young thing hiking this trail in high heels! I kid you not .... pictures to follow!

On to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for 3 days. Working on our bucket list, we decided that this may be our one and only trip to the Grand Canyon. So, let's do it all! We arrived in time to check in at our lodge (more about this in another post) and drive into the park to see the Visitor's Center and get an overall view of the park. Unfortunately, they were doing a controlled burn today which made the distant views somewhat smokey. It still takes your breath away.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembrance - sadness - and hope!

I shed a few tears today. I asked Doug to put the flag up .... don't think he would have remembered without my "gentle" reminder. It is important to me to acknowledge this anniversary in a public way. That alone is curious, since I usually do not wear my patriotism on my sleeve.

Thousands of words have been written - and will be written - commemorating the 9/11 attacks. Where were you? What did you feel? Did you lose someone? We are among the fortunate souls who do not have a direct human connection to the tragedy. But we are Americans - and all Americans lost on 9/11. Once again, we lost our innocence. Once again, we lost the false sense of security that a vast ocean allows. Once again, we were reminded that freedom is precious and can be lost in a moment. Once again, we have a memory indelibly written on our collective minds.

We had visitors on 9/11 in our dream home in Nevada City, California. Doug was still working, so he got up early to start the coffee and make lunch for himself. He routinely turned on the local NPR radio station - he bounded up the stairs to tell me that two planes had collided over the World Trade Center. We turned on the tv and tuned into CNN - then I remember saying, "That's not the World Trade Center - that's the Pentagon!" In an instant, we went from curiosity to fear - our country was under attack. We were shocked and we were scared.

I spent today doing routine tasks. Tomorrow, we leave on a vacation to Utah and the Grand Canyon. Another item checked off on our personal bucket list! From time to time during the day, I remembered the angst of 9/11. I remembered the thousands of lives lost. I remembered the images that will never be erased from my mind - bodies tumbling through the ashen sky - hands joined - towards imminent death - people running forward, ever forward, through air too thick with ash to breathe.

I spent the best part of my day working on a Halloween costume for Talia, our oldest granddaughter. I smiled a lot thinking how cute she is going to look in her mermaid costume. I shed another few tears remembering the children who will not have parents and grandparents to see them in this year's Halloween costume. At the end of the day, I decided to be hopeful for the future. And, thankful for the opportunity to learn from the past.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

When I'm 64 ......

I've been celebrating my birthday for about a week now. My actual birthday is September 8, but due to prior commitments, I celebrated with my family last Saturday, the 5th, at a great park in Moorpark, California. Both my children and my 3 grandchildren were with me - it doesn't get better than that (thank you, John Madden). This is the way birthdays were meant to be celebrated!

64 .... one year from Medicare .... two years more than a very close friend was given ..... ten years more than another close friend enjoyed. I'm not trying to be maudlin, but it does give pause. My dad died unexpectedly at 67. I knew at the time that he had died young, but now I realize how very young he was. On my best days, I think that I have 30 years ahead of me. Most days, I believe that I have a good 20 years to go. On thoughtful days, I think that ten would be a gift.

I spent today working on my oldest granddaughter's Halloween costume - a mermaid costume! She is enamored with Ariel, the mermaid from the Disney flick. I'll keep my fingers crossed that I'm still around so that I can make her wedding dress or at least help her shop for one!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

While the fires rage

I haven't seen blue sky in a week. When we first get up in the morning, the air is thick and a strange color - not quite gray, not quite blue, not quite brown, and tinged with orange. It is the color of fire season in Southern California. I've lived here since 1976 yet I am never quite prepared for fire season. It creeps up on me while I am still enjoying summer - trips to the beach, picnics, outdoor concerts, lazy days by the pool, long enjoyable novels that will never make it to Top 100 Reading Lists. Suddenly the air is smoky, the winds kick up, evacuation orders run across the bottom of the tv screen and we are once again randomly thrown into nature's path. Some years, we see the plumes of smoke from the front yard - or the back - and we know that we have to be a bit more vigilant in following the news. Most years, thankfully, we look at the map and determine that we are not at risk.

When you live in Southern California, you have a mental list (if not a computerized list) of what to take with you should the evacuation order come. I have such a list. It is room by room; possessions are ranked by how important they are to daily life and how precious they are to family history. But I wonder if I would follow this list in an emergency. Could I really run first to the metal box with insurance papers, birth certificates, safety deposit box keys before I reached for my grandfather's oil paintings? Would I grab the photo of my oldest granddaughter even though it is safely stored on dozens of computers? Would I think of expensive jewelry or my wedding album? Would my husband and I waste precious moments arguing about what should be saved and what should be left?

The news is optimistic tonight that the largest fire, the Station Fire, is under control. However, the most dangerous time of the year is still ahead - September and October when the Santa Ana winds blow over our little part of the world. I don't think this fire season is done with us yet.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ticking Off the Bucket List

Doug and I spent an hour or so this morning with our travel agent talking about next year's big trip. We will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Time to spend the big bucks!

We've decided on a river trip in Europe and settled on the Amsterdam to Basel itinerary. Since we haven't been on a river boat before, we're leaning towards a short trip just to make sure we're comfortable with this type of travel. So, the early plan is to fly to Amsterdam, stay two or three nights, board the boat for a leisurely trip on the Rhine to Basel (6 nights), and then a week or ten days travelling through Switzerland and Austria. Does this sound great or what?

Our (my) original thought was to rent a car and drive without much of a plan. According to our travel agent, renting a car in Europe is quite expensive. She advocates using the trains. I've been hesitant to commit to trains because I do not relish the idea of lugging suitcases on and off trains at the ripe old age of 65! I'm thinking that Doug and our TA (Jayme) may be convincing me otherwise. More research is needed ...

Now we get to talk about what time of year is best. July and August are out (too much heat, too many tourists). That leaves spring or early fall. Doug leans toward September; I lean toward spring (more flowers). I'll keep you posted! The good news is that we are both committed to this trip. It's only money, right?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Remembrance

I spent most of today watching the funeral of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Senator Kennedy was not my favorite Kennedy. His older brother, John, inspired me many years ago to join the Peace Corps. Serving in the Peace Corps in 1967-69 in the Republic of Niger changed my life forever. I was always a bit of a closet liberal, but living in a 3rd world country amidst poverty, poor educational opportunities, lack of health care, lack of the basic necessities of life, made me a 60s liberal forever. The day Bobby was assassinated was the day that I grew up. My youth was over; the hopes I had for a perfect world inspired by the days of Camelot were unrealistic and never to be.

I thought of Teddy as the brother who never quite grew up. While John and Bobby lived during a time when frailties and indiscretions were routinely ignored by the media, Teddy's failures made front-page news. Chappaquidick, drinking, a divorce in a family that abhored divorce, womanizing .... Teddy's foibles inevitably made front-page news. As the years went on, I saw him grow into a talented politician, orator, negotiator, a man who knew that a bill compromised was far better than a bill scrapped. During campaign years or especially tough congressional negotiations, his booming voice rang out over the tv waves. There was no mistaking his voice. This was a Kennedy speaking.

Today, I saw a more human side of Teddy Kennedy. I listened to his family, his friends, his Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle speak about the man. They spoke of his warmth, his loving spirit, his devotion to friends and family, his love of country, his dedication to public service - a dedication shared by all the Kennedys.

I liked Senator Kennedy's politics. I think I also would have liked the man.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

You can never take the kid out of the man!

Our 39th anniversary is on Monday, August 24. Many years ago, we started planning surprise trips to celebrate, alternating years. So, this is my year. I planned a getaway to Cambria in Central California - a place we have not been to in many years. Found a great B&B (I'll let you know about it after we've had a chance to critique the place), bought tickets to tour the Hearst Castle, and was genuinely enjoying the secretive planning. Lo and behold, I did not realize that when I checked on to see what the temps were going to be like, Doug could easily see where I had been checking. Tonight he revealed that he'd been sleuthing and knows where we are going! Reminded me of searching through closets and attics in the weeks before Christmas .... he just couldn't stand not knowing where we are headed. Darn.

So, the surprise is ruined, but I will appreciate a little help with the map routing. Mapquest and our lovely GPS gal are taking us different ways. Doug will get to "play maps" (one of his favorite things) and decide the ultimate route. Mapquest has us going north on 5; the GPS basically takes us to Thousand Oaks and north on 101. That's a much prettier drive. My thought was to go up the 5 so we get there in a reasonable amount of time, check into the B&B, and still be able to find a restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. Then we can drive the long route home next Thursday along the coast and maybe even drop in on the kids for a bit.

Although the surprise is ruined, I am sure we will still have a great adventure. Lots of antique stores, walking along the beach, quilt shops (I have my list handy!). My online friends have given me some great tips on shops that just should not be missed. I plan on seeing them all.

My pains are controllable with ibuprofen - thankfully - so whatever is going on in my gut shouldn't hold us back from having a fun time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm already tired of this ......

Okay - so now I have a name attached to this daily pain - gall bladder something or other. But it still hurts like the dickens (is that supposed to be a small "d" or a capital "D"?). Anyway, I am ready for this all to go away. One of the downsides to the Internet and the vastly expanding universe of instant information is that you can "google" any subject or question and get way more information than you really need. So, I made the mistake of googling "gall bladder surgery" and found out that it can be painful and the recovery period can be anywhere from a day or two to weeks to months!


I know I should wait for a definitive diagnosis and course of treatment. But what is done, is done. Ultrasound is tomorrow at 2:30. Doug has set up the coffee to start brewing at 6 a.m. I'll have coffee, juice, and a muffin by 6:30 a.m. Then I'm off food and drink (even H2O) until the test at 2:30 p.m. More later .... once again

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So that's what it is!

My mother was a teacher which was both a blessing and a curse to me and my sister. A blessing because she could always be counted on to help us out with schoolwork; a curse because we couldn't pull the wool over her eyes EVER about school! One of the cardinal rules in our house was that you went to school unless you were barfing up breakfast or running a fever - no excuses! In our house, you ignored small aches and pains and just got on with life. Doctor visits were reserved for major occurrences like broken bones and rashes covering your entire body.

No wonder, then, that I still find it hard to give in to illnesses and pain. For the past month, I have had a pain on the right side of my abdomen which I assumed was some type of muscle pull and would eventually go away. Nope. Did not go away. In fact, it has gotten markedly worse. I finally made a doctor's appointment and off we went this afternoon. Seems I have the classic symptoms of gallstones and/or inflammation of the gall bladder! They drew blood today, and I'm scheduled for an ultrasound on Saturday afternoon. Great timing since we are off on our anniversary trip Monday and won't return until Thursday. Hope my procrastination hasn't blown this whole vacation!

If the diagnosis is confirmed, I will probably need to have the little so-and-so removed surgically. Yuck. I hate the thought of going under anesthesia and being in the hospital. More later, I'm afraid.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Success Times Two - Well, One & A Half!

Finished the Perennial Pant pattern this morning by Kayla Kennington. The pants are not perfect, but I still like them and look forward to wearing them. The waist is a bit loose, and I'm not sure I like the front darts. But they fit and they are wearable! So, I deem them a half success. I think the decorative stitching on the pockets is what makes them a bit unusual. Love this touch. Next time, I'll make the waist smaller, shorten the darts a bit, and perhaps do them in a cropped style with the pockets a bit higher on the leg. Or maybe I'll really get stylish and do some machine embroidery!

My other success this morning was my first sale on Etsy. The tiger fleece panel sold. Now I have to pack it up and send it off to its new owner in Connecticut. I'm sure my shipping charges are too low, but I'm not really in this to make the most bucks. Just for fun and to find new owners for the remaining fabric and clothing from Sri Lanka. Hip, hip hooray! I'm going to try to list one of the wraparound skirts today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Experiment in Terror

I decided several weeks ago that I wanted to attempt some garment making. I haven't done any sewing for myself in years - maybe decades. Some of my online friends have posted pictures of garments that they've made, and I became envious. I'm pretty tired of shopping these days and finding nothing out there for 60+ gals who don't want to look like frumps! I saw these pants on Have you Tinkled today? and knew that this was the pattern for me. Plus, CJ's made them several times and posted great pictures. Best of all, she claims they are easy peasy!

So I ordered the pattern and anxiously awaited the mail. Being on the cautious side, and rather cheap, I opted for some fabric on the clearance table at JoAnns. The pattern arrived this week. I cut them out yesterday and have been working on them today. I take my time sewing - what's the rush when you're retired? - so I probably won't finish them until tomorrow. But, they are going together easily. I even did some decorative stitching along the pockets (thank you, Bernina)! Will definitely post a picture of the completed project even if they don't fit!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Praise the Lord ..... and pass the peanuts, please!

My life has finally returned to normal. It's been a long six months. Those of you who know me well are aware that I divide the year roughly in half. There are six "normal" months (i.e., when I can watch as much NFL football as I can get away with) and "the other" months (i.e., the off season). Tonight - oh, blessed night - there were THREE pre-season games on TV. Be still my heart ...

Okay, I know, I know. Preseason is not real football. I got to watch a tentative Tony Romo for only a quarter; Jamarcus Russell wasn't quite up to speed. But, hey - football is football! Clashing helmets, referree whistles, dropped passes, catches that had no right to be made by humans ... I felt the joy coming back as only a fan can feel.

Did you happen to catch any film of Tom Brady? Sure doesn't look as though he missed a whole season. Smooth, polished, professional.

I will start the season as I usually do, hoping that the Raiders will be contenders (or at least not be an embarrassment). Maybe this is the year! I love being a sports fan. We are optimists at heart. Our team can be at the top of the mountain. All things are possible. The Lombardi trophy is ours for the taking. The season starts at 0 wins, 0 losses. Go Raiders!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rite of Passage

It was inevitable. I could no longer avoid my doctor's advice that "it's time to have a colonoscopy." I'm a pretty bright individual, and I know that colon cancer is slow-growing and completely curable if caught early in the game. So, how do you catch it early in the game? You have a colonoscopy. Tuesday was THE DAY for me.

The doctor prescribed pills for the prep, but my insurance company would not pay for them and I wasn't about to put out $90+ for the convenience of pills. So, I got to partake of 4 liters of Trilyte - a less than appetizing drink! Monday was liquids only - apple juice, tea, ginger ale, jello - not exactly a gourmet diet. Someone out there needs to write a pre-colonoscopy cookbook of appetizing dishes that stay within the clear liquids diet parameter. You could make millions!

Being a good girl and one who follows orders without question, I stayed with the liquid diet Monday and looked forward to my Trilyte prep starting at 6 p.m. (that's a joke, by the way). One drinks an 8 oz. glass of Trilyte every ten minutes until 2 liters have been consumed. I opted for the lemon and lime flavor and only got it down by holding my nose and chugging it in the shortest time possible. I tried desperately to visualize standing on a beach chugging tequila!

After about an hour, this stuff started to work. So, without going into graphic detail about my anatomy, I stayed within running distance of a bathroom until 11 p.m. that night. Tuesday was a "nothing by mouth" day until 10:30 a.m. when I was treated to the second half of the bottle of Trilyte. Yuck, yuck, yuck, and yuck. Once again, I needed to stay close to the bathroom.

At 2 p.m. we left for the endoscopy center for my test. Nice facility, nice staff. Ushered into a pre-op room with 5 beds. Into a gown. Start an IV, hook up to machines that check BP, heart rate. Ready to go! Into the procedure room. Nurse says, "I'm going to give you something to make you sleepy." Next thing I know, I'm waking up in lots of pain and actually moaning! Me - moaning?? I gave birth twice without any anesthetic at all. And, I'm moaning ... can't be. Nurse tells me to try to expel the gas. I'm trying, but my body just is not cooperating.

They roll me out to the pre/post-op room. Doc says all is well; test is perfectly normal. Doug is there. Nurse says that I'm ready to go home. I don't think I'm ready to go home, but I don't have enough strength to argue plus I'm still a bit out of it. So, off we go onto the freeway to make our way home. Oops - don't make it home without stopping to be sick along the freeway. Maybe I was standing on the beach chugging tequila after all. Hmmmm .....

Once home, I fall into bed and zonk out for several hours. By the time I wake up, I am feeling somewhat normal although not comfortable. So, I've completed this task and can face my doctor with confidence once again that I am taking care of my health as prescribed. I can only hope that, by the time I am due for this procedure again in ten years, medical science has come up with something a bit less difficult!