Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Bernina comes through again ...

Just finished a little project for a wedding shower that I'm going to on Saturday. One of my local quilt stores carries toweling by the yard. You only have to cut to length, finish the top hem, add a colorful fabric border and some coordinating machine embroidery, and voila - a unique handmade gift at a reasonable cost. This is the third one I've made. They are fun to design, fun to stitch, and have been well received. This time I actually prewashed the toweling since I was a bit dubious about how they would wash up. Of course, I could be proactive and make one up for myself and wash it to see the outcome. But, nah, that's too much trouble!

I'll let you know how the bride-to-be likes this one.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why I hate Facebook ....

If you haven't read yesterday's post, please scroll down and take a minute to read it. Otherwise, this will not make any sense! I'm probably breaking some kind of "blogosphere" rule - don't make your readers go back to read old posts. Oh, well. I am a newbie afterall.

I have been joyful over the last few weeks to reconnect through the Internet (thank you, Al Gore) with several friends from my youth. These are people that I've thought about off and on through the years and wondered how they were doing, what they were doing, why didn't we stay in touch, etc. The usual stuff that we deal with as life passes us by decade by decade rather than year by year.

So the Internet, and Facebook, allowed me to find these friends. It has definitely been rewarding and brought smiles to my face and laughter to my heart. But there is a downside. I discovered that my two best buds from the Peace Corps have been through divorces. One lost an adult child to diabetes.

My high school love is a widower.

I'm not particularly sentimental, but I have been in a bit of a "blue" mood these past few days. I haven't been in touch with these friends in many years, yet the emotional attachment must still be there. Facebook has brought me both the joy of renewed friendship and the pain of knowing that life does not always go as planned. I need to be reminded of this now and then so that I can be thankful for the life I have.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why I love Facebook

A few months ago, a friend got me interested in Facebook. I created an account, logged on, but couldn't really figure out what all the buzz was about. Why was this so much better than just plain old e-mail for keeping in touch? Maybe e-mail was going the way of snail mail? Hmmmm .... the old brain just didn't compute the benefits of Facebook.

I added a few friends, got a few invitations to be a friend, and sailed along happily without Facebook being a part of my daily routine. I often have trouble sleeping, so one night I was playing around on the computer and decided to search for some old friends - actually, old boyfriends. Couldn't find the three of them (I have a rather short dating history) so moved on to friends from my Peace Corps days. I was thrilled to find one of my best Peace Corps buddies on Facebook! Within a couple of days, we were communicating and catching up with our lives. One friend led to another which led to another .... well, you know how Facebook works. The most fun was seeing our pictures and realizing that we would walk right by one another in any shopping mall in the country. Some of us age well, and some of us don't.

This week, I tried again with the old boyfriends and connected with my first love from high school. It's a little strange to think that 40 or so years have passed since we were so crazy about one another, but it has been fun to share where life has taken us.

So, I love Facebook. I still don't quite understand how all the pieces fit, who sees what on whose wall, how to prevent the world from seeing everything you write, etc. But Facebook has given me back 3 of my best buddies. That's worth a lot of thank yous to the two very rich guys from Harvard who started it all.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Can't you just go away, Sarah P?

Alert: Political Commentary

Okay, I haven't posted many political comments (remember, I am new at this blogging stuff and the learning curve for those of us in the post-60 age group is a bit steep). But - aren't you all a bit tired of Sarah P? I am. I was really hoping that she would just fade away. Alaska is a HUGE state ... numerous places for Sarah to hunker down with her family and enjoy life fishing, hunting, making nice-nice with Todd, and sorting through her makeup drawer.

I am a feminist at heart, and I thoroughly support women who strive to achieve. Kudos to Sarah P. for becoming governor of Alaska and a candidate for vice president of the United States! Quite an accomplishment for someone who has NO INTELLECT!

Sorry - had to be said. I cringe whenever a news bite announces that a Sarah P. story is about to be aired. I really struggle to follow her train of thought. Perhaps she is going into seclusion for several years so that her handlers can waltz her through total immersion training - 200 years of American social, economic, and political history prior to the next election cycle. And you have to understand it well enough to converse about the subject, have an intellectual debate, and perhaps answer a question or two? Not easy ...

Maybe she just wants to be a talk-show host. I can live with that. I have the power to turn off the television, radio, internet. I can't turn off those in national office. That's scary.

Finally finished ...

I had enough material left to make an outfit for T (the elder) so that she and her younger sister will coordinate. This is the pattern that I was grousing about in my last post - why have facings disappeared from the mainstream sewing world?

Anyway, the sundress is finished. I altered the pattern (added the ruffle to the hem and used a hook and eye closure versus the thread loop that the pattern called for - what the blazes is that?) It's hard to see from the photo, but I put a pocket in the middle of the sundress and added a rick-rack edging. Just a little "cutesieness."

I LOVE the ruffler attachment! Not wanting to spend upwards of $100 on a new Bernina ruffler, I realized that I had (1) a ruffler in the box of attachments that came with the Singer Featherweight that I bought about a year ago and (2) an unused ruffler attachment from my MILs sewing stash. So, I bought an adapter for my Bernina 640 so I could use these older attachments. Voila! Inspite of my trepidations about using alien attachments with my beloved (i.e., expensive) Bernina, it worked like magic. The ruffler is a fantastic device and I am sure that I will be using it for many more projects - especially since I have two rather frilly granddaughters. I'm even thinking (dreaming) about designs for purses that uses ruffles. Fun, fun, fun ...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What ever happened to facings?

I'm working on a summer dress for my oldest granddaughter, who is 3 1/2. The pattern (Simplicity 3853) is pretty simple. The neckline and armholes call for bias tape finishes rather than facing finishes. Guess I'm old-fashioned - I would much prefer a facing finish. I'm not inclined to make my own facing pattern - so I'll just complain!

I have all the time in the world (I'm retired), so I took extra steps to pin and then baste the bias binding before stitching. Then, I trimmed the seam, clipped the curves, pinned, and basted again before doing the topstitching. Lots of time spent sewing for a garment to be worn by a 3-year-old! Momma said, "Anything worth doing, is worth doing right."

Hmmmm ... give me the old facings anytime. Have I missed out on sewing trends? I think the facings were (1) easier and (2) gave a more professional finish. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

We're going to Disneyland!

Doug's birthday is tomorrow, so we are going to celebrate with a trip to Disneyland. Disneyland has a promotion for California residents - you can get in free on your birthday! It should be lots of fun; we haven't been in about 10 years.

We were growing up in New Jersey when Disneyland first opened. Oh, how we yearned to be able to go to The Magic Kingdom. Little did we know that someday we would be living within driving distance of the park. I become an excited little kid again as soon as we buy our tickets and walk through the gates. Won't it be extra exciting when we can visit with our grandchildren? That's a few years away, however.

Since we will not be home for dinner tomorrow, I bought lamb chops for dinner. Doug loves lamb. Roasted potatoes and a green salad will round out the menu. Key Lime Pie for dessert. Wonder how many candles I can fit on a slice of pie?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot

We're in the middle of an extended heat wave. Yuck! At 2:45 p.m. it is about 103 degrees - definitely stay-in-the-house weather. We had a nice visit with our friends George & Merle and their two dogs. They left about an hour ago to drive back to Thousand Oaks. It was fun to have dogs in the house again.

Dinner turned out well last night. Here's a super easy dessert recipe for a hot summer night:

Creamy Coconut Pie
3 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups coconut
3 ounces Cool Whip
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Beat cream cheese until softened. Beat in sugar. Gradually add milk and beat until smooth. Fold in coconut, whipped topping and extract. Spoon into crust. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before cutting.

Off to vacuum the floors a bit since the dogs dragged in stuff from the backyard. Then, back to sewing! I'm going to make napkins to match the placemats that I embroidered a month ago. Hopefully, I can find the embroidery design that I used. I need to get better organized with my designs.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It was 40 years ago today ....

Can you believe that it has been 40 years since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon? I had just returned from 2 years in the Republic of Niger serving in the U. S. Peace Corps. Niger was, and still is, one of the poorest countries in the world. Surviving and have your children survive is a daily struggle. Coming back to the United States, to a developed world, was shock enough. But walking on the moon? Pure fantasy.

I don't remember watching the launch, but I do remember seeing the television broadcast of the landing several days later. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind ....

To our children and our children's children, this all seems rather routine. We no longer hold our breath as each rocket or space ship or shuttle is fired off into space. We accept the fact that man can do this - we can venture forth into space, do the impossible, and return. But 40 years ago today, it was a grand adventure, a heartstopping exploration into the unknown, an exhilarating voyage where man had never been. It was pure fantasy come to life.

I miss the awe. I miss the adventure. I miss the challenge.

Something for Tasha!

Finished the romper that I have been working on for Tasha, our 5-month-old granddaughter. Can hardly wait to see her cute chubby body in this! It's hard to tell from the picture, but the fabric has pink and yellow flowers on it. It looked a little plain when I finished it, so I added the heart applique on light yellow fabric and embroidered "My Oma Loves Me" on the applique. First project using my new very expensive embroidery software, EditorPlus from Bernina. It is nice to be able to create your own stuff - hard to find "Oma" in available designs for purchase.

Wait 'til Tasha's mom sees that there are 5 buttons on the back of the romper! I probably should have used a different method of closure, but I'm the type that follows the directions especially the first time I use a pattern. Doubt if I'll make this view again, though (Butterick 5326).

Time to go back to the kitchen (where I belong????). Friends Merle & George are visiting this weekend. Merle is truly a gourmet cook, so I'm under self-imposed pressure to make a delicious dinner. I've already made an eggplant & red pepper dip for an appetizer, gazpacho for the first course, and a coconut pie for dessert. Rest of the meal will be smoked salmon & cocumber sandwiches for a second appetizer, salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, rib-eye steaks on the grill, and oven-baked potatoe wedges.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears - Oh, My!

Here's a picture of a friend we encountered last Saturday while hiking in Sequoia National Park. We heard tales of bear sightings in the park (they are plentiful in Sequoia) but had not seen one.

A group of hikers came along and joined us. As we were walking away to continue our hike, I heard someone say, "Let's throw one of our apples out to see what he does." Not a good idea at all. Dangerous for humans and, eventually, dangerous for the bears. The park does an excellent job of educating visitors to beware of bears and to keep your food in special bear lockers. Guess these hikers were of the "rules-are-for-someone-else" variety!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Back to Reality

We arrived home from our trip yesterday afternoon. I've spent the whole day washing, food shopping, paying bills - the usual crap that you have to do when you return from vacation. Always takes a little of the enjoyment out of vacations, doesn't it?

We had a nice time visiting with our friends in Twin Lakes. It was pretty windy during our visit which annoyed the fishermen in the group. Our son, Matt, caught one fish before our arrival. At least he didn't get skunked like last year! Everyone seemed to enjoy the beef stroganoff dinner and the brownies.

On Thursday, we left Twin Lakes and drove the Tioga Pass through Yosemite National Park. What a gorgeous drive! We've been to the park several times and travelled the Sonora Pass route a few years ago. There was little traffic on the northern route, so we were able to enjoy the magnificent scenery at a nice pace. We arrived at the bed and breakfast in Three Rivers (Sequoia River Dance) around 6 p.m. The B&B is lovely on the inside and the backyard is spectacular - right up against a beautiful little stream. Doug and I enjoyed cocktail hour on the patio each night just listening to the sounds of the stream and the birds. Three Rivers reminded both of us of Nevada City -- the pros and the cons. Idyllic scenery, peaceful living, eclectic housing!

After our yummy breakfast Friday, we drove into Sequoia National Park along the Generals Highway - a road with switchbacks unlike any you have ever seen! No speeding here. We decided to hike the Tokopah Falls trail and take lunch along with us. Several hikers told us about a momma bear and cub along the way, but we did not see them. Maybe that's for the best since they might have been tempted by our sandwiches!

So many of the visitors to the park were from outside the country - we heard many visitors speaking French, Hebrew, German, Asian languages - quite a variety of nationalities. Nice to see so many enjoying the beauty that the U.S. has to offer. Political comment here: maybe this makes amends for some of our shortcomings on the world stage during the past administration.

We returned to the park on Saturday and hiked Crescent Meadows, a less strenuous hike. Doug was walking in front of me when I heard something in the underbrush. A mid-sized bear sprinted across our trail right in front of us! It was really exciting ... and a little scary, too. The bear ran behind a felled tree, so we didn't know where he was going. We stayed still for a minute or two until we could see the bear about 15 feet away from us in the meadow chomping away on something. The bear did not seem to care about us at all; Doug took pictures and we watched the bear just being a bear for about 5 minutes. How cool is that?

Good trip. Nice to be home. Wish the damn wash was done!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Off to Twin Lakes!

Doug and I spent all day getting ready for our annual trip to Twin Lakes in the Sierras. Friends of ours from Thousand Oaks rent a house every year and invite us to tag along for a few days. Our son, Matt, has been going on this annual fishing expedition for quite some time. We'll be visiting with Polly & John, their son, Jeff, as well as Matt. Maybe others! One never knows just who will show up at the cabin.

I'm expected to bring beef stroganoff for one of our dinners and Aunt Glo's Best Brownies. This is a recipe from the book Country Baking which is a rich, gooey brownie - yummy! I think Jeff's girlfriend, Rebecca, ate half the pan last year. The best thing about this recipe is that you just throw everything in one bowl and mix away - no sifting, no blending, no beating. Simple, simple, simple.

Aunt Glo's Best Brownies
1 c. margarine
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa
2 t. vanilla
4 eggs
1 c. chocolate chips
powdered sugar, optional

Melt margarine in a large bowl in the microwave. Blend in all other ingredients. Bake at 350 in a greased and floured 13 x 9 pan for 25 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar while still warm if desired.

Later in the week, we'll be driving through Yosemite on our way to a B&B in Three Rivers. We'll stay three nights while we explore Kings Canyon and Sierra National Parks. We haven't been to either one in quite some time. This part of California is exquisitely beautiful and well worth a return visit.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Comments, anyone?

Just found out from my daughter that I had not enabled comments. I think I fixed it! Let's see how computer-literate I really am.

Happy 4th of July!

I love the 4th of July. It always seems to be a lazy holiday, but one that can make me very nostalgic. By this time in the summer, the heat was really on in New Jersey where I grew up. There was usually a picnic somewhere in the neighborhood - the usual hot dogs, hamburgers, and various homemade salads. I can still see my mom in her apron making something wonderful and putting it into a pyrex bowl to take down the street to someone's backyard. Yummmm ....

I wish every American would reread the Declaration of Independence today. It's a pretty amazing document. If you do nothing else today, consider yourself very lucky to be an American. This is about the only day that I permit myself to be a flag waver! On most other days, my 60s liberalism takes over.

Doug is washing the car. My morning task is to make Merle's fabulous bean dip for our barbecue this afternoon. Then it's back to working on Tasha's little red romper. I'm at the point where I have to gather the bottom and sew to the bodice. I hate gathering! I'm going to publish a picture of it when finished. At least, I'm going to try to put a picture on this blog.

Merle's Black Bean Dip

2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients and chill. Drain before serving. Serve with tortilla chips; also good as a side dish for grilled meats.