Friday, December 31, 2010

And a happy new year to all

It is beautiful out today - 47 degrees, sunny, with a clear blue sky. The snow is melting nicely, but I'm sure we'll get more in a day or so. It's an early January thaw I guess. I just rearranged our basement storage closet in preparation for untrimming the tree and putting away the Christmas village tomorrow. I am ready to have a little more room upstairs, but it is always so unfestive when all the decorations are down. I'll keep my Beanie bears with scarves around the necks in the kitchen with me for a while longer.

Wed. night we were invited to Ruth's for dinner. What an adventure - we hadn't been there before, and I had forgotten that she lives far into the hills of Northfield. After dark, all dirt roads begin to look alike, but we did finally make it up her steep driveway. Ruth had won a turkey dinner at the holiday farmer's market and needed friends to help her eat the 31 lb. bird and all its trimmings. Her son Jack did most of the cooking, and we had a nice pumpkin cheesecake for dessert from a new restaurant called The Square Biscuit. We'll have to try it (it's in "downtown" Northfield). Yum.

The driveway wasn't too bad to negotiate on the way down, and we headed back the way we came. Or so we thought. We came to a strange fork in the road with a sign that read "dead end," but it was unclear which way the arrow was pointing. I kept going straight and soon came to said dead end. The snowplow turns around there, and so did we, going down the other way. We did finally end up on Route 12A and then the interstate. The whole trip took about an hour, and we had new appreciation for Ruth's devotion to the Old Labor Hall and its monthly meetings in all weather.

I've been working on a feathered star block from Quilter's Cache in black and white with a hint of red. It ends up being about 21" square, and I hope to surround it with some blocks I'll be receiving later this year in a swap. It's quite a complicated block but, having never attempted one, I thought I'd see if I could. And it looks like a large snowflake, particularly with the white on black print. I will put it aside until after the swap in a pizza box with some other blocks I've made. Next up will be another pieced 16" block on which to applique from Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, vol. 2. I don't know how large the finished product will be but I do like having some applique to do on a snowy afternoon.

We're staying in tonight, and I have a nice roast in the crockpot with carrots and potatoes. I will roast some acorn squash to go with it. Max starts to follow me around as the crock pot smell permeates the air. Every time I go into the kitchen, he races along and then looks a little disappointed to find it isn't for him. We will probably fall asleep long before midnight, but tomorrow is supposed to be just as nice as today. That's a great way to start 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Let the holidays begin

The area below the tree is overflowing, the table has its Christmas cloth on it, the tourtiere is defrosting, and we are ready. Even though I consider myself a non-believer, I still enjoy Christmas, the stories (even the religious ones), the lights, the food, and, especially, the music. There is no more beautiful piece than Handel's Messiah unless it is his Joy to the World. Handel was at his most optimistic and hopeful, and we need that perhaps more than ever now. I do miss my piano at this time of year. The classical radio station has been playing quite a bit of good music lately, and it's great to read, applique and knit to. That's what I'll be doing this afternoon.

This evening, Vicki, Samantha, Polly, and Chris will be coming for dinner - tourtiere, French Canadian pork pie, will be the main course. I have some rolls in the freezer to heat up, and Samantha is bringing salad. We'll have nibblies ahead of time and cake for dessert. Tomorrow, after Chris leaves for his friends, we will spend a quiet day, which will be fine. I will surely be talking with family members throughout the day, and the radio will be on.

It is beautifully sunny out, making the snow glisten. We always have a white Christmas here in Vermont. Best wishes to all who may read this!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Graduation party

Yesterday, we celebrated Chris' graduation from college. I am so proud of him! Four years ago, he said that he didn't want to stay in dead-end jobs forever and that he had decided to go to college. In the course of one week between Christmas and New Year's, I helped him apply to DeVry University online, including applying for financial aid and student loans. During the first year or so, he needed a lot of help with writing but I noticed his writing becoming steadily better. He got some help from Polly with math and statistics, too. An online curriculum is challenging because you don't have the instructor or even other students to turn to immediately to ask questions.

Starting out as a computer science major and then switching to business administration, he plugged along and, on the whole, did quite well for someone who had never done all that well in school and had dropped out at age 16. We knew he was smart because he passed the GED tests on the first tries, but he had to mature and gain self-confidence. I know his dad would have been proud of him, too.

We were so busy at the party that we forgot to take any photos! I got a sheet cake from Hannafords, made cookies and chex mix, and also had cheese, cider, candy, and coffee. It was nice that Chris' friends from Burlington came, as did our former next door neighbors who have been surrogate grandparents since he was two. My parents and sister called, too, and it was a good to way celebrate both the end of college and beginning of the next phase of Chris' life, whatever that may be.

I did make a quilt for the occasion - of course! It was originally one for Camp Agape, but they aren't having the camp this year. So I made it a little wider and put a blue oxford cloth back on. There is some free-hand quilting, too. But it is very fitting for Chris who loves fishing and greens. Here's a closeup. I used Golden Threads Quilting paper to quilt in his name and the year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top "Reads" of 2010

As of today, I read 92 books in 2010, many of them during my period of enforced rest as I got over swine flu and then pneumonia. A lot of what I read was in the cozy mystery genre, and this year I read all of the "Evan" books by Rhys Bowen, all of the Cedar Cove series by Debbie Macomber, all of the Inspector Gamache books by Louise Penny (who lives right over the border in Canada), and most of the "The Body in the..." series by Katherine Hall Page. It was impossible to pare my list of favorites down to ten, so I ended up with these 13:
  • Bury Your Dead - Louise Penny (I liked all of hers, but this was the latest)
  • The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry
  • The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver
  • Shadow Tag - Louise Erdrich
  • So Brave, Young, and Handsome - Leif Enger
  • The Aloha Quilt - Jennifer Chiaverini
  • The Day of the Pelican - Katherine Paterson
  • The Killer Angels - Michael Shaara
  • Echoes of Vermont - Thomas C. Davis
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon - Sarah Addison Allen
  • Fun Home - Alison Bechdel
  • The Help - Kathryn Stockett
  • A Mercy - Toni Morrison

Now I see that two of the books were written by neighbors (Tom and Katherine), and about half of the books were published before 2010. It's quite a mixed bag, but each offered a story or ideas that I thought about long after finishing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two finishes

The weather has been very iffy lately, so we have spent most of our time cozily indoors. It snowed hard Sunday morning and then started to rain, continuing into yesterday when we woke to temperatures in the upper 40's. At around noon, temperatures started to drop and it started snowing. For the second week in a row, I had to cancel my usual Monday night get-together with my friends Cindy, Sandy, and Polly due to bad driving. We had about 4" of snow when we got up this morning, and it was in the teens. Winter is back.

Yesterday, I made pancakes for breakfast - with Canadian bacon! - and we trimmed the tree. Then I got busy and finished sewing the binding down on a small quilt. I finished binding this one a few days ago and plan to give it to Kim tonight to take to school for a needy child. In our guild, we have a UFO challenge going, and this was one of them.

I also finished quilting and binding a "Wonky Cats" quilt over the weekend. It used a lot of scraps from a shoebox marked "cats" that I have been pulling from for years. I used scraps for the binding, too, and a large piece of blue plaid flannel that I've been dragging around for years for the back. In fact, I remembered that the flannel came from Gray's Dept. Store in Montpelier, so it has to be over 25 years old. Gray's hasn't been there for a long time and stopped selling fabric around the time Chris was born. Paul's sister Pat used to work there, and when we met years ago, I remembered her from Gray's.

Here is a closeup of the Wonky Cat quilt. Some of the fabrics are awfully cute, and I especially like that Laurel Burch blue fabric. Some child will enjoy this quilt. I am going to offer it to the library for the Friends Chinese New Year's Banquet and Auction in February.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday prep in full swing

Yesterday I felt like I was really in the holiday spirit as I made 2 big batches of Chex mix. I have enough to make a third but I think I'll wait until after Chris' party on the 19th to see if I need more. Of course, we always need more Chex mix! Today I'm going to make some shortbread cookies using a recipe I saw in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. I like that little magazine for its simple, normal (not full of trendy ingredients), family-oriented recipes. Tomorrow, after I get some more shortening, I'll be making Karen's ginger cookies, too. They are the best we've ever eaten.

I washed the grizzly bear throw that I'm giving Chris for his graduation present yesterday. It turned out pretty good but I still need to put the label on. I only have one side left to sew on a binding for little quilt that I'm giving to charity and hope to have it done Tues. so I can give it to Kim to take to school. The little quilt top I started Sunday needs borders around its four sides and then can be quilted. I'm not sure whether to give it to the library to raffle off or to Kim for another needy child. I guess I'll wait and see how it turns out. I still have another batik top to quilt that could be raffled off. If it ever warms up, we'll take a few photos. Right now the thermometer is hovering around zero, after a -6 degree reading when we got up.

Paul and I took two more packages to the post office yesterday. So far, we've sent packages to Colorado, Wisconsin, Florida, New York state (2), New Jersey, Alabama, and the Netherlands. We'll be sending another one to Colorado after Chris finishes shopping. That will make 9 all together! Wish we lived closer to family. But at least doing all that mailing means getting shopping done early. I have most of mine done but still need to look for a few "stocking stuffers."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Paul's stocking

I realized a few weeks ago that I had intended to make Paul a Christmas stocking. Everyone else has one, including Max the dog, so I put one together for him. There's an appliqued banjo, of course! I haven't started decorating the house yet, but it is waiting patiently until I do. The Christmas village usually goes up first. Think I'll get Chris to help me next week. And maybe it's time for the fall doorhanging to come down...