Monday, January 28, 2008

Back at it again

I finally got back to my sewing machine after a small creative block. I knew it would pass but the lack of sewing was making me a little nuts. I couldn't think of one project I wanted to start - or had all the right things for. I had grown weary of my fabric stash and was longing for something new to create from. It was all so depressing. Then in a burst of ADD genius I ran across Reba's old jeans while we were cleaning out the garage. I promptly left my garage post and stashed the jeans to work on later. I never returned to the garage but did come back to the jeans. I knew what I would do. Reba would get a jeans bag purse for her birthday! Here is my result with the cute little size 2T jeans and a little butterfly fabric left over from sheets my mom turned into curtains (I tell you this thing is genetic). I think Reba is going to love it.

My other adventures this week were finishing the long awaited green and blue scarf I was actually knitting for myself. This is Lion Brand Homespun yarn and I love the look of it. I was experimenting with patterns in knitting and this is what I came up with. Not too bad for only knitting a few projects so far. I also used for the second time my attached knitting needles. Man I love those. I am going to have to get a couple more pair just for different sizes. I think my next project needs to be a hat on these. Here is my end result:

With the scarf done I was eager to tackle the next form of yarn work - crocheting or if you are Jacob - crosharing. I got myself a couple of how to books and settled in Saturday for a day of self-education. Unfortunately after a day of attempts I still was missing a step. I finished a project with my hand, arm and head aching and knew that what I was looking at was all wrong. But the books couldn't tell me where I was messing up. I never was good at following directions from a book. Anyhow, I was definitely not satisfied with my end result and gladly received on Sunday a much appreciated lesson from Grandma Dentist (who's real name is Donna but Reba has her own way of saying things - and don't even try and correct her). There is nothing like a real person showing you how to do something. My real person happens to have experience teaching surgical nurses and she was the absolute perfect person to help me out while I am so far away from my own crosharing grandma. Here is my first attempt and then the new revised work in progress. What a difference a day makes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

When Kudjo lives next door

We were so excited when we learned we were getting new neighbors. Creepy recluse guy was moving out and a young family was moving in. Wahoo! Or not. What we didn't know is that not all dog owners are alike. Case in point: These people came with one Jack Russellish looking/sounding dog - very yappy and small and one very large German Shepherd which I have come to learn is named Princess Leah. You could have fooled me. This dog is no princess. So far two boards have had to be replaced on the fence that separates our yards because she has ripped them right off. Two more have since been demolished and Tut came in yesterday with a puncture wound to his lip - wonder where he got that? I had no idea this latest board was broken until I went out to investigate this morning. She looks so unassuming right? Wait till you get close. I have since called the homeowners of this rental property to inform them of the fence needing repair. They sounded like they would get right on it. Meanwhile, here's my view...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

When you watch too much HGTV -

You end up with funny ideas to draw a mock up of what your bathroom could be with a little pop of color and some framing out of a blah mirror. I haven't drawn or sketched in years - my very favorite as a kid was to draw perspective drawings and I was praised for it by parents and teachers. I have to admit my current rendition is a little off - but I wasn't going for perfection. The funniest thing was when Jacob saw my drawing and said, "Hey you are like that David guy on TV." Now I know I definitely watch too much HGTV when my child recalls the name of the Color Splash host. There could be worse things.

Reba gets a haircut

I have to post on yesterday's haircut if for no other reason than how cute Reba is. She knows it too, which can be problematic. We noticed the other day that she was beginning to look more raggedy than her usual mussed hair look. Upon closer examination I determined it was time for a cut. Truly when she has bed head all day we knew it was time. Jacob even took pictures for posterity of "Reba's Crazy Hair". See below...

So after several days of promising, stylist/mom got out the high chair and smock and Reba got a haircut. Thank goodness it looks good layered and a little mussed. It hides many mistakes that I make as I snippity snip away. Miraculously her haircuts typically turn out adorable - probably just because she is. But I think I do a pretty good job. And this is decidedly a better "do" even when she wakes up.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The braided bread

I rarely bake but when I do it gives me a sense of connection to the women in my family that came before me. I am not saying, by any means, that baking was the only thing they did well. The women in my family are noteworthy for obtaining educations and striving to make this world a better place. It just so happens that they also baked well.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogger's pages. She mentions that her grandmother would make it every year for Christmas. It looked so homey and delicious I knew I had to make it. Indeed one would think given my recent abandon of the grilled cheese I wouldn't try something so daring but I just felt like baking.

I got out my very favorite new kitchen tool - my upright Kitchen Aid mixer and got to work. I shocked myself with a perfect result. I even had to let the thing rise! Those in my family will remember the yeast rolls/grandma buns that I let rise so long the yeast fermented and one could likely get drunk off of those things. It was a Thanksgiving I will never live down.

Whipping this pretty thing up (notice it was SO good I didn't wait to eat a slice) made me think about our family recipes. I have put together a list and would love additions from you. So far, this is mostly from my Heller side with a few things thrown in for good measure. I am thinking about printing it for next Christmas. What do you think?

Here's the preliminary list:

  1. Stew
  2. Hot punch
  3. Egg strada
  4. Malts
  5. Spinach casserole
  6. Marie's mac-'n-cheese
  7. Grandma buns
  8. Migas (from Adriana)
  9. Winnie Cake
  10. Apple Pie
  11. Cherry Pie
  12. Cranberry Relish
  13. Apple Sauce (Bette's recipe)
  14. Sweet Potato/Yam fries (my own specialty)
  15. Coffee Cake (John made it for Christmas one year)
  16. Taco Casserole
  17. Moravian Cookies
  18. Linda's Chopped Salad
  19. Shish Kabob marinate
  20. Buttermilk biscuits (from PA)
  21. That weird bologna sandwich mix
  22. Luce's Tuna Salad
  23. French Onion Soup
  24. Marie's Six can Chili
  25. Spanish Rice

What am I missing?

Mission Organization

Organization - smorganization is what I used to think. As I get older and wiser I am more tuned into the beauty and function of my home. Plus, I have been reading Sandra Felton's Messies books again and have renewed energy and know how to get the house in order. First of all let me say that I have improved vastly since my early days. There is a whole post on that. But I know that there are certain steps I can take to make OK fabulous.

This weekend we set out to accomplish 5 things on our list.
1)Hampers - must have hampers. Clothes are piling up in the strangest places.
2)A paper system for all papers coming into our house including mail, kids art, and the like so that the kitchen counter would truly be clear.
3)Something to contain the stuffed animals over-running the children's rooms.
4)A shower caddy for order in the bathroom.
5)Shelves for office closet.

Four out of five wasn't bad. We did manage to acquire a hamper. We quickly realized we should have gotten more than one. That will have to come later. Paper system was taken care of by some shallow trays meant for drawer organization. These may need replaced with a larger size - see photo. The kids artwork now piles nicely in a shallow basket just large enough for the biggest size construction paper and it sits next to my desk. Stuffed animals were tamed by the large plastic buckets with rope handles in a blue and lavender conveniently correlating with the kids room decor. We did have to spend some time explaining that the animals were not supposed to be dumped out to use the buckets as boats. Oh, what the heck use them as boats... The shower caddy was an easy purchase at BB&B and nicely stored all those bottles I had been stepping on. I feel calmer already. Shelves are a bigger project for next week perhaps.

So far so good. All we have to do is put what we have into use for at least a week and if we can maintain the order then move on to the next trouble spot. I am thinking laundry room and master bedroom are the next to tackle. We are getting new bedroom furniture - Ethan Allen hand-me-downs - so this seems like just the right time to do it. Updates later.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Original Brave Pioneering Woman - in honor of my Grandma on Mother's Day

She's got olive skin. I always wondered why I didn't inherit that. In my youth she stood tall - 5'6" naturally - add a few for whichever heels she had chosen to wear that day. An educated woman before her time - she graduated from USC in the 40s. She worked and even when she didn't work for a living she would sometimes spend 40 hours a week volunteering (whether it was when the children were small or when she became small into her 80s). Up early always and dressed properly to boot she was always ready for her day. God forbid you were a non-morning loving grandchild for a visit. She'd wake you in the morning at the bleary eyed time of 6 am with a little scratch on the back, a "rise and shine" and the lights would flip on. Gads... Grandma.

Epic stories are told of this woman's stoicism. It's how she earned her rights as the Original BPW. Known for her tendency to go without on camping trips when a sleeping bag was supposedly forgotten the nomer was bestowed by her mischievous boys. She proved time and time again her BPW merit as she would always sacrificing herself - making due in any situation. No seats left in the truck? She'd ride on the hump with no seat belt. Not enough of the meal to go around? She'd have saltines and milk and it would be fine. Not enough help for the auxiliary gourmet kitchen/gift shop volunteer/book keeper/Sunday school/cooks for the church breakfast? She would take the extra shift and volunteer. You say her neck/leg/wrist/sternum/foot/pelvis is broken? She can still meet all her volunteer/social/church/family obligations. Seriously. She will try.

I distinctly remember her in her Halo for the broken neck (and orthopedic device, though I think she's earned the heavenly kind) - running down a pastor she hadn't seen in a while at the Annual United Methodist Church Conference in July in Redlands, CA (read 102 degrees in the shade). Nothing could stop this woman. Even recently during a hospital stay due to complications with a sternum (breast bone) fracture and abdominal pain she managed to convince the nurse that she was "in no pain" but frequently asked for ice packs. "No pain medication needed." Right. Crazy BPW.

A couple of years ago this amazing woman who has accomplished so much in her lifetime mentioned to me through some emotion that she wished she had done more with her life. My jaw dropped. I couldn't even begin to come up with the accolades that have or should be bestowed on this woman. When cleaning out her house four years ago in preparation for my family to come live with her for a time my mom and I uncovered boxes of awards and recognition that grandma had never put up - much less probably showed anyone. There they sat - in boxes. Knowing that awards and accolades were not what she meant I tried to vocalize some of her incredible gifts to this world.

We discussed her contributions to the church, endless hours of volunteering, being among the founding members of our local church, and her never failing tithe. We talked about her commitment to the hospital and her contributions on the board of directors, the volunteer community, and the fiscal donations making possible growth for the future. We talk about the educations she has helped fund, her own children, her grand children's and now her greats'. I don't even know, I realize, the vastness of the impact this one now little woman has made. How many lives has she touched?

She is the most proud, of course, of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. What a legacy she has left. Gifted, intelligent children married to solid and gifted spouses. Each with their own family her children have raised good children. Each of us grand kids have gone on to productive lives - a few of us with spouses of our own. And then there are her great-grands. Those beautiful babies that she dotes on. Her eyes sparkle brimmed with tears when we talk about her family. I am reminded of the clear plastic holders in her wallet filled to the max with her granddaughters' pictures (she only had granddaughters until Jacob). We are good women because we learned from the best, I tell her.

I think about the long days at Grandma and Grandpa's when our parents would "David-Union-Mary-Paul (parent code for 'dump') us at the folks". We played and Grandma's imagination spurred us on. We typed on real typewriters that Grandma kept running just for us then she would read our nonsense like it actually said something. We built forts out of handmade quilts and mushroom stools from the 60s. She and Grandpa kept trampolines for their coffee table and we would set them apart bouncing back and forth on them. We would practice the piano and Grandma would click along with a noise only she can make with her mouth. She would take us swimming in the summer and gladly spend all afternoon with us at the pool doing the side stroke so as not to get her hair wet. She would invent projects for us to do and I wonder now how her craft closet was always well supplied - who keeps googley eyes, pipecleaners, and pom poms on hand? Grandma. When we trick-or-treated at Grandma's she was always dressed up with her witch hat. I have the coolest grandma. What I told her was that she always made us feel important and loved.

By the end of our conversation I think she had resolved to meditate on those things - all things that are good. My mother gave me a plaque some time ago that reads, "Good women; may we know them; may we raise them; may we be them." In this sentiment Grandma, you have succeeded in every way! Your BPW legacy lives on. Happy Mothers' Day to all the Good Women in my life!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sitting by the fire...

A real fire, in our real fireplace - wow. I have been sick, like really under the weather, fevers for days, coughing like a mad woman, fighting to breathe sick since last Friday. Jacob came down with it Monday at school. Somehow my wonderful husband and cutie patootie daughter thought of a brilliant surprise for us ailing at home. On their way home from school on Tuesday Brian and Reba picked up some firewood from the store. After dinner we all sat on our lovely couches and enjoyed the glow of a real fire in our real fireplace - our first fire in our first house. Either the fever was making me delirious or it was truly a magical moment.

Incidentally this was a couple of days ago and we are both on the mend now. I am still fighting for air but the inhaler and nebulizer treatments seem to be working. The junk you can pick up in the ER...

What is free, has four wheels, four doors and can drive?

Sounds like a 5-year-old joke right? HA! It's no joke! It's my new/used Honda Accord! This the second time our very wonderful friends have gifted us with a Honda Accord. We could not be more blessed. Back when we were starving newlyweds and barely had two pennies to rub together our friends gave us their '88 Accord. It was a gift we gratefully accepted. We drove and drove and drove that thing. It was our family car. It was reliable beyond what made sense. Just this year we left it behind in CA as the A/C was running down and we finally felt the call to buy a new car. My dad has put 10,000 miles on it since. Seriously.

So now, here we are 6.5 years later, new home owners with barely two pennies to rub together. We noodled and noodled on how to make the preschool tuition payment, the mortgage, the bills, and afford a new car. Then the question, "You can turn it down, we won't be offended. But would you like our Accord?" Do you know more generous people? I don't. We would love these people and call them family if they never gave us a car - if they never gave us anything. But here they are, giving us a SECOND car. Now this '98 Accord graces my garage. Thank you again, you lovely people. We are so grateful!


Well, not "a" fiesta, it is Fiesta. Wahoo! This is our new addition to the kitchen. Grandmama gifted us her Fiesta collection. I love Fiesta. What's not to love? These are solid, beautiful, deeply colored, sturdy earthenware. I love it. We have used them for everyday dishes but also plan to use them for more formal occasions. What's even better is I still have kitchen cabinet space to spare. Which only means I have plenty of room for the rest of the collection that Grandmama has promised us. I am already salivating at the possibilities of adding to my collection. Oooh, the dinner guests we could have... Don't worry - I know, after the grilled cheese post you are wondering - Brian cooks when guests come. I am what you call a utilitarian cook. I cook so we can eat. Brian cooks so we can put it on our Fiesta!

I just remembered...

I just remembered to share my stocking this year. Each year since my youngest sister became privy to the top secret Santa information my family has drawn names for stockings. We always have a set limit on how much we can spend. The kids' stockings are not in the exchange as my mother decidedly goes overboard with their stockings - not that I am complaining - it is how Christmas at the Kidds always has been. Anyhow, back to the point. We draw names out of a hat and then feebly attempt at keeping it secret until Christmas Eve when we exchange over In-N-Out post church services. It is a tradition we have come to love.

We have had some funny years. There was a year that I got running shoes, only I only got one shoe because the other would have put it over the limit. In the same spirit I got one cowboy boot a couple of years ago - a perfect fit on the inside of my stocking. Brian thrives on stuffing the stocking full to the max while always keeping within the budget. I won that contest this year - stuffing Jenny's stocking and over filling it with kitchen gizmos from IKEA. Your buck goes a long way at IKEA. My youngest sister, Molly, the lefty who decidedly thinks outside of the box, won for creativity this year on presentation of my stocking. Please don't be offended. We all found this hysterical - my stocking this year:

Grilled - er, Burned Cheese

Grilled cheese sandwiches - they are one of my specialties (probably my only specialty if you ask my husband) and I rarely mess them up. Wheat, sourdough or sheepherders bread, buttered on the outside with smart balance or real butter (none of this margarine junk), shredded (this is key I discovered - to evenly melt it must be shredded) Colby and Jack, sliced green apples, Canadian bacon, layered and grilled evenly to perfection. Can't beat it. Add a little organic creamy tomato soup and you have yourself a perfect meal. At least to my 5 year old.

And then it happens. It has happened so many times before in my life. I left my post. Distracted by an idea or thought that popped into my head I walk away from what I am doing to do something else - always intending to come right back. It is then that the ADD gets the best of me. I have put carrots on to steam and forgetting walked next door to chat with the neighbor for an hour. I put things in the oven and NEVER set a timer. I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and walk away with my sandwich immediately leaving jars open, bread out, and dirty knives laying out. The list goes on... I have been doing well lately, however. Tonight just humbles me and reminds me to focus.

In the end I did what any good mother would do. I scraped the heck outta those cheese sandwiches and served them up with a smile. Nobody complained. They knew better. Next time I won't walk away to check my email while I am making dinner - at least for the next few months I won't...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What I love about sewing...

What I love about sewing is giving my creations away. This Christmas I believe I totalled 34+ handmade gifts. 21 of those were aprons (of which I forgot to take a picture of again so if you received an apron get a cute shot of you in it for me), 8 little caps, 3 stuffed dogs, 2 mini quilts for the kids, 1 flannel Jeeps and camo blankie, 4 jammies, 4 pot holders, 1 knitted scarf, and 6 cute purses with embroidered names (also no pic - sorry). Eesh, it's no wonder my sewing machine quit half way through. We had to run out to Costco and purchase a simple machine (read inexpensive) that would get me through the holidays at least (the machine I really want is still waiting at the store for me - thanks Mom, Dad, Jenny, and Molly for getting me closer to it!). My poor old Brother is sitting on the dining room floor - cast off in a frenzy of getting it all done.

One would think I would be completely burned out and ready to retire my hobby completely. Ha! Not sew! (Another great pun.) I would never dream of it. Since we've been home I've been either working or pretty sick with an upper respiratory something that has me feeling like I am fighting to breathe and taking Tylenol and Advil to keep the ever present fever down. But that didn't keep me from sewing. In my delirium I was able to whip up these always adorable receiving blankets made with a yard each of flannel - perfect for optimal swaddling (or baby burrito-ing as Brian calls it) for a new baby. Our neighbors up the street just welcomed Alana Katherine and we can't wait to meet her. She is also getting a little dog with an A embroidered on the flank (really the butt but we can't say butt in our house).

Maybe today I will make something for me - a scrubs top perhaps... or a new purse. Or maybe I'll start on the quilt Jacob's been begging me for. I do love when other people love what I make and the adoration of a little boy is just too tempting.

Back into the boxes...

Back into the boxes go the Christmas lights, tree ornaments, stockings, and various other Christmas decorations. I save my absolute favorites for last. I tell myself I can at least wait until Epiphany as the official end of the holiday season to do the final dreaded Christmas decoration packing up. Here are a couple of my favorites that will be finally put away today:

While most people with a February birthday would be glad to see time marching on past December and January I am almost always met with a little sadness as another holiday season passes. Now it is just winter with no lovely songs or cheerful decorations to go with it. Phooey. Plus, this year as I turn 29 somehow I am not necessarily celebrating the upcoming year as I am dreading it - 29 and then 30 seems so definitely adult. And the little part of me that loves my Christmas decorations out too long also loves being young and in my 20s.

Maybe just a couple more days of my nativity out - to soothe my soul. A little Jesus here and there never hurt any one.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Kidd Girls

I couldn't resist posting this. My sisters, Reba and I are all hanging out post Christmas. My dad shot this in a moment of what I can imagine is pure paternal bliss. That man does love his girls. Note that I am sewing, Jenny is reading, Molly is online window shopping for truck parts, and Reba is playing reading games on her Leapster while wearing some princess dress up clothes. Some things may never change. Also note the three look-alike-laptops around the table. We are ridiculous. Why we ended up all on the same side of the table is beyond me. Oh well, what a photo op. A final thought is: Molly is making a weird face, again.

A hat for a boy (or 10)

My challenge this Christmas was to find a handmade gift for the boys/young men in our family. I pondered and pondered until I found this fantastically adorable hat on someone else's blog. I love sewing blogs! Anyhow, once I made one for my little man I knew it fit the bill. Hah, I just reread that sentence and am feeling fairly brilliant for the pun I just made! Check out the hat - I made 8 total, several in this camouflage corduroy and several in a tan color. My favorite ended up being the one I made for Reba using a pink corduroy. Too cute! Here's the link for the blog where I found the directions: I couldn't believe how easy it was. For the bigger boys I just made my octagon bigger by 1/2 inch to 1 inch. Enjoy!

From a different perspective...

Here are some pictures from our stay with my parents. Jacob and Reba received a digital camera for Christmas from Grandma "Bob" and Grandpa Jim and it sparked renewed interest in taking pictures. In about 4 hours they had 450 pictures on their new camera of everything from their toes, people's bottoms, all of their Christmas presents, every one's double chin, to them finally turning the camera on themselves to make ridiculous faces at the camera and totally cracking up.

While we stayed with my parents for the second half of the week they were just as shutter happy as their Grandpa Randy and each took their share of pictures. Here are a couple from the house and from Newcomb's Ranch (a restaurant up in the San Gabriel Mountains) taken with my little camera. Some are better than others, but all decidedly capture my double chin - a body part I hadn't noticed until someone 3 feet tall photographed the underside of it...

This picture was probably taken by me - note the eye level of the subjects - posted only to point out that Molly is incapable of smiling normal and not being a dork in picures.

The Ten Year Reunion

What is it about reunions? Who are we trying to impress anyway? So, while I was back in CA for Christmas my 10 year High School reunion was to take place. At first I was insistent that Brian come with me - later when I came to my senses about the true meaning of this event I backed off and let him do something far less anxiety producing for him. What is the true meaning of the reunion, you ask? I shall tell you my perspective...

I would say about half of us showed up with the intention of impressing. Duh, we all want people to think we have done something with our lives. I think it is particularly true of my high school class since we went to a private college prep school with some pretty success driven people. Not that I think being successful is bad, I was just amused by the titles and the education amassed by my classmates. Most of these people we knew would go far anyway - you know, the Dean's List type. I saw Psychologists, Lawyers, several MDs, business people, a few moms, fewer dads, and plenty of PhDs. Impressive. The success I was more impressed by was my friend Monique who was always smart but struggled academically. She has her masters and works as a Nurse Practitioner - what's more impressive is that I never heard her once throw her title out as part of her "look at me now" conversation. I am so proud of her.

Many of us wanted to compare ourselves to those we graduated with regarding everything from marital status and job status, to waist line and hair line. No one shocked me. Everyone that came pretty much looked the same. That was comforting in a way. Somehow time has passed and we hadn't aged... mostly. I did dye my gray out for the occasion.

The rest of us were just truly curious about our old friends. What are you doing, where do you live, what do your kids look like if you have them? Oh, I brought pictures of my kids alright. Reba and Jacob making cookies that look like little poops. Somehow no one was shocked that my children would make cookies that looked like poop. I did get many compliments on their beauty, however - the kids not the cookies...

In the end I talked to sooo many people. I was so happy I went and I got paid a huge compliment - not about my looks, although I did hear that I was looking good - but about my character. More than one person commented on the fact that I was such a genuine person in high school and now that people truly wanted to know how and what I was doing. For the first time in "high school" I felt popular - and it didn't even matter now.

Incidentally I was also applauded for being the best wife ever by someone other than my husband for not making him come to this. But, I already knew that.