Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bits and Pieces, This and That

Can you believe that absolutely NO quilting has been done in my home for the last two evenings? It's hard for me to believe, but I've been a little sidetracked (1) doing other things and (2) thinking about what to do about adding applique to my recent quilt top. Judy left a comment for me the other day saying, "If that quilt were mine, I'd quilt some feathers in that light area using variegated thread and forget the applique!" You know what? I kind of think she might be on the right track. For some reason, I always forget how much I like the quilting that goes on in light areas of a quilt, so now that I'm reminded, I think I'll just go ahead and take off the little bit of applique I had added and put the top away until I get around to doing some quilting. I have a couple other little block projects I need to get to, so maybe I can start them tonight.

Speaking of tonight, for those of you who are interested, don't forget the new Mark Burnett (Survivor) "reality" show, Pirate Master, starts. Since everything seems to be in summer reruns now, I'm looking forward to it. I suspect it will be a decent show to turn on while I'm quilting.

And if you enjoy watching TV, I would recommend a show my husband and I watched last night on PBS called Craft in America. The three-part show looks at the works of various craftsmen and craftswomen in America. Yes, there were quilters, but there were also woodworkers, potters, weavers, jewelry makers, glass blowers, and many other artisans. Very interesting to learn about the traditions of each craft, listen to the artists, and see the work they do.

I think tonight might be a fast food night in this household. We will be awaiting delivery of a new dishwasher tomorrow, so it seems reasonable to not want to generate a sink full of dirty dishes tonight, doesn't it? Or is that just convenient justification?! LOL! Of course, we still have that lovely carrot bread I made over the weekend and could have that for dinner. Oddly enough, although it's barely edible, I haven't thrown it out yet. I'm kind of funny that way. I know darn well it's going in the garbage before long, but it feels awfully wasteful to bake it and toss it out right away, when it hasn't even had a chance. What if there was some natural disaster today, food was scarce, and I had thrown away the carrot bread? As you can see, it makes perfect sense to keep it in my bread basket for the time being. But I think I'd really rather eat fast food for dinner tonight, baring any natural disaster.

About a month or so ago, I noticed two birds--some type of blue jays, I think. They had built a nest in a pair of juniper trees in our back yard. The mom and dad birds would fly in and out all day long, carrying food to their baby. Our younger cat Spike was also fascinated, I can tell you! One day a few weeks back, I noticed the parent birds acting funny, and rather than flying up to their nest, they kept flying to the base of the tree and squawking. Spike was beside herself with excitement, whiskers twitching, belly to the grass, creeping slowly toward the tree. When I went to chase her off and investigate, I found a downy gray baby bird at the base of the tree in a clump of dried grass. Hoping for the best, I kept both my cats inside the rest of the day, but as the sun went down, I went out to check for any progress. The baby was still there at the base of the tree.

In our neighborhood and in our particular yard, we have several cats who come through during the day and nighttime hours, and I was fairly sure that even if I kept MY cats indoors, some other cat would come along in the night and take that baby bird. The solution that finally occurred to me was to tie a basket into the tree in a fairly protected space as high up as I could manage and fill it with raffia. I then lifted the baby bird into the basket and went back indoors to see what would happen. The rest of the evening and the next morning, the mom and dad birds continued to stay close to the tree, squawking at their baby; then, around noon, I noticed they had disappeared. I was sure the baby bird hadn't made it, but I didn't want to face the reality of a tiny dead bird body lying in that basket, so I put it out of my mind, thinking I would collect the makeshift "nest" sometime in the future.

Last night, my husband took the basket down out of the tree. No baby bird bones or any other sign the bird had even been there. If a cat had climbed into the tree and gotten into or onto the basket, the weight of the cat would have knocked the "nest" out of the tree. I don't know what happened to that little baby bird, but I'm choosing to believe that it was finally strong enough to fly out of the nest on its own the next day. Yes, I know that in many ways, I'm a hopeless hopeful optimist. And that's probably one of the reasons I haven't tossed out that carrot bread yet!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I Am SUCH an Idiot!

I think if you've been reading about me for any length of time, you know by now that I don't really "do" mornings. Or at least I sure as heck don't do them well. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I was in heaven, staying up until 2:30 or 3 a.m. and sleeping until 8:30 or 9 a.m. Perfect! Well, an end-of-the-weekend reality check meant getting back into my normal routine of rising at the crack of dawn (6:30 a.m. IS the crack of dawn, right?) for work.

Normally I get up around 6:30 (or 6:40 or 6:50 depending on how often I can hit the snooze button), wander into the kitchen, let the cats out, get myself a cup of coffee, and feed the pests pets. Necessities taken care of, I head back to the bedroom with my coffee, pausing along the way to wash my face (at that point, it's kind of reassuring to know I can FIND my face). Then it's computer time while I sip my coffee and wake up. After about an hour, it's time to get serious about getting ready for work. First I put on my make up. (Yes, I know it's really a weird quirk, but it harks back to the days pre-computer when I had to do something productive while sipping my coffee before stumbling into the bath and trying not to drown.) Then bath time, followed by getting dressed, and then fixing my hair. I guess I should mention that my hair is really, really long, and I normally get away with washing and conditioning every other day.

Okay, so this a.m., following my normal habits, life proceeded on schedule until I reached the hair-fixing stage. There I was, running a bit late for work by now (that's pretty much a given on any morning, particularly on the mornings I have to wash my hair, as I did this a.m.). Peering into the mirror, I thought, "My God, I'm pale! Am I ILL?!" After a little reflection, it hit me: While taking a bath and washing my hair, I ALSO WASHED MY FACE! I had washed off all the make-up I had just applied not ten minutes before!

Needless to say, I had to do the make-up thing all over again while wondering whether I might be losing my mind. I suppose, though, that if I'm going to lose my mind, I might as well look nice doing it. All I can say is I'm thankful I was awake enough by then to actually LOOK in the mirror and notice something was a little "off"! Life--it's always something!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More Summer Decorating

Thank goodness I posted a photo of my bedroom yesterday because this morning the bed's unmade and doesn't look nearly as nice. Today I'll share a couple photos of the kitchen.

Since the dishes aren't done, there will be no photos of the sink area. Isn't it funny the way a house can look just mah-velous at 6 p.m. one day and trashed the next morning? What happens to it in the middle of the night? I could swear it didn't happen before we went to bed, because both my husband and I were pretty much unable to move--me from cleaning and decorating most of the day and him from working around the yard and garage. You see, that's why I like quilting more than cleaning. With cleaning, you're constantly having to do the same thing over and over. With quilting, your stitching doesn't come undone while you sleep, so you can just go on with the next step the next day. I had the same issues with gardening--darn weeds! And every time I'd sit down to admire the beautiful garden, I'd see something else that needed doing--weeding, trimming, watering, etc. Gardening is definitely NOT restful! One of these days, when I have more time, I'll give it another go, because I truly do love the look of a garden. Maybe when I have more time, I'll even make my bed. Maybe I'll win the lottery and will be able to hire a gardener and maid. Yep, that's what I'm aiming for.

We have these ugly, dark cupboards. You'd think that since our son is in the kitchen cabinet business, we'd have them redone, right? It's kind of funny because whenever he comes over, he just looks around and shakes his head. I'm pretty sure it's head-shaking amazement over the idea that we live with these things, but it might just be that he can't find any food that appeals to him. We've actually thought about having them redone several times over the years, but there's always something else that takes priority.

I worked a little bit on appliqueing the new quilt last night, but I think I need to get out the seam ripper tonight and take out what I did, because it's looking too bulky/heavy. I guess that's a little bit like having to clean house over and over again, but not exactly. Once I try a couple different options, I'm sure I'll find something I like. I'll share a photo of a section once I get it figured out.

Back to work today, but at least it's only a four day work week! (Note to self: Buy a lottery ticket.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

How I Spent Memorial Day!

With the last day of the three day weekend here, I figured I'd better get over my failures of yesterday and kick it into gear in order to get some things done before I have to go back to work tomorrow. This morning I finished getting the borders on my quilt top--now all that remains (besides the quilting) is to add some applique. There's not a great deal of space for it and the quilt's pretty busy as it is, so I'll probably keep it simple. I think I'll also need to dig into my stash for the applique fabrics because if I wait for the charm packs and use the same fabric line, I think the applique will just fade into the pieced background. Assuming I don't simply collapse on the couch in exhaustion tonight, I'll probably start working on adding the applique then.

And did I hear you ask why would I collapse in exhaustion tonight? Well, remember I mentioned needing to do a little house cleaning and wanting to change out the decorations from spring to summer? That's the other thing I've been working on for the last few hours, and I still have the kitchen to do, which is the biggest project of all.

Spike has been a big help as you can see. One of the first things I did was to strip the bedding and get out some of my summer quilts and runners--Spike just loves to climb under quilts to sleep, and it's usually right in the middle of whatever I'm doing. I can tell you, trying to make a bed is a real pleasure! Not!

Since most of you are quilters, I thought I'd share a few photos of my summer quilts. This is my son's former room. The quilt started out as one of those $5 quilts at one of my LQSs--each month we got a pattern for a different block, and I chose the Americana colorway. I added a bit to it like the chimneys and cornerstone blocks and finished it up a few years ago.

I also wanted to share with you the way I store my quilt tops. I have this theory that quilt tops should age for a year or two before being quilted. I have a small house and am always looking for ways to store things that are somewhat decorative, and this is what I came up with for my quilt tops. Once the top's done, I roll it and tie it with raffia and then put it into the basket. When the basket gets full, it means it's time to quilt a few tops. I adhere strictly to that rule. Do you believe that? Okay, you're right--I do have a couple tops that aren't quilted and don't fit in that darn basket. I think I need a bigger basket. Or maybe I could just get another basket to decorate another room? Hummmm.

This is my daughter's former bedroom. I'm still in the process of redecorating the room, but it's not a high priority in my life. It's a little bare, but this quilt livens it up a bit. Tracey just posted some similar roses on her blog the other day. I pieced the roses and then appliqued them onto the quilt along with pansies and leaves.

Finally, this is the quilt in the master bedroom. It's basically a Linda Ballard design called Stars Over St. Louis, but instead of a plain border as she did in the final round, I continued another round of stars. This is also the basic pattern I used for the Halloween/pumpkin quilt I showed you a couple weeks ago.

Well unfortunately my break is over and it's time to head out to the kitchen and get back to work. I've been rummaging in the cupboards and closets and I've pulled out a lot of the things I want to use in there and have put away a lot of the spring decorations, so at least I've made a start. The older I get, the harder it is to decorate several times a year, but I really do love changing my house to fit the seasons and holidays. Thank goodness for Advil!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I'm a Failure

Have you ever had the carrot bread they serve at Mimi's? I know Mimi's has restaurants in several states, so perhaps you have. My husband and I ate at Mimi's for the first time a month or two ago and have been back a couple times since. I just love that bread! (And their salads and soups too.) So, when I last went to the grocery store, I carried with me a copy of a bread recipe I found online for Mimi's carrot bread and gathered up all the ingredients I needed to make my own. I finally got around to making it this morning. (Remember yesterday I said I might to a little baking? Well, I couldn't very well let you all down, could I?!)

So this is the result.

Normally I wouldn't have shared this photo. I would have not said anything and let you all think that I'm perfect, but I just couldn't do that. So I'm airing my dirty laundry for all to see. The second loaf wouldn't even come out of the pan without breaking in half!

I'm guessing the problem is that the recipe said to bake it for an hour, and I should have pulled it out after about 40 minutes. The recipe also said the pans shouldn't be greased or floured, but I think it might have helped. I was instructed to use 8" bread pans. Frankly, I didn't measure them, so maybe they were too large, but I don't think so. Being a quilter, you kind of get a feel for what 6", 8", and 12" looks like. Finally, the recipe said to divide the batter into two pans, but I think maybe I should have just used one pan if I was going to bake it for an hour.

I'm now trying to redeem myself with a pan of my Happy Cow mac and cheese. I noticed yesterday that I had a fair amount of miscellaneous cheese in the fridge, and there's nothing better to drown your baking sorrows in than some really good mac and cheese. I just hope my baking biorhythms aren't in decline and it turns out okay.

I'm also a failure when it comes to doing any housecleaning and decorating for summer. I've been locked in the Sweat Shop most of the day, working on that quilt project. Here's a photo of the work in progress:

At least I'm not feeling like a failure when it comes to quilting! I'm pretty happy with it so far. I still need to trim up the squares and sew them together; then I'll have to be patient and await my next delivery from the Fat Quarter Shop so I'll have the additional charm squares and fabric I need for the applique. Maybe I should practice baking while I wait!

Author's Note: The mac and cheese came out so-so. I think it was the cheese. Or my baking biorhythms. I think I'll stay out of the kitchen the rest of the weekend. Maybe the rest of the year.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend

Yippee! The three day weekend is here for those of us in the U.S. It seems a bit quiet in Blogland as many people are spending the weekend with family and friends and going away for the first holiday weekend of the "summer."

For me, this weekend is a time to relax and start thinking about the summer months. Sometime in the next couple of days, I'll put away the spring quilts and decorations and get out the red, white, and blue, and the brighter colors of summer. I'll likely share with you photos of a few of my favorite things. In the meantime, I'll share with you a little glimpse of what I'm working on in the Sweatshop:

Using six charm packs from the new Thimbleberries line, Sangria Sunset, and some cream yardage from that line, I've sewn up a bunch of blocks with cream center squares and colored strips. Although I'm not quite done yet, I'm sewing the same number of blocks with colored center squares and cream strips. Once I have them all done, I'm cutting the blocks on the diagonal and sewing them back together as half square triangles, light and dark:

In the next day or two, I'll share with you the layout for the blocks. I will be adding appliqued vines, leaves, and flowers to this quilt, and I've placed an order for additional charm packs and green yardage for the applique. I also have this fabric set aside for the border:

All in all, I think I'll end up with a cheerful summer time quilt that will work well for a tabletopper, lap quilt, or on the end of a twin bed.

My husband and I started off the weekend by barbecuing burgers, and they were really excellent--the kind that require at least two or three napkins and are piled so high with bacon, cheese, avocado, tomato, and lettuce that you can barely get your mouth around one. I have a rack of baby back ribs in the refrigerator for tomorrow night, and I hope to do a little bit of baking over the weekend. If I come up with anything out of the ordinary, I'll share the recipe with you.

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend, whether you're here in the U.S. and celebrating Memorial Day or elsewhere in the world.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Kim Diehl is my Hero, and Other Stuff

I love Kim Diehl’s work. That’s a photo of one of her quilts. Her quilts speak to my heart and mind. Traditional pieced patterns with applique added to transform the quilts from the ordinary to the extraordinary. She uses the fabrics I use. In looking closely at her quilts, I know I have most of the same fabrics in my stash. But I’m not making those quilts, and this is what I was talking about yesterday–this feeling that I’m just cranking out quilts, one after another, without giving enough time and thought to making them "special." Worst of all, I don’t think I’m really taking time to enjoy the quilt-making process itself.

Thank you for all the lovely compliments on the quilt I just finished. I love the quilt too, but it’s someone else’s pattern and there are many other quilts out there in the world that look very similar; I didn’t do anything special to it to make it "mine." As a result, I’m not really feeling that rush of joy, pride, and sense of accomplishment I get when I either make something of my own design or add a piece of myself to someone else’s design.

That thing Marcie said in the comments yesterday–yep, that’s exactly what I meant, except I didn’t want to offend anyone’s sensibilities. Well, that’s not quite true. The truth is that if I used that word, my dear friend Eileen would have hopped on the first plane from Maryland to California and washed my mouth out with soap. Or maybe she would have just sat at her computer, reading my blog, shaking her head. Actually, I suspect she does that a lot anyway. She tries to keep me in line, so I try to behave myself and act lady-like. (Thinking back on a few of my recent posts, I have to say that sometimes it’s really hard, and Eileen has probably been shaking her head a lot.)

This morning, in fact, I had an e-mail from Eileen, saying she read yesterday’s post. She pretty much said that I should stop whining and get over it. She suggested I get out some of the pieced quilt tops I have on my quilt rack that are waiting for applique and have at it. Eileen’s my personal Jiminy Cricket. And she’s probably right. But darn it, there are just so many patterns and fabrics clamoring for my attention! I think I have an extreme case of SASD!

Another friend of mine, Kairle, e-mailed me the other day to tell me that Buggy Barn is having their annual quilt show in August, and both Kim Diehl and Carrie Nelson are teaching. Boy, wouldn’t I just love to go take some classes?! My horoscope today says, "You need to let your impetuousness guide you now. Accept a surprise invitation." I just thought I’d throw that out there in case any of you feel really sorry for me and want to invite me on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Buggy Barn for the August quilt show and classes. I’m pretty sure I’d accept your invitation. Unless you are a weird stalker, serial killer–then I’d have to think about it for a bit.

Okay, Eileen, I’ll stop whining now.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ta Da!

This is the culprit I was working on when I hit the wall last week and slumped all over the floor of my sewing room, questioning the meaning of life and speculating upon the futility of quilting. Weird, huh? But once I picked myself up, dusted off all the snipped threads, and got busy making covers for my chair, I put that little episode behind me and moved on. Now I have this one done and I'm ready, I think, to start playing around with some charm packs and a few lengths of fabric. Maybe it's hormonal. Are there quilting hormones, I wonder?

One thing about my quilting that's been bugging me for a long time is the idea that I've lost my focus. When I started quilting, I was very sure about what I liked and didn't like. I knew my quilting time was limited, and I'd darn well better concentrate on making only the things that really appealed to me. I rarely used anyone else's patterns, and if I did, I usually changed them quite a bit. Applique particularly appealed to me because I could design whatever I wanted and my quilts wouldn't look like any others. Somewhere along the line, I lost that focus. I started liking just about everything, and I wanted to make just about everything--and I thought I could, apparently! Instead of being drawn to a narrow color and tonal pallet, my color sensibilities expanded. While particular colors and patterns still appeal to me and others still don't, it's that middle range--the stuff I could live with but didn't LOVE--that seems to have worked its way into my stash and my quilts.

I've had this little talk with myself before and resolved to get back on track but somehow, before I know it, I'm back to drooling all over the pages of quilt magazines and catalogues, wanting to make everything I see. And then when I start a quilt, I'm in a rush to get it finished so I can move onto the next whim. Darn quilting hormones again, I'm sure!

I'm not sure how to change this behavior, but I think that sometime in the next few months, I'm going to have to find a way to do that. My husband asked yesterday whether I was going to put any of my quilts in the State Fair this year, and I told him I wasn't--for the second or third year in a row. The reason? Because I haven't made anything for awhile that I would consider unique and different enough to bother with. As you may imagine, by now I have plenty of "utility quilts" to cover each and every one of my beds a couple layers deep, so why keep making them? I'm starting to feel a little like the girl in high school who sleeps with every guy on the football team! Darn quilting hormones!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mostly Books and a Little Quilting

First of all, just a little about quilting. For those of you on a fabric diet, please plug your ears, hum a little song, and turn away for a minute or two--you can pick right back up with the next paragraph. Last night I received an e-mail from Keepsake Quilting advising me they have selected wide quilt backings at 30% off. Not a bad deal! So, if you're in need, click here.

Now on to books. The photo above is my bookshelf of books I haven't yet read. Looks a little like my fabric stash! I've added a little box on my sidebar entitled "Current Reads." I know many of us enjoy reading, and from looking at some of your blog profiles, I think many of you have tastes similar to mine, so I thought I'd add this little feature to my blog. Yeah, I know I'm not Oprah any more than I'm Martha Stewart, but I wanted to share my recommendations and reading list with you anyway. If you don't read much, plug your ears, hum a little song, and go order some wide quilt backings. Oh, and check back with me tomorrow--I'm hoping to have a quilt finished and may have a photo to share, thanks to those of you who encouraged me over my slump.

My favorite books tend to be mystery-type fiction with the occasional well-written historical romance thrown in for variety. Sometimes I like to read what I categorize as "fluff books"--usually fast reading, fairly light mysteries. One of my favorite mystery writers, though, was Agatha Christie, and I developed a taste for somewhat more complex, psychologically-driven mysteries, which I think the British writers do so well.

A few days ago, I started reading The Remains of an Altar by Phil Rickman, the seventh and latest book in the Merrily Watkins series. Rickman is one of those British authors whose writing I enjoy. The first book of the series is The Wine of Angels, and the main character, Merrily Watkins, is a newly-ordained minister who is also a widow with a teenaged daughter. Strange things take place in the village to which she's assigned, and she gets caught up in them. The reviews posted on Amazon by the "experts" and "customers" give you a good idea what the series is about. As one reviewer summed up, Rickman's books are filled with "interesting characters with a lot of depth, mystery with a tinge of the supernatural, and charming recreation of English village life."

I'm always a little hesitant about reading historical romance unless something's been recommended to me because so much of it's just too darn light and predictable for my tastes. I love the books by Diana Gabaldon and Sara Donati and pick those up as soon as they come out. If you have any historical romance book recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

And, of course, as is the case with most of you quilters, I enjoy well-written fiction involving quilting. I just finished Jennifer Chiaverini's The Quilter's Homecoming and loved it. I also like Emilie Richards' series that began with Wedding Ring.

I doubt that I'll talk about every book I read, but you can keep an eye on my "Current Reads" and feel free to ask me any questions you have about whatever I'm reading and let me know if you read something you think is really outstanding.

If you're not much into reading, then I hope to better entertain you tomorrow when the subject will be: 27 Craft Projects You Can Make Using Belly Button Lint.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

So, I Was Thinking . . .

I like to read. I’ll read anything you stick in front of me–it doesn’t really matter what. I think I’ve told you before that I can’t just sit around and watch TV; I have to be doing something else as well, like quilting. It’s the same thing with reading. I can’t just sit and eat a bowl of cereal; I need to have the cereal box to read. Or maybe a newspaper if I’m going to be sitting around for awhile. And if the whole missing-kids-on-milk-cartons thing is any indication, I’m not alone.

So then why, when we visit our dentists and Ob/Gyns, do we have to look up at cute posters on the ceiling? Why not tack something up there of more substance; something to take our minds off what else is really going on? Sure, puppies and daisies are sweet, and once upon a time, when we first saw them, we all probably said, “Awwwww, how cute!,” but I’m not 12 years old anymore. So I have to wonder when I lay back on the exam table and see a poster of a kitten doing chin ups on a tree limb with the words, “Hang in There!”, is this some kind of warning that I can look forward to a cold speculum?

What I’d really like to see are the pages of the Connecting Threads catalogue. Yes, I know that might not interest everyone, so I’d settle for the weekly Macy’s ad. Or even the newspaper inserts of the local grocery store ads–I could plan my week’s menu and grocery list at the same time. Multi-tasking.

And mammograms? What if the radiologist posted a great shoe sale ad on the back wall, printed just small enough so that we actually WANTED to lean into the darn machine to get a better look?

If any of you is a doctor or a dentist, works for a doctor or a dentist, or knows a doctor or dentist, please suggest to them that they give us something better to occupy ourselves with while they do whatever it is they feel they need to do to us. Cute posters just don’t cut it. And dentists who want to ask questions while our mouths are full of fingers and equipment? Well, don’t get me started . . . .

Monday, May 21, 2007

Back to the Mundane

Thank you all for visiting my blog and leaving comments when something strikes you as noteworthy. I enjoy hearing from you, even if you just say "hi"! Some of you don't have an e-mail address attached to your comments, so I can't write back, but I want you to know that I appreciate the comments you leave. And if any of you ever wants to e-mail me directly rather than leave a public comment, you can do so by going to my profile and clicking on "e-mail." Oftentimes, too, I'll read your comments and "follow" you back to your own blog. I love the way we can all communicate with one another through the magic of the internet!

By way of an addendum and in response to some of your comments, my first marriage ended 30 years ago, and sometimes it seems like it all happened to someone else. It's been a long time, and I can shake my head and laugh about it now. I don't know why I seemed to have such odd people around me when I was younger, but maybe that's what attracted me to quilting--it's so traditional! Still, I have a few more stories to tell about the people I've met along the way and the things that I've done, and I will tell them to you eventually. Nothing as surprising as the story of my first husband though, which is probably just as well! I think one of the "lessons" I've learned is that people are all different; sometimes in ways that we can see and sometimes in ways that are hidden from us. Although I'm essentially a "hermit" at heart, I love to meet people and find out about their lives, and I think that's one of the really fun aspects of visiting all your blogs.

Before I forget, C'tina asked how Sunday breakfast with my husband's family went. Well, I didn't go. I know, I know, you're probably disappointed in me, but I'll tell you why. After I posted and read the comments left for me, and my friend Eileen told me I HAD to go, I decided I would. Someone suggested I just order an English muffin and sample a little of my husband's breakfast, and that sounded like a reasonable compromise. So, Saturday evening I asked my husband what the plan was, and he told me he was supposed to meet his sister at her house at 8 a.m. 8 A.M.! Is the sun even UP at 8 A.M.? Okay, that's just a slight exaggeration--I know the sun's up by 7 a.m. because that's when I get up for work, but to be at my sister-in-law's house by 8 a.m., I would have to get up at about 6 a.m. On a Sunday!

Reading the look of horror on my face, my husband laughed and assured me that no one really expected me to come. And my good friend Eileen suggested that maybe they decided to have breakfast that early so I WOULDN'T come! So, having convinced myself that if these crazy people wanted to have breakfast practically in the middle of the night, they really didn't need to have me there with an IV of coffee in my arm and toothpicks propping my eyes open, did they? No. So I slept until 9 a.m. Good thing too, because you know that idea of sharing my husband's breakfast? He had chorizzo and eggs. I'm sure that would not have set well on my stomach even if I could get past the whole lack of sleep thing.

And speaking of my husband, he puttered around in the garage all day yesterday (after he came home from breakfast) and came up with another of his wacky creations which now graces our patio. He has a plan to attach one of the sprinkler heads to a faucet and position it so it looks like this gal's "bath" is filling with water. This little piece of garden art will go into a flower bed that is now full of weeds and needs to be cleared out.

I worked all weekend--when I wasn't grocery shopping, cooking, or cleaning house--on making covers for my desk chair. I made the covers reversible so I can change the look from spring/summer to fall/winter. Of course, they're removeable and washable. You can see a "before" photo here for comparison.



I'm not totally happy with the lacing/bow in the back but I'm not sure what I'd rather do. It seems like a more flowing ribbon would be pretty, but I don't want Spike (seen just above, lurking) to start attacking the chair. I may just re-lace it similar to the way tennis shoes are laced and leave it for now. Any suggestions?

I have another chair to cover, and my husband suggested using his old Levi's, which was a really great idea! He's been giving them to me for the last several years in case I want to use them in quilts, so I have plenty. I think covering his chair will go much quicker since I won't have to quilt the fabric first or make it reversible. But I think I'm over my quilting slump now and ready to get back to "work," so I think that chair will have to wait a bit.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Seventh Thing, Continued

This is a continuation of yesterday's post, so if you haven't read it yet, you might want to scroll down and read it through first.

The hardest thing for me after learning that Mike was a transvestite was not being able to talk to anyone about it. I couldn't talk to family or friends because this was Mike's "secret," although now it was mine too, and I didn't like keeping it. But everyone I knew also knew Mike, so who could I tell? The only person I could talk to was Mike himself.

The whole transvestite issue confused me. Was Mike attracted to men? No, he told me, he definitely wasn't. I asked him to explain to me what the attraction or compulsion was for him to dress like a woman. This was much harder for him to explain, but as best as I could understand it, by dressing like a woman, he could be both a woman and a man. I still didn't understand. Because Mike recognized it as socially unacceptable behavior, he suggested he obtain counseling, and I agreed.

After he attended several sessions, he asked me to accompany him. I certainly felt in need of some counseling myself, so I readily agreed. During the session, however, it became clear that the counselor was working with Mike to help him deal with his feelings and accept himself for who he was, not to try to somehow "cure" him. I know now that people who have gender issues can't be "cured," but back in the mid 1970s and at the age of 18, I believed that counseling would help to make Mike "normal." As far as I was concerned, then, the counseling was a failure. Mike, on the other hand, seemed to think he could suppress his urges and our marriage could continue on as it had.

Unfortunately, our relationship continued to deteriorate in other ways as it became clear we had very little in common. Around that time, Mike turned 21 and started going out to bars with friends in the evenings while I stayed home, and we began drifting even further apart as we spent less and less time together.

Sometime in the fall of 1975, Mike sustained a concussion in a company baseball game and stayed home, under doctor's orders, for a few days. I was working for Mike's dad, and as we were all concerned about the concussion, his dad gave me the afternoon off to go home and take care of Mike. When I arrived home, I found the door locked and chained, and when I called out to Mike, I realized he had chained the door so no one would walk in on him. As I sat on our front stairs, waiting to be let into my home, I realized that nothing had changed and nothing would ever change. I think that was really the end of the marriage. Within a few months, we talked it over and decided to call it quits. We bought a car for me, and I found a job and an apartment and moved out.

Mike and I continued to keep in touch for several months, but our contacts with each other tapered off as we each built new lives. A few years later, I got a call from him about having our marriage annulled through the Catholic Church. He had met another woman and wanted to get married again. I couldn't help but wonder whether he had been honest with her, but I didn't think that was really any of my business. I wasn't even sure if he'd tell me the truth if I asked, so I didn't ask. That was the last time I talked to Mike.

A few years ago, my brother-in-law told me he had run into Mike at their 30-year high school reunion. He said that Mike was no longer "Mike" but had had a sex change operation and was now a woman. It took my brother-in-law a few months to figure out how to break the news to me, but he never knew the background of my marriage to Mike. As you may expect, the news did not come as a complete surprise to me!

I hope "Mike" is happy in his new life. I'm sure the path he followed was a hard one with many obstacles and heartache along the way. I found that "she" has a website and appears to be doing quite well, having gone on to obtain several degrees and establish an engineering business in another state. I briefly considered trying to get in touch but decided that part of my life is long behind me and best left there.

As to me and how I feel about Mike and our marriage, I'm happy to say that my sense of humor is such that I can look back and laugh. It was a traumatic time in my life, and I'm sure it affected me in some ways I don't even realize, but I moved on, as we all do, and eventually met and married my current husband and built a different life.

So, now I've told you seven things you didn't know about me. I won't tag anyone with this meme since it's been going around awhile, but I'd welcome hearing about you. If you read my blog and have any comments or decide to take up the "seven things" meme, let me know so I can learn about you!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Seventh Thing

I bet you were wondering if I'd ever get around to telling you the seventh--and final--thing about me that you didn't know. What's that you say? You forgot all about the fact that I hadn't finished my list? Well, I didn't forget--I was just saving it until I had a little more time to write. So here it is:

7. My first husband is now a woman.

Pretty weird, huh? Yeah, I thought so too, but I wasn't as shocked to find out as my brother-in-law expected me to be.

I met my first husband--we'll call him Mike, since that's not his name anymore anyway--when I was 16 and in my junior year in high school. I had gone with a friend and her boyfriend to a party at someone's house. None of us really knew the person having the party, but back in those days, if someone was having a party, half the kids in the city would hear about it and half of those would show up. And it was a pretty big city. During the course of the party, I met Mike and we started dating.

Mike was a fairly big guy at 6 feet tall and weighing 170 pounds. He graduated from high school the year before and had been working for his father, doing drafting work and helping to collect statistical data for environmental impact reports. He was renting an apartment with his cousin, and his motorcycle was his main form of transportation. I thought the motorcycle was pretty cool, and we took long rides into the Santa Cruz mountains and along the highways and byways of the Bay Area. Mike also loved to play his guitar and would occasionally serenade me with his music.

Sometime around the beginning of my senior year, Mike and I got engaged. As an engagement present, Mike bought me my first sewing machine. We set a June wedding date, and we were married two weeks after I graduated from high school; about a month before I turned 18. The marriage was to last just less than two years.

During that time, Mike got a job with a company that built custom conveyor systems for food manufacturers; for instance, Nabisco was one of his clients. His job involved designing and drawing up specifications for the production of those systems--something that seems quite complicated given the fact that Mike learned all his drafting and engineering skills in high school and in working for his father, but he was very good at what he did. Before we divorced, he had gotten interested in electronics and was taking a correspondence course. I had taken a job with a law firm before graduating from high school, but that only lasted about eight months before I decided it wasn't the job for me. After that, I worked on and off for my father-in-law.

Mike was also interested in hiking and camping and would drag me along on camping trips every so often. Backpacking, which was just becoming popular at the time, was something he enjoyed and I did not, but we would occasionally backpack into someplace and camp. Mike really enjoyed the outdoors and wanted to get into surveying work, although most of the jobs were through the State, and the State wasn't hiring.

I mentioned before that I first met my current husband at church when I went to mass where Mike played guitar with the "other Mike," who is now my brother-in-law. For the most part, playing at mass was the extent of Mike's musical outlet, although every now and then, he would get together with other musicians and "jam." A short time into our marriage, I began to hate that guitar! As a wedding gift, Mike's parents had given us money, presumably to start building a savings account to buy a house eventually. Mike used that money to buy an electric guitar and amp. I think that's where the resentment started, but it was fueled by the fact that his attention to his music meant less attention to me. On one memorable occasion, I was in bed, sick with the flu. And I mean the "real" flu--not just a stomach bug. Every part of me hurt, including my skin. I was running a high fever. That afternoon, Mike brought a friend home, and they hooked up their guitars to the amp and started jamming. That was pretty much the last straw for me with Mike's music.

We lived in a two bedroom apartment, and the second bedroom was set up with a drafting table and other equipment that Mike used in his work. Oftentimes, he would bring projects home which he would work on in the spare bedroom in the evenings or on weekends. About a year after we married, I woke up in the night to use the bathroom. As I walked down the hallway, I passed by the other bedroom, where I expected Mike to be working. Instead, I saw what appeared to be a woman in the room. I continued down the hall, attempting to process what I had just seen and make some sense of it. I remember thinking that it might be best if I just stayed in the locked bathroom the rest of the night, in denial. Maybe it had just been a bad dream? Before long, though, Mike came knocking at the door, and I had to come out.

We talked that night, and I learned Mike was a transvestite. What I saw on my trip down the hallway was Mike dressed in a wig, a mini skirt, and platform heels. That explained a few things--like why I would sometimes find buttons missing from my clothes and things moved around in my drawers! I'm not sure how he hid it from me so well for so long, although he said he fought his urge to "dress up" much of the time. Although I was only 18, I don't think I was naive for my age, but I also don't think I realized then the wide variety of sexual behaviors in the world. Looking back, I think it was at this point in my life that I realized I was a grown-up with grown-up problems, and I needed to make some decisions about my future.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Bacon, Eggs, and Whales

Me and breakfast don't get along very well. I usually have to sneak up behind it on tiptoe. First I have to lull it into a false sense of security, waiting until it thinks the time for danger has long passed. Even then, I can only grab onto a bit of it, allowing the rest to escape.

What am I talking about? For many years now, my stomach has rebelled at eating much in the morning. I'm not one to believe it's a good idea to skip breakfast altogether, but I usually try to eat something light--an English muffin; a bowl of cereal; or maybe, at most, a slice of toast and a scrambled egg. Even then, I don't usually eat until I've been up for a couple hours. I've been told that this happens to a lot of people who have had their gallbladders removed; I don't know for a fact that my missing gallbladder's the culprit, but it sure makes it difficult sometimes.

My husband, on the other hand, absolutely LOVES to go out to breakfast and rarely has the chance. About once or twice a year, I'll make the effort to go out to breakfast with him, and then suffer the consequences the rest of the morning. Now, I understand that a reasonable person with even a pinch of self-restraint would just go out and order something like an English muffin. That's all well and good except for two things: I have absolutely no self-restraint (just look at my fabric stash if you don't believe me!) and I really DO like breakfast foods. A lot. Potatoes with bacon, onions, and green peppers are one of our favorite simple dinners. We have omelets for dinner about once a month. Pancakes or waffles may appear on the dinner table from time to time. And for some perverse reason, I have no problem eating these foods at dinner time. Breakfast is another matter.

My husband told me today that his sister, his brother, and his brother's new wife want us to join them for breakfast on Sunday. Don't cha just hate that? So do I go and suffer? Not go? Go and pretend that I can just order an English muffin when everyone around me is eating good stuff? Why do people want to get out of the house that early anyway? As far as I'm concerned, leaving the house before noon on any day that's not a work day is just absolutely asking for trouble. What's wrong with people?!

I'd kind of like to see my brother-in-law and his new wife. My brother in law--a real man's man who's spent most of his 50 years hunting and fishing--finally met his match. This gal snagged him and reeled him up to the altar as easily as he'd reel in a trout. Naida--and I'm not sure I'm even spelling her name right--is originally from somewhere in South America. They met at a bar where she liked to go watch karaoke so she could read the words and learn English. True story. Turns out she'd never been fishing before, but now she's taken to it like a duck to water, so they're coming up here to do some fishing this weekend with my father-in-law.

And what does this have to do with whales? Not a whole lot unless my brother-in-law and his lovely bride end up catching one, but the possibility is there, since we have a mom and her baby swimming around one of our local rivers. Rumors are that they came to talk to AH-nold about the environment, little realizing that he spends most of his time in Los Angeles. It's kind of odd to know we have a couple whales swimming around the city, 70 miles away from where they're supposed to be. Remember my post about bridges and that one I really, really hate that goes up about a mile into the sky before coming down on the other side of the river? I guess maybe the engineer who designed that baby knew we'd be accommodating whales. Scientists are gathering here in Sacramento to help return the whales to the ocean, serenading them with recordings of other whales. And if that fails, there's talk about mustering up a flotilla of watercraft to herd them back to the sea. Personally, though, I kind of suspect that if we got my brother-in-law and my new sister-in-law out to the river to sing karaoke, those whales would head back home, away from the crazy early-rising, breakfast-eating, singing humans without a backward glance!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Want to Make a Great Sandwich?

Does that look good? It's one of our favorites--my own chicken salad sandwich concoction. My husband LOVES them--in fact, he had to have two when I made them for dinner last night and then complained all night about how full he was. Men!

A month or so ago, I wrote about my Chicken Caesar Salad. I love the convenience of buying already roasted whole chickens. Quite often when I have leftover chicken from either the whole roasted chickens or from something else, I'll make chicken salad. You really have to try it. Really. They're the best!


Ingredients (this will be enough for three sandwiches):

1 chicken breast
2 - 3 green onions
1/2 apple
1/4 cup cashews (or other favorite nuts)
1 avocado (preferred but if you have no avocados, you can do without)
2 - 3 tablespoons grated or shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use regular but you can substitute one lower in fat)

Bread, lettuce, tomato, if desired; or you can just serve it on a bed of lettuce with diced tomato as a dinner salad.

Slice, cube, and dice the chicken breast, apple, green onion, cashews, and avocado. Other than the onion, which should be finely sliced, the rest of the ingredients should be about the same size/dice (see photo). No need to peel the apple. I just happened to have my sliced tomato on the cutting board but my lettuce was crisping in the fridge.

Combine cut up ingredients in a medium bowl with parmesan and mayo; add a dash of pepper if desired and check to decide whether to add salt. (Generally the parmesan and nuts provide enough salt.) If you don't have avocado in your area, you can substitute packaged guacamole--just spread it on one side of the bread or mix it in with the rest of the chicken mixture, depending on the consistency of the guacamole. Pile the chicken salad mix on your bread (I like the nutty/grainy varieties best but any will do) and top with lettuce and tomatoes. Sometimes I toast the bread, but I prefer it fresh and soft; of course, it's up to you!

I hope you try this sometime and enjoy it as much as we do!

Quilting Slump Update

First of all, I'd like to thank all of you who took the time to offer me some suggestions for getting over the slump I'm in. I'm really not able to sit around and do nothing--it just makes me crazy to feel like I'm wasting time! The last few evenings, my husband's been watching me watch TV, and every time he catches my eye, he asks, "Are you okay?" or "Is everything alright?" Obviously I'm driving him crazy too! So I started thinking along the lines some of you suggested about doing something different. I know you'll probably think my idea of "different" is pretty funny, but it occurred to me there was a little "home dec" project I had wanted to get to but had put off, and maybe that would be the solution.

Some months back, my office replaced our older secretarial chairs because the upholstery had worn through. Just about all of the chairs were still in great shape otherwise. Not long ago, we were told that if we wanted any of the chairs, we could have them free of charge. I brought two home; one for my husband to sit on in the garage when he's creating his weird craft projects and one for me for quilting. Everything adjusts--the height of the seat back, the arms, the height of the chair itself; you can set it to rock or remain stationary; and you can tilt the seat. I'm sure there are other adjustments I've forgotten. Here's one of them--yes, I know it's still pretty dusty, but I'll fix that:

My idea is to make quilted, reversible covers for the seat and chair back. So, it's still quilting, which is the part that's funny, but it's kind of a no-brainer and I think I'll have some fun with it. And I don't even have to switch machines since the Juki is still set up for quilting the Jo Morton quilt. I've pulled out the fabric I bought for this project and I also pulled more from my stash for the reversible side. I decided I should probably prewash the fabrics since the final fit will be important. I'll make the seat cover similar to an ironing board cover with a drawstring to tighten it under the cushion. I think I'll just make the chair back to be pulled down to cover the front and back, and I'll have an opening in the back that can be adjusted somehow--I'm playing with the idea of having it lace up--I thought that might be kind of pretty.

So that little project is begun, and in the meantime, I managed to work up a little enthusiasm for appliqueing my last two baskets of the quilt top I showed you in my last post. I still want to add something in the setting squares and triangles, but I'm fresh out of ideas, so I've put that back on my quilt rack for some other time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quilter's Block

No deep thoughts today--at least not from me. I welcome any deep thoughts or ideas from you though because I have a problem. I'm in a slump. I'm not sure if it's just a quilting slump or a life slump, but it's feeling more like a quilting slump. After my dad died a few weeks back, I know I was experiencing a life slump for a week or so, but after this past weekend, I'm feeling a little better about things, but darn it! I just can't seem to get very enthusiastic about quilting!

Here are the two projects I'm actively working on now--or maybe "actively working" isn't quite right; "actively ignoring" would be more accurate. Or maybe "actively staring at." Hummm. One is the Jo Morton quilt and it really just needs the border quilted and some quilting inside the appliqued parts. After that, just trimming and binding. I think I want a feather in the border, but can I manage to sit my rear end down and just DO it? No! I've just been looking at the darn thing for two days now.

My other project is adding applique to this basket quilt. I have two more baskets to "fill" and then I need to decide if I want applique in the setting squares and if so, what. Last night I sat on the couch and watched TV. Could I be bothered to pick this thing up and do anything to it? No! Two feet away from me and I just ignored it.

Once I get the Jo Morton quilt done, I can change out my sewing machines and get the Bernina back up on the table where she belongs and do a little piecing. I wondered whether maybe a little retail therapy would jolt me back into quilting mode--kind of like the paddles they zap you with when you're having a heart attack. Nah, not even the thought of shopping excited me. Besides, I have these little goodies waiting for me--an array of squares, strips, and fat eighths of the Chelsea Boutique fabric and charm packs and yardage from the newest Thimbleberries line, Sangria Sunset.

So what do you think? Will this slump just pass on its own? Should I not even think about quilting and take a couple days "off"? Or should I just have at it and hope the enthusiasm comes back? Has this happened to you? It's driving me nuts! I think I'll have a lot of time to quilt this coming weekend; maybe if I can just get myself to finish quilting the Jo Morton quilt, I can tempt myself with the promise of starting something new with one of my little piles of gems. What do you think? Help!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sometimes Rejection is GOOD!

When is rejection a good thing? When you check your local court's website and read: "Your group is not needed. Your service is complete. You do not have to check back." Yippeeee!

As you may guess, I was on call for jury duty this week. I work as a legal secretary and would LOVE to serve on a jury, but my involvement with the system thus far has been the mind numbing experience of sitting all day long in the jury lounge. I think I've had jury duty about five times before; once in the federal court and the other times at the state court level. In each instance, I wasn't even sent to a courtroom as a potential juror. I left home today prepared with a little hand applique project, quilting magazines, and a book, but they'll stay in my car until I go home tonight. I think maybe I'll need to buy a lottery ticket on the way home--obviously luck is with me today!

The Wild Child

My Wild Child came home for the weekend, bringing her camera with her and asking me to download her photos. She lives in the Tahoe area and has enjoyed a wonderful winter of snowboarding. Although the snow hasn't been as heavy as they would have liked AND it arrived late this year, she was finally able to take advantage of one of the ski resorts and get her share of time in on the slopes. Unfortunately, last year she didn't have a snowboard, but I'll tell you a little bit about that later.

For her birthday in February, her boyfriend took her on a drive south to the Mono Lake area. They did some hiking and relaxed in pools fed by natural springs. I think she does pretty well with photography, particularly given the fact that she has a fairly inexpensive camera. We had given her the camera for Christmas; my husband had picked it up through his work in connection with a manufacturer's promotion. I'd love to see what she could go with a better camera, but I'm afraid she'd lose it. She's gone through two cell phones in the past year: the last one was lost somewhere in a snowbank and the one before that ended up at the bottom of Lake Tahoe. The photos below were taken on that trip. I won't share with you the photo of her topless in the natural springs. Or the one of her mooning the camera on a snow-covered slope. She says she thinks that one would make a good Christmas card. I just hope grandma's not on her Christmas list!

We've been keeping a close eye on this boyfriend, and so far, so good. He's about ten years older than she is, and although he's definitely the adventurous type, he seems to take good care of her and treats her well. Quite a change from the Boy From Hell who brought her to Tahoe in the first place. I think she started seeing him on the rebound from the boyfriend before that. I'll go back a little, so it makes some sense.

When she was a sophomore in high school, the Wild Child began seeing Justin. They spent most of their time together except when she was working as a waitress at an ice cream parlor and when Justin was working in his dad's motorcycle shop or off with his buddies, messing around with cars. The Wild Child is a very emotional being and their relationship was very tumultuous; she's not one to suffer in silence. Over the years, they broke up several times but always got back together again. Two weeks before my daughter's 21st birthday, Justin lost control of his motorcycle, hit a tree, and died. It was particularly traumatic for my daughter; they were broken up at the time, although she and the rest of us thought they would resolve their differences and resume the relationship eventually. Now that would never happen.

Within four or five months of Justin's death, the Wild Child met the Boy from Hell. Although this kid seemed very nice and respectful, over the course of time, we learned he was anything but. In November of that year, he and my daughter moved to Tahoe where he had grown up. We later learned that he had a problem with drugs and alcohol, although we--and she--didn't realize it at the time. My daughter has always been good about managing and saving her money, and when they moved to Tahoe, she bought a new-to-her 4WD SUV. She still needed a few things to set up housekeeping, but with our help and a few cast-offs, she was able to furnish a small, one-room cottage. She got a job waitressing at a nearby casino, and things were going fairly well. The BFH got a job at the same casino but lost the job after two weeks. Because he didn't have a car, he would use hers, driving her to and from work. Before long, there were several times when he failed to pick her up after work, and my daughter was forced to get a ride from a friend or walk home late, late at night. Eventually they began arguing, and one night, he stranded her at work again. When she got home, she found he had taken all of her things--TV, snowboard, cell phone, car, and anything else he could carry. Some of the things were sold by him--including her snowboard--and some she was able to recover. A month or so later, he persuaded her to take him back. I guess we're all gullible at some point in our lives, and this was her time. Within weeks, the same behavior occured again. This time, not only did he take her things, but he spun out in the snow, scraping her SUV over rocks and boulders and abandoning the car on the highway. By now, he was driving without a license, so he fled the scene. Then he called her at work and told her where she could find her car. The car had to be towed and was not driveable. Through an insurance snafu, it was uninsured as well. It took my daughter a year to save up the money necessary for the repairs and to put her life back in order, but I think she learned a valuable lesson. I know this boy has tried several times to convince her to take him back but she's not buying it. One of his most memorable attempts was when he told her his father had been decapitated in an automobile accident and he had inherited half his father's business and his house in the Santa Cruz area. The Wild Child was less than impressed and told him that money had nothing to do with why they weren't together. A few weeks later, the boy's father called, looking for his son--this is the guy who was presumably decapitated. Oh, did that provide endless material for jokes! The Wild Child has a wonderful wit and a dry delivery. And at least she can laugh about it now.

In any event, this BFH is now out of her life and she's moved on. Both she and her current boyfriend are hesitant to commit to any long term relationships; apparently he's also had his share of unfortunate experiences. But they seem good for each other for the time being.

It was nice to have the Wild Child at home. There were times over the last few years when I hoped she would move back, but she insisted on standing on her own two feet and rebuilding her life. For the past year, she's been talking about saving up money to travel around the country with her dog, Rocky, beginning sometime in 2009. This child is the one who turns my hair gray, but she's also the one who's doing the kind of things that I didn't have the courage to do back in the 70s when I was her age. Yes, she's wild and I worry about her, but I love her and admire many things about her too.

I still owe you all one more thing you didn't know about me, and that's coming soon--I didn't want you to think I had forgotten!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Survivor: Fiji

Yau Man Credo: "Love many, trust few, do wrong to none."

Yes, I watch Survivor. It's one of two reality shows I watch regularly; the other is The Amazing Race. My husband used to make fun of me for watching until he sat down and watched for the first time a couple years ago. Now he's a big fan too.

One of the appeals of the show for me is that I can watch it while quilting--there's no involved plot to follow. The other appeal is in watching the way humans interact in an isolated but competitive setting. Interestingly enough, one of the participants said something about the experience being similar to being out in the real world, working in a business setting: It's not always the smartest or strongest who get ahead. I admit I hadn't really thought of it in those terms.

If you didn't watch Survivor this season, you'll probably have little idea what I'm talking about, but if you did, perhaps you'll have an opinion or a comment. The huge upset/surprise for me this season was when Dreamz went back on his promise to give Yau-Man the immunity necklace, thereby eliminating Yau-Man from the game. When that happened, I was so angry I almost turned the TV off. Almost.

I've read a number of different opinions on this development, but as I see it, Dreamz did nothing more than shoot himself in the foot and prevent someone from winning who deserved to win. I can't imagine Dreamz would have thought he'd have a chance with the jury by going back on his word, so what was the point? Had he kept his word and given Yau immunity, he would have been a role model to others. Many of the more personable Survivors from the past, even if they didn't win the $1 million, go on to do fairly well through commercials, endorsements, or other business deals. Dreamz' decision to renege on his promise to Yau surely guaranteed that there wouldn't be anything offered to him along those lines in his future. So now he has a $60,000 truck and no credibility; and, if there's any fairness in this world, he'll be stuck paying the taxes on the truck. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy!

I've read a couple comments on different venues suggesting that the "contract" between Yau and Dreamz is enforceable in court. I think one of the things people forget is that the "contract" was not entered into in the U.S., so U.S. law would not apply, and Survivor may well have had their own rules covering such contingencies that the contestants agreed to ahead of time.

I've also read that since Survivor is a game, Dreamz was justified in doing whatever he had to do to win the money. Okay, granted that one of the elements of Survivor is to trick and manipulate people, but I've noticed that many of those who win do so because they are essentially as honorable as it's possible to be under the circumstances. When is it okay to cheat in a game, anyway? In my mind, there are times when it's acceptable to be less than honest in a game. One instance that comes to mind is when you know your opponent has made a mistake or overlooked something, and it's to your advantage to say nothing. To me, that's okay. Cheating is not okay. I certainly don't want to play cards with someone who's stacking the deck. I don't want to play Monopoly with someone who's pulling money out of the "bank" when I'm not watching. I don't think I can tell you exactly what I think of Dreamz without using a lot of words that aren't fit to print, but you can believe I'm thinking them in my head!

While I don't dislike Earl and think that out of the three remaining contestants, he was the best choice, I still can't help but think Yau Man should have been the one claiming the $1 million. I hope that life rewards him somehow for being one of the most likeable and honorable Survivor contestants in some time.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day 2007

This Mother's Day is different than the others that have come before it. This Mother's Day is not just about me. This Mother's Day, it's been about my own mom more than myself.

In years past, my parents lived too far away to make visits on Mother's Day convenient or possible. Those of you who read my blog know my father passed away a few weeks ago, and I didn't want my mom to spend "her" day alone. Yesterday, I drove up to Oroville to pick her up and bring her home with me. My gift today from my husband was to take her back home, while I enjoy a little "me" time.

To tell you the truth, I was dreading the weekend. The loss of my father was too fresh. My brother and his wife were coming up yesterday to spend time with my mom. My kids were going to be in and out and would be here for brunch today. The plans and arrangements that needed to be made seemed somehow overwhelming, and I visualized the weekend as chaotic.

My mother and I have had a difficult relationship over the years. She's an alcoholic, and that has overshadowed all our lives. Looking back at some of the things she did, they now seem pretty funny. Like the time I brought a boyfriend home for Thanksgiving dinner and she served his turkey onto the plate that she couldn't hold steady, and it slid right off onto the floor. Then there were other things she did that were just downright odd. Like when she babysat our son. When I picked him up after work one evening, I found her feeding him sour cream--just plain sour cream from a spoon. The thing that affected me most, though, were the mean, hypercritical things she said to me as I was growing up and later when I was an adult. Being a mother myself, I don't understand how a mother could treat her child as she treated me, but I know the alcohol changed her in many ways. It's taken me many years to forgive her, but now I think I do.

As it turned out, the weekend was really wonderful. I enjoyed the drive with my mom, talking about this and that, including my dad, all the way home. My brother and his wife pulled up to the house just as we got home, and after visiting for awhile, the five of us--my husband included--went out to a late lunch at Mimi's, where the food was good and the company was enjoyable. While everyone else went back to our house, I took my mom to an art store where I bought her some supplies so she can get back into her sketching and painting--something she enjoyed when she was younger and is interested in doing again. I hope it will give her something to occupy her time and her mind now that she is alone. By the time we got home, my mom was tired out, but we all sat on the patio and talked for another hour or two before my brother and his wife got back on the road home. For the first time since my father passed away, my mom seems to have gotten a long and restful sleep.

This morning I fixed brunch, and my kids arrived. We all ate on the patio, where the weather was beautiful. My mom expressed an active interest in all that my children have been involved in, and they, in turn, were patient with her. It truly warmed my heart.

Now my mom is on her way home, and I hope she's taking with her wonderful memories of the Mother's Day weekend she spent with my family, as I have of her time with us. Sometime over the weekend, it occurred to me that she has almost become MY child. She's frail and needs assistance, although she still retains a certain inner strength that's helping her deal with the loss of her beloved husband.

My Mother's Day wish for all of you moms out there is that you love and nurture your children and show your mom how much you care for and love her. Enjoy "your" day, and always remember to treat those around you with the love they surround you with today. Moms are truly special beings!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bridges and Overpasses and Freeway Interchanges, Oh My!

Before I tell you the sixth thing about me that you didn't know, I just wanted to reassure you all that yesterday's post was a complete and utter fabrication. It was a funny thing but after I posted, I received outraged telephone calls, letters, and e-mails. Social invitations were revoked. The truth of the matter is that I have never in my whole entire life ever passed gas. So you can all rest assured that I truly am the perfect being you all thought I was.

Okay, maybe I'm not quite perfect because I do have a peculiarity. A tiny little fear. Just a little niggling worry. Yep, I'm fibbing again--it's actually a huge terror. I'm really bothered (to put it mildly) about driving over bridges, BIG, tall overpasses, and some freeway interchanges. It's kind of a fear of heights in a way, except I can stand on the edge of something high up and not be bothered as long as there's some kind of barrier between me and a fall to my death. When I'm traveling over a bridge or some overpasses, I have a sensation that I'm not in control of the car and once it reaches the top, it will just take off like an airplane. Or the steering will fail and I'll plunge over the side. Or something.

It's really not reasonable, and I know that, but I can't talk myself out of it. I've wondered whether I'm anticipating a bridge or overpass ahead of time and getting myself worked up before hand, but there have been many times when I don't even think about it until I find myself in the middle of one and suddenly the panic sets in. I can even panic suddenly while driving across the same overpass I travel each day without a twinge of discomfort. And it seems the older I get, the worse it is--I never had this fear when I was young.

That photo at the top is the Coronado Bridge in San Diego. I was on it once, and my husband was driving. I had to keep my eyes closed the entire way. My family thinks it's funny; I think it's funny when I put laxatives in their food. Same result, pretty much.

Living in Sacramento isn't a great thing for someone who doesn't like bridges, since we're located at the confluence of two major rivers, the American and the Sacramento. Luckily (although many who live here feel otherwise), we don't have a whole lot of bridges across the rivers. There is one bridge on Interstate 80 that goes over the Sacramento River, and why they had to build that darn thing so high, like McDonald's golden arches, I have no idea. It's not like we get the Queen Mary passing under the dang thing!

I really thought I was alone in this weird fear, but I've seen several times recently where Judy has posted about the same fear, and many readers have commented that they share the feeling. Sometimes, it's just good to know you're not the only freak on the planet! Judy even takes people with her when she knows she has to travel over a particularly scary bridge. When I can, I take my husband. Today, I'm traveling up to Oroville to pick up my mom and bring her here for the Mother's Day weekend; my husband will stay home and do some things that need to get done around here. I have to cross a few bridges and overpasses, but none are too scary. I'll look forward to stopping in Marysville at Starbucks for my latte though--that's the half way point and I'll get a little rest from bridge-crossing!

Do any of you share this insanity? Leave me a comment if you do--misery loves company! And if you don't, do you want to come drive me around? Have a great Saturday and stay away from bridges!

Friday, May 11, 2007

And Another Thing . . .

Okay, brace yourself for the fifth thing you didn't know about me.

5. Garlic gives me gas.

Shhh! It's not something I tell just anyone! And I'm willing to bet that whoever came up with this 7 Things meme really didn't think she or he would elicit this kind of confession, but you're all my close, personal friends now, having gotten to know me so much better in reading about the first four things, so I feel I can be honest with you. And really, the only reason I bring this up today is because I made garlic bread last night, so it's something that's been on my mind a bit.

It seems the older I get, the harder it is to just enjoy a good meal without worrying about the consequences. Just a couple months ago . . . . well, it's kind of embarrassing, but since we're such good friends and all, I'll tell you if you promise not to tell anyone.

My husband and I had gone to bed for the night, and he was sound asleep, snoring away, while I was reading. I guess I had eaten something garlicky that night because I was having a little bit of a problem. Still, I didn't think my husband would notice in his sleep, but I was wrong. Suddenly the snoring stopped and he sat bolt upright in bed and asked, "What was that?" You have to understand that my husband has a bit of a preoccupation with the sound of gun fire, but that's another story. Suffice it to say, he's not a real sound sleeper; me, on the other hand, wouldn't wake up if someone broke into the house and fired a shot into my pillow. Anyway, I guess he was a little confused by the sudden loud noise. When he figured out what had woken him out of his snoring-punctuated sleep, he said something like, "Oh, jeez," and started laughing. Then I started laughing. Every time one of us would stop laughing and it would get quiet for a few seconds, the other would start right back up. Guys are good like that. If it had been the other way around, him waking me up, I would have been pissed!

And speaking of garlic and marriage and stuff like that, see that billboard in the background of the photo? Christopher Ranch? They grow and ship minced, chopped, and whole garlic all over the country from their ranch in Gilroy, California. The ranch is owned and run by father Don and son Bill. Every time I see those little jars in the produce section of the grocery store, I pound my head against the wall, rent my clothing, and lament the fact that I didn't happen to snag Bill when we were in high school together. Dang! I could have hooked up with a rich family! Okay, probably not. He was a popular jock who just happened to be cute, smart, and motivated too. Which is pretty much the opposite of my high school self in every way but the smart part. In any event, I'm sure with this gas thing I'm plagued with, I would have been kicked out of the family anyway. Something like that probably wouldn't make for good PR.

Kathleen's Doll Quilt

A little more eye candy, because I can't just keep boring you with my stories!

This is a pattern by Jo Morton for the Jo's Little Women Club that I finished last night while watching Survivor and Grey's Anatomy. I'm sure now that the TV season is coming to an end, my quilting will suffer. Or maybe not. With our satellite TV, I'll still have a gazillion shows to watch while I quilt. Maybe I'll find some good documentary type stuff and dazzle you all periodically with some of the important things I learn, like that one the other day about how the prostitutes in the old days would cover their beds with tarps to protect their quilts from damage by overly enthusiastic cowboys. Who says TV rots your brain? Don't you just love history?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Two Truths and a Lie

Have you ever played Two Truths and a Lie? My first experience with this game was when my husband and I were traveling through Oregon and made plans for dinner at the Table of Content restaurant located inside the Sylvia Beach Hotel, near Newport, Oregon. This is a wonderful place to stay and/or eat if you're in the mood for a quirky, charming experience. The restaurant serves a four-course, fixed price dinner, family-style, with tables usually seating 8 to 10 people. The owner, Goody Cable, started playing Two Truths and a Lie to entertain her guests and break the ice, so that strangers dining together began to interact. Each "player" starts out making three statements, two of which are true and one of which is a lie. It's up to the other diners to ask questions and determine which statements are true and which is not. Interesting stories are told, and you begin to learn a bit about the others at your table.

I next played it with my online quilting group a year or two ago. Our group is small, and over the years, we've gotten to know one another fairly well, so it was a little tough coming up with two truths and a lie that would stump them. A few people guessed correctly but most did not. My lie? I said that 20 years ago, I ran the California Marathon which runs through our city. Definitely a fib! Heck, I don't even run for a good fabric sale!

This Seven Things meme brought the game to mind, so I'll tell you my two truths as numbers three and four on my list of seven things.

3. I first met my husband in church.

This really stumped some of my friends who were amazed at the idea of me attending church. About the closest I get these days is watching Mysteries of the Bible on Sunday morning while I quilt. But at one time, I did attend church on a regular basis. My first husband Mike played guitar every chance he could, and one of the places he played was at Sunday morning folk mass. Much as I didn't enjoy dragging myself out of bed at the crack of dawn (8 a.m.) and getting dressed up for church (because you had to back then), I faithfully attended mass each Sunday and watched Mike play guitar with another musician, also named Mike. One day, I was introduced to the "other Mike's" family--a large, friendly Irish Catholic bunch consisting of a mom, dad, and their six offspring. The "other Mike" was the oldest; his slightly younger brother (11 months younger, an apparently common occurrence I've heard referred to as "Irish twins") eventually became my second husband, but I don't really remember him particularly. I probably wasn't fully awake yet--that's the way it is with anything that happens before noon in my little world. I know I met the family and he remembers meeting me, so odd as it seems, it's true!

4. I'm an award winning writer.

Okay, just a bit of backtracking. The point of Two Truths and a Lie is to tweek the truth just a bit so it become less believable--hence this particular "fact" about me. Yes, it's true. When I was in the third grade, I wrote an essay on fire prevention and won first place for our area. I received $25 in prize money (practically a fortune in those days, which I promptly blew on Barbie doll stuff) and I got to attend an award banquet with the school's principal. I've always enjoyed writing, and maybe that's because of my early brush with fame. (Oh, and did I mention there was a photo of me and write up in the newspaper?!)

So now you know a little more about me. Have I bored you to tears yet? I still have three more things to tell you about me, but those will wait until another day.