Thursday, December 31, 2009

Red Tiddly Winks

A couple years ago when I was a little kid, I thought red tiddly winks were the coolest things! The smaller red "winks" were semi-see through while the blue and yellow "winks" weren't. And somehow, the red ones always looked good enough to eat--kind of like they should taste like candy. (They didn't, but that didn't keep me from "testing" them every so often.) I never really saw the point of PLAYING tiddly winks, but I could look at and touch those red tiddly winks for hours!

Now, here it is, a few years later, and I have that very same feeling about this--

Santa's gift that he had the Fat Quarter Shop help him with arrived--the kit for Frosted Windowpanes! Yes, it's a little bit late, having arrived a few days after Christmas, but that doesn't matter one little bit! I could look at and touch these red tiddly winks beautiful fabrics for hours! (And see the card from Santa? How cool is THAT?!)

I almost didn't unwrap the kit though--I kind of liked the way it looked in its shiny cellophane wrapping (and it surely kept me from doing any damage to the fabric in the event I was tempted to lick it to see if it tasted like candy!), but I noticed there was something in the kit that didn't look quite right. Guess what? Santa ALSO sent me a Moda tote!

I guess I WAS a very good girl this year!

I'm also kind of giddy tonight because not only have I ordered several of the books you've recommended, but I decided to make a run to Borders during my lunch hour and buy one--just to get me through until the others arrive in the mail. Somehow by the time I got to the checkout counter, I was carrying THREE books. And while I was being rung up? The cashier told me how good The Piano Teacher was--she just finished it before Christmas. Sheesh! So, here's what came home with me--someone left a comment about The Sugar Queen and it sounded good (besides--there are PEPPERMINTS on the cover!); I've looked at the Historian a few times, and the Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club sounded like it might be a decent book (even if I don't knit):

As far as hobby/pasttime supplies, I think I'm pretty well set for beginning 2010. Gosh, I feel just like I'm holding all the red tiddly winks!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Thank you all so much for the good reading suggestions. It just tickles me to death when so many of you "participate" and leave comments. And if any of you are interested in finding a good book, check yesterday's comments for suggestions as well as a few below.

I had my applique and basket block out and the pieces positioned to work on tonight, but I've realized there's nothing on television I'm interested in watching! So, I think it's early to bed for me with the book I'm reading instead of working on applique.

Elaine mentioned in a comment that when she comes home from work, she's too tired to do much other than collapse, and I've heard the same thing from other people. And who doesn't understand that sort of tiredness? For me, quilting is my "play" time--it re-energizes me. I also think that quilting uses a different part of my brain--the creative side--than what I use all day long at work, so maybe that's the difference for me. I DO find that when I'm between projects, the thought of coming home after a day of work and STARTING something new is awfully daunting, so I'll often put it off. Maybe it's that big step that keeps some of us from quilting after work? Or maybe it's just the press of other duties and chores? But if you come home from work and collapse, and you're not happy with doing that, I'd suggest that after dinner, instead of heading to the couch, head to your sewing place--just for a half hour. A half hour a night isn't that long, and just think how much you can accomplish over the course of a week or a month. But more importantly, I bet you'll find that at the end of a half hour, you're having fun and not ready to stop. And I bet that once you get into a habit of being creative in some way each evening, it will become second nature. And no, I'm not advocating you abandon spouse and children each night. I suspect they won't really miss you in a half hour but if they do, find some hand work you enjoy that you can work on while you socialize with the family--embroidery, applique, working with wool, whatever. But if night time quilting isn't for you, then there's always the weekends for "play"! And on week nights? Well, there ARE books, of course!

Thanks to your suggestions, I've ordered The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Friday Night Knitting Club. I've read a few of the other books mentioned and I've added some to my "wish list" too. Tell me this, though: Have any of you read Olive Kitteridge? I started reading it and was bored to death--I felt like I just didn't "get it," so I set it aside. I think most of all, I didn't really like the characters much. The book is still on my nightstand and I wonder if I should pick it back up and read a little further or take it to the office and give someone else a chance? After all, reviews of the book suggest plenty of people enjoyed it--maybe it's just not for me. What do you think?

Another book I was wondering about: The Time Traveler's Wife. Someone loaned it to me ages ago and I haven't read it. I've heard some good things about it but I was worried it might be a little too Sci-Fi for my reading tastes. Any input?

Now here are a couple recommendations from me for good reading--as you may notice, I enjoy series books. First Will Thomas' series that begins with the book Some Danger Involved. I've mentioned the book before but it's worth mentioning again--kind of Sherlock Holmes meets Wild Wild West. I'm anxiously awaiting the sixth book in the series, but I think it will be a little while. Hubby likes this series too. Check it out.

Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge series that begins with A Test of Wills. The main character is a shell shocked WWI vet who returns to his Scotland Yard job accompanied by an imaginary "friend" of sorts--kind of a dark and quirky series but really well written and thought out. And, oddly enough, I believe this is the series that is written by a woman and her son, but they do it seamlessly!

Finally, along somewhat similar historical and genre lines, there's the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. I like Maisie!

Time now for bath, bed, and book. Oh, and maybe a little hot chocolate too! Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Moving Along . . .

I've been messing around with flowers tonight--I prepped some applique pieces for the baskets and I thought I'd show you.

As far as the design process goes, I took a cue from the floral fabric with the black background that I showed you the other day, and drew a few flowers in keeping with that feel.

I cut the pieces out of freezer paper and laid them out in position on the basket; then I started selecting fabrics for each piece, ironing the fabric to the paper, and basting each piece. I might move the pieces around a bit, but maybe not. Still, at this point these pieces are just roughly positioned.

So far, my plan is to use the same flower designs for each basket but move the flowers into different positions and use different fabrics. I might add another couple flowers to the mix as I go.

Enough of that though. Last week I mentioned going to bed with a good book and someone asked what I was reading. Around this time of the year, when there's a lot to do, I like to read "light" books--books that are entertaining enough but not so much so that I can't put them down to do the things that need to be done. Last week I was reading a Nora Roberts book called Tribute; this week I'm reading a Jonathan Kellerman book called True Detectives. Both are nice books but probably aren't something I'll be thinking about a month from now.

What have you read lately that you can recommend? Now that the holidays are nearly over, I'm ready to pick up something more attention-grabbing. And I really need to update the reading section in my sidebar, but I just haven't been enthusiastic about anything I've read lately. So what's new and good?

Monday, December 28, 2009


Generally speaking, I'm a fairly tidy person. Tamale-making ISN'T a very tidy activity.

I've been making tamales all day long. It's almost 11 p.m. and the last batch is steaming on the stove. We have chicken tamales, pork tamales, and beef tamales. I've made probably something like seven or eight dozen, although I lost count after the first two.

My hands have been working with wet corn husks all day and my fingers are a little prune-like. From working with the masa dough and the cooked tamales, my hands are greasy. I suppose people pay good money to get their hands soft and moist, but I don't like it.

I feel like I have dried bits of masa dough stuck to my arms, here and there up to my elbows. My clothing is streaked with it. I'm wearing my oldest, most tattered clothes because I knew that by the end of the day, I'd be a mess. I held off on taking a bath and washing my hair because everything would just get worse and there was no point.

I probably have dried corn silks hanging from my clothing--maybe not too much of a change from the normal threads! My fingers hurt from tying string around the ends of the tamales (because folding the ends doesn't work for me--I'm just not that good). My neck, back, and shoulders ache.

All in all, I feel good though. My freezer is filled with meals--meals that can be served without much fuss so that I can keep sewing. And you know what? We had tamales for dinner and they're oh so goooooooood!

Time now to go soak in a nice, hot bath and wash off the eau de tamale.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Buildin' Stuff

With Christmas over, I've been buildin' stuff today. Want to know what I've been buildin'? A couple of my favorite things: tamales and a quilt.

Other than tamales and a quilt, I haven't done much today. Oh, I took a nap. So we have tamales, a quilt, and a nap. And I thought to myself, "What would my blog readers want to hear about most?" I figured it was probably the quilt. Had I asked myself, "What would my blog readers want to EAT most?," it would be the tamales, hands down, but I've TALKED about tamales on my blog before, so I'll skip tamales for now and talk about the quilt. I apologize if any of you wanted to hear about the nap. I don't remember much of it.

I thought I'd talk about my quilt design process a little bit. So here's how the magic happens.

I was thinking about red and white quilts the last couple weeks. And then those visions of basket blocks started floating around in my head a few days ago. I often like to start my quilt designing thought processes with traditional blocks.

So I went to my shelf of red fabric and pulled out some happy reds I liked. Then I went to my shelf of white background fabrics and pulled out some white I liked. After that, I thought a little bit about the size and number of blocks I wanted to make, and I pulled out some half square triangle paper. Here's my first step:

Next, I put the red and white half square triangles up on the design wall and figured out what I needed to cut to complete the blocks. I cut the white pieces and added them to the design wall.

Around this time, I decided I would need more room for the handles, so I decided to add additional strips to the top two sides of the blocks. Also around this time, I decided the flowers I was going to add to the baskets were going to be red, pink, teal, and lavender. Because my stash is a little short on pink, teal, and lavender, I ran off to visit Lindy and the gang at Bearpaws & Hollyhocks.

And after a nice little visit, I came home with a yummy looking collection of fat quarters, above. (The teals aren't actually as green as they look here.) And for color inspiration (and very likely borders and setting triangles), I brought home these fabrics too:

Once home, I started sewing some of the basket blocks together. When I put them back up on the design wall, I decided the blocks would probably look best with sashing and cornerstones between them. My eye also caught a length of red rick rack sitting on a desk in the Sweat Shop. Basket handles maybe? Hummmmmm.

So this is where I am so far. Five blocks sewn together; eight blocks still to sew. Sashing and cornerstones to decide on. More rick rack to buy and another trip to Bearpaws and Hollyhocks if rick rack basket handles are decided upon. And? The biggest next step? All the hand applique to design, prep, and sew. Yep, long term building project ahead! But I like it so far.

Tomorrow? More tamale building. Today I made all the fillings; tomorrow I play around with dough and corn husks and assemble dozens of tamales. And those of you who were hoping to see tamales? Just wait--you may get your wish tomorrow.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thank Goodness THAT's Over!

As much as I really and truly love Christmas and all that goes with it--


We spent a mostly relaxing Christmas day, punctuated by a flurry of cooking, followed by some mighty fine eating, and then an adult beverage or two (or three or four) while playing silly games. And I didn't win any of them. They were rigged, I'm telling ya!

So what am I doing this evening? Praying for the decorating elves to come while I sleep and change the decorations from Christmas to "winter verging on Valentine's Day."

In the meantime, those visions of basket blocks floating in my head last night? On their way to being basket blocks stuck up on my design wall. I may need to make a trip to Bearpaws & Hollyhocks tomorrow though--I have needs.

How about you? Was it good for you? I hope so! Now it's on to the next thing--and I have several things planned for the weekend. I think I'll round out Christmas day by taking a nice, warm bubble bath and heading to bed with a good book. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Christmas Eve!

It's Christmas Eve and I find myself at loose ends a bit. There's not much on TV tonight. There's not much to read on blogs but wishes for a merry Christmas. So what do I do with myself?

Everything's ready--in fact, many of our celebrations, get togethers, and gift exchanges are done. The Wild Child won't be able to come for Christmas tomorrow, but we had a nice visit with her last weekend, so we will have to be content with that for now. Soccer Son and his Lovely Wife-to-be-Someday will come tomorrow afternoon to visit and have dinner with us. Dinner will be simple but good--steaks, sauteed mushrooms, green beans, mashed potatoes, and salad. Tonight they're celebrating Christmas with her family.

Oftentimes on Christmas Eve it feels to me like the world is waiting. Waiting for Christmas to arrive. It's quiet. The neighbors across the street are having a party, but still it's quiet in our neighborhood. Hubby is drowsing in his recliner. Spike and Stitch have been asleep on our bed all evening, no doubt dreaming of Santa and the mice they hope he'll leave in their stockings.

My office surprised us by closing early today, so I was able to come home this afternoon and take a nice nap--curled up with the cats! I awoke to a feeling of drowsy contentment and peace.

Tonight I've spent time thinking about the people in my life and how they're spending the holiday. Many will be with friends and family in large celebrations, many will observe the holiday in small, close gatherings, and some will spend the day alone. "Alone" does not have to mean "lonely" though. After all, I think most of us understand we can be "lonely" in a crowded space. Anne Sutton over at Bunny Hill expressed my sentiments about being alone on Christmas perfectly HERE. I DO hope that if you're alone this Christmas, you're still able to find joy and contentment in your heart and occupation for your hands; and if you're not alone but are lonely anyway--I hope you will soon find the time and space to engage in something that brings you joy, particularly if it will also bring you into contact with others.

As for me and my Christmas Eve LACK of plans, it feels like WEEKS since I've been in the Sweat Shop, working on anything other than Christmas gifts. Tonight I have visions of basket blocks floating in my head. I think I'll make myself a cup of hot chocolate and head in. I've told myself the same thing several evenings recently and never carried through because it got too late in the evening, but with the nice nap I had after work today and nothing planned for tomorrow until the afternoon . . . well, I think I'll go wait for Christmas to arrive surrounded by fabric.

Merry Christmas to you and may you find joy and peace during this holiday season!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Not quite "metamorphosis" but partly there. And what am I talking about?

I've mentioned before that I'm not a "girly girl." I'm not into shopping, clothes, make-up, hair. I quilt. I hang around with quilters. Not that quilters are the antitheses of "girly girls"--I'm sure plenty of us like to shop, get dressed up, put on make-up, and mess around with our hair. But when I hang with my home gals, we're quilting; we're not shopping.

Women learn from one another. I know that from quilting. But because I don't do girly-girl things with my girlfriends, I don't often learn about the girl stuff. BUT--shopping with my coworkers in San Francisco a couple weeks ago was a different story. Shopping with girlfriends NOT at quilt shops is something I probably should do more often. Not that shopping in SF was a hugh epiphany, mind you, but sometimes it's the little things that can give you a different perspective. Like when one of the ladies gave me her scarf to wear when I was freezing my patotie off.

Who knew scarves could be so warm? Okay, yes, I DO realize most people know, but oddly enough, I didn't--because I don't like to fuss with accessories, and besides, my neck is about a half an inch long--why would I need a scarf? But now?! Oh, I haven't exactly gone out and bought enough scarves to clothe a giraffe in style, but I have bought two--one black and one white. And now I kind of keep an eye out for scarves when I'm in department stores. Weird.

Then there's color. I wear a lot of black with a couple other colors thrown into the mix. Like gray. Denim blue. Or red sometimes if I'm feeling wild. And maybe it's just rebellion against the gray days of winter, but recently I've purchased a few things in more vibrant colors. Like hot pink. And purple. Don't worry--it's not like I'm going to run out and buy hot pink slacks--I haven't completely lost my mind! But mixing in some brighter colors in shirts and tops is kind of fun.

And you know what I did today?

S-P-A Ped-I-Cure: As I see it, it's a cure for ho-hum feet. Look at that hot pink polish! Maybe I'll do my fingernails too. Wouldn't THAT be wild and daring?! Do you think it's mid-life crisis? Winter blahs? A change in attitude? Well, whatever it is, it's kind of fun!

Now, on to something more interesting than moi: a winner for the Frosted Windowpanes pattern. This time the random number picker (aka Hubby) picked #3, which happens to be Marls. Marls, email me your snail mail address and I'll get it in the mail to you next week. Soon I hope to make the Schnibbles pattern I mentioned, and I'll have another pattern giveaway then, so watch for it!

Another thing about the giveaway--I was quite surprised to see how many of you mentioned birthdays in the comments. My sincere birthday wishes go out to all of you--I just wish I had more patterns to give you! I know it must be hard to have a birthday so close to Christmas, but I hope you've all enjoyed your special day. Boy Boss's birthday is on December 29th, and it's a little bit hard for me to think past Christmas, but luckily we've established a bit of a tradition where I bring him homemade tamales for his birthday each year. So that's what I'll be doing this weekend--making tamales.

Christmas eve is here, and I wish you all the peace and joy of the season. As for me, I'm thinking about how surprised Santa's going to be when he sees my hot pink toe nails!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cat Tales, Etc.

Only two days until Christmas. Are you ready?

Hubby and I went out to enjoy a nice dinner tonight, just the two of us, at our favorite Italian place and to pick up a last gift card. Now we're back home, and it's time to put on some Christmas music, make a cup of hot chocolate, and do a little holiday baking. Things are falling into place and the rush is starting to slow down a bit.

Even the two cats have finally settled into a tentative friendship. Hubby said they played tag much of the day, chasing one another through the house. As Stitch gets older, he's starting to really develop a personality. One of his favorite things is to read blogs!

Whose blog is that? I know I have another photo of him reading Carol's Crafty Creations; maybe that's still Carol's blog. No, he's not actually reading, but he DOES love to watch the cursor move on the screen. Taking a photo this close made his fur look kind of funny, didn't it?

One of Spike's favorite attention-getting tricks is to open the kitchen drawer and pull out all the dish towels. Sometimes, once she's emptied the drawer, she'll crawl in for a little nap. Stinker!

Stitch is quite mischevious and most of his day (and night) is spent playing--here he has one of his purple Roos. They were free with the type of hairspray I use and I collected several before Stitch came along. They're just the right size and weight for him to toss them up in the air, run after them, and then wrestle them into submission.

But when he's not playing, he's a little love bug--cuddling is one of his favorite things, and most mornings I wake to find him cuddled up next to me in bed, either on my pillow, or against my arm or side. He doesn't like to be alone and will follow us from room to room. We let him outside in the backyard the other day for the first time, when Hubby was out there sweeping up some leaves, and what an adventure he had!

Well enough procrastination! It's time to change into "play clothes" and head to the kitchen to bake. I hope your holiday plans are coming together!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Giving Something Back

I always believe that when good fortune comes along, it's best to give a little something back. I think it makes for good karma or at least it brings a little smile to someone's face!

Remember my story about leaving last week's office party with a $40 bribe? I may have told you the follow up story, but I don't think so. The next morning, on my way to work, I went to Noah's Bagels and bought bagels and cream cheese for the office with half my "winnings." How can anyone hate me when I'm feeding them breakfast, right?!

Well, once again good fortune has smiled on me. This afternoon I had an email from Jocelyn at the Fat Quarter Shop, letting me know I was one of the Dear Santa winners and I'd won the Frosted Windowpanes quilt kit. Woo-hooo! Seriously, it came as a HUGE surprise--I didn't really think I had a chance. In fact, I was so CERTAIN I wouldn't win that I had already ordered the pattern, and that package arrived today. So this is what I'm going to do: I'll have a giveaway for the pattern. If you haven't seen it, here's what it looks like:

It looks like the piecing is pretty simple, and the applique isn't too complicated, but yet it makes for a really stunning and elegant quilt, don't you think?! If you might be interested in making this quilt, please leave me a comment, letting me know you want in on the drawing for the PATTERN and I'll put your name in. I'll announce a winner on my Thursday (Christmas Eve) blog post.

I also ordered a Schnibbles pattern using the Glace fabric line and that arrived today too. Once I make that smaller quilt, I'll do another giveaway of the pattern and probably some of the fabric to make it, so if you didn't win at the FQ Shop and don't win the Frosted Windowpanes pattern from me . . . well, maybe you'll get another chance, so check back every so often!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Season's Greetings!

Life here at my house has been hectic during the last several days, and while I ran in and out, attending holiday events and gatherings, mail stacked up on the kitchen table. Tonight I finally had time to relax and look through the holiday gifts and greetings from friends--besides GIVING gifts, I love getting things from my friends, but it's not so much the "getting" part that pleases me so much as it is just hearing from people and knowing that I'm in their thoughts too.

Sometimes I receive gifts from friends and bloggers, and I'm always a little hesitant about whether to show what I've received here on my blog. I don't want to make a big deal of my own good fortune, but at the same time, I DO want to publicly thank these thoughtful people because in may cases, I think they are people you know too, and I want everyone to know how kind they are.

On Friday night, Gran and I went to Manteca for PMS night and there we exchanged holiday gifts. Gran gave me this great bag--it was designed to hold knitting but it will hold stitchery just as well. You may be able to see the ornament hanging on the hook--it's now on the tree in the Sweat Shop. She also gave me some sparkly red floss. What a sweetie Gran is to think of me and pick such a thoughtful gift!

I've known Carol of Carol's Crafty Creations online for several years through a Thimbleberries Yahoo group--I'd love to meet her one of these days, but so far that hasn't happened. Still, I know from meeting other online friends that the friendships we form online are just as strong as those we form with the people we see in person. Carol knows me well enough to know of my lust for all things peppermint this year, and she sent me these salt and pepper shakers and a Christmas towel.

What Carol didn't know is that I nearly bought these twice but reined myself in, and I ALMOST got to steal a pair at one of the gift exchanges, but they'd been stolen several times already by the time my turn came around. The towel is hanging on my peg rack in the kitchen and the salt and pepper shakers are on the shelf over my stove. Thank you Carol!

Another friend from the Thimbleberries group is Eileen of My Quilting Porch. Eileen and I HAVE met in person several times and we email each other a few times a day. Eileen sent me this roll of Buggy Barn star fabric and two charm packs of 1800 reproduction fabrics--all excellent choices! She was even sweet enough to include a gift for Hubby--a metal rod that extends, is magnetic, and lights up at the tip to find objects in dark places so he can pick them up.

Besides gifts, I received several Christmas cards from friends I haven't seen lately. I truly treasure these. My friend Liz moved to Colorado in August and I miss seeing her at the quilt shop and classes--Hey Liz! Maybe I can find a hot air balloon and come visit! I also received a card and gift card from a student and fellow teacher I've known for several years--what a happy surprise to know she's thinking of me this holiday season!

I believe the biggest gift of the holiday season lies in knowing we've made an impression on and touched others' lives in a positive way. And so I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have left thoughtful comments on my blog this past year, because you've touched my life too!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My, You Have Big Red Balls, . . .

and green balls and gold balls (you can kind of see a little bit of a gold one there near the bottom of the photo).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Today was filled with Christmas activities. Last night, the Wild Child drove west from Tahoe and spent the night with us so she could attend the extended family Christmas get together today.

It's always fun to see her! Around noon, Hubby's family gathered at his parents' house for a Christmas lunch and gift exchange. Someone (my niece, I believe) thought grandma needed a roach clip. Apparently they sold these at the Santa shop at the kids' school. (Okay, yes, it's actually intended to hold a photo, but being a child of the 60s/70s, whenever I see an alligator clip, I think "roach clip." I sure got grandma worried when I mentioned it to her too! And you should have seen the looks on my sister-in-law's and brother-in-law's faces when I congratulated them on the inspired gift selection! Oh what fun!)

Today's gift exchange was yet another of the "steal the gift" variety--here's one of the baskets I put together--I called this a "Night of Celebration" and it contained a bottle of the red Christmas glog, some nuts, chocolate truffles, "diamond" confetti, Irish cheese ('cause the family's Irish, you know!), and a couple of drink glasses.

I think grandma and grandpa ended up with this basket. Grandma and grandpa rock! Hey, it's no mystery why they had SIX kids!

Grandpa likes a little cake with his whipped cream.

After Christmas with the family ended, we headed home to recharge a little bit, and then I went back out to meet up with my friend Lisa and her family to look at Christmas lights and decorations. I really LOVE looking at lights, but I've missed it the last several years because I had other things going on. Hubby doesn't really enjoy it, so I asked Lisa if I could tag along tonight and she very graciously agreed.

Our first stop was a well-known Sacramento area location called Dovewood Court in Orangevale. We parked a few blocks away and walked. Each and every house in the court is decorated--I took a photo of this "over the top" garage.

After Dovewood, we headed toward the downtown Sacramento area, and visited another section of streets that are highly decorated for the holiday. Somehow photos just don't do these decorations justice--for one thing, they can't catch the magic of the lights. This house, though, looked awfully cute with cut out reindeer and Santa's sleigh, a moon on top of the house, and those HUGE jingle bell balls strung from the trees.

The sidewalks in this area are lined with these lighted arches and it's quite pretty!

The last area we visited is an area known as the Fabulous Forties, where many of Sacramento's nicest older homes can be found. In fact, the homes themselves are so marvelous that even blow-up decorations look terrific! This time we stayed in the car, so I didn't get photos.

At the end of the evening, we went to Rick's Dessert Diner for coffee and treats--the small restaurant was packed with patrons of the Nutcracker ballet and other local entertainments. I'm quite certain that any calories depleted by walking and shivering in the chilly Sacramento night air were replaced at Rick's! Yum!

Tomorrow? Sleeping in! Then house cleaning--I want to make sure Santa has a nice, clean house to visit when he arrives in just a few more days! Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Misfit at the Ladybug's Party

Last night was PMS Night at LADYBUG'S QUILT SHOP in Manteca, and it presented us--Gran, Orcsmom (Pam), Colleen (No-Blog), and me--an excellent opportunity to get together for a little gal pal party out of town where no one would hold our behavior against us--except maybe the quilt shop owner, but she's a sweetie and we kept buying stuff so I don't think she'll ban us from the shop!

We had all decided to bring some hand work, rather than lug our sewing machines and supplies on the drive, and I soon realized I was with the wrong bunch. Why? Well, shucks, but these gals are SERIOUS about their stitchery!

Before we'd been there long, they started showing off their storage bins and talking about lists of floss and which brands they like best. Soon they moved on to needle brands and sizes. Colleen pulled out her floss list:

Front and back.

Then it was Pam's turn--

And Gran? Well, she probably has her list memorized. But check this out:

When she started strapping on lights and equipment, I thought maybe we were going spelunking! And look at how she's holding those balls of floss--the two finger hold! You can tell right away that she's a pro at this.

And me? Well, I'm quite embarrassed to say my supplies looked like this:

Okay, maybe I'm not that embarrassed. Gran told us we shouldn't store our floss in closed plastic bins for long, so I guess I'm doing the right thing in letting my supplies roam free. Ha! Free range floss! It's a good thing! And as for lists and colors? Yeah, not happenin'. I just pick a color that looks nice and isn't too tangled to tease loose from the flock.

If you're in the Manteca area, Ladybug's is having an excellent sale this week--and we even left a few things there for you and we didn't tear up the shop too much! I hope you're enjoying your weekend!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Do You Know . . .

that Christmas is only a week away?!!!

Are you ready for it? I'm not! I thought I was doing pretty good, but I ran into some problems tonight. I had two gift baskets to put together and I couldn't find the baskets I'd purchased about a year and a half ago at Goodwill--we thought we were going to need them last year, so I had bought five nice ones, but we didn't use them after all. Now where are they? It's a mystery! In theory they should be somewhere in the garage, but they must be hiding. Hubby thought they must be hiding in the house and went searching; somewhere along the way, he broke a Jim Shore cow! But baskets? Nope!

After digging out two substitute baskets that I thought would do okay, I went looking for the shredded paper or curly shaved wood that we use to line baskets. Could I find it? Nope! It must have run away with the baskets, because it was nowhere to be found. Again, we made do with what we were able to dig up.

For years Hubby has been telling me to stop buying bows because we have too many. I finally listened to him a year or two ago. Tonight when I looked for bows, what did I find? About eight semi-smashed bows, all in weird colors.

Boxes? I needed two, but did I find any? No! Again, I made do.

I think I should probably feel good about making do with what I have instead of buying more, but I don't. I just feel frustrated. And I think of people like Martha Stewart who have entire WRAPPING CLOSETS (well, Martha probably has a freakin ROOM!), while I just have a poorly stocked garage and a broken Jim Shore cow. Woe is me.

It's done though--the stuff I needed to get wrapped tonight. And now I can look forward to a couple days of fun. Tomorrow I leave work in the afternoon when Gran picks me up and we drive down to Manteca to meet up with Orcasmom and her BFF Colleen for PMS Night at Lady Bug Quilt Shop ("PMS" stands for pizza, munchies, and soda). We'll have a ton of fun, I know! Then, on Saturday, Hubby and I will spend much of the day with Hubby's family celebrating Christmas. On Saturday night I'll meet up with Lisa and her family to drive around town looking at Christmas lights. So I guess I need to suck it up and stop feeling sorry for myself, huh?!!

By the way, as you can see with all the festivities on my calendar for the next couple days, I might not get a chance to post to the blog--if I don't, it's just because my friends are keeping me out late and I'm having too much fun! Rest assured, though, that I'll tell you about it when I can. I hope you're having more success as you head toward Christmas. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Happens at the Office Christmas Party . . .

Stays at the Office Christmas Party! And today was ours. I'll tell you a little bit though . . . the part that's mine to tell.

Unless you're a new reader to my blog, you know I work at a pretty terrific place, right? Today was our office Christmas luncheon/party at a swanky downtown restaurant. Heck, we had a blast! Luckily the restaurant assigned us our own separate room, well away from the other guests. (We've celebrated many occasions there, and I think they know us and our needs after all these years.)

This year, we had another one of those gift exchanges where you can steal someone's gift, but this time it was a white elephant gift exchange, and the theme was "tacky holiday decorations." First a little background.

A funny thing happened last Sunday while I was with my sister-in-law, Kath. She mentioned my mother-in-law wanted to get rid of a deer decoration I'd made and given to her quite a few years ago, but she didn't want to throw away something I'd made--she's nice like that! I quickly solved the problem by telling Kath I'd be happy to take it back and gift it at the office party. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of that deer, but it looked a lot like the one laying down in this photo below--I'd made myself a pair when I made them for other family members, and I re-painted and decorated mine a couple years ago--this was the before shot.

Well, the deer was a hit! The first person to open it said she thought it was one that had been on one of the tables the first time we had a Christmas party at this restaurant about 20 years ago, and after that, the deer was stolen until it couldn't be stolen any more. There were a few gifts like that: a bath towel that said "face" at one end and "butt" at the other; a singing chihuahua (Taco Bell type) dog; and a battery operated, light-up massager, among other things. (Yeah, you're right--none of these are "tacky holiday decorations" but they were fun anyway!)

And what did I end up with this time? Did I steal decorations from little children again? Sort of! Here's what happened--as best as I can recall and told in a way that is intended to protect the identities of those involved.

Around mid-gift opening, one of our secretaries opened a package to find a piece of wood cut in the shape of Texas and outlined with rope. Attached to the wood, all over Texas, were samples of different barbed wire. Pretty cool gift, huh? Certainly one of our guys thought so, because he promptly traded his own "gift" for Texas. The game progressed with Texas in great demand until a fracas arose over whether it could be stolen one more time or whether it had been stolen so many times it was considered "dead."

Now when I say "fracas," here's what happened--someone had Texas and someone else wanted it. A third person got involved and a "judge" had to be called in to make a decision about the rules and whether a trade was fair or considered a steal. (Something you should know--when it comes to rules, attorneys LOVE them and demand them, but they also like to break them. And then debate them. Ad nauseum.) Despite the judge's call, the battle raged on, and at one point someone had someone else in a head lock, bent over a chair. And somewhere in all of this, the battery operated, light up massager ended up "hidden" in someone's pants. Don't ask.

Eventually things settled down and the game drew to an end. Here's the kicker, though. I had #1 in the game, which meant I drew the first gift and had a chance at the end to steal anything I wanted--including the "dead" gifts. Excellent, yes?! So as I was wandering around the room, looking to see which of the tacky Christmas decorations would best fit into my home decor, one of the Texas combatants offered me $40, hard cash money, to take Texas from the person who had it and give it to the other person involved in the initial Texas takeover.

$40? You betcha! Gimme Texas dude!

So there you have the story about how Texas was bought through bribbery and trickery. All in all, I think I came home with the best gift--$40. Oh, AND I ended up with a candle too. Second place? The person who ended up with the metal Christmas tree with bells and packages of condoms hanging from it. Yep, where I work, we know how to have a good party!

Disclaimer (because someone prone to litigation might be reading this): This is a complete and utter fabrication because we all know attorneys would never behave in this manner, right? Uh huh. And, what happens at the office Christmas party . . . .

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oh Dear Santa . . .

I guess you want to know if I've been good this year. What is "good" anyway?

Let's examine. According to the Yahoo reference dictionary, "good" is many things.

The first definition is being "positive or desirable in nature." Yep, that's me!

A little further on is "not spoiled or ruined." Well, at least I'm not ruined so far.

Am I of high quality? Let's just say yes.

Attractive; handsome? Mais oui!

Ample; substantial? Sadly.

Of moral excellence? Uh . . . .

So to recap: I'm positive in nature, not ruined, and I might be of high(ish) quality. Oh, and there's that attractive thing too. At least I'm pretty sure I'm reasonably attractive to someone who's been up all night, rushing around the world, and has come down the chimney in the dark. Unless you wake me up. Because if you wake me up, there's a bit of a chance that when I sit up in bed, whatever hair isn't stuck to my cheek with dried drool will be sticking straight up in the air. So maybe not attractive some of the time. But given an hour or two to prepare, I'm okay--call me before you get here.

You know what, though? Now that I've given it a little thought, Santa, it would probably be much easier--and less scary--for you to just have the nice people at the Fat Quarter Shop send me my gift from you this year. They're always so helpful and I'm sure they'd be more than happy to take some of the burden off your hands. And I know, too, that they can make sure it arrives before Christmas!

And I suppose, Santa, that if you're going to have the Fat Quarter Shop people help you out with my gift this year, rather than leave you my list under the glass of brandy with an egg nog chaser and those melt-in-your-mouth rum balls that I always make for you, I'd better tell you what I want, so you can let them know.

Opps! Wrong list! Sorry Santa! HERE'S the right list:

You see, I found when I was decorating my home this year that for some odd reason, I don't have very many Christmas/Winter quilts, so I'd be especially grateful to receive a kit to make one. This quilt's a beauty, don't you agree, Santa? I really like the fleur de lis in the center squares because they're French, and "fleur de lis," "mai oui," and "zut alors!" are some of the limited amount of French I know.

Also, did you know that George Clooney lives in Italy, which is kind of close to France? I was just thinking, Santa, that if you DON'T want to give me the quilt kit, then could you give me a vacation in France with a side trip to Italy to see George? You should know, though, that if I'm going to see George, I can't promise to be a good girl. But George and a stocking full of coal--well, I could live with it if I really can't have the Glace Frosted Windowpanes quilt kit. But one or the other--either/or--I'd be both merry AND bright on Christmas morning!

Thank you Santa!

P.S.: By the way, is it true that people have had your REAL name wrong all these years? I heard a rumor that when you first applied for your sleigh driver's license up there at the North Pole, you filled out the form "Jolly, Old St. Nick," and they didn't notice the comma. If that's the case and your LAST NAME is Jolly, maybe you can convince Kimberly at the Fat Quarter Shop that you're a long-lost relation and should get a family discount. Hey, it's worth a try!

* * * * *

(To those of you who aren't Santa and are puzzled by my letter to the jolly old dude, click on over to the Jolly Jabber for an explanation.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Christmas Stuff--Can You Stand It?

No, the first photo isn't about Christmas except that it shows Spike doing what I'd like to be doing--relaxing surrounded by a lot of fabric. Here she's sitting in--or on top of--the basket holding all of my flimsies. She knows a good spot to hang out! Stitch is curled up on the desk between my chest and the keyboard, sleeping. All is peaceful here for the moment.

I wanted to show you The Boys all loaded up and ready to go visit the retirement home. Hubby baked and decorated these gingerbread men, and he'll take them to the home where his aunt lives; there he'll share them with some of the other residents. Last week, Hubby went to visit and took his aunt an artificial tabletop Christmas tree, lights, ornaments, and a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream--they had quite a lovely afternoon decorating!

Tonight was the December meeting of Gran's Knot-y Ladies embroidery class. Those of us who wanted to do so brought a wrapped ornament to exchange--didn't the table look lovely with Gran's Longaberger basket arrangement, flicker candles, bears, and greenery?

And I suspect some of you may want to see a close up of that quilt she spread out--it's quite striking and the quilting is beautiful!

The funniest moment of the ornament exchange was when one woman opened her box, only to find it empty! Oh, we laughed and laughed! Of course, the woman who brought the gift was simply mortified, but it was all fun and I hope she didn't feel too bad. We suspect the "ornament" fell out somehow before the wrapping paper was added. Everything turned out well, though--the intended ornament was an embroidered Christmas design to hang on the tree, and the gift-giver had another nearly completed that she finished and substituted--I think it may have been a Bird Brain design of a reindeer--darn cute!

And just so you know, we didn't starve to death either! Everyone brought something to share and we had quite a little feast. (I brought some of the nuts I've blogged about, and they seem to have been a hit!) We spent the evening stitching and reminiscing about different Christmas subjects--Gran throws great parties!

It's time for me to head back to the kitchen, because I have some sugar cookies to bake--Hubby made a few batches of dough for me the other day. I have about an hour before bedtime, so I might as well be productive and get a few baked. Christmas will be here before too long, and there are still more things to do! Have you ever been ready for Christmas before December 24th? I don't think I have!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gettin' Sticky

Today we had our annual Christmas get together with our friends, Terry and Lisa, and my sister-in-law, Kath. We all met at Lisa's for brunch, a little gift exchange, and some serious Christmas "work."

Terry and Lisa's house has a large room that includes the family room, kitchen, and informal dining area all in one, so we could all be together while the guys watched football and the gals decorated gingerbread houses.

Lisa has two daughters; one of them is currently living at home, so there were four of us decorating houses. Lisa bought the "pre-fabricated" house kits by Wilton and picked up a TON of extra candy; her daughter mixed up all the icing; and we soon got busy.

Can you tell that is my house in the foreground? I bet those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile can. Why? Because of the Starbucks iced latte, of course! (These are all photos of our houses "in progress" except for the last one.)

Here's my sister-in-law Kath's house. Her house was looking pretty good, but she started having some problems with the icing and getting candy to stick. Don't you just love the peppermint roof though?

Here's Lisa's house--I wanted to show you what she was doing with a porch and roof. Pretty neat! I wouldn't have thought of it! Decorating gingerbread houses is an annual event at Lisa's, so she had been thinking about what she wanted to do to hers for a bit.

Here's Lisa's daughter's house in the foreground (Kath's is in the background). Lisa's daughter graduated from college not too long ago; she majored in one of the architectural fields, so her house had to be quite precise, considering it was gingerbread. In the end, hers turned out the best, I think. I really liked what she did with the green gummy leaves and red hot berries on the side of the house facing the camera.

And finally, here's my finished house in my kitchen hutch.

While we were decorating, Lisa kept having "issues" with the overuse of icing in the pre-fab construction of her house. The funny thing was that when Hubby and I got home and I opened the sliding door of the van, my house fell out onto the street (although it was still inside the box), and the only thing that fell off was one of the roof "tiles." I have to say the over use of icing probably saved it! This is the first time I've decorated a gingerbread house where I hadn't baked the gingerbread and "glued" the house together, and I thought these worked out pretty well! I'd definitely recommend it, and what a fun project for getting together with friends!

Want to know what else I did today? I made more of those nuts I blogged about yesterday! Yep, we stopped at Trader Joe's and picked up two more packages of nuts. They've probably cooled by now, so it's time for me to bag them up. Thanks for stopping by to visit!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Would you like a little cooking lesson and a good recipe for a yummy, nutty snack (or a great Christmas gift)? If so, read on. If not--well, what can I say? Bummer! So sad for you!

First, do you know how to blanche almonds? I've been doing this since I was a kid and my mom taught me, but I really never see any instructions on how to do it--and it's really easy! So I thought I'd show you this first--you can use blanched almonds for any number of recipes. First you'll need some almonds and water in a pot large enough to hold the almonds.

First, bring the water to a boil. Then turn off the heat and dump the almonds into the water. Stir them around and then let them sit for a bit--maybe around three to five minutes. You'll notice that the skins will loosen--when that happens, they're done.

Dump them into a strainer of some sort and run some cold water over the almonds. Let them drain and cool.

After they've cooled, sit down with your pot of almonds. You'll also need a bowl for the naked almonds and something else to discard the skins into. Holding an almond between forefinger and thumb, squeeze/pop the almond out of the skin. Watch out for flying almonds! They're slippery little things!

Naked almond porn.

Now you'll want to spread the almonds onto cookie sheets (jelly roll pan)--spread them out so you only have one layer. Turn the oven on low--200 degrees at most--and put the sheets into the oven to dry the almonds, turning and stirring them every so often. It should take about an hour or so. Once the almonds are dry, they're ready for your favorite almond recipe!

I searched the internet for a good recipe for sweet and spicy almonds and I found THIS ONE. Add the oil to a heavy pan and heat on medium high. Add the almonds and 1/2 cup of sugar. Stir frequently until almonds are brown and sugar has carmelized.

Pour almonds into a bowl and sprinkle with the salt, sugar, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Stir every few minutes to keep almonds from sticking together until they've cooled a bit.

I used those two bags of almonds from Trader Joe's, which were probably a pound each (although I didn't check). I ended up with about 5 cups of nuts. Seriously, I think I need to go back to Trader Joe's and get a couple more bags! Enjoy!