Saturday, March 30, 2013

sewing, showing and growing

Pretty, and Happy

Two projects almost completed - a cheerful skirt for Easter wear, which is now hemmed; and a quilt that I've started binding. How nicely they match each other, and my sewing machine!


This looks like a piece of cotton, doesn't it? But no; it's a Kleenex that went through the washer AND the dryer. Now we all know what a mess a Kleenex makes going through the wash - so what's up with this one??


The ideal houseplant - one which is also meant to be eaten by pets. Not to mention that it's the lushest thing ever grown in this house. 

Joining Leila this time for {pretty, happy, funny, real}

round button chicken

Friday, March 29, 2013

"all now mysterious shall be bright at last"

(Jesus is Laid in the Tomb, by Edward Arthur Fellowes Prynn)

Be still, my soul - the Lord is on thy side!
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In ev'ry change he faithful will remain,
Be still, my soul - thy best, thy heav'nly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul - thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past;
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul - the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still, my soul - the hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul - when change and tears are past,

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"food for the world"

"When Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to his disciples, he summarized in these gestures his own life. Jesus is chosen from all eternity, blessed at his baptism in the Jordan River, broken on the cross and given as bread to the world. Being chosen, blessed, broken and given is the sacred journey of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

When we take bread, bless it, break it, and give it with the words, 'This is the body of Christ', we express our commitment to make our lives conform to the life of Christ. We, too, want to live as people chosen, blessed and broken, and then become food for the world."

                                                      -  Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

the patience of smart kitties

Whatever cats' understanding is of the busyness of humans, I can say that Dolly definitely has my bed-making habits pretty well figured out.

Tonight she happened along before I'd turned down my bed - oh, dear. But I gently pulled and tugged, and she scooted out of my way as I layered on the covers -

In no time I had everything just right, and when I needed to get my pillows arranged near the head, she moved to the other end and settled in her spot.

And all's well with those who wait patiently.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

just around the corner

This morning it came to me that some of the grass is beginning to look green - a real green-ish.

Later, while with my sewing machine, I realized that even with fresh air coming in the house I wasn't feeling cold.  When the sun suddenly shone in the window, I grabbed a jacket and my secateurs and headed out to prune - at least one rose! And so I did.

Early in the week you could have heard me moaning to myself that I'd pruned many a time in colder weather, but never with snow all around. But, it's gone now.

I think we've turned the corner.

Monday, March 25, 2013

quilting with checks

How convenient it is to machine-quilt when you use gingham fabric for the backing.

Just follow those lines!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

wishing winter away

Can you imagine a scene more appealing than this?

I don't know where my mother got this decorative plate - tag sale, probably. It's all brass, with that quintessentially English scene in the center, covered by glass. It's got a silvery look - maybe made with foil?

It does well in the bathroom; and today I busied myself in making things look more like spring inside, even if we can't make it behave like spring outside.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"we wait with patience"

"How do we wait for God? We wait with patience. But patience does not mean passivity. Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop or the sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.

The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior, which means 'to suffer'. Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground in which we stand grow into strong plants. Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God's glorious coming."

                                                     - Henri Nouwen

Monday, March 18, 2013

hot cocoa, my way

Have you ever read the recipe for hot cocoa on the Hershey box?  For one serving you are supposed to put two tablespoons of cocoa and two tablespoons of sugar (please!) into one cup of milk. I'm a lightweight - so much cocoa would curl my hair; the sugar we won't even talk about. (Well, a little. Imagine it; you're looking into your cup of cocoa and you know that there are two tablespoons of sugar in it!)

To a cup of my almond milk I add a teaspoon and a half of cocoa and a quarter teaspoon of sugar - that's all!  It tastes just right.

pale because I made it weaker - don't want too much cocoa at night!

The stovetop works better than the microwave - cocoa is a funny substance; it doesn't readily get absorbed into the liquid, so I whisk it all the while it's heating. The upside of that is, it's thoroughly mixed in, and there's no residue at the bottom of the cup.

I almost took a picture of the bottom of the cup. But there really wasn't much to see.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


"...serving others also leads to humility.The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be. Christ took the lowest place in the world - the Cross - and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid. Those who are in a position to help others will realize that in doing so they themselves receive help; being able to help others is no merit or achievement of their own. This duty is a grace. The more we do for others, the more we understand and can appropriate the words of Christ: 'We are useless servants.' We recognize that we are not acting on the basis of any superiority or greater personal efficiency, but because the Lord has graciously enabled us to do so."

                                    -    Benedict XVI,  God is Love

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

enough light for what follows

"Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, How will next year be for me? Where will I be five or ten years from now? There are no answers to these questions. Mostly we have just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let's rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all the shadows away."

                                           -  Henri Nouwen

Monday, March 11, 2013

Henry, fresh-air fiend

These were taken the other day, before the big snow.

But it's a daily thing around here - Henry at one of the doors, getting some fresh air.

Even in the cold, dead of winter - the furnace will kick on but Henry breathes deep.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

spreading light

"Spread, O spread, thou mighty Word,
Spread the kingdom of the Lord,
Wheresoe'er his breath has giv'n
Life to beings meant for heav'n.

Word of life, most pure and strong,
Lo! for thee the nations long;
Spread, till from its dreary night
All the world awakes to light."

       -  Magnificat,  March 2013

Saturday, March 9, 2013

more bread adventures

I came across this one day last week - doesn't that look yummy?  I decided to make some myself.

Anna says to use a white bread recipe which has eggs and butter in it. I looked - since I was experimenting I wanted a smaller recipe; I finally ended up with a bread machine recipe called Egg-Enriched White Loaf, from The Complete Book of Bread and Bread Machines, by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter. But if you buy this book, make sure you get a larger sized copy or you'll be getting out the magnifying glass to read it, like I do.

Anyway. I went with the medium loaf. Now, you may recall from a previous post that my main plan with baking these breads is to, well, have no plan at all! I mean I want to control the process instead of it controlling me, as something which has to rise two or three times in a day can end up doing. But I really wanted to try this chocolate bread, even though we're not really a white bread sort of people.

I decided to use bread flour rather than regular, and I put in half the amount of yeast (rapid rise) it called for. I used cool water and refused to worry about anything. As I was kneading, I recalled the Chad Robertson video where he was wetting his dough scraper and his hands to keep it from getting sticky - he didn't want to be adding flour. So at first that's what I did. As I was kneading away however, I remembered that the Artisan 5-minute bread people also use a wet dough; I also remembered that if your dough is too wet in the bread machine it will just collapse - it occurred to me that since I was just making simple white bread and not anything artisan it might be better to skip the wetting and just use flour to keep the dough from sticking. So, I switched my method at that point. I kneaded it as long as I thought I should (since it was a bread machine recipe, there wasn't any direction for that) and put it in a greased bowl with plastic wrap and a dish towel on top.
There was so much snow, that I had the morning off - we were going to open the library at noon and I thought I could tend to the bread after work; since I'd put in less yeast, I figured it'd take several hours. Meanwhile, I ended up with the whole day of because the snow didn't stop when they said it would, so about three and a half hours later the dough seemed like it had gotten bigger and I punched it down.

But I didn't feel quite sure about it - a co worker, a bread baker from way back, had said that you could always let bread rise a third time if you weren't able to deal with it right away, so I wasn't concerned about letting it rise again because yes, it had increased, but it didn't quite have that puffy look. So, back in the bowl it went and I hopped over to my neighbor's to play cards for a couple of hours. When I returned all was well! I punched it down once more and shaped it into two small loaves. I found some chocolate chunks which I then stuck into the dough here and there, as many as I thought could reasonably fit, and set them to rise again in their pans.

Now I have to jump over to Leila's blog and something she posted recently - doesn't that look good? But I was surprised to see that she had glass pans!  I have two glass pans - quickbread size - but my mother always told me that you can't heat Pyrex on high temperatures (like bread is baked in). She also said that when you use glass pans you have to set the oven to twenty five degrees less than called for in the recipe. I Googled Pyrex glass and as far as I could tell, there's no problem with high heat - just make the oven 25 degress lower. I decided to use the glass. So, while shaping the loaves I started to make a mental note about what temperature the oven would need to be, but - I realized that since it was a bread machine recipe, I didn't know what to set the oven to!

I was thinking 375 would be good, but to make sure I looked for a similar recipe just to compare. I found a challah recipe which baked at 400 - just right! So, when my little loaves were risen for the final time (ten o'clock at night, by the way) I set the oven at 400, and when it heated up and I put them in, I turned it down to 375. They were done in less than half an hour.

I'll have to put more chocolate in next time. Oh, but so good! They don't have that craggy exterior though, like Anna's. Maybe I need to just throw them roughly in the pans instead of shaping them in such a civilized manner.

Of course, it's Lent, isn't it? After eating about half of one, the rest went into the freezer. 

This is awfully fun.

Friday, March 8, 2013

a quilt journey

I've just finished a baby quilt, but before it gets sent off to where it's going, I want to do a little show-and-tell.

I began this a while back as a lap quilt but couldn't get it done in time, and then thought it would make a nice baby quilt, with a certain person in mind. Since I'd made the one with eight inch squares a while back, and liked the square motif, I thought I'd try it with slightly smaller ones - these are about six-and-a-half inches. I started hand-quilting it with embroidery floss the way Anna and her mother do, in parallel lines across, but had to put it aside over the holidays.

Lately I finished and put on the binding; and now a thing or two to say about going around corners. Believe me, I know where the youtube video is on mitred corners, and I've even done it successfully once or twice! But it doesn't always come out. And sometimes I'm not even sure that such precision goes with a more casually made quilt, so I was just bunching up around each  corner, but... there's always the problem of that last corner - I can't quite seem to figure that one out. It got lumpy, and that's when I remembered something I had done before - which you can see here - a patch! So, I looked around for fabric to make a patch, and there was a Caribbean blue t-shirt from the thrift store. Just right! I cut it up, sewed a patch right onto that corner in a very obvious way.

Then there was another problem. While binding, I'd noticed a loose area of quilting thread, which I intended to pull over to the edge, and then tuck under the binding as I went near that area (I hope you get what I'm saying - don't know how else to put it!). But, I got sidetracked and forgot. So it was all bound, with this loop of floss sticking out. I decided to cut another patch from the blue; just to cover it over and protect it from getting caught in the future and possibly breaking the thread.

See it? There's some of the same color in that striped square. But then in looking at it, I saw the two patches were at one end of the quilt, so I figured I should add another somewhere else, for interest.

The reverse fabric is a child's print with pink, yellow and blue ducks on it. Very cute.

Why not cut out a duck? I'm not much of an artist, but I tried. My little bird ended up more of a general bluebird - good enough for me!

I just handstitched around the edges - it's a knit, it won't fray.

So, here it is in all its imperfections, which also include unevenly-cut squares. Those bothered me at first, but not anymore.

Last night Anna posted a very timely report on her sewing philosophy - she says she's not a perfectionist; well, neither am I. I'd never do anything if I were - I'm not so good at it. But I still enjoy the process, and I like to make lemonade when there's a goof - it's a good way to be creative and learn something. You can see both patches up near the top on either side, and the little bluebird down below. 

So, making this quilt was a journey for me, and now it's going on a journey to its new owner. And I've got another quilt halfway done in a bag right here.

the snowy day

Yesterday's flurries were expected. Then, overnight we were supposed to get three to six inches.

This, I did not expect. At least nine; maybe thirteen (so says my brother).

It is pretty.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

the way to freedom

"To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, 'I no longer hold your offense against you.' But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the 'offended one'. As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God."

                                       -  Henri Nouwen

"If the Lord rescues me from the snare of my faults, should I not extend the same kind of rescue to my neighbor? Resentment, grudges, retaliation do not help the one who offends me. They merely confirm the breach between us. Bridge building is costly, as the cross demonstrates, but the people stranded on both banks are all freed by the bridge."

                                      -  Magnificat,  March 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ceramic pear

My brother brought it home from an art show.

Made with a real pear stem!

Monday, March 4, 2013

new life for an old blanket

My old blanket is still good, but the bindings weren't. I found among my mother's sewing things a packet of light blue blanket binding, but that was only enough for one end.

So I used matching quilting cotton and made my own, folding under and pressing a quarter-inch edge on both long sides and sewing it onto the blanket with a zigzag instead of straight stitch. Now I have a choice when I change the sheets - do I want the blue end showing, or the green?

Now you have to say "light blue blanket binding" five times as fast as you can.  :D

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Awake , O sleeper"

"Awake, O sleeper, rise from death,
And Christ shall give you light.
So learn his love - its length and breadth,
Its fullness, depth and height.

For he descended here to bring
From sin and fears release,
To give the Spirit's unity,
Which is the bond of peace.

For us Christ lived, for us he died
And conquered in the strife,
Awake, arise, go forth in faith,
And Christ shall give you life"

         -    Magnificat,  March 2013

Saturday, March 2, 2013

fur-clad interlopers

Wait a minute......

Aside from the fact that a certain person, who shall remain nameless, threw up right here on two quilts at four fifteen this morning.........and here he is again, With An Accomplice -


whose bed is this, anyway??