There's snow on the pig! I couldn't be happier knowing we will have a white Christmas. There's gingerbread to be baked, dough for rolls that needs to rise, stuffing to prepare, breakfast strata to assemble . . . . the list seems to go on and on. The Princess will be here soon and I want to have it all done beforehand. Gotta go - Merry Christmas everyone!
Are you getting excited? I am. Christmas will be here before we know it. Even at my current advanced age I cannot help but get excited that the big day! I love to wake up early (really early) on Christmas morning. The rest of my family may not be quite so anxious, but they play along because they know I find it so magical. A couple of posts back I showed a photo of quilts that are hanging in our hallway. I've had several comments and emails asking about the red 9 patch quilt. It is a pattern from Blackbird Designs. Several years back they offered a series of patterns to make a quilt called Christmas Memories. In each of the four pamphlets there were 'bonus' patterns to make. And this quilt is one of those projects. It is called Little Ben's Quilt. The patterns are available here. I just couldn't resist it - the ticking and those vintage strings of lights, well they just say, 'Ho Ho Ho.' Gotta go, plenty to be done before the big day!
It's getting down to the wire! Time for those last minute preps. All the packages are wrapped and under the tree. Only things left to do are maybe a little baking and a last minute trip to the market for those fresh ingredients that you don't want on hand too soon. Oh . . . . and could we please get a little snow? If a California girl is not going to be living in California then the thing she wants most is a white Christmas. I'm just sayin'. Daisy and I dropped off a little gift basket at the kennel where we go for daycare and all of our training and boarding. They are so sweet there, really love the pets and go all out for them. For example, they offered photos with Santa recently. Didn't the picture turn out darling? I will have to remember that the photographer used a 'squeaky' to get her attention instead of food. No drooling! With the sewing machine put away for the holidays, my stack of hexagon diamonds is getting larger by the day. There are now 30 complete diamonds ready to be added to the top. Six more diamonds to go. Then I will need to baste what seems like miles and miles of the setting fabric and a few partial diamonds for the edges. It's getting very exciting. Does that make me a quilt nerd? I hope so.
Putting up decorations has been an interesting process this year. We had not been in this house very long at Christmas-time last year and I was still trying to unpack everyday household items. In some ways, I was just going through the motions and I didn't even get many photos of how it looked. This year I've decided to take more pictures and share a few more, too. This is the tree in the family room. We bought this tree in 2008 not knowing that would be the only Christmas it would be used in California. I am so glad that at the very last moment I chose the 8 1/2' tree rather than the 10' *whew* We also have a tree in the dining room. All the ornaments on this tree are animals. In a brief flash of creativity, I started placing holiday cards on the gate above the fireplace. Is it kismet that so far all the cards are 'landscape-oriented'? I came up with a fun way to display some smaller Christmas quilts. 3M Command Poster Adhesive Strips made it easy to do - no holes in the wall or the quilts and no need for hanging sleeves either. One wall in the hallway is large enough to accommodate two quilts. I like to add something new each year. We picked up this gourd snowman while in Vermont for Thanksgiving. All of these new things have kept the curiosity level on 'high' for Daisy. Looks like she's peeking down the stairs to see if Santa has arrived yet. All of this decorating activity has not stopped the regular chores. I am continually amazed at how two fairly neat adults are able to generate SO many dirty clothes each week! That basket, as you can see, is filled to overflowing and nary a towel or sheet set in sight. I've been stitching away on my hexagons. Only 12 diamonds left to go and lots of Christmas movies still to be watched. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting ever brighter.
Were you in New York City this past Saturday? If not, you may well be the ONLY human-being who wasn't. First, a little background: About 10 years ago, Hubby and I had a discussion about Christmas gift giving and came to the conclusion that for us the best gift of all is the gift of time. So other than perhaps a token little something under the tree we really haven't 'shopped' for gifts for each other in over a decade. Instead we plan for fun evening events, day-trips or weekend get-a-ways all through the year. Last weekend was one of those get-a-ways. As a 'girl of a certain age', I have long had a secret crush on Donny Osmond. When it was recently announced that Donny and Marie would be bringing a holiday show to Broadway, Hubby put the wheels in motion for a trip to the Big Apple. We started out bright and early Saturday morning, driving to New Jersey where we set up camp at a hotel conveniently located to public transportation into the city. Before we knew it we were leaving the Port Authority bus terminal and we were greeted by a legion of Santas assembling at a subway entrance.Thinking they may be part of a flash-mob, we quickly crossed the street to get a closer look. But the Santas had an agenda and disappeared into the subway leaving us wondering what in the heck was happening. It appears that only Santas were invited. These Easter bunnies looked lonely walking down the street. We later learned that this was all part of SantaCon 2010. There is a SantaCon website that has crashed. Visit if you like, but it does contain strong language. However, you may learn things such as: SantaCon is NOT a pub crawl. When called such a sugarplum fairy dies. It looks like a great way to have fun and get into the Christmas spirit. We next went straight to Times Square where preparations are underway for the New Years Eve celebration. The ball is in place, the reviewing stand has been erected - all we need now is for the day to arrive. At the Times Square Visitors Center, I wrote my New Year Wish on a confetti square that will float out with all the others when the ball is dropped at midnight. After lunch, we joined the crush of people walking the city streets. We made our way to the theater and enjoyed our show. It was just what I had hoped it would be. It makes me smile to think about those in attendance. The number of women in the audience was quite high, but there were a lot of men who, like Hubby, were happy to be there just because they knew it made their wives happy. When the show ended, we were ready to hit the streets again hoping to see some of the holiday sights for which the city is famous. After a stop for a Jamba Juice - yes, the weather was nice enough to enjoy a cold treat not easily found in our neck of the woods - we walked ourselves to the edge of Central Park at The Plaza Hotel. There among the lights, horse-drawn carriages and holiday shoppers, Hubby purchased a holiday treat long immortalized in song. We sampled our very first roasted chestnuts, leaning up against The Plaza, watching people going to and fro before we joined the bustle down 5th Ave to look at the holiday window displays with a goal of reaching Macy's at Herald Square. Soon it became clear that we had been swept up in a tide of the masses. It was just a sea of humanity in motion. We were unable to stop and actually look at the window displays, best to keep moving or just be run over. Finally after mere jostling turned into being body slammed by people going in the opposite direction, we moved off 5th Ave hoping to make our destination on an alternate route. But before we reached the goal, this small-town gal came to the conclusion that it just wasn't going to be worth it. A combination of unseasonably warm weather, holiday shoppers, and tourists such as ourselves brought out SO many people that it would impossible to enjoy the experience. The only way to get a view of anything would be to push, shove and generally be rude to others. Rather than leave with a disappointing memory, we decided to keep our imaginations in tact and changed course again. We turned around, walked back to Rockefeller Center for a peek at the Christmas Tree before taking the bus back to our hotel just in time for It's A Wonderful Life on t.v. It turned out to be a great way to end our adventure. George Baily reminded me that even though we didn't see all that we had planned there were some perfect, wonderful moments to stash away as memories and every single bit of it was shared with Hubby. To me, that is what makes the gift of time the very best gift of all.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - everywhere you go. But I'd say nowhere more than right here in my own home. This is Daisy's first Christmas and all the hubbub is keeping her on her toes. She has helped to decorate the trees. There was a photo session for our Christmas card. I never even got a picture of her wearing the Santa hat. It was down over her eyes and she just looked miserable. All of my laughing probably didn't help. This idea didn't exactly pan out either - Daisy wants NOTHING to do with items in her mouth unless they can be eaten. In order to get a more perky looking pup, I posed her while holding a doggy treat in my teeth or balanced on my head. Take a closer look and you will see the drool on my scarf. Yes, it's headed to the dry cleaners. This past weekend was the big holiday season kick off in our little town. Lots of church bazaars and activities at local businesses. We joined in by purchasing a wreath for the door from our neighbor church's craft fair. Daisy visited with Santa at the kennel where she goes to daycare - (photos pending.) I hope they are good because we won't be doing that again next year. Just before sunset* on Sunday the townsfolk gathered at the Common for the arrival of Santa. He rode into town on a fire engine to officially light the town tree. We stayed just long enough for the lights to go on and headed straight home. Gosh it is cold! And not a flake of snow to be found. If it's going to be this cold the least it could do is snow. Good thing you don't need snow to enjoy hot chocolate. That's how we closed out the weekend, steaming mugs of hot chocolate topped with mini marshmallows and a holiday movie. A scene to be recreated again and again this month.
*It was SO cold that the zoom feature on my camera would not work. A quick 'lens error' message and then the camera would power off. Poor camera :-(
Once again time is flying by faster than my mind can grasp. I feel as if I've lost an entire week. Honestly, I thought there was going to be another whole week between Thanksgiving and the beginning of December. Well, what's a girl to do but cope? So I began by returning the dining room table to its original purpose rather than my quilting space in preparation for the holidays and associated decorating. In doing so a question crossed my mind: Are finished quilts overrated? Two of these three are works in progress. Yet they look pretty darned nice hanging on the ladder as they are. When I first began my quilting career, I insisted on fully finishing a quilt before beginning a new project. That didn't last too terribly long. I soon learned that variety is not only the spice of life but the creative juice that keeps quilters going. Now it sometimes feels like a 57 Variety of unfinished projects are swirling all around me. But it's really not a race to have the most quilts but enjoying the process that results in quilts that is what keeps us coming back for more. So I've put my sewing machine away until the new year. But I'm fully prepared to stitch my way through the holidays. These diamonds are waiting to be stitched together and added to the quilt top. This box holds all the strips needed to make the rest of the diamonds. And these strips (and then some) will need to be basted for putting it all together. While my work is cut out for me, I do feel like I'm starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel and I can just begin to envision this quilt on my bed rather than on that ladder.
Wow! That was f-a-s-t! Thanksgiving and the long weekend are over in just a *blink* of an eye. But before we jump headlong into all things Christmas, I want to go back and share the weekend. Hubby and I were invited to join cousins, a great uncle and aunt, and their extended families for Thanksgiving in Vermont. Oh Vermont! Easily my favorite spot here in the east. We got on the turnpike (with much of the rest of the Massachusetts population) in the morning after a leisurely breakfast on Thursday. Good news was that much of traffic dissipated at the junction to go into Connecticut. The weather was beautiful but quite cold. Much colder than even at home, where it has been plenty cold - thank-you-very-much. We stopped on the way to check in at the Inn we would be staying at and then enjoyed one of the most delightful Thanksgivings in recent memory. It was a very special day. Rather than join in on all the Black Friday hoopla - okay, how much 'hoopla' can there be in rural Vermont? - we planned for a leisurely day on Friday which began with a local craft show and sale. It was quite local but we did come home with a little something. Don't you think that pull-toy would be perfect for a little cowboy? Next we went back to Middlebury for a stroll around the downtown. I had my first ever Ben Franklin store experience. A little something for everyone! I hope it won't be my last. It seems that of the places that we visit, Hubby and I enjoy 'college towns' the most. Middlebury is no exception. Much of the town's history is evident in the buildings but a youthful, modern vibe from the student population keeps it feeling fresh and alive. This beautiful river flows right through the center of town. We found the ice crystals that were forming from the mist to be beautiful and fascinating, too. Then there was this 'door of mystery'. The door marked '9' appears to have good street access, but what about the door above it? I hope no sleepwalkers live there! We visited the National Museum of the Morgan Horse. In the little town where I grew up, all girls of a certain age were 'horse crazy'. We read every book about horses we could get our hands on, drew pictures of horses on our book covers - you know, the book covers made from cut up brown paper grocery bags and a few lucky girls had a horse of their very own. So this was a must stop spot for me. As luck would have it, I found a copy of Justin Morgan Had a Horse to add to our home library. I wonder how many times Hubby has heard me mention that book over the years? In the late afternoon we stopped in for a latte at a local coffee shop (Starbucks is NOT on every or any corner for that matter) before heading back to the Inn where we spent some time in the lobby. I had my hand-sewing and Hubby entertained us both with articles from the local newspaper before we finished the day with dinner at the inn's restaurant. Saturday morning we woke to some little snow flurries. I don't think snow falling from the sky will ever become old for me. It's just magical. Before we knew it, it was time to get on the road and head south again. We took a different and quite scenic route home. Passed by the original Vermont Country Store location and stopped in at the Yankee Candle Flagship store in Deerfield, MA. Once we were home, it took a while to get the house warm. We'll leave the thermostat set a little higher the next time we have a weekend get-away when the temps are low outside. Thank goodness we have plenty of quilts on hand. Add in some hot chocolate and The Sound of Music on dvd (did you know the Von Trapp family has a Vermont connection?) It was a great weekend, over far too quickly. But no time to think about that, time to start decking the halls and wrapping gifts . . . . only 26 days left until Christmas.
At the end of my last post, I was trying to get out of my pj's and get ready for a whole lot of fun. And what a whole lot of fun was had. Three friends from California flew out to spend a few days here in New England - sightseeing, catching up and having general merriment. I believe that we were more than successful. I came up with a list of places to go and things to do - a very full agenda that kept us on the move. First up was a trip to Old Sturbridge Village. Much to our delight, there is a featured display of quilts. We spent a lot of time looking them over and dreaming of how we could possibly recreate one or two of the designs. The display continues through June 2011. It was a full day exploring the village and learning a little about colonial life in the mid 19th century. Saturday found us on the road bright and early. The first stop of the day was The Vermont County Store.There is a lot of nostalgic merchandise packed into that store. Everywhere you turn you hear exclamations of, "oh, I remember this . . . " No time to waste, though. We had to get back on the road for the next stop - Dorr Mill Store. Oh my! What a lot of wool. I've never seen so much all in one place. So taken by it all, I forgot to take any pictures. But I did not forget to make purchases! I picked up some yardage to try my hand at a quilt and a penny rug project. Could have stayed longer, but we had an agenda and a timetable. Next stop - Keepsake Quilting. Yes, that Keepsake Quilting. The one with the catalog. I don't know that I would go so far as to say that the shop was on anyone's 'bucket list' but it is fun to be able to say, "Keepsake Quilting, oh, I've been there." As a bonus, in the same center was a shop called Hitching Post Primitives. Picked up some goodies there. Seems that it is a fairly new shop. I'm hoping that their website will be expanded for shopping. So many things that are right up my alley in that little spot. A quick stop for dinner and we headed back home and quickly tucked ourselves into bed. Sunday would bring another full day. We caught the commuter train into Boston while humming a little tune.
You would think that we would have been getting tired - but oh no. We walked The Freedom Trail. There is an awful lot of history to be found in New England. Much of it of great historical significance, but there is pop culture, too. The Omni Parker House provided the perfect spot to rest a little and enjoy an afternoon treat. The site of both the invention of Boston Creme Pie and the Parker House roll. The perfect snack to give us the *ooomph* to hurry back to the station to catch the train just before it pulled away. Monday came with the respite from travel, but no less of a full day. During our travels we learned that one among us had never prepared a holiday turkey with fixin's. Well, that just wouldn't do. So we stayed home and made a meal worthy of any Thanksgiving table - turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and fresh cranberry sauce. You know there is a lot of downtime once that turkey goes in the oven. So we pulled out fabrics and stitched up a remembrance of our time together. This is my prototype, quilted and bound, destined to be a hostess gift at our upcoming Thanksgiving. And here is the one I stitched with my friends. If you would like to make one for yourself, here's how.
I did not have that particular tool, but a little creative internet research and you'll be able to locate a template if you don't have one yourself. With stitching done, it was time for dinner. You can see that it was a great success. Every plate on the table was clean as a whistle when dinner was through. Tuesday came all too soon. But I don't think we could have possibly packed another minute of fun into our time together. I do miss those gals terribly, but hope to see them again real soon. There's lots more adventures to be had. In the meantime, remember those quilts on display at OSV? This little crib quilt may not seem particularly stunning or complex, but it has been the perfect inspiration. I got out the wool yardage I picked up over the weekend and started stitching. Working with wool in this way is a new and exciting experience. Time for me to get away from the computer and back to the sewing machine.
11-11. Hubby and my favorite number. The one we notice on the clock and call each other. Just one of the those funny things that you don't know how they start but before you know it, it's part of your daily life. So just imagine the fun when the date 11-11 rolls around. But silliness aside, November 11 is an important day on the calendar. It is Veteran's Day and it is with pride that I share a photo of my favorite veterans. This picture was taken when The Princess completed basic training in the Air Force. There was a seven month time span just prior to Hubby retiring from the USMC that the two of them were on active duty at the same time. Thank you to all the men and women that sacrifice so much for our freedom. On the quilting front, it seems like I haven't had much to share of late. Most everything I'm currently working on is being done by hand. Satisfying work, but not much progress to share. I have all the wool applique placed for stitching on Soot and Ashes. Then as if to point out that I don't have enough irons in the fire, I was enticed by the Home for the Holidays blog hop. I could not resist the design offered by Cheri Payne. And a little bit like Santa, got straight to my work. The top is pieced, applique stitched. Now to add the embroidery embellishments. But all that is on hold for the next five days. There is GREAT excitement around our house. This afternoon, The California Girls arrive in New England. Three of my quilting pals are flying out for a what I hope will be a whole lot of fun. I hardly got any sleep last night in anticipation. I just received a text that they are on their way . . . . and me still here in my pj's. Lots to do. Be back with tales from our adventures.
Leaves, leaves - they are showing their beauty all around. Join Daisy and I on a walk around town. At the Common are some remnants of Halloween - the town sponsors a scarecrow building event early each Oct. They are on display for all to enjoy. Oak leaves almost look like leather in color and texture. Can you spot the acorn? Maple leaves surprise me because they are not all red. I do not know what these leaves are. But I think they look like poppies. And then there are these leaves - not on the ground but in the grocery store. But what really puzzles me is the product. Really? Is it so difficult to spread frosting with a knife that it now comes in an aerosol can?
Indian Summer is now over and fall has returned in all its glory. Here's a peek out of the dining room window. This morning found us raking leaves. Raking and raking and raking. The bed of our pickup was filled four times for a trip over to the town drop-off spot. Our work-out is done for the day. By morning, you will not be able to tell what we had done. Darling Daisy is getting ready for the changes in season, too. Here she sports her new Gentle Leader. No, it is not a muzzle. It works like a horse halter and gives easy control to the human holding the leash. Daisy is a great walker but she is still a puppy at heart. Remember this photo? Daisy is ever on squirrel patrol. When we are outdoors, she is quick to bolt into action. Wet leaves are slicker than sn*t. Once the leaves are gone, ice will be right behind. To protect life and limb all while assuring Daisy daily walks, we made the decision to add the Gentle Leader to our arsenal. She is trying her very best to look miserable and pitiful. Yet she is not restricted in any way. Quickly, she learned that she could still eats treats just fine. All is well. The stocking that The Quilter knitted for me has been felted. Truth be told, I was a little nervous about the procedure. And from the looks of this - with good reason. The red dye let go as soon as the sock hit the water. *yikes* I watched carefully to make sure that the color was not being picked up in the white stripes. After about 15-20 minutes of agitating by hand in the sink, I was ready to enjoy the result. In person, it looks more felt-y than the photo. The individual stitches are not as evident to the naked eye. Thanks again to Paula for her beautiful and generous work. On the quilting front, I assembled the top for Soot and Ashes yesterday. I took the 'liberty' of starting to place some of the applique though the instructions are not yet given. Even I can manage a vine and some berries without a pattern. Dinner is in the crock pot. We'll get a nice fire rolling in the fireplace and pop in a movie or watch something stored on the dvr and I'll happily stitch away on the applique. My kinda Saturday night.