To Alex -

To Alex...who is far away in person, but never far from my heart. I miss you. Enjoy these snippets of everyday family life here in the states.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So I didn't come back.

I meant to, but I didn't make it. Christmas was fabulous with a surprise visit from F.M.S. who flew in from Taiwan and knocked on my front door. I screamed and jumped into his arms. F.O.S., D-I-L, F.Y.S. and Julie were all in on the surprise. My wonderful children....thank you for the most amazing Christmas. I love you.

For now, I'll be back later because I. am. exhausted. Perhaps it's the lack of sunshine, but I just want to curl up and sleep away the days for a bit. By the way, I'm loving all of your posts from the holidays. Looks like everyone enjoyed themselves immensely. See you next year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Just a reminder....

to myself that the days are now getting longer. Sweet yea! And the sun is shining right now. And I'll add to this post in a bit. I have to show you what I made for my niece, but I have to enjoy the sunshine for now. Be back in a while.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grandma always said.....

to keep it in a North window and give it the last bit of your evening drink of water before you go to bed. If you do that you'll be rewarded with blooms many times each year. Looks like she knew what she was talking about because I do what she said and I've got new blooms coming.....again.

Seriously, my grandmother always had African Violets in her kitchen window and over the years I caught many glimpses of her sharing the last few sips of her water. Her voilets were constantly moist, but she also told me to never water from the top, only pour the water into the bottom saucer because if you water from the top, you risk getting water on the leaves and they will turn brown and die. It's true.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pretty darned cute!

When I give a gift I like to make the wrapping and name tag just as thoughtful as the gift itself, so last year I started making ornament tags to put on my kids and grandkids gifts. I want you to know I'm doing this because it gives me something crafty to work on in my spare time (huh?). Riiiiight, the truth is I'm making the ornaments so each of them will have a ready-made supply when they get their own trees to decorate. These are adorable on the presents......

and I found the directions here. I'm curious what other people do for personalized tags or if they make them at all. 

(Jewleigh, you still have to act appropriately surprised and awed when you get yours. *grins*)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Must make soup!

Go to the health food store, buy the Eden Organic Brown Rice Flakes and make this soup immediately! The recipe is also on the back of the rice flakes package, but I'm telling you, it's the easiest and tastiest broccoli soup I have ever ever ever had. It's heaven in a cup. It's a thick, creamy, tasty comfort food that will make you go crawling back for seconds. Did I mention easy? And just for fun, I made it a second time but with asparagus from my freezer. Again.....heaven in a cup. Please let me know if you make the soup and what you think of it. Seriously!

Jewleigh and Megan - you are going to love this.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

She said what?

Girl's Night Out. That's one of my many favorite things to do with the clever and precocious Miss M. Just the two of us, all dressed up and searching out marvelous adventure downtown. Dessert at a fancy restaurant is a must and the more decadent the dessert, the better it is for us. This brownie with fruit sauce is just what we were craving. See that ziggy little stripe down the right side? Yep, that's the first thing she did when the plate was put before us. She dragged her finger through the chocolate, tasted it, gave an 'mmmmm' of approval and said, "I had to do that."
Later this night we experienced a little of our own fairy tale when we saw Cinderella at the Civic Theatre. It was beautiful and felt sort of magical in the theater with the rich sets and beautiful costumes. We were perched right at the front of the balcony, which gave Miss M a fabulous view of the play. It wasn't long before this little girl was completely smitten with.....the prince? But, I thought this was about Cinderella? Oh no, her royal highness Miss M fell completely head-over-heels in love with the prince. I'm not sure she even realized the story was about Cinderella.

As we gathered our coats after the play a very kind woman mentioned to Miss M that she would be able to meet Cinderella and the prince if she walked down the stairs to the lower level. You should have seen that little girls eyes light up. We had a tiny wait before it was our turn to meet the characters and Miss M spent that time craning and straining to see around the crowd to get glimpses. She was funny, I tell ya. Finally, after what seemed like hours to her, she was able to meet them. She was glowing....and grinning.....and giddy. Look at this picture!
Is she not in love? She hugged him and chatted for a bit while I took pictures. Oh, my gosh, he even let her try on his crown.
Then we had to look at the pictures right! now! As we were leaving she ran over to give the prince one last hug...she told him she loved him...he said he loved her and now, in Miss M's world, his fate is forever sealed with hers. She skipped along the sidewalk all the way back to the car and didn't stop talking about her prince until she fell asleep.

The next morning, as we were making breakfast together, I started singing a song from the play, "do I love you because you're wonderful, or are you wonderful, because I love you?" Now get this, and I'm not kidding here, she annouced with complete wonder in her voice, "that's the song the prince was me!" How did this happen? How did she go to this play and have an entire audience and the cast disappear except for her and the prince? Maybe I was still there with her, but I dunno. The only thing I can think of is that as he's singing he's projecting to the back of the theater and there's little Miss M, perched on the edge of the balcony thinking he's looking right at her? I find it truly amazing and I have no idea how this happened, but I'm thinking the little girl is entitled to her own fairy tale. I did say it was magical in the theater. Stay tuned for more fairy tale updates through the years to come.

Here's a quick photo of another favored tradition between us...baking up yummies. This is a cranberry bread made with flax meal. Pretty delicious too.
Later, I asked Miss M if she would like to learn how to embroider. I thought it might be hard for her and I said as much since this would be her first time using a needle. Right? Difficult for Miss M? No, it was a piece of cake for her. I showed her how to draw a simple pine tree shape and once she drew hers, I copied it to a piece of muslin using a transfer pencil. I sat behind her on the stool for two stitches just to show her how to come up and go back down through the fabric as she followed the line and then she took over. One time I pointed out to her that she was poking willy nilly and that would make it difficult if she found the right spot. For the rest of her time she would say, "poking willy nilly" to reminder herself or "ouch, poked myself". Yeah, we all do that. Still, I'm blown away by how well she did with her first time stitching. Will you look at this?
While she stitched I kept myself busy (and away from her stitching) by cutting out fabric to turn her first embroidery into a pretty little pillow she could keep.
Later, she set the pillow on my bed with my other pillows and said, "ohhh, what a pretty pillow family."

What's not to love about spending time alone with this girl?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Now that's just so cool!

I love to make or bake gifts for people for Christmas and while I seem to be in good company with many bloggers who are similarly like minded, I insist that my gifts be cool, inexpensive and fabulously made. In the spirit of giving, I want to give to lots of people so I have to be very creative in what I give as gifts so I don't go broke. For instance, my 17 y/o niece is going to receive Cashmere mittens I'll be making from a sweater I picked up at a garage sale for $1. Someone else made the mistake of drying the sweater. They thought it was ruined and therefore of no value. I snapped it up knowing full well I could make felted mittens out of it. Seriously, wouldn't you love a pair of Cashmere mittens to slip your hands into?

If you're into hand made Christmas presents and projects, you simply have to start at the November posts from Sew Mama Sew. The good folks over there do all the searching and scouring of blogs and then post the coolest ideas for the rest of us peruse. I found this link and look what I made my nephew for Christmas.

I didn't buy the wooden blocks for mine. I have a friend who gave me a bunch of Formica sample chips that are obsolete and they worked wonderfully. I only made 16 because my nephew is 2 and I didn't want the game to be too difficult for him. I sanded the chips lightly to knock off some of the sheen on the front and to smooth out the back. Then I used Liquitex Matte Gel Medium to adhere left over scrap paper to the front and back. Once dry I lightly sanded the edges and put a slight curve on the corners. I added stickers to a couple pieces that I thought were a bit bland and now I have the coolest Memory Game for my nephew, and it didn't cost me any extra money. I'll make a little drawstring bag to hold his game with some of the left over thrifted pillow case material. You can not beat gifts like this when you have lots of people you want to give to.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

(Rubbing my hands together with glee!)

I finally woke up to snow on Friday morning. Brent and I took my grandson to the symphony Thursday evening and I mentioned somewhat expectantly that I love it when it snows after a Christmas concert. Hey, it happens frequently for me so I didn't think it was too much to expect it to happen again. I had also been feeling a tiny bit envious of those of you who had already received a good snowfall and I was being patient, but seriously, it's December and I wanted snow. Well, wadda ya was snowing when we walked out of the concert.

I thought my morning view was beautiful.

This was so worth the wait.

So, what did snow mean to an outdoorsy, nature loving girl like me? It meant a snowy walk in the woods Saturday afternoon, that's what it meant.

Aman Park is close to home and has great hiking trails that wind along Sand Creek. It was a little late for taking pictures, but the walk was beautiful and the snow was really crunchy. We purposely went out late so we could be hiking in the dark.

Then, we did this on Sunday. There is nothing like winter paddling. The rivers have little or no traffic, it's quiet and beautiful, and you feel like you own the world. And, to answer your questions, no, we don't get cold. At least not any colder than someone who's gone skiing because you dress for the weather and you do NOT fall in the water. Not to worry though, I carry a dry bag with extra clothes....just in case. Okay, okay, yes, I've rolled my kayak (twice) in the winter and it was really, really freakin' cold! Okay? Now you know. Furthermore, I sold the boat that made me swim because it just wasn't working for the sort of paddling I was doing and I bought this pretty little thing this past summer.

This is her first time in the snow. She didn't mind at all. In fact, I think she rather enjoyed the snowy day and she certainly behaved well since I didn't do any swimming - not even close.

Look, I'm sitting on the ice right now.

And how nice of them to light up the river just for me!

We've got 'the blizzard' blowing in now. Perhaps I'll take another walk tonight when the weather is absolutely frightful. Won't that be fun?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Don't do this!

Take pictures while you're driving - that's what I mean. It's just not safe driving practices! However, I thought the view was fabulous and seriously, how often do I get to see a nearly full moon in front of me while the sun is setting behind me? Sorry about the quality of the pictures but I really didn't have time to worry about the composure last night.

I noticed this when I glanced out the window this morning so I ran for the camera and tripod and skipped on out to the front sidewalk. So I was in my robe and slippers. So it was freezing outside. So the neighbor walking his dog thought I was crazy. It's all about the pictures right?

Perhaps I should take up astronomy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gonna give it away.

I believe Michigan now has the dubious honor of having the highest rate of unemployment in the country (15%). Along with that comes a large number of newly homeless who have no more resources to fall back on. It's tough man! Really tough here. Someone in my city, I don't recall who, started a project where you take your hand knit hats and mittens downtown and clip them to a tree or fence along with a note explaining that the item is free for the taking. What I should do is take pictures of the items hanging around town. I don't see them often because, frankly, the items don't stay on the fence for all that long. Anyway, this one is ready to go. Bear says it's nice and warm.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Doing what I love!

Did a little baking.....

Found the recipe for the Pumpkin Brownies here. My gosh, if you want to try an easy and absolutely delicious brownie recipe, you must try these. I mean it, easy. There's only one problem with the brownies....they're gone! Yummm......

Finished a little knitting.....

No, this isn't Maris, but it is her hat that I promised for her birthday. Thanksgiving isn't too far past her birthday.The flower is one of the embellishments found on Ravelry, but I don't remember which one I used. The heart button came in a sewing package I received from FreeCycle. There were lots of goodies in that package.

Founds some flowers in the yard.....

How fortuitous (love that word and it must be pronounced for-tui-tous!) that I still had flowers in the yard just at the time I was wondering how pretty my vase might look with flowers.

Did a little sewing......

I picked up pillowcases for pennies at a local thrift shop and just knew they would make great bags. Love the bright colors and stripes. I especially needed something pretty in the basement to hold the bags I use when I clean the litter box. My assumption is that one needs a pretty bag holder since the job is so dirty. I'm right, aren't I? By the way, I made up the design for the bag and I'm pretty proud of my self for it.

That's what I've been up to this past week. How about you?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Whoo Boy!

That was not fun. I have the lingering cough, but otherwise, I'm back to normal. Thanks to each of you for the good wishes in the comments and via email. That was very kind of you and much appreciated.

Miss M received her leggings, but sadly, not her hat. Huh, I should remind you that I haven't been knitting all that long so there are things I didn't know, but I do now after many frustrating attempts to get the hat to work. Really, the pattern is so simple, but I didn't know that Stockinette Stitch in-the-round is different than on a flat piece. I tore that 'lovely' hat out at least 1/2 a dozen times before I took the whole darned thing into my LYS and begged for help. The clerk was gracious, if you can count laughing at me as being gracious, and quickly explained my troubles. So, it's still on the needles, but I'm hoping it will be done in a couple days and then I'll be able to take a picture of Miss M in her leggies and her hat. I also have to mention that I did the leggies in my incorrect version of the Stockinette, but it actually worked out for the better because there is a lot of up and down stretch to them and she'll be able to wear them longer. And yes, she loved them.

I managed a walk or two in the woods during my sick spell. I didn't see any wildlife, but that was probably because my constant cough scared them away. This might be the last of the fall pictures. There's nothing left on the trees so I'm waiting patiently for the snowfall. I'm envious of those of you who have already received your first snowfall.

When I was nearly recovered and no longer contagious, I spent a few precious hours at my favorite pottery show. Will you look at this pretty little piece?

My goodness, she just jumped in my basket and insisted on going home with me. How was I to tell her no? As soon as I brought her in the house she climbed right up on the table and nestled in next to the pumpkins and a pretty little bowl that shares the same color blue glaze. It's as if she were meant to share my home.

Added: I just found this via Flip & Tumble. Check it out....very cool. Anyone know how to play the piano?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nearly better.

And, my goodness, did this take a long time. It's been quite a while since I've gotten by backside kicked by sickness and after this, well, I'm hoping it's much longer before it happens again.

I did, however, put the time spent recuperating to good use. I finished Maris' leggings last night and then decided she needed a cute little hat to match and the hat must have a cute little flower to go with it. Soooo......I cast on for more knitting.

Here's where I was this morning before breakfast:

Let's hope I finish this by Saturday. The girl needs her hat.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Not a lot I can do.

I'm trying to recover from this ick, I really am, but it's taking far longer than I wish. Ah, well, what's a person to do. I had a date with the couch and a blanket on Tuesday and spent the whole day drinking tea and reading The Gathering Storm, which is the newest book from the Wheel of Time series. My mother picked up the first book nearly 20 years ago, but didn't like it so she gave it to my oldest son to read. He loved it and suggested I read it. Since then we've anxiously awaited the release of each new volume as they've come out and we devour them in no time. We love the story. I remember when F.O.S. was going overseas for the military and I had just bought Crown of Thorns. He wanted to take it with him, but I assured him I would ship it the moment I finished reading it. As he's leaving the house to go back to base, I jokingly asked him if he had taken the book and he assured me he hadn't. In fact, he pointed to the coffee table and said, "see, it's right there." Great! Yeah, no, he had taken the dust jacket off the book and slipped it over another so when I sat down to read I was not too pleasantly surprised to find a book I had already read. F.O.S.? He thought it was hilarious. That's like us fight over who gets to read the books first. For this last book, I bought it for his birthday, which is on the 19th. Guess who got the better of whom this time since he's now getting a 'used' book for a gift. Yep, I read the whole thing, all 780 pages before I'm giving it to him. I think that's pretty funny.

The rest of my evenings this week have been spent working on Miss M's birthday present. I'm much further along than this and I only realized last night that the first burgundy stripe has a mistake. I accidently knit 2 consecutive rows instead of knitting and then purling so I have an extra row in there. Huh! Think she'll notice if I don't say anything? I'm not telling and I'm not taking it out. Miss Ms is an accessory kind of girl so I know she'll love them. She's turning 4 and already has 'her style' going on. Good for her.

I'm hoping I feel better long before I get them completed because it's taking a long time to get through this project. The directions say you can do it in a weekend. Well, not me. I'm not a fast knitter and I could only finish that soon if my weekends were 8 days long. Here's to completing many rows this weekend and to feeling much better by Monday.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wandering Son Update

Those of you who have been around for a while will know two things about me. 1. that my son, Alex,  lives in Taiwan and 2. we are a family of storytellers for as far back as I can remember. Here's my latest email from Alex that covers both areas. I just had to post this. He cracks me up!

It's Halloween Week in Taiwan. The cuteness of Asia babies is intensified even further and we get to play fun games and parade from class to class bellowing "TRICK OR TREAT! SMELL MY FEET!" ad infinitum.

For this year, my two main activities are 1) an impromptu first-person story about accidentally knocking on my neighborhood witch's door and, to my dismay, having her demand a birthday cake or my fingers. After delivering the birthday cake she begins to cry and admits that the source of her vileness is the misfortune of having her birthday fall on Halloween and hence everyone always forgetting to tell her Happy Birthday.

2) I colored about 50 orange ping pong balls to look like "witch eyeballs" and then carried them around in an orange pumpkin trash can. Kids throw the balls in the trash can for sugary prizes. It went over very well on Wednesday and Thursday and I was hoping for the same success this evening. Unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to play...

To transport the game from school to school, I put the trash can full of ping pong balls between my legs on my scooter. We have a bit of a weather system coming in this weekend and it was quite windy outside. As I accelerated at a green light a big gust came in and blew the trash can off of my scooter. The top dislodged and my fifty hand-colored witch eyeballs spilled out and began blowing around an intersection full of cars and scooters. Not even just rolling, the gust was actually taking the balls up into the air! I had ten minutes to get to work and unfortunately could only observe the hilarity of this situation for a minute or two before speeding off to work with a tinge of guilt for littering.


Little Bit of Done!

I've made several cotton dishcloths that will be part of Christmas packages for my siblings. I like the cloths because they're easy to make and hold up to a great deal of abuse. Personally, I don't really care for them as dishcloths, but I do like them for scrubbing walls and floors around the house. This morning, I finished my last one and I think it's my favorite as far as simplicity, but also for the looks factor. I love the stripe right through the middle. I found the pattern here.

You'll have to forgive the quality of the picture (it was early this morning), and the fact that it's not complete in the picture (I did finish it), aaaand the fact that it's upside down (did I mention it was early this morning?)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Please don't leave!

It's too soon! I'm not ready for Autumn to leave me. I haven't made pumpkin pie, I haven't raked up all the leaves, my eyes haven't seen enough of the glorious colors, I haven't walked in the woods enough, I haven't done this.....I haven't done that....I haven't.....

The bittersweet never made it into the vase on my kitchen windowsill.
So many berries dried on the vines.
Leaves are still accumulating on the bridges...
although a few have been captured in the birdbath.
The water is still flowing freely through the culvert. I know because I hung my head upside down over the end to see. See?
The woods are still keeping watch for me....
with the help of cat tails who peer over the top of dried grasses and shrubs. They're holding on to Autumn as long as they can, but the woods and I fear it is to no avail. Winter, bless her blustery heart, is on her way. (Please don't tell Autumn, but I actually l.o.v.e. Winter as well.)
But, really, it's too soon for Autumn to leave me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Still weekending.

When the out-of-doors draws at me, begs me to come play in the woods, I don't resist. I'm happiest in the woods and on the water, and I simply must spend as much time as possible experiencing all this wonderful world has to offer. That's how we ended up on the road again just before sunrise. I knew of a beautiful nature preserve that I was hoping would allow us to paddle on the lake, but the sign clearly said, "No Boating". Scrooges. Fine, we'll just hike the trails around the lake. It was cold, make no mistake about that, but the cold is no deterrent when the woods are alive with color.
Interesting, the frost has begun to melt on the boardwalk except where there are shadows.
I know you wish you had been there with us. Go ahead, you can admit it.
What a pretty carpet to walk on.
Told you it was cold out. I noticed the frost outlines as soon as we got out of the truck.
Close-up of frost on the railings of the boardwalk. I was so excited because I finally figured out how to use the manual focus on my camera. To think I've been trying to use the limited macro setting to do this same thing, and without success, I might add.
What would an early morning walk be like without a bit of reflection?
Pretty isn't it?