Thursday, December 31, 2009

Obligatory Yearend Wrapup

  • January began with a visit from Tom, Nichole and Mallaika -- a good omen.
  • The winter delivered fewer ice storms than previous years.
  • The boys traveled to Oregon with Kevin and Rachel to celebrate their great-grandmother's 90th birthday
  • In April, my family gathered around me to celebrate my 70th birthday -- I had eight sleepover guests. My house and heart were full to overflowing.
  • Least amount of tornado activity since we've lived here -- only one night in the shelter (in January!).
  • The boys finished elementary and Junior High School, each according to his grade. They got fabulous grades.
  • Ben went to summer school and to band camp.
  • Logan went to football camp and got really buff.
  • I spent most of the summer driving kids around.
  • Both boys went to California to visit Valery, Colleen and all the California relatives.
  • Rick gave us a health scare, but is fine, now.
  • Kathy and Rick got married.
  • Ben started high school, spent nearly every waking moment busy with band activities.
  • Logan started Junior High, played football -- never losing a game he played in.
  • I visited Tom, Nichole and Mallaika and we spent a weekend on Nantucket Island with Cousin Chris, her husband Lorenzo, and their child, Eleonora, visiting from Florence.
  • Colleen and Andy got married and are soooo happy.
  • Both boys started the year as sopranos and ended up tenors -- each grew six inches.
  • I quilted, and quilted, and quilted, and then I read a book.

Yeh, a couple of icky things happened, but they are in the past for the most part. All in all, it was a wonderful year.

Happy New Year! (And come visit me!)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ben Loves Books (His Mother's Child)

Ben is in his glory. This tower of books awaits his reading pleasure -- they should keep him busy for a month or two. We went to Barnes and Noble the day after Christmas and he spent his entire Christmas wad -- $130 -- on books. He loves to buy series that come in sets and then read the whole series IN ORDER, if you please. His bookshelves are filled with read and unread books, the unread books are tipped on their sides, or lay on top of the other books with the unread pages facing out. He would give up his brother or his dog sooner than he would part with a book. I've tried to point out there will come a time in his life when, as a college student, he will likely move frequently and books are heavy and take up a lot of space. He says that's OK, he'll just leave them with me until he gets settled.
But he comes by this genetically, I remember a day when his mother was a child -- about eight years old. We had been grocery shopping and were about to head for home and she began to pitch a fit. When I asked her what was wrong, she wailed, "I can't go home, I have nothing to read." Fortunately, because I carry the same gene, I understood perfectly and we made a stop at the library before continuing homeward.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Traditions


At dawn's first light, from my front door: it's white, it's cooooold, (15 degrees, wind chill -2) and it's treacherous -- there's a layer of ice on the street.



Such a teen-ager!! I actually had to wake him up this morning!



They've been very good boys this year, Santa brought lots of presents.


Oh Boy! Socks!


And Underwear!!


Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pictures to Follow

Here's the menu so far as I know it, still subject to change:
Cheese and Crackers
Pinwheels
Cocktail Wiener wraps
Clam Dip
Champagne
Sodas
Sparkling Cider
Coffee
Turkey
Prime Rib
Dressing
Gravy
Cranberry/Orange Relish
Spicey Carrots
Green Beans Lyonnaise
Grilled Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Parmesan
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Dinner Rolls
Crab Salad
Cheesecake
Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie

I expect around 22 people, more are welcome! There's plenty of food, plenty of room, we expect to have plenty of fun, and just maybe, a white Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Delicate Balance

Ben has a few OCD quirks. Recently he has taken up balancing things in odd places. He leaves a knife straddling the kitchen sink every time he goes through the kitchen.

Here's another. This banner hangs from an over-the-door wreath hanger. He balanced the wooden dowel the banner hangs from on the tip of the wreath hanger. I'm sure there are others, I have to keep my eyes open.

I just made the banner last week from a kit that has been hanging around the house several years. The year Rachel and Kevin were married, I bought it by mistake thinking it was a kit for a stocking to make for Rachel. At least now I can move it from my unfinished projects storage area to the Christmas stuff. And yes, I bought another kit and made a stocking for Rachel.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Life in the Banana Belt -- the Gray Zone


This morning's weather map shows us in the gray zone, again. Weather seems to go all around us -- never quite happening where we are. That's a good thing if you are talking about tornadoes and ice storms. But, if it's snow, the boys want it here, now! Or maybe for Christmas -- here's a piece of next week's forecast:

Do you think we could have a white Christmas?






Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Stockings Are Hung . . .

Over the years I've made 15 or so of these sequined felt Christmas stockings for my children, grandchildren, great-granddaughter, and various spouses. When I hung Ben and Logan's stockings the year of Robin's death, I was surprised to find some chocolate coins in both stockings. I felt they were a gift from her to her boys. So, each year when I hang the stockings, I put a few chocolate coins in them.

Here's Logan's stocking -- this one confuses me. I'm not sure what Noah's Ark has to do with Christmas, or how those candy canes got on the ark. I guess this proves the flood occurred over Christmas and that Santa Claus predates Jesus.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Women Who Hang Together

Silent sentries on my dining room wall watch over me and guide me while I'm sewing. They inspire me and I find them great company. Many of my quilting hours are filled with speculation about their daily lives. Let me introduce you.

Lucy Nichols, my great-great grandmother, came from Bridgeport, Connecticut to California. She was a true 49'er. She and her husband somehow made their way to St. Joseph, Missouri in 1849, leaving their six year old son, my great-grandfather, William Nichols, in the care of Lucy's parents. Lucy's mother would not allow them to take William on that dangerous trip because she feared Indians would surely scalp him. Lucy and her husband, Eli, arrived safely in El Dorado County and sent word to Lucy's mother to pack little William off to California. The six-year-old boy traveled by boat, alone, wearing a tag around his neck with his name and contact information about his parents. He crossed the isthmus of Nicaragua and sailed up the California coast, arriving in San Francisco a day ahead of schedule. No one was there to meet him. Fortunately, a kindly couple had taken him under their wing and took care of him over night, delivering him safely to his parents the next day.

William grew up in California and married his California-born bride in Shingle Springs in the late 1860's. His wife, Christina, hangs below her mother-in-law.

I don't know much about Christina Wagner Nichols, except that her father was said to be very mean . She died in 1898 of pneumonia when my grandmother was twelve years old. Her husband remarried the stereotypical wicked step-mother, so my grandmother and her little brother left home to live with an older sister in Placerville.

Amanda Schooley, my great-grandmother (mother to my paternal grandfather, Ernest William Blair), looks down from the upper right hand position. Amanda was born in Ovid, New York in 1842, one of eight children born to Nancy and Ezra Schooley. Ezra left New York to seek his fortune in California in 1850. Unfortunately, he died "about ten miles short of the diggin's" from the "disease of the country" which I take to be dysentery. Coincidentally, years later but before I had dug up this family history, I bought a home in El Dorado Hills, about ten miles from Coloma, just off the road that leads to Coloma, where Ezra Schooley is buried.

Amanda Schooley was a middle child in the brood of eight and just a couple of years older than her cousin Frances (Fanny) Seward, who lived in Auburn, New York. Fanny's mother Frances, was the wife of William Seward, Abraham Lincoln's secretary of state.

Frances' (the elder) picture is in the lower right hand corner. Amanda had great respect and love for the Sewards and spent a great deal of time in their home, until she left for California in 1861. In 1862 she married James Blair and they settled in Pollock Pines where they operated Sportsman's Hall -- an inn and changing station for teams crossing the Sierra to bring supplies in to the Comstock silver mines in Nevada and to bring silver out to be shipped east. Later, James and his brother John made their fortune in the lumber business.

Frances Seward was an amazing woman. She was a great champion of public education, prisoner's rights, and emancipation. The Seward home was an underground railroad station and just down the road -- South Street -- from Harriet Tubman's farm. The Sewards held (and forgave) the mortgage on the Tubman farm. Frances died in June, 1862, just a couple of months after the terrible attack on her husband and son that coincided with Lincoln's assassination. Fanny, the daughter and Amanda's companion, died in October of the same year.

So, I sit and sew and speculate on their lives. More musings about them another time.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Morning Sounds

From Logan's room, the muffled music from his radio sounds like Moroccan camel driver music, "heeba, heeba, wumpah, wumpah, thump thump." No matter what the song, they all sound the same coming through his door and down the hall to where I sit quilting in the dining room over my second cup of coffee.
From Ben's room, nothing, silence. I resist the impulse to stick a mirror under his nose and check for breath, any sign of life. Remember how when your baby was new born you frequently checked to make certain s/he was still breathing? You got over it by trading that worry for a desperately needed full night's sleep. With these guys, I don't get over it. I still need to check on them early in the morning, or in the night if I should awaken. I need reassurance of their safety more than I need uninterrupted sleep. What am I going to do when they are driving and dating?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SNOW


There you have it -- the first snow of the season on Logan's sweatshirt. Not much more is forecast, but we're all excited anyhow. I haven't yet seen enough snow in my life to be indifferent to it -- I still get crazy happy when it starts to fall. The kids do too, although I'm not sure if it is the snow or the possibility of a snow day that thrills them.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Wrapup

We went from this Blackened, brined Martha Stewart-ish divine bird to . . .


. . . this parade of the plastic containers in fewer than two hours thanks to . . .
. . . this group of cousins and their various parental and grandparental appendages.
(Nicholas, Ben, Logan, Nikki, Alicia, Sadie, and Adam)

Doesn't this photo look like it belongs on the cover of a foodie magazine? These two sweeties -- Krista and the pumpkin trifle -- were an important part of the feast. Krista and Amanda made this masterpiece the night before and it was indeed a feast for the eyes and the tummy.

Amanda (center) and her girls, Nikki and Alicia

These photos were taken either by Amanda or by her friend Kerri -- I had forgotten my camera.
It was a wonderful party, and we heard many heartwarming expressions of gratitude. Ben had me in tears expressing gratitude for a safe place to live after the terrible events in his early life. Logan followed that up with an expression of gratitude for pumpkin pie. So much in character, both of them. For that I am grateful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Working Titles


This morning I "test-napped" the quilt I finished late last night. Based on that test, I can honestly tell you, it's a very good quilt. I slept for three cozy hours under my comfy wool-stuffed blankie embraced by all the love and memories that went into its creation. That may be the only nap it will give, because I plan to hang it on the wall of a guest bedroom. But I'm sure it will warm that room.

Before sending it to the wall, I have to name it. The name and some vital statistics will go on a label sewn on the back. But I'm struggling with what to call it. I've used several names during the process of making it, but I'm still undecided.

This quilt is a humility quilt. It is filled with mistakes and learning experiences. I have purposely left those mistakes in the quilt, so that it can tell the story of my learning. I am aware of its flaws just as I am aware of those in the people I love and in myself. Those "flaws" are simply cherished variations on the human condition and they remain as a testament to my love for the foibles of all those dear to me.

Here are some of the candidates for the name of the quilt:
  • Late Bloomers -- this was the first name I came up with, chosen because I came to quilting late in my life. The designer of the quilt called hers "Flowers for MacKenzie" because she made it for her granddaughter, so I thought I might stick to the flower theme for the name.
  • Old Dog, New Tricks -- kind of the same line of thinking. I am pleased that I have learned a new skill at this stage. Also there is a dog in one of the blocks.
  • Wool Gathering -- the batting of the quilt is wool. So, the quilting process involved "gathering" the wool. For me, quilting is a deeply meditative process. I play music and let my mind wander as I make the rhythmic, repetitious stitches. I make certain that I think positive, pleasant thoughts, so those qualities are stitched into the fabric. I had to put it aside for a couple of days when my friend's daughter had a stroke, because I was so enraged over what I considered to be a manifestation of violence against women for economic gain. I couldn't allow that anger to be embedded in my quilt.
  • Good Grief -- many times my thoughts turned to memories of departed loved ones. I spent hours in the company of Robin, Ken, and my grandmothers. Those are memories of joy and love and were hours of joyous reunion.
  • Picking up the Pieces -- In addition to memories, I reflected on the joy I now have in my life with Ben and Logan, which I describe with a metaphor alluding to the scraps of fabric I pieced together and to the life we have stitched.
  • Birth of the Elephant -- This is the name I have used for the last several weeks. It refers to the 22 month gestation period of both an elephant calf and this quilt. It also refers to a family joke Ken and I shared and I will try to explain. When Ken was a child, Aunt Helen and Uncle Bill took him to a dinner show at the Nugget in Sparks. He was thrilled and told me about it with great excitement. The show was "Bertha the Elephant" but I misunderstood and thought he said "Birth of the Elephant." We went on to imagine what Birth of the Elephant would be and decided it would be a ballet parody of the "Dying Swan." It came to represent clumsiness in the pursuit of grace. In some ways, I feel that is what I have achieved with this quilt.
Let me know what you think I should call it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Family in Uniform


Uncle Bill Blair served in the Army Air Corps during WWII, before there was an Air Force branch of service. He flew 40 missions as co-pilot of a bomber in the South Pacific. Bill and Margaret Crehore were married in 1945. Margaret passed away in 1994 just short of their 50th wedding anniversary. Bill still lives in Pasadena in the home where they they raised their girls. He is a busy man with many hobbies and passions. He has enjoyed displaying his restored music boxes (really huge machines, not little boxes) and his restored Norden Bomb Site. Last summer he drove cross-country alone to attend a convention and spent a few days here with us. We love it when he comes to town.

Brother Ken Blair served in the US Marine Corps during the Vietnam War era. He had been a student at UC Berkeley when the draft lottery was initiated. His draft number was 2. To have more control over his destiny, he enlisted and remained state-side for his entire service. Ken died in 1993 and I still miss him every day.

Brother Rick served in the US Army Reserves. I believe this picture was taken in 1964, the year my twins were born. He served six months of active duty and six years as a weekend warrior. He now lives in Napa with his bride, Kathy, where they are enjoying their first year of retirement. He has two children, Hollis and Jason.
Brother Mickey (I can't call him by any other name, though most friends called him Mike after he was grown up), served in the Air Force from 1959 to 1963. He served in the Canine Corps working with German Shepherds. Dogs (and all kinds of animals) were a passion of his. His two children, Lynette and Scott, live in Nevada. Mickey died in 1989.



Hollis, Hollis, Hollis. What can I say? She always amazes me. Bright, creative, energetic and full of surprises. I haven't seen her for several years but have hope she will find her way to Missouri soon. Ben and Logan need to spend some time with her! She is currently in transition in the Air Force, planning to be a medic.

This may give you some idea why and how Hollis amazes me. I love her to pieces and she fascinates me!

Uncle Bill is full of surprises, too!

A few other family members not pictured have also served: Ben and Logan's grandfather, Steve Maples, just retired from the Army Reserves. He served many active tours in many awful places, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others.

Ben and Logan's father, Steve, served four years in the Navy.

Roger Moore, my former husband, father of my children, and grandfather to all my grandchildren, was in the Navy when we met and married. Robin was born while he was on active duty on Whidbey Island, Washington.

I don't think of ours as being a "military" family, but these folks have racked up many years of service.

Monday, November 9, 2009

YAZ

The daughter of a friend had a stroke yesterday. The daughter has been using the YAZ birth control product. My friend posted the following message on her facebook wall:

"Friends - Our daughter suffered a stroked today. The ER doc pointed a straight line to YAZ (birth control pill). He said he sees 3 cases a week of stroke due to Yaz. Please share this info with anyone you know who may be using this product."

I am so sad for them and so angry. ONE doctor in ONE hospital sees THREE cases a week and the product is still on the market. What do you suppose the worldwide toll is?

After posting the message on my facebook wall, a relative responded that she is taking VAZ. I am praying she will not take another dose. I have been in tears all afternoon and do not know how to function in my hysteria. But I must find every means possible to tell everyone I know to not take a single dose of VAZ. There are other choices -- call your doctor now! Stop taking VAZ. Have a baby, use a condom, abstain, you can get through this! But don't take VAZ! My friend had discussed the risks of VAZ last week with her daughter. The girl was "busy" and didn't get around to following up.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wait till Next Year (Maybe We Won't Be So Boring)

Dogwood November 8, 2008



Dogwood November 8, 2009

Indian Summer is in full swing -- 72 degrees and climbing. It's been wet and warm this fall, no hard freeze yet, so I'm not sure why the tree is barer and why it didn't get as brilliantly red. It is slightly mildewed maybe due to the very damp weather last month. Very few tornado threats this year, not much hurricane activity. Boring is good.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Obsessed

Here's some hand quilting detail on the quilt that currently consumes me. It's hand appliqued and hand quilted and I've been working on it for nearly two years. But, now I believe the end is in sight. I should have it done by Thanksgiving. I've learned a lot in the process. I think my hand quilting is quite adequate -- I get about seven stitches to the inch and it looks pretty good IMHO. And I LOVE doing it -- it really nourishes my obsessive tendencies and spares me from unpleasant obsessive activities, like housekeeping.


Logan's Obsession

Logan awoke yesterday morning and told me we had to get a chocolate cake mix and frosting. He had a notion that a chocolate cake with bananas and vanilla ice cream would be really good. So, he mooshed bananas in the batter and made this vanilla ice cream filled cake. He will serve it for dinner tonight when his girlfriend (!) dines with us.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Not Again!

Over 50 inches of rain so far this year and the river is flooded again. In this shot taken down river, you can see the bridge in the center, the mill to the left of the bridge, and a line of turbulent water where the dam is swamped. Click on the picture to see an enlarged image. Today is crisp and clear.

Things have settled down now that football and band season are over. Logan's team ended the season at 5-1 -- he was sick and couldn't play the day they lost a game. Ben survived and enjoyed his overnight band trip to Saint Louis and I lived through my anxiety over letting him go. The kids got great 1st term grades: all A's except both boys got B's in English. Both boys have "famous" English teachers. Life is good and dull making it hard to find anything bloggable.

Tomorrow is my favorite holiday. No, not Halloween -- Fall Back -- DST ends and we get an extra hour's sleep!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why does this feel like cheating?

I got my sister a birthday present. It's what she wanted and what I wanted to give her. So, I should feel good about it. And I do, but there's a little part of me that feels guilty because it was so easy. I sat down at my computer and ordered a gift card, paying for it with my debit card. No trip to the store, no anguishing over choices, no gift wrap, no trip to the post office. Somehow my gut says I more fully express my love if I go through all the painful machinations I just described. I want to get over it.

I like getting gift cards and I love spending them. Each time I spend them it is like getting a gift all over again. My son and daughter-in-law gave me a gift card for JoAnne's fabric store. I go there a lot, so it was a great gift. Not only do I go there a lot, but I usually spend very small amounts of money each trip. So my gift card lasted for four visits to the store -- like getting four presents.

When buying an online gift card, I save postage, which is getting awfully expensive. I've spent nearly $50 on postage this month sending packages. I've got to get over the guilt! My sister's gift was entirely electronic. I wonder if she will spend it online.

Okay, I've convinced myself -- it's not cheating. Expect to receive a gift card the next time I give you a present!

By the way, Valery's birthday is Saturday, the 25th. Wish her a happy birthday (and if you get her a present, make it a gift card for Macy's.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Guess Who


Guess who is under this stocking cap. I'm not sure I could pick Ben out of a crowd with his red hair covered. He's dressed in the clothes he wears under his band uniform when it's 32 degrees: thermal underwear, shorts, T shirt, gloves, and stocking cap. The hoodie over his shoulder will be worn when he is out of uniform. He needed all of this at yesterday's band festival at Missouri State University where he had a great time and the band placed tenth (out of about 40 bands).
Guess who helped me design this signature block for a quilt my club is making. I had decided on the book and the flower, but didn't know what to do with the leaves. Logan suggested that I randomly strew them at the bottom of the block. I think it worked really well. The open book will be signed by the women who have made blocks which will be assembled into a quilt we are donating to the library.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Danny

It's been difficult to decide what to write about Danny. Here's the story .
The important part is that Danny is now getting better. It's been a tough road both for him and his mom, Colleen. As a family we have had more than our share of horror and violence; each new occurrence refreshes earlier pain.

I love him and he's my hero. I wish I could hug him (that might hurt, he 's still held together by 30 staples) and tell him so to his face.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Where's Ben?


Can you find Ben? He's singing in the High School Choir concert this past Thursday evening. It was fabulous -- couple hundred voices led by an enthusiastic, energetic, charismatic director and an equally equipped assistant director made music that rivaled any choral concert I have ever heard. The program's pace was perfect -- the logistics of moving around so many kids were handled beautifully with the director filling in the silent (as silent as could be with scores of teenagers climbing off and on risers) moments with witty comments. I hope these kids know how privileged they are to work with such a talented teacher. The music ranged widely: classical Christian music sung in Latin, a Hebrew hymn, Negro spirituals (or the more politcally correct term that no one recognizes: "antique gospel music"), African a capella (well, not entirely a capella, there were a few rhythm instruments -- like Ladysmith Black Mambaza), women's a capella in the style of Eastern European Women's choruses (think Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares), and love songs. An ambitious program under any circumstances and astounding so early in the school year! The concert occurred on Robin's birthday; I saw it as a tribute to her.

While the choir sang within the comfort of the auditorium, the storm raged without. Nearly 8 inches of rain fell in a 12 hour period, much of it during the concert.
The road was closed to traffic, but I was able to park near the mill and walk out onto the bridge.
This shot is looking upriver into the flooded park. The water extends all through the park and across the road .



Looking downstream from the bridge, the dam has been completely overwhelmed by the flooding waters. It sounded like the roar of the ocean. Notice also, the beginning of fall color.
Looking upstream to the left of the bridge you can see that all the private docks are now midstream; none of the homes were threatened.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Speak up, please

I surrendered after a long struggle and got new hearing aids this week. The unit on the left is the new one; on the right is the equivalent unit in 2oo2 technology. I hated the old one. It wouldn't stay over my ear and kept flopping around. The new one isn't perfect either, but it's a lot better.

People who hear well have a hard time understanding why their hearing-impaired friends are reluctant to wear hearing aids. Let me tell you some of the reasons.

1. Hearing aids don't restore natural hearing. Everything always has a "coming from the bottom of a well" sound.

2. It isn't a simple as wearing glasses to correct vision. Hearing aids require batteries, maintenance, and they wear out. And they don't correct hearing as well as glasses correct vision.

3. They're very expensive. The ones I bought come in three quality levels. I bought the cheapest ones -- $2,600 a pair. The top of the line cost $5,800. And you have to replace them every 3-5 years. And insurance doesn't cover them.

But, given all that, I crossed the line and gave in when I was driving in the car with Ben and he asked me, "What's that noise?" I couldn't hear it and he couldn't believe I couldn't hear it. Turned out the noise was two styrofoam boxes filled with restaurant leftovers rubbing together. Nothing I needed to hear, but it was enough to make me worry about missing a sound I do need to hear.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ends and Odds


Logan (66) on the 40 yard line for kick off -- they won their third game -- 3 and 0 for the season.



A car powered by algae, unless . . .



. . . it's powered by this conventional truck.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

School Pix

I love this typical Ben expression -- and how about that Adam's apple?


Long hair and braces -- that's Logan. The girls are crazy about him and so am I.



Today Logan's football game is at another school -- his first away game and first ride on the team bus. Ben and I (and probably Grandpa) will be in the stands cheering him on. We are so busy with football, band and practices that I was compelled to put music lessons on hold until the first of the year. They have missed 3 out of the last 4 lessons -- paying for a whole month and getting one lesson just doesn't make sense. We'll miss them -- Chris (guitar/Logan) and Mark (drums/Ben) have become an important part of Missouri lives.

We'll have to bundle up for this evening's game -- the temp has dropped to the mid-40's at night and the mid 60's during the day. Walnuts are all over the ground and there is the first tinge of red in the maples.