Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Family Treasures

Granddad Albert, Dad Dave,
 Dave, Amanda, Treyvin
(Amy's son)
Last weekend, we drove to Wichita Falls, Texas to celebrate the 95th birthday of Dave's granddad, Albert.  Albert still lives alone (though he does have help with meals and cleaning), bowls frequently, attends church regularly and loves to be surrounded by his children and grandchildren.  How often do you get five generations in one picture?
Albert worked his entire career for the MKT Railroad, as a telegrapher and Train Master.  MKT stands for Missouri-Kansas-Texas, but the railroad was familiarly known as the K-T, or "The Katy".  Just a few years ago, one of the local schools asked Albert to visit a classroom and demonstrate the telegraph for the students using the telegraph key he still owns.  He repeated his demonstration for us this weekend.  He can recall the dots and dashes of Morse code and send a message faster than I can text it.

He also has a Train Order Hoop stashed in his garage and gave us it's history.   During the pre-radio communication days, the Train Master would write out orders for the passing trains - routes, times, sidings, etc. - tie them securely to a circle of string, attach the string to a Y-shaped stick and hold it up toward the train.  The engineer stuck his arm through the hoop and pulled the string loose.  Albert saw this as a huge technological improvement over the previous method, in which the orders were attached to a solid metal or wood hoop.  The engineer took the entire stick, removed his orders and tossed the stick back out the window.  By the time he did that, the train had moved at least a quarter mile down the track, and Albert had to walk to retrieve it.

Albert is also a World War II veteran of the Marine Corp.  Even though the Katy railroad is now defunct, and WWII is ancient history to today's school children, Granddad's memories are still vivid, so we encourage him to tell the stories of his life.  These stories are family treasures so I thought I would record a few of my favorites:

In 1938, Albert was working for the MKT Railroad as an apprentice telegrapher.  While he was learning, he wasn't being paid, so he picked up various odd jobs.  One job was helping to move a young lady's possessions to a new room two floors up.  As he carried a load of clothes from the closet, he noticed a pretty red dress sized for a petite woman.  He remembers thinking, "Boy, I would like to meet whatever fits in that dress."  A few months later, in April of 1939, he attended a BYPU (Baptist Young People's Union) meeting and a girl wearing that pretty red dress stood to speak.  They were married 3 months later and it lasted 70 years.

During their brief courtship, Albert and Anita took a train trip from Frederick, OK, to Wichita Falls, Texas, so that Albert's parents could get to know her.  Albert's father worked on the train, and stopped by their seats to chat with them occasionally.  During one stop he noticed his son casually place his hand on the young lady's knee as they spoke.  The shocked father called Albert aside and said "I hope you intend to marry that girl!"  Oh, if only the world were still shocked by such  a simple gesture . . . 

Have you ever wondered what to do in case of a tornado?  Forget all the rules about basements, away from windows, etc.  Albert was once caught unaware, with no time to make it to the house, so he laid face-down in the black-eyed-pea patch where he was working, and survived unscathed.  The challenge is to find black-eyed-pea patch when you need one.  

In August of 1945, Albert and his fellow Marines were aboard a ship in a bay off Okinawa. Over a hundred ships were crowded into the harbor, packed so tight they blocked each other from moving.  And they sat . . . and sat . . . and waited for word on their purpose there, but none came.  On August 6, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.  And still they sat.  Albert received word that his second son had been born on that same day.  And they sat.  On August 9, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. And they sat.  On August 15, 1946, Japan surrendered and the waiting Marines finally got their orders - to return home.  They were then allowed to know the reason for their long, boring (according to Albert) stay at Okinawa:  If the bombs had failed to bring about Japan's surrender, the men aboard those ships were to march on, and capture Tokyo.  I haven't been able to find mention of this "back-up plan" in the history books, but I trust Granddad's memory. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bag Lady

Just call me the Bag Lady.  I have become fascinated with sewing various shapes and forms of bags, totes and purses.  It started with the Sonoma Swing Bag and Drawstring Lunch Bags I wrote about last month.  

Then I moved on to the Hexi Tote from Sleepy Owl Studio.  I love this finished bag - so many different fabrics, so many pockets!  If I make another one, I will make two slight changes.  One, I will make the bottom circular instead of hexagonal.  I know, it ruins the name, but it would be much simpler and the hexi adds nothing as far as looks or convenience.  Secondly, I would research the grommets a little better - or at all.  I didn't know you had to have special grommet-installing tools - and, in my own defense, it wasn't mentioned on the grommet package, as would seem logical.  Dave came up with some creative substitutes and we got them put in - but they aren't as neat as they should/could be.

Similar to the Hexi bag is the Bucket Bag from Elvie Studio.   This version has stiff sides so it stands up on it's own.  The person who pinned it on Pinterest commented that it would make a great "gift basket", and I agree. Fill it with some favorite bath products; a paperback book, tea cup and tea bags; or sewing supplies - add a little tissue and you have a beautiful gift.  Both the hexi bag and the bucket bag are great ways to show off a border print.

Amanda requested a bag to transport her yoga mat to class, so I tried the Nigella Yoga Bag from Amy Butler Design.  It's a simple, lined tube with wide strap for comfort on the shoulder, and an outside pocket for keys, phone, etc.

The fabric doesn't show well in the picture, but I want you to see my great find - purple (Amanda's favorite color) batik with elephants (her favorite design).

Amanda also requested a bag for carrying clothes, shoes and shower supplies, since she often goes to class after work.  She selected the Updated Classic Duffle.  I forgot to get a picture of her finished bag, but the pattern features a wonderful simplified method for installing a zipper in a lined bag.  You can see the original at All Things That Are Good.

I have an entire Pinterest board of bag patterns I still want to try, so stay tuned.  Yesterday I visited an upholstery store to see about recovering a couple chairs and, lo and behold, there's a fabric store in the same building.  Who would have guessed?  Of course a few fabrics followed me home, so I imagine you'll see these in upcoming projects: 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Best Laid Plans . . .

It's been a month since I "retired" and wrote about the free time I now have to craft and read and pursue other leisure activities.  Sometimes things don't go according to plan. The month has been hectic and enjoyable, but there hasn't been as much time for leisure activities - including blogging - as I pictured.

Feeding a crew of 7 or 8 construction workers takes more time than I imagined.  I take meals to the job site three or four days/week, depending on where they are working.  I have an organized system for menu planning and shopping, and I try to spend one day preparing as many items as can be made in advance and frozen.  The available options then go up on the menu board in the kitchen so I can easily see what's in the freezer and what I need to prepare last minute.  

The hitch to this plan is that things change rapidly in the construction business, depending on weather.  I rarely know more than a day in advance where, or if, I will be delivering, so I have to adapt quickly.  The plan is to take the portable grill and serve burgers and brats, but the wind is blowing and I would be serving grit-burgers.  It's raining at the planned job site, so we're moving to site B which requires more driving time.  No time to make a salad that requires a lot of peeling and chopping.  I need a quick dump-together option.  

Then there is loading and clean-up!  I keep a folding table, a small trash can/liners, and totes containing the necessities (hand soap, paper plates,etc.) in the back of my SUV.  But each day, I load food, a pitcher of lemonade, serving utensils, and condiments.  And what gets loaded has to be unloaded, leftovers stored and everything washed. Thank heaven for the dishwasher or I would be out of this business.  Even with automated help, there are still pots, pans and large serving pieces that have to be done by hand.  I try to limit how much disposable stuff we are using and throwing away every day, but I gave in and went to disposable pans for main dishes and desserts. 

With the drive time and serving time, it takes a large chunk of my day, but the guys are so appreciative, that it's worth it.  After several days on a distant site where they ate fast-food burgers every day, two employees requested, "Let's move to a project closer to home where Tami will feed us."  No matter what I offer, it is always received with enthusiasm and gratitude.

Maybe I can blog from the job site.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Just Do It!

I did it!  I left my job and we are now officially self-employed.  There are a lot of implications to that move, but the most fun is the extra time for creativity.  Here's what I've been up to since "retiring".

My front porch got a mini-makeover for summer.  First, this worn and rusted garage-sale find:

got new life with just a fresh coat of paint and a pot of flowers.

 Some patriotic fat quarters became a banner for the porch rail:

 And the front door got a much needed face-lift with a coat of "Ranch Red" paint.

Speaking of painting, I did some of the canvas and easel type also.   Sometimes inspiration comes in the form of an internet image like the one at the right.  (I apologize to the artist that I did not make a not of where I saw his/her beautiful artwork.)  
Here is my version:  

In the sewing room, I used Pink Sand Beach Designs' pattern to create this "Sonoma Swing Bag".  This was the first time in thirty years that I've sewn anything with a zipper, so that required a little "refresher", but I'm pleased with the results.  Since I no longer spend 10 hours of my day away from home, there is no need to carry a large purse.  This size is perfect for a run to the grocery store and I can tuck it into a larger bag when I need to.

Drawstring lunch bags were my next project:

I found this pattern on Pinterest   It goes together much easier than it looks.  Read all the instructions before beginning, and give some thought to which direction the fabric pattern will run before you cut - otherwise your shoes will be sideways.

I'm not sure how well they would actually work as lunch bags. They are not insulated - although I think you could insert a layer of Insul-bright batting in place of the interfacing - and they are rather small if you take more than a sandwich and an apple for lunch.  

I'm not sure how I will use them.  They would work great for carrying small craft projects, like hexies, or to pack with snacks, crayons, etc as a child's  "goody bag" for car trips or during church.  For now, they are sitting in the closet waiting for inspiration to strike . . .  Maybe in time for the next "Inspiration on Monday".

IOM is a bi-weekly meme hosted by Trish @ Love, Laugher and a Touch of Insanity.  I am also linking this post to Needlework Tuesday, hosted by Heather at Books and Quilts.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Inspiration: The Chicken and the Egg

While visiting our son, Mitch, over the weekend, I visited one of my favorite quilt shops.  I was barely two steps in the door before I was "ooohing" and "aaaahing" over some retro prints.  Whitney, Mitch's girlfriend, who was patiently indulging me on this stop, innocently asked "What are you making?"  Making?  You mean from this specific fabric? - or any of the 17 other fabrics I purchased?"  .  .  . I have no idea!  I wasn't, technically, shopping for fabric.  Well, I mean, I was shopping for fabric but, on a grander scale, I was shopping for inspiration - slowly ambling the aisles, taking in all the beautiful colors and patterns until something grabbed me.  

The old question about the chicken and the egg applies well to my sewing. Which comes first?  The fabric or the project idea?   A basket of fat quarters sits on the corner of my work table in my sewing room. These are the fabrics from past shopping trips that "grabbed" me; that I just had to have - even if I didn't know why.  Some fabrics only remain in the basket for a few days, others may stay months.  Sometimes the fabric plainly says "I am a ________."  And sometimes the project idea comes first, and suddenly it's obvious that a fat quarter I bought 8 months ago is the perfect fabric.

Here is the inspiration that came home with me this weekend:
Christmas prints in red and lime green;
Pink(ish) newspaper print and two coordinates;
Mid-Century geometric prints
Christmas prints in black and aqua;
Fashion fabric and coordinate
Coral and aqua patterns
Awesome retro fabric!
Which comes first in your sewing or crafts?  The project idea or the perfect supply?

Inspiration on Monday is hosted by Trish and Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity and occurs the first and third Mondays of each month.  Link up your post about something you've created or things you are doing to help inspire others. Posts about projects in progress, finished projects, tutorials, and how-tos are all welcome. Feel free to share recipes, crafts, lifestyle, organizing, and DIY tips, and any other idea that can spark inspiration.

Needlework Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Heather @ Books and Quilts.  Show others what projects you've been working on and see what they are working on.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


SAHM = Stay-At-Home-Mom. 

From 1981, when I was twenty years old and knew everything, and therefore did not need to finish college - to 1990, when our first child was born, I held a string of jobs.  I was a clerk for the Department of Sociology at Kansas State, a bank teller, a clerk for an Experiment Farm run by Kansas State, a secretary for an insurance/real estate business,and a bookkeeper at a John Deere dealership.  At one point, I scheduled local commercials at an NBC affiliate.  

When Mitch was born, Dave and I decided that I would quit my job and stay home to raise this child and any future children.  Actually, it wasn't really a decision, it was a foregone conclusion.  We both expected me to be a SAHM.  

I loved those years and would do them again in an instant - provided I get to be 30 again and have more energy.  I took pride in caring for my children, running an efficient household, being the "class mom" who got volunteered for every school activity, and discovering creative ways to entertain and educate our children.  I'm proud of the job I did.  

I returned to work part time when they were in grade school - working only during school hours at a medical clinic across the street from their school.  As far as they were concerned, life continued as always.  When they were nearing jr. high, I got the chance to be a librarian - a life long dream - so I returned to full-time employment.  When we moved to Green Acres, both kids were in college, and a second income was helpful - so I found my current job in the office of a manufacturing plant.  

This Friday - May 1, 2015 - will be my last day there.  I am "retiring" . . . at least from the public workplace.  I will be helping Dave run the construction business we purchased at the first of the year.  Along with some bookkeeping duties, my main responsibility will be to feed the crew.  Stopping work to drive into the nearest town (grain bins aren't usually built inside city limits) and finding a cafe or fast food can take a large chunk from the middle of a work day.  And often the nearest town is too small to have a restaurant.  So, on the days that they are working within "reasonable driving distance" of home, I will take a hot meal to them.  On days when the drive is too far I will either pack a cold lunch to go with them or, if available, let them eat out.  W e are also hosting a monthly employee get-together to promote teamwork and a "family" feeling. 

None of this is set in stone.  If I decide to visit one of the kids or my parents, Dave and the crew will fend for themselves as they have in the past.  My parents are now 78 and 80, and they live about three hours away.  I'm excited to have the freedom to visit them more often and be there when needed.  Without a 9 to 5 job, I can also take advantage of deals on plane tickets to visit the daughters in Albuquerque, without worrying about scheduling time off work (cause the deals are never on a weekend!).  

As I was trying to explain to a co-worker why I am leaving, and why I want to take on these new jobs, it dawned on me that I'm returning to being a SAHM.  The family dynamic has changed.  Someday my parents will need more care than my children.  Our six employees and their families have become our extended family.  But the job is the same -- caring for my original and extended family, running an efficient household and business, being the dependable "gofer" and "girl Friday", and discovering creative ways to entertain and educate the "family".

Yes, I'm excited for time to have a clean house and a well-maintained yard; time to garden; time to attend a Bible study; or time to read, sew and paint.  I'm excited to wake up each day and no longer think about what I have to do today, but what I want to do, what I get to do.  

There will be no tears over leaving a career; no feelings of inferiority because I don't have a title; no regrets about what I could have or should have accomplished.  Only joy at returning to what I was created to be - a stay-at-home-mom to all those whom I call family.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Read-a-thon Wrap-up

Unfortunately, there's not much to wrap up.  My read-a-thon did not go as planned - not even close.  I had a little health issue that required me to take a break from reading to pick up medicine - about a 30 minute round trip.  Along the way, I stopped at an estate auction that Dave was attending (sans cell phone) to tell him what I was doing.  The sale was poorly attended because of the rainy weather and things were selling for a song.  I got sidetracked and spent way too much time there.  Eventually, I finished my run to the pharmacy and returned home.  

For the next few hours I tried to read but was just too uncomfortable to concentrate. . . fast forward through several phone conversations . . . finally was told to go back to town for a different med.  By that time it was late evening and I was still uncomfortable so I pretty much gave up and went to bed.

I checked back in for the last hour this morning and found the Share A Song Mini-Challenge hosted by Reno at Falling Letters - Share a song featured in or inspired by one of the books you read today.  Since I got very little reading done, I decided to share a couple songs that fit my entire read-a-thon experience.

First up - - Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show - "I Got Stoned and I Missed It."  No, I wasn't actually stoned, but it was drugs, in some form, that caused me to miss most of the day.

Thankfully, this wonderful day comes around every six months.  So I'll mark my calendar for October and join Carly Simon in Anticipation.