Saturday, December 17, 2016

Virtual Advent Tour - Welcome Back

Welcome back for a second stop on the Virtual Advent Tour.  Last weekend, I told you about a friend who is facing a change in her Christmas traditions because she'll be celebrating Christmas from a hospital room.  At the risk of being thought a "downer", this week I want to share about some changes in my own Christmas routine.

For many years, my extended family has gathered at my mother's house for our Christmas meal and gifts.  When we returned home, Dave and I, and our children started our own holiday traditions.  

My mother celebrated her 80th birthday a few weeks ago.  Hosting a gathering of twenty-five or more - even if others bring part of the food - has been increasingly difficult.  This year she is considering letting my sister host.  It looks like a small change.  After all, my sister just lives a few blocks away, the menu will be the same and Mom will contribute part of it.  But its a sign that time is marching on.

Our children are now grown and have homes of their own and, of course, they want their turn to host our immediate family for Christmas.  I enjoy visiting their homes and, to be honest, the house where Dave and I now live was never "home" to either of them.  They were in college when we moved here.  But it's another reminder of the passage of years.  More change.

But on Christmas Eve, the four of us (now five with the addition of Mitch's bride a few weeks ago) will all be in one place.  We will exchange gifts and laugh and eat and play games - just like always.  On Christmas morning we'll have cinnamon rolls in our pj's and watch A Christmas Story on repeat.  We'll dress a little nicer than usual and sit around the table and share a meal.

Tomorrow afternoon, two 7-year-old girls will be at my house to decorate Christmas cookies.  Decorating sugar cookies is a tradition dating back to my mother's childhood and passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter and now to granddaughters.   My two assistants on Sunday are not my granddaughters, but since I don't have any grandkids close enough to help, they are standing in.  The giggles, sticky fingers and sprinkle-covered floor will still be the same.  

Time moves on, people age, traditions adapt, and sometimes - for better or worse - things change for good.  But still we celebrate because Christmas is not about the gifts or the decorations or even the traditions.  As Linus explained to Charlie Brown in their annual Christmas special, "I can tell you what Christmas is all about."
 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”      -Luke 2:8-14
So wherever you are, and whether you have dozens of traditions or none at all, I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Virtual Advent Tour

A perfectly decorated tree, Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas in the background, egg nog and hot chocolate, the family gathered together to exchange beautifully wrapped presents with no visions of credit card bills dancing in their heads. This is what I call my "Norman Rockwell" fantasy. I have it every year when I start making Christmas plans. This will be the year that it actually happens. This will be the year with no scheduling conflicts or atrocious grocery bills. THIS will be the year that my fantasy comes true and we have the "perfect Christmas". When it doesn't happen, I'm momentarily crushed and vow to try harder next year.

But this year is different. This year, instead of worrying about finding the perfect gift or how many pies to make, I'm helping plan a benefit for a friend who is spending her Christmas season in the hospital. Kari is a 32-year-old foster-mother of two boys. In May, she and her husband sold their business. Kari had plans to spend the summer at home with her boys, then start job-hunting after school started. Instead, within a few weeks, she was diagnosed with kidney failure due to diabetes, and contemplating a transplant. Her fun summer changed to a string of doctor appointments and hospital stays. An infection lead to more complications, more hospital stays, extreme pain, confinement to a wheelchair and, finally, 42 hours in a coma. While I was searching for deals on Black Friday, she was having  a nerve biopsy. While I decorated the tree, she struggled through physical therapy.

Tonight, several hundred people will gather to throw a party and raise money - not for Christmas gifts or lavish meals - but for hospital bills, medications, and home health care. Friends and family will sacrifice a portion of their Christmas budget to give Kari a chance for more Christmases. My Norman Rockwell picture has faded this year, and in it's place is a vision of Tiny Tim - "God Bless us, every one."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankfully Reading Weekend

This year, Hubs and I find ourselves alone for Thanksgiving.  That's not a complaint - merely how things fell.  Our son and his fiance have to work; our daughter went to help a friend move from New Mexico to Kansas; I offered to cook for a friend who has been in the hospital, but doctors decided she should stay a few more days, so she and her husband will be sharing a hospital cafe meal.  

So I will be putting my feet up and reading, along with Jenn at and others who are thankful for some time with books. Thankfully Reading Weekend is a four day reading event that Jenn has been hosting for quite a few years now. 
There are no rules to the weekend, we’re simply hoping to devote a good amount of time to reading, and perhaps meeting some of our reading challenges and goals for the year. We thought it’d be fun if we cheered each other on a bit. If you think you can join in, grab the button  and add your sign up post to the link-up below. If you don’t have a blog, you can sign up the comments or sign up using a link to your Twitter account or Facebook page.  We’ll also be checking in on Twitter using hashtag #thankfullyreading. Join in for the weekend or for only a single day. No rules, no pressure!

There will be challenges throughout the four days - including one right here.  If you have some time - any amount of time - to spend reading in the next four days, join in the fun and conversation.

I'm going to get a little jump start and read till I fall asleep - which will be a maximum of three pages.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Going Tiny?

When this tiny cabin made the rounds on Facebook and Pinterest a couple years ago, I saw it as the perfect hide away - a place to retreat from the world temporarily.   It was the first I had heard of the oncoming trend toward full-time tiny house living.  

Now that there are so many options for affordable, available small homes, I'm fascinated with the idea of downsizing.  I'm probably not ready for life with Hubs and two dogs in a house this small (or white), but I could learn to love the tiny house life...couldn't I?  The biggest attraction is simplicity.  

Less space requires less stuff.  Less stuff takes less time to clean and maintain.  Less time on housework means more time to do the things I enjoy.  But where?  Does my tiny home have room for a sewing machine or an artist's easel?  And what about my books?

One solution is to make use of outdoor living space.   Reading or hosting a dinner party on a patio or rooftop deck sound so inviting, but only in temperate weather - which happens approximately 30 days/year in Kansas and Nebraska.  Could I move to a state that doesn't have four distinct seasons?  

Speaking of less stuff, I have gone through my current home, which isn't exactly huge, and culled out everything I considered excess, but there's still a lot of stuff that isn't used daily.  I struggle to let go of the "good" dishes or the "good" table linens.   What do tiny-home owners do with Christmas decorations?  

Maybe my perspective on "stuff" is what really needs to be purged.  Maybe that al fresco dinner party would be just as enjoyable if served on the same dishes I use every day - or paper plates.  If I could remove the sentiment from objects - see them as tools to accomplish the necessities of life rather than having intrinsic value - the downsizing process would be easier.  

Living in a tiny home would be financially rewarding.  The cut in mortgage/rent, utilities, upkeep and insurance would make funds available for travel, charity and upgrading our remaining possessions.  If I only have space for dinnerware for 8, make them good quality and beautiful.  

Then there's the issue of guests . . . 

We probably won't start tiny-house hunting today, and "tiny" is relative - but it's an idea I can't completely escape.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Puzzling Challenge

Welcome to "Just One More Thing..." 
and my mini-challenge for Deweys 24-Hour Readathon.  



Our son is getting married in just five weeks, so my mind is focused on all things wedding.  I'm even seeing wedding plans in book titles. The book covers below are  all missing one or more words.  Each missing word is something associated with weddings.  Can you replace the missing words?  (Hint: One missing word is in the author's name rather than the book title.)

List the thirteen missing words in the comments, or leave a link to where I can find your list.   You can also tweet the list or link to me (@mrschupa).  Please use the hashtag #RATpuzzle. 

A winner will be chosen by random drawing from all correct entries, and will receive a $15 gift card to Barnes and Noble or The Book Depository.  The challenge will remain open until the beginning of hour 8 (2:00 p.m. central time) and the winner will be posted by the start of hour 9.  Check back here at 3:00 p.m. central time to see if you're the lucky bride, or if you're a bridesmaid once again.

Click to enlarge

Readathon Day!

It's Readathon Day again!  Dewey's 24-hour Readathon is a semi-annual day of reading, games, prizes and more reading.  Here's what I have lined up for the day:

"The Tavern on Maple Street" by Sharon Owens - This is a book club selection and I'm about 2/3 through it.

"The Secret Garden" by Francis Hodgson Burnett - Another book club selection.  I can't believe I have never read this classic.

"Audacious" by Beth Moore.  I love everything Beth Moore writes, so I'm excited to get into this for my non-fiction selection.

"Love Has It's Reasons" by Earl Palmer.  This was a gift and recommendation from my cousin and dear friend, Arlene, the last time she purged her bookshelf.  

I have an Ellery Queen magazine for when I need a short-story break.  I haven't bought - or even seen - an EQ since high school.  And that's been a year or two (or 35) so I'm excited for that.

And the most anticipated book of the readathon:  "The Undoing of Saint Silvanus" - Beth Moore's first novel.

Hope you have a great lineup.  Stop back here at Hour 5 - 11:00 a.m.  in my area (Central Time) - for A Puzzling Challenge.  

Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

That's Progress!

When I was a child, one of my favorite things was to visit the "Variety Store" while my mom was at the grocery store down the street.  Mom handed out three nickels to three little girls and we slowly perused the candy choices in the glass cabinet.  Snickers, Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, Milky Way, maybe a chewy Bit-O-Honey, or M&M's.  Or how about licorice sticks, Tootsie Rolls and Bazooka Bubblegum - two for a penny.  The choices seemed infinite.

A few days ago, I browsed a convenience store candy aisle for a little treat with my gas fill-up.  The choices weren't infinite, they were overwhelming!  Snickers, Snickers Bites, Snickers Almond, Snickers Peanut Butter Squares, Snicker's Ice Cream Bars, Snickers Eggs, Snickers 2 Go, Snickers Fun Size, Snickers Miniatures, Snickers King Size.  And that was just one brand.

The same comparison can be made with television channels.  In the 60's and 70's we had four channels (if the weather was clear) - ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS.  When we got married in the early 80's, we got cable and expanded our lineup to about twenty channels.  Today we have hundreds of channels.  The time required to sift through them all uses up all of our viewing time, so we usually just watch the same four or five channels.

Eating out used to mean visiting a locally-owned restaurant.  Today, every city has block after block of franchised eating choices - from burgers to steak to pizza to sushi.  Children no longer go home from school to play with the other kids in their neighborhood.  They choose from sports, martial arts, music,  gymnastics, dance and dozens of other activities.  The expansion of options also applies to gas stations, car manufacturers, and even beer.

I didn't need shelf after shelf of sweets at the convenience store.  To me, it was "noise".   The volume and pace of life has increased a hundred-fold in the last fifty years.  And so has the accompanying  exhaustion.  Stress relief has become a mammoth business. 

Ironically, one of the newest trends in stress management is to simplify - downsize, live smaller, have fewer choices.  Maybe progress isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Whole Picture

I have posted dozens of times about my quilting and sewing projects.  Even though the things I sew aren't elaborate, I know there are a lot of other beginning sewers out there looking for similar projects, so I have no problem posting what I've made.  I have even shown pictures of some not-so-successful items.  So why is it difficult for me to post pictures of my paintings?  I've been painting, off and on, for almost two years but, other than my long-suffering husband and sister, most of my work has been for my eyes only.

Last week I was visiting with a lady from church who I heard, through the grapevine, had done some painting and even won an award in a competition.  She admitted that, yes, she had won an award but she quit painting after only four pictures  "There was no joy in it."  The next year, she started making ceramics, and entered her creations in the same competition.  Because there weren't enough entries in that category, they got lumped into a broad "crafts" category.  In her words, "I didn't stand a chance against the elaborate entries because the judges couldn't see my joy in my ceramics."  Cue the bells, whistles and flashing lights -- this was an "aha" moment for me!

I don't paint to make money or win awards - although I wouldn't mind those things.  I paint for fun, for the challenge of creating something without instructions or a pattern, for making something unique.  I admit up front that my paintings so far are not totally unique - they are my take on photos or images I've seen elsewhere - but I'm working on a couple pictures that, as yet, exist only in my head.

In the mean time, I'm going to display a few of my paintings at home and post them here.  What if everyone who sees them thinks they are amateurish, or ugly, or just plain bad?  It's ok!  It really is ok, because no matter who is viewing and judging my paintings, they can not see the joy I feel while painting them.  They aren't seeing the whole picture!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Now What?

Over the winter, I spent more time in book stores than fabric stores.  Cold weather found me curled up with a book, or knitting in front of the TV.  But warmer weather - and a good bargain - have lured me back to the sewing room.  

A local lady advertised a huge lot of quilt kits for sale.  I have no idea where or how she came to own so many kits, but I went to check them out.  Most were wall-hanging size with  "primitive" applique or embroidery - not really my thing - but I did find two Moda charm packs.  I had no plan in mind, and to be honest, they aren't even colors/patterns that grabbed my attention, but I'm a huge fan of pre-cuts (because  I don't care for cutting) and they were less than half the sticker price, so I hoped that they would inspire me.  Not so far!  That's where you come in.

The first pack is "Plum Sweet" by Blackbird Designs.  I actually had a few fat quarters of the darkest florals at some point.  I have no memory of how I used them, but I remember having them in my stash.  The shades of purple are pretty and I like the variety from large flowers to simple polka-dots.  I would probably leave out the center row.   It seems to have too much yellow/gold to blend with the others.  

The second pack is "KT Favorites" by Kansas Troubles Quilters.  When I laid them out, the colors struck me as odd - for lack of a better word.  There are dark blues, greens, browns, reds, neutrals that run from barely-off-white to an orange-beige, and four purple/blues straggling along at the end.  The whole thing is a bit boring.  It needs either a fun application where the individual fabrics blend into a neutral background, or it needs to be mixed with other, more interesting, fabrics.  

So, ideas?  They can always become doll quilts for the kids in foster care, but neither pack screams "little girl".  I found ideas on Pinterest for charm pack tote bags and table runners - neither of which I need.  For the moment, they will go into the stash, but I am trying to use what I buy, so someone help me with this impulse purchase.  What would you make? 

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Spacious Place

from Grace Notes *
I'm going to use the blog as a bit of a therapy journal, so if you have your life completely together and don't understand those of us who don't, this post probably isn't for you.  If you are stumbling along, like me, this post still may not interest you.  In fact, this post may be entirely for my own benefit - but it's my blog, so I can do that.

"He brought me out into a spacious place." - Psalm 18:19

I've spent my life hemmed in by expectations - expectations for being a wife, expectations for being a stay-at-home mom, expectations for being a mother of teens, expectations for being a daughter, a sister, a friend, a church member . . .

When I was working outside our home, the job carried expectations, but someone was paying me for those hours and they had the right to expect specific skills, tasks and duties in exchange for their money.

Some of the expectations are self-inflicted.  Some are societal.  Some - usually the strongest - are intentionally imposed by others.  And some are the random result of life circumstances.  

Picture life as a room - a generous-sized room.  At first the room was occupied by me, my parents and my sister.  Then grandparents came to visit, followed by another sister, aunts, uncles and cousins.  We all fit comfortably.  Soon there were neighbors, schoolmates, teachers, pastors, and friends.  There was still plenty of room for the people, but now they each carried some expectations for me.  How they expected me to behave, how they expected me to perform at school, how they expected me to interact. These expectations gave me security.  After all I was a child, unable to navigate alone - I needed their guidelines.

As time passed, my world expanded and more people pressed into the room, bringing more expectations, and things started to get a bit crowded.  Expectations had to shift and some got shoved into the corners because I needed space for my own developing expectations.  However, since they all remained in the room, my expectations for myself had to form around them.

Some expectations naturally left when their period of life was over, but newer, bigger, less flexible ones always took their place.  The bar set for third-grade math scores was replaced by the rules of safe driving, a much more rigid bar.  Much-awaited adulthood came with a surprising mound of expectations that demanded top billing.  The room of life was bulging.  There was no space for me to stretch out and be completely comfortable any more. No matter which way I stretched, I bumped, dented or hid someone's expectations, and they began to complain.

I've made attempts, some successful and some not, to "spring clean" and purge my life of unwanted expectations.  My grandparents have been gone for many years and, while their expectations are forever engraved in me, they no longer require their own floor-space in the room.  My parents' expectations have been fulfilled and shrunk as we begin the inevitable shift of aging.  And I have come to realize that some of the societal expectations were only in the room because I was too scared to let them out.

As I approach another birthday in a couple weeks, I have been feeling suffocated by fifty-five years of expectational baggage crammed into every nook, cranny and closet of life.  I have heard two voices in the last week telling me that it's time to "Let it go".  First my daughter, - half my age but, so often, twice my wisdom - said "My dream for you, Mom, is confidence."  I used to have confidence; I know I did.  I think that in one of our frequent moves, it got misplaced between the never-ending community expectations for the "new girl", my children's reasonable expectation of a solid foundation on which to build their own "room of life", and squeezing myself in to make way as my husband expanded his expectations for our new chapter of life.  

The second voice telling me to "Let it go" was God's.  "I have brought you out into a spacious place.  The only expectations here are Mine, and they are surprisingly light.  In this place, there is room for more than expectations.  There is space to dance, to create, to relax, to give with no expectations of return, to allow others to live without carrying the burden of your expectations.  There is space to focus on Me.  There is room to bloom in grace."

*Picture from Kelly @ Grace Notes.  I encourage you to visit her page and read her more elequent thoughts on Psalm 18:19.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Road Trip Challenge

During this hour of the readathon, the lovely ladies at In the Forest of Stories are sending us on a road trip - an imaginary road trip with one of the characters of the book we are currently reading, and to find the song to accompany our journey.  That's easy for me - considering the characters of "The Charm Bracelet" by Viola Shipman are on a road trip to the beach.

Lolly, Arden and Lauren - grandmother, mother and daughter - are traveling in a 1950 Buick Roadmaster "Woody".

And listening to Lolly's favorite - Dean Martin, singing "Ain't That a Kick in the Head".  Coincidentally, Dean Martin is one of my favorites, too.  Here's a clip of Dean performing that song in the original "Ocean's Eleven"

Readathon 2016

It's readathon day again.  One of my favorite days of the year - a day focused on reading, talking about reading, entering contests about reading, blogging about reading and more reading.  If you want to join, go here to sign up.  

As always, the readathon begins with the standard "get to know you" questions:

1.  Where are you? - Southeast Nebraska, USA
2.  Who are you? - Check the "About me" tab above for all the details.
3.  What are you reading? - see picture below
4.  What are you eating? - Slightly stale cheese puffs are a readathon tradition.
5. Have you done this before? - Many times.  And I embrace the readathon motto: No rules, just read.

My Readathon choices.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Servant Queen

Today is Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday.  I am a great fan of Her Majesty.  She is a model of decorum, devotion, and duty.  What you may not know is that she is also a model of faith.  I am so impressed by her, that I gave away twenty copies of "The Servant Queen and the King She Serves" to church members and family.  I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes.

"The Queen's work is an expression of her desire to serve others.  She is not a hired servant who is required to do lots of tasks; she is a Queen who chooses to serve her people through doing the work that will best contribute to the nation's health."

"In an age when we are besieged by armies of celebrities telling us about almost every aspect of their lives in a variety of media, the Queen has kept most of her thoughts to herself... Curiously, that is not the case about her faith in Jesus.  About Jesus, she has been remarkably, one might say, uncharacteristically open about what she believes."

"Indeed, one of the most remarkable things about the Queen is her consistency of character.  Despite unprecedented levels of relentless media scrutiny for her entire life, there has never been a whiff of scandal about the Queen herself... She has a strong and happy marriage to a man she clearly respects and whose company she enjoys."

"She has had a gruelling travel and work schedule for over 60 years, but... there are no reliable recorded incidents of the Queen losing her temper, using bad language, or refusing to carry out a duty expected of her."

During her Coronation in 1953, the Archbishop annointed the Queen by pouring holy oil onto her hands, her chest and her head - "to show she is being set apart to serve and love her people in all her actions, with all her heart and with all her mind. . . She follows the example of Christ who was also...set apart, not to be served, but to serve."

I know the Queen is not, technically, a political figure.  She has no power to make or enforce laws.  But can you image if we had political leaders who shared her attitude toward duty and service?  

How has Queen Elizabeth II continued to display that attitude day after day in the face of wars, family scandals, age and everything else she has faced?  Here is the answer in her own words:

"Each day is a new beginning.  I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God."

You can purchase a copy of The Servant Queen and the King She Serves here.  They are considerably cheaper in lots of ten.  The prices are given in British Pounds.  I'm not entirely sure of the exchange rate, but they came out to be around $1.25/copy when I ordered twenty.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Things I've Learned . . .

1,  Helping repair the lawn mower is more fun if you insist that your husband request tools using the names of medical instruments.  Searching for a 7/16" wrench, as opposed to a 1/2" wrench, is not particularly captivating. " Scalpel! Clamp! Extractor!" is so much more entertaining, although it does tend to annoy the husband doing the repairs.

2. Taxes are more fun if you're getting a refund.  I guess that's not a new revelation, but it's been awhile since I dealt with it.  Owning our own business turned taxes into an entirely new monster. Appointments with the accountant, forms I had never heard of, and a return that required the heavy-duty stapler, after 30+ years of short forms put a new twist on the first quarter of 2016.  The fact that I even think in quarters is a sign of the radical changes in my life.  However - I have survived our first year in business without going to prison for mangling a myriad of tax laws, so that's a celebration in itself.

3. Playing the Candy Land board game with a 6-year-old is more fun when you are 54 and don't care that the laundry isn't folded, than it was when you were 34 and felt the need to be productive.  When our children outgrew the classic board game, I was so worn out with it that I put it - along with Chutes and Ladders - in the donation box for the thrift store and vowed to never play again.  Some twenty years later, I re-purchased both games to play with Miss P., a beautiful girl who spends time with us occasionally.

4. 6-year-olds don't care if you run like the arthritic, uncoordinated nerd that you are, as long as you are participating in a water-gun fight.   Some 50-cent squirt guns and the willingness to "run" about
hiding behind trees and vehicles, brought out some priceless grins and giggles.

5. Doing even the smallest kindness for someone else makes the whole day better.

6. Be careful when you ask a child to sing you a song to fill time in the car. They may create a song about loving you forever and the tears make it difficult to drive.  Miss P. melts my heart!

Hope you have learned some good things recently.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Spring Reading

Teri's Spring Fling continues on her blog, with a look at new books coming out for some Spring reading.  Because I promised myself and Hubs that I wouldn't buy new books until I've made a dent in the TBR bookshelf, I'm going to keep that list handy when I go to the library. 

As for that promise - - - well, it hasn't been totally successful.  So, to help clean off the bookshelves (and to ease my conscience a bit) I am offering two of my most recent purchases as Spring Fling prizes.  

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

Or - - - if you're not quite ready to give up on winter,
Away in a Manger by Rhys Bowen

Just leave a comment and specify which book you would like
 and you will be entered in the random drawing.

Spring Fling

New Spring craft love -
 watercolor on fabric.
 Post coming soon.
Officially, Spring is still a few weeks away, but the temperature is slowly climbing, the geese are headed north (honking loudly over my house) and the daffodils are peaking through the ground.  In honor of all things Spring-ish, my sister, Teri, is hosting a Spring Fling on her blog today.  She's planning her flower garden, issuing some fun challenges, sharing some craft ideas and generally celebrating Spring.  Check in and join the fun - I promise, you will not be required to do any spring cleaning.

Her first question was "What are you planting?"  I have my garden seed order ready - tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, cantaloupe and potatoes.  In the flower beds, I'm adding sunflowers for a touch of Kansas, which will always be home in my heart.  

My entry for the first Spring Fling challenge - a picture from my garden:
One of my favorites - Marigolds.  Love the variety of colors,
not to mention the fact that even I can't kill them. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Dog-Gone Puzzle: The Answers

How many fictional dogs did you name?  Here are answers:

Top Row:  Clifford, The Big Red Dog; Hank, the Cow Dog; Tiger (The Brady Bunch); Underdog; Blue (Blue's Clues); Lassie

Second Row:  Odie (Garfield); Perdy and Pongo (101 Dalmatians); Goofy; Ribsy (Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary); Nana (Peter Pan); Astro (The Jetsons)

Small insets:  Snoopy; Marmaduke

Third Row:  Max (How the Grinch Stole Christmas); Einstein (Back to the Future); Slinky (Toy Story); Hooch (Turner and Hooch)

Fourth Row:  Toto (The Wizard of Oz); Daisy (Dagwood and Blondie); Lady and Tramp; Pluto; Spud McKenzie (Budweiser commercials); Scooby-Doo

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Dog-Gone Puzzle

Dogs have always been a part of our household.  They are companions, friends, comforters and protectors.  Fictional families seem to feel the same way.  Below are 26 dogs from books, TV and movies (2 pictures contain 2 dogs). Take a trip down memory lane and see how many you can name.

I'll hide the comments for a bit so you can't peek at others' answers.  Answers will be posted Saturday.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Needlework Tuesday

I have an issue with obsessing on a craft and ignoring all others.  At the moment, a stack of sewing projects are patiently waiting while I try every single knitting project on Pinterest.  

Issue #2:  My minute attention span tends to lead to a stack of half-done projects because I want to try the next one.  

Because my knitting skills are still in the beginning stages, most of the projects get started, goofed up, restarted, goofed up . . . .   All in all, not a lot of progress.  I do have a growing stack of dishcloths that need to be blocked and have the ends woven in; and the beginning of a scarf.

I'm working the "Feather and Fan" pattern in a soft, cotton yarn - ecru with purple and green flecks.  I think I will complete the scarf in two pieces, joined at the center so that both ends will be scalloped in the same direction.

But before I got this scarf finished, I found the "Waves" pattern and couldn't wait to try it.

I have struggled mightily with this pattern.  I have restarted this project at least 15 times - no exagerations!  The luxurious, red "Touch of Silk" yarn to too gorgeous to waste, so it is back in a ball and waiting for me to either find a new project, or get the patience to try this again. Do other knitters have patterns that they just can't seem to get right?

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather at Books and Quilts.  Visit Heather to see what others are stitching this week.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Reviews

When I reviewed Sara Gruen's first book, Water for Elephants, I commented about how put off I was by the blurb on the inside flap:
I got as far as "circus", "depression", "parentless and penniless" and I was turned off.  If I bothered to read any further, I would also have shied away from a story about "freaks, grifters and misfits".
But once I started reading I fell into the story and loved it.  After that, I believed I had learned a lesson about judging a book by it's setting.  But when I picked up At the Water's Edge, I cringed - a story about hunting for the Loch Ness Monster?  How stupid was this going to be?  

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster.
The trio find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Maddie is left on her own at the isolated inn, where food is rationed, fuel is scarce, and a knock from the postman can bring tragic news. Yet she finds herself falling in love with the stark beauty and subtle magic of the Scottish countryside. Gradually she comes to know the villagers, and the friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed.

It took a bit to get started.  Maddie is surrounded by such unlikeable characters that it took me a while to realize she was different.  But when I did - splash! - I feel into the story head first.  This book contains surprise twists, a tale of friendships forged through adversity, a history lesson and a beautiful love story.  Lesson learned - again.  A well-written story is not confined by where and when.  Ms. Gruen - I promise not to doubt your next book!

Not so with my next pick.  I probably won't give Elizabeth Strout's next book a passing glance.  I can't believe I wasted a Book of the Month pick on this.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

This story contained virtually nothing.  It was boring and depressing.  The only reason I gave it one star was because there was an occasional "glimmer" in the writing - details hinted at but ultimately left untold so you could make up your own, infinitely more intresting, story.

To recover from my disappointment with Lucy Barton, I turned to a reliable, old friend - Nancy Drew.  Nancy always minds her manners, always helps others and always solves the case.  This volume was written in the 40's and the reliance on "snail mail" and telegrams to investigate the clues was comical, and almost frustrating, in the age of Google.  But, I have to admit, Nancy solved it before I did - so some things stand the test of time.

The Secret in the Old Attic by Carolyn Keene
Nancy Drew races against time to unravel the clues in a dead man’s letters. If she succeeds, Philip March and his little granddaughter can be saved from financial ruin. Following obscure clues, Nancy undertakes a search for some unpublished musical manuscripts which she believes are hidden in the dark, cluttered attic of the rundown March mansion. But someone else wants them enough to put many frightening obstacles in Nancy’s way. Will she outwit a trio of ruthless thieves and solves the Marches’ problems?

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Mystery in the Cemetery

My sister texted me this afternoon and instructed me to go to the local cemetery at 3:30 and await further instructions.  Whaaaat?  Has she been reading too many Nancy Drew novels?  But - Big Sis said go, so I went.

That's my car, parked at the cemetery gate.  Beautiful day for sitting in a graveyard!

I received further instructions via text:  my contact would arrive in a gold Pontiac within ten minutes.  A clandestine meeting with a stranger in a cemetery?  I questioned if I needed to flash my lights or otherwise signal the mysterious Pontiac, so they would know "it's on".  (Maybe I've seen The Hangover too many times.)  Surely he/she would need a way to identify me among all the other cars parked in the cemetery at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon.  Sis thought a cheerful smile and wave would be the perfect signal.

So I waited . . . I assessed all the entrances and exits, in case I needed to make a quick escape . . . I synchronized my watch with the car clock . . . I checked the reception on my shoe phone (if you are too young to recognized the reference, check NetFlix for Get Smart reruns) . . . I read some headstones . . . until a gold van turned into the drive.  "The Pontiac has landed", I texted Sis.  The van door slid open and out came . . .

. . . an undercover florist! 
Well, maybe not so undercover, since I knew her, but she did step out holding these beautiful roses -- for me!  

So why is the florist delivering my flowers in a cemetery?  Because I live in the boonies.  The florist is located in a town about 10 miles from my house and they don't normally make deliveries to rural addresses.  But, she had promised a distant customer she would deliver a Valentine wreath to their loved-one's grave in the cemetery near my house, so she agreed to deliver my arrangement at the same time.  Only in a small town!

Thank you, Sis, for setting up a little intrigue for your mystery-loving sister and cheering up my afternoon. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Knit On . . .

My fascination with knitting continues.  I am sticking to beginner level stuff until I am more confident, but that fits well with my short attention-span and ensuing love for small projects.  This week, I tried a couple new dishcloth patterns.

First is the "Almost Lost Washcloth".  I'm sure it has another name, but that's what the lovely ladies at Simply Notable call their version. I enjoy this pattern because it is nothing but basic knitting, but produces a finished project that looks much more complicated. You can find a link to the pattern for the smaller version on the same site.

Next was the "Rudy Cloth" from Down Cloverlaine.  I think the pattern is adorable, but the design is actually kind of hard to see in reality.  Even though it's just knit and purl, it's a confusing pattern to follow because each row is different.  Since the pattern doesn't show up well (or at all) while you're working, it's easy to get off.  Not conducive to TV watching while knitting.  There are dozens of other picture designs out there, so I may give this idea another try, but it's not at the top of my list.

What are you knitting, sewing or crafting this week?  Visit our host, Heather @ Books & Quilts, to link to Needlework Tuesday and see what others are creating.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Though She Be But Little . . .

Image courtesy of

"Top Ten Tips for bringing out the best in a strong-willed child"

"The tools you need to successfully manage your child’s behavior"

"Time-proven methods for dealing with misbehavior"

These are just a sampling of the promises made by books for parents raising a strong-willed child.  Twenty-some years ago, we read them all - and laughed.  These people did not have a clue what "strong-willed" meant.  We were raising a daughter that took "power struggles" to a level these authors couldn't conceive.  

I don't mean to give you a picture of a demon-child with glowing eyes and her head spinning around backwards.  She was (and still is) a beautiful girl who was loving, compassionate and just plain adorable.  But when she made up her mind to do (or not do) something, her will became an impenetrable wall, and I spent hours, days, weeks pounding my head against that wall.  

In spite of our frustration, we understood that her strength and determination were part of how God created her; and since He does not do things randomly, He had a reason beyond what we could see.  About age 17, she began to mature into her iron will, and emerged from college as a woman who can focus that resolve.  Along the way, I learned to avoid the self-inflicted headaches and marvel at the things she can accomplish.

Amanda now works for a treatment foster care agency.  Her clients are the children who have been so severely abused and neglected that they require therapy and more specialized care than standard foster care can provide.  There are no words for the level of depravity and torture these little ones have endured.  Advocating for these children is a stressful and painful job, and I fear for the physical and mental effects it has on Amanda, but I also stand in awe.  

Amanda called a few weeks ago to tell us that she had been offered a promotion.   Her boss praised her as "a natural" at this job - for not being afraid to stand up and have a voice.  And there it was - the reason God created our strong-willed child. The "impenetrable wall" that wore me out now stands between innocent children and the people who have irrevocably harmed them.  It stands against a system that is so overloaded that what is best for the children often gets drown out by what is expedient.

Would I prefer that she had a different career?  Yes and no.  Of course I would prefer that my beautiful, petite girl have days filled with sunshine and butterflies - that she never even know that this evil exists.  But I wouldn't deny the strong, determined woman the chance to use the compassion and fire that God placed in her.

"Though she be but little, she is fierce" 
- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Old Dogs and New Tricks

Who says an old dog can't learn a new trick?  I have been whining for years that I wish I could knit.  I learned the very basics as a teenager, but never pursued it.  I picked it up again a couple years ago, but got frustrated and quit.  I guess the third time really is a charm.   After hours and hours of knitting and "un-knitting" the same yarn just for practice, I am finally able to do four basic stitches . . . and I am OBCESSED!

Dish cloths/wash cloths seemed like a simple and usable way to practice, so I've tried several patterns.  The first few had some pattern issues.  Actually, they had some issues with my ability to follow the pattern.

Eventually I struck on this diagonal pattern that is so easy to do, even I can't mess it up (at least not much).  

My favorite design so far is this lattice pattern.  It makes a thicker, textured cloth that is better for scrubbing. 

The original pattern includes a crocheted picot edge that gives the cloths a fancier look, but this old dog can only handle one new trick at a time. 

This post is part of "Needlework Tuesday" hosted by Heather @ Books and Quilts.