Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Pretty Colors to Completed Quilt

Last spring I took it upon myself to help a quilt shop owner who was moving her shop. I decided I should lighten her load by buying some fabric. I had no plans. I just thought the colors were pretty.

In the fall I looked for ideas for quilt blocks using only four colors. I came up with this Jacob's Ladder idea. But, then decided I needed another color... or two! The half square triangles that make up the Jacob's Ladder are too similar in color, and it's difficult to see the pattern. Later I began incorporating other colors.

I knew I wanted to have a center "medallion" set on point. I changed my central blocks, then added some "Flying Geese" around the border, followed by a sashing. I began building the Jacob's Ladder pattern around the medallion.

Of course, I did have some help! Gypsy added her suggestions frequently. 
Tucker would simply barge in to rearrange my blocks. 

This is getting exciting! It is really taking shape now!

Next I added some pieced borders to create the drop for the quilt. Oh, and of course, I had to go shopping for more fabric, several times!

I'm not sure I love the additions. They take quite a departure from the size of the other pieces. But... done is better than perfect, and the colors are bright and refreshing!

The quilt is growing so large that the top of the quilt will not have the last pieced border, as it would not fit on my long arm sewing machine at that length!

I pieced scraps together and made the backing, and then loaded it all on the long arm. 

Now, to quilt it.

I can't wait to have the quilt on our bed. I selected a bamboo blend batting, which I've used once before. The finished quilt should be quite light. Perfect for our Florida home!

It's taken just about a year.
It is finally completed!

A friend of mine just told me that a near-by quilt shop is having a 40% off sale..... 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Divine Divan

I think I am fortunate that we aren't the type who go out to dinner often. Cooking every night is an everyday thing for me, so unlike many of my friends, I am not struggling with quarantine cuisine during our "shelter in place" confinement. Sure, we've had our "I don't want to cook one more night" dinner of French Toast (on Easter Sunday no less!), but for the most part I manage to get something on our plates that is fairly nutritious and tasty. A few times since the lockdown began I have been inspired to go above and beyond, making do with what I have on hand. One night I became inspired to make lobster/crab fettuccine using leftovers from a Friday Night Date Night Take-Out seafood supper, a recent addition by our community eatery. My fettuccine began with a base of home made stock from lobster and crab shells and lots of other savory things. I served it on home made pasta. Oh, and it was delicious! This was something I had never made before. Thank God for the Internet and lots tons of recipes, with ratings, at one's fingertips... literally!

Bits of lobster and crab waiting for the stock to reduce.
Pasta waiting to be cooked.
Most recently my inspired meal choice was Chicken Divan. 

I've never had Chicken Divan. The idea came about from a conversation with my bff. She mentioned, with a fair bit of excitement,  that she was cooking it for dinner that evening. I mentioned that I had never had it before, and asked how she made it. She rattled off the recipe. It sounded tasty (who doesn't like gooey, melted cheese?) and I tucked it in the back of my brain. 

Flash forward... well, in these times the days don't seem to flash... but suffice it to say... later, I decided to make the dish for dinner. I searched online to look at recipes and I also found the history of the dish.

Wikipedia tells me that: "Chicken Divan is a chicken casserole usually served with broccoli and Mornay sauce. It was named after the place of its invention, the Divan Parisien Restaurant in the New York City Chatham Hotel where it was served as the signature dish in the early twentieth century. Its creator was a chef named Lagasi."

I came across a link to the WORLD'S BEST Chicken Divan and stopped there. I'm glad I did! I read through the the blog post/recipe and began pulling out the ingredients. Because I can't go running off to the grocery store I made a few substitutions and changes, working with what I had on hand. I guess we all have similar limitations! 

I certainly identified with New York Time's columnist, Sam Sifton's column entitled "Substitution City".  He wrote: "With everyone out of this pantry item or that one, recipes have become mere suggestions of where you might start. They’re like assembly charts from Ikea when you have only 60 percent of the fasteners."

 The major substitution I made was using the broth from a can of chicken noodle soup, mixed with water, for the chicken broth and bouillon... and what the heck, I threw the noodles in the casserole as well. Knowing that canned soup tends to have a ton of salt in it, I did not add any other salt in my cooking. 

The recipe link above has detailed instructions. Here is my "Cliffs Notes" version:
  • Sauté seasoned cut broccoli and cauliflower (I didn't have enough broccoli) in olive oil for 30 seconds, then add 1/2 C of chicken soup liquid and water. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and put in a baking dish.
  • Add some butter to the pan after removing the veggies. Increase the heat. Put in cubed chicken that was previously seasoned liberally with pepper and paprika. Sear the chicken for about a minute, then stir and cook only until just done. Spoon the chicken on top of the broccoli/cauliflower mix.
  • Add a hunk of butter and some olive oil to the juices in the pan. Add some flour, seasonings and make a paste. Add more of the chicken soup liquid with water, some milk (I used half and half) and cook to thicken. Add sour cream, shredded cheddar and parmesan. I also plopped in some mayonnaise. Combine and spoon over the vegetables and chicken. (The recipe called for corn starch. I used it. I wouldn't use it again. My sauce became very pasty. I don't think it needed additional thickener.)
  • Pour some bread crumbs on top and cover with additional shredded cheddar. (When I make this again, I'll add some pats of butter on top of the bread crumbs)
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 350 and then enjoy.... thoroughly!

Just an aside....
this was posted on FaceBook. It was written by Haroon Rashid.
Wow... what a powerful message, putting us all in our places!

We fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another. 
Suddenly Disney is out of magic. 
Paris is no longer romantic, 
New York doesn't stand up anymore, 
the Chinese wall is no longer a fortress, 
and Mecca is empty. 
Hugs & kisses suddenly become weapons, 
and not visiting parents & friends becomes an act of love.
Suddenly you realise that power, beauty & money are worthless, 
and can't get you the oxygen you're fighting for.
The world continues its life and it is beautiful. 
It only puts humans in cages. 
I think it's sending us a message:
"You are not necessary. 
The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. 
When you come back, remember that you are my guests. 
Not my masters."

Friday, April 10, 2020


In my last post I included a video I created. I made the video to show others how to use the bias binding foot of a Singer Featherweight sewing machine to make straps for face masks for our health care providers, since elastic is difficult to find. I put the video on YouTube and posted a link to it on the Singer Featherweight FaceBook page that I belong to. I have received such positive feedback. Many people are sewing masks, and those that responded to my post were thrilled to learn how to use that presser foot, which came standard with all Featherweights. And, this was before our President suggested that we should wear masks when we go out! The demand for masks is even greater.

Following my first video I perfected my technique, and put a second video "out there".  I posted a link to it on the Singer Featherweight FaceBook page, and again I received many nice comments. But the best compliment I received was a message from the Singer Featherweight folks asking if they could repost my instructional videos on a page dedicated to mask-making.

Shortly after I received a notification of an order being shipped from the Featherweight shop. I didn't order anything! Evidently they sent me an order of bias strips as a thank you for letting them post my videos. What a great shop!!

Sew, this is the mask my group has been making.

We are using the FU mask pattern: https://freesewing.org/fu-facemask-freesewing.org.a4.pdf

Most of our masks are going to nurses who are wearing them over a disposable mask, which due to availability, they must wear all day, or in some cases, all week. The nurses are able to replace the cloth mask after seeing each patient, keeping the disposable masks more hygienic when used patient after patient. The cloth masks are laundered and are ready for use the next day. For this purpose, I have been using a layer of cotton fabric and a layer of batik. The weave on the two fabrics is of different thicknesses, so may have a bit better filtering capability. I know that the mask would not stop the virus. That is not the intent!

Now that we have been encouraged to wear masks ourselves, I am adding a layer of iron-on interfacing to my masks. I have been cautioned not to make the masks too thick as then it becomes difficult to breathe. One of my neighbors is cutting fabric for the masks for me. That's one less task that I have to accomplish. It makes the process quite a bit easier.

Each morning I wander into my sewing room and get to work. It's a new day and I begin with great zeal. About mid-day my back begins to hurt. I hate what I am doing and by the end of the day I decide that I'm done. I will not sew one more mask! I deliver those that I completed to the lead person in our group when I walk the dogs and return to watch TV with my husband, read a book or play a game on the computer. A good night's sleep erases my discontent, and the next day I set about my mask tasks with renewed ardor!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

I'm Strapped

A post went up on our community FaceBook page that one of the residents in my new community is making face masks for medical personnel. One of her friends is a nurse and made the request, so Jacky made a few masks for her. Requests popped up almost as fast as the virus has spread in New York! Jacky put out a plea on FaceBook, and on Thursday she reported that over 300 masks had been made by people in our community!

While people were busy sewing, a problem arose. Jacky ran out of elastic and the elastic she ordered was backordered. She asked if I could make some straps. Ick! I thought of the challenge of sewing and turning small tubes of fabric. It certainly was something I could do, but not something I really cared to do... but in the spirit of helping I wandered into my sewing room. Then, it hit me! My Singer Featherweight machines come with a bias binding presser foot.

It is intended to apply bias binding to a raw edge of fabric, but I wondered if it could turn and sew a strip of fabric, without applying it to anything else. The answers was, "Yes!"
I also wondered if it would work with something other than fabric cut on the bias (which is another pain!) and again, the answer was, "Yes!"

Within a few minutes it was working! Sure, there were a lot of goofs and a bit of experimenting with how to hold the fabric, and what sort of fabric to use... but, ta da!!! I had straps!

The presser foot takes the strip, folds the bottom edge in and turns the upper edge on top of it. The machine stitches it all in place. I found that I could use a glue stick and glue one piece to another, making a long chain with the fabric strips, and sew them all as one long strip, then cut them at the glued joints.

I made a video! 
I thought it might be helpful for people to see how it's done, 
knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words!

I took my straps to Jacky's house, leaving them on her front porch, and she incorporated them into masks.

Jackie's nurse friends sent her a hearty thanks, and a picture to show how grateful they are. This particular group is using the fabric masks on top of the regulation N-95 masks, allowing them to change the fabric mask for each patient. This lets them use the N-95 mask for multiple patients, trying to hang on to their dwindling supply.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Life in the time of Coronavirus

Last night I started thinking about the book, "Love in the time of Cholera". I don't know that I've read the book, but the title came to mind as I contemplated how our lives have changed in such a short time. Googling the book led me to Daniel Defoe's "A Journal of the Plague Year", which apparently was inspiration for "Love in the time of Cholera".

I began web-site skipping, clicking on links and hopping from one site to another. At one I stopped to read a bit of Defoe's work, written in 1722. He wrote, "We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things, and to improve them by the invention of men, as I have lived to see practised since." Hmmm, thought I, what an eloquent way to say "false news", which seemingly was an issue even in the 17th century (another Internet hop to see when newspapers were more widely printed in London).

Then a hop to a list of pandemic books: The 20 Best Pandemic Books to Read During Coronavirus. (This being only one suggestion from about 357,000,000 results (according to Google) that flashed on my screen in 0.64 seconds) in the event you want to read about similar events, fact and fiction.

From there a link to "The Retreating Horizon of Time in Coronavirus Quarantine" by New Yorker author Don Chiasson. His piece begins: "As space constricts, for many of us, to the four walls of our houses and apartments, time seems to have overflowed its usual containers. It feels as if we have stowed away in the belly of a ship, uncertain of the duration of the voyage and without a view of the stars to chart our positions. A day feels one way when we imagine weeks of this, another way when we imagine months. The port appears to be receding as we approach it: a week ago, it felt like the journey-less journey on the S.S. Sameness would be over in late March, then in early April. On Monday,   “July or August.” News reports later that day seemed to suggest that we’d be living more or less this way until a vaccine for covid-19 was available, in perhaps eighteen months. (Much worse fates than boredom may await  some of us, if the terrifying forecasts hold.)" 

Reading this gave me pause (another hop to find that online dictionaries don't know the origin of this phrase) and reflect; being forced to stay home and have all the time I want to sew and create certainly seems novel (sic) today, but how will I feel in 2 weeks, 2 months, a year?!

Enough of this sobering, stressful stuff! I'm going to turn off the news. I'm going to stop my Internet hopscotch, I'm going to put my proverbial head in the sand and I'll show you a few things that have kept me occupied this week.

First, they are building five homes across the street from us. I hope that the company completes all of the homes, and that we don't end up staring at the shells of homes for years until our economy straightens out. They have been working steadily on them, and almost every day I stop and take a picture from the same place, showing three of the home sites. When the homes are finished I think it would be fun to make a slide show, somewhat like a time-lapse photo. Here are a few pictures:

March 1: Adding plumbing and digging footings
March 6: Pouring concrete for the first 2 houses 
March 10: Block exterior walls complete on first 2 houses
March 20: Roof trusses going up on first house
I've been enjoying time in my sewing room. I have a wall hanging on my long arm quilting machine. I have almost finished the quilting.

Each day I try to make a whimsical bird. The birds will ultimately be used in a quilt that will be a gift to my brother and sister-in-law. 

On Tuesday I had my annual Medicare "Wellness Exam". For those of you who aren't of the age, this check up isn't much of a medical check up, beyond making sure that you are breathing and your heart is pumping. This year the PA actually touched me to listen to my heart and lungs. Last year, I recall that the Doctor sat in a chair and asked me questions, and didn't come close as I had a horrendous cold. 

On Wednesday I woke up with a UTI. Of course! Why couldn't this have come a day earlier when it would have been easy to get it taken care of? Due to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, I did not want to go to a medical facility in town and the office where I went for the wellness visit probably wouldn't be able to see me. However, I had received an email that a "Meet with a Doctor" app had just been approved by our care providers. I downloaded the app, and after waiting a bit, I was online, video-chatting with a doctor who prescribed some antibiotics for me. This was one of the easiest visits to the Doctor I have had in... well, forever! The UTI seemed to involve my kidneys. I have been experience discomfort over the kidneys for several days since my online visit, but I think it is finally clearing up. 

On Thursday and Friday cove molding and tile was installed in our pool. We are thinking the pool will be a welcome relief to hot summer days if we can't travel to California as we have planned.

On Saturday I proposed a drive-in, driveway happy hour to our neighbors. They all said, "Yes"! I think everyone is itching to get out! We spread out on chairs and in golf carts and chatted for a bit.

On Sunday Gudrun Eria led a Quarantine Quilt-Along. She presented a pattern, and had four different video sessions on FaceBook. Other quilt artists participated as well. I pulled fabric from my stash and worked on the quilt for several hours during the day. My BFF introduced me to Gudrun and the Quarantine Quilt-Along, and she and I chit-chatted and sewed together through the magic of our iPhones. Gudrun and her production team put together a song playlist with 100 appropriate titles for "Life in the time of Coronavirus", which included songs such as:  
Don't Stand so Close to Me (The Police)
In My Room (Beach Boys)
I Say a Little Prayer (Aretha Franklin)
U Can't Touch Me (MC Hammer)
Our House (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
It's Gonna Get Better (Stars Go Dim)
I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor)
Only the Lonely (Roy Orbison)

The pieces for the quilt make my long arm machine look like it is meant for drying laundry 
Gudrun is on the computer leading 4,000 some quilters around the world in making her quilt!
I have placed many of the pieces on my "quilt wall" to see how they look.
I need a bigger flannel wall!

I hope you are all hanging in there and staying healthy. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Living the Horror Novel

If Stephen King or Robin Cook wrote a novel about the coronavirus and its impact on the world, readers would have claimed it was too far-fetched. Their editors would probably have said it was too crazy and would have suggested massive edits, or perhaps scrapping the storyline completely. I mean, how could a microscopic virus hamstring major cities, close country borders, close businesses and schools and cause the stock market to plummet and shut down life as we know knew it?

How can something so beautiful have such an ugly impact?!

I have friends who roll their eyes when I mention the virus. They aren't buying into it. They don't understand that this is a "novel" virus, meaning "new". We humans have no immunity to it. Our bodies have never experienced anything like it, and have no way to combat it. For many,  I have heard, the virus will be a few days of a fever, sore throat and a congested chest. For others, it spells death.

I have been trying to learn Spanish for over a year. As part of my practice I try to write in a journal each day. (I do that about as well as I write posts on my blog, however!) Two weeks ago I wrote:

3/6/2020 Hoy es viernes seis de marzo. Chris llamó por teléfono. Su oficina está cerrando debido al virus. Trabajará desde casa. El virus me da miedo. Está en doce estados. No se porque, pero siento un presentimiento. Espero que no sea nada. 

In the event your Spanish is worse than mine, or in the event what I wrote is really not Spanish, I commented that my son's office was closing because of the virus and that the virus was now in 12 states and really scared me. I said I had a bad feeling about it, that I hoped it wasn't true. 

That bad feeling got worse! What an amazing, mind-boggling change in just two weeks.

The Mister and I have pulled back on just about every social activity. I still play Pickleball a few times a week, but the players stay at least 6 feet apart and I wash my hands when I finish. I have nitrile gloves in the car and in my purse, as well as sanitizer and Clorox wipes. I did get to the grocery store today, and tried to maintain a distance from others. There was no pasta. The bread was limited. The meat counter and the canned vegetable aisle had more empty space than occupied space. The only eggs left were colored, hard-boiled eggs for Easter.  I wanted to get white vinegar to make a solution to spray veggies - everyone else wanted it as well, apparently. I have become OCD about washing my hands. They are getting chapped!

The insightful piece of this is that the virus has a greater impact on the "elderly", those aged 65 and above. Wait a minute... when did I become "elderly"!!! Publix has announced senior shopping hours from 7 to 8 AM on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It will be interesting to see if the shop is more or less crowded. Other than fresh vegetables and creamer, we are set for several weeks. 

My neighbor was lamenting about not having anything to keep herself occupied. I don't have that problem. I have so many home projects, and sewing projects, and quilting projects... I'm good to go for quite a while. 

How about you? How has this had an impact on your day-to-day life? How have things changed for you? 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

California, Here I Come!

I haven't seen the grandkids in.... forever! (Oh, and heck... I haven't seen my kids in...forever - but they don't really count anymore!)

So I booked a trip to San Fran, and included my B.F.F. in my plans. I decided I would present her with a "Grand Tour" by the Pride Travel Company.  Our motto is "Travel with Pride"!  (In the event you didn't know... my last name is Pride!)

This trip was called the San Francisco Sojourn.

Each evening I presented my B.F.F. with an overview of the coming day, similar to what one receives on her pillow on a cruise, perhaps without the chocolates! I think she loved the surprises that awaited her. We had so much fun, and there were so many things to do. Here are some excerpts from our travels. I am thinking you will wish you were part of this tour as well!

Day 1
February 5, 2020

Wishing you smooth skies on the first day of your San Francisco Sojourn! 

Tomorrow you will make your way to the Manchester Airport for your flight to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. 

My B.F.F. and I connected at the BWI airport. We hugged, and smiled, and boarded the flight to San Fran together. We watched videos on the iPad, and snapped a few photos of my former home in Parker, Co as we flew by. Wow! How amazing that my old home was right down there...under our wings!!! Do you see it?!

On our second day, we took it easy! We had breakfast in Point Richmond, looked at historic buildings, and then enjoyed Mahjong with friends. Oh.... my B.F.F. had the opportunity to experience online grocery shopping and delivery....something she has not experienced in her small town in NH.

Day 3

We went to visit the grandkids. I warned her!

We will escort the clan to a kid-centric venue;
Your choice of the following:
Oakland Zoo
The Lawrence Hall of Science
The Tilden Little Farm
The Chabot Space & Science Center

You’ll enjoy(?) the antics and abounding energy of 
the pre-schooler provocateur and her toddler, and some sort of lunch.

She chose the zoo. Following lunch we explored some fabric and art shops, had a nice, decadent hot chocolate before returning and watching the kids for the evening so their mum and dad could have a date night. 

My DIL texted to ask how the kids were enjoying the dinner we made for them.
My response was this picture:

Our version of Mac and cheese was well received, and they even ate some veggies and sausage.

Following dinner it was bath time. 

We managed to keep most of the water in the tub.

Day 4

Your day will begin with breakfast at 8:30 AM at the Bayside Cafe near Sausalito, CA. 

Following breakfast you will enjoy a drive through Mill Valley to the Muir Woods National Monument. You will have the opportunity to hike among the towering, old-growth redwood trees. 

The woods were lovely, dark and deep...
and we traveled on to Mission San Rafael Arcangel in San Rafael.

Sunday was mostly a day of rest. 

Well... after I ran out to the hardware store to get pvc pipe to make the frame for the quilted tent I had made for the littles. 
Well... after a quick vacuum and clean up.
Well... after a quick trip to IKEA (is that ever "quick"??!!) to get authentic (?) Swedish food for dinner!
Well... after a visit to the Rosie the Riveter National Historic park.
Well... after preparing and enjoying dinner with the kids (who LOVED the tent!)

PS: I found a way to get K to eat Swedish meatballs after showing him the only way to eat them was by dunking them in lingonberry sauce first! I think he ate 8 or more!

Day 6

Today will be another busy day presenting you with a variety of experiences in the hills and valleys to the north of Richmond… and beyond!

Your car will depart at 8:20 AM and take you to Fairfield, CA where you will participate in an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Jelly Belly Factory at 9:30 AM. The guided tour leads visitors through the factory for an up close and personal experience like no other! Participants must wear long pants, socks and shoes.

Following the tour you will be driven past historic vineyards in Napa wine country, Your destination is the V. Sattui winery in St. Helena, CA. Here you will make your selections for a picnic lunch on the winery grounds.  

Following lunch you will head into the hills to the the west for a 1:30 PM tasting tour at Pride Mountain Vineyards.  

Of course, we had to peruse the gift shop and partake in samples so we would know just what to purchase! 

We Dreamers stumbled upon V Sattui some years ago
The deli has the most amazing food.
The day was perfect for a picnic in the lovely setting around the winery.

Of course, we enjoyed our tour of Pride Mountain Vineyard, and had to partake in tastes from their barrels. We enjoyed a few extra tastes as the assistant to the wine maker wanted our feedback on two wines that were to be bottled the next day.

Day 7

You have been looking across the bay at the city of San Francisco for almost a week. Today you will venture into the city to see many of the sites close up. 

You will take the 8:40 AM Richmond Ferry to the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

From nearby, you will catch a “Hop-on Hop-off” bus tour that will take you to many of the notable San Francisco locations. 

And of course, we had to take the Powell/Hyde cable car to the top of Lombard street so that we could walk down the steepest street in San Fran. The views were magnificent!

We ventured into the bowels of the earth to catch Bart over to Oakland. After a stop for tea along College Avenue we ventured over to the kids' house for hugs and good-byes.

We enjoyed a fantastic dinner with my younger son and the other grandmother, and then returned to the sojourn home to pack and prepare for our early (3:45 AM) departure.

It was a most memorable week. We had fantastic weather... every day! We saw a lot, we ate a lot and had a ton of fun!

Pretty Colors to Completed Quilt

Last spring I took it upon myself to help a quilt shop owner who was moving her shop. I decided I should lighten her load by buying some fab...