Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When I find myself in times of trouble

When I was about 24-years-old, my brothers and sisters and I spent about 9 months watching our mother die from colon cancer.  On one of her last days, my brother Donald and I sat together quietly in her hospital room one long afternoon while she slept.  Neither of us had said anything for the longest time when I saw Don reach into his pocket and pull out one of his business cards and a pen.  He turned the card over, wrote something on it, and handed it to me.  He had written, "And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me," from the Beatles' song Let it Be.  It comforted him to write it, and it comforted me to read it.

It seems there is always a need for comfort in our lives, at least there always is in mine.  No one has a perfect, stress-free life.  We have lovely stress-free, joy-bringing, bliss-filled moments, but they are all too fleeting to be cherished for anything more than a minute and a memory. 

Yet there is still a light that shines on us.  God used Jeremiah to say it in a different way, one that never fails to bring me comfort. “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). I can’t tell you how many times I have leaned on Jeremiah.  I only know one thing about the future:  God is already there.  And if God is there, I can go there, too.

One of the most comforting things I ever heard came to me as sort of a second-hand story.  I know the person who told me the story had no idea then that it would mean so much to me since she told it to me, about 12 or 13 years ago.  I was working part-time at a different college than the one I work at now.  My boss was a happy, bright young Christian woman.  One day she received word that the husband of a good friend about her age or a little older had died unexpectedly.  Michelle, my boss, was distraught, because while Michelle’s friend was a Christian, she knew the husband was not.  Michelle went to the funeral with a heavy heart and afterwards broke down in front of her friend, the new widow.  She told her friend how upset she was and why.  Her friend took her by the shoulders (maybe figuratively) and firmly said, “Now stop it, Michelle, or you’re going to block the blessing.”  

“Don’t block the blessing” is now something I say to myself whenever something awful happens, or whenever I think something awful is about to happen (which as we all know can be worse than the real awful thing actually happening).  It makes me remember to acknowledge God’s presence in the awfulness, because it is God’s presence that gives me hope – and comfort. 

It is the blessing of God's comforting Presence always and everywhere that keeps us from becoming totally hopeless when external forces try to rob us of peace and comfort; of health and wholeness.  It is the blessing of God's comforting Presence, the Light that shines on us even when it is cloudy, that helps us take that next step and then the next one, and the next, knowing he is with us however rocky the road.

So I thank you, God, for Donald, for Jeremiah, for Michelle and Michelle’s friend, and thank you God for Paul McCartney.  Thank you most of all for your Son, the source of all comfort.  “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV)  Amen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

What I did on my spring break

It was spring break here last week and for the first time (ever, I guess) all of the employees of the college where I work had the whole week off.  In the past, only the students and faculty were off all week and the staff had to work Monday through Wednesday.  This year, thanks to thoughtful research and presentations by our staff advocacy group, the board of trustees agreed that everyone should be off the whole week.  Bliss!

Our good friend from "out west" came to visit for the week.  We had fun eating (lots), going shopping, going to a movie (Blue Jasmine), hanging out together (he's a very low maintenance guest) and, sewing, of course!  I worked on my fussy cut grandmother's flower garden, with our friend's help:  he actually basted about a zillion of the white hexagons onto their paper pieces. You can see them here.  (My connection must be too slow to add pictures this morning, so I've linked to my Flickr site).

I'm not a huge Woody Allen fan, but I thought Blue Jasmine was just great. The theme of the movie is:  The lies we tell ourselves are just as detrimental, if not more so, than the lies we tell other people.  Cate Blanchett did a great job of bringing believability to an exaggerated character.  Only maybe Jasmine's not so exaggerated.  My limited contact (basically, next to none unless you count news stories) with the super wealthy suggests that there are some Jasmines in real life.

I ended the week bringing the container plants out of the garage, finally, and back on the patio and porch.  I also planted four tomato plants, cucumber seeds and a few other plants.  If we have another freeze at this point, I'll be completely shocked, but then, I never expected we'd have such a cold winter.

So now I have to put the hexagons aside and get back to work on a churn dash restoration.  I put it away for spring break because I didn't want to close myself up in the sewing room all week, and I limit my restoration work to that room, for safety of the projects.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A work in progress

Last night I got home from work, ate spinach and goat cheese pizza and then went upstairs to the sewing room to work on a new project while drinking diet Coke and watching The West Wing on Netflix.  Pretty much a perfect evening in my book!

A month or so ago The Quilt Show made all of their shows from all seasons available to their subscribers.  I've only been a subscriber for this last season, so I had a lot of catching up to do.  The timing was great, since I was on a self-imposed deadline to finish my latest restoration project.

I think I've watched almost all of them now.  One of my favorites is the show with Brian Haggard, who has written a couple of books about memory quilts - using old photos in quilts with lots of crazy quilt embellishment, all (mostly) in sepia tones.  Since I've also been doing a lot of family history research lately (my gosh I sound like every elderly person I've ever known in this post!  Next thing you know I'm going to be walking around in a cardigan sweater with a Kleenex in my pocket tripping over 20 or 30 cats and eating tea and toast for dinner.  Not that all elderly women do this.  But I'm pretty sure I will.), I knew I had to try to make a quilt like his. 

I need to order his book - but here's my start.  I used pictures from my recent trip to visit dead relatives in Mason.  I love old cemeteries.  I love the ornate headstones and trying to find the oldest burial.  I like family plots with iron fences around them.  I like the statues and the epitaphs.  The inscription on my great great grandfather's headstone says "He died as he lived - a Christian."  I love that.

The buttons aren't sewn on yet, I was just auditioning them.  I have to redo the crazy quilt blocks - something's not quite right there.  The quote is from the poem "Cemetery Trees" by J. S. MacDonald:  "The mighty oaks a vigil keep o'er those beneath them sound asleep."  I plan to add some embroidery.  I might extend the tree branches with embroidery into the borders.

I like it so far.  If it turns out as I hope it will, I may enter it in the New Braunfels quilt show this summer.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Wednesday Hodgepodge

My friend Lisa's blog is one of my favorites.  My husband loves it, too!  So of course, when she answered the Wednesday Hodgepodge questions from another blogger, I thought, "I have to do a hodgepodge post!"

These questions are fun.  I liked reading Lisa's answers.  I doubt mine will be as entertaining, but here goes:

1.  What's one way you are like your siblings?  Oh my.  I'm not much like any of my siblings as far as I can tell.  I'm the youngest of six.  My oldest brother was 20 and married when I was born.  We've lost two brothers already, the one who was closest to me in age (and I am now older than he ever got to be). The brother who was the middle child until I came along died a few years ago - and today is his birthday, I just realized!  So let's see.  The others are politically pretty conservative and I am definitely politically liberal.  They tend to live quite a bit "higher on the hog" than I do.  (None of them married a starving church musician!)  I think the only possible similarity is that we all love to eat and love good food, which is a good enough excuse to hang out together, which we do too infrequently.

2.  What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of yourself at age 18?  Naive!  I had no clue about the real world.  I lived in a protective shell and had absolutely no experience with boys, the world, other people.  Good thing I stayed home for my first year of college.  I attended the college I now work at!  I certainly never thought that would happen.  I went away to school after that year.  That's where the growing up began!

3.  Sculptor, dancer, actor, painter.  If you could excel in one of these arts, which would you choose and why? Painter, definitely.  I've wanted to be a painter as long as I can remember.  My father's cousin or aunt (can't remember which she was), Rose Kirkwood, was a painter and we had one of her landscapes over our sofa and I wanted so badly to be able to paint like she did.  The only problem was that I had/have zero talent or ability.  My mother told me that everyone had some kind of talent, I just had to find out what mine was.  Later on, she told me that she thought my talents were sewing and cooking.  I thought, "Man, could I possibly have talents that were any more boring?"  Now I love both of those "hobbies" and I'm so glad to be a quilter, baker and cook.  Also, painting is a pretty solitary experience, and my introversion plays into that well.  I'd love to be a portrait artist.

4.  What's a scent that takes you back in time and where does it take you?  I talked about this in a previous post - the smell of a flower shop takes my back to the days surrounding my father's funeral when I was nine.  On a happier note, there's a sort of sandy smell that takes me to my grandmother's house.  You don't really think of sand having a smell, but the sandy soil her house was built on did have a very identifiable smell.  And speaking of my grandmother, the scent of stock (the flower called stock) always makes me think of her - she grew stock in her flowerbeds.

5.  November is for peanut butter lovers.  (National peanut butter lovers' month).  Are you a lover or a hater?  What's your favorite dish/recipe that calls for peanut butter?  I'm a total peanut butter lover.  My favorite ice cream is Baskin-Robbins' peanut butter and chocolate, but my favorite peanut butter recipe is peanut butter cookies from a 1936 cookbook I have.  So good.  I've had some really good peanut butter pies, too.  You know the recipe for Oreo truffles?  Where you grind up the oreos, mix them with cream cheese, roll into balls and dip them in melted chocolate?  I want to try that with Nutter Butter cookies, and maybe dip them in white chocolate.

6.  What do people thank you personally for most often?  Food!  Just noticed how often that answer has come up in this post!  The second thing that comes to mind is a strange one.  I have a crazily accurate and vast memory!  I'm known as the go-to person for instantly delivering someone's last name, song lyrics, stars of tv shows, names of movies, etc,  It's sort of a combined blessing and curse.

7.  What event this year are you most thankful for?  The truly most incredible event of the year was attending the Super Bowl in New Orleans - for free!  I won a trip for four (the three of us and our best friend) to go to the Super Bowl and spend 5 days in New Orleans.  I'm not even a big football fan, but it was so. much. fun.  It's something you think you'll never get to do, but we did!  Our seats were great and we even got to go out on the field at the end of the game for the confetti drop.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.  I wish there were more hours in the day to do all the things I need/want to do - work, sew, blog, do genealogy, keep house (I'm also so thankful for Juliet and Sylvester, who clean my house top to bottom every other week), do Bible study, volunteer.  I just need to win the Lottery and retire!

Other random thought:  This blog post is so rambly!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Date Nut Chip Cake

It's my birthday in a few days.  It's not a "landmark" birthday, or anything like that, but I'm getting to the point where birthdays are pretty unwelcomed.  Unless you think about the alternative.

This was one of my favorite birthday cakes as a child.  Typically I would ask for Date Nut Chip Cake or Angel Food Cake with Devil's Food Icing!  I guess I thought I was being funny, but it really is a delicious combination!

Date Nut Chip Cake has no icing, and it doesn't need any.  I guess some would consider it more of a coffee cake.  It's really good.

My first birthday after Dave and I got married I asked him to make this cake for me for my birthday.  I really thought it would be so easy for him since he didn't have to frost it.  My birthday was on a Friday that year, Dave's day off.  He dutifully and lovingly made the cake while I was at work.  Dave is no baker.  I found out later that during the course of baking the cake he made something like 5 or 6 trips to our next door neighbor's house (a sweet retired lady) to ask advice and have the recipe "de-mystified."  Apparently, I must have called my mom at some point and asked her to read me the recipe (I did that a lot in college) and I only jotted down the bare minimum of information - measurements and what to combine.  I've fleshed it out a little since then!

I'm not sure where my mom got this recipe.  A magazine, probably.  I've inherited her awful habit of not being able to resist leaving the grocery store without at least one magazine.

Here's the recipe.  It would be delicious after the yummy sounding chicken pot pie that Lisa has posted a recipe for.

Date Nut Chip Cake

1 cup dates, chopped fine
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine these and let cool.

Beat together:

1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine with the date mixture and pour into a greased and floured 13x9x2 pan.  Sprinkle another 1/4 cup (or so) of the chocolate chips on top of the batter and  bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until done.

Maybe someone will consider this a hint and bake this cake on Wednesday.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunday afternoon fun

Took a short break from my latest restoration quilt (which is really giving me fits) to make this little bitty Halloween banner.  It's about 6 inches by maybe 14 inches.  I'm on a clean out and clear out kick and I was going through one of my couple of, several, numerous Rubbermaid tubs of fabric and found this Halloween print of the costumed teddy bears.  Have absolutely NO remembrance of purchasing it, but apparently I even made something out of it, because it had big chunks cut out of it.  I must have made something for Grace when she was little.

Anyway, I was going to cut it into strips for the strip bins, but these little guys were too cute to slice in pieces (although, since we're talking about Halloween, it would be somewhat appropriate!).  Threw some other Halloween prints (that I do remember purchasing) in the mix and out came this little banner.  Or table runner for a teeny, tiny little table.

Can't decide where to display it.  Might take it to work and decorate my office with it.  But then I might stare at it all day while wishing I was home making more.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Savory Saturday: Greek Bread

Ok, this isn't exactly what I was going for when I decided to change the look of my blog, but I'm going to have to live with it, I guess.  All I wanted to do was change the background, not rearrange everything!

Lisa posted a most-delicious sounding recipe on her blog today - Tomato Relish.  Be sure to check it out.  I have decided to share a recipe from the book, Easy Weeknight Favorites which I bought at a Southern Living at Home party years ago.  It really is one of our favorites.  In fact, if Dave isn't going to be home for dinner, sometimes Grace and I make this for our entire dinner!  It's also great for parties.

Greek Bread

1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Greek seasoning (like Cavender's).
1 (16-oz) loaf unsliced French bread
1 (4-oz) package tomato-basil feta cheese
1 (2.5 oz) can sliced ripe olives, drained
1/2 cup drained, chopped pepperoncini peppers

Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise Greek seasoning and feta cheese, stirring until smooth.  Slice bread loaf in half lengthwise.  Spread cream cheese mixture on cut sides of bread Sprinkle olives and peppers over cream cheese mixture.  Place bread on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

There are some other really good recipes in this cookbook.  There's one for warm potato and sausage salad which is delicious, especially for garlic lovers.