Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Will and David!

We have a tradition where the birthday honoree gets to select the type of food he or she wants for the birthday dinner, and that person has to help prepare it. Will chose Mexican food, so we had a build-your-own enchilada bar, along with empanadas, refried beans, Spanish rice, chips, cheese dip, salsa, and guacamole. The cake isn't Mexican in the least, but that's ok--I baked a gluten-free brownie recipe and chilled the night before the party. The day of the party the hubster added a layer of mint chocolate chip ice cream and regular chocolate chip ice cream, and iced them together with fudge frosting.
Emma making empanadas

Chili, pork, chicken and cheese dip

Empanadas ready for the oven

Will and David working hard; Jack looking on
(and yes, the kitchen is not up to speed)

David, Hubster and Will

More food
Will is pleased!
David's birthday was this past Sunday. Because his birthday is so close to Christmas, he prefers there not be too many Christmas decorations out when we celebrate, and we try our best to accommodate that request. Unfortunately, we were so busy putting together the huge Southern-fried meal that I only got a photo of the first table that my sister decorated:
It looked great--it's various sizes of Mason jars filled with wood chips and a tealight. They are surrounded by moss.

We had fried chicken, fried pork chops, fried tofu, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fresh green beans, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, macaroni and cheese, biscuits, red-eye gravy, strawberry shortcake and yellow cake with chocolate icing. And sweet tea. And I wonder why I was sick the next day. David was so happy and busted his butt along with his father to get everything on the table. They're already talking about next year's meal!

I hope to get in the Bottoms Up! Studio tomorrow and finish quilting Swiss Mocha. The next time you hear from me will be my year-end roundup.

Happy quilting,

Merry and Bright and Santa Hats, brought to you by Pinterest

Today is the day after Christmas (Boxing Day for many, but not in the US--it's SALE DAY). I am enjoying a very lazy and peaceful morning sitting in my recliner and cleaning up photos from this month, and decided to share what we did:

The hubster put up the Christmas tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and my sister and our friend Holly stayed all evening to help decorate (that was the day we had Buck put down). I normally decorate the tree by myself, sometimes with the help of our youngest, David, while hubs sits in the recliner drinking a glass of wine and telling us where to put things (I usually ignore his suggestions). This year we did not place any of our traditional and sentimental ornaments on the tree--this year it's all about the bling. And a lot of blue.

On that Sunday, Steph and Holly and I ventured out to Michael's armed with our 40%-off coupons, and I wanted copper accents to go with the blue. I found several ornaments, picked up two garlands and some other items to trim them, extension cords, and then we went to Wally World where I picked up some lights for the garlands. Last week I completed the garlands, but I'll add more to them next year--they look a little lame to me.

While surfing Pinterest for Christmas party food ideas, I found this Pin and thought, I want that!

I used larger canvas than the original Pinner. She didn't paint the entire canvas, leaving it white. I printed the words "Merry" and "Bright" to size, cut them out and glued them to the canvas. I then spray painted the canvas with Krylon Island Splash Satin, then spray painted them with Krylon Glitter Blast Sapphire Shimmer. I did an uneven spray with both paints.

Hit them with the blow dryer for a couple of minutes, then took a black Sharpie and outlined the lettering (this proved to be an unnecessary step).


I then painted two coats of FolkArt Metallic acrylic paint (Copper) in the lettering. I thought the Sharpie outline would show up underneath the paint, and forgetting how acrylic paint works, realized very quickly that I was wrong in that assumption.


(They are not different colors. One photo was taken in the dining room, the other in the mud room which had all of the sunlight.)

After the copper paint dried, I took my awl and poked holes through the canvas, and using LED mini lights (battery-operated), inserted the lights through the holes, and affixed the battery pack inside the bottom stretcher bars of the canvases.


I had a great time making these--and I'll probably do it again next year if we change the color scheme. I have some other ideas brewing for decorating next year--I need to write them down before I forget!

And this is from my Day of Christmas at the office--when we started the Days of Christmas we had 12 employees; when I started writing this post we were at 10; last week we lost a co-worker to cancer--he was diagnosed the first week of December and lasted just over 2 weeks. My Day of Christmas we found out the end was near and no one felt like celebrating. I brought the goodies anyway hoping to bring a little cheer. 

I wanted to keep things easy this year because I just didn't have the time to go large scale like I did last year, which was this:
This year I also served our family's version of Chex Mix (gluten free, of course) and Apple Cider made from apple juice and Red Hots in the crockpot.

Christmas was also low-key this year; we had Ross and David (Jack went to his girlfriend's home in the western part of the state), and my sister and our friend Holly. We decided to downscale dinner this year and I thought it was perfect. We had a rib roast with mashed potatoes, au jus, horseradish cream, fresh carrots and green beans, homemade rolls, and pecan pie:


Maple Pecan Pie
We've tried to cut back on our consumption of corn for several months, so I found this recipe for the pecan pie at Slate.com and really enjoyed it; I'm saving the recipe and will use it again.

Do you enjoy decorating for the holidays? I have come to enjoy it more and more every year. I have gone from no tree and decorations (while we had the quilt shop), to wanting to decorate every room, but I'm not there yet. Baby steps. I adore baking for the holidays, too, but since going gluten-free it's been harder to do; I'm still learning and sometimes the results are less than desired.

Finally, here are some photos from yesterday. It was a wonderful day--I hope yours was wonderful, too.
Holly and Steph looking at photos taken by Ross

David and Ross watching the Julia Child YouTube remix video

Santa (hubster) chilling after dinner





Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Love Endures - the reveal!

Adding to my list of Finally Finished for 2013 is Love Endures--I trimmed the last thread last night and presented it to its honoree, the lovely Emma, David's girlfriend:
Pardon those two behind the quilt, the wind was just beginning to pick up and they were doing the best they could. I like to take photos of quilts outside when it's overcast, but in this case it didn't do so well.

Close-ups - this one is of the lake:
Detail of the mountains' reflection in the lake: 
The BIG tent--I didn't do as much detail as I had originally thought, but I'm happy with it:
The campfire:
Alice (Emma), reclining against the tree:
With a copy of "To Kill a Mockingbird" in her lap:

Making this quilt with David was an adventure and allowed me to try my hand at a story quilt. It took some coaxing to get David to make the quilt in this style, but he was happy with it, and Emma is very pleased! 

Here's the label:

So this makes #8 that I've completed this year. Swiss Mocha is on the longarm and will hopefully be completed by the 31st, but even if it isn't, I'm grateful to have completed 8 quilts this year. 

Today is David's birthday and we'll have a big dinner party to celebrate. We started a tradition a few years ago where the birthday boy determines the cuisine for the dinner and helps prepare the dinner. I'll have two birthday posts soon (David's and Will's) and will then talk more about the food.

My sister arrived Saturday, our son Ross arrives tomorrow. Our oldest, Jack, won't be with us for Christmas day; he and the lovely Syd will be headed out of town to be with her family. Will's mom is also here.

I'll do a wrap-up (I hope) next week once all company is gone and it's just me and the hubster--Will is going away with his mom for the holidays so it will be nice to have a little down time. Our wedding anniversary is the 29th and we'll probably celebrate at home.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. Embrace your loved ones, whether family or friends, and always know that you are loved.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

December

This weekend was the first opportunity I have had to stitch in over a month, and my attitude has suffered for it.

We've had a lovely long weekend due to the freezing rain and sleet. Hubster got everything we needed so we wouldn't have to venture out on the nasty roads. He also knew I needed to sew. I went downstairs Friday and instead of working on something with a deadline, I chose to work on one of the quilts that's ready to be quilted. I made the label and pieced the backing. On Saturday I attached the label to the backing, loaded the quilt on the frame and got it basted in. I started quilting in the border and didn't really like how the thread looked on it. Sent a photo of it to Katrina, and she said keep going!

This is the quilt while it was on the wall:

This is a quilt from the International Mystery Tour at the shop. The pattern was called "Swiss Miss" and I had the "coffee" colorway. I changed the name of it to "Swiss Mocha"--I don't drink the powdered stuff anymore, but I do make it from scratch (and add a little Creme de Cacao to it for some extra warmth).

I had a plan to quilt a coffee cup in each block, but I decided that was too much for the quilt. I'm doing an allover design of swirls and ribbons just so it will be DONE. It's not a gift for anyone (yet) and I want it finished by December 31 so I can add it to the Finally Finished list for 2013.

On Sunday I didn't get down to the studio until the early afternoon because I needed to finish my Christmas decorating. Once I got to the studio, I started some ribbon swirls in the outer border, then did some tight steam swirls in the inner border, then did the stitch in the ditch around each block of the first three rows.

It's been nice spending the last 3 days in the Bottoms Up! Studio; it's lifted my mood. Schools are closed in our area tomorrow due to the weather, but I telework on Mondays and will be "back" to work early in the morning.

I still miss my Buck. I looked for him outside my patio door in the studio; he would lie down on the patio and watch me while I sewed.

I hope you stay warm and dry.

Happy quilting,





Friday, December 6, 2013

Blessings and Buck

We had the best Thanksgiving ever at our home last week. All of our boys and my sister were here, and some very special friends joined us. The weather was great! The meal was wonderful (even though I almost scorched the rolls and I did manage to scorch the brownie pie). We had two turkeys, a whole ham, a tofurkey; mashed potatoes, dressing, giblet and vegetarian gravies, corn, green bean bundles, sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole (not the kind with Velveeta), cranberry salad, homemade rolls, banana pudding, iron skillet apple pie, brownie pie and haystacks:
Deep-fried turkey, just out of the fryer

Banana pudding, required at every holiday

We keep the rest of the desserts on the buffet
The centerpiece
Another view
I made place cards for everyone--I saw a neat example at the Scrap Girls blog and ran with it:

I followed their lead and made the second tag the meaning of each name. Everyone enjoyed hearing the meanings of the names and thought the tags were cute.

This year we had our dinner in the evening, so it put a little cramp into our after-dinner games--we only played one game of Cranium, but the wine flowed, and we laughed long and hard. When I looked up, it was midnight. And we had a first--most of the kids cleaned up the kitchen--BIG BONUS!

On Friday we took down the fall and Thanksgiving decorations to prepare the house for Christmas. Our oldest dog, Buck, was in the house and it was clear he wasn't doing very well. My sister said, "It's time." Our vet wasn't able to see him, but we have a 24/7 emergency pet clinic a mile away and they said we could bring him in. I told the hubster I wanted one more night with him. Saturday morning I sat down on the floor with him and gave him a long scratching and belly rub, the hubster fed him some ham with gravy and I rubbed his belly more. We loaded him into the car and rolled down the back window--he loved riding in the car; he was a great traveling dog. We arrived at the vet, and luckily, no one else was there--it was all over in less than 30 minutes. We carried him home where our sons Jack and David were waiting. Phillip and the boys dug the grave, while my sister and two friends were propping me up inside. We had a short funeral and Phillip said, "He's running with the big dogs." I told Buck to run around the lake and find a dead fish and roll around in it. 

One of the greatest things about Buck is that he was always happy to see you. When you walk in the door and if he sees you (he's deaf), he will wag his tail and try to get up to greet you. That may sound ordinary to you, but to me it meant the world.

God placed Buck with us when he was about 3 months old back in the spring of 1998. I wanted a dog. My mother had moved out of the house and I felt like it was time for a dog; our boys were in middle and high school at the time. Phillip and I went to the local animal shelter and while looking around, I stopped at one of the cages and the cutest dog walked up to me and it was as if he had said, "I've been waiting for you." (Yes, I am a sentimental old sap and I believe you can communicate with dogs.) I looked at my husband and said, "He's the one, but I want to think about it." We waited a day, and I told Phillip I was ready. We went back to the shelter and he was gone--but someone there said he was on the mobile unit at PetSmart. We then learned he had already been adopted by someone else, but was returned because the owner couldn't keep a dog in the rented house, so he returned him to the shelter. We made a mad dash up to PetSmart and he was still there, and he came home with us. 

Buck went everywhere with us. Our two youngest were in soccer, and Buck went with us to every practice and every game; he became the mascot of David's team. He loved going to the games and everyone wanted to hang out with him. 

He spent some quality time at my sister's home--and the first 2 weeks she kept him, he came back to us as the perfect dog (I've always called her the Dog Whisperer, long before anyone knew about Cesar Milan). Ross taught him a great trick--he called it the Half-A$$ Roll. Buck would sit, then get into the beg position, jump up, lie down, roll over and sit again, and would be rewarded with his treat. All anyone had to say was, "What do you need to do?" and he would perform the trick. He was so smart and had me wrapped around his finger so tightly that he would start to do the trick, but then get lazy and only half-way roll over, which is why Ross named it so.

Buck was the kindest dog--he would bark at you at first if he didn't know you, but thereafter he would greet you and any other human or animal with a friendly sniff and wag of his tail--dogs, cats, birds, you name it. Jack brought Cleo the cat home the year after we adopted Buck and she sank her claws into his nose at their first meeting, but he just backed away and wagged his tail at her. It wasn't long before she was under his spell. She's the type of cat that if she loves you (i.e., she owns you), she will drop to the floor and roll over and whip that tail when she greets you--she does this with me, my husband, our kids, and she did it with Buck.

Buck loved all of my sister's dogs, but he was especially fond of her golden retriever, Tripp. Tripp was what I called the perfect dog--well-mannered and did everything Steph told him to--and Buck apparently wanted to be just like him. They spent many happy times together. Tripp went to the Rainbow Bridge almost 10 years ago.
Buck - July 4, 2009
It was in the last 6 months that I started seeing signs of his slowing down--he didn't run up the stairs like he used to, and while he ate as much as he normally did, he lost a lot of weight and a lot of hair. He had a harder time getting up from his bed, and in the last 2-3 months he had trouble walking. I knew the time was coming but just wanted to get up one morning and find him curled up in his bed, asleep forever. My sister convinced me that I needed to have him put down. 
Buck, on his last day with us
The best dog in the world is now at the Rainbow Bridge, running and playing with Tripp and many other cousins, and rolling in as many dead fish as he wants. He's greeting everyone with a wag of his tail and a sniff, and he is happy as he was here on this earth. There is a hole in my heart that will never be completely closed, but I take joy in what a happy, loyal, and friendly companion he was to our family for so many years. As I write this, the sleet is falling outside and I am thinking of the many times he would be curled up on the floor at my feet, just happy to be by my side and out of the elements. 

Rest in peace, my dear, sweet Buckers, and I'll see you one day at the bridge.