Monday, March 31, 2008


After a lot of time spent hunkering over my sewing machine on Saturday working on projects for the fast-approaching Special Olympics fund raiser, a nice soak in an herbal bath and a fun book were lovely and relaxing Sunday afternoon activities.

Since tossing herbs merrily about in your tub creates a clogged drain and difficulty cleaning the tub later, I made two herbal bath preparations. One is a simple little muslin bag filled with herbs and the other was made by tucking the herbs into a sealable tea bag (just lightly iron one side). I’ll save the tea bag version for another time.

Here’s the recipe I used. Pure bliss!

My preference in terms of books made into movies is to read the book first before seeing the movie adaptation.

Since the movie is out now, I had a delightful couple of hours reading
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone Classics).

Have you read the book and/or seen the movie? I’m curious about the latter.

Friday, March 28, 2008

My Brief Career as a Child Spy

My childhood memories are such fun blessings to remember now that I’m so much older. Here’s one about my short career as a child spy.

We lived in Wildflecken, Germany (1958–1960) when I was in first and second grade. Wildflecken was a major training area for U.S. and other NATO forces.

The elementary school was directly across the street from our house with a playground in front and woods in the back.

One Saturday morning while playing on the playground, my friends and I heard a major commotion going on somewhere nearby. Our curiosity was aroused and, pretending to be spies, we stealthily made our way past the school and through the woods until we came to a fenced-off clearing.

Smoke billowed about and the noise was deafening. We were stunned to see a huge military tank lumbering along about 100 yards from us and what appeared to be the whole U.S. Army running around like wraiths in the smoke, waving weapons. One ran by the fence where our little spy-selves were hunkered in the bushes—it was my father.

Dad and his men did whatever it is Army men do and the tank stopped. The top popped open and men emerged, one by one, their arms held above their heads. The bad guys had been captured.

We wanted to cheer as my father wasn’t the only father out there but were afraid we’d be taken prisoners of war by enemy spies lurking nearby. Not at all sure who the enemy might be, the very idea terrified us. Our interest in being spies was definitely over. We ran home as fast as our little legs could take us where we were all punished for leaving the playground.

It wasn’t until I was an adult and my family was chatting and exchanging memories that I recounted my childhood spy activities that day so long ago and how proud I was of my father’s heroism. My parents looked astounded and then burst out laughing. And that’s when they explained it had all been merely joint NATO practice maneuvers.

It’s not easy being a spy when you’re six years old.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tea with Oscar Wilde

This is Week 2 of the Gracious Hospital-i-Tea Blog-a-Thon. The theme is Litera-Tea. Briefly, our mandate is to “Share tea from the perspective of literature.”

I’ve chosen Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest as my literary offering as his comic criticism is superb.

The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays (Penguin Classics)

The play is a spoof on the notion of status and class—of much import during the Victorian era. Each character pretends to be something he or she is not which adds another witty element.

How does this relate to tea? Tea was a social more during the late 1800s in England and widely available to everyone, regardless of societal position. Tea was a featured subject in numerous articles and how-to guides at the time. And within Wilde’s play are three brilliant tea scenes which provide wonderful fodder for parody.

Source: Mary Cassatt, Afternoon Tea Party, 1890–1891, National Gallery of Art, Chester Dale Collection. The History Project, University of California, Davis

For example, in the first tea scene, you are what you eat with your tea. Cucumber sandwiches or cake are considered elitist. But maybe you’d rather have simple bread-and-butter sandwiches, demonstrating a more middle-class mindset. Choosing is fraught with peril. Choose wrong and your slip is showing below your hem line, dearie.

This is an exquisitely humorous play. I do hope you read it. If you’ve read P.G. Wodehouse, this will be somewhat a familiar delight—although Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster is upper-class while Wilde makes fun of everyone.

As my own bit of comedic criticism, here is my tea vessel for today.

And I’ve made a simple bread-and-butter sandwich—but I cut off the crust.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Time to Give

I’ve been working on my giving projects and, now that I’m feeling much better, my packages are going out in today’s mail.

Wash Cloths

Knitted cotton wash cloths are being sent to the Loves Many Cloths
group to which I belong for delivery to a domestic assault shelter.

Acts of Kindness

One of my blog readers, KJ, doesn’t sew but admired the coupon organizer I made. So I’ve created one for her and, in return, KJ agreed to pay the kindness forward by doing a good deed for someone else.

I used fabrics from my stash.

Joni of Yummers! wants to see what the Marie Claire Idées magazine is all about. Since I have extra copies of various issues, I’m sending those to her along with some other things. In turn, she is also doing a pay-it-forward project.

Gifts of Friendship

Crystal of Fairiebees
was so sweet to send me a book to read which helped enormously while I was sick. As my thank you, I’m returning her book, adding some for her to enjoy, and including some extra key fob pieces I have which she can’t find at her local store so she can make new key rings.

Works in Progress

I’m helping with a school project called The Flat Stanley World Tour Project which I listed as one of my goals in one of my January
posts. It’s a project for the first graders at a school in Canada attended by the daughter of Angie (Norththreads blog) which they created after reading the book Flat Stanley.

In my case, the version I received is entitled Flat Avery after the child organizing this particular aspect of the project. Flat Avery arrived at my house on Saturday via Norway which is quite exciting. I am to take Flat Avery out in the Tucson area and photograph her in action in my community and collect souvenir things to include in the package I’ll mail on to someone else. How fun is this and such a great learning tool for the children!

I’ll be out and about with Flat Avery today. She is going to get her eyes checked at the ophthalmologist, see what cacti looks like, and have other assorted adventures.

Can you see Avery’s little paper self on the right in the picture? So adorable.

Projects are in the works for the Special Olympics to be sold to help raise funds for this worthwhile endeavor. My sister and I have made this an annual tradition to work on together. She does stained glass art pieces while I sew things. Last year I made sets of quilted patchwork coasters to donate.

Are you working on good deed giving projects? I’d love to hear new ideas that you are willing to share.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sweet Success

Thanks to Nicolette, Crystal, and everyone's encouragement, I achieved my “ah hah” Oprah moment with the Sew Pretty Homestyle bag (page 26) that flummoxed me last week.

The sunlight makes the bag and rose look blue—the correct purple color is more accurate in the last photo showing the rose.

My mistake was that I did not pull the lining fabric through the top opening of the bag as illustrated in Figure B of the book before drawing the corner arcs on both ends and sewing. Purely operator error on my part.

This is what the interior looks like.

I also managed to make the decorative rose and accompanying leaves (page 69) without problem. I’m so relieved.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Colorful Weekend

I hope your Easter weekend was full of sunshine and laughter. We spent Saturday morning at Saguaro National Park East enjoying the wildflowers. Glorious, just glorious!

There are great masses of these happy yellow flowers all over the place.

Here’s a closer view of the flowers themselves.

I love the poppies and the little bug on the edge of the flower petal posed quite nicely for me.

Even the prickly pears are starting to dress up for Spring.

I made lemon poppyseed cakes for our neighbors as our little Easter tokens of friendship. I should have taken a picture of the whole parade of cakes but here’s one perched in our Tombstone Roses.

My friend Donna in North Carolina needs a knitting needle case so I made one for her using the same McCall’s pattern (M4728) with which I made my own case. You can see pictures of mine on Flicker here and here.

For some reason, three yards of this Japanese-themed flower fabric was in my stash. I suspect I was thinking about making another Amy Butler kimono and never did. Anyway, some of it has gone towards Donna’s case. I’m really working my way through my stash which tickles me no end.

Last night’s Emma was a welcomed return of Masterpiece’s Jane Austen series after a three-week break. What a great weekend; did you enjoy your weekend as well?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Blessings Friday: Spring Flowers

I really appreciate the helpful comments about my sewing snafu yesterday. I will eventually conquer this project. It will probably be some simple disconnect between the book and my brain that will make me laugh and have an Oprah “ah hah” moment.

Since yesterday was the first day of Spring, I wandered around our backyard checking out how nature is blessing us this turn of time’s wheel. It’s not all Saguaros and sagebrush in Tucson.

Right away, I’m cheating. These aren’t growing in our yard; I bought them for my dinner table. My friend Kristie came over last night for our monthly dinner/crafting evening. She made a gorgeous ankle bracelet out of beautiful glass beads and little silver Celtic beads. Her jewelry-making skills are amazing. As for me, I was feeling a bit unfocused, so I didn’t work on anything but just watched her and chatted.

Have you heard about the world’s oldest living rose tree? It is a giant Lady Banks Rose (Rosa banksiae) now known as the Tombstone Rose and resides at the Rose Tree Inn in Tombstone, AZ. It is the result of a rooting of "Old White Rose" sent as a house-warming gift from Scotland in the 1800s. This year that one plant will be 123 years old. We have cuttings of this massed around our backyard fence by our pool.

Our Tombstone Roses are blooming like crazy but there are also thousands of buds just waiting to ripen.

I have two other rosebushes in another section of our yard that are budding, too. There is lots of new cane growth and buds are popping out all over the place.

Our honeysuckles are starting to bloom, too. Mortimer, our resident Black-chinned Hummingbird loves these.

Lots of rosemary grows in my yard. We’ve been enjoying their blooms for some time now. It is so wonderful to have fresh rosemary year-round.

This is lantana. It grows like crazy in our yard—the birds love it. The flowers change color as they mature, resulting in inflorescences that are two- or three-colored.

We have giant Oleander trees (yes, trees) growing around our house in the front yard but they aren’t blooming yet. But on my front porch I have a humongous Boston fern and a huge pot of happy red geraniums.

I hope your yards have examples of nature’s blessings—and if you live where the weather is still onerous, buy yourself some Spring flowers to remind you of the hope instilled by this change of season. Have a very blessed Easter weekend!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Not-going-to-happen Bag

Have you ever worked on a project that made you feel inept?

Yesterday I tried to make the purportedly simple bag from Sew Pretty Homestyle by Tilda. How hard could this possibly be? Well, it stumps me.

I thought it would be perfect as an Easter “basket” for my sister Connie. Just the right fabrics for the exterior and lining were in my stash. And I was going to use the lining material to make the fabric rose from the book to pin to the bag.

There’s a blog devoted to Tilda projects I found while searching for errata about the book last night. Someone posted a picture of the bag they successfully made but no process notes are provided.

But the bag is a non-event because after trying to make it three times, I have temporarily given up. I can usually figure out instructions but something is wrong—either with the book’s directions or my brain cells fell out while I’ve been ill. Have any of you tried this project and figured out what to do?

The good news is that it is officially Spring Equinox. Happy Spring to all of you!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Simple Gifts to Stitch Pintucked Runner

The March project for Finny and Donk’s 2008 Sewing Adventure is the pintucked table runner from the Simple Gifts to Stitch book. This is our second project from this book and both have been quite easy to make.

This is my finished project. Instead of the called-for linen, I used leftover home decorator fabric from numerous projects to make my runner. I’ve finally exhausted this fabric from my stash.

The instructions have you making random pintucks but mine are spaced to appease my personal sense of balance. The middle section has two facing pintucks closer together than the rest of it.

The creamy-yellow backing is yet again another piece of leftover home decorator fabric and it, too, is now gone.

One thing I really appreciate about Kelli and Finny's sew-alongs is that we can and are encouraged to customize each project to suit ourselves. I like that a lot. So, instead of a table runner, I made it to go on top of my refrigerator to help keep it clean—much like the mats I made for the tops of my washer and dryer in January except this one isn’t patchwork.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


There’s a Gracious Hospital-i-Tea Blog-a-Thon being hosted on the Gracious Hospitality blog. This week’s theme is Teacup-a-Story. We’re asked to ”share a picture of your favorite teacup and saucer; describe it and tell its history (or make up a story about its past). Why is it meaningful to you? This would be a good place to share about the details of your teacup collection if you have one.

I thought I’d join in although I don’t have a teacup collection per se. My special teacup given to me by my friend Jo-Ann is the story of a life lesson learned. This little set is English bone china in the Royal Adderley “Mayflower” pattern.

When my first husband and I divorced, I moved home to N.C. from Virginia and bought a house next to Jo-Ann’s in Wilmington. The story of my first marriage isn’t important, but the resulting feelings I had are.

I was afraid of people (men especially) and the few friends I was allowed to have turned out to be a little too “friendly” with my husband; we’ll leave it at that as I’m sure you can read between the lines. The result was that I felt I must be the most horrible woman on the planet—someone who couldn’t keep her husband or friends. My children and I moved into our new home and I went into a form of hiding, going to work, taking care of the kids, and finding solace only in my books late at night when they were asleep.

I bought one of those old-fashioned reel lawnmowers—the kind where the only power source is you pushing it. Since I didn’t even know how to use a screwdriver, I figured it would be best not to mess with any contraption involving potential mechanical fiddling around.

The very first day I was out pushing and pulling that wacky lawnmower up and down my yard. Jo-Ann came out of her house next door, introduced herself, and asked if I’d like to borrow her electric lawnmower. I said thanks but no. Jo-Ann said, “I think you’re crazy, but if you change your mind, just come on over.” I didn’t.

All the neighbors kept coming over offering the use of their lawnmowers but I kept saying no. There’s another story in all this but, essentially, Jo-Ann and everyone in our neighborhood drew me out of my isolated life. Over time, I learned to relax and trust people again.

Jo-Ann, Donna (who sent me the flowers the other day), and my special friend Denny who died last year at my birthday all helped me learn the skills I needed to survive as a single mother. And they taught me what true friendship means.

One day after her mother died, Jo-Ann gifted me with a teacup and saucer from her mother’s collection. She said that she knew I would respect and honor this special treasure and that maybe it would remind me to care as much for myself.

Today I’m using Jo-Ann’s gift and treating myself to tea and one of the Strawberry Meringue Cookies I made this morning (recipe from Southern Lady magazine, March/April 2008 issue). I am now happily married to a wonderful and trustworthy man, blessed with happy and healthy grown children, and I’m honored to have friends I can trust. My life is full of genuine and honest love; I am very grateful.

And that’s my teacup story.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Erin Go Bragh

My new antibiotics are beginning to work and I am feeling a bit better today. Hooray! Thank you for your sweet prayers and good wishes.

Here is our St. Patrick’s Day celebration this year. A banner found on sale at Jo-Ann’s welcomes visitors.

This is an Irish welcome plaque hanging by our front door. It was a gift from my Irish mother-in-law a few years ago.

Our St. Patrick’s menu tonight is from an old book found at a used bookstore, The Art of Irish Cooking by Monica Sheridan (Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1965): roast beef, potato flounces, and Irish peas.

The table is set for tonight. Our plates and goblets are onyx from Palestine. I made the napkins using St. Patrick’s Day fabric bought at Jo-Ann’s, simple hemmed squares. Little silk shamrocks found at Michael’s are sprinkled all over the table and our centerpiece is a flowering Oxalis.

For dessert, we’re having Irish Lace Cookies.

Click to enlarge and print. I purchased the recipe template from The Vintage Workshop.

My husband loves classic shortbread so I made some for him yesterday. Today I’m making batches for our neighbors which my husband will deliver after work.

Did you know the lines in shortbread pans are really not cutting lines (although it helps immensely)? They represent the rays of the sun. My shortbread pan is called British Isles and comes from Brown Bag Designs. Each segment represents an aspect of the British Isles: Scotch Thistles, Irish Celtic Knotwork, a Tudor Rose and a Welsh Dragon, along with the sun’s rays.

Oh, the music in the air!
An' the joy that's ivrywhere -
Shure, the whole blue vault of heaven is wan grand triumphal arch,
An' the earth below is gay
Wid its tender green th'-day,
Fur the whole world is Irish on the Seventeenth o' March!

~ Thomas Augustin Daly ~