Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday.

That sounds so ominous, doesn't it? Black Friday. OoooooooOOOOOOoooh! Bring out your dead!

Todd is out this morning braving the crowds for a couple of sales, and I am home relaxing before we throw some clothes into a bag and head for my brother's house for the rest of the weekend.

We had a really nice day yesterday, if an unorthodox Thanksgiving. We went to Bass Pro in the morning and I got a new pair of brown clogs, on sale. I seem to have lost my liking for shoes with backs on them, except for sneakers. All my other shoes are either flip-flops or clogs/mules.

Then we came home and had turkey sandwiches (Todd) and German restaurant doggy bag (me) for lunch, I cleaned the kitchen, and then we tackled putting in our new shrubs.

We had put three boxwoods across the front three years ago after we moved in, boxwoods that a friend of Todd's wanted out of his own landscaping, so they were free. One boxwood died last year and we pulled it out, one is two-thirds dead, and the other is okay but not thriving.

So we pulled out the last two and put in three smooth-leafed holly bushes and two abelias, with gray-green leaves and a branchy shape that contrasts well with the compact dark green hollies. The abelias will have small white flowers in the summer.

Then we put in a large rose in front of our little white fence to anchor that corner of the yard, and it looks terrific already. The hollies and abelias are still small and not too distinctive-looking yet, but the rose settled into its corner and looks right at home. It has red leaves that look wonderful in front of the white fence, and it will bloom red all next summer and fall. I'm thinking about running back and getting another one today while the nursery's 50% off sale is still going on.

While Todd dug and planted, I busied myself with chopping down all the brown dead stuff, dead daisies, dead mums, vincas that were blooming until last week when we finally got a killing frost. It was a big task...I am very into my garden from March till June, and then when it gets hot, I completely neglect the thing until late fall. I resolve to do better every year, but I don't seem to.

I got some good ideas from Elaine at The Flower Pot, though, and some inspiration for next spring, and I'm hoping the shrubs will provide some of the structure I need to build in front of and really make the beds look nice.

Anyway, after getting cleaned up, we drove down to Virginia Beach and had a nice dinner out with my friend Bev, at a seafood buffet place that added all the Thanksgiving staples to their spread. It was actually quite good.

On the way home, I called my mom and learned that my dad is in Missouri visiting my grandma right now. She's still in the hospital and not doing great, unfortunately. And her condition seems to fluctuate--one day she's on the upswing, the next day she's worse. So he decided to go ahead and go out and see her. We're all pretty worried about her.

But it was a nice day, and we thought about our blessings, as well as all the people we care about so much and couldn't be with that day. It would be wonderful to be able to just zap myself to Missouri and sit with my grandma, or to Ohio to spend the day with my mom who enjoyed a very quiet holiday, or to enjoy the delicious dinner my father-in-law cooked for the Ferrante-Mozeleski Thanksgiving. But I also felt very grateful last night for my warm comfortable home, my sweet husband who was poring over the ads and planning his Friday attack, the delicious dinner we had with our old friend, and my hot cup of chai tea.

Well, I'm off to pack my bags. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Aren't you glad you don't have to go out and shoot your own turkey?

We were going to go to Washington DC for a couple of days, but decided to forgo that trip and spend some time and money getting things done at home. We hit a nursery sale today and got a bunch of shrubs for the front yard at 50% off--score!

Tomorrow we're going to stop by a couple of early sales, then come home and plant our shrubs, and then go out for dinner with my friend Beverly.

Then Friday we'll head out for a couple of days with my brother's family, and Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. I can't wait to see my cute nieces.

I hope everybody has a fun weekend with family and friends--and don't forget to count your blessings!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I was at Michael's yesterday and found these little papier-mache birdhouse ornaments on the clearance rack.

Last night I sat down while Todd snoozed in front of the fireplace and I covered then with Basic Grey Wassail papers. Then I added some Melissa Frances stickers, a few notions and a liberal dose of Martha Stewart mica glitter, and of course, Stickles glitter glue.

I can't decide whether to attach ribbon loops to the top or just leave them as is, but here's where they sit until I decide...

I put some fresh pyracantha berries and leaves in my little pitcher, and added some rosemary and lavender sprigs. Smells good.

Over and out.

Stitched in Time.

I doubt that she needs my paltry publicity, but Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy has a book called Stitched in Time that just came out a couple of weeks ago, and I picked it up, I confess, in order to fill out an Amazon order and get the free shipping. I'm glad I did, because it's really a sweet book. It has lots of simple sewing projects for gifts, home decor, and holidays, most with the theme of capturing a memory in a non-scrapbook-related way. She makes a lot of use of those fabric sheets you can run through your inkjet printer and print photos on--one of my favorite projects is a very simple pillow made of sixteen 4" black-and-white photos stitched together in a patchwork. It's eye-catching with a black piping around the edge.

She also spotlights a softie designed from a child's drawing, a stuffed heart garland, a felted wool tote, a laundry bag, a growth chart, a patchwork quilt made from baby clothes, and lots of other projects. The projects are sort of like what you'd see in a Martha Stewart magazine, but more colorful, more old-fashioned, more for real people who don't live in mansions in the Hamptons.

What's especially wonderful about the book is Alicia's warm writing style and her fantastic photos. You can tell she put her whole heart into the book. She has written thoughtfully about her memories, as she does in her blog. One paragraph about some pillowcases she sewed for her father shortly before his death, and his response to them, was so lovely it made me cry a tiny bit.

I just got the book, so I haven't tried any of the projects and can't speak to the accuracy of the patterns or directions, but I see a number of things I'd like to try and think I can make, even with my extremely limited sewing skills. Plus, it's just a very pleasant book to curl up with. I recommend it! And Alicia, I think a cookbook should be next on your list.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More cards.

These are some more cards I made earlier this week. I was browsing through all my supplies and found some tags I decided to play with. The first card is my favorite--I may have to keep it for myself! All the sentiments are ancient rub-ons from a Deja Views set, and the little faux postage stickers are from Artchix Studio. Gotta use up those leftovers! I looooove the faux postage images, they are so sweet.

These are really so much prettier in real life...I guess I need to set up a good place to photograph stuff so you can see the details better, like all the pros at Two Peas do. (Yeah, I'll get right on that.) These are all Stickled up, so they're much more glittery than they look here. I am loving the Stickles--all the prettiness of glitter without the dreadful mess.

And this one is a total departure!

I had a little stack of lime green cards to use up, and this pretty sheet of old Chatterbox paper that went with them, plus some very old Bazzill Christmas stickers, so I did six cards in this style. Todd asked if I'd make cards for the engineers at work, so I figure I'll give 'em these. Engineers aren't very big on aesthetics. Not when it comes to paper crafts, anyway.

We had a really great weather day here today. It was cold and windy and the sun kept popping in and out of these huge grey clouds that whizzed across the sky. Well, I enjoyed it, anyway. It's unusually cold for this time of year here. It's actually cold enough that I could pull out my beloved brown wool jacket, and I could tell exactly the last time it was cold enough to wear it: the last weekend of January. Because there were two ticket stubs in the pocket--one for "Sweeney Todd," which I saw with Todd, and one for "27 Dresses," which I saw with my friend Beverly.

I get a kick out of finding things in jacket pockets when I get them out for a new season. Usually it's ticket stubs or fortune cookie slips, but one wonderful time I found a 20-dollar bill in the pocket of my pink spring jacket. That doesn't happen too often!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas in Pine Tree, Vermont.

I have a bunch more cards to photograph and post, but I don't feel like tracking down my camera batteries just now. So here's a question that I saw online today and thought was fun: If you could pick any Christmas movie to spend a couple days in, which would you pick?

I didn't have to think about it for more than a second--I'd hop into "White Christmas." I love that lush Fifties Technicolor world. I love the nightclub in Florida where the boys meet the girls, the club car in the train to Vermont, the New York nightclub that Rosemary Clooney runs away to, and most especially the Columbia Inn. Who wouldn't want to stay there and watch the snow fall? Even if you did have to hang out with that obnoxious Danny Kaye!

It's not a great movie--I think that every time I watch it, which has to be at least a hundred times by now. The plot is beyond silly, and some of the songs make you shake your head, they're so bad. But the little world they created is what I think of when I think of the perfect Christmas of the past!

So......what's yours? Please do share! Maybe you'll remind me of a movie I like even better!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What I've been doing.

I went to a crop Friday night and got started making Christmas cards. When I came home, I just decided to spread everything out on the kitchen table and keep playing.

I haven't done any stamping to speak of for a long time, because I'm doing my paper crafting on the floor now, and stamping on the floor is not an easy thing to do.

I bought a few Christmas stamps at a stamp show last month, and combining them with some of the stamps I already had, plus some Christmas paper scraps and Tim Holtz distress ink, yielded some combinations I was really pleased with! Oh, and lots of Stickles glitter glue, but that didn't photograph very well. It looks great in real life, though, very sparkly.

I got thirty cards done. And had a really relaxing time doing it!

I still have tons of scraps and pre-folded cards left, so maybe I'll do another crazy stamping extravaganza before the holidays, but if I don't, I at least have a nice set of cards to send out to various people. That is if I can bear to part with them!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Food for thought.

I heard this writer George Packer on NPR this morning, talking about what sort of president Barack Obama will be, and I was very interested in his outlook. Here's the show On Point: Obama and the Liberal Moment, and here's Packer's New Yorker article: The New Liberalism.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Grandma update.

My grandma is back in the hospital with a mild case of pneumonia, which is very common after a broken hip. Please keep those good thoughts coming--pneumonia can be very serious, but I hope she's got the strength and the good doctors and nurses to help her fight it off.

I know it's too early...

...but I'm browsing around at Amazon listening to Christmas music just for fun.

Go listen to the samples from this (I think you have to use Explorer for the player to work) and see if it doesn't make you tap your toes!

I didn't grow up listening to Bing, Frank, or Nat, but they are all a huge part of my Christmas now. I think it's because of the movie "A Christmas Story," with the giant radio playing big band music in the background. How I love that movie!

Better late than never.

Last night I went to work and finished the last six pages of my Christmas journal from last year. For those who don't know about it, Shimelle Laine does a "Journal Your Christmas" class every year. When you've paid and taken it once, you can take it every year afterwards for free. I'm planning to do it again this year. It adds a lot to my Christmas season.

Last year we started traveling in mid-December, so I never finished the book. Once Christmas is over, I tend to just shut it off and move on to the next thing. So here are the last six pages.

December 20, write about an unexpected card, present, or other unexpected surprise. We weren't expecting to have to go to Maryland the week before Christmas.

December 21, what does your home look like right now? Since I wasn't home, I wrote a little bit about what I was doing on that day.

December 22's theme was to make your " to do" list. Again, traveling sort of negated that, so I just put in a favorite Christmas poem instead.

December 23, write about your Christmas stocking traditions. Since I wrote about that in my 2006 album, I was stumped, until I remembered that my sister-in-law Lisa had put stockings on our bed that very night while we were staying with her!

December 24, I liked this old picture because it reminded me of going to church every Christmas Eve.

December 25, I just listed a few of the things that made our Christmas memorable.

Now I need to decorate the cover (and also the cover of my 2006 book!) I don't know why I'm so challenged when it comes to album covers. I think I feel like it has to be extra-perfect since it's the first thing you see.

But I want to get both books completely done before December 1 rolls around and I start a new book, so that's a good motivation to get over myself and finish them up!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Todd's project.

Todd has been getting into the woodworking groove by doing a few small projects before pursuing our ultimate DIY holy grail: a new fireplace surround and mantel, flanked by bookshelves, at the end of the living room.

But before he goes whole hog on that, he whipped up a little thing this weekend. We have a short wall in our foyer that has a smoke detector, a doorbell, and a thermostat running right down the middle of the wall, making it hard to hang anything substantial that might pretty up the wall. And it's only the first thing people see when they come in the house, so it was obviously a perfect place for the builder to put all the ugly stuff!

I forgot about the huge vent underneath, another attractive touch.

I bought the red shelf on the right at the Newport News Fall Festival a month or so ago, but before then that space was usually bare. I've never really been able to figure out how to dress up our foyer walls, the space is so small and cramped.

Here's the pretty thing that Todd made:

Since we can't really cover the smoke detector for safety reasons, and if we covered the thermostat, it would have to be with a basket or something easily taken off for temperature fiddling, covering the doorbell was the only option.

Here it is in place:

Now the rest of the wall needs to be balanced...I'm thinking maybe a couple more small shelves and some pictures. I need to dig through my stash and see what I have. But isn't it a pretty way to disguise something so bland and boring?

Do you think it I put something small on top of the doorbell shelf, it would interfere with the smoke detector? I'm thinking just some branches or berries in a small bowl, nothing big and solid. I'd love to camouflage that thing a little bit.

Anyway, I think Todd did a nice job. He's a handy person to have around!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Whatcha got cooking?

I got up this morning and cleaned up the kitchen and then proceeded to trash it again by making a big pan of lasagna and a big pot of soup with some turkey sausage and some ground turkey that both needed to be cooked ASAP.

I am not a lasagna lover...I used to be as a kid, but now it just Todd, however, ranks it among his favorite foods. He came home from work the other night and I told him dinner was in the oven. He inquired hopefully, "Lasagna?" You should have seen his face fall when he peeked inside and saw it was tuna-noodle casserole.

So I took pity on the guy and made lasagna. I found a recipe in one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks for lasagna made with mild turkey sausage, and it's pretty good. I think part of my distaste for lasagna comes from ricotta cheese, which is one of the few foods that really grosses me out. So I used small-curd cottage cheese instead, and Asiago instead of Parmesan. And dried herbs instead of fresh (adjust amounts way down) because the garden herbs are dead and the grocery store herbs are craaaazzzy expensive, along with everything else in the grocery store. (The sticker shock is just killing me lately!)

The soup recipe comes from Simply in Season, which I may have mentioned here before. It's published by Herald Press, which is a Mennonite publishing house. It's very much in the same spirit as the More-With-Less Cookbook, only this one has a list of veggies and fruits that are available in each season, and then a list of good things to cook with them. For people who are trying to eat locally and in season, it can be a big help. Plus there are lots of fun facts on diminished farmland, pesticides, and impoverished people of other lands, just in case you can't enjoy your food without a heaping helping of Mennonite guilt.

(I truly do believe in the principles of good stewardship, helping others, and being mindful of what you consume. But sometimes the Menno-guilt gets to me, I'll confess. Makes me want to run out and buy a bunch of blood diamonds, fur coats and off-season kiwi fruits, which is a weird way to rebel no matter how you look at it.)

Anyway, the soup:

Turkey Barley Soup

4 cups water
4 cups chicken or turkey broth
1 1/2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. each poultry seasoning and pepper

Combine in large soup pot. Cover and simmer 1 hour.

1 pound ground turkey
2 T. ketchup
1 T. soy sauce
1/8 tsp. each ground nutmeg, dried sage, dried thyme

Brown together in a skillet. Add to soup and serve.

I did the slow cooker option, where you add the first group of ingredients to the cooker, brown the turkey and seasonings as directed, and then add them to the cooker and cook on Low for 6-7 hours, although mine was done in 4-5.

When I make it again, I'll brown the turkey by itself, give it a quick drain/rinse, and then add the seasonings. It had just a little too much grease left on it.

Since I can't just leave a recipe alone, toward the end of the cooking time I also added about 2 cups of chopped roasted vegetables (fingerling potatoes, carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash) from a previous supper, which needed to be used up. This made for a very orange soup, but it was good!

I take my soupmaking mantra from my dad: "What else would be good in this?" He used to go down to the basement on Saturdays and come up with an armload of home-canned and home-frozen vegetables from the garden, toss in whatever meats and veggies were lurking in the fridge, and come up with a terrific pot of soup for supper. I don't think it was ever quite the same twice. This is the way I like to make soup, too.

Wait till I show y'all what Todd is making in the garage today! To be continued...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President-elect Obama!

My, that sounds nice!

My favorite line from Obama's speech last night:

"To those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope."

Congrats to him--he looked pretty solemn last night and I think he has a pretty good idea of what's in store for him. But last night was still a delicious moment. Humbling, too, to see what this election means to African-Americans who probably never thought such a thing would happen in their lifetimes.

I'm not a person who puts a lot of faith in politicians. But I have to say that after eight years of feeling smothered under Bush/Cheney and their utter disinterest in and disdain for the American people, this feels like a breath of fresh air to me.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I don't know whether to feel left out that I don't get to go vote with everybody else today...or glad that I don't have to stand in line in the pouring rain! Brrrr!

Todd called me on his way to work at 6:30 and said that the line at our polling place was halfway around the building, everybody standing in the dark with their umbrellas. So maybe I'm glad I didn't have to go deal with that. It's great to see that people really care about getting their voice heard this year, though.

Despite some people at the forums I read who are trying to pee in my Cheerios and harsh my buzz, I really am excited about Obama's potential win tonight. Fingers crossed!

If your buzz is feeling harshed, too, hike on over to Oodles and Oodles and read the poem she's got on her entry there today (scroll down just a touch). It's wonderful!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Grandma update.

Grandma is doing well--the surgery went great and they're getting her up and walking right away. She has not been very mobile at all the past several years, and I'm hoping that won't impede her recovery. My cousin Roland has been keeping me updated on Facebook (he lives in the same city where she's hospitalized) and he speculated that the physical therapy might even help her regain a little of the mobility, which would certainly be a blessing.
Grandma is a toughie--she's beaten breast cancer and a heart attack, so I am praying she will recover well from this, too. I know it'll be a long and painful process, though, so keep those good thoughts coming!

A few fall pics.

We went up to Williamsburg on Saturday to do a little shopping. We ended up in the downtown area--Duke of Gloucester Street has shopping at one end, and then you can stroll down the street and into Colonial Williamsburg.

Shopping district:

Buildings in Colonial Wiliamsburg: