Saturday, February 22, 2014


Time to sort and plan as the snow kept us home bound for a few days; then a rush-rush to make up the lost days. Got my haircut a week later; had a blood test delayed for 4 days (hate it when you fast for no reason!), and got the supermarket to re-stock items for the pantry.

Meantime, I wasn't getting any closer to having a buffing wheel-workbench; nor was the triangle-paper-piecing project proceeding very quickly.

Facing me in the next few weeks are two major intrusions on my work. First the builder of this fine villa did not install the floors properly so when the ordered flooring arrives my dining room and studio will have the furniture moved out to replace gaping, warping boards. Will be glad to have a level floor without cracks but wish the replacement work was not needed.

Second, after a year of not using a screened-porch we have decided to remodel the villa enclosing the porch and converting about 140+ sq. ft. to a reading-lounge-breakfast room where DH can read the NYTimes, sip coffee and catch the latest CNN news. The demolition work will be done outside but eventually a tripartite-glass-sliding door will be removed from the kitchen wall allowing for a big archway passage directly to the kitchen. Work is scheduled to begin March 3 but may or may not coincide with the floor repairs that are dependent on delivery.

Such is my life now; planning what to start, what to pack and how much can I cut and pack to take to the Center's Art Room to sew there while work progresses here. I'm in a total fuss.

Meantime, I made a major purchase. After stewing for more than a week I finally got the nerve to visit the Habitat ReStore to look at used cabinets for the garage. Since DH does not want my double 6" grinder/buffing wheel on HIS workbench - I bought a cabinet section that I think will work fine and will fit into a cleared space.  That space got cleared as soon as I got home this morning (first sweeping sand out of the garage), and situating it near an outlet.  AND also bought a counter top or rather a fragment of a top that is solid, heavy granite just 2 " wider than the cabinet for a convenient overhang.

Tomorrow I practice in the pool and rest some but come MONDAY, I pick up the items at the shop and begin setting up my polishing - buffing wheel for working on silverware and other jewelry pieces. Very thrilled about the prospects.  Stay tuned, . . . . .

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow, Snow, Go Away

The first snow storm of January 29 was beautiful, white, frosty and glistening. Two weeks later it's not so beautiful, white or glistening. It's a mess.  Two storms covering the end of January and mid-February and I'm done with winter. The vernal equinox comes on March 21st and not soon enough.

Sometimes I envy Wanda Hansen of the "Exuberant Color" blog; she can sew and quilt for hours at a time and posts nearly every day. Like me she's an older woman, passionate about quilting but she is widowed and shoveling her own sidewalk. Yes, the Mister can sometimes be contrary and difficult but I think I will keep him a while longer.

Everything was closed today and the notice that UNC Wellness will be closed all day tomorrow has just arrived. That means I will not be having swim practice (missing Tue/Thur/ Fri,), and if I miss another practice then having a lesson on Monday will be pointless. My teacher, Ms. M.W. is home with her two daughters because all public schools are closed today.

We got through dinner last night with rotisserie chicken, a casserole dish of sweet potatoes-carrots-prunes with dried cranberries and pineapple bits to season. The mister had purchased a pound cake flavored Almond-Vanilla. The flavoring was so fake even I couldn't eat it (?), That's bad. The club dining room is still closed for all but assisted living and the health clinic. My freezer is now serving a good purpose. If the sun begins to shine tomorrow for the melt-down, maybe we'll have dinner in the Club Dining room (first since Tuesday).

This morning I cut into the Vanilla Bundt cake that I bought and it's wonderful; been trying not to eat it all day. Dinner tonight will be chicken soup made from the leftover rotisserie chicken, chopped carrots, celery and napa cabbage served with added peas over yolk-less egg noodles. Mister does not like yolk-less noodles but he is not making the soup.

Roads are a mess but maybe by later tomorrow he can get out and about (why?) and get some fresh air. Meantime I am sewing, sewing and more sewing and my back is beginning to ache. Will need some activity tomorrow to get the joints moving again.

What am I sewing on you ask?  Did I actually say I would make a table runner for a holiday celebration next December? I'm sewing triangles into a six-pointed star and have discovered I have a dinstinct dislike for geometry; especially triangles. Matching the points is maddening and trying to get an even star shape while making scrappy triangles for the surround and background is not working.  Got a sample made today with the help of DH's copy/fax machine BUT tomorrow will try for another layout. This one is not good. The only thing I would like less is making five-pointed stars instead of six, but hey, who's counting?

Thing is I always thought I was really good at geometry; but this is a challenge greater than I anticipated. And to make matters worse, it is paper-piecing. That means that even if the pattern does make up nicely you STILL have to tear off lots of tiny pieces of paper from the back before you can quilt or finish the project. Bummer. Maybe it is the paper I dislike and not the triangles?  Or maybe both?

Step-Daughter JWK just called with news of a second job interview tomorrow. Go Girl - kick ass and take no prisoners! You must go where the opportunities lie. Makes me grateful that my own business career is over and done with. Except for getting old (?), there are some good things about life in retirement.  Be back another day…..

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


"Timing is Everything"   

Snow in the yard
That may be the most valuable thing I write today.  Was I vetching last week about being so tired?  If ever we needed soup, today's the day. We had the first snow of the season last night waking up to a yard covered in snow. 

Sorry Minnesota, North Carolina does not relish snow the way northern sportsmen do. 
Still, considering Atlanta's situation we are cozy and comfortable. 

Somehow my feelings of pressure and overachieving dissipated this morning when realizing that I had no where to go and could work on whatever seemed right I have been knocking off items on the list one after the other.  

The baby quilt is done; just sewed the hanging sleeve on the back and already have a label and box ready to pack.

The next item will be a letter to tiny Peyton E. R. to enclose with the quilt.  And of course, congratulations to Androm and Patrick.

It feels so good to finally be done.  There are mixed emotions as I hate to give it up but I want the parents to enjoy the work with their newborn.

Following the quilt packing will be the hanging sleeve on the back of my free-motion quilted yoga mat that is going to the Club Center's Art Gallery for hanging on Saturday.

Art Gallery director called me for any creations that could be displayed for the next four months and since my pool practice is taking up ALL my time, the mat will not be useful until the summer months.  

Wonky, scrappy Log Cabins

What's next on the agenda?

Perhaps I'm getting in over my head but DH and I have a concert date in two weeks where we will "Demo" a few dance steps as accompaniment to a band concert.

DH is nervous. So am I; I'm writing the narrative to reference the songs to be played while I give a brief description of the dance.

Brief anything is difficult for me - especially talking about dance. ???  stay tuned.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


To answer that question we have to back up to Wednesday after OLLI class when I shopped for root vegetables and other foodstuffs to keep us during the local  'freeze.'  At home soaking on the counter was a big bag of white beans and a ham bone was thawing out in the fridge. You know what comes next.

But there was little time for veggie prepping Wednesday after  pool  practice. Daily swims are taking up much of my energy even tho I'm told active physical exertion will boost your energy. Wanna bet?

By that evening I had the carrots, celery, turnips, parsnips grated and ready for soup, the rutabaga par-cooked and my stash of caramelized onions was keeping cool. Thursday morning I managed to make not one but TWO batches of bean soup.

Batch ONE:  Chunks of ham, white beans and assorted vegetables, lots of onion and seasonings. Due to limited stove top space this batch went into a large stockpot and into the oven to cook, simmer really for about six hours.

Batch TWO:  The purpose of this batch was to consume all the leftovers in the freezer making space for the new soups. To bits and pieces of chicken, ham, breakfast sausage and turkey kielbasa I added red, white and black beans, a can of died tomatoes and veggies as in the above. All of this went into the large crock-pot to cook on the countertop for six-plus hours. Double the trouble and double the fun, right?

The result is 5 containers of mixed-bean soup and after an overnight in the garage (temperature below 30 degrees), the ham and bean soup is warming again for a couple more hours of simmering and then storing. Freezer space is already allocated; IF DH stays out of it.

AND then there is more news.  My cousin who was expecting a February baby, it being the designated receiver of the quilt I have been working on since summer; that baby arrived in January.

Got a Facebook message on Thursday without many details as to when, time, weight, etc.  Except Baby Peyton is a boy and the posted pictures are fabulous. Tiny, wrinkled and sleeping (temporarily), baby and mother look beautiful.

SO-O-o-o I've got to get busy, have side hems basted but must complete four corners, add some top-stitching to the border areas and check over for bumps + blips. Thinking I had plenty of time (what was I thinking?), the project is now top priority. Right behind the soup pot.

Once it gets boxed and shipped you won't see it again. Here's my latest progress.  Doing all the top-quilting on my machine I'm rather excited that it turned out so well.

That's 'well' for now, with a little more practice I'll be quilting like a pro.  All those tips from Leah's Day blog helped a lot; as did buying the Isacord all polyester thread. Cut down on a lot of thread breakage and frustration.

So why am I so tired?  Oh yes, must have been dinner last night with a couple of Meadows friends (?). Or not?

Friday, January 17, 2014


What have I been doing? What besides swim practice every morning,  OLLI class on Wednesdays, fixing dinner and doing laundry. Shopping of course, the weather has been mild and it is my chance to get out. 

Look at my newest toy:  Sears Kenmore Sewing Machine Model 158.140, circa 1965.  Have not named her yet but I need a sexy name. Why a old cheap sewing machine when I have two others that are perfectly fine?  Cannot use the Flynn Frame for machine quilting because my Bernina is stuck in the sewing table and the top does not accommodate the frame. Cannot use my Featherweight because the feed dogs do not drop (?) AND cannot use the old Singer in the Club Art Room because the feed dogs do not drop or that one either!!!!  SO-O-O-O to make a long story shorter (maybe), found a mechanical Kenmore at the thrift shop and jumped on it. For sure the feed dogs drop and I can turn it sideways to accommodate the frame but it is very heavy. Why do they call them 'portables' when you can hardly lift them? 

EXCEPT it does not have a bobbin case (bobbins look just like the Bernina bobbins), and only later did I discover that it uses 'cams' to make decorative stitches. Not that I need those. At any rate after spending a long time online and finding Sears parts for old Kenmore machines, I ordered a replacement bobbin case, bobbins and (why not?), Kenmore needles. Expect to be up and running by this time next week. 
What to call her?

Had fun looking her over and testing the parts that work but life must be addressed at some time. Back to the kitchen (sometimes I forget where it is?), to start dinner. We've having the leftovers from Honey Ham's BBQ Rib Rack because the Mister thinks they are the best and a side of California Citrus Salad, the classic made with orange, blood orange, red onion, celery tops and Poppyseed dressing. It took me years to figure out the logic to this sweet/sour salad until I realized that in order to quell the red onion you need the citrus to cancel the onion (so your breath will not smell!). Plus I really like the poppy seed dressing but what else could you use it for?

Off to practice ballroom dance in a few minutes IF the Mister agrees to get out of old, faded, ragged jeans and put on something respectable. Or maybe not?

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Have you ever been 'dis-invited' to a dinner party?

We were this week and I'll admit to being somewhat relieved. In our new neighborhood there has been a move to form dinner groups for Sunday evenings when the Club dining hall is closed. Once a month, responding to a 'Paperless Post' invitation a select committee assigns respondents to a host/house. We were assigned to Host-Most-Chef who submitted a menu from hell. Now the Mister got excited because it meant a social evening of dining with neighbors and meeting new people; except he doesn't do the cooking. My idea of a social evening is that the host offers a loosely defined menu and the guests bring a pot-luck-style dish that may or may not be totally authentic cuisine. That was not Host-Most-Chef's idea, the recipes submitted included a soup, meat dish with a roux-based sauce, potatoes, side cabbage dish and dessert with ice cream (Germanic-style dinner). The problem is I no longer eat dairy, roux based anything is not for me, no ice cream and I did not know what the soup might contain; what to offer? We offered to take salad greens for a simple vinaigrette dressing IF the Chef could use soy-based butter-substitute and we would take a non-dairy frozen vegan-ice-cream.

After DH objected to my mis-managing, after a few terse e-mails and modifying recipes to reduce calories, saturated fats and carbs; we were asked to decline the dinner. DH hasn't recovered yet. Not really appreciating the label "Pit Bull" of dining that HMC assigned to me, I am not really sorry. There was a down side but also an upside. Namely I went shopping to look for vegan products in the local market and did some Internet searching to learn more. And I found a lot.

First item to replace was cream and not being a fan of those powdered coffee creamers I queried Google about cream substitutes (or else just not make cream-based dishes??). First I found a product never before seen, the Mimic Creme product that got rave reviews. Except: Mimic Creme is no longer available for retail distribution (?). Why? Perhaps the FDA has more information.

Undaunted I looked on and found that Silk Soy (same as Silk Soy Vanilla milk), now markets a creamer SilkSoy Creamer that works for me. Richer than the vanilla milk (240 calories vs. 100 calories/cup), the creamer has a silky taste and would work for cream in most instances. Plus it comes in three flavors but so far I have only tasted Original. How long as this been going on or perhaps Harris Teeter just picked it up? Great addition to my morning non-caffeine, cafe-latte with non-dairy creamer. Maybe I am going to the extreme?

Continuing with the search for butter replacements, coconut oils were considered. Found a curious package of Kelapo Baking Sticks on the market shelf and began to wonder about cooking with coconut. My experience with coconut milk was an underlying coconut taste (my preference - vanilla), besides the health news about coconut oil remains divided. Googling Kelapo to search their products  the web site addressed my main concern: coconut or olive oil?

  • The question must be answered, which is healthier for me: olive oil or coconut oil cooking? Well the answer isn’t clear cut. Both coconut oil and olive oil contain 120 calories per tablespoon. All of the calories in both oils come from fats. Neither of the oils contain trans fat or cholesterol. The one glaring difference is the saturated vs unsaturated fat contents. Saturated fat was once considered bad for you but research is now being conducted to suggest that plant-based saturated fats, like coconut oil, may not have the same negative effects of animal based saturated fats, like butter. 

So I picked up a tub of Earth Balance brand 'buttery' spread to try and I also picked up a carton of Earth Balance's 'organic coconut spread' prepared for baking and cooking. I have been a fan of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter brand. Reading the label you will find that ICBINB does contain a small amount of whey derivatives but very little. Eating buttered toast has been gone from my daily diet for a long time so the whey issue is not major but I will try a new brand to assess flavor.  Now I will compare at least three butter-replacement products.

  • Did you know that movie-theater popcorn used coconut oil w/beta carotene added to simulate butter-flavor? Just another interesting fact found in the Kelapo FAQs. 

After swim practice this morning I realized how blessed I am for a) not cooking for an over-indulgent dinner party menu; and b) gathered more nutritional info and have new products to taste and test. Still there is DH to contend with; he's a bit grumpy and disappointed but his cholesterol test will thank me.

Finally the last word is about the social need to mix and find friends being confused with giving yourself a pass to pig-out on heavy dinners because 'everyone else' is doing so. Personal dietary concerns are not about being the obstinate dinner guest but about feeling good and enjoying a healthy lifestyle. The confusion begins when pressure to conform increases -why should I drink too much and overeat just to relax with friends and expand our social network? If your social life depends on under cutting your health, maybe there's something wrong with this picture.
That's just my thought for the day……..

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

10 Minutes to Dinner

The last quart of frozen white bean -ham soup from a year ago is warming for dinner as I write. Looked in the supermarket for a cornbread mix - remember Jiffy mixes?  They had Blueberry Muffin mix, pie crust mix and yellow cake mix. No cornbread mix anywhere so I settled for a carton of four corn muffins that will have to do but they are FAR from cornbread.

Wanted to break cornbread in the bowl ad top with the hot soup. These muffins are much too soft and mushy for that - we'll just toast them and eat on the side. Bummer.

Not much of a day; the morning temp was 9 degrees when I woke up; DH would not let me leave the house for swim practice so I made a batch of egg salad and then began chopping everything in the fridge until I had a big freezer bag full of vegetables and seasoning to make - what else? Soup!

By afternoon it warmed to 31 degrees and I headed for the pool after lunch finding very few people there. Apparently I am not the only one reticent about facing the wind-chill factor.  Thank Gawd this is not Minneapolis!!

Heading to Honey Ham shop tomorrow to buy a bone and then more soup making gets underway.  Meantime we'll have the last bowl of the old soup tonight and by the weekend we can begin a whole new pot.   Stay tuned. . . .