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Posts from the ‘Home and Children’ Category

Pita and Falafel

Our first date ended at Steve’s Pizza in Platteville Wisconsin. Steve was Greek and there was nearly always a tray of baklava on the counter—made by his mother. His pizza was always great and we decided that Greeks made the best pizza.

In medical school, there were two competing Greek restaurants on State Street. The owners would stand outside offering enticements to eat in their restaurant instead of the one across the street. Frequently this involved a ‘free’ glass of some pretty awful wine but we were students and couldn’t afford to be too choosy. No matter how i tried I could never say ‘gyro’ correctly…now that I remember it, I think it was a game the staff played with us. We all agreed everyone had to eat the same thing as ample amounts of garlic were used in the cooking. No peppermint could counter the dose we got.

Somehow I think we learned that the two restaurants were owned by two brothers or maybe cousins who had originally owned just one restaurant but then something happened and there were the two. They would shout out that the other’s food was no good and tasted like swill. They waved their arms and shook their fists—really quite fun in retrospect—and maybe it was all an act.

Here in Beaumont, the Greek Orthodox church has sponsored a Greek festival each year which grew out of their annual plate dinner fund-raiser. The street in front of the church is closed off and there is dancing, music, clothing, jewelry, and a variety of Greek food—it is always a fun event.

Of course, this year there was no festival.

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to try kibbeh or rolled grape leaves. But falafel seemed a doable project—but I would also have to make pita.

Grinding up those soaked raw chickpeas was not an easy project—husband did that; while I worked on the pita—it didn’t seem right to bake something for just 4 minutes—with my oven I needed to add 30 seconds.

But we had falafel with pita and sides of home grown cucumbers, store tomatoes–mine are still ripening–and enough left over for the next night.

Sometimes you have to make your own festival.

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Another Day at Cat Tail Marsh

img_3853-mLocated on the south side of Beaumont is a wonderful wild life sanctuary that serves as the tertiary sewage treatment area for the city. This always sounds rather off-putting but it is quite wonderful. there are three large watery areas filled with marsh plants of various kinds, and an abundance of water birds. There is a wide gravel road around the area with plenty of room for bicycles and pedestrians. A boardwalk extends into one of the ponds allowing for a closer look at spoonbills, egrets, herons, coots, ibis, and an assortment of other birds along with the occasional alligator, raccoon, and snake.

img_3845-mAs members of the local orchid society that met in the garden center building once a month, we would usually arrive sufficiently early to take in a walk around a portion of the cat-tail marsh. Last year, the city convention center proffered an early morning view of the park along with coffee.

img_3850-mSince quarantine, we had not been out to the marsh; but late last week with beautiful weather and a lovely breeze, it was the perfect small excursion. I’ve posted a few pictures fo the flowers and the scenery there. A raccoon wandered along the side of the marsh deliberately weaving between the reeds so we could not get a good photo. Birds flew overhead and a bull frog sounded like a warning buoy.

It was a good day.img_3856-m

 

Trying Something New

About a decade or more ago, I tried making some hand-made books. I bought some of the tools, metal ruler, awl, bone folder and some pads of water-color paper. I attended a few classes at the Houston Quilt Festival but then put everything aside as I moved on to other things.

Digging through boxes of stuff accumulated in my work-room, I came across these supplies and thought I might give it another try. With social media availability, I found a site offering directions and support.

My first successful projects were these two accordion books with sewn in signatures. I don’t have book board but did have some small pieces of mat-board. These books are not quite playing card size so warping that might be a problem in larger books should not be a problem.

One cover is cut from a local map–for a friend who is moving back home to France and the other is a paper towel used to clean brushes for a friend—just because.

There are a lot of steps to making them including folding and letting things rest under weight—hard for my impatient nature–but definitely improved the finished product.

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Here is what they look like opened up.

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They are meant to be displayed standing up.

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And then there was my first attempt. I pieced the fabric for the cover, applied fusible to the back to make it into book-cloth, tried unsuccessfully to figure out how to print the lyrics–ended up glue sticking printed out lyrics to folded pages. It won’t stand up but there is plenty of room for its recipient to add photos.

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Here is the inside cover–from a brochure I picked up at Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen in Tennessee…a great place to stop for a nice meal..they will let you substitute fried okra for French fries and probably would have let me have just Fried Okra as my meal.

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Promises

tomatoes-mEveryone I knew when I was growing up had a garden; some larger than others but all of them featured vegetables and a row or two of flowers.

My grandfather always planted potatoes on Good Friday with the first harvest in late August. I remember my parents (and later I helped) cutting up the old wrinkled potatoes that lived in a bin in the basement to plant in late May/early June. Harvest time was in September and Dad would hitch up the plow and plow the entire garden including the potato patch. It was our job to pick up all those potatoes.

Radishes were usually the first vegetable, followed by black seeded Simpson lettuce which was always served swimming in mayonnaise.  A row of marigolds to discourage rabbits and deer and a row of zinnias for color were always planted nearest the house.  Tomato and cabbage sets were bought from the greenhouse and required daily watering for two weeks or more until their roots were firmly set. Sweet corn and popcorn and cucumbers and pumpkins were planted; and sometimes the timing was right for the piglets to wander under the electric fence and sample the growing garden.

It has taken me a few years to understand the gardening cycle in this part of Texas that is so very different from southwestern Wisconsin. Planting peas and lettuce in late May does not work but nearly anything you put in the ground in Wisconsin this time of year will grow abundantly.

However this year we had snow peas from January to last night; lettuce in form of Bibb and Simpson for several months–it has now bolted; and at long last I now have the promise of tomatoes and cucumbers. The okra has sprouted and I hope to have enough to pickle and freeze for the winter months ahead.

lemon20blossom-mEach year we wonder if we will have lemons and each year I am tasked with finding things to do with all the lemons. There are still lemons in my refrigerator and the promise of at least that many more plus blooms suggesting even more

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That tree is to the far behind the white metal gate. It has never grown much taller, just rounder and fuller, making picking all of those lemons an easy task except for the ones requiring us to get on our hands and knees to pick the bottom most group hidden near the trunk of the tree.

Small things

Like a lot of people, I have been cleaning or rather tidying or sorting or to be honest just re-arranging things. Opening up boxes and bags, looking at them, and putting them in a different place, maybe putting some in the give-away pile.

I haven’t made masks in huge quantities  but I have made a few; some for grand-children, sons who must venture into the outside world as their jobs are deemed essential and packed up a small box with some of my mother’s quilting fabric to send to a niece who has taken on a Girl Scout project making masks.

And I have been sewing. Finishing up projects. Quilting all the tops that awaited finishing—they are all done! But now they all need bindings. While I have plenty of decorative threads and machine quilting threads in a variety of colors and black, I was down to my last spool of ivory colored thread.

I ordered thread and awaited its arrival.

I wondered if I had really ordered it.

I checked my emails and found the confirmation of the order.

I called the company to inquire.

Thread is now back-ordered for weeks.

who Knew thread would be in short supply?

Imagine my joy when I discovered this in a box I had used for a workshop a couple years ago!

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Yes, that is Coats and Clark in a 500 yard spool size. It is poly and so there is very little lint collecting in my sewing machine. I have tried other brands but always return to this one as my go-to construction and bobbin thread.

 

Uncle Walter

I don’t think I had an Uncle Walter. I did have a lot of great-uncles on my Dad’s side–his father came from a family of 17. My mother had a second cousin named Walter I think.

But none of that really matters.

Like a lot of other people, I have been looking through stacks of ‘stuff’. Two shelves contain a collection of cookbooks, most of them bought as fund-raisers from various organizations, some as mementos of a place I’ve been. Reading these cookbooks–and hunting for something new to cook—one of the few things to add variety to this current bizarre time has been entertaining.

The older cookbooks seem to be meticulously edited with clear directions and good formatting–i.e. the ingredients do not continue onto the back of the page. There are no references to convenient items such as boxes of cake mix or cornbread or cans of pie filling or Cool Whip. Breads use cake yeast not instant yeast in packets.

One of the newer ones listed as 2 lemons as ingredients for a spinach pie along with three bags of spinach, salt, an egg and some cornstarch and a dough recipe. The spinach was to be washed and cooked; then all the other ingredients including the lemons (no directions regarding what to do with them—juice them? cut into wedges? zest them?). Other recipes in the book were equally lacking in directions. Did the writers assume I would know what to do or were directions deliberately excluded as to retain personal pride in cooking skills?

I did find this very simple recipe for Uncle Walter’s Fried eggs in a Swiss cookbook.

Start with melted butter in a fry pan, break two eggs into the butter, break the yolks and spread over the whites, cover with a slice of Swiss cheese and cook until the cheese melts.

This breakfast stayed with us for the best part of the day.

And I figured I needed to squeeze those lemons and zest them for the spinach dish.uncle20walters20fried20eggs-m

Trying my hand

One of the first art forms I learned was hand embroidery. I embroidered vegetables playing drums on the corners of dish towels, sorted through the many transfer patterns of cute little animals and flower baskets and so forth. Then I learned to crochet and then taught myself to knit by looking at a book—I made a baby bootee for what would have fit Paul Bunyan’s daughter.

Sewing was taught as a 4-H project by my mother and her best friend. We met in the church basement where we could lay our fabric out on the long dining tables used for church suppers and made first an apron…no pattern—and then a gathered skirt with a placket—no zipper–just a button on the waistband.

Machine work quickly became one of my favorite past-times only equaled by reading—who could resist travel in time and space from my little dormer room over-looking the cow pasture?

But now,we have the opportunity to revisit old past-times and maybe re-connect in different ways.

I signed up for a hand embroidery class featuring portraits. The class instructor was Sue Stone of the UK through TextileArt.org and has proven to be challenging and fun. The first assignment featuring sewing through tissue paper and I quickly discovered I did not like this method and reverted back to my tried and true and well-practiced method of freezer paper on the back of the piece.

We were instructed to work with portraits of people we didn’t know—-but I chose otherwise. I don’t do mirrors and so the face that peers out at these old photos is indeed a stranger to me—distanced by years.

Here I am at age 20 sitting by the fireplace in the cabin we lived in when we were first married. The background is walnut dyed hemp—a wonderful fabric to work with; it is th only one I used the tissue paper technique.

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Here is the admission clerk at a small hospital I worked in many years ago. I was taking a photography class at the time and printed up several 8 by 10 copies for her—as payment for her modeling stint.

img_3685-m I think I might mount this on stretcher bars and submit it for my SAQA benefit auction contribution—bu that would require a trip to the post office. I try to bunch up trips like this—but I have until June  to do so.

Next is a photo—a selfie taken by husband’s cousin as she heads off to work. She is an ICU nurse on the East coast (Philadelphia) and assigned to COVID 19 patients.

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It will be mounted on canvas and sent to her sister in Delaware who so graciously invited my oldest son into their extended family for holidays and other gatherings while he worked in Delaware.

And here is another self-portrait—me at age 1. This was a formal portrait, the only formal portrait taken until those school photos with the oiled hair photographer offering a black comb and asking all people with glasses to look down.

 

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There are some more lessons to cover—but I’ve been concentrating on finishing up some other projects and cleaning and sorting.

 

Dresses for Savanna

One of my grand-daughter’s birthday falls in the middle of April. Her mom always plans some wonderfully fun parties–last year it was a tea party for girls and their dolls; ‘tea’ was served from beautiful flowered teapots—I think it was either Coca Cola or Pepsi along with some lovely cupcakes and tea sandwiches. This year, there was no birthday party.

My birthday is in March and in Wisconsin it seemed there was always a blizzard and bad weather that week and so rarely did I have even a cake in celebration. Now, I prefer the acknowledgement, no cake but a nice dinner out and maybe a card or two. But I am no longer in preteen years.

So what is a doting grandmother to do?

My supplies were limited but I managed to make two dresses–one more a long blouse both with adjustable ties. The pinky-purple one is silk—and was that ever a challenge to sew!  The ruffle on the bottom of the blue dress is double eyelet—I practiced quite a bit on the little serger I bought decades ago. Off they went in one of those priority boxes along with a coloring book for her older brother.

Her daddy was kind enough to send me a photo of her wearing the blue dress—with a big missing teeth smile— If I could figure out how to copy a photo from messenger to here–you could see that lovely young lady—but here is a picture of the dresses hanging on my work room.

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A floral tribute to April

As I sit at my desk looking out the window towards the backyard, it is raining. It is a deluge worthy of Noah’s ark days fairly typical of our Gulf Coast weather systems. Toby, our border collie mix, is terrified of loud  noises and hid in the bathroom this morning unwilling to go outside. Fitted with a leash, she is undaunted. During the hurricanes and tropical storms of past years, I would take her out on the leash during the few lulls in the rain. Dora, on the other hand, an Aussie Border Collie mix, is not afraid of loud noises but far prefers to be inside even on a good day.

My photo website is somewhat organized and needs some more work and definitely some pruning—who needs ten images of the same thing but just slightly different angle?

I’ve started organizing my flower/botanical images by month. Some months have no images….yet….but given the current political/medical milieu and being a person of moderately high risk and therefore avoiding contact with others….more walks around the neighborhood and more photos and more organizing.

Tomorrow is the last day of April.

While people have been spending far too much time on the internet (in my opinion), some have taken the time to be creative while a few have leaned toward the finger-pointing mode. I can fingerpoint with the best of them or even better, but I am trying hard to use this time productively and positively.

My husband never complained about our telephone bill; I called my parents once a week, usually on Sunday afternoons when I was getting the household ready for a week’s worth of school and work. I would tell her what was blooming–and she would be envious as Wisconsin weather was several months behind. My dad never understood why anyone would mow their lawn in January….his lawn would still be covered with either snow or dead grass with little heaps of dirty snow under the trees.

But I’ve yammered on long enough—rain makes for thoughtful remembrances, books, and lingering over morning coffee.

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ornamental pomegranate on the back fence of the McFadden Ward house

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one of the roses in the rose garden at the McFadden-Ward museum. The gardener was kind enough to let me walk around the rose garden. Toby was with me and I was not equipped with a pooper scooper baggie; our trip was short but so wonderful.

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some grasses gone to seed in the backyard of my ‘playhouse’ out on Highway 90.

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primroses or buttercups in the back yard along with a few ragweeds. I pulled them up after this photo was taken. Ragweed is distributed by the wind—and it is a never ending project to pull ragweed. The bees love ragweed as it has a lot of lovely pollen for them to store as food for their babies.

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sugar cane from a cutting from our one outing to a local home brew shop the first part of March. I don’t think we’ll be processing the cane for our sugar as we have bees, but this part of the backyard is swampy–part of being an old rice field. The house is the original rice farmer’s house but moved about a half mile or so from its original location.

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and finally a magnolia blossom by the side of the McFadden Ward Museum visitor centers. I had to stand on my tippy-toes and hold the camera at arm’s length to get this photo. And yesterday I spied a bloom at the top of my tree in front of my playhouse on Highway 90.

Scotties for Stephen

Yesterday I took this quilt off the frame. it has embroidered letters of the alphabet and numbers in the white spaces; and all of those squares have mitered corners all perfectly done. Mom pinned a note to one of her completed quilts—“I signed up for a class on making mitered corners but the teacher didn’t know how. I decided I could teach quilting.” She had a loyal local following for many years and taught in the community room in the small town of Eastman.

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It is the last one of the over twenty some for my mother’s grandchildren. She died in the summer of 2000 and it has taken me this long to complete them all.

Don’t judge me–there have been a few bends along the road.

Mom had always taken care of all the financial things; my Dad managed by going to the bank to ask how much money he had and then spent accordingly. They both had separate bank accounts with the same bank and labeled the same way—what a nightmare to figure out as I had to check just the account number on every transaction. That plus Mom had not been able to do the banking/billing for the past nearly year of her life left a big mess—plus I then took over Dad’s bills—he lived in Wisconsin and I in Texas–I made that drive nearly every month for over a year while working full time.

At that time, the grandchildren were mostly pre-teens and just barely teens—these were supposed to be wedding gifts—and I did not have a longarm quilting machine–just my well-used and loved Pfaff 7570. While I did quilt some good sized quilts on that machine, ti was not fun dealing with the basting and wrangling all that fabric.

I had one quilt professionally quilted but that person decided she really did not like quilting for others–and after a time I was able to buy a Gammill quilting machine—I named her Vivian after my grandmother. Basting is no longer a chore—-and now I baste everything larger than a standard sheet of paper—it’s just so easy and everything is so wrinkle free.

Now I have completed all of those quilts. Five are not married but their quilts are done—well, almost. I still have to put binding on this one and label it and the previous one. These were huge quilts–this one is 86 by 89; the previous one was 93 by 108 which were a challenge given the size of my frames.

Here it is quilted:

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