Tuesday, December 25, 2012

wherever you may be this Christmas day

I wish you the very best.
May you be spending the day in the company of loved ones.

And feel the blessings of the season.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

snowy day

We're having a blizzard today. Schools are closed, winds decorating the landscape with blowing snow as a child with a  bowl of frosting might approach a naked cupcake. Nature's way of forcing us to take a little time and think.

Eloise as created by Anne in Dec. 2010

I'm more convinced, the older I get, that life is all about perception. The old glass half full or half empty thing. And in the face of recent tragedy, there's no time to waste letting the darkness of the empty half put out the light of the half that is full.
The house is aglow with Christmas lights and my trusty cat is moving from one windy window sill to the next as the storm rages on. And I thought I'd share a few reasons why I really don't mind snow.

Take, for example, the work of snow artist Simon Beck and here.

or photographer "Snowflake" Bentley. All the more amazing since his stunning photography was accomplished before 1930. The book, Snowflake Bentley, won the Caldecott award for Mary Azarian in 1999. Warning, this is a clip from Martha Stewart and has a commercial first. I don't know how to edit it out but it's worth sitting through in order to meet the artist. (Did you feel the sun on your face while visiting Mary's garden??)

folding an origami snowflake

cutting out  paper snowflakes.

Well, the morning is gone and I've had a great time. It's still storming, but I feel great. Hope you do as well.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gaudete Sunday

Still unable to put my own thoughts into words, I share the words of Leonard Berstein, which Jerome spoke to me just before saying goodnight last evening:
This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.

Jerome's church choir performed the Pergolesi Magnificat this morning with strings and organ. I know each heart within those walls lit by the candles of hope, love, and joy, felt the balm only music can bring.
Wherever you are this heavy morning, perhaps your soul may be lifted by these amazing examples of making music.

The Glass Duo:  http://www.thequiltshow.com/os/blog.php/blog_id/5267

The Raleigh Ringers:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxxnz3jRNZI&list=FLr4TdePTmfBL6Im34P363nw&index=2


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

first snow, second candle and a helper

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... beautiful views in every direction.

The wild birds are busy at the feeders, but the chickens refuse to leave their snug house. They wouldn't even try going out.

The peace candle has joined the candle of hope. I chose to use these beeswax candles that my sister-in-law Anne sent me last year because they'll remind me of her and my deceased brother and their lovely daughter Sarah whenever I see them. And haven't we always put things away, saving them for the "some day" that often never arrives? My pre-new year resolution... use all the lovely things each and every day.

I mentioned that I would be working on this year's Christmas cards. Well, here's my helper trying to decide whether or not to walk on the rows of newly stamped cards lying out to dry.

Some packages mailed, a trunk load of packages ready to bring down to the city tomorrow, lists keeping me organized. Two weeks to go and I'm determined to have much of what's on those lists checked off by this weekend so I can truly walk the last week slowly to Christmas, and continue the slow walk throughout the holidays.

And isn't it lovely to think that the solstice is right around the corner??

Friday, December 7, 2012

first week of December

I had a bit of a panic attack this afternoon. It struck me most clearly that this month, Christmas month, is already one week done. What????

Here are a few of my distractions this week:
Most of Monday I spent decorating inside and out, doing some much needed cleaning along the way.

Tuesday was my half day at the school library. Fun and satisfying.
Late in the afternoon I had to rush to make my nametag for the quilt guild challenge that evening. I  literally finished it the last moment before I walked out the door. When will I learn not to procrastinate??? You could have knocked me over with a feather when it won the viewer's choice award!

Wednesday I was able to drive into Onalaska with Elin to purchase the foam form, pins and wire we need to assemble corn wreaths to decorate for her daughter's barn wedding. The dried corn tassels are already cut and waiting for assembly day this coming Monday. This is a photo of my prototype.

My house plants have gotten little attention this fall. I finally got around to pitching the worst of them and taking cuttings of some that were out of control. Potting up my old amaryllis bulbs with new soil was way overdue. This year's new bulb trumpeting away reminded me it was time to do the job if I wanted to have any new growth this winter. They're getting pretty old now, each at least 5 years.

Thursday I spent a few hours shopping the craft sale in the medical building in town. I'm happy to report that lots of local art and craft will be delivered to family and friends by Santa this year. I'm already wishing I hadn't talked myself out of buying more... Shhhhh. Can't really show any photos of these treasures.

Today I sat down to design our Christmas cards. That job always seems so daunting until I remind myself that simple is best. It took me all morning but the design is chosen. However, before I got started I had to make an "I'm sorry" gift for my favorite antique store owner. Last weekend while Terri was with me I broke an item in Joanne's shop in Westby, Treasures on Main. When I told Joanne I had knocked it off the shelf and it fell to the floor behind the display, she told me she had already done the same thing herself, twice, and had glued it back together before I made it take its last dive and it had to go into the dust bin. Still, I felt responsible for the loss. Today I put together and delivered a box of gift cards thinking Joann might like to enclose a little bell card with each sale.

The cards are 2 inches square and are black on cream, the same colors as the old fashioned paper bags she uses. The jingle bell stamp is one of my favorites. There are 50 cards standing inside one of the hand folded boxes I made from an old quilt calendar. I explained the box to her and she said she couldn't wait to share it with her 10 year old granddaughter who loves to make things for people.
I did find a couple of things at her shop today that had to come home with me. I almost always do.
But these little brass candlesticks from India I bought at another antique store just down the block. They were sadly tarnished and nearly buried on a dusty shelf in the very back room, but I had faith that they'd be perfect once I cleaned them up a bit. The surprise was their price, 75 cents for the pair. I used Heloise' trick for taking off the tarnish.... ketchup. Don't they look spiffy with the peppermint stick candles? I'd been looking for narrow holders that would work with these candles for nearly two years.

And then I needed to take time for a couple of paper cranes that I hope to send to Earlham on Monday.

Jerome called from his office this morning to tell me to quickly tune into WFMT radio via the internet. They were broadcasting a hymn arrangement done by a former music director of Saint Lukes Evanson, Richard Webster. The hymn is  Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending.  For several years we had attended Advent Lessons and Carols and each year this hymn was part of the program and we all got to sing. It was Jerome's and my way of embracing the season by walking purposefully through advent to Christmas. Hearing the recording gave me goose bumps and left me nostalgic for times past.

Being the 7th of December, events of the past of another sort were on my mind. I had been thinking of my mother's brother Milton, who 71 years ago today survived the attack on Pearl Harbor because he chose to get up early and go out fishing. He was on the water far enough away from the island and his ship when the Japanese planes arrived.
I see that snow is forecast tomorrow night into Monday am, perhaps as much as 4 inches along the way.  I plan to go to the indoor farmers' market early tomorrow but have no other need to be away from home before Monday morning. I hope to watch any snow that might fall from inside, settle into my preholiday projects, listen to some holiday tunes and movies, and sip the first cocoa of the season.
What's on your weekend plans?

Monday, December 3, 2012

a little decorating

With a high of 61 degrees today, decorating the front porch got moved up on the "slow walk to Christmas" agenda.
Strong winds made the camera jiggle a bit, but you get the idea.

Jerome calls it wonderfully cozy. I think so too.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The first day of advent

The spirit of hope resides within us all no matter what our beliefs.

My prayer as I light the first candle of my advent wreath this evening, the candle of hope, will be for each of you to have what you need to face the challenges before you and keep your flame of hope alive.
And to help you walk what my dear friend Simone calls that slow walk toward Christmas, I leave you with  this ...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

goodnight sweet season

I didn't do a very good job with my first attempt at art every day month. I was able to get my mind around living in an artful way.  And though my health and my schedule conspired to hold me back, I was able to work in a purposeful way when I gave myself the chance to work at all. Guess that's positive.
On the eve of the Advent season and with the holidays fast approaching, I am about to pack my autumn things away. Just in time I finished two small projects.

This wool felt applique candle mat, approximately 8 inches wide, was a delight from start to finish.

And this "teeny tiny pumpkin" cross stitch which was back ordered for weeks arrived just in time for me to stitch it tonight. It's just an inch and a half wide.
Tomorrow I'll assemble the advent wreath but for tonight it won't be visions of sugar plums but orbs of tangerine and scarlet and ochre  that dance in my head.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


On Monday I realized that I could no longer ignore how LadyHawk has been picked on by her flock mates. Her poor little rear, devoid of feathers, and openly bleeding was a fright. It was clear I had to do something.
Could I confine her within sight of the others and give her a chance to recover while (hopefully) breaking the pattern of abuse? Unfortunately, we have had night temperatures in the low teens and I worried that she wouldn't be warm enough without the body heat of the others during sleep. What to do?

I decided to set up an infirmary inside of the chicken house. I put the dog crate in a cozy corner, stuffing extra bedding around and inside, and giving her a wicker box to nest in. Putting a lid on the crate keeps the others from sitting above her and soiling her area. Because of the cold temperatures I've had to check her water a few times a day, but I had been doing that anyway so they wouldn't be drinking water near freezing. 

Phoebie enjoying a dust bath
Minerva and The Big Guy enjoying fresh warm water
enjoying a sunflower seed treat in the sunshine

This morning is sunny with almost no wind. You can see that everyone looked grand and though LadyHawk is vocalizing her discontent at being confined, she looks better, too. The forecast for the week ahead is milder nights which will help also. Any idea how long it takes to break chickens of a habit?? 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"and the days dwindle down to a precious few...

September, November....
and these few precious days, I'll spend with you."
Jerome spent a few sweet days here for Thanksgiving, and as always happens during his stay at the farm, we accomplished MUCH! The weather was about as mercurial as it could be. He arrived Tuesday and though it had been foggy all day it was also mild for this late in the year. We made a stop in town at our favorite agri-center and then stopped to drop off some music Jerome was donating to the local chapter of the American Guild of Organists. We had a lovely though short visit with friends in town then returned to the farm to have dinner.  I had been planning on attending my quilt guild meeting that night but Mother Nature intervened and produced fog so thick the meeting was cancelled. I got a call just as I was getting ready to leave the house. Now wasn't that a splendid surprise? Sorry to have the meeting cancelled and miss the agenda, but so very pleased to stay home with my sweetie his first night here.
Wednesday and Thursday were 60 degrees and we spent the days outside putting the gardens to bed for the winter, pulling out nuisance weeds, preparing the summer machines for winter storage, caulking the gaps in the garage where the west wall didn't quite meet the floor, adding weather stripping to the door frame out there, refilling the bird feeders, getting the car washed, cleaning out the chicken house, and spreading the vegetable bed with all the grass clippings, shredded leaves, and chicken bedding.
cleaning out the old bedding was a dusty, not a smelly, job
When we built the chicken house I spent a good deal of time thinking how to protect the wooden floor. I came up with the idea of lining the floor and the lower portion of the walls with a sheet of vinyl. The floor is ridiculously easy to clean and the wood below it is as new. 

a bit windy for spreading the bedding so eye and face protection was needed
We were blessed to have such good weather to get all this done. By Friday the wind nearly blew the chickens off their feet and the air was full of horizontal snow showers all day. It was freezing! and never got warmer than the low 20s. So we turned our efforts to inside work, including adding a shelf and  putting three coats of finish on the basement work bench we built the last time Jerome was here.
the new shelf going up over the work bench
Jerome is doing the initial sanding 
Despite the cold and wind, we decided we'd brave the elements and attend the town's Twinkle Fest Parade at 7 Friday night. We first ate at our favorite restaurant, The Driftless Cafe. Then we did a little shopping in the stores in town, open late to start the holiday shopping season. Then the parade, 39 floats ending with Santa on the town's hook and ladder. Lots of folks came out for the event and I was pretty proud of this small town of 4400 people. The theme of this year's parade was The Angels Among Us. Though chilled through we were really glad we went.
Saturday we stopped at the recycling center to get rid of our collection and reorganized the garage. I practiced starting the snow blower again and walking it to and from the chicken house should I need to do this some time this winter. A few last branches clipped on a bush that Jerome thought made it hard to see traffic when driving out of the driveway and a bit of weather stripping on the first floor windows, and it was time to say goodbye again.
Though my heart is heavy in its loneliness for my sweetheart, it is also full of thankfulness.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

the 4th thursday of november

May we all reach within and find a special reason to be grateful. And may this gratitude reverberate for many days to come.

Friday, November 16, 2012

a little gift to myself

Yes, Simone, you guessed it.

I've made a patchwork lavender pillow of the Luna Notte packet in my Moda candy bar. The fabrics are from the Three Sisters line.
My last pillow was ancient and each time I heated it in the microwave, instead of emitting the essence of lavender I smelled roasted old flax. Even the old quilted patchwork cover showed scorch marks from months of use. I don't know why I waited so long....

We've had a spell of marvelous weather, sunny and 50 degrees. It certainly has been a gift, especially for my Amish friends who have been rebuilding after the fire. This past Monday I had the honor of being invited to lunch when I went out to deliver some supplies. It was a truly grace-filled experience. Two long benches made of planks set on upturned buckets served as seating for the menfolk. The table filled with foodstuffs including venison stew made from a deer that was given to the family, the women and teenaged girls sitting along one side of the serving table, always waiting for the men to serve themselves first. The soft sounds of German being spoken and much laughter. I caught a few words and Lovina translated some of it. But I didn't mind. It was a pleasure to hear their laughter and see their animated faces. And all of us females made quick work of the cleanup when the men returned to their task. Mary ladled all of the leftovers into one large pot. I told her my mother would call this combination brunse munse. She said her boys call it pantry soup.
On Wednesday I was a taxi for several of my Amish friends who were going to a wedding in Minnesota and needed a ride to catch their bus in a town about 45 minutes from here. When we arrived I was introduced to other family members who had already assembled there also waiting for the bus. I gave Eli my home phone number and my cell number in the event he needed to contact me. Since I only use my cell phone for emergencies, I couldn't remember my number. It took me a while to find it on my cell phone and while I was pressing buttons looking for it, it became pretty obvious that I was not very experienced. Mary's brother-in-law said I was "almost Amish" for my lack of cell phone experience. It was the sweetest thing I'd been called in a long while.
Wherever you are, I hope our sunny, mild weather is embracing you as well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

life is what happens . . .

when you've planned something else.
Here it is nearly midway through the month of November, my first attempt at participating in AEDM, and I've managed to complete one new thing since my last post.

Here is the companion doily, a pattern called Sunny Morning, to my last work, Woodland Lace. There was just enough thread to complete these two on the spool Elin gave me a few weeks back. She had found it on a sale table somewhere and thought I should have it. Thanks, Elin. And you can see my constant helper, Dovey, providing perspective as to size.
No matter how I'm distracted from my plans in the day time, my evenings are mostly uninterrupted hours of relaxing with a good film or a good book. I prefer to put something on to watch, for the company and distraction from the day and to allow me to pick up my crochet hook.
My days, however, have gone in other directions. I have made a start on a project I've had in mind for weeks now. Here are the elements that go into it.

Back in April I attended my first quilt shop hop bus trip and won the Moda bar pictured above. I learned on that trip that ladies who love fabrics and quilting also love to eat! No wonder Moda came up with the wildly successful packaging scheme of precut fabrics named for sweets. During the on board raffle I won the pictured bar which contains samples of 4 Moda lines of fabric as you can see in the 2nd and 3rd photos.
This summer, with Jerome's help harvesting the lavender in our city garden, I was able to dry and collect this jar of blossoms. And a trip to the Market in Coon Valley resulted in this bag of flax seed.
Any ideas how they'll all come together??
I hope to be able to post a photo soon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

heart hurt

All thoughts of postings for today have fled.
This afternoon I learned of a tragedy that requires the power of corporate prayer and healing energies.
Yesterday an Amish family, Lovina's elder sister's family, suffered one more blow in a year that rivals the trials of Job.
In January, 5 of their 9 milk cows drowned when they fell through the ice on their pond.
In March, one of their 7 sons had a leg broken in a logging accident.
In April, Mary, the mother, broke her ankle and the second oldest son, while using a borrowed mule to plow a field, nearly lost a leg when the animal bolted and the plow landed on him.
In June, Mary and her son were driving home from the farmer's market in their buggy. A car hit them from behind with such force that the tongue on the buggy snapped, the horses bolted, the son was thrown to the pavement, and Mary was trapped in the overturned buggy. Much of her market stock was destroyed, the buggy was rendered useless, and one of the horses had to be put down. They are still seeing the chiropractor regularly.
Yesterday in the late afternoon a fire struck a storage building next to their home. The building housed all of their heirloom seed saved from this summer's crops, and among other things their winter supply of kerosine. The fire was soon extremely hot and out of control. Half of the house was also consumed. Thankfully, no one was hurt. But the damage was severe and much was lost.
Please take some time to hold this family in your good thoughts.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A thought regarding AEDM

Since I talked myself into participating in AEDM, I've been giving the idea much thought. Its purpose, I've come to conclude, is not to add an art elective to the daily schedule but to live in an artful frame of mind. Whether it's giving the pillows an extra plumping after making the bed,  or arranging then admiring the canned goods on the new pantry shelf in the basement reflecting on the accomplishment with satisfaction and glee, or preparing a simple meal that when plated and paused over, evokes a sense of plenty.

I will be bringing myself to the sewing machine or studio desk often this month and will post about this. But it will be the mindfulness within which I move throughout the day that will be my real art.

hug a chcken day

Some consider November 5th "hug a chicken day." Personally, I think every day is hug a chicken day.
In any event, I did take a few photos of the flock this morning to share. I've given them their favorite treat, freeze dried mealworms, high in protein and to a chicken, heavenly.
left to right, Rosie, Phoebie, Minerva

LadyHawk and the kingpin, Big Guy, oka Polish

Don't they look well? I am marginally concerned about the girls. Suddenly they are laying fewer eggs. I've been asking everyone I know who has chicken experience. The answers are always the same: hens have suddenly slowed or stopped laying eggs. I'm getting a few eggs, just enough for my own kitchen. The girls look marvelously healthy and are eating as well as ever. Any ideas?
Back to hug a chicken. I found this on the internet this morning. Thought you might find it interesting. I'm sure the applications are endless, but it all started with hugging a chicken. If you get the urge, come on over.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Always nice to have a crochet project in the basket next to the tv chair...

A simple hook, a spool of thread and a few evenings in the company of Hercule Poirot.

A bit old fashioned, but I do love doilies

Friday, November 2, 2012

Nov. 2 and a view of AEDM day 1

frosty moonrise
It's a struggle living alone a lot of the time. The "little grey cells" become a bit dopey.
Got a bit ahead of myself yesterday trying to catch up and move forward at the same time.
November 1, All Saints Day.
November 2, All Souls Day.
Thank you Jerome, editor extraordinaire.  And they say dates are the things that slip through editing most easily!
Yesterday my fiber arts group assembled (1st and 3rd Thursdays) at Katherine's glorious shop, Ewetopia. She had just returned from Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago with all of her treasures and ideas vibrating throughout her already humming shop. Many of the women in this ever widening circle are spinners, weavers, knitters. I crochet and they love me anyway. I've always wanted to learn the other crafts and know I will finally now that these women have embraced me. But with the cauldron already bubbling I dare not add another ingredient at this time.

AEDM day1: Woodland Lace doily under way.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Souls day

The calendar says the first day of November. The skies and the very air hum November. How can it be already?
It is All Souls Day. As a child I was confused by the notion of saying particular prayers on behalf of the "faithful departed" and being able to get them out of purgatory on this day. Does the Catholic church even teach this any more? One thing that remains from those days as a child,  when I turn the calendar from Oct to Nov I think of those I love who are gone and spend a few moments connecting to them in memories. I also remember to be thankful for those I love who are still in my life. A good habit I think.

field dust rising from harvesters just at sundown

It also is a day that reminds one that life is fleeting. So, shake off that growing feeling of hibernation and jump into a distraction. And just in time one has presented itself.
I've decided to use Art Every Day Month as a catalyst and encouragement from the sidelines to get to some of the great projects I've been planning and collecting over the summer. Now that the garden is just about put to bed for the year there will be hours each day free and with the end of Daylight Savings Time, there will be long nights watching PBS and videos from the library and I'll want to keep my hands busy. 
Thank you Judy for the spark.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2nd anniversary

It's been two years since I began this journey log. Thank you for stopping by and for any and all comments left. I'm deeply grateful for the beautiful people I've met through this medium and look forward to the new year ahead together.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October's flying

I'm back at the farm after a family wedding this past weekend in Illinois. Tomorrow a former teaching colleague arrives for a few days, so I'm taking advantage of a pause to post a quick summary of the past two weeks.
Wednesday the 10th I had a lovely long visit with my Amish friends. While there I got to play with the two youngest and then have a visit with all the older ones as they arrived home from school. I wanted to hear all about Lovina's auction experience of the weekend before and see all her new things. She told me about her "mistake" and took me out to the shop to see a lovely cabinet she wouldn't be able to keep. I told her I thought it would work in my sewing room and told her not to sell it until I talked to her again. 
Thursday the 11th a new acquaintance and I went on the autumn quilt shop hop of the 5 quilt shops that are closest to Viroqua. It gave us a chance to get to know each other better and see what's new in each of these shops. Along the way I took her to the cross stitch shop in LaCrosse to pick up this year's Prairie Schooler Santa, and to the international garden that's there in the park along the Mississippi.
Jerome arrived Sat. the 13th. He stopped at the farmers' market in town and spoke with all the Amish families we have come to know and delivered the oils he had picked up for one of them for her soap making. While there he told Eli we would buy the cabinet and asked if he could deliver it since it is too large for either of our cars.
We were in the midst of our first rain in weeks.

Despite the weather, during this visit we:
cleaned up the gardens, mowed all the grass and gathered the leaves and clippings for the vegetable bed, put away the hoses, attended a quilt show (my first time as an exhibitor), went to our town's third annual harvest parade, added 4 shelves in the middle basement room for my canned goods, put up peg board and a work bench in the east room of the basement, protected the basement windows, added a line in the chicken house for feeding greens to the chickens indoors this winter, repaired some of the gingerbread trim on the back porch, set out and filled all the winter bird feeders, rearranged the garage, helped Eli set up the new cabinet then sat down and had tea with him and Lovina, started the snow blower and practiced using it a bit, dropped off my car for its appointment to have the deer damage repaired, picked it back up again 2 days later looking absolutely marvelous, cooked and ate several meals together, managed to fit in a bit of Qi Gong, and more. All too quickly he was gone again.
Since then I've been to my quilt guild and helped present a session, attended my fiber arts group where I shared some of my crocheted doilies and was asked to teach a class, drove to and from Illinois for the wedding, met with the librarian at the local middle school/high school and set up my volunteer schedule and the first two projects she'd like me to tackle, and just last night had dinner with neighbors.

Above you see my new cabinet. Lovina's "mistake". She had bought it at auction, being caught up in the thrill of bidding on a solid wood piece and getting it for only $65. Unfortunately, an Amish home isn't supposed to have anything but plain paneled cabinets.Timing worked out well since Jerome was here to help get it into the house. Wish I was allowed to photograph the buggy with the cabinet on it and the horse standing so patiently just off our back porch!

Phil was his cousin's best man. He and Dane just love to fish, as does the bride, Greta. You can see a lure in Phil's boutonniere.  The theme continued as you can see in this shot of the wedding cake.

Our table favors were chocolates in the shape of fish. Even the flower girl's bouquet was arranged in a pail that had BAIT printed on the front.
Today it'll be house jobs and a bit of last minute work outside before my friend arrives and the warm weather departs. A nice quiet day. Just Dovey and me, and one small mouse that was brazen enough to wander up from the basement and give Dovey a restless morning.