Thursday, September 27, 2007

Second Attempt

During my lunch hour, I made another attempt for a co-worker. So, here's a penguin with a top hat. I hadn't glued the parts together yet, so they're just lying on my desk and aren't in quite the right places. And, those crazy eyes are still unsettling. I think I'm still in the C range... if even that. But, I'm learning.

First Attempt

Liz, these are some of my first tries at quilling. I give the octopus a D minus. (Could you even tell it was an octopus?) I give the frog a C plus. I have a long, long way to go. Now, if only I could find a way to get the googly eyes to go in the same direction!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

108 Hours I'll Never Get Back

(A.K.A. Keeping my hands and my mind busy)

As many of you know, I picked up embroidery again at the beginning of the year. It has been a good hobby - one that keeps me occupied and less restless when there's a lull. It also keeps me focused on the good when I can be so pre-occupied by the bad.

So, months ago, I started a dresser scarf or runner that I had purchased long ago.... probably around 1995? It features my favorite flower, the pansy. When I first started, I had no idea it would take so long to finish. But, when I finally realized that important point, I started keeping track of the hours. The women in the craft guild think I am crazy for doing so and recommend I never keep track ever ever again. We'll see. Just thought some of you would enjoy seeing the tiny bits of progress along the way.

Yes, it will be 108 hours that I'll never get back, but I did accomplish something I'll hopefully enjoy for a long time.
I started in April and had very little progress directly after. However, in the past 3 weeks, many stitches have been made.

Around the 60 hour mark. Leaf outlines.

Near the 70, the green leaf details are added.

Between 85 and 90 hours, the dark blue details and small green leaves are added.

Around the 95 hour mark, the pansies are outlined with a dark color to make them POP!

Finally, at the 108 hour mark, the runner is finished.

It took me the longest time to create all of these little gold French knots around the border and in between the flowers.

Soon, I hope to have it cleaned, starched, and placed in my dining room. Now, I just need to figure out my next project.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tripping Down Memory Lane

Many times I'll look at Tressa, Abi, and Rian and wonder what they'll look like when they're all grown. And, I picture these lovely ladies springing into adulthood looking much like they do now. But, I should know better. I, of all people, should know better because I don't look a thing like my baby pictures. And, those pictures are hilarious. Please trip down memory lane with me as I review the very special wardrobe choices and hairstyles captured in photos of my early life. (This is mostly for the amusement of my cousins who are "lurkers" here and never comment. We had a discussion about this just recently.)

We start out with a bang here. Already, at such an early age, I'm showing my flair for the over-dramatic. A theatre major in the making.
With a random curl jutting out from the top of my head, the flip behind my ear that still remains today and tons of slobber, I'm exhibiting the first signs of large (read: muscular) arms.

At eighteen months, I'm the epitome of modesty in this pink gown created by my Grandma Washburn. (No gloves?) Mom says it skimmed the floor so it looked like I was just floating around.

At two years and two months, I've traded in the long gown for a short light blue dress. Guess it is the best way to show off my lacey white anklet socks. This is when Mom started using the barrettes. (I think I still have indentations in my scalp from the use of them in these early days.)

I'm pretty sure these are actual Garanimals... one of the very few pictures of the younger me in pants. Aaron is so cute, and he is sportin' one of Mom's custom haircuts. This is when my hair starts turning brown.

Did somebody (ANYBODY?) have a comb to loan to this poor soul? Kindergarten can be so rough. My expression shows that I'm not so sure about this school picture situation. (It doesn't get any better through the years.)

There's no way around it, folks. This is a mullet. Worse yet, a mullet with a ponytail. Even worse, a mullet with a lopsided ponytail.

This is documentation of the traumatic event of having my hair cut off. I was tricked, I tell you! With my hair and the dental issues, it's a wonder I'm smiling at all. Aaron is sporting the grown out version of his hair from his previous picture.

Here in second grade, I'm still dealing with the teeth issues. But, velour was popular back in the day (as seen here and on Aaron in the picture before.) I had at least 3 velour shirts in various shades of purple and blue, and I loved them. And, who didn't love those plastic ball ponytail holders? (Me.)

Oh, this is a doozie! A real sign of the times. This was my favorite outfit for such a long time: a peach two-piece fuzzy sweatshirt-like top with knee length skirt. The peach top had peach shiny quilted satin on the front. Aaron: brown corduroy jacket, haircut courtesy of Grandma Stremmel. Mom: the glasses, light blue polyester suit. Dad: Well, it's difficult to pay attention to anything besides that moustache.

In third grade, I was known for doing this: smiling while scrunching up my nose. Little did I know, I was preparing for 9 years of squinting and scrunching while wearing my glasses - which I obtained soon after this picture was taken. I thank God that my teeth eventually grew together! I'm also thankful that blouses (Mom's word) with the built in bow tie went out of style after the 80s.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Finally, The Farm Visit

After a long wait because of weather and crazy schedules, we were finally able to travel to the home of the Tilton Family and visit Higher Calling Farm. We had a wonderful time getting to know Tori, Tim and their children and seeing their many animals. I hope to visit again soon and learn how to make soap. They are a godly family, diligently seeking the Lord, and our visit was so very encouraging. I am thankful to have met these new friends. Here are some highlights from Saturday afternoon. Animals, animals everywhere!

There were MANY goats on the farm. Lydia made a special friend, while Coconut (by the fence) became my buddy. She was a beauty!

Amos was a funny little horse. He had only one thing on his mind. (EATING!) So when I got too close with my camera, he promptly told me to BACK OFF!

Farther out in the pasture, we met T-Bone and Chuck. "T-Bone will soon be processed," Tori clearly explained.
Then we were greeted by the little guy I was so anxious to meet. Happy Jack wasn't as friendly at first as I was hoping. But, when he (incorrectly) thought he was going to be fed, he came up close so the girls could pet him.
Here are the chicken pens that the family uses for the chickens they sell. Every day, they move the grazing pens so the chickens will have new grass to eat. Our kind hostess, Leah, shows us one up close.

Tressa had to work up some courage to move closer but liked the chicken very much after petting it. On the way back to the barns, we were able to visit Spot and his buddies in the rabbit hutch.

These kittens are two of the 25 (or more) on the farm. Here are the young turkeys who are also being raised for meat.

Here are three day old and ten day old chicks who will eventually be moved out to the pens in the pasture.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take a picture of the many beautiful brooding hens, and the peacocks weren't seen all day. Maybe during the next visit!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Choosing Your Costume

I know that many folks do not observe Halloween anymore or never did. We always used to do so, but our costumes were usually something funny. Not scary. And, we loved visiting all of the neighboring farmers who gave us fruit, candy, and sometimes even quarters or silver dollars. Yes, some years it was all about the candy. But, some years, it was just fun to visit with folks we liked.

When we lived in Easton, IL, there was always a Halloween parade where the sports teams would pile into the back of a truck, cheerleaders would carry their pom pons, some businesses would advertise, and the children would parade around in their costumes. Some were elaborate. This was for a parade in front of the entire town, mind you. So, time and energy were spent in first picking an idea and then constructing it. I distinctly remember one year when my best friend, Kristine, went as a bear. All day, I didn't know it was her! She was all covered up. Fur, ears, whiskers, everything....

So, I found some old photos while continuing to sort through my basement which brought back some memories of this occasion. And, if any readers were struggling with the idea of what to be for Halloween, I thought I could provide some ideas.
Let's see... I spy a witch, a ghost, a clown and a..... uh... er.... HUH??? What is that yellow blob??? That pantless, tights-and-yarn-bow-in-long-braids-and-too-much-rouge-wearin' yellow blob??? It borders on indecent.

I was young. So, please don't blame me. I have no idea how long it took for mom to think up this creation while Kristine's mom was sewing and sewing on that furry bear costume. We still laugh about this. The sad part is that MANY of Aaron's and my earliest costumes fall right into this same category: indescribable.

But, I think Phyllis' message would be the same today: If you're wondering what costume to wear, don't let the conventional standards box you in. Break out. Be free! And, if you want to be a yellow blob (or you want to inflict that on your children,) go ahead. Don't let a little thing like being identifiable stand in your way. Consider running into your room - blindfolded - while grabbing at random clothing. Do the same in your makeup stash. That evening, when you approach the door for candy and the standard question of "what are you?" is uttered with true curiosity by your concerned neighbors, don't feel burdened by the pressure of needing to have an answer - or an answer that makes sense. Just go for it, and don't hold back.

I would have loved to have known what my teacher was thinking when she saw me that day. Walking gumball? Pumpkini Longstocking?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ahoy, Maties!

It's that time once again...International Talk Like A Pirate Day! You may remember that we celebrated last year... both in the office and with friends.

This year, I asked my co-workers to come up with a pirate name - most of which are being displayed proudly on our doors and outside our cubicles today. Then, I hid some treasure in the office. And, I circulated a quiz which should lead the salty dogs to the booty. With just a few minutes of internet research, you should be able to determine the final clue which will lead you to the treasure. Virtual foil covered chocolate dubloons to anyone who figures out where I hid the gold.

(The blanks indicate how many letters are in each word of the answer. The corresponding numbers indicate the position of that particular letter in the final clue at the bottom.)

1. When people see me flying atop a boat, they know my men are pirates. Arrrrrgh!
__ __ __ __ __
__ __ __ __ __
(Next to last blank = 8, last blank = 14)

2. I hear people say Captain Morgan is a popular fellow, but what is my first name?
__ __ __ __ __
(First blank = 2, Fourth blank = 6)

3. You may know me by my nickname ‘Black Bart.’
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
(Fourth blank = 9, Ninth blank = 11)
__ __ __ __ __ __ __
(Third blank = 12, Seventh blank = 1)

4. After serving as Captain of the ship ‘Adventure Galley’, I was tried in a controversial case within English Parliament and sentenced to hanging.
__ __ __ __ __ __ __
(Second blank = 10, Seventh blank = 7)
__ __ __ __
(Second blank = 3)

5. I was called the ‘Gentleman Pirate’, and I was one of the few that actually made my prisoners walk the plank.
__ __ __ __ __
(First blank = 15)
__ __ __ __ __ __
(Fifth blank = 5)

6. Known for my intense cruelty and lack of respect for the pirate code, I sailed the ship ‘Ranger’ and was hung at Gallows Point.
__ __ __ __ __ __ __
(Sixth blank = 13)
__ __ __ __
(First blank = 4)

You will find me booty where I would...
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15!

Monday, September 17, 2007

One Year Ago

It was one year ago this weekend that Mom, Dad, Brother Chris and I went to the Illinois Sacred Harp State Convention. It was my first shape note experience (outside of singing with my family), and we've been attending regularly ever since! So, Brother Chris, Sister Lydia and I returned to the convention this past weekend. I marked some new songs which I heard (or remembered) for the first time, and we sang some goodies that I love to hear time and time again. When it becomes my turn to lead, I always have a hard time knowing what song to call. I think it doesn't help that I have TOO MANY songs marked.

At lunch, we especially enjoyed meeting up with our friends, the Eldridge Family, from southern Indiana. Here are Lydia, Rebecca and Katherine, and below are Brother Chris, Mr. Eldridge, and James. (I regret that we did not catch up to Mrs. Eldridge for a photo.) We love that family and can't wait to see them once again. Hopefully, soon.
I was able to have a good visit with Mr. Graber and Mrs. Kujawinski. Both made me feel right at home and showed me the ropes last year, so I'm extremely grateful for their friendship!

There were about 60 of us gathered in Taylorville on Saturday. Many of us were fighting colds, and my voice was pretty hoarse. But I still sang praises with all of my might and was disappointed when we had to depart to head home. But, I'm anxious to attend our regular Monday night singing in St. Louis this evening. Maybe, just maybe I'll be able to narrow down some hymn choices and make a decision before the singing starts.

Friday, September 14, 2007

My Autumn Apetite

It seems autumn is right around the corner - or upon us. (It has dipped into the 40s a couple of times here in Illinois. But, it's still up in the 80s most days.)

And, with the arrival of fall comes many memories. Most of those memories surround food. Food which is delicious. Food which reminds me of family and friends and football games and marching band competitions and fall festivals. Spiced apple cider. Funnel cakes. Corn dogs. Hot chocolate. Caramel apples. Pumpkin bread. Fried onion rings. Caramel kettle corn. In other words, Food = sugar and carbs = not good for me. Especially not now. (I think I made a post exactly like this last fall. Oh well!)

But, I will sit and daydream about those delicious treats - while gnawing on my ever-so-appetizing strips of green pepper, slices of cucumber, bowl of leafy greens and my-package-makes-your-hopes-too-high-by-stating-I'm-honey-roasted turkey slices. Daydreaming about all of the food that is ready to come out from hiding and devising a fool-proof way to avoid their taunts and claims of "I won't hurt you!" during the upcoming Spoon River Drive trip. It's the Spoon River Drive that always gets me into trouble! So, I must become prepared to be prepared even now - a month away.

Even though I can't partake, I thought you might want to enjoy some fun caramel corn if you don't have a Spoon River Drive-ish festival around you. Microwave Caramel Corn, in fact. It's great to make with kids, but you have to supervise because nothing screams trouble like piping hot caramel! (That is unless someone actually has the piping hot caramel on his/her skin!) The hardest part for me always is finding the necessary paper bag, so that's your homework assignment. If you like it, let me know. Oh! And, you might want to think ahead to pick a song with a good beat. Each time you read "shake thoroughly" in the recipe, it's a great time for a dance break. Enjoy!

Microwave Caramel Corn
6 qts. popped corn (the conventional kind or even microwave style)
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter or margarine
1/4 c light syrup
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t vanilla

Mix sugar, butter and syrup in a bowl. Microwave on high for 4 minutes (stirring at 2 min and 4 min marks.) Add vanilla and soda. Stir well. Dump popped popcorn into a large paper bag. Pour syrup mixture over corn in the paper bag. Roll down the top of the bag a couple of times leaving room for the popcorn to move around. Microwave 1 and 1/2 minutes. Shake thoroughly. (Boogie time!) Microwave additional 1 and 1/2 minutes. Shake thoroughly. Microwave 45 seconds. Shake thoroughly. Microwave 30 seconds. Shake thoroughly one last time. Pour popcorn into a bowl and eat and eat and eat! Make another batch, play around with the ingredients, and eat even more!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Surely, These Were Expensive To Create

So, why no proofreading? Or, why not take the time to ask the grammar geeks, punctuation pros, or spelling sticklers in the office?
I just don't understand.