Monday, December 29, 2014

Well, we have come to the end of this meme for the year.  I haven't participated each week but hopefully that will be different in the upcoming year because this is a great site to be introduced to new books.

This week I am reading "Rosengren's Books:  An Oasis of Mind and Spirit" written by Mary Carolyn Hollers George.  It is a non-fictional work about a bookstore in San Antonio, Texas that was founded by Frank Rosengren.  This bookstore was a intellectual haven for authors such as Robert Frost and Bennett Cerf and a whole host of others.  It was a "hang-out" for the local intellectual crowd as well and had the ambience of a well used, well worn personal library.  This book was of personal interest to me because my father was a friend of the family.  I already knew a lot of the history of the family but this just adds more.  I always felt that they were an interesting lot but I had no idea -- I wish I could go back and talk to Figgi as an adult -- I am sure he had many more stories to tell. 

One of the fascinating things about this book, other than the subject matter, are the vintage photos.  Especially interesting to me, obviously, are the ones of  San Antonio.  Being a native of SA, I have always been interested in local history and the local characters.  This is one of the more interesting families.

Moving on through the next few days, I will be organizing some of the books for my challenges.  Last year I only did one challenge and that was fun but this year I have signed up for several more and am looking forward to getting started.  I have already decided on my book for the Newbery Challenge -- The Giver.  It is poised and ready to go.  Will be looking for my next Aunt Dimity book and my next Agatha Raisin book.  I think I will have to order my next Elm Creek series book as I can't seem to find it in any bookstore.  So, that is my plan for the next few days -- I wish I could get my house as organized as my reading plan!

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Advent 2014 is a memory and we are firmly into the Twelve Days of Christmas! I thought I would share a photo of the nativity and how it has progressed.

The lighting isn't the best -- you can see it better in the header.  I am so glad to share that the shepherd managed to make it even though he was a bit late.  He had a bit of a bounce on the floor resulting in him getting bruised and battered -- smashed to smithereens, actually -- but my DH was determined that he would see Christmas so he painstakingly glued him back together with fingernail polish and there he stands -- a little worse for the wear but he is there.  A replacement is in the mail but I have a feeling this won't be this little guy's last Christmas with us.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the baptism of our newest granddaughter, Emily Therese.  I won't be posting photos of the child as per her parents request but I will post photos of my gift to her.  I made her a baby quilt as I have all the babies.  I made it in the form of a "wrapping paper" quilt which is really just a striped quilt.  This is the second I have made in this style and I have to say it works better with bright colors and bold prints but I do really like the little bunnies.

These colors look brighter here than they really are

Cross stitched monogram

Little blurry but trust me,  it is cute.

My husband is gifting the sweet babe a wall cross that he made.  He did a wonderful job -- I love the pattern.

Sorry for the flash -- seems it reflected off the black background which is our tv cabinet.

So, tomorrow we will celebrate the baby, the baptism and Christmas all in a day.  It will be tiring but it will be good.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Reading Challenges

I have signed up for five reading challenges in addition to the 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge.  I have added the buttons to the sidebar and I will be listing my books there.  Obviously these are going to overlap because I do have to spend time doing other things like eating and sleeping -- well, ok, maybe not so much eating.

The Cloak and Dagger Challenge will find me beginning with 5 books -- the Inpector Lestrade level.  Considering that I am really enjoying mysteries these days (something I never thought I would ) I think this should be do-able.

Cruisin Thru the Cozies Reading Challenge is going to be fun.  I am deeply entrenched in two cozy mystery series and plan to continue with each of those.  I am starting with Level 1--Snoop -- goal is 6 books.  I don't think this will be a problem!

I think this will work nicely with the next challenge --

This series I am going to use to finish the Elm Creek series as well as the Aunt Dimity series and the Agatha Raisin series.  Sounds like a lofty goal and I might not make it but who knows -- if we actually get snow and ice I won't have anything else to do.  The only problem with this is, I am really enjoying these series and I don't want to rush them because I have separation anxiety issues when I finish a book I really enjoy!

The next challenge is the Newbery Reading Challenge.  When I was in elementary school, we received a reading list each year from which we were to choose books and write book reports.  Many of these books were Newbery or Caldecott winners.  I loved most of them and I have some of them in my personal library.  Obviously some of these will be re-reads but I think that is ok.  I don't think there is a limit on how many books we can read however there is a point system for the number of books you read. I am going to begin with the L'Engle level which is 15-29 points and I will see how it goes. I am going to try to find copies of some of the early Newbery winners -- however, actually acquiring them is a bit cost prohibitive if you try to find those from the 1920's!

I also signed up for the I Love Picture Books 2015 Challenge hosted by Gina at The Book Dragon's Lair.  I routinely read to a four year old.  This is a no brainer.  Easy peasy.  Plus, I love picture books.

All of the book on these challenges will be included in my 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge.  I haven't put up a button, though, because there doesn't seem to be one yet.  I will probably leave my goal at 20 books for that challenge as that seems to be a do-able number for me.

So, that is my reading goal for this year.  It sounds overwhelming but I think it will be ok.  I am doing a lot of reading on my Nook glo-light and I find that I read faster when I use it.  I have read that people who use e-readers don't retain the information as well but I don't find that to be true -- I have gotten a lot less resistant to using an e-reader as heavy books really hurt my hands to hold.  Plus, there is just something about that instant gratification of being able to push a button and voila! there is the book you just couldn't wait to read.

So, happy reading for 2015!

Getting Ready for the New Year

It seems that 2014 is going to go out with a crunch ---  possibly that of ice underfoot.  We have had reasonably nice weather for the Christmas holiday, so far.  It has been gloomy enough to look like winter yet mild enough to go without coats.  However, it appears that may be coming to an end.  We watch one specific weather report every night and I have absolutely no faith in one of the forecasters.  However, the head meteorologist is usually pretty good and when he says, several days out, that ice is a possiblity, even a small one, I tend to listen and make sure I have certain necessities in the house.  So, after the events of this weekend, I will be heading out to make sure I have those necessities -- bathroom tissue, milk and chili.  Everything a person needs for the duration.

I will also be spending some time re-doing my blog.  I have signed up for several reading challenges for the upcoming year.  Yes, I know, I said I wasn't going to do that but they ARE fun and they do keep me reading and they do give me goals throughout the year.  I am finding that as I get older, if I don't have a goal things just tend to not get done.  I am not particularly bothered by that -- I have spent a good many years "getting things done" so if something slides I don't get my knickers in a twist about it.  However, there is something fulfilling about ticking things off a list.

I might actually create a monthly cross stitch challenge for myself.  I do like to cross stitch and it is coming easier for me these days than quilting.  For instance, I have quilted myself into a very sore and swollen wrist right now and that was doing it on a machine! Sometimes I think machine quilting is much harder than hand quilting but I digress.  In any event, I might be putting something up about a personal cross stitch challenge.

I need to re-do the side bar of the blog to reflect my reading progress in all of these challenges.  If it is there, in front of me, I will remember it and pay attention.  If I jot it down in some obscure place, like a little notebook, it will be lost forever and sometime down the road, when I do remember it, I will be playing catch up and that just never works well. 

I think I will leave the 2014 Reading Challenge list up there at least until New Year's Eve.  I might leave it period.  That way I can see clearly what I have already read without having to go to Goodreads and look it up.  Goodreads and I don't seem to play nice.

So, that is my goal for the blog this year.  I think I will keep the same design because I really like sharing my own photos and I like changing the colors around.  I have one of those little flag holders outside my house and I like to change the flag each month to celebrate something special for that month -- every month has something special.  That is sort of how I view my blog header -- changing it up every month.  Who knows, maybe that is where I will display the ongoing cross stitch challenge.  We will see.

Well, time to go work on the baby quilt.  I will post photos when I am done.

Have a wonderful Saturday!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A very blessed and Merry Christmas to all by blog readers!  Wishing you a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge

Today I am officially winding up the 2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge.  My goal was 20 books and it appears I read 21 although I somehow counted incorrectly because I thought I only read 20.  Oh well, it doesn't matter, I met the challenge and am moving on to the challenges I have signed up for in 2015.

I will be participating in the 2015 Reading Challenge as well as a few others mentioned in a previous blog entry.  Obviously they are going to have overlap because I do have to do other things besides read -- darn. 

I couldn't possibly begin to tell you which book was my favorite this year -- I loved them all.  However, I have to say the Elm Creek series didn't disappoint and neither did the new Jan Karon book.  This year I left behind the Aunt Dimity series for a while and picked up the Agatha Raisin series which was very enjoyable.  I haven't finished either series but completing those will work into one of my challenges for 2015.

So, with that said, it is time to put down the Nook and the book and get busy completing Christmas prep -- almost there but not quite.  I will be back with more on my reading plans for the future long around New Year's Eve.

Have a wonderful, safe and very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

22 December 2014

Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer

I am currently reading -- or rather just finishing -- Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer.  It was a Newberry Award winner in 1944.  It is a fantasy book about a young girl who travels through time but as she grows she knows she will, one day, have to stop.  It is a coming of age book in that respect.

I started this book without having read any background information on it so I really didn't know what it was about.  However, I have really been enjoying it and sort of hate for it to end. 

This will be the last book to complete my 2014 Goodreads Challenge and I think I chose a really good work to end up the year.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

'Tis the Season!!!!!

To be completely strung out.  Yes, indeed.  Full on pre-holiday chaos.  None of my own making.  Well, except for the procrastination part.  Minor detail.

I was doing pretty good in the preparation department  -- most of the shopping done.   I made a decision this year to do things differently.  In the past I have given my big kids money but still went on to buy gifts which somehow defeated the purpose of the money being easy.  I managed to stick to my guns on that one this year -- they will be getting money and I have included gifts but they are small token things which don't require copious amounts of wrapping. 

For the children I have chosen to do the same thing.  The small token gifts are just that, chosen not to have any conflict with Santa or other grandparents.  They will be getting gift cards as well -- even the newest arrival. 

So far so good.  On the Christmas front. 

The baptism of the newest arrival has been planned for three days after Christmas.  There will be gifts there as well.  Handmade items to become heirlooms -- maybe.  One trick there --  have to finish said future heirlooms.  Time is beginning to crunch, crunch, crunch........

The house, which was relatively ready, is now strewn with thread, sewing supplies, and all the other Christmas stuff I have dragged in and just sat -- more ornaments -- paper, ribbon, paper bags......brain shutting down.

Was going to have a lovely day on Friday attending the Bean's Christmas program and party.  It was lovely until......the cookie.  The cookie with nuts....brought into a "nut free" environment.  Now, Bean has never knowingly had a nut before because her father has a nut allergy and it has always been one of my daughter's greatest fears.  So, half the cookie was consumed before a cry commenced -- "my mouth itches!".  Yes, indeed, her mouth itched, her lip swelled, she said her tongue was getting big.  Picture this -- chaotic classroom to begin with now punctuated with a rather short, panicky child surrounded by three hulking adults trying to force Benadryl down her throat.  It worked, she was fine and now the question of the nut allergy has been answered.  She now has a referral to an allergist and an epipen.   Nona is wondering if a little spiked egg nog would be really wrong before noon.

And to top it all off --- today is my son-in-law's birthday! Happy Birthday, SIL!  Who knew?  I thought I did.  I thought it was next weekend.......oh dear.

And what do I want to do?  I just want to sit and read.  Yep, read.  My ultimate escape.  I had planned this holiday to be stress free -----

Stress -- comes like a thief in the night to steal my joy!  I thought my plan to streamline Christmas and be organized would be helpful but I guess not. So......

Next year -- next year.

Back to my book.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Asylum -- A Review

As I am trying to conclude my 2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge, I am also trying to read some of the books I have downloaded to my Nook.  So, when I finished my latest Agatha Raisin book, I decided to fill in with something different.  And I did.

Since my Nook library is listed alphabetically, I decided to start at the beginning and this was the first.  It is a Young Adult book written by Madeleine Roux.

It is the story of three teenagers who meet while attending a summer session at a college that used to be an insane asylum.  Two of the kids had very strange connections to the asylum and let's just say it came back to haunt them. 

This was a very easy read, engaging enough with enough spookiness to probably charm teenagers.  There wasn't anything blatantly bad about it and the vintage institutional photos go a long way to increase the creep factor.  Over all, it was pretty good.

Would I recommend it?  Well, that is a question -- for an adult it is a quick read that is really rather predictable without any unusual twists.  For a young person -- depends on the young person. 

Over all it was pretty good.  I might even try some more YA offerings.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Baby Echo

For those of you who have been praying for Baby Echo, please know she is getting better every day! There have been no major setbacks for several days and she is beginning to get grumpy and more verbal so that is a good sign according to her mother!  Under these circumstances, I would take a complaining child, too!

There is a photo of her on my Facebook page but I can't seem to copy it to put it here but just know she is looking good and getting some rest. All the attached equipment is slowly disappearing and things are looking up.

Thanks for continued prayer -- she needs it as does her poor mother -- but things are looking so much brighter! Thank you, God!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reading Challenges

Ok, I said I wasn't going to do this.  Last year I said I was only going to join one reading challenge and I did -- the 2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge.  I am only two short of my goal and I think I will make it -- maybe.

However, I am really into mysteries these days and I happened upon two challenges that I find interesting.  One I learned of from JLSHall's blog.  It is the Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge hosted by Amy at

This should work right into my reading preferences these days.  The other is Cruising Thru The Cozies --

 I think I will make more of an effort this year to read some of the modern Welsh literature for the Welsh Literature group.  I joined this group ages ago and have never really participated so I think I will have to take a closer look at this one in 2015.

 I will, of course, continue with the 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge because that is what keeps me reading.

I have been looking for a good "series" challenge but so far I haven't found one so I will just list those books on the Goodreads list.

It is hard to believe that we are gearing up for another year -- time flies when you are reading good books!

Editing because I found another challenge for series books -- it is Finishing the Series also hosted by

Ok, done now.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree --

Oh bother! I enjoy decorating for the season in spurts.  I like to spread it out.  Today it is the tree.  I don't really like putting it up too early because if I do by the time Christmas gets here it is very scraggly looking and nothing is more annoying than a scraggly looking Christmas tree.

With that said, I must admit that I will never have a tree that looks like it was done professionally.  Ever.  Why?  Because I still delight in the kids ornaments.  I still like the ones I inherited from my mom that have yellowed with age.  I still like the idea of it being ordinary.

However, I have spent the last couple of hours (3 to be exact) trying to get this tree decorated.  A couple of years ago we purchased a new tree that is really tall (exciting for a short one like me) and narrow -- fits in the corner really well. looks like I stood back and threw the ornaments at the middle.  It is tall, I am not, there isn't much up there.  I can't bend down well because of gimpy knees so there isn't much low so -- yeah, the middle looks - crowded.

It is all my daughter's fault.  She always loved decorating the tree --to the point that she was so OCD about it nobody helped her -- we all just left her to it and it always turned out fine.  She got married.  She moved. Now she has her own tree to do and has left me to my own devices.

It is not pretty.

I found myself googling "how to decorate a Christmas tree".  Really?  How sad.  There has got to be a formula to this.  I wonder if there is a "Christmas Tree Decorating for Dummies" book out there?

Ok, enough of the rant.  Back to the project -- hopefully it will be done before bedtime!

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist

I just finished reading this title in the Agatha Raisin series and I have to say it wasn't my favorite.  Now, I didn't dislike it enough to give up on it  but I didn't like it as much as I have the others.  I don't know if it was the setting or what but it seemed like there wasn't as much plot and an awful lot of driving around North Cyprus. 

At any rate, I will still recommend the series and they are really fun to read and I hope that the next one is better.  Maybe I just need a break and should go back and read one of the Nancy Atherton Aunt Dimity series. 

Or, maybe I should read "Animal Farm" -- my daughter is reading it for her class right now and I have never read it so maybe I will give it a go.  I still need a couple of books to meet my 2014 Reading Challenge so I need some small books -- maybe children's books? I think I could just about manage two of those!

Monday, December 08, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

I like to do my decorating in small spurts.  I don't do a whole lot but I still like to spread it out.  Yesterday went like this:

I usually hang a large, real jingle bell from this door knob but this is quieter

Ok, it isn't up there correctly.  The bow should be at 11:00 and the gingerbread men at 4:00.  I gave up trying to explain and was just thankful it was up

I really liked this cheerful little guy

So, yeah, I am about done, I think.  Oh, wait....I still have to put up the Christmas tree.  Almost forgot.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Progressing --

As we progress through this season of Advent I am aware that one of the things I love about the season is the tradition -- the things we do over and over again year after year.  There is peace in that tradition again bringing calm to the chaos -- closing out the world for just a little while as we allow ourselves to be caught up in the familiar routines and customs of the season. 

Once Thanksgiving is over, we try to do most of the decorating and rearranging before December 1st because with the first Sunday in Advent we try to take a quiet approach to our days.  It doesn't always work, sometimes we are caught up in the excitement of the season but we try. 
We generally do our Advent lessons on Sunday.  Our granddaughter participates with us as we light the candles and have our devotion.  This year we have started doing something different.  I purchased a small nativity where everything is detached and able to be set out individually.  I also purchased a small stable.  So, prior to the first Sunday I set out the stable and on the first Sunday, after devotion, we set out Mary and Joseph.  Tonight we added the angel.  This little set is so cute and sweet and is just the right size for this sort of activity.

We also added the second candle to our Advent wreath.  When my children were little I had a children's wreath but the candles were an odd size and hard to find so I finally replaced it with the one I am using now.  Again, this is a tradition we have done for years now and I look forward to it every year. 

So, while we move on toward Christmas, progressing through the remainder of the year and looking forward to a new year I am struck by the sameness of the rituals -- looking forward to the new and yet loving the security of the old.

I hope you had a wonderful Second Sunday in Advent.


Last year while browsing through a gift shop in North Richland Hills -- Apple Annie's -- I just caught this little nativity in the corner of my eye and knew I had to have it.  It is just the sweetest thing.

The same thing happened to me this morning at church.  Our church is in a historic neighborhood full of gorgeous old houses (  Each year in early December the neighborhood hosts a tour of homes and our church, being the gorgeous building that it is and being that it is in the middle of the neighborhood also hosts a tea room and a craft bazaar.  Today during coffee hour I had the opportunity to look at some of the offerings in the bazaar and  found the cutest little nativity.  It was only three pieces -- Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus -- and it appeared to be carved from rock.  There were actually two of these sets -- one large one and one small one and I would have bought one of them on the spot but the bazaar hadn't begun yet and there was nobody there to buy it from.  The booth it was in was sponsored by a children's book store, Monkey and Dog, that is owned by a fellow parishioner.  I am planning on visiting her store later this week and if the little nativities are there I will be bringing one home with me.  I wish I had a picture to show you but I will share if I actually buy one of them.

I really do enjoy collecting nativity sets -- I have several but they are all small or one piece and unique in some way.  I find that just looking at them brings peace to the chaos.   What do you collect to dress up the season?

Saturday, December 06, 2014

This and That

I have been away for a few days because I have been busy avoiding all the things I need to do!  There is something in my personality that makes me just stop when things get hectic.  I have always been this way -- I tend to avoid chaos.  And that is what I have been busy doing.

Yesterday was my son's birthday -- he turned 39! How in the world did that happen?  Oh well, at least he is the only one aging!

I have been having fun waiting for the mailman these days.  I don't know about anybody else but shopping in actual brick-and-mortar stores is dismal -- they don't have a large variety of things and I guess a stockroom is a thing of the past.  So, I have done most of my shopping online.  I used to love Christmas shopping in stores, I loved the decoration and the displays but now I seem to get a kick out of the mailman coming around and leaving packages on my doorstep!  I am still waiting for one more thing to arrive and I will have received all my purchases and can set about wrapping things up and put them under the tree.

Oh, wait -- I haven't put the tree up yet......reference paragraph #1.

I have been playing with DIY dishwasher detergent.  I am forever on a quest to do things frugally with fewer chemicals in my house.  I will never buy commercial laundry soap again and I think I might have found an acceptable recipe for DIY dishwasher detergent.  It is 1 cup Borax, 1 cup Washing Soda, 1/2 c Kosher salt and 5 pkgs. of unsweetened Kool-aid lemonade mix (or you can use citric acid).  The first load I ran turned out really great except for a couple of things -- this stuff isn't ever going to get tea stains out of cups if it has sat for a while.  I didn't use a rinse agent.  With the second load I did use a rinse agent -- white vinegar.  I didn't put it in the rinse agent receptacle because it might corrode the rubber gaskets and things so I put it in a small glass in the top rack.  It worked really well but I have to say that to use this method, you really have to make sure that dishes are rinsed off before loading the dishwasher.  I know that sounds like a lot more work than it should be but the pay off is that you aren't overcome by chemical fumes when you open the door at the end of the cycle.  I will continue to use this until it is gone and then I will re-evaluate if I really like it.  I think I will but time will tell.

I have been trying to keep up with the Christmas movie marathon but I keep falling asleep.  My favorite Christmas movie of all isn't really a Christmas movie but traditionally I watch it at Christmas -- "The Bells of St. Mary's" with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman.  I began it last night and about 45 minutes into it I was snoozing quite well in my chair.  I really don't like it when that happens.  So, to update, I have watched PART of "White Christmas" (again with Bing Crosby) and PART of "The Bells of St. Mary's".  I have watched several things on the Hallmark Christmas channel but honestly, I can't remember the names of any of them.  I have watched "You've Got Mail" which is sort of Christmas-y and "Love Actually" which is definitely Christmas-y.  I am planning to watch "Sleepless in Seattle" and, of course, "The Christmas Story".  Hopefully I will catch "Miracle on 34th Street" and no way will I watch "Home Alone" -- that is the most painful movie I have ever seen.

Unrelated to Christmas, I have really been enjoying "Doc Martin" and we are now beginning the final season and I am really going to miss it when I have completed the whole thing.  I have also started the series "Call the Midwife" which I am enjoying as well -- I really like Miranda Hart.  I cancelled my Hulu subscription and instead subscribed to Netflix streaming and I am really glad I did.  While I enjoyed "The Rev" and "Coronation Street" on Hulu I am finding a much bigger variety on Netflix.

I am also continuing with the Agatha Raisin series.  I have really enjoyed all the books so far but I am not enjoying this one -- "Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist" quite as much.  I don't know why but I am almost done so I can move on with the next one.  I really wish we were going to receive the new Agatha Raisin series here.

And last, but not least, I have been working on a baby quilt for the new baby in the family.  It involves rabbits and stripes and I will show a photo when I get done with it which should be soon.  It is going to be a gift for her christening. 

So, that is what has been keeping me busy as I try to avoid the chaos.  I can't believe it is already the 6th -- this month and this year will be gone before we know it.  I remember when my father was waiting for the countdown to the new millenium -- and that has already been 14 years ago. Time is just flying by and I don't think I like it -- so, I am avoiding the chaos and trying to slow the pace and enjoy my days rather than just rushing through them -- I want this beautiful season to last a while, I want to savor it and all it has to offer. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

Bye-bye Thanksgiving!

Today is December 1st! Advent has begun.  Thanksgiving 2014 is now a memory -- I would like to say distant but considering there is still leftover food in my refrigerator, not so much! I have to say that no matter how much pre-planning and paring down I do, Thanksgiving is the most exhausting of holidays -- more than Christmas.  I think it has to do with standing on my feet for hours cooking.  However, I am glad it is over and I am looking forward to the next month.

I am about done with my shopping -- really doing precious little of it this year.  Opting for a simpler approach.  We have reached the point in our lives where our adult children really don't need much and whatever they do need, they have the means to supply themselves.  The children are all growing and settling into their own interests so the days of mass toys are drawing to a halt.  E is still new so all she needs is a cuddle which I will be glad to give in excess -- can't have too many hugs.  So, Christmas this year will be more of a celebration of time together, time to reflect on blessings and just a time to kick back and chill-- an appropriate word considering the 45 degree drop in temperature over night.

As things wind down from a visit from my husband's sister and her husband on the occasion of my mother-in-law's  93rd birthday and, of course, the food frenzy known as Thanksgiving, I am enjoying some time to explore new DNA information on my account.  When I did the DNA test I wasn't sure how that information would evolve and be used but it seems that it is an ongoing thing with new information being added all the time.  The DNA matches are becoming more specific which is fascinating.  When you have a DNA match the people at Ancestry have designed the results to compare your tree to the "cousin's" tree so you can see the relationship very clearly.  It is all very exciting and interesting, especially when most of my DNA matches are to the part of the family that was the most elusive.  I will be watching it quite closely to see more relatives.

Speaking of relatives and roots and all that -- it is no surprise to anyone that I am of extreme British extraction -- I have hardly any other ancestry except some Dutch and a tiny bit of German.  I have always identified with my British self -- in spite of the fact that Ancestry DNA seems to concentrate on my Dutch ancestry.  I was quite close to my grandfather who was the son of Welsh immigrants and many of the things I still do hark back to his habits which were, of course, from his parents. 

However -- there is the question of tea.  I have always been a tea drinker.  I remember having tea and toast with the aforementioned grandfather -- more Pet milk than tea but tea and toast was sort of a ritual of ours.  That and the Welsh rarebit but that is another story.  You would think that I would have tea making down pat, wouldn't you.  Well, with a tea bag, yes, but my daughter brought me some lovely loose tea from Fortnum and Mason on her last time to England.  It is loose tea and really good.  However, I don't seem to have the knack of tea infusers -- they all seem to shed the leaves a little too much.  So, here is my solution today -- yes, a coffee filter in a ceramic infuser.  It worked quite well, actually!  
ceramic infuser

I think I should look for some smaller filters

water added

Maddening infusers!

This nice warm tea was very welcome this morning as the temperature had dropped 45 degrees overnight.  I went to bed in the tropics and woke up in the arctic!  I did brave the cold wind to take a couple of snaps of the yard after a couple of freezes and a lot of wind.  It is lovely, actually but I didn't want to stay out there too long!

Pear tree in lovely fall colors

Another pear tree

and yet the OTHER pear tree

the crab apple tree today!

and the mint just keeps on keeping on

I know that north Texas isn't really known for it's fall color but I think we have done a pretty good job in our yard, don't you?

And now, totally unrelated, I thought I would share with Mary, Bonnie and Jane some pics of the Bean on her trip to England this last summer.  I sharing these with permission from her mother, of course.

Bean and the Pig

Such a grown up little bridesmaid!

Bean and her mother at the church in Bramley

I wasn't at the wedding but the photos are lovely and I think it was a wonderful day for all.

Ok, now I need to go deal with those leftovers! It is lunch time, after all.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cleaning the House New/Old School -- aka -- I Am Really Lazy

Saturday was a banner day for me.  I got up with loads of energy and I had great plans.  I was going to clean house.  Now, you must understand -- this sort of thing doesn't happen to me often.  I am not domestic.  Not even remotely.  I grew up with a mother that would be known today as a "clean freak".  She cleaned -- a lot.  I don't know that she LOVED it -- I don't remember her saying but she detested clutter and there was precious little around of that.  Of course, we lived in a 950 sq. ft. house which was typical of the time so there wasn't a lot of room for too much clutter.  In any event, I always lived in a very clean -- I mean Clorox clean -- house. 

My children lived in a clean house but I really couldn't stand the smell of Clorox so I used other things.  I used to clean the bathroom tile with a toothbrush and dust didn't land anywhere.  We lived in a small house but we had more room to store things so more things were collected.

The kids grew.  The collections grew.  I learned that one would not die from clutter.  One might go crazy but not die.  So what did I do, little Mrs. Non-Domestic?  I decided to ignore the whole thing and take up hobbies.  Lots of hobbies with lots and lots of things.  More clutter, more mess, yuck.

So, the kids are grown, most of their stuff has gone and I have reached a point in my life that I want my toothbrush and tile floors back.  I don't want the hobby stuff, I don't want the clutter, I can live without the magazines -- I just want it clean.

Well, that's great but over the years I have learned to really, really dislike housework.  So, back to Saturday.  I decided to start cleaning in my bedroom.  I have a large window seat that seems to attract "stuff" like a magnet.  I worked on that for quite sometime.  Then I dusted, vacuumed, tacked the know, cleaned the room.  It. Took. All, Day.  I decided to do everything with the vacuum cleaner -- I dusted the furniture, I dusted the shutters, I dusted the exercise equipment (which needs a new home, BTW) and at the end of the day you couldn't tell I had done a thing.  I was too tired to even put the vacuum cleaner away.

Fast forward to today.  I got up with great plans -- going to finish cleaning the house.  BUT.....I was going old school -- with sort of new techniques.  I dusted with microfiber cloths, cleaned the bathrooms with microfiber cloths, dust mopped the hard floors with my Big Woolly wool dust mop, use my little carpet sweeper on the throw rugs, mopped with my Rubbermaid microfiber spray mop and threw away all the seasonal holiday catalogs that have invaded my mailbox.

I got all that done in the length of time it took me to argue with myself about dragging out the vacuum cleaner. 

So, I guess it is official. I am living in the 50's.  I am just a little lazy.  I am not keeping up with the times but I got done quickly enough today to have time to play with my Nook tablet -- the one I have had for two years and not messed with -- and I figured out how to check out library books on it and how to listen to audio books on it!

So, yes, a day well spent!

Monday, November 17, 2014


The new baby, Emily, has arrived on the first snowy night of the season.  She arrived at 1:09 a.m. and weighed in at 7lb. 5 oz. and is 20.75 inches long.  Rumor has it there may be a trace of red hair.  I haven't seen her yet so I have no photos.  That will happen later this afternoon.  I can't wait to meet her.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Mistress's Daughter

A few days ago I finished reading "Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good" and was looking for a short read before I was scheduled to receive a book order from Ebay.  I went to my bookshelf -- the one that is completely organized with a good number of unread books and I searched for something that looked like a quick yet interesting read.

My eyes fell on "The Mistress's Daughter" by A.M. Homes.  It is not a long book and I figured that I could knock it out pretty quickly which I did.  I figured it was a novel about, well, a mistress's daughter.  I was wrong.  At the first page I realized that I was reading an autobiography.  A really sad autobiography.  I will admit it was pretty depressing in the beginning and then we hear about Ms. Homes learning that her biological mother was looking for her.  We are introduced to the biological mother only to realize that she isn't a stable person.  We meet the father and learn that he isn't a great guy and never was.  During all of this we don't hear a whole lot about the adoptive parents -- it is a story of her struggle to deal with her past.  As the book progresses, however, and Ms. Homes learns more and more of her heritage we learn of her desire to join the DAR and her struggled with that.  As I read along the book that started out a personal and painful journey turned into a genealogical study which fascinated me.  Toward the end we learn about her adoptive family and the grandmother that Ms. Homes adores -- and the table.  The table is fascinating. 

All in all, I really enjoyed this book.  It was different than I imagined, it was sad, it was emotional but, in the end, it was joyful.  For a quick read to sandwich between more important books, it was a great choice but  it was too good to be a "sandwich" so if you want to read it, give it the time it deserves.  As I looked at the picture of that beautiful child on the cover I felt that I had even let her down, sandwiching her story between other stories and that was not right.  It is well worth reading and it deserves the time and attention of any other work that might be in your queue.

I definitely recommend to anybody who does genealogy, anybody adopted who doesn't know their whole story or anybody who is just interested in a completely different, compelling read.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good -- Jan Karon

I have just finished reading Jan Karon's latest instalment in the Mitford series  -- Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good.  Prior to this book, Karon had more or less ended this series and then  proceeded with the Father Tim books which dealt with Father Tim's youth and with a monumental trip to Ireland.  Both of those books were a little deeper and darker than the Mitford series, they showed a different side of the beloved Father Tim.

This latest work, however, brings us back to Mitford after Father Tim and Cynthia's visit to Ireland.  They don't have long to get settled back into their usual routine before the life in the little North Carolina town draws them in.  There is the family with the good news -- Dooley -- and the bad news -- Sammy.  There are the long time friends, neighbors and parishioners -- some we watch go from deep despair to great joy - Hope -- and the possible romance -- Helene and Harley maybe? Or perhaps the spray tan queen and the fly boy.  Father Tim is involved in all their lives to some extent and it is so interesting to watch him juggle these relationships with grace and the knowledge of when to get involved and when not to.  His wisdom would be a good lesson for anybody.

For anybody who thinks small town life would be boring they should read the Mitford books.  Are small towns really like this?  I wouldn't know but I like to think they are.  In any event, I enjoyed once more, being able to "live" in Mitford for a while.  I hope there is another in the series so that we aren't left hanging wanting to know what happens to Hope, Scott and Grace and Dooley and Lace and all the rest of the quirky yet loveable characters.  I don't think Karon would do that, however, as there is so much more story to tell.

I, for one, will be waiting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Time to Bring Out the Turkey Planter

Isn't she cute?  She was a gift to me from my Aunt V many years ago.  She came with a real plant but anybody who knows me knows that wouldn't last long.  So, each year, I deck her out in some lovely silk foliage and display her near our table.  I think she is so cute and should have a name --Thomasina, perhaps - the female to the traditional Tom?

I feel the Thanksgiving season coming on! I love it!

I am turning my thoughts to my Christmas decoration and I feel I am in need of a large Nativity set up.  I have several others that I put around but I need a larger one for use with my Advent activities.  I think a trip out is necessary.

So, have  a wonderful day! I will let you know if I come home with anything.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday --

It is Monday.  It is cold and getting colder.  I forgot to take my allergy meds last night so I am all stuffy with a headache.  Should get a flu shot today.  Need to go grocery shopping just in case the weather gets very bad -- I don't think it will but we have been known to have ice in November and I don't want to be caught without the necessary paper products, milk, allergy meds and a turkey.

Fortunately I have lots of reading material and sewing projects.  I stocked up on flour, sugar and eggs so I can do some baking if I wish.  Must get some gas in the car just in case.  All this prep should shoot the temps back up into the 70's right?  Isn't that how it usually works?  I have lived in North Texas for 24 years and am still baffled by how much different the weather is here than "home" -- San Antonio.

Getting on with my Christmas prep.  Going to start some decorations of the homemade variety today.  Have a few things ordered and on the way.  My minimalistic thinking has finally crept into the holidays -- token gifts this year.  Nobody "needs" anything we have to give anymore.  When the kids were first married there was always something for their house or their kitchen,now, not so much.  When the kids were tiny there was always some new toy or new clothes but now, their needs have changed as well.  We have a new "little" on the way which could probably use some wintery things since she is coming in the middle of this cold snap so that will probably be in order but for the most part -- a few things to let them know we love them and have thought of them -- a hug and a kiss and watch them grow another year.  I have watched my daughter stress out over trying to declutter their house -- mostly outgrown clothes and toys -- and I have made a mental note not to add to that.  Nothing is worse than trying to live in a house that has too much stuff.  Both my children live in adequate -- even large -- houses but realistically -- no house is meant to store unlimited amounts of stuff no longer useable.  So, I will do my part to help them out and my gifts will be thoughtful, small and not of the variety that will generate guilt if they decide to toss them.  Nothing is worse than having to hang on to things because "somebody made it" or "somebody bought that for you".  They are things and unless it is valuable -- like jewelery or coins or such -- I don't expect my kids to keep what I buy for posterity.  Well, maybe the books.

I do like giving books as gifts.  When I was a child reading was a wonderment to me -- I was thrilled when I learned how and from that time on my main source of entertainment was reading.  It still is.  And coloring in color books.  I still love that as well -- yes, I color but I use colored pencils now and color by number books for adults!  Shhh-- don't tell anybody but the latent artist in me -- you know, the one who can't draw a straight line with a ruler -- loves to color.

I digress.

Speaking of books, I am almost 3/4 of the way done with the new Jan Karon work "Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good".  As usual, she has done a beautiful job of creating an environment that I can get lost in.  I can recommend the whole series without reservation.  Great cold weather reads.

I bought a couple of books off the internet last week.  The next in the Agatha Raisin series -- "The Terrible Tourist" and a book I saw my daughter reading "An American Childhood".  I have been reading the Raisin books on my Nook but have discovered that I can get them cheaper by either going to Half Price Books or Ebay.  I don't really want to start collecting the whole series but I have to be cognisant of my quest to get want I want at the very best price I can.  Obviously the best price would be free and I am going to make an effort to frequent the library but it is a habit I have gotten out of and I am sorry -- note to self -- must do better in that department.  I honestly don't know why I am acquiring books in any form at all -- I have two complete shelves on my bookshelf devoted to yet unread books.  Reading, to me, is a bit like quilting -- I have to be in the mood for something so my reading really has no rhyme or reason -- just what hits me at the moment.  Sort of like my entire day to day existence.


Ok, I am getting very rambly now -- don't really have much to say and no really great pics to share.  I am enjoying the pics of the poppies and in the Tower of London moat -- such beauty to represent such sorrow -- very striking photos though -- I hope they leave them there indefinitely.

Have a wonderful Monday, all!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A Rant, A Craft and a Plan

Ok, first the rant.  I went to Joann Fabric and Craft Store over the weekend to purchase some Wilton decorations for cupcakes.  While I was there I decided to look for some cute Thanksgiving decor.  I don't do much decorating but I love to set small stuff around just for color and atmosphere.  I was taken by surprise when I discovered that there was nothing there! No little pillows or pictures, nothing with inspirational words, nothing orange/gold/green -- no TURKEYS!  Instead I found myself in an ocean of red and green peppermint stripes! Really?  When did we do away with Thanksgiving?  Is this political?  Is this an effort to make American's forget our history?  If it is that easy to just simple abolish something as traditional as Thanksgiving is Christmas next? Probably not -- too much money involved there.  While I am sure it is just a "retail thing" my imagination makes me think there is something more sinister afoot.  If nothing else, America needs to slow down.  Way down.  We are just charging through life like a lightening bolt.  I don't like it.  Not one bit.  Something has to change but I am afraid that it has to be the people that change it because I don't think the retail society will do anything but get worse.  I for one am closing out the retail world until after New Years. Bah humturkey.

Rant over.

I haven't said much here because my daughter in law prefers her privacy and I respect that wish but, in the middle of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas plans, we are expecting a new addition to the family.  A baby is due to my son and daughter in law in mid November so  we are planning for this event as well.  I was asked to provide some crafty items so I spent last weekend working on these and this is what I came up with.

It is common practice here to decorate the hospital doors with something festive to let the visitors know who is new and who is living in that room for a day or two.  I have done this with my other three grandchildren and this one is no different.  So, this is what I did for the door --

Painted some wooden letter with Wicker White craft paint and pink paint pen for accents

Sewed some pink fabric from the quilt to some green fabric and backed with fusible interfacing (Pellon)

Placed in an embroidery hoop and glued the edges down -- secured with clothes pins till dry

Blank canvas waiting for embellishment

Glued on the name and then a cute little wooden bunny.  The bunny was chosen because there is a bunny in the quilt fabric

I chose these ribbons to go with the colors of the fabric

Big puffy bows aren't my strong suit but it looks ok

Finished product! Hanging by a sheer white ribbon

I am making a quilt but I am not finished.  It isn't a secret so I will share some information about it.  It is a wrapping paper quilt -- or striped quilt-- the fabrics are peach/pink/green/turquoise and a stripe.  It is the striped fabric that also has a little turquoise bunny.  It sounds boyish but it isn't -- it is very girly and I really like the way the colors work together to make a very lively, yet babyish quilt.  I will post photos when done.

I was also asked to make a dresser scarf and a nightstand scarf.  I did that as well but I didn't have enough quilt fabric to use so I just chose a white fabric with very pale pink polka dots.  It will blend nicely with the quilt even if it doesn't match perfectly.  Unfortunately I was in such a hurry to get the project completed I didn't take photos but they were very plain so you can imagine what they looked like.

So, that brings me to "The Plan".  It has occurred to me that my record keeping practices need to be improved upon.  Maybe that should read "implemented" as I don't really keep records of any sort about anything.  Then, when I need to refer back to a project, a purchase  or a recipe I don't have anything to look at and my memory is good but I am finding that it isn't as easy to recall some things as it used to be.  I do have a recipe box which works nicely for the recipes but I decided that I needed a notebook for just that -- notes.  While in my neighborhood Target store the other day I noticed that they had cute little 5 X 8 loose leaf notebooks with all the supplies -- paper, dividers, etc.  I was headed out this a.m. to get one but one look at the pouring rain and I decided to look around and see what I had in the house that would suffice.

I just love it when I practice what I preach!  Shop your own house!  I found a 1" white loose leaf binder that is brand new, unused.  I still buy school supplies in August, even though my children are grown, and I have a huge supply of notebook paper.  I picked up a bag and what did I find but a new set of dividers.  So, I didn't have to go out in the rain and I didn't have to spend any money to buy what I already had.  I felt so accomplished! 

Now that I have the "household" notebook and a set of 8 dividers I am going to organize my purchases, recipes that I use routinely, ongoing lists, holiday lists, etc.  And I am keeping it where I can find it and refer to it -- no putting it away.  Oh, I also have a brand new box of page protectors so I can use those as well.

So, that is what I have been up to.  In the next few days I will be finishing the quilt and some Christmas projects I have started.  I will share all of it when I am farther along

Oh yes -- Happy Guy Fawkes Day to all my British family and friends!