Sunday, January 13, 2019

Around Here

After a beautiful spell of warm and sunny weather we had a small snowstorm on Tuesday which gave us a few inches of very wet snow, or, as Ben said, "icy concrete."  It's been cold enough that it all hasn't melted yet, though it will soon.  I was tickled to spot this snowman up in the park today when I took That Handsome Dog Gus up there for a morning walk.  

The next few days will be quiet ones as most folks that I spend my time with are away or very busy this week.  Ben has gone ice climbing and Paul and I are managing the home front.  I always miss Ben when he's away, but I do love a few days on my own, and I will have Gus and Paul here for company.  I've planned to do a little mini quilt retreat right here at home, interspersed with a few chores and a couple of fun lunches out with friends.   

Over the weekend I got a head start by making this year's "Caring Hearts,"  little 5" blocks with appliqued hearts.  When area quilters are facing health challenges or are grieving,  their fellow quilters send them a heart as a small token of care and comfort.  This is a totally optional activity, but it's one that I like as it reminds me that everyone has their struggles and provides a way to connect and offer support.  I make up the blocks the first of the year and have them ready to mail out with a card and hand-written note when the quilt guild sends out a notice that one is needed.  

The cute block on the left is what I made for people undergoing surgeries or dealing with other health issues.  I was aiming for something smile worthy.  The "Hope" heart on the right is for people who are grieving a death in the family, often a husband.  The rose and word fabric was actually designed for Valentine's Day, but I ruthlessly cut it up to use just the "hope" motif.    

I also worked on a large quilt for charity made out of big scraps of African animal fabrics that I've had forever.  It had to be a certain size which was a bit of a challenge since I has working with fabrics left over from other projects.  (Yes, that's a long measuring tape pinned up on it to check the size.) I finally did work it out so the top is the right size AND I made a back out of several other fabrics, but didn't photograph it since I never got it up on the design wall.  It's ready to layer and baste together with the batting, which is always a big job so it will wait awhile.   

Mostly I've been working on small pieces known as "Journal Quilts," and I'll tell you about them on Friday.

We went out to dinner with our friends Sandy and Gina and we had our photos take to prove that even here in casual Boulder we do sometimes get dressed up to go out!  The man at the next table told us how great it was to see men in suits again!  I noticed he wasn't wearing one.  Too funny.

Did you notice that my hair is getting longer?  I'm growing it out so it will look better under the baseball hats I wear hiking.  I took this selfie the other day when I was shopping with Dawn and came across a foldable white ball cap at Costco.  You can see that my hair isn't flipping up under the hat like a clown anymore.   

We've had two dinners over at Dawn's recently and I have to tell you, that girl can cook!  Last night it was lobster mac and cheese; very yummy.  And the week before some fabulous lamb chops cooked out on the grill. 

Speaking about food, we got an Instant Pot on Friday and promptly made chicken soup in it, which was delicious.  I'm going to have some for lunch right now!

Monday, January 7, 2019

More and Less

Last Friday the blog Cup of Jo included a reference to a different way of thinking about New Year's resolutions.   The basic idea is to consider what you'd like more of in your daily life and what that means in terms of decreasing something else.   Like, "I need to walk more and that means that I need to sit less."   It got me thinking about what I could use more and less of in my life.  I don't generally make resolutions, but I do occasionally reflect on what's working for me and what isn't.   

After thinking about it for a while I came up with three ways I could improve things this year .

The first is easy to understand.   A higher than usual cholesterol reading from some recent lab work has me thinking of ways to cut back on fat.  Eating more vegetables and less meat should help.  

The second comes from a realization that I waste time checking mail, Facebook, and Instagram on my iPhone instead of waiting until I have time to look at them on the much large screen of my MacBook.  I've been checking those sites several times a day when I'm on the go.  But when I spot something I really want to enjoy I end up looking on it again on my MacBook.    It's both frustrating and a waste of time.  So I'm experimenting with not jumping on my phone all the time and instead getting on my MacBook once in the morning and once in the evening to have a leisurely look at these image heavy sites.  So far, so good. 

About the third item.  You may have noticed that the iPhone has a news icon on the home screen.  It was an addicting little app and I spent way too much time reading the news items it offered, many of which were quite stupid.  (Like, "Texas baby weighs nearly 15 pounds at birth, breaking hospital record.")  Even away from the phone news is readily available.  Sirius radio provides easy access to all the cable news and every time I was in my car I listened to the various channels.  There's rarely real news, and mostly just commentary, and it was starting to make me feel anxious.  So I'm training myself to not tune into those stations and instead take a minute to Bluetooth to my phone so I can hear my favorite music.   I can read all the news I want when I have my twice-daily lap book sessions, and of course there's always the cable stations on TV which I record so I can zap through the redundant or annoying parts. 

I like the idea of just three "more/less" statements to focus on as goals for a while.   Who knows; keeping it simple may mean I actually achieve results!    

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Fox Sighting

It was cold but beautiful when we set out for our walk yesterday.  We planned to go up to Chautauqua park and see the Flatirons in the snow and then walk back down and around through the neighborhood to home.  The Flatirons were, indeed, very beautiful. 

The sky was amazing with a mix of clouds and sunshine that was stunning.   It was so beautiful and enticing that we changed plans and decided to go up into the park.   The sky pulled us like a magnet up, up, up the long hill, drawing us closer and closer to the Flatirons. 

As we approached Bluebell shelter I saw a large dark animal up ahead.  I thought it was a dog running off leash, but we watched for a bit and no master (or, as they say around here, "guardian") appeared, so I thought that perhaps it was a coyote.   But it's body appeared too low slung and it had a very furry long tail.  As we watched we decided that it was a fox.   It seemed to me that it was hunting, with his nose to the ground and clearly checking around for something.  There weren't so many people on the trails with the snow and the holiday, so it may have felt comfortable being out and about. 

 We decided to turn towards Boulder and cross the Bluebell mesa to join the main trail downhill, keeping a eye out for the fox as we hiked.  He crossed the meadow in front of us was moving along the hillside, so we got a good look at him for a while.  Can you see him in this photo?

Here's a closer view. 

I was excited to see him, especially since he looked so well fed and moved so easily.   The few times I've seen foxes here they've usually looked mangy and sick.  So it was a real pleasure to see a healthy, lively fox doing his thing out in the cold but sunny afternoon.   It was a good reminder that we aren't the only creatures who enjoy the park.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

And Suddenly It's 2019!

While Christmas Day came and went without any snow, New Year's Eve was another story.  Snow began falling in the morning and continued pretty much all day, leaving behind a lovely layer of fluffy glittery white.

 It was also very cold, and continues to be frigid today with a high of 16 predicted for mid afternoon.   It's ten degrees right now at noon and you might think this would mean that we are snuggled up in front of the fire, but no, soon we'll put on our warmer clothes and head out for a walk up to Chautauqua, which ought to look very pretty with its coating of snow.   I tried to convince myself that it was too cold to walk, but a look out my window at all the people walking their dogs dissuaded me from that notion!

I wouldn't say that 2018 went by too quickly, but it was certainly a lively year.   We finally got our new patio put in, Paul graduated from Boulder High, I visited Disneyland with my sister and my sister-in-law, had a sibling reunion for my brother's 70th birthday,  traveled to Maui and then to Sicily with Ben, and we lost our two pets in the course of just two months.  The holiday season has been fun, and I am now ready for what we call around here "down time."  January has always been a good month for regrouping, reflection, and planning.

One of my goals for December was to finish up a quilt runner that I started in a class about two or three years ago.  The star blocks were made using a technique called paper-piecing, meaning that you sew the fabric to paper pieces and then trim them to reveal the star.  I finished the star blocks some time ago and then set them into a surround of white fabric.  To finish the piece up I needed to quilt the stars and all that white, which seemed a bit daunting, and add a border and then the final binding.   Once I stopped procrastinating and got the scary quilting underway I gradually was able to  relax and enjoy the process.   It felt good to get this project finished up in 2018!

Last night we enjoyed a fun party at our friend Bob's house, toasting in the New Year at 10:00 our time, which is midnight NYC time.  A nice thing about being two hours behind east coast time is that we can get to bed before midnight on the big night.  It's a quiet day today and then things pick up again tomorrow and crescendo into a very busy weekend for me with Paul returning home from his trip to Maryland on Friday, two quilt guild events on Friday and Saturday, a special dinner out with friends on Saturday, and family dinner with John and Dawn on Sunday.   

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!   

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Another Lovely Christmas

We didn't have a White Christmas, but our warm and sunny weather more than made up for it.  

Ben and I walked downtown for dinner on Friday and were amazed at how clear the night sky was, perfect for admiring the full moon and the pretty holiday lights the city had put up along Pearl Street and the Civic Center.  

On Saturday I got to do one of most favorite things, watching Paul's ska band play.  They had a gig up in Jamestown, about a twenty minute drive up into the mountains.  Band members who were home from college joined the gig and the place was rocking!  I admired Ben's tenacity in staying for the entire two hour performance; he loves Paul but ska isn't his favorite music.   Our friend Inger who joins me in her love of this lively and clever music, went with us and by the second set we were up and dancing the night away.  

Sunday was a gorgeous day for a long hike so Ben and I and Lotus drove about thirty minutes to hike Table Mountain, a large mesa overlooking the town of Golden and with wonderful views southeast towards Denver.   

photo by Marilo Elizando

The first order of business was to get up to the top of the mesa.  This involved a steady uphill hike of .7 miles which even the guidebook admitted was "a bit of a challenge."  Now when a Colorado hiking guide saids that you know it's going to be a climb.  But just when I was thinking I might not make it I was passed by a mountain biker, and I figured if she could do it so could I! 

Once we were at the top, there were several reasonably flat loops to hike or bike.  Weekends bring a lot of mountain bikers up there and we were were passed rather regularly.  I have to say they were the most polite bikers I've ever seen, all of them politely calling out when they approached from behind and then thanking us as they passed.   This photo shows how you can see Denver from way up there.  It was a fun hike, though at 6 miles it was a long one for me. 

photo by MTB Project 

 Lotus and her husband Dan came over to celebrate Christmas Eve with us, which was very enjoyable.  Paul hung around with us for a while and Dan, who is an excellent photographer, gave Paul some tips as he took photos of the lovely Christmas roses.  Ben made some excellent Chicken Schnitzel and we had a delicious Buche de Noel which we ordered from the French cafe.  After Lotus and Dan left Paul talked us into opening all the presents, which was quite fun.  And a good thing, too, since we all slept late the next morning.   

My friend Lee Anna and her husband drove over from southeast Denver for lunch and a visit on Christmas Day and we took their standard poodle, Milo, for a walk on west Pearl Street.  We stopped to see the huge Christmas tree at the historic Boulderado Hotel which dates from 1908.  The place was packed with people and it was very festive.   

 The shop next door had an interesting window display of logs painted with inspirational words, just right for thinking about resolutions for the new year.  Here's Lee Anna taking a photo for her blog.

We were invited over to Christmas dinner at Ray and Paula's, which was very kind of them considering they had a full table with Paula's brother, sister-in-law, niece, and mother as well as Ray and Paula's daughter and son-in-law.   I always enjoy visiting with Paula's family and Ray's home-cured pastrami was a special treat.   All the excitement tuckered Gus right out!

It was a joyful holiday.  I never got the candy cane cookies made or put out the Department 56 Christmas village, and only got cards sent out to my brothers and my sister, but I sure enjoyed sharing the holiday with friends and with Ben and Paul. 

Linking to my friend, Lee Anna's "I Like Thursday" blog, celebrating the small but important joyful aspects of daily life as a counterpart to the constant drumroll of news and politics. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christmas Then and Now

I've been feeling quite nostalgic this holiday season.  Memories of "Christmases long, long ago" have flitted in and out of my mind as I decorate the house, buy presents, and attend festive events.  I remember the fun of large family gatherings at my Mom's house, visits from out of town brothers and sisters, and lots of singing of carols and other songs of the season.  There's a pleasant wistfulness to thinking of those older times.   Those were good times, and it's good to remember them, even as we create new happy memories each day in this holiday season.  

Among these older memories are the sweet ones of doing all sorts of child-centered holiday crafts with young Paul.   We enjoyed making and decorating sugar cookies, icing gingerbread houses and covering them with candy, and making paper Christmas ornaments for the tree.  

Well, those days are gone.  I keep thinking I can entice Paul into sharing these sorts of pleasures with me nowadays, but he has other ideas of how to spend his time.  Nowadays if I want to spend holiday time with him, it's on his schedule and tuned to his current interests. 

So when Paul came into my studio late last night and said he'd like to use the cutting table to wrap some presents, I pushed back my chair and encouraged him to chat with me while he worked.  First he wrapped up a package for Dad by grabbing the beige tissue paper and very loosely taped it around the box.  Then he took quite a bit of green ribbon, wrapping it around the package and tying it with two odd shaped bows.  He spent some time creating a fun little note about the present for Dad to read.  The whole production made me laugh! 

Then he began covering a present for his friend, Tommy, who lives in Maryland.  Paul is flying out to see Tommy and his family after Christmas and he has given great thought to what presents to give them.  He started wrapping Tommy's present by affixing orange post-it notes all over the box, telling me that orange was Tommy's favorite color.     

It took a lot of post-it notes to cover the little box!

He wrote some notes to Tommy on some of the post-it notes telling me that after all, they were post-it notes.  He generously wrapped it all with lots of tape.  As a final touch he added a label informing TSA that this was a Christmas present.  He was going to put the present in his checked suitcase and wasn't going to take any chances that they would open it. 

I was very amused by this whole process and by the banter that Paul supplied as he creatively wrapped up his gifts.   It might not be making gingerbread houses together, but it was a nice moment to remember.  With teens you have to take what you can get!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Around Here

 Around here....

We are mourning the loss of Fetcher, spending a fair amount of time looking at old photos of him and remembering the good old days.  It's bittersweet.  And it's necessary.   One good thing about being older is that you know that time does help.

Around here...

We're all decorated for Christmas!  As Auntie Mame said, "We need a little Christmas, right this very minute!" 

This year we decided to simplify and not put lights up over the door.  We're just too distracted to get the ladder out and climb up there.

Good thing, because it took forever to get this little lantern planter looking decent.  The videos I watched made it sound so easy to take some greens, a light, and some red dogwood twigs and turn them into a welcoming planter for the holidays.  Well, not so easy to actually do!  When I'd get frustrated, I'd remember how much money I was saving by not buying something ready made.

I always love to get the mantel decorations up.

And all three of us picked out this lovely Fraser fir from Creekside Nursery and got it decorated.  Afterward Paul treated us to pizza!

Around here... 

My sister-in-law, Dawn, and my nephew, Michael, and I went to see the musical White Christmas at the Denver Performing Arts Center, which was a lot of fun and put me in the mood for a white Christmas.  Unfortunately, the weather forecast is looking clear all the way past Christmas.  But you never know around here, and I'm hoping to have some lovely snow on the ground for the holiday.  

Around here... 

After my experience making a print at the Denver Art Museum, I played with making my own rubber stamps.  I found it to be engrossing, but challenging.  This photo shows how I was playing with making stars.  Pretty primitive at this point, as I'm just getting used to using the nib on the carving tool.

Around here...

I've been distracted and having a hard time reading, so I was excited to find myself finally "captured by a book. "  I love that wonderful feeling of having something your just can't put down.  

Around here...

We think we've solved the problem of having too many mismatched containers for storing leftovers; these Rubbermaid glass dishes, which not only stack but have stacking lids as well.  Perfect for a small kitchen like ours.  Ah, how good it feels to solve these little difficulties!  

Linking to my friend, Lee Anna's "I Like Thursday" blog, celebrating the small but important joyful aspects of daily life as a counterpart to the constant drumroll of news and politics.